Create Your Own Workout - Part 1: Program Movements, Not Muscles

Last Tuesday, I published a, dare I say, fantastic post explaining how to ensure consistency with your training, whatever mode of exercise that you prefer.  It really comes down to finding something that you enjoy.  Something that motivates you to get your butt off the couch and into the gym/yoga studio/Crossfit box to break a sweat or two.

You may be thinking, "I have a job, I have a girlfriend, I have to find time to go grocery shopping, do my laundry, make dinner, etc... I simply don't have time for exercise."  Now I'm not going to sugarcoat this... You do have the time.  How many hours a week do you spend browsing the internet, watching tv, or sitting in traffic?  You're not the only one with a life, and there are plenty of people who find ways to fit a weekly exercise routine into their busy schedule.

It really all comes down to priorities...  If you truly cared about taking care of your body then you would wake up an hour earlier to hit the gym, or head right to yoga after work and skip that traffic-laden commute home.  Take responsibility for your actions.  If you choose to spend your time doing other things, then own up to it.  There's nothing wrong with not making physical activity a high priority, but making excuses will get you nowhere.

Now after that little rant... Let's get to what this post is really about: Providing you with a template to create your own workouts that will be effective and allow for continuous progression.

There are certainly many ways to skin a cat, and probably many more ways to write a workout. Today I'll be providing you one way, but it happens to be a great approach to strength training, if I do say so myself.

In the early days of my development as a weightlifter, I would write my own workouts and make sure I included a shoulder exercise, and an arm exercise, and a back exercise, and so on and so forth...  Fortunately for me, I took an internship at SAPT and it changed my entire way of thinking.  

               Coach Ryan Wood hates excuses.

               Coach Ryan Wood hates excuses.

I was introduced to the idea that movement patterns matter.  Our human body is one unit.  A biological machine whose individual parts do not work in isolation and must seamlessly coordinate in order to produce efficient movement and effective function.

Now, there are a number of movements that the human body should be capable of performing: Squatting, Hinging, Pulling, Pushing, Carrying, and Locomotion.  You can separate these out into different vectors.  For instance: a vertical push (OH Press) and a horizontal push (Bench Press) require your body to utilize different recruitment strategies to stabilize your joints and perform the task.  A horizontal pull (any Rowing variation) will require more from your rhomboids, while a vertical pull (chinups) will require more force production from your lats. This is because the lats perform shoulder extension, and you will go through a greater shoulder extension ROM in a chinup than a row.  You can further break out locomotion into bipedal (marching/sprinting/sled pushing) and quadrupedal (crawling variations).


It's incredibly useful to, instead of creating a workout based on body parts, create workouts based on these fundamental human movements.  By doing so, you'll be effectively working every muscle in your body and forcing them to work together as a unit instead of isolating them as separate entities. Your anterior delts and triceps work together with your pecs to create a pushing force, so why spend the time isolating each muscle when you can progressively overload a pushup and hit all of them at once while also cementing a proper horizontal push-focused motor pattern?

Success in the gym is all about efficiency, and programming movements is as efficient as you can get. Stay tuned next week for part 2 of this epic series.