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August 18, 2020

083 | 5 Aspects Of Any Good Training Program

5 aspects of any good training program

Today’s episode is specifically speaking about a strength or hypertrophy based program. The honorable mention will cover conditioning if that is a part of your program, but this assumes that you have an aerobic base to work with when it comes to your strength training. If you lack an aerobic base, that would need to be an additional part of your program.

Having a strong aerobic base allows you to push for harder and longer within your strength sets. Anyone who tells you that low intensity steady state cardio does not benefit strength and hypertrophy is lying to you.

Of course there is context within that. You will not likely train for a marathon and PR your back squat in the same training phase. But, in separate phases, the marathon training will likely benefit your potential for strength gains down the road. Simply by giving you a high work capacity. High work capacity means you can build muscle. Muscle mass is potential for strength gains. The end.

Now, let’s dive into the 5 aspects of any good program.

This is different than my other episodes on building out a program skeleton and what not. This post would be the specifics that live with in your program skeleton.

First up – really a multi piece aspect.

Squat hinge push pull carry

An effective program can either include all of these in a single day, or spread out within a 3 to 6 day program. All of these could be used in linear periodization or a daily or weekly undulating periodization. Those details are less important than making sure the program includes all of these movements.

The reasoning behind including these movements is to keep a balanced physique as well as strength balance. Something that can happen when we only squat or only deadlift is that we become dominant in those movement patterns and less efficient in the opposing movement pattern. It’s true that some people may favor one of these movements, but it is important that your program includes both.

Generally speaking your deadlift should be stronger than your back squat, which is stronger than your front squat, which is stronger than your overhead squat and so on.

While pulling is stronger than pressing, it is problematic if you can do 13 pull ups and not a single strict dip, right?

I also want to point out that this can be for an individualized program or general programming.

Obviously if the program is individualized to you, hopefully you have done an assessment of some kind to figure out if you need to maybe be squatting two days a week and deadlifting one day a week or doing carries two days a week to bring up your grip strength. But generally speaking, a solid balanced program will include squatting patterns, deadlifting patterns, pushing patterns, pulling patterns and some sort of carry.

If you have strength imbalances and you follow a balanced program, it won’t necessarily undo those imbalances. I hope that makes sense.

I don’t love using the word functional, because all movement is functional by the literal definition of “functional.” But you should be able to squat, hinge, push, pull, and pick up something and walk with it.

I’d also like to point out that I said the word patterns behind each of those because a high box step up is a squatting pattern, a Bulgarian split squat is a squatting pattern, a dumbbell sumo deadlifts is a dead lifting pattern, a single arm kettle bell deadlift is a dead lifting pattern. I think it’s important that we don’t restrict our thinking to only a back squat when we talk about squatting, and so on. Think in terms of patterns instead.

That’s all on that. Hopefully your program includes all of these movements and accessory work that helps build these movements.

Onto the next aspect of a good program.

Progressive overload

This probably seems obvious, but I think it’s important to talk about different ways that we can elicit progressive overload within our programs. I could be wrong, but I think a lot of people only think about increasing load when we use the word progressive overload. And that’s just not the case.

Whether you are the one writing programs or the one reading them and executing them, pay attention to the different ways that progressive overload may be built into your program without you realizing it.

If the tempo becomes slower, as in there is a larger number listed for the tempo of the movement, that is a way to include progressive overload into the program.

If you’re ordered to do more reps at the same weight that is progressive overload.

If you were doing conventional deadlifts and now you are pulling from a deficit, that is progressive overload by increasing the range of motion.

Whether you are increasing the load, the tempo or the range of motion, these are all forms of progressive overload.

And it’s important to note that only one of these things would need to change in order to elicit progressive overload. But you could of course change 2 to 3 at one time and it would also be considered progressively overloading.

If your program does not include this (which is highly doubtful), you would need to find a new program if you’re wanting to make gains.

Next up!


This might be my favorite aspect of training forever and ever amen. People sleep on tempo, and there are so many benefits to including tempo within most movements of your program. People are missing out on serious potential gains when they do not follow a tempo.

Obviously tempo is not applicable to some movements, but it is to most. And I think it is wildly beneficial to program for it and pay attention to it as a trainee.

This is something that is included in almost every lift inside my one on one and Built by Annie programming. And for people who have never paid attention to it in the past, it can be a mind blowing experience.

