Programming a Test Day to Measure Client Progress and Build Accountability

TAGS: Running A Private Facility, TTF, Tanks Training Facility, Chris Janek

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Listening to a commercial the other day for a popular 24-hour fitness gym, I heard the phrase “no commitment” at least three times. Describing your gym as a “no judgment zone” is also a common theme for the big 24-hour fitness gyms these days.

That’s not how we do things. Fortunately, at Tank’s Training Facility (TTF) we demand commitment and we will judge you. If you’re not busting your ass, you will be judged. If you aren’t putting in effort to perform movements correctly, you will be judged. You don’t have to be perfect from the start, and our goal is to correct you and help you improve, but constant effort is expected.

One method we use to encourage and build commitment is a test day every 12 to 14 weeks.


RECENT: Powerlifting — A Sport for Everyone?


At TTF, we train an array of people from all walks of life. We specialize in training athletes but also train quite a few “weekend warriors” and clients who just want to get in great shape and be healthy. The majority of the time, it is a little easier to train an athlete because they are the most goal-oriented clients that we have. They usually have goals of becoming a starter on their team, making varsity, getting a collegiate scholarship, etc. This is not always the case with the weekend warrior, especially when they first come to us.

To start, we always offer a free session so that newbies have a chance to know what they are getting into before committing to training here and making a payment. After they start with us, we run a strict program that tests the clients every 12 to 14 weeks to see if progress is being made. We test the big three powerlifting lifts, along with five to six others. Recently, our test has consisted of:

  1. Squat
  2. Bench Press
  3. Deadlift
  4. Overhead Press
  5. 1/3-Mile Sprint
  6. Push-Ups
  7. Sit-Ups
  8. Planks

Testing day is usually scheduled for a Saturday when there is a little extra time to allow testing of all eight movements in one day. In the week leading up to testing, we deload to give them time to rest and make the test more accurate. To determine the weights our clients attempt on test day, we use Prilepin’s chart for the main lift, basing percentages on the max numbers from the previous test day.

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Programming

In a perfect world we ask our clients to make it to the gym to train with us four times per week. In the times that they can’t, we do our best to combine training sessions so they can get everything in for the week. We also stress for them to not stop training once they leave TTF. To make the most progress, there is a lot of time throughout the week they're outside the gym but need to stay active. We commonly recommend stretching, massage therapy, rolling, and ice therapy to our clients. We also design the program to help with recovery. Every Saturday in our normal programming we do conditioning and midsection work, with no weight training. This helps the clients burn some extra calories and get the soreness out from the work done during the week.

On our most recent testing day, every single one of our clients performed better than the last time that we tested them. Some had major improvements and some were minor, but everyone got better. For me, any improvement is great, no matter how big or small. Several of our clients had injuries from outside of the gym and needed workarounds for testing, and even they improved. The atmosphere was great, too. Even some our clients who I have heard describe themselves as “not competitive” were competing their asses off. For me, it’s great to see these clients have enthusiasm and enjoy these testing days. It is their Super Bowl, their big powerlifting meet.

The week following testing day, we have gone to high volume and kept the program very vanilla. We use basic exercises done at very high repetitions. With the holiday getting closer, a lot of clients are looking to lean up during a time that high-calorie, high-fat foods are present more often. The extra volume helps them with this. After four weeks of this higher volume, we deload for one week using lighter weights and adding more conditioning. Then we hit an eight-week finisher before testing everyone out again.

Here is a small weekly sample of what we did for the last test day. Mind you, every group had between eight and 15 clients. Training around everyone in the facility is tough in itself, and the program accounts for that.


Monday

Warm-Up

  1. Dynamic Warm-Up: 5-8 minutes
  2. Mobility Work: 5-8 minutes

Lift

  1. Squats
  2. Front Squats
  3. Lunge Variation
  4. Posterior Chain Movement
  5. Ab Work
  6. Resistance Training Movement (Sleds, Bands, etc.)

Stretch

Tuesday

Warm-Up

  1. Dynamic Warm-Up: 5-8 minutes
  2. Mobility Work: 5-8 minutes

Lift

  1. Bench Press
  2. Pull Movement (Pull-Up, Pulldown, etc.)
  3. Secondary Press Movement
  4. Secondary Pull Movement
  5. Rotational Movement
  6. Conditioning

Stretch

Wednesday

Warm-Up 

  1. Dynamic Warm-Up: 5-8 minutes
  2. Mobility Work: 5-8 minutes

Lift

  1. Deadlift
  2. Lunge Variation
  3. Hamstring Movement
  4. Midsection Work
  5. Resistance Training (Sleds, Bands, Finishers, etc.)

Stretch

Thursday

Warm-Up

  1. Dynamic Warm-Up: 5-8 minutes
  2. Mobility Work: 5-8 minutes

Lift

  1. Overhead Press
  2. Assistance Pull
  3. Assistance Press
  4. Superset (Biceps/Triceps)
  5. Ab Work
  6. Conditioning

Stretch

Friday

Warm-Up

  1. Dynamic Warm-Up: 5-8 minutes
  2. Mobility Work: 5-8 minutes

Lift

We usually use this day to make up any missed lifts, if possible, or we hit a weightlifting or kettlebell movement to mix things up.

Saturday

Warm-Up

  1. Dynamic Warm-Up: 5-8 minutes
  2. Mobility Work: 5-8 minutes

Lift

Various sprints, agility work, conditioning drills, etc. We also add in abs throughout the session.


This model is based on a number of different approaches and models I have learned while training under some of the best strength and conditioning coaches around. When I opened my facility in 2009, I could have easily used a CrossFit or boot camp style but decided against that route. I learned things and had been taught in a certain way that helped me mold my program into what I believe works best for my facility.

It has been great to see all my clients work together and push themselves. Many of them came in without specific goals but have become goal-oriented while training here. TTF isn't for everyone, but the ones that come and stay get better and improve through proper movements and techniques.

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