More on Programming

After some conversations with other coaches and athletes, I decided I would expand upon some of the programming points from the Perform Better One Day Seminar I attended a few weeks ago, adding in my own thoughts and experiences.

To quote Coach Dos, “Programming isn’t rocket science… but it IS science!”

Why should we listen to Coach Dos on programming? You can read his background on his website HERE, but here is the basic run down:

Coach Dos has been in the strength and conditioning world for over 25 years, having graduated with a Master’s in Kinesiology from California State Univeristy, Northridge. He is one of 10 coaches worldwide named Masters of Strength and Conditioning Coaches and in 2006 received the NSCA Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Profressional award, given to one person a year as nominated by their peers.

Basically, this guy knows what’s up.

What he doesn’t like to see are these totally randomized workouts that look like someone threw dice on a board and picked reps and movements based on what came up. But at the same time, it doesn’t need to be something that’s really hard to wrap your head around.

The first thing to consider is that there are several basic human movements:


Okay, not necessarily THESE carries.

Then each of these can be done in different planes of motion and either unilaterally or bilaterally, explosively or not. A good program will hit all off these combinations and progress clients and athletes in getting more mobile in each movement and stronger in their execution.

The next thing to consider is weight and rep range. What Coach Dos has found to work best with his athletes is to rotate every three weeks between high rep, moderate weight hypertrophy work, and low rep with heavy weight strength and power work. This part in particular was a new idea to me, as most programs I’ve seen run about 6 week cycles of one or the other, so this is significantly different.

His reasoning behind this was that when he ran longer cycles, each times going from one to the other caused some loss in productivity as the athletes had to re-figure out what weights to use on each movement. If the cycles were shorter than three weeks, not enough progress was made before the switch. (I think it should be noted that he usually got to see these athletes at least three times a week every week. I’m sure modifications would be made for the twice a week client.)

Obviously, this is going to change depending on the goals of the athlete, the sport and if the athletes if gearing up for a competition or not.

So programming basically becomes a plug and play outline of movement types and ranges based on goals and placement in a cycle. He uses 2-3 circuits of 2-4 movements, including even mobility, stretching, and core work in the circuits to give them a breathing break.

Here’s an example he gave us during his talk:

Circuit 1
Circuit 2
Circuit 3

Table recreated from powerpoint slide on Coach Dos’s presentation.

How I Plan To Use This Information

This sort of thing will require me to sit down and plan out a client’s workouts about a month at a time. And I don’t know about some of you, but their lives get in the way and sometimes that feels like a practice in futility. But at least I can do this for my clients that have proven themselves consistent over a long haul.

First, I’ve started adding in some sort of strength or skill work to do between heavy strength sets at the start of a session. So they have their 3x5 heavy squats and I have them throw in a couple ring dip negatives between the working sets.

Then, with those that I do some sort of CrossFit type WOD with, I’m just going to make make sure that I don’t repeat the strength movement pattern of that day, or change the direction/uni vs bilateral execution of it. And I’ll plan out to make sure these patterns are all covered at least once in a 2-3 week span.

With, say, my powerlifters who aren’t given CrossFit type WODs (at least not by me), I’m creating their circuits in much the same way, with the focus on hypertrophy, joint stability, and adding in mobility work as part of the circuit rather than some optional finisher or dessert at the end.

For one on one clients who do neither powerlifting nor CrossFit, they get some workout that more closely resembles the above 2-3x/week picture. (High reps leg work usually spikes the heart rate pretty well, so I rarely throw any “cardio” at them.)