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Building a Workout part 1 – Movements

I’ve been fielding a few questions of late regarding the topic of how to construct a workout.

This is quite a big question. But one well worth answering.

To be honest, there’s no one simple answer as there are as many workouts as there are people training. But as with all things, there are basic principles which can be applied almost universally.

I’m going to start with a quote I stole from reading Dan John’s work, but seeing as he stole it from Dan Gable, I’m sure he won’t mind!

“If it’s important, do it every day. If it’s not important, don’t do it all.”

So there, you go.

Everything you need to know about training, life and love in one simple sentence.

Dan John

Dan John

But lets look at it from a training perspective.

1 – Movements.

Like many strength and performance coaches I view the body as a series of movement patterns rather than individual muscles. This view isn’t idea if you’re a body builder but for athletic and even pure fatloss, it’s a winner.

The basic movement patterns are:

Upper Body: Vertical Push – Military Press and the like Vertical Pull – Pull Ups, Pull Downs Horizontal Push – Push ups, Bench Press Horizontal Pull – Rows

Lower Body: Hip Hinge or Lower Body Pull – Deadlifts, Swing, Clean Squat or Lower Body Push – erm, Squat. And lunge etc

Yes, it’s a simplistic model, but it honestly works a charm as long as each box gets ticked on a regular basis.

We can also add in spinal actions, especially rotary motions as well as flexion and extension. But the big guns are in the list above.

So to put together a solid workout or program we may choose:

Military Press, Bent Over Row and Squat. or 1 arm clean & press, Inverted Row and Double Kettlebell Front Squat

All the other movements can be ticked in the warm up, but we focus on the three main movements with vigour.

Next time we train it may be:

Bench, Pull Up and Deadlift. Or Push Ups, Pull Ups and Kettlebell Swings.

Simple eh?

You can expand on this anyway you wish according to your individual training wants and need, but the basic principle will never change. Tick all the boxes, but emphasise certain ones more as your actual training focus for that day / week / month.

Right now, my own training at the moment looks like this:

Every day: Empty Barbell – Deadlift, RDL & Bent Over Row, High Pull, Clean, Front Squat, Press, Overhead squat. All for 5-10 reps depending on the day. Barbell Power Clean to Front Squat, work up to my daily minimum then see where I go. I usually aim for around 10 reps at this weight or more with whatever rep range suits ( 1 x 10, 10 x 1, 2 x 5, 5 x 2, 3x 3 etc….) Then I’ll do a few other movements to plug the gaps. My current choice is from: Day 1: Kettlebell Snatch Day 2: Dips & Chins Day 3: Ab Wheel Kettlebell Long Cycle

You’ll see how each box gets ticked. Obviously the emphasis is the lower body with the clean & squat every day, but each other movement gets hit during the warm up and at least one other time in the week.

Of course, this is just my training at the moment. But it does serve as an example of how I build training programs.

I’ll cover a different aspect of developing a workout next week.


Dave Hedges

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