THE SIMPLE PROGRAMME GUIDELINES
ANALYSE YOUR HABITS AND MINDSET
This programme is designed to help you sculpt a great body. Every month, your job is to analyse and improve. Can you improve on your logistics? Can you improve on your nutrition? Did you do as you planned to do last month? Do you need better tracking or self-control? Can you enjoy your training more? Do you need more inspiration? …and more shit like that.
CHOOSE WHERE YOU WILL TRAIN
Gym? Home? Park? Other?
Or, often it’s a combination of the above that works best for people.
Many love the gym, many love training at home, many love the the park. Often the commitment to train for a minimum of 20 minutes per day is a game changer for people, but the flexibility to have one or two big gym workouts per week while doing most of their workouts at home is a great strategy for many.
The programme is designed so that you can make any combination work.
CHOOSE YOUR EXERCISES
Each month has 8 main skills to work on. But you don’t have to do them all (good right?!).
(er, yes, you have to do some of them).
If you do the full programme, you should strive to do them all. That will produce the best results. But what is FAR more important on this programme, is consistency. If you did 3 exercises all the time, you’d get a better body than if you did 6 exercises half the time and missed your workout the rest — never forget that.
So, first decide how many exercises you can commit to doing well (…all the time). Your time commitment should help you with this somewhat.
Then go through each of the exercises and decide if it’s in or out of your programme.
The primary concerns: do you have the equipment needed? Do you have an injury that stops you? Is there any other reason not to? Otherwise, it’s in.
If you have an injury that stops you from doing any of the exercises, ideally you will be able to do one of the alternatives suggested, otherwise there’s a danger you will unbalance the programme. In the very short term, don’t stress it. Build habits and confidence, then address the issue. If it’s a long term issue, then we need to look more closely at it.
CHOOSE HOW TO GROUP YOUR EXERCISES
This should be dictated by location/logistics, preference and performance. You will have some choice, but if you’re new and uncertain, it doesn’;t matter, pick something and get started and refine each month as you work out what works best for you.
You can simply do one exercise at a time, but that might take all day — especially on Mid-Strength or Pure-Strength months. So you probably want to pair two or three exercises together within a workout as laid out in the rest period explanation below.
Then you have the choice to do all the exercises every time you workout, or to do them on different days. Common ways to group shit:
–> Non-equipment / equipment — Whether in the gym or half gym half home, it can be easy logistically to do the stuff you need kit for together, and all the other stuff together.
–> Gymnastic static holds / more traditional strength moves — If you fancy two different themes to your workout.
–> Upper body / Lower Body — Some avoid leg work and are better getting into the habit of doing it everyday without fail. Some find it exhausting and struggle to be productive with their other training if they do it at the same time as their squats and swings. Know which one you are and adapt your programme so that everything gets done and gets done well.
–> Location based: Gym/Home — One of the most popular for obvious reasons.
CHOOSE HOW OFTEN YOU WILL TRAIN
Next we need to choose how many days per week we will train, and how many exercises each day. The more often we train, the shorter and sharper the sessions can be. Your choice will be dictated by your personality and preferences, as well as your schedule and logistics.
Each have their various benefits and drawbacks:
Of course this only applies if you are doing the full programme. You can follow The Strength Sessions by only doing two or three of the exercises. In fact, you’re encouraged to if you don’t have a track record of consistency.
YOU CAN TRAIN TWO DAYS PER WEEK — But your workouts will have to be longer to get more sets done, and to contain all of the exercises you have selected. This will be great for all you weekend warriors, however if you have a bad day, you have to wait longer between workouts, which can be problematic. Also, if you don’t have the drive or energy to get through a full hour of training, you will have to accept that you are not following the full programme.
YOU CAN TRAIN THREE DAYS PER WEEK — you still need to do every exercise (you’ve chosen) every workout with this setup, but the workouts can be slightly shorter and it’s less of a big deal if you have an off day.
YOU CAN TRAIN FOUR DAYS PER WEEK — here we can start to break up the different exercises into different days, and workout time starts to shorten. We can start to have a gym workout and a home workout, or for those who prefer a legs day and a non-legs day.
YOU CAN TRAIN FIVE DAYS PER WEEK — this is moving towards my favourite style now, where workouts really start to shorten, frequency of practice is very high and importantly, your brain starts to learn that this training stuff is something you do all the time. Workouts are shorter, but you’ll bring a lot of focus and intensity towards getting the most out of your work, you’ll finish strong, but energised, and the odd bad day won’t matter so much and you’ll more likely have time for extra stuff afterwards if it’s appropriate for you.
Of course, you need to be able to make time to train every day, more days of warming up and showers (if you’re into that sort of thing) can take more time, but it’s worth it, particularly if you can slide it into your schedule without too much disturbance.
YOU CAN TRAIN SIX DAYS PER WEEK — even further along the continuum. Ideal if you like to break your exercises into two groups and do them all three times per week. Workouts can be as short as 20 minutes and you get all the positive mental effects of training nearly every day. I do recommend having one day per week off planned for though — that can be for a lazy Sunday, or just save it for when ‘life happens’ and you don’t get it done that day. This style is also great for those who like to do extra stuff sometimes. You commit to always doing the core programme (which you should be able to do in as little as 20 minutes per day if you’re training six days per week), then on days you have the time, energy and motivation, you can do extra!
