Are you an aspiring personal trainer or fitness enthusiast looking to learn advanced programming?
Trainer or not, if you are wondering how to take a scientific and structured approach to your workout design then this article is for you!
In this article I will discuss how to build your own training program and pay specific attention to 2 key training variables:
- Training Frequency
- Training Volume
In addition to this, I will touch on how to manipulate other variable of program design specific to your goals, priority body areas, training experience, gender and more!
By the end of this article, you should see some considerations that go into a well designed a program and how to build a higher frequency training plan for maximal results.
Here’s what you need to know about physique based program design…
Tailor Your Training Progam To Your Goals
Far too often people try to master and progress multiple areas at once. This is much like trying to learn seven different languages all at the same time, it doesn’t work.
By having fixed priorities and rotating them on a monthly or quarterly basis you can overload a certain muscle group and really shock that area into growth. By adjusting your priority area every month or so, you can find the balance between targeted overload without overtraining and/or causing injury.
With my own clients and in the 90 Day Bikini Transformation Program I specifically target different areas and muscles at different stages. This allows me to really overload one area so that the growth is 10 times better than it would be if we were just trying to achieve everything in only one training block.
I also believe this is a much better strategy psychologically, as with only one main area to focus on you can give maximum effort and intensity.
Don’t worry though, during this time the other muscle areas won’t be completely neglected and you can still make whole body progress if done correctly.
Employing this strategy will also help you see much greater and faster improvements in the specific muscle and further motivate you to train harder and achieve your goals.
For example, you could spend a two month block overloading one part of the legs i.e. the front muscle groups (quads) or the back muscle groups such as the hamstring and glutes.
If you are a beginner, you could easily focus on overloading half the body in one training block, for example, really focusing on overloading the legs and then switching in the next training block to overload the upper body.
Another reason why this kind of training is important, is it allows you to practice and eventually master a skill. After all, exercise mechanics and technique is a skill.
Far too often people will repeatedly go through the motions with poor technique, that can greatly hinder results. Just like trying to get better at shooting a free throw in basketball or a putt in golf, you need to practice it weekly or even daily.
Training every muscle group once per week means you’re only practicing the skill once every seven days, greatly limiting the time you have to develop it. This way really slows progression as by the time it comes to training that area again you brain and body are back to where they were previously.
How To Optimize Frequency In Your Training Program
Hopefully now you see the importance of having a specific goal. This is even more important if you are advanced, because your body requires a much greater stimulus i.e. volume, advanced training variables and therefore recovery to allow a muscle group to adapt.
If you are new to resistance training, then a higher training frequency working all of the muscles in one session or say upper/lower split, can still be sufficient. As you may already know, when you are new to training (ie. within the first few months of starting out) you’ll pretty much grow and adapt no matter what you do (within reason of course)!
Once you’ve selected the muscle group you really want to overload you’re going to program this in first into your workout plan, as it is your priority.
Using legs as an example – you’ll program them in 2, 3 or possibly even 4 times a week. This of course depends on your current status, training age, recovery capabilities and many other factors such as diet, sleep and hormones.
If you’re already fairly advanced and training legs twice per week, then you’ll likely want to increase your leg training to 3 times a week such as training them Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
In contrast, if you’re currently not training at all or only training legs once per week then training legs on say Monday and Thursday will be a great step forward but also allow room for future progression.
So, grab a pen or paper and sketch out your priority area first. If you’re training that muscle group 3 x’s per week you’ll obviously want to leave one days’ recovery in between.
Here’s an example: train priority area Monday, Wednesday, Friday leaving a recovery day in between each session. Obviously you’ll tailor these days to fit around your lifestyle and commitments.
Now you have you priority area sorted, you obviously need to program in the other areas and still provide enough stimulus for some adaptations or at least retention of muscle and central nervous system activation and skill.
If you set legs at 3 x’s per week and you only train 5 x’s per week you can simply slot in upper body training on say Tuesday and Thursday in between. For the most part (and if it’s not your priority area), I would recommend training the whole upper body in one session. This way you’re still going to train each muscle twice per week and get a good balance between frequency, volume and recovery.
If for some reason you don’t want to train your whole upper body in one session (i.e. you are advanced and need more volume per muscle) you could of course take a classic push and pull approach, i.e. push on a Tuesday and pull on a Thursday.
So far, in accordance with my example, we should have something looking like this:
Tuesday: Upper Body or Push
Thursday: Back/Upper Body or Pull
This is a great example for training 5 x’s a week and overloading the legs.
