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Programming for General Fitness Goals

Friday, May 20, 2016
Heather D’Errico, MA, CFSC, CSCS

How many of you fitness go-ers are still doing split day training?  For a long time this has been the way a majority train at the gym, but for those that are still splitting their workouts into leg day, chest day, back, bi’s-and tri’s day, I would like to enlighten you on a new perspective.

Why have we created this concept that we can’t work the same muscles two consecutive days in a row?  In the body building world multiple exercises are done to target one specific muscle group in order to create hypertrophy (muscle size).  Due to that time under tension/high volume, longer recovery time is typically required before working those muscle groups again.  But the questions I have for everyone doing this split training workout regimen is what are your goals?  If your answer isn’t to compete in a body building competition anytime soon then you may want to consider training movement patterns instead.

The vast majority of people walking into a gym are not competitive body builders and do not need to train that way.  I believe that most people are at the gym to simply improve their overall health, and probably improve their body composition, and maybe even relieve stress from their work day.  If that is the case you CAN work the same muscles two days in a row- I mean after all don’t you use your legs to walk every day and your arms to lift or move objects?  If you are training just to improve overall health and your ability to perform everyday tasks then you should work the body as a WHOLE rather than its parts every time you work out.

The way that we often program general fitness clients isn’t by muscle groups but movement patterns.  If you can train the body to improve in each movement pattern every week you are going to significantly reduce the likelihood of becoming injured.  By the process of resistance training (and of course optimal nutrition) your body composition will also improve- contrary to popular belief a body building program is not necessary to reap those benefits.  So what are the movement patterns I recommend incorporated in each workout?

  1. Squat- I think everyone knows what a squat is but just to elaborate this can mean any of the following squat variations: bilateral squats, unilateral squats, skater squats, front squats, back squats, split squats, bulgarian split squats.
  2. Hinge- Deadlift variations, kettlebell swings, hip lift variations, hang cleans
  3. Push- Bench press, overhead press, push-ups, dips
  4. Pull- Band pulls, rowing variations, chin-ups and pull-ups
  5. Carry- Farmer carry, suitcase carry, overhead carry

So to put this all together when I go to the gym my workout might look something like this:

A1) Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats

A2) Alternating DB Bench Press

A3) Farmer Carry

B1) Romanian Deadlifts

B2) Chin Ups

B3) Mobility exercise

Finisher:  Farmer Carry + Planks

I personally think this is a much easier way of programming and it leaves room for variety from day to day.  It also helps you balance your overall training and avoid the problem of over-training certain muscles resulting in asymmetries (ie: the guy that bench presses and curls way too often but forgets his pulls and lower body movements).  When someone asks me what I am working on at the gym I usually just reply with “everything”.

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