The Perfect Program Pt. 1: Goals & Exercise Selection
So if you read my first blog on using Intensity, Volume and Frequency, I mentioned that I want to offer you MORE value from my next blog.
Here we are!
Let’s dig into creating the perfect training program for your goals and your body. In this first part you are going to take a look at look at your movement and see what weaknesses we can attack in the beginning to do our best to prepare your body for intense training. This first step is important because preparation is the hugest key for mitigating injury as best as possible (preventing injury is just not possible). Your goal is Less Pain, More Gains, so to accomplish that we NEED to know a baseline before we can even BEGIN to create goals.
If you haven’t already grabbed Kronic Strength, my ultimate guide on Strength Training, I highly recommend you download it (it’s free) and go through it. There is an assessment inside of it that you can complete. It will assess your whole body and give you a good idea of what you need work on to improve going forward. It will also give you a great idea of what (at this moment) you can and cannot do. So go ahead and download Kronic Strength HERE and go through the assessment. Inside of that E-Book is also A TON of information that will help you on your journey toward building strength and of course, building muscle.
Do you have a better idea about what’s going on with your body? You may find that one hip is a bit tighter than the other in certain movements. You may find that your shoulders are tight when you reach behind your back or try to go overhead. You may find that your back may be tight when you try to squat, or that your feet turn out a lot.
Hey, it’s okay! These aren’t bad things. It makes you human. Let me tell you a secret: we ALL have things to work on with mobility and movement, myself included. I’m tight as fuck in certain areas haha. But mobility is a life long venture that takes real effort and time to work through. Doesn’t mean you won’t be able to train, we just gotta take charge and work on these issues to make those movements better. No one wants to be in pain, no one wants to get injured, but the fact of the matter is: the longer you wait to make your joints to do joint things, the more likely you are to get hurt.
So with that being said, we’ll be using your results from the assessment to determine which movements we should use to strengthen your core 6 movements:
All of those movements are key to seeing Less Pain and More Gains. Included in Kronic Strength are 4 progressions for each of the core 6 movements that you can choose from. I’ll be talking about some modifications if you discover you can’t do some of the basic movements. As a note: DO NOT progress if you don’t feel stable in the basic movements. So if you can’t sit into a deep squat with just your body weight, why are you putting a barbell on your back and trying to squat that? You’re setting yourself up to get hurt eventually.
One second though, what do you want to change? Before we get into selecting exercises, let’s decide what your goals are! This step may seem meaningless because you wanna burn fat because that’s why you’re here. However:
WHY do you want to burn fat?
WHY do you want to lose your stomach?
WHY do you want to build muscle?
WHY do you care about that stuff?
Think critically about these things. They’re super important. Understanding what really motivates you is important because when things get tough and you wanna quit, aesthetics won’t keep you in the game. Goals like:
“I want to feel good”
“I want to be confident in myself”
“I want to be out of pain”
“I want to feel STRONG”
THOSE types of goals are long term ventures. They will keep you in the game for the long even AFTER you achieve the flat stomach, big legs or whatever look you want. Determine THESE goals first.
Grab a piece of paper and a pen. Write down 2 goals that have NOTHING to do with the way you look. Make them extremely personal. So if your goals were in a big pot of goals and were plucked from that pot they would be unique to you and YOU only, that they would stand out!
Got em? Perfect. Let’s select your movements.
When selecting exercises it’s again important to look at your assessment and see how things went. Assessments are ALWAYS the first step to developing a program for my online clients because we need a point A before we get a point B,C,D etc. If a coach tries to offer you a solution, program or something like that without knowing ANYTHING about you, run quick. Trust.
Let’s do this!
The squat is a LIFE exercise. It wasn’t born in the gym. We need to squat because it applies to the things we do DAILY. So think about the squat from this perspective and you can see why being able to get into a deep squat with strength and stability is important.
Here is a simple progression. Your program can start with just body weight squats while you have some mobility work in there to continue to improve your depth and control at the bottom of your squat. Once you feel comfortable at the bottom of your squat you can progress to another modality with a dumbbell or barbell. Having trouble getting deeper into your squat without pain, popping or other issues? Shoot me a message and let’s talk about how to improve that squat!
If you can’t handle a bodyweight squat without any weight on your body from a mobility perspective, why are you putting 200 pounds on your back? Your body isn’t prepared to handle that load. Your JOINTS aren’t prepared to handle that load. It’s NOT worth it. I promise.
Hinging is also a life movement that is necessary for so many things we do. Don’t think deadlift, or RDL, think picking up a bag from the ground. Think how does this stuff apply to things you do in life. That’s a big reason these movements are foundational and are less likely to get your hurt. They apply to things you do everyday and by increasing your efficiency in those daily activities, you’re increasing your capacity to handle daily life with a lower risk for injury. Once you get these fundamentals down pat, then you can apply these movements in more difficult contexts. A classic hinging pattern is the Romanian Deadlift (RDL) which is a hip dominant motion.
This term is fancy for you bend more at your hips more than a knee dominant movement which has more bend in the knees. The RDL is a great movement for mastering the hip hinge and increasing hamstring mobility/ strength. It can be progressed and regressed in MANY different ways allowing for many different age groups, training experience levels and all in between to get busy with the hinge pattern.
