Designing a Fitness Program 101

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Chris Fluck

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Credit: Miramax Films

The picture to the left is a scene from one of my favorite movies, “Good Will Hunting.” In it, Matt Damon’s character is a South Boston resident who spends his time working as a janitor at MIT. One day, he comes across an “unsolvable” equation on the chalkboard. After a few short minutes, the problem is solved. Turns out, the dude is a genius! He then has to decide whether or not he wants to continue the path he is on or pursue something for the greater good of man.

Sometimes, when I read about the “right way to create a training program” I think of this scene. The material is presented in a way that makes your goals seem “unsolvable.” The fitness world creates a scene that sells you on the idea that there is only one way, or person, who can solve your fitness problems…they think they are Will Hunting. There are 21 Day Challenges everywhere, Beachbody coaches out the wazoo, Crossfit is huuuuge, Death races, Powerlifting, Olympic Lifting and so on. How are we supposed to know what is right for us? To top it all off, the information is presented in a complicated way. We need clarity, not rocket science to get us to our goals. We need reasonable and we need simple. Here is how to solve a few program design problems.

Problem #1: The idea that we have to work ourselves to exhaustion everyday.

Physically, this is not possible and is quite dangerous. For the sake of simplicity, working to maximal levels of exertion every training session will leave you depleted and potentially injured. On top of that, it is just not possible to sustain over the long haul. So you may start a program that kicks your butt for 21 days and you drop 7 pounds but then what? Next thing you know, those pounds start creeping back on and you search for the next 21 Day Fix that will get you “back on track”. Here is a better option: Complete reasonable workouts each and every day. The longer it takes for the weight to come off, the more likely it is to stay off!

Problem #2: Not sticking to the plan

Dan John is my go-to guy in regards to training. He has a simple saying that goes like this “Plan the hunt. Hunt the hunt. Discuss the hunt”. (For the record, I too, struggle with this one!) Create a plan for yourself, FINISH the plan, and then discuss what went well and what didn’t. If there are too many changing variables, it is impossible to know what worked and what didn’t. AND DON’T JUMP FROM PROGRAM TO PROGRAM! Whatever you decide to start, I beg of you, finish it!

Problem #3: Lack of Patience

Legendary Iowa wrestling coach Dan Gable preaches the “Patience for change”. Generally speaking, we, as humans, severely lack the patience for change. Every exercise you do during training is a skill that needs practice. Some skills we will be better at then others. For those skills we are not good at, practice them more, be patient, and never forget the Gable saying.

Now on to the training program

Speaking of Coach Gable… He once said that “if something is important to you, do it everyday. If it is not, don’t do it at all.” This concept can be applied to your training as well. This is what we call “Greasing the Groove.” Think of your body like a bicycle. When you don’t use that bicycle for a long time, it could get a little squeaky. Apply a little grease and those kinks can be worked out. Here is how this concept applies to training: Lets say you are awful at doing chinups but you own a pullup bar. To grease the groove with the chinup, you need to practice it. Remember, if it is important, do it everyday. Each time you walk by the bar, do one rep. That is it. Some days you might do 1-2 reps, other days it could be 7-10. I can promise you that after one month, you will see a great increase in repetitions. I worked with someone recently who practiced pushups every evening. After one month, he went from doing 35 repetitions in one minute to performing 62 repetitions in 60 seconds. There are no rules on how many reps you do in a day or how many days you do it each week. Just understand, the more you practice it, the easier they become. After one month, move on to the next skill that you’d like to improve on! After you decide on which exercise to focus on this month, follow the plan below…

Here is a simple training template to work from:

The Warmup:

Gently move your body for about 5 minutes to “wake-up” the mind and body. Stretch what is tightening. Hit an area a little harder if it feels tight. Easy enough, right? If you ever used a foam roller, this would be a good time to roll out some areas.

Bodyweight Exercises (10-8-6)

There are tons of progressions for these moves. I am going to keep it very simple. Perform a squat, a pushup, and a pulling motion. For example, 10 Split Squats, 10 Pushups, and 10 Bodyweight Rows. Next time through, perform 8 reps of everything, and last round, 6 reps. Progress each exercise to challenge yourself. Now, you are officially “warmed up” and ready to train!

The Workout: 6 Moves

  • KB Push (Military Press)
  • Hinge (KB or Barbell Romanian Deadlift)
  • Squat (Goblet Squat)
  • Pull (Pullup)
  • Carry (Pick up heavy weights and carry them around)
  • 6th Move (whatever the heck you want to do!)

Some days you may have time to do the warm-up, bodyweight progressions, and the workout. Other days you may not. The cool thing about it is that you can do some stuff at home. Try to get the workout in 2-3 days, the bodyweight progression 2-3 days, and warm-up as often as possible! “Grease the Groove” on an exercise and really practice it each month. Most importantly, aim to move your body for 30 minutes each day. Lift, walk, run, hike, bike, yoga…you get the idea. Just move that body of yours!

Oh yeah, I forgot about the most often asked question: How many sets and reps? If fat loss is your goal, which it is for the most of us, I recommend changing the reps every 4-6 weeks. Start with 10-8-6, then 3 x 12, then 5 x 5, then 2 x 20, and any other combination you can find out there on the internet. The exercises don’t necessarily have to change, but when you alter the reps, the body will continually be challenged in different ways which will get you the desired result!

Chris FluckChris Fluck is a 2004 graduate of Saucon Valley High School and former high school football and wrestling coach. Currently, Chris is the owner of C. Fluck Training. He is a Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and member of the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA).

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