I started my first job as a fitness instructor in 1979 and frequently said, "Athletes need to train movements, not muscles." Since then, exercise categories have expanded and evolved to aid the exercise selection process. While I still have a distinct leaning toward this camp, I am not blind to the need to focus on specific muscles that may be weak links in the kinetic chain.
I am a firm believer in training the large compound movements to develop size and strength, a "heavy and basic" philosophy that has been ingrained into my psyche since my first weeks of weight training back in 1976 under the tutelage of Vince Basile at the American Health Spa. Ably supported by the big men of the gym, Dennis and Pat, of course, this training style should be the "bread and butter" for all people who train, irrespective if you follow a full body or a split programming style.
Still, I have the voice of Louie in my head reminding me that "strength training in the overcoming of weaknesses," and as you get stronger, there will always be something else that needs attention. Hence, the use of additional training focus on muscles, isolating and developing these weak links so that again as Louise extols, "weak things break."
Currently, I am programming for two great trainees at my local gym, Fitness Canterbury, Simon, and Brent. I have used the main workout from the great concepts of Steve Jeck and Peter Martin in their book Of Stones and Strength. They deserve full credit for such a wonderful week's plan, which I will elaborate on below. The outline of their program is as follows.
|Week One||Squat||Squat||Pull x 4|
|Pull x 2||Push x 2|
|Week Two||Squat||Squat||Push x 4|
|Push x 2||Pull x 2|
I have selected the following movements and sets and reps for the program, utilizing a Rule of 24 selection philosophy, but any selection of sets and reps for the appropriate goal can be used. This is a dynamic program, so variations on how you are feeling on a given day will be taken into consideration.
Here is the entire program.
|Week One||Zercher Squat with Earthquake Bar 4 x 6||Safety Bar Box Squat 6 x 4||Sandbag from Floor to Shoulder 12 x 2, Deadlift 6 x 4, Hammer Iso Row 4 x 6, MAG grip Pulldown to Chest 3 x 8|
|Pendlay Row 4 x 6, Good Morning 6 x 4||Swiss Bar Shoulder Press 6 x 4, Earthquake Bar Bench Press 3 x 8|
|Week Two||Goblet Squat 6 x 4||Front Squat 4 x 6||Swiss Bar Bench Press 6 x 4, Savickas One Arm KB/DB Press 4 x 6, Hammer Incline Press 2 x 12, One Arm Overhead Walk 3 x 20m/20m|
|Incline Bench Press 4 x 6, DB Flat Bench Press 3 x 8||Snatch Grip High Pulls in Rack 8 x 3, Zercher Deadlift 6 x 4|
Keep in mind that this program is based on the specific needs of the two men I program for. So, you should use this program as it relates to your own strength and training needs.
Sets and reps will be in the 10-15 range, and each exercise will be 2-3 sets with minimum rest in between sets. You could also use the program in a circuit fashion if desired.
|Groin/Hips||3-Way Lunge||Copenhagen Plank||Mountain Climbers|
|Knee||Single-Leg Squat to Bench||Low Step-Up||1 and 1/3 Leg Extensions|
|Hamstrings||Landmine RDL (Kickstand)||Single-Leg Back Extensions||Prowler March 2 x 20 Meters|
|Calves||Seated Calf Raise||Standing Single-Leg Calf Raise||Prowler Push 2 x 20 Meters|
|Rotator Cuff/Shoulders||Lying T Raise||Incline YTI's||Bottom Up KB Press|
|Upper Back/Rhomboids||Face Pull||Rhomboid Shrug on Incline Bench||Band Pull-Apart|
|(Elbow Integrity) Biceps/Triceps||DB Hammer Curl, DB Tate Press||DB Twist Curl, DB Rolling Extensions||EZ Bar Curl, Triceps Pressdowns|
|Core||Roll Outs||Hanging Leg Raise||Weighted Plank 2 x Max Time|
You could also try a full-body three days per week program based around the Bill-Starr-inspired classic Pull, Push, and Squat philosophy. Remember to perform the muscles workout detailed above on the off days, which I think would equate with the Westside concept of small workouts. They are not as taxing on the central nervous system and can be performed around the main movements workouts.
|Movement/Day||Weeks||Session One||Session Two||Session Three|
|Goblet Squat |
|Zercher Squat Earthquake Bar |
|Safety Bar Squat |
High Bar Squat (Both Box Squat Variations)
|Trap Bar Deadlift|
|Hinge (Good Morning) |
Low Bar Back Squat (Combo Good Morning)
|Snatch Grip High Pulls in Rack from Knees|
Clean Grip Power Shrugs with Slow Eccentric RDL (Both in The Rack from Knees)
|Kadillac Swiss Bar Shoulder Press in Split Stance|
Earthquake Bar Military Press
|Kadillac Swiss Bar Bench Press (Medium)|
|Earthquake Bar Incline Bench Press|
Kadillac Swiss Bar Incline Bench Press
|Loaded Carry||Sandbag Bear Hug Carry||Waiter's Walk||Farmer's Walk|
|Core||Hanging Leg Raises||Rollouts||Pallov Press|
Upper Body Lower Body (2 Options)
Wk 1: 10, 8, 6, 6 (30 reps) @ 75%/79%/83%/83+%
Wk 1: 5 x 3 (15 reps) @ 92+% OR 6 @83%, 5 @86%, 4 @ 89%, 4 @89+%
Wk 2: 8, 6, 4, 4 (22 reps) @ 79%/83%/89%/89+%
Wk 2: 5 x 5 (25 reps) @ 86+% OR 5 @86%, 4 @ 89%, 3 @ 92%, 3 @ 92+%
Wk 3: 6, 4, 2, 2 (14 reps) @ 83%/89%/95%/95+%
Wk 3: 5 x 7 (35 reps) @ 821+% OR 4 @ 89%, 3 @ 92%, 2 @ 95%, 2 @ 95+%
Wk 1: 4 x 20 metres/2 x 12
Wk 2: 4 x 30 metres/3 x 12
Wk 3: 4 x 40 metres/4 x 12
I have also used a variation on this programming style with sporting teams by incorporating a CARE program at the end of each workout. Here is an example of a hybrid workout for explosive and maximal strength.