Of course, if you train six times per week you could either start breaking your leg sessions down, for example into quad or front muscle focused sessions and posterior, hamstring and glute focused sessions. This would equal 2 quad (front) and 2 hamstring (hamstring / bum) per week.
If you’re just starting out, then you don’t need to split your leg sessions down because you can create an adequate amount of volume and overload for all lower body muscles in one session. As a result, you may choose to do extra high intensity interval training or normal cardio instead on your sixth day.
Although I have used legs as an example you can obviously tailor this approach to any muscle. Here’s an example overview if you wanted to overload your back and Lats during this block, again leaving a rest day between each overload session:
Wednesday: All Over Upper Body
Of course, obviously if you want to pick a different muscle group such as arms, chest, or shoulders simply replace the back days or your own personal priority area.
How To Optimize Volume In Your Training Program
Training volume i.e. the amount of reps, sets, and weight you lift per session is a key mechanism and driver in muscle growth.
To some extent, there is a linear relationship between total training volume and muscle growth. In other words, the more volume, sets or reps you perform per workout- the more you’ll grow. There is obviously a cutoff point here where crazy amounts of volume will cause a plateau and in extreme cases even overtraining and injury.
As you can see in the graph below, there is a nice, smooth increase and relationship between training volume and muscle growth which eventually plateaus and drops at the extreme.
I also recommend you tailor your training volume to the muscle group in question (i.e. bigger muscles need more volume or sets). Furthermore, you should consider some other key variables which may effect your program volume, including:
- Amount of Sleep and Quality of Sleep
- Supplement Regime/Protocol
- Protein Intake
- Calorie Intake
- Training Experience
- External Stresses i.e. work and family
- Muscle Group Size
- How Advanced The Program Is
This list is by no means complete but you can already see there are loads of variables you must consider when programming volume.
In particular, I highly recommend you take into consideration muscle group size (i.e. bigger muscle groups such as legs can handle more volume than a smaller muscle group such as the bicep), your dietary intake and your training frequency. For example, if you’re training with ridiculously high frequency (i.e. the same muscle 3 or 4 times a week) in an extreme calorie deficit, you will obviously need less volume per session.
For most people, here’s a rough guide of the amount of sets I recommend per muscle group per session:
- Biceps 6 – 10
- Triceps 6 – 10
- Chest 8 – 12
- Back 10 – 15
- Shoulders 8 – 12
- Hamstrings 8+
- Quads 8+
- Calves 5 – 10
Remember, volume and frequency must be considered. If you are training a particular muscle 3 or 4 times a week with high volume you will need less per set. In contrast, if you are only training a muscle once or twice per week you will need more volume/sets per individual workout.
This is only a rough guide and remember there are numerous factors to consider.
For a pro-athlete with an assisted supplement protocol and 10 plus years of training experience they may require a lot more volume or sets per session. In contrast, if you’re just starting out in the gym, you could get away with even less volume, allowing for greater recover time and more room to progress in the future.
Adding The Finishing Touches To Your Training Program
Now that you’ve addressed two of the biggest factors: training frequency and volume, you must consider some other factors when finishing your training program off. The list below separates a ‘normal’ or ‘average’ program to an advanced, result driven program.
These factors include:
- Advanced Training Methods,
- Varying Rep Ranges,
- Joint Angles,
- Muscle Fiber Type Recruitment,
- Biomechanics of Movement Patterns,
- Rest Periods.
While you don’t want to go crazy, the addition of advanced training methods such as the ones used in the 90 Day Bikini Transformation Program can seriously help develop your training program and yield far greater results. If you have been training for 1 year or more, or, trying to shred fat fast then these factors must be considered.
The first aspect I recommend you manipulate in your training program is the use of rep ranges (i.e. have some high rep exercises/workouts and some lower rep exercises/workouts). In addition, complementing this with one or two training methods can really help.
The advanced methods I like to use include:
- Drop Sets
- Cluster Sets
- Super Sets
- Intra-set Stretching
- Eccentric Overload
- Strength Curve Manipulation
Putting It All Together
Hopefully this article now gives you a good guide to planning your own effective training program. Or, at least demonstrates the complexity involved in designing a highly advanced program and the benefits that can be gained in following such an approach.
If you program, trainer or coach doesn’t consider all this, don’t be surprised if you get average or slow results.
If you would prefer to get a ready made for you highly advanced training program, including over 20 done-for-you advanced workouts and periodized plans that are specifically designed to consider all the points raised in this article, then join the 90 Day Bikini Transformation Program today.
You’ll be sure to get great results, or your money back.