Program Design Tips for Personal Trainers

Using TrueCoach to write a program on a white board

3 Simple Tips for Designing Programs

Assess Don’t Guess

Tip #1: Assess don’t guess. Before you can begin working with a new client, you first have to conduct an assessment. The assessment is crucial because it looks at the body and its history. It gives you as a coach an understanding of your client’s current status. Once you understand the client’s current level of fitness, skill or whatever you may be training, you can set a realistic goal and a plan to reach this goal.

(Coach’s Resource: OPEX Fitness is the brainchild of program design guru and industry-leading educator James FitzGerald. The 10-hour video course Principles of Program Design is a great resource covering the fundamental principles for designing a successful program.)

Ability to Physically Adapt

Tip #2: Everybody is different, always individualize your program design.  This piggybacks off of Tip #1, the assessment, once you understand your client you will have a better idea of their ability to physically adapt. Understanding your client’s ability to physically adapt will directly affect your program. If your client is new to fitness their ability to physically adapt will be great. If your client has a solid base of fitness (has accumulated hundreds of reps over time) their ability to physically adapt will be less. In order to create a program that will reach your client’s goals, you have to keep their ability to physically adapt in mind and program accordingly. This is called creating progressions, learn how to create successful progressions in the course Principles of Program Design.  

Example of physical adaptation:

Beginner – 0 to 5 pushups in 2 weeks
Intermediate – 21 to 24 pushups in 6 month
Advanced – 35 to 36 pushups in 1 year (fractional gains)

Follow the Strength Continuum

Tip #3: Development must follow the Strength Continuum. A time-tested strength and conditioning theory.

Strength Continuum

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The Strength Continuum states that you must build a base of absolute strength before you can move along the Strength Continuum. Let’s take box jumps for example. If a client wants to do box jumps OPEX Coaches require that they be able to squat at least one repetition of their body weight. This is an example of the absolute strength requirement needed for box jumps. This requirement ensures the client is capable of controlling the body while in motion and preventing injury. Keep the Strength Continuum in mind when creating progressions for your clients and make sure to build a foundation of absolute strength.

These three principles are so crucial to a coaches success that we have created a course entirely around them. The 10-hour course Principles of Program Design is taught by program design expert, James FitzGerald, and covers the fundamentals of any great program.

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