6 Do’s and Don’ts of a Successful Training Program

We Do: Set specific and exciting goals.
Modern training programs are capable of incredible achievements for athletes of any age. Don’t lower your hopes or expectations.
Make your goals something that truly excites you and makes you want to get out of bed in the morning.Otherwise, what’s the point?

Amazing Results demand  the best training techniques.

Amazing Results demand the best training techniques.

We Don’t: Work without purpose. This means don’t exercise with knowing what you hope to get out of the deal. Strength? Ability? Looks? Mobility? Independence? Confidence? All worthy goals of an overall exercise program.But you should take it a step further–to the exercise level. If you’re working deadlifts then you should understand the adaptations associated with deadlifts: high neural strength, full body load, minimal mass gain. Is that what you want? If you’re working the human flag you are developing neural control, muscle memory, and extraordinary levels of isometric core strength.You are putting time and energy into your training program. Know what you want to get out of it.
We Do: Embrace techniques that lead to rapid improvement in fitness.Often this techniques focus on the Central Nervous System because of its complete control over all other systems in the body and the incredible benefits we can get from neural plasticity–the ability of the brain to rapidly adapt and change We Don’t: Struggle with the point of diminishing returns. You can rapidly achieve 80-90% of your athletic potential within a surprisingly short timeframe (we’re talking weeks, not months).At this point you have a choice. You can either:a) Struggle for months and years with that last 10%, tweaking and refining your training program and specializing in that athletic endeavorb) Do something else. Something new and different. Build another skill, capability, strength, talent, sport, or program on that high level of ability.We choose B. Take the easy win. Mix it up and keep things fun.If you find your one true sport, and choose A. We can only get you to that 80-90%, then you’ll need to take on a specialty program for your specific endeavor. ( Generally speaking, only professionals need/want this level of specialization)Positive graph
We Do: Subscribe to the definition of fitness created by Crossfit’s Coach Greg Glassman:“Increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.” We Don’t: Over specialize.There’s no reason to confine yourself to one sport or activity.The basics of functional, strength, metabolic, and motor training are versatile and transferable enough that we can apply them to anything–whether it’s a lifelong passion, or just a passing flirtation.
We Do: Prepare appropriately for strength training, correcting pre-existing issues before they have a chance to sabotage our training program. We Don’t: Avoid Strength.Strength is essential to our existence as athletesStrong is Fit
We Do: Create training programs that allow for the natural cycle of Work, Play, Rest.If you are here, then you are trying to get fit for something. We full intend to give you the chance to enjoy that something, and then recover for your next training cycle.Mountain biker We Don’t: Toil constantly, 365 day a year, in our training program. If you are looking for personal punishment (rather than an effective workout program), then you’ll have to look elsewhere.
We Do: Constantly study the science of fitness.We refine our program and format based on what we learn, what studies prove, and what our own tests conclude.This isn’t about beliefs or branding. This is about developing the best training program of your life. We Don’t: Entrench in dogma.Any Personal Trainer or Coach that acts like they know everything is compensating.Challenge assumptions, review the information, draw your own conclusions–and then test and refine.Box Jumps

 

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Maximal Strength: Body Weight Exercises take on the Barbell

Initially, it’s hard to imagine how body weight (BW) exercises could be used to build maximal strength. How can BW exercises possibly compare to a 500lb deadlift?

There is a collection, however, of BW exercises that drive muscle tension and demand as high a motor drive as any of the powerlifts. There are even some advantage to using these exercises over traditional weight room exercises for maximal strength.

Advantages: Disadvantages:
  • Highly transferable strength: Maximal strength bodyweight exercises demand high awareness of one’s center of gravity, proprioception, and the interplay of your muscles throughout the movement pattern. In many ways, these exercises will simultaneously drive the adaptions of Functional Training (Phase I) and Metabolic Training (Phase II)
  • High barriers to entry: No one can just walk up to a stop sign and perform a perfect flag without practice. Even seasoned Pilate instructors will need to work a progression before they can perform a perfect font lever. These exercises take time to build proficiency and require a high degree of preexisting strength to perform. (Unlike weights, which can be progressively loaded.)
  • Can be done anywhere: this is a big benefit for the road warrior or the gym-o- phobe (yes, I just made that word up). All of these can be done without a gym membership or an olympic weight set.
  • Work smaller muscle groups: In order to achieve a maximal strength exercise with only your body weight and gravity, you have to select and isolate smaller muscle groups than you would use with weight room exercises. The overall result is a smaller total muscle recruitment.
  • Mimics many Sports Movements: The degree of mastery over your own body, built by these motions benefits many athletes, from MMA fighters to rugby players to rock climbers

There are three methods for using BW exercises for maximal strength:

Singularity

Take an exercise that traditionally uses both arms, or both legs, and reduce it to one limb. The result tension on the single limb is more than merely double that of it symmetrical exercise, because your one arm, or leg now has to accomplish the task a balance and stabilization–which is much easier with two limbs that can generate counter pressure.
Top exercises include:

OSLOne Legged Squat

AKA “pistols,” this is the only maximal strength BW exercise presented here that works your legs, and to some degree your posterior chain (if you know of any others, please let me know in the comments). Balance and good form and critical on this one.


