This is hopeless but better than nothing

I got an email with some good questions about what I do with athletes and clients that come for me the first time and how I program for them. So I want to try and explain a bit about that.

1. I do do a fair bit of ‘screening’ with athletes and clients but do it on an ‘as needs be’ basis. I know your next question is going to be how do I decide when it is needed and when it isn’t and my answer to this would be completely useless to you as it is completely subjective. One thing I will tell you is that I look at athletes ALL THE TIME. I’m watching them from the minute they walk in, looking at how they walk, how they hold themselves, how they stand when they are relaxed, watching their form when they exercise looking for compensations and imbalances…I look at everything. They are all constantly being assessed…most of what I see or find I don’t even discuss with them…why not? I’m glad you asked…1. because them knowing doesn’t make any difference and in some cases it’s actually more of a hindrance than a help and 2. because I’m really lazy and can’t be bothered explaining everything endlessly. Instead I just add and alter elements of their program as required.

2. I am ALWAYS looking at achieving just one goal…physical harmony…does that sound ghey…well too bad…it’s true. I’m always looking to balance people out firstly then secondly to raise all these levels at the same time. Does that make sense? I don’t want athletes that can bench 150kgs, squat 100kgs and only do 2 pull ups…and I’ve seen these.

3. The only other thing that I’m looking to do is to make sure that there are no weak links in the chain…and everyone has these…something always has to be the weakest and I always try to be the one who works out what these are before anyone else does.

So that is pretty much what it all boils down to.

So where do I start program wise….well lets use a proper example.

Michael did his first session yesterday…up until then he’s just been tooling around in the gym doing bits and pieces with the other lads. He has very little to no experience weight training but is keen to throw himself into the meet grinder and I’m only too happy to oblige him. So this is what his program looks like:

Session 1 – Squats and Pull Ups/Chins
Warm Up
Lower Body Mobility/Stability Work
Squat Variation – 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps
Supplementary Hamstring – 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
Core/Trunk Work – TBD
Upper Body Mobility/Stability Work
Pull Ups/Chins Variation – 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps
Supplementary Chest – 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
Arm Work – 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps

Session 2 – Deadlift and Bench
Warm Up
Lower Body Mobility/Stability Work
Deadlift Variation – 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps
Supplementary Quad dominant – 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
Core/Trunk Work – TBD
Upper Body Mobility/Stability Work
Horizontal Press Variation – 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps
Supplementary Back – 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps
Arm Work – 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps

That’s what it looks like when I write it initially…the actual exercise selection and the determination of the sets and reps happens later.

He did his first session yesterday and his second session today. What he’s going to do is to do a version of session 1 and 2 on Monday and Tuesday and another variation of session 1 and 2 on Thursday and Friday. We’ll do some conditioning work on Wednesday and Saturday if he’s up to it but at the moment he’s just as weak as piss and we’ll try to fix that up first. He did his testing last Tuesday with everyone else so we’ll see how he gets on when he tests in a couple of months time.

So what does his program look like in reality….well yesterday and today looked like this:

Session 1 – Squats and Pull Ups/Chins
Bike – 10mins
Overs and Unders – 2×8 each side
Hurdle Step – 2×8 each side
Kettlebell Goblet Squats – 5 sets of 12 reps


I thought I better throw an explanation in here…all the vids that I chuck up here are usually done this way. I put the camera down, press record and then edit the clip down later on. I just thought I’d throw this up in it’s entirety so everyone can see how much I love the sound of my own voice.

Bridging – 3×60 seconds
Chest Supported Scap Shrugs – 2×8
Pull Ups – 5 sets of 3 reps
Blast Strap Push Ups – 3 sets of 8 reps
Bicep Curls – 3 sets of 12 reps

Session 2 – Deadlift and Bench
Bike – 10 mins
Reverse Med Ball Lunge Twists – 2×8 each side
Single Leg Hip Pop Ups – 2×8 each side
Trap Bar Deadlift – 2×8 warm up, 5 sets of 3 reps
Single Leg Extensions – 3 sets of 8 reps each side
Ab Pull Downs
YTWL’s – 3 sets of 5 of each as a complex
Incline DB Press – 2×8 warm up, 3 sets of 8 reps
Chest Supported Rows – 5 sets of 8 reps
Lying Tricep Extensions – 3 sets of 12 reps

Before someone points out that the sets and reps aren’t exactly what I prescribed in the template originally…yes…I know that.

So I think that is me all blogged out till Monday so you can put the internet away and go out and do some training or have a beer.

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3 thoughts on “This is hopeless but better than nothing

  1. Will,

    Did I hear you say “functional stretch”?

    During the screening process I assume you will have a battery of static and dynamic tests you could use to supplement the visual cues that help to diagnose strengths, weaknesses, mobility etc…if an athlete has pain where do you draw the line between continuing to tweak the training to relieve/resolve the pain and referring out to a physiotherapist?

    Over the last few years it seems that there is a push to extend the skills of a strength and conditioning coach from purely getting the athletes conditioned for their sport…to also provide rehab programming to overcome soft tissue injuries. I thought it would be intersting to read your take on this.

    PS. I like the uneditted version of the video.

  2. 2. I am ALWAYS looking at achieving just one goal…physical harmony…does that sound ghey…well too bad…it’s true. I’m always looking to balance people out firstly then secondly to raise all these levels at the same time. Does that make sense? I don’t want athletes that can bench 150kgs, squat 100kgs and only do 2 pull ups…and I’ve seen these.

    Will apart from lads who just like benching or bicep curls are the imbalances you commonly see in people a result of their training, their chosen sport or injuries they’ve picked along the way or all of the above .

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