Designing a strength training program can seem like an overwhelming task, especially when you're just starting out. What exercises should you do? What type of program should you follow? What equipment do you need?
Whenever I'm writing a new program, I always refer back to a checklist of exercise categories that I want to include in my programs. By focusing on movements and not muscles I’m able to create a challenging, well-rounded program for my clients. Structuring programs in this manner also provides clarity and direction in my planning.
This comprehensive list makes for a great reference whenever you're struggling to decide what your next workout should look like.
Aside from its application to everyday life, the squat is a great exercise because your hips, knees and ankles move together. It's the perfect exercise for building a solid foundation of both strength and mobility. Squats can be progressed or regressed for any skill or ability level from bodyweight to heavy barbell loaded back squats.
Every one of my clients, from high school athlete to 70-year old retiree deadlifts. Why? Because they all benefit from doing so. For the high school athlete we develop strength that serves as the base for their athletic development. For my older clients, picking something up from the floor, like a bag of food for their pet, is an essential daily activity. Therefore, we use a deadlift variation that reinforces good technique and keeps them functionally strong.
Whether assisted or unassisted, vertical or horizontal, pull-ups are a staple of my programming. First, they're a great strength developer for the lats and upper back. Second, they're challenging. There's an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction the first time you complete an unassisted pull-up or when you get strong enough to knock out 12-15 in a row.
Push-ups are a timeless staple of any exercise program. They're great for strengthening the chest, triceps and core. Perhaps most importantly, they can be done virtually anywhere. Push-ups can be made easier by placing the hands on an elevated surface or made more difficult, like the variation below:
Lunges are a fantastic lower body exercise. Like squats, they're a compound movement that challenges the muscles of our hip, knee and ankle. Lunge variations, like the lateral lunge, can be used to challenge our body in different planes and ranges of motion.
Rows are an essential exercise for building upper back strength. For those who spend most of their day sitting, rows help to reset our posture by strengthening the muscles that retract our shoulder blades. We also have the option to row in both horizontal and vertical planes, which offers a variety of ways to incorporate the exercise into your program.
Most guys will gravitate toward the bench press for building chest strength and size, but that's not the only option. Dumbbell variations are a great choice. A standing cable press provides a different angle from which to work, while also challenging the core.
Overhead pressing is a great choice for building shoulder strength, provided you're not injured. Again we can use the barbell or dumbbells. If shoulder injury history is a concern, I might choose a landmine press instead.
Crawling challenges our core and shoulder strength and stability. Crawling can also aid in firing up accessory muscles, while improving coordination. To that end, I like to challenge my clients in various directions, having them move forward, backward, left and right.
Raise your hand if you carried something, anything this past weekend. All of you? Good. Since we all carry stuff, whether it's groceries or someone else's water we need to work on it. Carries challenge grip and core strength. We can challenge one side of the body (suitcase carry) or load up the weight and challenge everything at once (farmer carry). We can even challenge our shoulder stability, as depicted below.
I always like to challenge my clients with something explosive. Explosive movements fire up the nervous system and require multiple muscle groups to work synergistically. They can be included as a stand-alone exercise or as part of a circuit. Sometimes I'll use them as part of a conditioning finisher at the end of the workout. Medicine ball throws and chops, kettlebell swings and jumps fall into this category.
People tend to think of core training exercises as those that flex the trunk, like sit-ups. But a more common application of our core strength occurs when we resist forces. Therefore, I like to program movements like shoulder taps that require us to resist both extension and rotation.
Exercise should be challenging, but you should not feel overwhelmed before you step through the door. As you design your own workout program, keep these movements in mind. Not only will it provide you with a variety of exercise options, but you'll also ensure that your program is well rounded. Most importantly, it will help to provide you with clarity and direction before you set foot in the gym.
At Vitalifit we program with your needs in mind. We also work hard to provide you with the direction you need to execute consistently. Whether you’re a novice who’s just learning to strength train or a more seasoned lifter who’s in search of new challenge, contact us today to join the Vitalifit Coaching Program that is right for you.