The Art of Program Design

When designing a training program, naturally you want to create it centred around the primary goal. However, often the ability to achieve the goal may be hindered by some physical dysfunction. The challenge is you can only do so many things at once. 

Let’s say you have a client that has inadequate mobility and stability. You can be strategic with your prescription of the initial exercise selection along with the lifting tempo, whereby you hide loaded stretching into the training program. For instance, they may have poor ankle and hip mobility, which has previously caused dysfunction at the knee. To overcome this, instead of starting them with a Low Bar Back Squat as your initial primary lift, you go a different route. 

You could use the Front Foot Elevated Split Squat (shown here) as your primary lift, along with the Calf Raise to support. Plus, then you could integrate a pause at the stretched position for both movements, hiding loaded stretching work within the workout. 

In this instance, if you prescribed the Split Squat for 3 sets of 12 reps, with a 2 second pause at the bottom for each rep, the outcome would be 36 seconds of loaded stretching, per set. That’s 108 second of stretching on one day and if done twice a week, you’ve now got 216 seconds. Do that for 3 weeks and you’ve done 648 seconds – think that might help mobility? Plus, if you add in the Calf Raise as a supportive lift, using the same approach you would get even more bonus mobility work hidden with the program. 

Now let’s say the client also has a poor ability to stabilise the spine, with the functioning of the core and motor control poor. Instead of starting with optimal loading options (barbells & bilateral stances) I typically use self-limiting variations. That is movements that naturally limit the load lifted due to their design. For instance, the use of a Half Kneeling Landmine Press and/or DB One Arm Overhead Press (shown here) would be classic examples. 

These options have greater instability and thus require greater stabilisation at both the core and shoulder joint, whilst the two sides can work individually, as opposed to starting with a Bench a Press. 

Remember, the goal is to make a client better AND more injury resilient. They’re not mutually exclusive variables.