Q and A – Workout Programming

7 Oct

Q: “Yo Greg, dig the blog. You should put a post together about weekly/monthly organization of working out. How often, how hard, etc. for us out of shape noobs. Keep it up.” – Joe, FL

First off, thanks for the kind words!

How you program your workouts is a much debated topic. For instance, the argument on full body versus body part splits is as heated as any. A lot of thought goes into programming for my clients:  their goals, assessment results, workout experience, lifestyle, etc. So, let me preface the following by saying that I am going to tailor this answer to the general fitness newbie who is working out for the following reasons: to improve movement quality, improve strength and aerobic capacity and lastly but certainly not least, to look good in the buff.

How many Days A Week Should I Work Out?

The American College of Sports Medecine released these guidleines in 2007:

Do moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week Or Do vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week And do eight to 10 strength-training exercises, eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise twice a week.

Those recommandations are incredibly broad, especially in the “strength – trainging exercises” department. Here is a better approach:

The general newbie should be strength training 2 – 3 times a week. The simplest approach is to follow a plan that consists of TWO different Full – Body workouts. This is commonly reffered to as an A / B Split. To effectively utilize the split you want to perform both workouts at least once in a given week. For example, Workout A on Tuesday and Workout B on Friday. However, when you write a plan out for an A / B split you don’t want to assign set – rep schemes by the week. Instead, you would assign them by the workout. This way you can alternate workouts throughout the course of a month. This allows you to hit three workouts in a week. For example, Monday is workout A, Wednesday is Workout B, and then Friday is Workout A. The following Monday you would pick right back up with workout B, and continue to alternate until you have finished the designated number of workouts for each.

Once or twice a week you want to do a form of metabolic training. This is often called “interval” training. The key here is to work anaerobically. Common examples would be sprints (on a track, up a hill, on a bike, etc), sled pushes, or circuit work. For some more information on circuits see the string of articles I posted on Circuit Exercise Selection. Also my post on spicing up your ESD will be helpful.

I am an advocate for one workout a week that is of a slower pace for a longer duration. However, choose something low impact. Cycling, brisk walking, kayaking, hiking. Stay away from distance running.

One day a week (two max) should be taken off completely.

The A/ B Split Sounds Great…Now How Do I Set It Up?

The best way to get started with the A/B Split is to utilize big movements, in every plane of motion, and employ a conjugate periodization scheme. This will have you cycling through a series of different loading protocols.

For your first two exercises in each workout pick a money maker. The obvious choices would be Squat and Chin Up / Deadlift and Bench Press.

You can set the set – rep scheme like so:

Workout 1 and 5: 2 x 15

Workout 2 and 6: 3 x 10

Workout 3 and 7: 4 x 6

Workout 4 and 8: 6 x 3

Or (A little less straight forward)

Workout 1 and 5: 4 x 6

Workout 2 and 6: 3 x 10

Workout 3 and 7: 6 x 3

Workout 4 and 8: 2 x 15


As Far As Assistance exercises go you would want to select exercises that address the things you miss in those four big lifts:

– Rotational and Lateral Movement

– Single Leg / Arm Work

– Direct Core Work

Here is an example Template:

Workout A:

A. Front Squat 4 x 6

B. Chin – Up 4 x 6

C1. SHELC’s 3 x 10

C2. Alternating DB Bench Press 3 x 5/ each

D1. Cross Over DB Step Up 3 x 8/each

D2. Paloff Press 3 x 4/ each (8 Second Hold)

Workout B:

A. Deadlift 4 x 6

B. Bench Press 4 x 6

C1. Reverse Lunge 3 x 6/each

C2. One Arm Cable Row 3 x 6/each

D1. Turkish Get Up 3 x 8

D2. Kettle Bell Swing 3 x 1 min

An Example Week May Look Like The Following:

Monday – Workout A

Tuesday – Bike Sprints

Wednesday – Workout B

Thursday – 100m Sprints

Friday – Workout A

Saturday – Hiking for 1.5 Hours

Sunday – Off

The last point, you need to make sure you are taking advantage of a good pre workout warmup, Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson’s Magnificent Mobility DVD would be a wise purchase.

Hope this helps Joe!




4 Responses to “Q and A – Workout Programming”

  1. Tony Tromboni October 8, 2010 at 4:41 pm #

    I don’t believe that Joe is real. Y/N? A/S/L?

    • Joe October 9, 2010 at 3:22 pm #

      lol I’m more skeptical of a guy named Tony Tromboni. I am real, and I really appreciated this post!

  2. Liz October 8, 2010 at 4:44 pm #

    Is the debate as heated as the debate between cats and dogs? Or Annie’s v. Kraft? Or Coke v. Pepsi, or Aiden v. Mr. Big? Or pizza v. Chinese? Bettie v. Veronica????

  3. buster October 10, 2010 at 12:00 am #

    I vote for Veronica.

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