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Program Design- How to Maximize Your Exercise Routine

Program design is a purposeful system or plan that can be used to help an individual achieve a specific exercise goal/adaptation.

Program design should consider four key concepts:

  1. Acute Variables
  2. The OPT Model (Planned changes-Periodization)
  3. 5 Phases of training
  4. Evidence-based application

The Acute Variables

These are the most fundamental components of designing a program. They determine the amount of stress placed on the body and the subsequent adaptations.

The Key Acute Variables include:

 

  • Repetitions- One complete movement of a single exercise
  • Sets- A group of consecutive repetitions
  • Intensity- Level of effort compared to one’s maximal effort (often a %)
  • Tempo- The speed of a repetition
  • Volume- The number of muscles worked, exercises, sets and reps during a single session. i.e. The amount of work performed
  • Rest interval- The time taken to recuperate between sets
  • Training frequency- The number of training sessions performed during a specific period, e.g. A week
  • Training duration- The timeframe of a workout or the length of time spent in one phase of training
  • Exercise selection- The process of choosing the appropriate exercises for a program, e.g. Multi-joint, Single-joint  and Total body

 

The OPT Model/Phases of Training

The OPT Model was developed by the National Academy Of Sports Medicine (NASM) to help individuals improve functional abilities, such as flexibility, core stabilization, balance, strength, power and cardiorespiratory conditioning.

The OPT model has 3 building blocks and 5 phases

Stabilization:

Phase 1 (Stabilization Endurance)

Strength:

Phase 2 (Strength Endurance)

Phase 3 (Hypertrophy)

Phase 4 (Maximum Strength)

Power:

Phase 5 (Power Training)
Phase 1 (Stabilization Endurance)

 

  • Improve muscle imbalances
  • Improve core stabilization
  • Prepare muscles, tendons, ligament and joints for  upcoming demands
  • Improve cardiorespiratory and neuromuscular conditioning
  • Establish proper movement patterns and techniques

 

Phase 2 (Strength Endurance)

  • Hybrid training that promotes increased stabilization endurance, hypertrophy and strength
  • Combines strength and stabilization exercises in a superset fashion

Phase 3 (Hypertrophy)

  • Muscle growth

Phase 4 (Maximum Strength)

  • Focuses on increasing the load (weight) which recruits more motor units, increases the rate of force production and increases motor unit synchronization

A motor unit is made up of a motor neuron (nerve)  and the skeletal muscle fibers it innervates

Phase 5 (Power Training)

  • Focuses on force and velocity to increase power
  • Combines strength and power exercises in a superset fashion

Given the above concepts and variables, one can see that exercise should be somewhat prescriptive in nature in order to match one’s abilities to their desired goals.

A proper assessment can help determine one’s abilities and which phase to start training in. It can also help with more accurate goal setting.

S A I D Principle (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands)- Training adaptations are specific to the demands (i.e. How the acute variables are manipulated).

In some circumstances, two adaptations can be antagonistic to each other, e.g. hypertrophy training and training for a marathon.

Program design should start with a Needs Analysis to identify:

  1. The basic energy system involved?
  2. The movements that must be trained?
  3. The most common injury sites?
  4. Biomechanical imbalances and dysfunction

Program Design Continuum- Acute Variables

 

Adaptation Reps Sets *Intensity

% of 1 Rep Max

**Tempo

Eccentric

Isometric

Concentric

Rest Periods
Muscular Endurance/Stabilization 12-20 1-3 50-70% Slow

4/2/1

0-90 s
Hypertrophy 6-12 3-5 75-85 Moderat

2/0/2

0-60 s
Maximal Strength 1-5 4-6 85-100 Fast

Explosive

3-5 min
Power 1-10 3-6 30-45 or </= 10% of Body Weight Fast

Explosive

3-5 min

 

1 RM= 1 Rep Max    http://www.exrx.net/Calculators/OneRepMax.html

**

Eccentric- Lengthening

Isometric- Stabilizing (no change in length)

Concentric- Shortening
Exercise Selection Continuum

 

Training Adaptation Training Level Exercise Selection
Endurance/Stabilization Stabilization Total body; Multi or Single Joint; Controlled Unstable
Strength Strength Total body; Multi or Single Joint
Power Power Total body; Multi-Joint; Explosive

 

Factors For Appropriate Rest Intervals

  • Training experience
  • Training intensity
  • Tolerance of short rest periods
  • Muscle mass
  • General fitness level
  • Training goals
  • Nutritional status
  • Recoverability

 

Factors For Appropriate Training Volume

  • Training phase
  • Goals
  • Age
  • Work capacity or training status
  • Recoverability
  • Nutritional status
  • Injury history
  • Life stress

 

Factors For Appropriate Exercise Progression

 

Level Specific Adaptation Method of Progression
Stabilization
  • Endurance
  • Stability
*Proprioception
Strength
  • Strength Endurance
  • Hypertrophy
  • Maximal Strength
Volume/Load
Power
  • Power
Volume/Load

 

*Proprioception refers to the body’s ability to sense movement within joints and joint position. This ability enables us to know where our limbs are in space without having to look.

 

Conclusions

  • Program design is a purposeful system or plan that can be used to help an individual achieve a specific goal.
  • Program design should consider four key concepts: Acute Variables, The OPT Model, 5 Phases of training and Evidence-based application
  • The Acute Variables determine the amount of stress placed on the body and the subsequent adaptations (S A I D  principle)
  • Exercise should be somewhat prescriptive in nature in order to match one’s abilities and desired goals.
  • A proper assessment can help determine one’s abilities,  which phase to start training in and the exercise goals
  • This process should start with a Needs Analysis

 

Are You Getting The Most Out Of Your Exercise Routine?

References

Clark, M. A., Lucett, S., & Corn, R. J. (2012). NASM essentials of personal fitness training. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

About the Author

Dr. Geoff LecovinNaturopathic Physician/Chiropractor/Acupuncturist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist/Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist/Certified Sports Nutritionist/View all posts by Dr. Geoff Lecovin

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