One Armed Pushup

Seen this one in the movies? Looks pretty easy? Think you can do one? Good luck.
Once you’ve finished your slice of humble pie you can start working on a series that progressively isolates one arm to build you towards the one armed push up.

Learn the One Armed Pushup Progression Here


One Armed Pull up/Chin up/Muscle up

Pulling yourself up by one arm is a gold standard for arm bodyweight strength (one arm muscle ups are platinum). With focus, and patience, you can get there–and join the very small percentage of the population with this incredible display of maximal strength.

Learn the One Armed Pullup Progression Here


Leverage

Because of the overall length of your body, you are capable of generating tremendous amounts of force on your core using only your body weight and leverage.

Mastering front levers, back levers and flags also give you an awesome party trick, appearing to levitate your body through mind control (which is actually what you’re doing.

Front/Back levers


Flags


Planche


Inversion

Oddly enough, you’ve spent most of your life upright. Consequently, all of your muscles are highly trained and capable for motions and activities that are right side up. When you turn you body upside down, you begin to challenge your body in a way that your system isn’t fully used to and demand high maximum forces of contraction in the primary muscle groups.

Woman doing handstandHandstand Pushups

This is actually one of the more accessible of the max strength BW workouts due to the common use of a wall, a bar, a post, or something to assist in balancing your legs/body.

A very worthy goal is to remove the wall a support/ balance your weight independently.


InveHangin Aroundrted Situps

This requires some equipment–some way to fasten your feet in place while you hang upside down, along with a sturdy bar to hang from. There a multiple products available for use.

Beyond building strength across your core, there are many proponents of incorporating inverted exercises for other benefits such as back alignment and improved blood flow. But that discussion isn’t what we’re interested in here.

Here we’re concerned with ridiculously strong muscles- and the this exercise generates very strong contractile forces in the abs to build strength.

I never said these would be easy. But, provided you have corrected any injuries and movement pattern issues–all of these lie in the realm of possibility, and make for interesting side goals within your workout program.

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Steeling Your Mind: Functional Exercises to Prepare the Body

Traditionally exercises focused on strengthening a specific muscle. You would be focused on the bicep, the trapezius, the latissimus dorsi, the quadriceps, the gluteus maximus, and so on and so forth.

But in functional training (during phase I of the Central Training Program) you will focus on joints. In particular, you’ll focus on joints that are prone to injury, resulting in a restricted range of motion or compensation patterns.

FMS testTo be clear, you are still exercising and strengthening muscles. But instead of isolating a targeting a specific muscle for improvement, functional training will target the entire system of muscles surrounding a joint. Stabilizers, which secure the joint in place during motion are trained isometrically. Prime movers, which move the joint throughout its range of motion, are trained dynamically. The trick is doing both of these things at the same time.

Functional training selects exercises that accomplish both objective at the same time– forcing your stabilizers to lock in place while you move through a range of motion. This requires your joint to function in the ways that it works naturally, before life got in the way and you got injured or detrained and started developing compensation pattern.

Here are some of the key joints that we all need to focus on maintaining, and some exercises to help reestablish proper range of motion and full strength.

Shoulder

Shoulder painWith the greatest range of motion of any joint in the body, the shoulder comes with the added challenge of being particularly injury prone. The muscular balancing act required to maintain the shoulder’s of motion is easily upset through collision injuries and other sports injuries. Once the balance is upset, full range of motion can be difficult to reestablish, as the culprit of the limitation is rarely the source of pain.

Here are some functional exercises for correcting issues in the shoulder:

Three Point Plank

These focus on stressing the stabilizer muscles with a plank while working prime movers. The emphasis on the shoulder blade stabilizers is not accidental, most shoulder limitations can be corrected by simply strengthening this group of muscles.
The North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy has an excellent article on the key exercises, that I won’t be able to do justice to. So instead you can read it Here and start to build these exercises into your workout program

KB Arm Bar

Definitely an exercise that focuses on range of motion and stabilizers muscles–not a “pump.” Don’t let the simplicity fool you, this exercise can help create dramatic improvements in your shoulders.

