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October 15, 2019

041 | Training & Programming Q&A


Question 1:

What would you describe as “science based programming”? A lot of trainers prompt that now.

In short, to claim something is science based or evidence based, THERE NEEDS TO BE SIGNIFICANT SCIENCE BASED EVIDENCE TO BACK THE CLAIM.

There need to have been scientific studies performed, proving the tactic or method to be true or false. Ideally, there are several studies that back the claim.

I mean it’s 2000 freaking 19 and the other day I was reading an article in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (which I have access to through my NSCA membership) about leg and hip muscle activity during the back squat, Romanian deadlift and hip thrust. It found that the squats had significantly higher levels of quad activity because of the knee flexion and extension involved. And the hip thrust has the highest glute max activity. The Romanian deadlift had the highest hamstring activity.

We know this right?!

Those are claims we can say are science based, or evidence based training methods.

Example: You’re pairing hip thrusts and RDLs because you’re targeting the hamstrings and glutes. That would be evidence based training.

There are also methods I have to mention that may not have been tested and published in a scientific journal, but THEY WORK. And that’s that.

For instance, the heart rate or energy systems development used by Joel Jamieson. This is the type of conditioning I use with my clients and Built By Annie programming.

There are six different types of conditioning all based on targeting and increasing your body’s energy system’s thresholds in an a-lactic, anaerobic and aerobic. These methods have been effectively used and tested on athletes for YEARS. There is data to show for it. We can see heart rate variability improving, resting heart rates decreasing, thresholds increasing etc. BUT, I can’t say for sure if there are specified studies to support Joel’s specific methods.

If someone is claiming “science” or evidence based training methods, take responsibility and ask questions. Ask how it’s science based, ask what’s the science behind their method. Hopefully you can see it within their other content.

Also, the more science you read yourself, the more you’ll be able to piece things together and kind of start to see common trends within the science. Compound movements are efficient for working large amount of muscle groups and have a high metabolic demand. Hip thrusts work your glutes more than squats. You don’t have to pull maximal loads to retain strength and so on.

Question 2:

Mobility/accessory work. How do you choose certain movements? Is there a resource?

For mobility and accessory work, there are a few things that go into deciding that. 

I typically go off three things: the main movement, the goal of that movement (get strong, build muscle, increase capacity), and the individual (if that is part of the equation). If individuality is not a part of the equation then I’ll go off of my knowledge and experience with the masses. Right? What do MOST people need? What will MOST people likely benefit from when it comes to mobility and accessory work.

First – the main movement of the day.

Then plug in mobility and accessory work accordingly. Generally speaking.

Say you have a squat day and back squat is the main lift. We know back squat is a knee dominant, lower body compound movement. 

I tend towards strength and hypertrophy based accessory work for the lower body (glutes, hamstrings and quads). Make sure there is some single leg work in there – lunges, Cossacks, split squats, step ups.

You can also choose hip or knee dominant with the accessory work. All depends on the goals of the program. If you’re going hip dominant and hypertrophy then you’ll see hip thrusts and RDL work, and maybe some single leg hip thrusts or deep step ups or pull up machine step downs. By the way, if you’ve never tried those…you should. I love them.

Or, if you’re wanting more quad dominant than you’d maybe see some high volume goblet squats, or narrow stance heel elevated work or knee dominant Bulgarians split squats or lunges. Any time that front foot is closer to the body and the knee drives over the toe we’re going to get more quad work vs glute work.

Follow the main lift – add appropriate mobility before and accessory work based on goals and areas you want to target, after.

As far as mobility goes, keeping with the squat example – I’d likely add in a Cossack or adductor rock back of some kind, Bulgarian rock backs, or ankle and hip mobilization. Because that’s likely were people are going to be limited + need to gain awareness.

Second: Consider the goal of the program and day. This is sets and reps and tempo right?

Is the goal to increase work capacity? Built muscle? Gain strength? Just move?

That will be the driver of sets of reps and tempo.

Sets and reps could be a freaking training module at this point so I won’t go into that here just for the sake of getting to all these questions.

Third: The individual aspect of it. Do they want to build a muscle group, rehab from pain? Balance a right to left strength discrepancy?

That drives the accessory and mobility as well. But for general humans I go for muscle growth + strength, balance between unilateral work, and make sure they are moving in more than just the saggital plane.

Question 3:

For a beginner program, do you think it’s necessary to do different workouts/rep ranges every week? 

For the sake of this question I am assuming a beginner has never done strength training before or has very little experience with it.

In reality it doesn’t matter how many days because you can do the same volume of total work for the week in three days or five days.

Now, their body might take better to one of those. They might find their body responds quicker to a four day split program vs a three day full body program even though the programs have the same weekly volume. I hope that makes sense.

