Of course where else do you start other than:
If you don’t have an end goal (or a few of of them) then you don’t have a fixed target to aim for. Do a ‘needs analysis’ and think about what you want to achieve – weight loss, muscle tone, sport specific goals. Simplify this process by using the SMART guide:
- S pecific
- M easureable
- A ssignable
- R elevant
- T ime
Once you have your end goals set out you assign the TIME element to it. Let’s say it’s a year from now for your weight loss target, muscle building target or sporting event.
That year is your MACROcycle
This is the big picture. The point at which you want to be at the end of 12 months time. Then either by yourself or with a coach, you break up that macrocycle into smaller lengths of time – say anything from 2-4 months.
These are your MESOcycles
This now means you can set milestone goals. A mesocycle is still long enough to have ‘long term’ goal setting and allow for flexibility should you need to reassess your programme for any reason. If its weight loss then where do you want to be at the end of each mesocycle when working toward the end goal? If it’s muscle building are you wanting hit specific loading on lifts or test 1 rep max? If it’s sport specific are you setting testing points at the end of each cycle or competing in smaller events to track performance?
Now this is where we consider the detail and we break down mesocycles into MICROcycles.
This is where you consider the day to day and week to week detail, of how you train and eat in order to hit your short and long term targets. If it’s muscle building – you are looking at progressive overload in sessions, adequate protein, spitting body parts, the number of sessions required, recovery protocols etc. If it’s weight loss – you are working out your daily and weekly calorie targets. You are finding out what foods you like in order to stick to the plan. You are giving yourself smaller goals such as fitting clothes and hitting your 10,000 steps. If it’s sport specific – it’s working on position specific training for team sports, interval requirements to improve pace or power endurance for MMA.
MOVEMENT BEFORE MUSCLE
Now you have the outline of your short and long term plan you can now start to focus on what your sessions will involve. I always start by training movement. It’s important that before you add any kind of loading to your body and muscle – whether it’s lifting in the gym or distance/ speed for cardio – you must work on how you move.
It’s important to focus on potential areas where you may pick up niggles or repetitive strain injuries. Any areas of tension where mobility and flexibility are going to be required. If you have any issues then how do you structure your warm-up/ prehab routine? After all, to finish first – first you must finish!
What can you lift, push, pull, press? If you are sport specific what are you like with more unconventional movements, changes of direction, acceleration and deceleration. Have you worked out your heart rate zones or completed a basic fitness test to get an idea of your current levels of fitness?
THE FIRST 2-3 WEEKS
Once you get going, if you you have focused on movement and preparing your body correctly, you will see some initial improvements in the first 2-3 weeks. This will mainly be down to improvements in the nervous system and a gradual improvement in your cardiovascular system. From here you will continue to follow your training plan and implement your progressive overload and recovery protocols.
If you are training for sports and events then consider your gym based sessions as a way of ‘bulletproofing’ you for your sport. It’s is important your strength and conditioning sessions compliment your sport and remain specific. If you are looking to change body composition (i.e. reducing body fat), use the first 2-3 weeks to get used to tracking your food and trying out your preferred dietary protocols.
This stage is very much a kind of ‘launching’ stage for your long term plan. But of course your plan will be adaptable too.
WHAT SESSION AND WHEN?
Depending on what your training goals are you need to consider when to programme the right type of session. For example, your ‘power’ session may be at the start of the week or when you are MOST RECOVERED. Power is moving the heaviest load that you can – in the shortest time (This does not mean the absolute heaviest load you can lift). It’s about maximal muscle fibre recruitment so it would make sense you would want as little muscle fibre damage as possible.
Then you can consider when you plan your strength sessions in relation to your power, technical or even competitive sessions. Remember too that a competitive event is where you should be doing a maximal effort and it therefore also contributes to your training load. This then has a knock on effect to your next power, strength and recovery sessions.
Programming is key!
So you’ve got your plan in place and you’ve prepared to train. Now you can think about the detail of your sessions based on what goals you are trying to achieve. When it comes to resistance training you need an understanding of how you manipulate factors such as sets, reps and load.
High weight low reps or low weight high reps?
First of all, I want you to understand that both elicit a change in muscle mass, power and strength. All lifting will result in hypertrophy (increase in muscle). We work out overall loading by calculating:
reps x sets x KGs
We manipulate these variables, along with tempo, to get the best training response from your lifting. What you are trying to achieve depends on what is involved in your session.
Power based individuals will be looking at factors such as speed of movement and possibly the heaviest weight you can move in the shortest time. This is usually based around sets of low numbers of reps and big rest periods, as it involves maximal muscle recruitment and taking the role of the nervous system into account.
Strength based individuals will be looking at the absolute heaviest weight they can lift and have more of a focus on factors such as muscle fibre damage and time under tension in order to maximise hypertrophy or muscle building. This means higher reps and sets and working to – or close to – failure in some sets.
SO WHICH SHOULD YOU DO?
Again, this depends on your goals but there is no reason not to do both. Power is best trained when you are most recovered in the week but it is important that you are training strength in order to be effective at power. If you are a rugby player for example, you will need to take pretty munch all aspects of fitness into consideration such as:
- Strength Endurance
- Power endurance
- Cardiovascular fitness
Again, depending on what you are training for, your sessions will involve the detail needed to elicit the best fitness response. If you are looking to improve speed then intervals are the key. You are manipulating variables of speed, distance and time and being aware of heart rate training zones. If you need to work on distance, then miles under the belt are important. This is combined with effective nutrition and hydration strategies AND the speed strategies above.
Of course this is the most important part for all training! It’s where the magic happens. You must schedule recovery days and take into account:
- Soft tissue management
All of these factors play an important role in your adaptation for both the short and long term and go hand in hand with your training.
It’s likely things crop up that change the short term detail of your plan. Injuries, illness, LIFE but this gos back to…
Programming is key!
You can adapt the smaller details of day to day and week to week training in order to get the most out fo your training. And if you are not sure about how to do this… GET A COACH!