programming- strength training

A Tip on Programming

If you truly want to become stronger it’s very important that you take careful consideration when planning your training program.  One of the biggest factors that comes into play when doing this is understanding your strengths and weaknesses.  Unfortunately when this task is undertaken solo the former rather than the latter becomes the focus of the program. Usually what happens when you write your own training program is that unbeknownst to you, you have programmed everything your good at and absolutely nothing you’re bad at.  Congratulations, you’re going to spend the next 12 weeks not getting any stronger!  So the question becomes, how do we avoid wasting 12 weeks of our life?  Simple, DON’T do your own programming. The best thing to do is to sit down with someone who is qualified and experienced when it comes to programming (do not ask your training partner, chances are they probably have the same problems you have and are just as biased).  Talk to them about your goals, strengths, and problem areas. Based on the information you give them and the programming knowledge they have, they will write you a program that you will absolutely hate!  Why will you hate it?  Because, it’s going to be filled with a bunch of stuff you’re not good at and honestly who wants to work 4-5 days a week on things they are terrible at?  Nobody! But, I promise that you WILL come out 12 weeks later a STRONGER person than when you went in.  Trust me I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else;I would much rather feel like Wolverine in the weight room instead of Howard the Duck.

Don’t believe me?  I’ll show you.  Below you will find two training days from two different programs.  The first was written for me by current strength coach, powerlifter, and friend Gabe Naspinski.  The basis of which can be found by reading Gabe’s article for EliteFTS.  The second is a day that I wrote for myself a while ago.



A1) Conventional DL from Deficit 9X2/60% A1) DE Sumo DL with Chains 8X3 50%+50lbs of Chains
B1) SSB Low Box Squat w/ pause 4X6 B1) Low Box Squat 4X8
B2) Pullups throughout session 40 total C1) Barbell Rollouts 3XAMAP
C1) Band Pull Throughs 3x15 C2) Reverse Hyper 4X10
C2) Static/Dynamic Ab Movement of my choice


I know they don’t seem completely different but let me explain why the day Gabe planned is better for me than the one that I programmed.  First let me give you a little background on myself.  I have been pulling sumo for the last two years because I’m better at it and that’s how I compete.  I am terrible off the floor when deadlifting but pretty good when it comes to locking out at the top.  I am also weak out of the hole of  my squat but again, pretty good at locking them out.  Lastly, I have weak glutes, hamstrings and upper back.  Just with that little bit of information it’s easy to see why Gabe’s training day is superior to the one I programmed.

Let’s look at A1; he has me pulling conventional AND from a deficit (this guy has it out for me).  This allows me to work on almost all of my weaknesses.  Pulling  conventional and from a deficit will allow me to get better out of the bottom due to the increased range of motion and it will work on my hamstring and glute weakness as well as my upper back.  Now is what I programmed bad?  No, but it’s not exposing nor is it helping me work on my weaknesses nearly as much as what Gabe gave me.

We’ll end with talking about the B series.  With this series we have two squat variations, again nothing to different.  The main difference is the type of barbell used and the utilization of the pause.  He has me using a SSB (safety squat bar) which positions the bar higher on my back causing a greater emphasis on back strength as opposed to a straight bar, thus allowing me to work on my upper back weakness.  Again, I’m weak out of the bottom of my squat and my glute strength is sorely lacking so naturally we are going to incorporate a low box, which Gabe and I both did.  There is one glaring difference though between his and mine….the dreaded PAUSE in the bottom.  Now the pause I’m using is only a second long but that one second pause is a dagger (I’m not joking, go try it).  This pause is going to allow me to get stronger out of the bottom while also putting much more emphasis on my glutes.  Lastly in the B series, you’ll notice the 40 pullups throughout session that are in Gabe’s program and not in mine.  Remember that whole weak upper back thing? Interestingly enough Gabe decided to give me upper back work EVERYDAY of my program (I told you this guy has it out for me).  But again, my back weakness has been my downfall and he’s making me face it every day forcing me to get stronger.

As I said at the beginning, it’s important for everyone to know their strengths and weaknesses (especially their weaknesses).  One weakness that we all share when it comes to training is thinking that we are unbiased when it comes to writing our own program.  You might work on SOME of your problem areas if you write your own program but I guarantee it’s not going to be the same as someone else writing it.  Don’t spend weeks on end not getting any better, it’s a waste.

Remember, friends don’t let friends write their own programs.