6 Parts Of A Training Program To Shape Up For Summer
Getting in shape for summer includes beginning an exercise program. In my previous article I mentioned several forms of exercise indicating that there was no single form that was absolutely superior to another; they all have their place depending on your health status, fitness level, and goals. That said though, I can’t help to think that some of you might have been sitting there feeling no closer to where or how to begin than before reading the article. As a result, this month’s article focuses on a general format for designing an exercise program. I believe that most exercise programs should include the following ingredients in the following order:
2) Movement preparation/dynamic warm-up
3) Reactive neuromuscular training/plyometrics
4) Strength training
5) Cardiorespiratory training
6) Recovery/flexibility training
Core/prehabilitation – Core is defined here as all of the musculature in your box, or between your shoulders and hips. In this are included the abdominal and low back musculature. However, the core is not limited to these areas alone. Also included are the muscles surrounding your scapula (shoulder blades) and pelvis (hips). Glute bridges (rear end), band walks, planks, side-planks, scapula mobility and stabilization are just a few examples. The purpose of performing these types of movements at the beginning of the workout are two-fold, first to activate the core prior to performing strength training, and second to aid in preventing injury. Core activation at the beginning of the workout is like preheating the oven prior to baking.
Movement preparation/dynamic warm-up – After performing a series of core/prehabilitation exercises I like to have my clients move into a dynamic warm-up/movement preparation. The purpose of this section of the workout is to prepare the individual for the strength workout that follows. It is my contention that this section leads to better performance of the strength workout and limits the potential for injury by properly warming up the body. I try to avoid static stretching here except in cases where needed as a corrective strategy, often seen in beginners and post rehabilitation individuals.
Reactive neuromuscular training/plyometrics – This type of training is not just for athletes and is appropriate for most. However, certain individuals may have certain chronic conditions/injuries that may prohibit this form of training. In English, plyometrics for the lower body include movements such as jumping, hopping, or bounding/leaping. Medicine ball throws and military pushups (pushups with a clap) are examples of upper body plyometrics. More is not better here. Definitely emphasize quality over quantity. The same is most likely true for most areas of training. The key is proper progressions. Begin with takeoff and landing technique and then advance slowly to more explosive, more advanced movements. The purpose is to improve power/explosiveness. This type of training also teaches deceleration. Most injuries occur during body deceleration. If landing after dunking a basketball is at one end of the spectrum, stepping down off of a high curb is at the other end. Plyometric training can assist in the successful performance of both activities.
Strength Training- If core activation and movement preparation are the preheating of the oven, then the strength-training portion of the workout is the actual baking. Your goals will help shape this section, but here are some general pointers for designing your program. Resistance training can be performed to improve hypertrophy (muscle size), muscle endurance, muscle strength, and muscle power. These three categories are all addressed by varying repetition ranges, intensities, and volumes. Generally, muscle endurance is achieved through high rep ranges (15+) and low intensity. Muscle strength is accomplished through heavy loads and low repetitions. Muscle power is developed by performing “explosive lifts,” i.e., cleans, and snatches, with relatively lighter loads but at high speeds. Muscle hypertrophy is accomplished through moderate loads/intensities, moderate number of repetitions (8-12), and high volume (many sets and exercises or a large amount of total work). Exercises can be organized in pairings, complexes/circuits both large and small, but however you group them you should generally perform the more complex large muscle group lifts first and save the simple less complex movements for the end of the workout or circuit/complex. I prefer to train movements versus isolating muscle groups; pushing, pulling, lowering your center of gravity by lunging or squatting, rotation or more importantly movements that ask you to fight against rotation, and bending or reaching movements. By training movements as opposed to muscles in isolation you are sure to hit all of the important parts while performing a more functional routine that more closely resembles how you move and function in everyday life. More bang for your buck.
Cardiorespiratory training- Otherwise referred to as aerobics this aspect of training has many heart healthy benefits in addition to calorie burning. In this section I will try and keep it simple and target it towards the average person interested in becoming more fit versus the competitive endurance athlete. First you need to establish the mode of exercise. Will it be walking, running, biking, the elliptical, or a combination of some or all of the aforementioned activities? No matter what you choose, for the first two to three weeks I recommend continuous aerobic training, where you keep your target heart rate at 60-70% of your Maximum Heart rate. There are a variety of ways to determine your maximum heart rate that go beyond this article. 220- your age was widely accepted for years, but is now thought of as grossly inaccurate. The Miller formula, 217- (.85 x age) is somewhat more accurate but misses the mark in certain populations. The bottom line is that these formulas are estimates to be used as starting points. I like the rate of perceived exertion scale where you rate your exertion on a 6-20 scale with 7 being “very, very light,” a 13 representing an effort that is “somewhat hard,” a 17 is “very hard,” and a 20 is I can’t breathe I have to stop. Sixty-seventy percent of maximum heart rate would correspond to roughly a 12-15 on the RPE scale. After several weeks of establishing a base, or a tolerance to the aerobic activity, and if deemed appropriate by your physician, I would begin incorporating intervals where you perform short sprints to 75-85% of your maximum heart rate (16-18 RPE) followed by full recovery to below 60% of maximum heart rate. Interval training has been shown to be more effective both in its aerobic benefit and caloric expenditure. However, it is not for everyone. Vigorous aerobic training, such as running, should be performed on average 3 times per week for 20 minutes per session. More moderate aerobic exercise such as walking should be performed more like 5 days per week for 30 minutes per session as recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine.
Recovery/flexibility training- Improvement occurs during recovery and not actually during the workout. Therefore including rest periods both in and around the workout are important to the success of the program. In addition to rest proper nutrition and refueling the body after a hard workout is critical. In order to be able to come to the next workout fully prepared to get after it again the body needs to be rested, refueled, and in optimum form. Flexibility work helps keep the body in optimum for so that proper mechanics can be employed during the workout. By flexibility training I am not solely referring to static stretching, although that is certainly a viable tool to use after and in between workouts. Active and dynamic stretching can and should also be employed as well as self-myofascial techniques such as foam rolling. Over time and through physical and psychological stress the fascia, tissue that surrounds muscle, becomes ‘distorted’ through adhesions/knots. Foam rolling helps break those adhesions down and return the fascia to its optimum form. In general, flexibility training attempts to correct muscle imbalances and maintain proper function.
As you can see, there are many aspects to consider when designing a training program. In order to get the best results you can’t afford to leave an ingredient out. It is all of these facets of training combined that add up to provide the results you desire. Hopefully, this provides a little more insight into what is considered when planning a comprehensive exercise routine. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to send me an email and hopefully I can at least point you in the right direction.