If you follow me on Instagram you know how much I promote pulling stuff, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t push. Pushing is DEFINITELY important. And actually, while you’re pushing, you SHOULD be pulling as well. Think of something like a bench press. When you’re setting up, you should be PULLING your shoulders down into the bench and activating your back while you push. Your lats are 100% involved in the bench. A lot of movements intertwine with one another. It’s not like while you’re pushing, you’re never pulling and vice versa.
A good place to start with the pushing movement is NOT a push-up in my opinion. In fact, I think the floor press is the best option for most people in the beginning.
It’s safer for the shoulders due to the decreased range of motion and helps establish the lat engagement I spoke of earlier with proper coaching. When you understand how to engage your abs, lats and shoulders correctly to execute the pushing motion effectively, you set yourself up to crush pushups later on. Once you can crush pushups with no issues, move onto heavy pushing with a barbell and heavy dumbbells. Don’t think you can’t push standing up though! If you’re moving a ton of weight sure, hit a barbell bench press. But, if you’re working on using your whole body and working on things like running or gait, a standing single arm press may be a good option for you! This variation will also allow you to build both sides of your body equally!
Based on the typical habits I see, pulling should be happening more in your program than pushing. Why? All day we spend our time hunched over a computer, our phones or watching TV/Netflix. There’s nothing inherently wrong with those positions as I’ve said previously, however, when you spend too much time in those positions, your body adapts to them. It becomes SUPER easy to access any position that requires you round or push because you’re always doing that. However, going in the opposite direction, pulling, your body WILL struggle. Your body is not used to doing this opposing motion so it will struggle to even ACCESS that position let alone build strength there.
One of the best ways to combat this prolonged posture, is to give the body the opposite posture and give it often. When pulling things, you need to retract your shoulders and erect the spine, two positions that are opposite to the protracting and rounding of the spine you’re used to doing. One of the easiest movements to pull stuff is the chest supported row.
This motion gives your body the opposite of what it’s used to. This position may be difficult to access. Focus on FEELING your back work. You may feel a bit of upper back at first, but that’s okay. Work to pull those shoulders down and get your lats to feel the work. Once these muscles on the back of your shoulders and on your back get strong, they will eventually be able to hold your body in different positions a lot easier. This will also slowly combat some of the rounding you may be experiencing from a life of rounding. A great variation of this movement is the 1 Arm Row which will get more activation of the lats because you’ll be able to rotate your upper spine a bit more and get some more engagement of the lats through the extension of the shoulder.
So use this motion in your program for pulling as well because you’ll be able to equally build both sides of your back. One side will usually be stronger or you’ll be able to connect your brain to better from a mind-muscle connection perspective. So adding this accessory to your program can keep you more balanced.
Rotation is SO important for being an optimal human. Why? Go walk to the store. Go run to ANYWHERE. Grab your phone to the right of you. Doing all of those motions require some level of rotation. If you can’t rotate, you’re missing out of so much of your strength and power. Generating force through rotation is a very important skill YOU need as human. If you can’t rotate through your thoracic spine (the part of your spine that holds your rib cage) you will most likely use something else to accomplish this task. That something is usually your lower back. For those of you who like to run and want to continue to do it for the rest of your life, get better at rotating. Here is a great exercise for thoracic rotation and learning how to separate lumbar (lower spine) from thoracic (upper spine) rotation:
The key with this is to do your best to not involve your hips at all. You can see that my hips stay in front of me from the first to second picture. This is true thoracic rotation. If you can perform this motion with resistance applied, you’ll EASILY apply it to things like walking, running etc. Make the pieces work well apart then start to piece them together. Trust me, working on gait is hard. It’s literally reprogramming how to you take steps and use your body to move. Take your time and really focus on the FEELING. Here is another rotation movement that DOES utilize the hips and glutes because yes, that’s important too!
As I transition from the first position to the second, pay attention to my feet. You can see in picture one my left foot is down and my right heel is up. But in the second they are reversed. I’m using my feet to drive my hip rotation that'a necessary for this movement. This rotation, in comparison with the previous rotation based movement involves your whole body. In this case we want the whole body to move as one as opposed to the previous one where just the upper spine was doing work. Try both movements and see if you can execute them both effectively!
Ever carry groceries to your house or to your car? Cool, me too. Carrying is SUPER simple. Walk around with heavy ass shit and do your best to maintain stability in your your whole body. You can play around with the variations carrying one dumbbell that’s heavier than the other, carrying them above your head, carrying plates, the list goes on. Here’s a simple variation to start with: The Farmer’s Carry
Pick a weight in each hand that’s going to challenge you. Don’t walk around with super light stuff you can do the macarena with. When you’re carrying your groceries for long distances, that shit is HARD. It gets tiring. When you practice this motion, you can teach yourself how to carry stuff better! This will in turn help you use your muscles more and less joints. You’ll learn how to fire your glutes when you carry heavy stuff to save your knees. You’ll learn how to fire your lats to save your shoulders. Getting better at carrying stuff is a basic human function. Learn how to human better!
So you now have a whole list of exercises you can use with dope goals to match them. In the next blog we’ll talk about selecting your schedule and the best routine split to match your goals!
If you’re still having trouble creating goals that matter to you and picking exercises that match those goals, sign up for a free 30 minute coaching talk with me HERE. I can get you started on tackling the perfect program for your goals!