Program Design


Anyone that has been training for any length of time has probably used and written a thousand different gym program designs. Some to get strong, some to get cut, some to gain mass, blah, blah, blah…  In the end, however, pretty much everyone has most likely been designing their programs wrong. Sure there is probably a nicer way to say it,  I know the truth can hurt sometimes but I promise it’s because I care. 

Most programs aren’t made to last more than a week and the lengthy ones are so rigid that if you missed a day the entire universe would collapse.

First, let’s discuss a few basic program design methods and where they go wrong, then we’ll get into a better way. On one end of the spectrum is a completely random program. Some people call this muscle confusion. The problem is that they are usually the ones that are confused. I’m not talking about variety but random, hard, crap programs that end in someone puking or getting hurt. Many professional trainers are guilty of this (I cannot lie I've been guilty of this such practice).  It does’t matter if the program is really hard, what matters is whether or not it produces results. Variety definitely needs to be included, but systematically. If you are ever around a guy that gets off on crushing their clients, run far, far away.

The other end of the spectrum would be the rigid, long-term, linear periodized programs and straight block programs. Simply put, these would look like the bastardized Eastern Block programs of the 1980’s.  

But don't cry there is hope — there is many ways to write / design a program and I honestly believe there is no such things a perfect program only effective and ineffective training. 

Imagine you have four separate jars; each jar is mark - Strength & Conditioning - Rehab - Nutrition - Mind. Every time you train one of these “pillars of fitness” you throw a coin into the jar. True, it will take you longer to fill your jars but eventually you will. Now you have four full jars or four nearly maximized training outcomes. That is a complete human.

The goal in training is to train, to avoid injury and increase overall health / performance. To achieve this goal you must train the whole body and leave nothing to chance.  


Michael Greenhouse