Fitness Programming – A How To Guide

1. HOW TO DEVELOP A FITNESS PROGRAM

When developing the program to accomplish your fitness goals, I look at the program at three levels.  

  1. Macro,
  2. Mezzo, and
  3. Micro.  

The Macro level is the big picture level.  It represents your short term and long term goals, or big picture purpose, behind the program. These goals are typically your reasons for wanting to start a fitness program.  Loose weight, gain muscle, get sick less often, etc.  A good fitness program is catered and progressed in a way to put you on the path towards those goals.

The Mezzo level is a sub-level that is more narrowly focused than the Macro. There is often multiple Mezzos that combine to fulfil the Macro goals.  The Mezzo represents groups of individual workouts (often called “Blocks”) that combine to support the development of one or more of the 10 broader fitness attributes (See “What is General Fitness“) that will support the fulfilment of the Macro goals.  A program will create multiple Mezzos blocks that once completed will build to support the successful accomplishment of the Macro goals.

The Micro represents the individual workout itself.  Each Micro will have a theme, a skill or skills to be taught, and a particular stimulus or stimuli.  We combine these micros together to support the Mezzo goals, which then combine to support the Macro. 

You can think of this as a pyramid, where the many micros at the bottom support the few mezzos, which support the macro.​​

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FOR EXAMPLE

Lets assume your Macro is to “be able to be active in life, while staying injury free.”  

As such, one of your Mezzos might be to work on your shoulder stability because you or your coach has noticed weakness while in the push-up position or doing pushing movements in general.  

In this case, Micros workouts may include plank based stagnant exercise to teach stability, moving exercises while in plank to challenge the ability to come in and out of a stable position, shoulder stability under fatigue to test and progress continued stability, and so on.  

As such, if you are programming you may look to increased the number of low plank holds, pike to high plank walks, and push-ups after a bunch of jump ropes.

That is just one example of hundreds that can occur over the course of a year long fitness program or thousands in a lifetime of fitness.  

A good fitness program, geared to help you reach your fitness goals is much more than just the individual workout you do each day that you got for free off-line or on Facebook.  Instead, it is a series of well thought out building blocks structured to fit in such a way as to better ensure you are able to meet your goals.

2. WHAT ARE THE PIECES OF A PROGRAM

This is a typical way fitness programs are ordered and how they are ordered at Flex Fitness OT.  

​However, please note that this is not the only way it can be done. 

ASSESSMENTS

An assessment is the series of prescribed movements, test, or Metcons that determine your abilities at that point in time and sets the starting point for that period of programming.  

At Flex Fitness OT the assessments come to you as a full week of Sessions at the very beginning of a 12-week program Cycle.  The type of assessments will vary from one Cycle to another but you will always have then to identify your abilities at the outset.

BLOCK

This is the main Mezzo break down of your programming.  A combination of Blocks make up a Cycle or the full program.  Blocks typically last between 2 and 6 weeks.  However, a Block can last 6months, a year, or more with multiple layers of sub-blocks, assessments and retests in it.  When this occurs, the larger Blocks are often called “Cycles.”

WEEK

This is the sub-Mezzo or sub-Block break down of your programming.  It will consist of a predetermined number of individual Sessions.  That number of Sessions will repeat every 7 days (even if the Sessions themselves vary). 

SESSION

This is the Micro portion of your program. Commonly thought of as the “workout.”  A Session consists of various parts (see below), to be performed during a single period of time.

RE-TEST

These are the re-doing of your Assessments to show how far you have progressed and what may still be lacking and needs to be focused on for next time.  

Re-tests are offered both periodically and at the end of a program.

  • Periodic: Smaller re-tests of pieces of the original Assessment sprinkled throughout your program.  This allows for a check-in on your progress and a way to challenge yourself to beat past performances.
  • End of Program: This is a carbon copy of the original Assessments in full, used to show your progress, improvement, and identify any continued weak areas that need to be focused on in the next program or Cycle.  In order to show true improvement, you will perform an End of Program in exactly the same way as the original Assessment.  This includes using the same weight or resistance level, the same movement versions, same time parameters, etc.  As you have improved your general fitness over the course of the program, the Re-Test using the same parameters as the Assessment should feel easier.

