How Thinking in Terms of Contractions Will Improve Your Programs

HOW THINKING IN CONTRACTIONS WILL MAXIMIZE PROGRAMMING EFFECTIVENESS

Have you ever looked at a day of programming and thought, “Are all contractions (repetitions of exercises) contributing to the priority?” If you are new to writing individual programs, this may not be an obvious question to ask.

Thinking in contractions creates a feedback loop to help you assess the effectiveness of your designs and ensure you select the right exercises from start to finish.

Every contraction a client performs should complement the overarching goal, from holds, carries, and drags to concentric and eccentric slower contractions to more dynamic contractions. Getting a client to move through multiple planes of motion while contracting the same priority muscle groups will always carry over to obtaining the end goal of progression. When you think of all exercises in this format it will simplify your thought process around designing on a daily basis. 

DESIGNING CONTRACTIONS AROUND THE PRIORITY  

When constructing a program, the first step is to select the priority of the sessions. This can be identified through an initial assessment. After you have identified the priorities. You can now select the proper exercises and the groups of muscles involved.

PRIORITY SELECTION

Example Priority: Strict Press

Muscle Groups Involved: Pectoralis, Deltoids, Triceps, Biceps, Trapezius, Latissimus Dorsi, Rhomboids, and Serratus Anterior

After the priority and muscles are identified, investigate all possible planes and patterns someone can go through. Creating diverse variations in planes and patterns will form different loading angles, which will create constant stimulation for adaptation.  

PATTERNS OF MOVEMENTS
  • Horizontal and vertical pushing exercises
  • Horizontal and vertical pulling exercises  

DESIGN CONSTRUCTION 

Once you have identified the priority, targeted muscle groups, planes and patterns of movement, you can now construct a design. Every contraction should contribute to the priority. This starts with the warm-up and ends with the cooldown. 

Example: 


1) Warmup

A1) German Hangs; 30 seconds x 3 sets; Rest 30 Seconds

  • (shoulder flexibility and elbow conditioning)

A2) Support Holds on Parallel Bars; 60 Seconds x 3 Sets; Rest 60 Seconds

  • (elbow conditioning and control) 

2) Skill Work

5-10 minutes of wall handstand work 

  • (Deltoids, Triceps, Biceps, Trapezius, Latissimus Dorsi, Rhomboids and Serratus Anterior activation) 

3) Strength Work

A1) Close Grip Bench Press; @20X1; 5-8 Reps x 3 Sets; Rest 30 Seconds

  • Movement Pattern: Horizontal Push
  • Muscles Involved: Pectoralis Major, Anterior Deltoid, Triceps Brachii
  • Plane of Movement: Transverse 

A2) Ring Rows; @2010; 12-15 Reps x 3 Sets; Rest 60 Seconds

  • Movement Pattern: Horizontal Pull
  • Muscles Involved: Latissimus Dorsi, Teres Major, Biceps Brachii, Medial Deltoid
  • Plane of Movement: Transverse 

B1) Strict Dip; @2011; 6-9 Reps x 3 Sets; Rest 30 Seconds 

  • Movement Pattern: Vertical Push
  • Muscles Involved: Pectoralis Minor, Triceps Brachii, Latissimus Dorsi, Rhomboids, Trapezius 
  • Plane of Movement: Sagittal  

B2) Plank Hold; 60 Seconds x 3 Sets; Rest 60 Seconds

  • Movement Pattern: Core
  • Muscles Involved: Trapezius, Serratus Anterior, Pectoralis Major, Deltoids 
  • Plane of Movement: Transverse 

C1) Incline Dumbbell Curl; @2011; 6-9 Reps x 3 Sets; Rest 30 Seconds 

  • Movement Pattern: Pull
  • Muscles Involved: Biceps Brachii, Pectoralis Major, Trapezius
  • Plane of Movement: Transverse, Sagittal 

C2) Incline Skull Crusher: @2011; 6-9 Reps x 3 Sets; Rest 30 Seconds 

  • Movement Pattern: Push
  • Muscles Involved: Triceps Brachii, Deltoids, Trapezius, Pectoralis Major
  • Plane of Movement: Transverse, Sagittal 

4) Cool Down

A) Supinated Deadhang; 30 seconds x 3 sets; Rest 30 Seconds

  • (shoulder flexibility and upper thoracic muscle lengthening)

B) Row; 10 Minutes – Very easy 

  • (blood flow to all push and pull muscle groups) 

This program design incorporates skills and strength with all multi-plane pressing and pulling components. All contraction types are targeted around the priority. When you select exercises with this intent it will simplify and your thought process around designing on a daily basis. 

WRITING BETTER EXERCISE PROGRAMS

Exercise program design takes time to perfect, we get it! But by always learning and refining your craft you will slowly get better over time. That’s why we created the Coach’s Toolkit–a free course designed for coaches looking to improve their programming skills. Sign up now and become the coach you’ve always wanted to be.

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