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Creating a Program Part 2: Exercises.

Posted Sep 22 2008 10:59am

As I wrote about in the previous installment, most of the training programs I write for clients are function-based, as opposed to bodypart/muscle group based. I outlined the reasons in my previous post, but for your reference, they are:

1. Form follows function, so train the function to improve form.

2. Peformance is easier to track than aesthetics (which are primarily decided by eating habits).

3. There’s no downside to training functions vs. muscle groups.

The 8 major joint functions I include in a program are:

  • Lower body Push
  • Lower body Pull
  • Upper body Push (vertical)
  • Upper body Pull (vertical)
  • Upper body Push (horizontal)
  • Upper body Pull (horizontal)
  • Trunk flexion
  • Trunk extension

Sounds nice - if you’re an anatomist, that is. The rest of us need actual exercises. From the above template, I draw upon the following lists of exercises that correspond to the muscle/joint function:

Lower Body Pushes:

  • Squat
  • Front Squat
  • Leg Press
  • Supported Step-Up
  • Split Squat
  • Leg Extension

Lower Body Pull:

  • Deadlift
  • Stiff-legged deadlift
  • Leg Curl
  • Glute-Hamstring Raise

Upper Body Horizontal Push:

  • Bench Press
  • Chest Press
  • Incline Press

Upper Body Horizontal Pull:

  • Seated Row
  • One Armed Row
  • Hise Shrug
  • Reverse Flye

Upper Body Vertical Push:

  • Overhead Press
  • Military Press
  • Lateral Raise

Upper Body Vertical Pull:

  • Chinup/Pullup
  • Lat Pulldown
  • Pullover

Trunk Flexion:

  • Crunch
  • Reverse Crunch

Trunk Extension:

  • Back hyperextension
  • Lumbar extension

Note that these lists aren’t all-inclusive or comprehensive (I could have included cable flyes or dips in the horizontal pushes, for example), but represent my primary choices. Note that in general, I choose multi-joint exercises over single-joint exercises. Multi-joint exercises give you more bang for the buck because they involve more overall muscle in a single exercise than do single joint movements.

Example: Chinups (multi-joint) vs. Biceps Curls (single-joint). Which would you say works more muscle and is more results-producing? Hint: It’s not the biceps curls.

So, what would a sample workout look like? Well, if you did all 8 movements in a single workout, then it could look like this:

  • Squat
  • Glute-Ham Raise
  • Chinups
  • Bench Press
  • Lateral Raise
  • Hise Shrug
  • Crunch
  • Lumbar Extension

You could also opt to break it up into a two day routine, like this:

Day 1

  • Squat
  • Bench Press
  • Hise Shrug
  • Lumbar Extension

Day 2

  • Glute-Ham Raise
  • Chinups
  • Lateral Raise
  • Crunch

How do you know what combinations to use? And what about sets and reps? Easy, easy; coming up next…

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