How to Plan Your Next Strength Training Program
This time of year everyone’s reflecting on the year that “was” and looking forward to the year that “could be.” As a lover of all things strength, I thought I’d share how you can make sure you start off your New Year stronger than ever, by organizing your next strength-training plan.
Below are 5 coaching topics I like to focus on when organizing training programs. Planning and preparing a training schedule before you ever step foot in the weight room is worth the extra time and effort.
Planning For Strength: Tip #1 – Choose a Strength-Focus
Also known as your goal. Your training blueprint is similar to a road map. It’s important to know where you’re going and why you’re trying to get there.
Do you want to gain muscle? Do you want to get stronger, or do you want to lose weight? Regardless, you must start here. Since we’re talking purely about strength, below are some topics you might choose from:
Powerlifting – Deadlift, Squat, Bench Press
This could come in the form of signing up for a meet or simply as a means to gain power and strength.
Kettlebells – Swings, Getups, Snatches, Double Bell Exercises, Strength or Conditioning
If you want to challenge yourself with a competition, consider signing up for StrongFirst’s TSC competition in April. If the physical act of competing doesn’t appeal to you consider challenging yourself with a goal of completing the snatch test or achieving “Simple” or “Sinister” status in Pavel’s book Simple & Sinister.
Bodyweight – 1-Arm 1-Leg Pushup, Pull-up, Pistol Squat, Front Lever, etc.
Perhaps the most interesting of all, learning how to leverage your body weight as a strength training tool.
Planning For Strength: Tip #2 – Plan and Prepare
Once you have a focus, you’ll need to design the inner workings of your training blueprint. When breaking down your agenda, start big and work your way down to the smallest detail – the time you’ll spend in each training session.
Number of weeks
Having played around with many training protocols in the past, I can tell you from my own personal experience not to overreach in this step.
While it might seem like you’re creating the perfect program in scheduling 12, 16, even a 20-week program, I encourage you to start small.
I like to program in 4-6 week blocks. If your competition is 20 weeks out, simply plan accordingly with multiple 4-6 week focuses.
Number of days
Once you have your weeks mapped out, take a minute for a reality check. In other words, look at your current life outside the gym; can your responsibilities sustain 4-5 days a week of training? If you’re not 110% sure that it can, consider scaling back a bit.
Remember, your best strength-training program is a consistent one.
Duration of sessions
Often a neglected step of programming, you want to set a limitation on everything you do. The traditional mindset is to make training sessions an hour long. But what if your program only calls for 30-40 minutes of actual work?
Capping the duration of your sessions will force you to maintain focus, stick to your agenda, and enable you to get better results in the process. Treat your training sessions as if you’re punching the clock.
Planning For Strength: Tip #3 – Are You Ready, Willing, and Able?
You’ve got your focal point, you’ve created your sets and reps schemes, now all you need is ask yourself, are you ready, willing, and able to do this program? Score yourself on a scale of 1-10, 1 being the worst and 10 being the best.
If you don’t score yourself at least a 9 in each of the three questions asked, don’t start the program. You’ve overreached somewhere in the process, in which case take a look back and reassess. Should you scale it down a day, make the sessions shorter, or maybe change the goal entirely?
Maybe you chose a goal of passing the snatch test (100 snatches in 5 minutes) but your technique could still use some fine-tuning. Regardless make sure you can confidently give yourself 9’s across the board.
No 9’s, no program…
Planning For Strength: Tip #4 – Be Consistent
Consistency is the king of strength; there’s no way around it. Remember as the French writer Antoine de Saint Exupéry said, “It seems that perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove.” Complicated strength plans often aren’t very sustainable, which leads to inconsistency on your end.
You wouldn’t hop on an Gold Medal-winning Olympic weightlifting program if you were a newbie to the sport, would you?
What’s sustainable for you, might be another athlete’s warm-up. Remind yourself, “Consistency is the key.”
Planning For Strength: Tip #5 – Analyze Your Results
If you want to ensure future success, make sure you find time for this final step.
When you’re done with your program ask yourself for feedback and evaluation.
- How did your ideas work?
- Did you get stronger?
- Was your schedule sustainable?
- Would you go back and change anything if you could?
Keep what worked well for the future while also keeping in mind what didn’t work well.
If something didn’t work out the way you planned ask, “Why?” Search for answers and you’ll likely get stronger in the process.
Remember; as you set your sights on your strength goals for the New Year, find a little extra time for the planning and preparation process.
- Choose your goal
- Create a sustainable schedule around that goal
- Ask if you’re Ready, Willing, and Able, and
- Be consistent
When you’re done, analyze your results to plan your next program.
If you’re looking for help with the specifics of scheduling sets and reps schemes, click here. You can also sign-up for my weekly newsletter. Each week I share what’s going on with my own training program as well as recap anything interesting I’ve read or watched that week. There’s a ton of useful information for your training programs, and it’s completely free.