Hips

The muscles that move and stabilize the hips are the strongest in the body. Consequently, we rarely ever notice or describe any issues with our hips’ strength or range of motion. This is because we have very high compensation abilities in this region of our body.

Compensation of limitations on our hips, however, manifest as pain and limitations in other areas. Knee and ankle pain result from improper motion through our legs when our hip flexors are too tight. Tight hamstrings will cause lower back pain and improper posture.

Two great exercises opening open the hips and improving range of motion are:

KB Windmill

This full body exercise stretches and strengthens the hamstrings and works the hip flexors’ ability to stabilize the joints motion.

Back Extensions (hyperextensions)

These truly work your hips throughout their full range of motion, and can easily add weight to increase neural drive.

Phase 1 hyperextensions _1-01-01-01

Knees

Knees are a problem, and they make no secret of it. Over the years of bearing the entire weight of your body on this small, isolated hinge, knee pain is an eventuality that all of us face at some point or another.

There are two keys to overcoming knee pain:

  1. Correct range of motion issues in your hips (discussed above)
  2. Strengthen the stabilizer muscles that secure your knee in place

The following exercises will help with your stabilizers:

Bear Squat

Single Leg Deadlift

Unlike the stiff, legged version of this exercise, you want to hinge at the hips and bend your working knee to get the most significant improvements out of this exercise, building on your knee stabilizers as you cross load the body.

Trunk (lumbar spine)

OK, you got me. This isn’t, technically speaking, a singular joint. However, trunk mobility–and even strength–issues are prevalent and insidious enough that it is impossible to discuss functional training without discussing the trunk.

Strength, mobility and coordination are essential across your midsection before you move on to maximal strength (phase II in the CTP) and metabolic training (phase III).

These two exercises will develop and reinforce mobility and stable movement patterns across your abdomen:

TGU

I can’t advertise the benefits of the Turkish Getup enough. It is a truly full body exercise that will improve and the movement patterns in every joint listed in this article.

FMS Rolls

Used frequently by FMS specialists to diagnose issues and assymmetries, rolls can actually be used as an exercise to build build movement patterns and reinforce neurological connections.

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4 Keys Behind Successful Athletes

1. Simplify

It’s a matter of priorities. Not just exercise priorities, but everything: work, home, exercise, education. Is exercise truly something your are ready to focus on?

A simple, but very effective way to tell is to sit down with a pad of paper and draw two columns:
Spiral notebook A4, clipping path included
As you go through the list the number of things in the “Not Important” column needs to be equal to or greater then the number of things in your important column. Otherwise your not really picking out what’s important, but just creating a wishlist.

Be honest with yourself. There are times in all of our lives that exercise rightfully goes on the “Not Important” side. It happens to all of us. The important thing is to recognize it, and determine how quickly you can move it over to the important side of things, while still maintaining healthy habits in the interlude.

If exercise makes the list, congratulations. Now the work begins

2. Focus

What, exactly do you intend to get out of your training program. In other words, what’s this whole thing about?

  • Looks?
  • Feeling better?
  • Accomplishing something specific? (eg 5k, weightlifting competition, long distance hike)

Someone looking to build muscle mass will select a different training program from someone training for an Ironman, who will select a different training program from someone looking to take up rock climbing. By defining exactly what you want, you can begin to determine how you’re going to get it. (and that’s Goal Setting 101).

3. Identify Progress

This is easy task phase II (maximal strength training) of your workout programs. You’ll be setting a new personal record almost every time you touch the bar. But what about the other phases?

Phase I (functional training) can be particularly challenging for goal/results driven athletes. Aside adopting what Dan Johnson calls a “park bench ” approach to exercise, which is extremely effective, you can measure success by learning and using the FMS screen. The FMS screen is a series of seven tests that examine movement patterns and range of motion. It is scored on a 3 point scale.

Progressing from a 2 to a 3 or a 1 to a 2 during your phase I functional training is an excellent indicator of progress and truly identifies that you are improving your capacity for exercise.

Phase III (metabolic training) is a different type of challenge. Your workouts will be intentionally varied to continue driving new stresses and adaptations in your physiology. Because you can rarely compare two workouts to each other during Phase III, it can be difficult to identify progress. Remember the “focus” part of this article? That will be your key to finding progress in your program. Identify a couple key exercises that demonstrate that you are getting what you want out of your exercise program. For some it might be performance on one of Crossfit’s named workouts; for others it might be an average of sprint times on the track; for others still, it might be developing and progressing on one of the olympic lifts (an excellent indicator of total body fitness).