Off-Season Neural and Mechanical Programming
|Session OneFrench Contrast Lower Body+ Upper Body Size and Strength||Session TwoFull Body Explosive with Contrasts+ French Contrast Upper Body||Session ThreeFrench Contrast Lower Body+ Upper Body Size and Strength|
|1A: Box Squat 3 x 3 @ 80%|
1B: Depth Jumps x 5 reps
1C: Jump Squats 3 x 3 @ 40%
1D: Band-Assisted Vertical Jumps Continuous x 5
|1 x Explosive Hip Dominant Superset LB Plyometric or Med Ball Throw|
1 x Explosive Knee Dominant Superset LB Plyometric or Med Ball Throw
|1A: Trap Bar Deadlift 3 x 3 @ 80%|
1B: Resisted Standing Long Jumps reset each x 5 reps
1C: DB Hang Clean 3 x 3 Heavy
1D: Assisted Standing Long Jumps reset each x 5 reps
|Upper Body||French Contrast Upper Body||Upper Body|
|1 x UB Push Superset Pull (Barbells)|
1 x UB Push Superset Pull (DB’s)
|1A: Bench Press 3 x 3 @ 80%|
1B: Med Ball Drop Pushes x 5 reps
1C: DB Push Press Heavy
1D: Band-Assisted Clap Push-Ups
|1 x UB Push Superset Pull (Barbells)|
1 x UB Push Superset Pull (DB’s)
|CARE (5 Exercises)||CARE (5 Exercises)||CARE (5 Exercises)|
Add one set per week for three weeks, then return to week one and increase the load on all movements.
Alternate weeks 3 x 6 lighter and faster with 6 x 3 heavier and attempted acceleration (intent).
Wk1 – 4 x 6/12
Wk2 – 4 x 4/8
Wk3 – 4 x 2/6
Then, go back to week one and start the three-week loading cycle again.
I have detailed a complete off-season plan in a previous elitefts.com article.
Finally, here is another method of incorporating the big and small elements of a training philosophy into one program that I have used in another sporting team.
Entrée: Movement Preparation (warm-up options 10 minutes)
High Hurdle Mobility Circuit – Forward/Back, Under/Over
Plate Circuit (6 Reps Each Movement)
Plate Swings, Overhead Squats, Plate Head Circles, Plate Horizontal Push, Plate Wood Chops, Alternating Reverse Lunge with Twist, Plate Bent-Over Row.
Bodyweight Mobility Circuit (Combat Conditioning Options – 10 Each)
Grasshoppers, Mountain Climbers, Hindu Push-Ups, Prisoner Jump Squats, Scorpions Prone and Supine, Alternating Lunges, Table Maker, Reverse Push-Up, Rock and Rolls, No Momentum Sit-Ups, Legs Overhead to Floor.
Skipping + KB Swings: 30 Seconds of Skipping and 30 Seconds of KB Swings.
KB Circuit (6 Reps Each Exercise)
MMA Row, MMA Press, Alternating Upright Row, See-Saw Shoulder Press, Clean, Snatch.
Beastly Circuit (Bar Only – 6 Reps Each Exercise)
Hang Snatch, Push Press, Front Squat, Hang Clean, Bent-Over Row, RDL.
DB Shoulder Circuit (15 Reps Each Exercise)
Arnold Presses, Lateral Raise, Front Raise, Bent-Over Raise, YTI's, Drawing The Swords, L Raise, Cuban Press, Overhead Shrug, Scarecrows.
Olympic Lifting Complexes (Bar Only)
Muscle Snatch From Floor + Hang Power Snatch + Snatch Balance + Squat Snatch Press + Overhead Squat.
Clean Grip Power Snatch + Hang Power Clean + Front Squat + Sots Press + Push Press.
Cardio + Boxing Circuit (1 Minute Each)
Main Course (Needs-Based. Choose One Option Per Workout)
- Full-Body Power
- Upper Body Hypertrophy/Strength/Endurance
- Lower Body Strength
- Full-Body Strength
- Metabolic Circuit
- Strongman Options – Tire Flips, Farmer's Walk, Sled Push-Pull Combo, Sledge Hammer Tire Hits, Stone Clean to Keg, Stone Carry, Prowler Push.
- Calf Raises
- 4 Way Neck
- Rotator Cuff
- Core (Rotational, Posterior, Anterior)
- Grip Work
- Individual Prehab/Rehab
- Upper Body Armour Plating
- Lower Body Armour Plating
Header image credit: Eraxion @ 123rf.com
Ashley Jones has worked in three professional sports across 30 years and four continents. He was awarded the NSCA's Professional Coach of the Year in 2016. Ashley holds his CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) since 1988 and is an honorary lecturer in the School of Therapeutic Sciences, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, SA.