Realistically, this should be an entire book as there are a billion questions that need to be asked and answered to come up with the right answer for any one individual.
However, I’m all about making the complicated and confusing as easy to understand and apply as possible so let’s give it a whirl.
To kick off there here are some of my general programming principles to understand as you go about designing a plan for the year.
I don’t believe in ‘periodization’ in the typical sense of the word which sees you move from an endurance phase to a hypertrophy phase to a strength phase etc.
I believe whether you are training for a particular sport or just want a great body, you should train all elements of your physical capabilities, all of the time.
I do however think that you should be aware of your individual needs at any moment in time and prioritize that element of training if it will improve your overall results.
For instance, if you are a fighter and you are never tired at the end of fights but you also never have that killer punch due to a lack of power, you should keep up your conditioning training but put more emphasis on improving your strength and power.
This is simply a case of increasing the volume of time spent on Olympic lifting and heavy weight, low rep training as oppose to doing 10 minutes of strength work then completing 45 minute marathon conditioning sessions.
This requires awareness and honesty.
Don’t forget to include mobility and flexibility in your training considerations.
The best laid plan never survives contact with the enemy.
In other words, have a plan but be willing to accept that you may have to change course and alter a few things when surprises crop up.
This might be due to:
– Events being changed or cancelled
– Stress levels
That last one is important, particularly for those who aren’t professional athletes whose training and performance is largely all they need to worry about.
If you have a stressful job, a wife and four rowdy kids, there will be times when you need to back off training for the sake of your health.
Yes we need to push ourselves at times but there comes a point where pushing too much leads to over-reaching.
Note the difference between over-reaching and over-training.
Over-reaching is where the training itself is nothing you couldn’t normally handle, but the rest of the stresses pouring into your stress bucket right now, make such intense training impossible without some repercussions mentally or physically.
If you had a plan based on achieving certain standards at certain events, but the results aren’t what you expected both in a positive and negative way, it may be wise to alter your training plan to address the issues or take advantage of performances you weren’t expecting.
So overall we’re looking at the age old 80:20 theory.
Have a plan, but accept that 20% of it is likely to change due to unforeseen circumstances.
That doesn’t mean you have license to mess around with it for the sake of change but implies you need to be aware of everything that’s happening in terms of performance, body composition, stress and anything that deems a certain way of training either inappropriate or less productive or beneficial that other methods at that time.
It’s hard to give advice on every single goal but hopefully this will give you the base to work from whatever you’re targeting.
I’m a believer that you should train for performance and muscle and EAT for fat loss.
This will get you a better looking body than simply doing lots and lots of ‘fat loss training’.
Let’s assume you have 12 months to get in awesome shape (which is what you REALLY mean rather than needing to lose weight).
If you’re a skinny body type like me, you only really need to start thinking about shedding body fat 4 weeks before.
You’re focus for 11 months of those 12 should be on packing size on and eating to do so. You MAY put on a little body fat in this time but you will soon be shot of it with some intense focus in the 4-6 weeks.
4 sessions per week of strength and hypertrophy work (upper- lower split) including 2-3 x 15 minutes per week of intense conditioning
3 full body strength and hypertrophy sessions per week
2-3 x 30 minutes per week of intense conditioning
If you are carrying significant body fat that you want shot of you are best advised to structure your training year something like this:
3 full body strength and hypertrophy sessions per week including 3 x 20 minutes intense conditioning
2-3 x 30 minute interval sessions / boxing workouts.
2 full body strength and hypertrophy sessions per week including 3 x 20 minutes intense conditioning.
2 x 45 minute metabolic conditioning ‘bootcamp’ style sessions.
You may also add 30 minutes low intensity aerobic work 4-5 times per week to strip off more body fat.
As above, these guidelines will depend on monitoring your own progress and ensuring you are eating the right things at the right times but that requires a whole new article!
Training for strength and power can be a tough one because the recovery periods are just as important as the hard work itself.
Failure to recover right both on a daily, weekly and monthly basis will lead to stunted progress and potentially even regression.
There are also numerous ways to do it and different ways to get over sticking points but this will give you a good idea of how we’re working things.
For an intermediate lifter with good experience looking to train year round for strength I would advise:
– Performing heavy strength and power work (5-10 sets of 5-1 reps) and hypertrophy work (3-5 sets of 12-6 reps) all year round
– Taking every 4th or 5th week as a deload week in which you reduce volume down to 40% of what you were doing the previous week.
- For instance if you squatted 100kg for 4 sets of 10, you would squat 100kg for 2 sets of 10.
