What Makes a Good Training Program?
Ultimately, a good training program will do four things:
Help you achieve your goal.
Keep you injury, pain and stiffness free.
Make you feel better physically and mentally.
Produce long term results.
These four outcomes (which are in no particular order) are ideal. If you achieve your goals, feel great and keep this up long-term then your training program is a winner.
Your program should suit you and be applicable to your capabilities and available time. It’s easy to go hard for a short period of time but the real success is consistently achieving training goals over a long period of time, staying injury free and feeling good for your training.
So, a good training program needs to:
Cater for your unique abilities, goals and preferences.
Be challenging but not impossible.
Fit into your schedule, and
Facilitate long term adherence (you'll actually stick to it)
... all the while:
Moving you towards your goal, and
Keeping you strong, healthy and injury free.
Creating Your Own Program
First, consider your:
Training experience (beginner, intermediate, advanced)
Movement quality (do you have full range of motion and control in the basic movement patterns)
Available time to dedicate to training
General lifestyle (life stress and recovery abilities)
These will all help guide the volume and content of your training program. A beginner exerciser, who has movement restrictions and a laundry list of external stressors (work, family, life) is probably not going to fare too well on a heavy and hard Bulgarian Olympian based maximum strength program!
A training program that is too tough right from the start is the quickest way to drop it like its hot (zero adherence); it's much easier to increase the intensity if you're finding training sessions too easy.
Gradually build up the volume and intensity of your training by starting slow, this will also help develop the momentum that will lead to training becoming a part of your lifestyle, which is important for long term success.
What to Include
Panthera Performance programs focus on three components:
...all relative to the individual's unique capabilities and specific to their goal. Including all three components ensures the development of well rounded athletic qualities, from which more specific qualities can be built, depending on the goal.
Your goal will determine the type of exercises that are most suitable for you. Panthera Performance’s general athletic, muscle building and fat burning programs focus on developing strength, conditioning and mobility by using the following key components of training programs:
I’d encourage you, whatever your goal, to include some form of these in your program.
Frequency and Duration
Figure out how many times per week you can train and how much time you have to dedicate to each session. Little and often is generally preferential to one huge session a week; progress can be made with training sessions as short as 20 minutes.
Sets, reps and style of training are all important and should be specific to your goal, but until a certain level of training experience is reached, whether you're doing 3 sets of 10 or 4 sets of 8 won't make a huge difference; what will make a difference is becoming stronger, more powerful and more mobile in the key movement patterns.
If your goals are competitive (sports performance based) then these details become much more important; but, for general population fitness programs, the minutiae shouldn't be majored in. The majority of people will make plenty progress simply from consistently performing basic strength, conditioning and mobility training; nothing fancy is required, just start getting a sweat on and follow the principles of progressive overload.
You've got the basics of the program in place and you know what movements to do, now you’ve just got to do the training! The first week or so of a program will probably involve a bit of refinement; often the plan on day one changes on day two; that’s fine, just be sure to keep your goal in mind and assess your progress every now and again...
Keep a log of your training and have a quick review of your progress every 4-6 weeks. You don't need a powerpoint presentation, an official form or someone from HR to sit in...
Just take a look at the notes you've made over the last 4-6 weeks and use them to help answer some simple questions:
Have I made progress?
Am I still making progress?
Have I been able to keep to the plan consistently; has it fitted in with my lifestyle?
Is the current program making me feel good physically and mentally?
Has it been too easy, too difficult or about right?
The answers will determine whether to keep going with the current plan, re-jig it a little bit or change it altogether.
Planning a training program doesn’t need to be complicated; if it’s moving you towards your goal, making you feel good and it fits your lifestyle, it’s a good program for you.
Take in to account the basics outlined in this article and set to it; something is almost always better than nothing! Adapt your training as necessary and most importantly, enjoy it!