FOR EXAMPLE

Flex Fitness OT’s Nomadic Physical Wellness System’s (NPWS) fitness side follows a Macro of being able to obtain and maintain General Fitness while abroad or constantly traveling.  The NPWS is:

  1. Program: A 48 week long program that consist of 4 Cycles. 
  2. Cycle: Each Cycle consists of 3 Blocks, an Assessment Week, and a ReTest Week.  
  3. Block: 
    1. Blocks 1 & 2 are 4-weeks long 
    2. Block 3 is 2-weeks long
    3. Add the Assessment week & ReTest week for a total of 12-weeks
  4. Week: 
    1. Each Week in Cycle 1 consists of 3 Sessions
    2. Each Week in Cycle 2 consists of 4 Sessions
    3. Each Week in Cycle 3 & 4 consists of 5 Sessions
  5. Session: Sessions follow the patten listed below

3. PARTS OF A SESSION

A Session, or single workout consist of a series of parts:

  1. Warm-up,
  2. Movement Preparation and Mobility,
  3. Strength Development,
  4. Metcon, and/or
  5. Cool Down.

WARM-UP

Each Session will begin with a 5min non-specific warm up to get your blood pumping.  It can really be anything you want, provided that it is low impact and it gets your engine revved. 

​This means no resistance, or only light resistance, no complicated movements, no sprints, etc. Some examples are jump rope, air squats, running, rowing, stationary bike, burpees, jumping jacks, etc. 

By the end you should be breathing a little harder and starting to sweat but by no means tired.

MOVEMENT PREPARATION & MOBILITY

Prior to starting your strength sets or your metcon, you will perform a movement or set of movements intended to teach, test, and improve on or more general fitness attribute.  Additionally, the movement preparation and mobility will prepare your body for the remainder of the workout.

STRENGTH DEVELOPMENT

This portion of the Session is dedicated to resistance based exercises designed to break down the muscles so that they can adapt and rebuild stronger and more able.  

Typically this is in the form of a single movement for a set volume at a single resistance or weight level.  For example, 3 sets, 10 reps per set, of band resisted front squats. Or 3 sets of as many reps as possible in 60 seconds of band resisted bench press.

METCON

Metcon or “Metabolic Conditioning” is essentially a medium-to-high intensity, sweaty, tiring, challenging, heart-pounding workout that is similar to circuit training.  

One or a number of movements are combined together and performed with a particular end goal in mind.  
For example,

  1. complete as many rounds as you can in 12 minutes of…;
  2. or perform the following as fast as you can…;
  3. or complete the following work in under x number of minutes; and so on.

The metcons are designed to cover a wide array of scores or goals, lengths of time, intensity levels, and movements. The high level of intensity ensures a consistently elevated metabolic rate, and a tremendous surge of EPOC or Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, which means you’ll be burning lots of calories well after your body stops working out in its path to recover. EPOC is sometimes called “the afterburner effect.” and can last anywhere from a few hour to a few days … Think of it, you will be burning calories at a higher rate even when you are not doing anything!

Metcons involve medium-to-high intensity…but what is intensity?

Intensity is a relative term and varies based on your abilities and the requirements of the Metcon. However, the simplest way to ensure intensity is to remove or restrict rest periods… Now, I’m not saying to make yourself throw up but if you can carry on conversation, or play candy crush on your cell phone you are probably not working intensely. 

Also, keeping rest period short and sweet not only makes your Session effective but it also keeps it short…even if it is a littler harder.

This is not to say that low intensity, longer duration events such as distance running or swimming are bad.  They are not at all…however it has been proven that high intensity training is about 9x more effective for fat loss and body adaptations than traditional distance cardio. 

Notwithstanding, to foster growth in general fitness, we must challenge ourselves in different time domains.  Therefore, a program should vary the definition of intensity by having some workouts be sprints, while others being long grinds, and everything in between.  This makes sense when you think of what intensity means when you are doing the 40 yard sprint versus when you are doing push ups, pull ups and sit ups for 20min.

COOL DOWN

The cool down is low impact movement and mobility done at the end of a workout to help with the recovery process post exercise.  This will typically be yoga type stretches or deep tissue smashing.  

Note that the cool down may not prevent you from being sore or tight after a hard workout but it will help reduce the pain.


Flex Fitness OT incorporates the above into all of its programming 
which can be accessed and performed anywhere

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