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Does Your Workout Program Make Sense?

If you have landed on this blog post, chances are you have experienced some sort of workout programming. Workout programs can come in all different varieties and there are some that typically yield better results than others. The problem that many people run into is that they have no idea where to start when deciding what “program” they should begin or they get lost in terminology and it starts to become more thinking than they were ready for.

The goal of this blog post is simple: to cover several hallmark principles of workout programming so that general athlete can have a baseline understanding of what their workouts should entail.

Let’s start with what is currently offered to the general public. On one end of the spectrum we have group fitness. These include CrossFit classes and bootcamps that typically follow a generalized program that serves to offer bits and pieces of a bunch of different exercise principles. They try to get all of their members to a baseline level of general fitness. We will call this group the “General Preparation” group.

On the other end of the spectrum we have individual programming from high quality personal trainers, coaches, and team strength and conditioning specialists. These programs should offer unique, individualized programming that works from general to specific in terms of achieving the goals of that individual athlete. We will call this group the “Sport/Skill Specific” group. These programs often include a principle known as Periodization.

Periodization is a training method that strategically modifies variables such as intensity, frequency, volume, movement, and rest in an attempt to allow the athlete to progress these variables in a way that maximizes performance without jeopardizing health.

If you take a step back, the idea of periodization makes a lot of sense. You have an athlete that has specific (maybe sport-related) goals and you have them train different elements of those goals in order to avoid the overtraining and fatigue that would come from trying to train all of these variables at once. You’ll also realize that many strength programs that most people have heard of (olympic lifting programs, 5x5 programs, 5x3x1 programs) are periodized. They aim to improve your overall strength and performance by focusing on one to two specific elements of fitness at any given time.

When the body is introduced to a new set of stimuli, it typically responds in 3 stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion.

  • Alarm: the shock felt after a new program is started. The body is taking in information about the new stimulus and determining how to handle it. The alarm stage is typically marked by soreness.

  • Resistance: after the initial soreness and shock, the body starts to positively adapt to the stimulus. We start to get more muscular changes and increased workload capacity.

  • Exhaustion: overtraining. The decline in rate of positive adaptations created by the stimulus. Fatigue and overreaching set in and there is typically a breakdown in movement patterns.

In periodization, the goal is to stay in the Resistance stage for as long as possible by changing different variables over time so your body does not reach a point of overwhelming exhaustion. This is what we aim for when we start a new program, whether that be for someone who is returning from injury or someone who is starting the training required for a marathon. It is extremely important to gauge, analyze, change, and modify your training regimen based on your goals and level of exertion.

Whether you find yourself gravitating towards the “General Preparation” style of programming or the “Sport/Skill specific” style of programming, one thing is certain: you should have a goal in mind and surround yourself with people that will help you achieve that goal. These two broad categories are not definite. You can definitely land anywhere on this spectrum of programming styles and you don’t always have to stay in one program forever. The most important thing is to move and to move well. Stay strong and stay healthy.

At PRIME, we study these aspects of training and program building to provide the best possible route for our patients. We often ask our patients to do new things and undertake new stimuli so it is crucial that we scale and modify accordingly to stay in the Resistance (positive adaptation) zone. To learn more about how we can write a program for you to get out of pain and back to doing the things you love, email us at We look forward to hearing from you!

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