Avoiding the Dreaded Overthink in Your Programming

Posted on April 24, 2018 4:45 PM

How much time do you spend thinking about, writing out and tinkering with your client programming? According to leading coaching software provider Train Heroic, the typical coach takes 7.8 hours per week – that’s virtually a whole day out of every seven. If that applies to you, then you’re losing an eye-popping 52 days each year writing programs. Yikes!

Part of the time-sucking problem with programming is overthinking it. You’re eager to put all your expertise into it, including what you learn from TRX Academy courses and other ongoing education classes. Of course you want the best for your athletes and are keen to help them reach their goals. But at a certain point, as the saying goes, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” So you get a reasonable program down on paper that would likely do the job just fine, and then you start second guessing yourself. From moving around the exercise selection and sequencing for a single session to switching up the placement of rest days to balancing speed, power, endurance and strength training across an entire block, there are an almost infinite number of ways to adjust your programs. And chances are you’ve found most of them.

It doesn’t have to be this hard. At TRX, we’re committed to doing the legwork for you. That’s why we came up with our Foundational Movements, Programming Lenses and the TRX App  – to provide a solid, proven framework that helps you create effective drag-and-drop programs that don’t require hours of head-scratching. Instead of spending up to a fifth of your time each week poring over spreadsheets or a coaching system, you can utilize the tools we’ve come up with to focus on honing your coaching art, creating richer experiences for your clients and interacting more with them.

Let’s start with the TRX Foundational Movements that we start teaching in the TRX Suspension Training Course. By providing the plank, squat, hinge, pull, push, lunge and rotation categories, we make it easy to classify most exercises that clients could do either on one of our products or using another modality such as a barbell, kettlebells or dumbbells. We then offer suggestions on how to combine these so that they complement each other, with the most basic pairings including squat and pull, hinge and push and lunge and rotate. This enables you to design a session in mere minutes, instead of agonizing over hundreds of possible exercise combinations.

Sometimes we have someone say, “Well this exercise doesn’t fit into any of the Foundational Movements” (you know, one of the kids who used to throw spitballs from the back of your high school chemistry class!). It’s true that these categories don’t cover every possible exercise, but we never intended them to be an exhaustive encyclopedia. Instead, they’re guidelines that provide structure while leaving you enough room for spontaneity and adaptation based on your expanding coaching knowledge, the needs and goals of your clients and the type of session you’re designing. As pioneering statistician George Box said, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” Utilizing the Foundational Movements as the, ahem, foundation of your program design will ensure that your clients leave each workout a little bit stronger, more mobile and with greater movement competence.

Another model we’ve tested over thousands of hours and in conjunction with some of the brightest minds in sports, fitness and the military is TRX Programming Lenses. These are designed to be used in conjunction with the Foundational Movements to take the guesswork out of creating thoughtful and intentional programs. They also enable you to find that sweet spot between complexity and simplicity. The speed lens encourages you to consider the tempo of each exercise and to combine three categories – fast ballistic movements, slow grinds and mid-paced hybrids – to align with the goals for a particular session. For example, if you’re prioritizing strength, you could have your clients do a heavy grind like a squat first, followed by a lighter weight, higher speed ballistic movement like a TRX Slam Ball overhead toss. The second lens is bilateral vs. unilateral, which helps you sequence two-sided movements, like deadlifts, with one-sided variations, such as single-leg RDLs. Next up is the plane of motion lens that considers whether exercises primarily move athletes through frontal (e.g. skater jumps), sagittal (e.g. lunge) or transverse (e.g. Turkish get-up) planes. As sports and life involve moving in and transitioning between all three planes, you’ll want to re-create this in the gym.

Then we move on to the exercise selection and sequencing lens, which involves putting what you’ve learned about the TRX Foundational Movements into practice within each program to meet your specific aims for individual sessions and the combination of workouts across a week or month. Finally, there’s the work-to-rest lens which considers how to balance work (sets, reps and load) with active recovery periods. This enables you to create the right intensity to prompt adaptation in your athletes, without running them into the ground like Bear Bryant’s infamous “no water” Alabama football practices back in the day.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to do any program design because work and life got in the way, then you can always turn to the TRX App. It comes pre-loaded with a wide range of workouts for every type of session and client. The exercise library covers all the basics and more, and you can also choose sport or activity-focused workouts for running, Suspension Training, HIIT and more. If your clients download the app and sync it with their wearables, they can benefit from real-time coaching guidance driven by biometric data. So even when you can’t be with them, you know they’re doing high quality work that will get results.

These are just three of the ways that we do the hard work for you, and help you avoid overthinking your program design. Want to learn more about how to use the Foundational Movements and Programming Lenses? Then sign up for our Advanced Group Training Course, which will help you take your class programming to the next level.

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