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Effective Exercise Programme Design – Workouts Included

Exercise Programme Design

This article explains my journey as a Personal Trainer, explaining how my exercise programme design has evolved over the years into the simple but effective workouts I prescribe today.

My attitude to training has evolved over the years. When I first started lifting weights with any regularity, aged 18, my goal was nothing but aesthetic improvement. I wanted to look good, nothing more. I studied Mens Health, I believed the promises of ‘bigger arms fast’ and ‘ripped abs in 2 weeks’ etc etc. To cut a long story short, my programmes consisted of bench presses, curls and not a great deal else. Terrible, but I was young and naive.

The next phase was more educated. With a degree in hand, I evolved into a muscle-building phase. I wanted to be bigger. With big compound lifts and a never-ending quest for heavier, I toyed with split routines, full bodies, high intensity, 5,3,1’s etc. It worked – I was lifting heavier than ever before and weighed 90kg (my heaviest ever), but I was picking up injuries. Back problems, shoulder problems, muscular imbalances.

I had decent theoretical knowledge, but little practical – I was still only a couple of years into my training age. I couldn’t spot the holes in my training.


Next up was my CrossFit phase. From 2008-2010 the focus was on ‘performance’. I was pushing myself through workouts like ‘fight gone bad’ and ‘filthy fifty’. In all fairness, I did experience a pretty sharp rise in performance, but life at the time was easier – no kids, a 9-5 job, plenty of sleep and recovery time. I was also 5 years younger! Like all of the other phases, I learnt from this. I started to include more Olympic lifting into my training, and my focus shifted more towards intensity than strength.

After beating my body up for a couple of years, I began to learn about prehabilitation and included more of this in my training. I was also becoming more tuned in with my nutritional requirements – I had grown out of training just to be ‘fitter’, I was now into training to be healthier. I was taking inspiration from the likes of Paul Chek, Charles Poliquin and Robb Wolf, which steered me in a direction of wanting to look, feel and perform better.

exercise programme design, Steve Hoyles, Stephen Hoyles,, Personal Training Stockport, Stockport Personal Trainer, Squatting, Strength, Weight Lifting

My constant evolution has led me towards health, not just fitness. Life has changed now – we have a son, Isaac. Sleep was compromised for a while and I have spent a couple of years building a business. My working hours are long but not stressful. My approach to training has been influenced by my own needs and schedule, backed up with a decade of practical and theoretical knowledge, plus studying the fantastic work of others.

Having attended FitPro this year, I was further influenced by Dan Hellman of the CHEK institute. I purposely attended the CHEK lectures as I love the approach to health. The main takeaway from the convention from an exercise point of view for me was the need to revert to a more simple programme.

Having given my training approach some thought, I concluded I will adapt things to fit around the following guidelines…

  • Stick to two compound lifts per session, and add in auxiliary lifts to compliment these.
  • Keep the core engaged and active throughout the exercises.
  • Train the core in a more rotational plane of movement.
  • Focus more on movements, and less on exercises.

The benefits of this new approach are numerous…

  • Less gym time – a workout can be completed in 30 minutes.
  • More recovery time.
  • Better focus – by sticking to fewer exercises, there is more emphasis on quality.
  • Reduced injury risk due to less fatigue and fewer movements.
  • Less equipment required!

This approach allows me to work on both strength and functionality at the same time. I will be using one or two exercises in my training, and aiming to do them as well as possible with a heavy weight.

Prehabilitation work will still take place after a session when my body is warmed up.

Does this mean the end of the high intensity workouts? No – not at all. They are just going to be slotted in to my training when I know I have recovery time afterwards. There is nothing wrong with an arse-kicking in the gym, as long as it is programmed correctly.

Going forward, a sample week of training will look like this…

Lift ASquats58
Lift BMilitary Press58
Auxiliary ADouble Arm KB Swing315
Auxiliary BReverse Flies412
Lift AIncline Dumbbell Bench Press58
Lift BRomanian Deadlifts58
Auxiliary AGlute-Ham Raise415
Auxiliary BBarbell Core Rotations412
Lift APull Ups58
Lift BRear Foot Elevated Split Squats58
Auxiliary ASingle Arm Barbell Press410
Auxiliary BMed Ball Core Twists412
Lift ASingle Arm Kettlebell Snatch58
Lift BSingle Arm Row58
Auxiliary ATRX Pike410
Auxiliary BTRX Hamstring Curls412

Remember lift quality is high, as is intensity – the aim is to complete these sessions in little over 30 minutes.

The prehab will usually take place after the sessions, to take advantage of increased blood flow and tissue flexibility.

So this is the next phase of my training. High quality, simple sessions based around strength, balance and functionality. Metabolic exercise sessions will be programmed as and when I have the recovery time afterwards!

Remember, training is about improving health, not making it worse. To quote Bruce Lee, training is supposed to help you, not screw you.

Train hard, but more importantly, train smart!

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Owner of Personal Trainer, Father and fitness copy writer. Working hard making the world fitter and healthier!

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