7 important elements for a better training program design

If you always train with a training program that focuses on body parts in isolation, you are probably a dinosaur.

The smarter approach is to train particular movements, not particular muscles. Of course, when you train movements rather than muscles, you need to pay special attention to certain areas of the body, depending on your specific athletic needs.

When designing a training program, follow these seven principles of balance, safety and efficiency.

Element 1

All programs should include dominant squat or knee exercises. Some of my favorite squat patterns are the Zercher squats, front squats, back foot raised lunge squats, and reverse deficit lunges.

RELATED: Front squat 101: A practical guide with pictures and videos

Element 2

For each dominant squat / knee pattern you perform, do an equal number or slightly more hinge or hip patterns. Large articulation models include Kettlebell swings, glute / ham lifts, glute dumbbell bridges, and Romanian one-legged deadlifts.

RELATED: 3 Essential Kettlebell Exercises You Should Do

Element 3

For upper body movements, use the horizontal and vertical pressure options. The horizontal press can include the bench press, push-ups, or the one-arm press. Vertical pressing would include the Push Press, Kettlebell Strict Overhead Press, and Single-Arm Overhead Press starting at half a knee.

Element 4

For each variation of pressing, be sure to make horizontal and vertical pull options equal or slightly more horizontal and vertical. The horizontal pull would include any type of rowing variation, and the vertical pull would include any type of Pull-Up or Chin-Up variation.

Element 5

Abdominal training does not include crunchy variations. Think of training the core as creating spinal stability. Carry something heavy. Great examples of basic training might include Farmer’s Walks, Sandbag Front-Loaded Carry, and Overhead Carry. I also like to use boards.

RELATED: Stop wasting time doing core sit ups Boards

Element 6

Training should take place in all planes of motion. Many people train comfortably only in the sagittal plane, lacking movement in the frontal and transverse planes. Using the squat model as an example, you can do Front Squats in the sagittal plane, Lateral Step-Ups in the frontal plane, and Curtsy Lunge in the transverse plane.

Element 7

It is important to use both bilateral and unilateral variations of exercises for the lower and upper body. A good bilateral joint model, for example, is the Romanian deadlift, while a one-sided option could be a one-leg RDL or a one-leg bridge. An example of an upper body pull would be a Barbell Bent Row for a bilateral option and a Single-Arm Cable Row for a unilateral version.

Example of a 2-day-per-week program

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  • A1) Zercher Squat – 5 X 4
  • A2) Single leg RDL – 5 X 4 each leg
  • B1) One-arm bench press with dumbbells – 3 X 8 per arm
  • B2) Neutral grip traction – 3 X 8 to 10
  • C1) Farmer’s transport – 3 X 40 meters
  • C2) Pallof press – 3 X 10 on each side
  • 10 minute metabolic conditioning


  • A1) Romanian Deadlift – 5 X 4
  • A2) Side Step-Up – 5 X 4 each leg
  • B1) Half-knee overhead press – 3 X 8 on each side
  • B2) Bent Row Dumbbell – 3 X 8 on each side
  • C1) Lifting and cutting cable with high knees – 3 X 10 on each side
  • C2) RKC board – 3 X 20 seconds
  • 10 minute metabolic conditioning


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