4. Plan and Log

Once you have a plan, you’ll have expectations of yourself. Once you have a log, you’ll be accountable to yourself. There are paper options and digital options. Pick something and use it.

Writing this stuff down is more important than most people ever realize.

 

How to use the 3 Microcycles to breakthrough plateaus

Sometimes you work out really hard. Sometimes you take it easy. And sometimes you stay right in your groove.

And BOOM–you understand the three basic microcycles that you’ll need to build your program. Let’s learn them by name:

  • Shock–higher than normal training volume and intensities, designed to wear you out
  • Recovery–lower than normal training volume and intensities, designed to build you back up
  • Normal–normal training volume and intensities, designed to compliment shock and recovery cycles; depending on where they are placed in your program.

SupercompensationThis is where most people go astray. They build an exercise program, composed exclusively of normal microcyles, and then wonder why they don’t see any improvement. Then they get frustrated, stack a bunch of shock cycles in a row, and get injured or burned out.

By learning the concept of microcycles and how to apply them, you can cross the threshold to designing your own workout programs.

The Basic Progression

There are countless theories on how to vary and rotate your microcycles to get the maximum results out of your training program. Within the Central Training Program, the recommended progression for your phase III (metabolic) workout routines is as follows:

Shock->Normal->Normal->Recovery->Shock->Normal->Recovery->(Repeat as required)*


*We’ll call this a “round” in future discussions

The shock cycles elevate the stress caused by each subsequent workout. Immediately following the shock cycles with a normal cycle allows for minor recovery, but primarily builds upon the stress still present in your system from the overload. The recovery cycle allows for complete recovery and super compensation–which shifts your fitness level above your original baseline.

Generally speaking, recovery cycles should always be followed by shock phases. You’ve fully recovered, so it time to once again challenge your fitness with a brief training overload. By constantly inducing the added stress of a shock cycle, rather than staying in the “normal” training groove as most amateur athletes do, you will guarantee constant improvement as you progress through your training program.

Determining the length of a Microcycle

How long should a single microcycle last?

It depends on where you are in your training program. The longer you’ve been training, the longer your cycles need to be in duration, to build up sufficient stress and drive improvement. When you first begin your metabolic training** a microcycle can be a short as a single day.

Athletes Doing Tire-Flip ExerciseThat means a single day of higher than usual exercise will be sufficient to stress your system. Maybe you’ve got a really hard workout planned for that day, maybe you do two workouts in the single day–the point is, you need something that wear you out. Then the next two days will be regular workouts, followed by a rest day.

Single day microcycles will be sufficient for about 2 weeks (ie approximately two rounds). Then you need to increase the length to 2-3 days. This means that the shock cycle will be 2-3 days of higher than normal training intensity. Normal training cycles will be 2-3 days of regular difficulty workouts. Recovery cycles are at least two days of rest (you can include one day of an easy, low intensity workout in the mix to stay loose and relaxed).

Again, you can do this duration for 2-3 rounds. Then shift to 4-5 day microcycles (3-4 rounds). Then go to a full week (remainder of your training program).

Shifting the duration of your microcycles is one of the key components to both avoiding over training early in your training program, and breaking plateaus later in your training. the other key component is adjusting your intensities to match your fitness.

**Due to the highly neurological focus of phase I (functional training) and II (maximal strength training), you will follow a slightly different progression during these phases)

Redefining “Normal”

The intensity levels listed above are intentionally vague for each of the microcyles–high, medium, low is hardly specific enough to know if you’re doing it right. The reason for leaving these definitions open ended is to allow you to define these intensities based on what you know to be you abilities.

The Central Training Program Guidebook is able to prescribe some fairly exacting formulas for microcycles because the overall training program is designed with specific gates at each of the phases so that you (an we) know where your at at each point of your training phase.

However, when setting out on your own there are a few key indicators to determine where your ‘normal” training phase load needs to be:

-Resting Heart Rate Recovery. The testing is very precise and very simple. In the morning, preferably before coffee, lie down for 3 minutes then take your heart rate. Then stadn for one minute and take your heart rate. If there is more than a 20% difference your training volume is too high for a normal level micro cycle.

-Fatigue. Are your getting 8+ hours of sleep each night and still tired throughout the day? If yes, then your training volume is too high for a normal cycle.

-Soreness. Soreness should last for 2 days after a workout that is focused on a specific muscle group. If your body cannot recover within 2 days, your training volume is too high for a normal cycle.

After each microcycle round, reassess what your capable of. You will see an increase in your abilities and will be able to do more and more difficult workouts as part of your normal training cycles.

This is  the beauty, and the challenge, of building a training program around microcycles–you will always progress forward and consequently, will constantly be able to take on new challenges.