Exercise Order & Selection

Exercise order and selection are such a basic piece of programming, however, I feel that a lot of people in the field disregard these fundamental pieces.  Walk into any commercial gym, “box”, or even some strength and conditioning facilities and you will most likely witness clear violations of physiology.  In some instances this may be warranted, like when working with athletes or individuals with high training ages.  The bottom line is smart planning with your clientele will always pay off in the end.

The Rules

The rules are really quite simple and almost come off as common sense.  Would it make sense to do Hang Cleans at the end of a workout when you’re tired and have a limited energy reserve? Probably not.  Programming something like a clean at the end of a workout for a novice lifting population will simply increase the likelihood of injury.  As professionals in the field we should be aiming at total safety first.

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Assuming that we have gone through an initial evaluation with our client to see if any deficiencies exist, our warm-up should include any correctives to address these deficiencies.  This section will include soft tissue mobilization, mobility work, turning on muscles that we want to use, and a dynamic warm-up that will mimic a lot of the movements that will be done in the session to come.  Simply getting on a bike and “warming up” for 5 minutes is not the same, but at least it will increase the body temperature–better than nothing, but very inefficient.

Why the Correctives?

We have to keep in mind that the most important exercises need to be done first in the workout.  Correcting any movement deficiencies is extremely important to our well-being especially if we will be lifting weights or performing anything in life from athletic events to simply walking our dog.  The bottom line is, that these corrective exercises are laying the foundation for our movement going forward.  Some will say that corrective exercises really aren’t that demanding and that it is more of a filler, and in some instances that may be correct, but I would definitely argue that if we are making someone do a corrective exercise for a range of motion they weren’t able to get in, especially because of motor control or positional faults, that it is extremely demanding for the individuals nervous system to try and coordinate this new-found position.

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Owning the Deep Squat

Now the Movement

Depending on the time of year, the next piece of the puzzle is going to be to actually move.  This is the section that we can put our sprint progressions or lateral movement progressions in.  Things like agility ladder, wall sprints, partner chases, etc will be found here.  This is totally appropriate for athletes trying to get better for a sporting event.  But wait, everyone is an athlete, right?  That is the truth, but it may not be the most intelligent idea to make our 40+ year old clients run sprints or cutting maneuvers.  One could absolutely do that, however, the risk-reward ratio just isn’t that great in my opinion.  Instead, we can program in some sled marches and weighted carries.  I will do this for the younger population too, but, way more appropriate for our older adults than sprinting and cutting would be.

Here is also where you will find plyometrics, again, depending on the time of year.  Bounding, medicine ball throws, hurdles, etc are all good examples.  Be smart about programming for your older client base!  Choosing a lower impact plyometric may be a much more intelligent option then having them do single leg hurdle hops, just saying.

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Why do I keep saying: “depending on the time of year”?  In the offseason and preseason phases it makes perfect sense to ramp up the intensity over time.  While in-season, the athletes will be practicing on the field, ice, or court and will not need any further work there.  The coaches will be doing sprint or running drills as they see fit. The coaches will also make the athletes live in game-like situations.  That is the best possible sport-specific activity an athlete can do.  That is not to say that we will not be lifting in-season, because we absolutely will.  More on that to come (Part II).

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