How does one go about designing a training program?
First off, I am a huge believer in trial and error. Get in there and do it.
Shoot, I tried Mentzer, Arnold, Wagner, Prilipen, Sheiko, Westside, Coan, Kirk, Fuller(10 sets of 32), Yates, Beyond Failure,.....tried em all, threw some out, kept some in, learned from them all. But the key was, I tried them, stuck with them.
Alright, so I'm gonna give you some hints on how to cut through the BS out there and begin the process. Hints, not written in stone, but it will get the ball rolling.
1. Decide what your goal is. Is it Bodybuilding? Powerlifting? Navy Seal-like training? Different programs are needed for different goals.
2. Stick to the basics. Even the most "isolation" driven bodybuilders performed the press, the squat, the deadlift, the row, and chins and dips in the genesis of their careers.
In the same vein, begin each session with a basic exercise. That means squat first, deadlift first, etc., then do the assistance work. Yes, there is a place for pre-exhaustion in a program, but as a general rule, keep it to once in awhile. So if you are powerlifting or bodybuilding or whatever, do the compound, hardest exercises first.
3. Whatever you choose to do, WORK HARD. Sweat, bleed, push , pull hard, squat deep, grab it and go. There are way to many cases of "analysis paralysis" out there- yeah but, Ed Coan does this, what about going to failure? What about Starting Strength? What about....NOPE. You made a program, now stick to it. For at least 6 weeks. Promise yourself that you will do it for 6 weeks.
4. I am going to assume an intermediate to advanced level of training experience 2-3 years or more. If you are a beginner, do Starting Strength and then progress.
If you are gonna powerlift, decide on how many days a week you will squat, bench and deadlift. How does one decide? First off , focus on your lifestyle. Are you working hard labor? A job where you are using your low back a lot? Then you could probably squat 1-2 x a week , but deadlift once. Or deadlift light and then heavy. You can bench more than once a week, it doesn't hurt your recovery much. And I do wonder about overtraining and all that, and deep down inside, I KNOW that if you get enough rest and food that you can do the 3 lifts 3-5 times a week and get away with it. The problem is, most folks don't pay attention to the FACTORS involved in recovery: sleep, stress, nutrition. In other words, with the perfect lifestyle, there ain't no such thing as overtraining. But how many out there have the perfect lifestyle? Not many. So be conscious and realistic about your recovery.
Also, if you are super strong, you need more recovery time, both physically and mentally. For instance, can Karwoski squat 1000x2 on Monday and then squat 80% of that on Thursday? Not likely. Just getting mentally prepared for that type of training is exhausting. Kirk told me that it took him all week to recover from 1000x2. Now if your max is 315, and you have only been training 2 years, you could handle another day of squatting, maybe 2 more days. Depends on the "summoning" of intensity that your heavy day required.
If you are bodybuilding, be prepared to throw away most of what you read about what the pros do in their training. Every one of them is on some exorbitant cocktail of performance enhancers. They can recover from anything. So if they are doing 20 sets a body part, you may want to cut it back some. Definitely open your eyes on that one. All of the top guys are on drugs...in almost every sport. Surprised about Lance Armstrong?I wasn't. Give me a break. Be more surprised when someone ISN'T in drugs.
I am getting away from program design here, so let me refocus.
5. How many days can you train? Be realistic, again. 3 quality workouts a week are better than 6 crappy ones. MWF is the classic schedule. The problem with that is when you want to to train a lift more than once a week. I like a 4 day split better.
Split it up by body parts- Monday and Thursday, Chest, shoulder, triceps/ Tuesday and Friday, Legs, back and biceps.
Whether you are powerlifting or bodybuilding, this split works. Example:
Monday- Bench press, press, db incline, laterals, dips
Tuesday- heavy squat, cleans, rows, chins, curls
Thursday- bench or close grip bench or press first(shoulders) then triceps extensions, dips or pushups
Friday-Light squat or pause squat, heavy deadlifts, bent rows or one arm rows, curls
I would take that first exercise and use Prilipen's chart with them. That way, you can modulate the intensity and train for an eventual max. Go from the low end of the chart to the high end at times. Push the volume and you will get super strong. In order to do that, you have to overreach at times. If the chart calls for 5x2 at 80% for the average intensity, perform 10x2 once in awhile to force the body to adapt to such a strenuous load. Then back it back down the next week, then overreach, then back it on down, etc.,
Next time I will add some more about percentages and discuss assistance work and how to add it in with the proper sets and reps.
Some deadlift videos....