For a beginner especially it’s all about consistency. Getting their body to recognize movements and build those neural pathways for a strong mind muscle connection, so I suggest the same weekly workouts for 4-6 weeks depending on the client. Focus on simplicity, consistency and awareness for newbies.

Question 4:

How to keep programs good for progress but with enough variety for clients to not get bored.

I’m team boring, not-sexy training, which makes me a bit bias here I think.

You need to change very little in a program to get a client to progress. For instance, you could only change the weight being used, the tempo or the GRIP of an exercise and that may be enough of a new stimulus for the body to be challenge and adapt.

Sometimes I even give clients options.

Especially with single joint accessory work. I’ll let a client choose any tricep exercise they want – 3×12 reps at a slower down than up tempo.

That freedom is huge and their accessory work is not going to make or break the desired progress for the program. It’s a time they can bro out, chase the pump and do what they like. While still being guided by me. And they then record whatever they chose.

So the progression has to be there. But there are ways to make the client feel like they’re doing something new while still working the desired area.

Question 5:

Difference between 3x a week program vs 5 or 6x a week low. Benefits?

Kind of answered this one with the newbie programming question.

You can get the same volume in both. But with more days, you can hit body parts multiple times a week from a larger variety of angles and loads.

My people want to be in the gym for under an hour. Regardless of how many days per week they go to the gym. If you can lift for two hours and have the energy and supplements to do so, great. Then you can smash your five day per week volume into three days. But that’s not likely.

With four and five day per week programs you get to split upper and lower body up, or just split up your volume in general. Which I prefer.

Three days per week = survival for me. 4-5 is my ideal program.

I think the main benefit of 4 or 5 days is variety, and hitting muscle groups and movement patterns more often, IF YOU WANT TO. There is also the possible metabolic benefit of just moving more often on a consistent basis (depending of course on what your life looks like outside of the gym).

The answer is always it depends. But in my opinion and what most of my clients do best with, 4 – 5 days with an upper/lower split seems to be the sweet spot.

Question 6:

Programming! Conditioning, corrective exercise, mobility. How do you program them in?

Corrective exercise and mobility is based on partially what most people need and won’t hurt, and largely based on mobility assessments through the active life (for 1:1 clients).

Corrective exercise and mobility is done before their lift. Additional mobility after the lift of applicable as kind of a cool down.

Conditioning is all heart rate for me – I use the energy systems development methods from Joel Jamieson’s Ultimate Mma Conditioning. That covers steady state to cardiac power output intervals that will make you see Jesus and question life.

Conditioning is only 1-2 days a week for Built by Annie and only if it’s  4-5 days a week. And that is separate from lifting. I don’t like mixing the two if I can help it. And it’s done BEFORE lifting if that is the focus.

If someone wants to do cardio on their own to just increase their caloric deficit then I advise them to do it after their lift so that the cardio doesn’t hinder the strength session.

Question 7:

Got a training cert and now feel like there are so many options I don’t know where to go…help.

Hit up McKenzie Kidman and her Pro Coach Academy. And get experience. You’ll quickly figure out what do and don’t want to do by GETTING EXPERIENCE.

Question 8 (and like questions)

What helped you learn how to program? I know there is no magic formula but I get stuck.

What resources should we use to learn to build a solid lifting program for women?

  • Taking a program design course in college
  • Training for four years during college on my own
  • Trying different methods
  • Doing my internship at University of Portland (where my main focus was programming).
  • Going through several injuries and rehabbing them while in college.

That all equates to exposure to different training and programming methods. I’ve always written my own programs and loved training. When that’s the case, you gain a deeper understanding for the method, right?

If you’re talking strength, I just want you to take these down, get on the World Wide Web and do a Google search. I do suggest reading starting strength, then research the following: the Juggernaut Method, Jim Wendler’s 531 method, German Volume Training, Waveloading.

You guys, there’s not a magic programming book cause it’s SO COMPLEX. It’s a toolbox with limitless tools. The more methods you try, the larger your tool kit will be.

It takes time, and experience. And if you don’t like this shit, it’s not going to be fun. Straight up. Be a student of programming. And I literally have a two part podcast series on how to be good at programming for this reason. If you don’t have a basic understanding human anatomy and physiology, it’s going to be hard and I honestly doubt you’ll ever be “good at programming.”

Aaaannndddd the last question – number 9! Not like the others fam.

How to overcome having lost gains from not being able to make it to the gym?

You’ll have to tune in to find my answers to this one! We get PERSONAL.

Want more podcasts? Click here to skim the archives.

P.S. Save this value packed episode for later over on pinterest!

Annie Miller answers training + programming questions on The FitsPRO Podcast

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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

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