I do a call on this inside Annie’s Secret Laboratory of Brain Gains because tempo can be a difficult thing to understand if you don’t have the foundational understanding of the phases of a movement.

So for a quick synopsis, most movements have four phases. The top and bottom position, and the eccentric and concentric  phases. Eccentric simply refers to the muscle lengthening and contracting at the same time; and concentric refers to the muscle shortening and contracting at the same time.

The tempo is simply how much time or how many seconds you spend in each of these phases. I am sure you can imagine how a four second descent into a squat would feel different and elicit a different training response than a one second descent into your squat. Same goes for pausing at the bottom or top of a movement.

There are many benefits to using tempo and manipulating tempo within a program. And like I said, you are missing out on a lot of potential gains if you are not following a program that uses tempo.

Just for a small little list here – using a proper tempo can improve tendon health, increase time under tension, improve movement patterns and lead to better motor control and muscle development.

Compare following a tempo to just going through the motions of an exercise and you can see where tempo should probably be a part of your program.

Next up seems very obvious, but I don’t know that it is included in a lot of programs out there. And I think it should be.

Applicable warm up

While I think having a general warm-up can be great for every day exercise, I do think a program should include some section that acts as a warm-up for the actual workout of the day.

In my programs this is called movement prep. So my clients do a full body warm-up and then they have some set of 2 to 5 movements that prep their body for the movements they will be doing in their main lifts for the day.

For instance if you are squatting this would be some kind of Bulgarian split squat rock back or some thing that gets the hips and ankles into their end ranges.

If you are benching this would be mobilizing the T spine and maybe doing a yoga push-up or something of that sort.

Really that’s all for this section. Once you have experienced a program that includes a warm-up specific to the training for the day, it’s hard to go back to a generic warm up straight into your lifts. If you know, you know.

And this doesn’t need to be extensive. It should be short and efficient but in line with that day of training nonetheless. And this just acts as a way to prep the mind and the body for the session ahead.

Last one!

Planned deloads

This is something I experienced from the get go with my strength training. 

I started lifting pretty seriously in high school when I was 16. I opted to take weightlifting instead of PE my sophomore or junior year. And we had deload weeks implemented into our program. So I was fortunate enough to learn about and implement these early in my training.

Even with the stress of being a three sport athlete and an AP student, I truly believe that the deload weeks allowed me to make gains and set records inside the weight room. Because Lord knows I was not eating enough food or getting enough sleep. And I certainly had no tools to adequately handle stress. Without the lighter load weeks, I would have been severely overtrained. Or rather, under recovered.

That’s what deload weeks do for us. They allow your body to recover from the last several phases of work.

If you haven’t caught on yet, a deload week is simply one week of training where you lower load, intensity, volume, Tempo, or any combination of those.

The sessions should NOT be taxing to your body. That includes muscles and your CNS.

Deload weeks can be particularly hard for trainees who want to push or need to feel like they worked hard when they leave the gym. It’s important to communicate that deload weeks allow the trainee to push harder later and to adapt to all the previous pushing from past phases.

Ideally the trainee feels fresh in the head and body as they enter their new phase, after the deload.

If your program does not include deload weeks, you may end up overtraining and/or plateauing within your training.

It can be helpful also to plan your deload week around a vacation or a life event of some kind. All depends on the person.

Either way, I hope your program involves deloads. If it doesn’t, do it yourself or find a new program.

And yes, of course BBA includes 4 deload weeks throughout the 12 month program.

Now for the honorable mention:

If your program happens to include conditioning…

It is preferable that there is some form of purpose to that conditioning beyond running you into the ground.

It doesn’t have to be energy systems focused (heart rate training). But I simply hope that there is some kind of goal within the conditioning. It too should include progressive overload and hopefully have a goal of either increasing your aerobic or anaerobic threshold. Unless of course you’re just doing cardio to create a larger caloric deficit throughout your day.

That’s it!

Squat, hinge, push, pull, carry

Applicable warm ups

Progressive overload

Specified tempo

Deload weeks  

Review of the week comes from j_shea and says,

“Love this podcast! Tremendously helpful in starting a fitness journey in person & online!”

Remember you need to check the show notes (here) to see if you were review-er of the week, and then keep an eye out to see if you were listener of the month as well. That will be in the show notes and Annie’s Weekly Wrap. You can subscribe to Annie’s Weekly Wrap here!

5 aspects of any good training program

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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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