– Cycle strength work in a 5, 3, 2 format.
- So Month 1 might be 5 sets of 5 on your big lifts such as your bench press
- Month 2 would then be 7-8 sets of 3
- Month 3 would then be 10 sets of 2
- Month 4 starts at 5 x 5 again with a new 1RM to work from
– After 8 months of progressing like this, you could look to shock your body by bringing in 3-4 months of Smolov style training for the big lifts or cluster trainng.
- Cluster training involves taking your 5RM for an exercise and completing 3-4 sets of 10 reps with that weight.
- Perform 2 reps then rest 10 seconds before performing another 2 reps and continuing until 10 reps are complete with your 5RM. This help you up the volume used with a heavy weight providing further growth stimulus.
– Extra work such as dumbbell work, single leg assistance exercises etc should build in volume over a 4 week period moving from say 3 sets of 8 to 4 sets of 10 with weight increasing as well. To ensure variety and stimulation the exercises should change regularly.
- For instance, you might use the step up for 4 weeks then move to reverse lunges then to Bulgarian split squats etc.
Just run/cycle/swim lots.
That’s the typical advice given by many endurance coaches.
Fortunately, those in the know have come around to the idea that strength and power training is actually critical to getting the best out of an endurance athlete particularly runners and cyclists.
Here’s what I’ve found works well for endurance athletes.
Perform 4-6 weeks focusing on strength training and metabolic conditioning or ‘cross training’ as endurance athletes often refer to it.
Bring up any weaknesses such as glute strength and address mobility and flexibility issues.
3 x 45 minutes per week of metabolic conditioning and 3 x 30 minutes of heavy strength work (3-4 sets of 8-3 reps).
1-2 easy runs / bikes / swims to keep your eye in. No timing or recording stats!
Prioritize your aerobic base and building volume.
40% of your training should be aerobic work
40% of your training should be interval/speed work
20% of your training should be strength work
For instance, if you complete 10 sessions per week:
4 aerobic sessions
4 speed/interval sessions
2 strength sessions in the gym.
Crank up the intensity with more speed work.
You should have the aerobic base to complete your challenge by now.
Developing the ability to run further / for longer is therefore pointless.
We need to get you faster and develop more speed and power to increase stride length.
30% of your training should be aerobic work
50% of your training should be interval/speed work
20% of your training should be strength work
The increased intensity should bring a reduced volume and more recovery time.
For instance, if you were completing 10 sessions per week, reduce that to 7-8 sessions
2-3 aerobic sessions
4-5 speed/interval sessions
1-2 strength sessions in the gym.
You’re going to start tapering at this stage but don’t make the mistake of getting lazy.
These last few weeks should feature high intensity with pace at or above race pace but at a much lower volume and a focus on race ‘technique’ such as preparation, nutrition, massage and transitions.
The final week should be no different.
Preparing for fights shouldn’t be much different to the principles behind training for an endurance event.
Build the base over the first few months with an even spread of training between conditioning, strength and power along with technical work.
You may need to consider what kind of a fighter you are or need to be as this can change things.
For instance, if you are boxer who moves and lot, you may want to put more emphasis on your running and power endurance in your legs.
The length of the fight will also play a part in decision making.
If you’re an amateur going into a 3 x 2 minute fight, you don’t need to build your endurance to the point of being able to handle 12 rounds of 3 minutes!
At no point should you ignore any areas of training as you’re going to need them all in the fight!
As you get closer to the fight, analyse what you feel is holding you back or what you need to focus on if you know who you are fighting and how you want the fight to go / what their strengths and weaknesses are.
Morph your training week to emphasize the necessary areas.
You also need to monitor your weight.
If you eat right the rest of the year, you’ll have a good idea where you’re at and won’t need to panic about making weight although slight adjustments to food and training may be required.
Two weeks out however some changes are recommended.
Cut out the heavy strength work to give your joints and muscles a rest and shorten the length of sessions, maintaining quality.
Spend more time on light conditioning, recovery, mindset and the technical aspects of how you want the fight to go.
You should go into the fight raring to go rather than thinking about how tired you are.
Planning training doesn’t have to be complicated but it does require consideration of individual needs, body type and sport specific requirements.
We could obviously go into more detail about volume and what specifically to do but then the principles behind this article would get lost as there are infinite ways to approach different goals and sports.
Only when you leave things too late do you need drastic measures and emergency plans so ensure you know your main goals early and any ‘practice’ events in the build up so you know when to go hard and when to ease off.
Monitoring your results and body composition are the best ways to know if a plan is working or not and experience will bring confidence in a plan of action for the next year or event.