CHOOSE YOUR SET AND REP RANGE
Strength-Endurance: 12-15 reps or a 15-20 second static hold
Mid-Strength: 8-12 reps or 10-15 second static hold
Pure-Strength: 6-8 reps or 6-10 second static hold
I strongly suggest that unless your athletic endevours bias you one way or another, you do Mid-Strength every other month, or two months out of three. Then dip into Pure-Strength or Strength-Endurance to ensure you don’t get stale.
This will work best for everybody on the programme, ladies please do not make this mistake of thinking Pure-Strength will make you bulk and ‘lighter weights’ (strength-endurance) will tone you. It’s simply not the case and a travesty of intellect. Don’t let these irrational non-scientific beliefs mess with your chances of getting your greratest physique ever.
More on rep ranges in this article I haven’t written yet. More on how women should train for amazing bikini bodies in this article I haven’t written yet.
CHOOSE YOUR PROGRESSION SCHEME
Results come from actually getting better at stuff. Thus, we must have a way of striving for this. There are many ways you can structure your workouts and many ways you can aim to progress.
To that end, I’ve picked the three set and rep schemes that work best with The Strength Sessions programme.
The main thing is to be consistent and organised enough to know that you’re getting better.
Over a month, you might get 2-5 reps of improvement on the classic compound lifts and you might add a few seconds and a bit of neatness to the gymnastics stuff.
That might sound a lot, but if you can do that consistently, it’s bloody fantastic. You’ve got to be organised enough to be able to see that because it doesn’t mean anything is going to feel particularly easy or pleasant, and if you get better at stuff you HAVE to recognise it, otherwise this can be an awfully frustrating thing. So, our 3 easy to track methods:
OPTION 1: STEADY STATE
With this set-up, you decide at the start of the month how many sets and reps you do.
Then, for the whole month, you do the same. Exactly the same sets and reps every workout,
The increase in challenge only comes in the next month. However, with particular focus on The Gymnastic Mindset, you should be able to do better reps and better holds over the month, and it should get easier to get it done.
On the surface, it might take a bit of patience as we are taking the possibility of smashing your records off the table, but your body takes time to adapt, and for many, this will actually be the set and rep scheme that allows you to make progress the fastest.
OPTION 2: THE PRACTICE SET AND THE RECORD SET METHOD
Similar to the above is the practice set and record set method. It works exactly the same as the above, except on the second set of each exercise.
On the second set, (however many sets you’re doing that day — it works with all the setups), you go for a record — try and beat your PB.
This style pushes the body a little harder, still without being extreme, but it allows and encourages us to try and beat our best each day, which can be more fun and very motivating.
All reps in the record set have to be neat and tidy of course, with no grinding. But within those confines, you can go for it and try and set a new record.
After the second set, you go back to steady state style practice.
OPTION 3: THE COMPLETE-THE-SETS METHOD
With this method, your set and rep scheme: that’s your goal.
That might be 4 sets of 6 reps for a classic compound move.
So you choose a weight or progression where you can’t quite complete all the sets neatly.
You want to be about 4-5 reps (or just a few seconds on the gymnastic holds) short in total.
Your goal is to strive to complete all your sets as you improve over the month. Then you can aim at more reps or use a harder progression.
Don’t get drawn into doing more reps than the quota on your first sets, rather as you get better, just hit your rep target and save your strength for completing the later sets.
A month is not a long time to do this workout, so it’s a good idea to keep a note of how well you did, so you can come back and see how muThen you must execute — no matter what. Howevewr easy/limited your programme for the month may be, if you can become the sort of person who can guarantee that they will stick to what they have set out to do, then you are on track to get your best physique ever.
CHOOSE YOUR ACTUAL PROGRESSION OF EACH EXERCISE
It all starts with the right rep (Like one push up, that’s a ‘rep’).
Whether you do your sets and reps ‘The Simple Way’ or ‘The More Nuanced Way’, you must select the right resistance or difficulty for each rep, otherwise it will be too easy and the programme won’t have an effect, or far too hard and you’ll risk injury and certainly look like a plonker.
So, when you learn the exercises, as you lay out the programme, test a few of the progressions and pick the right difficulty level…
You will have chosen your strength zone for the month above, as well as your progression method. Now you have to actually do some exercise to test that you can do enough reps (or hold the position long enough) but not too many (or too long, too easily).
For it to be considered a good set, all your reps must look the same, or the quality of your position must be the same throughout the time period. If you can’t do that, you must adjust the progression / weight you are using.
The reps / holds then must — of course — fall within the range you have selected for your progression method. For the steady state band record sets method, you’ll have an exact number or time to hit (except for your record set, when hopefully you can shoot above). For the complete the sets method, hopefully you can add reps or add to the length of your holds all the time — but the quality rule stands: holds must look the same throughout, and the last rep must look as good as the first. See The Gymnstics Mindset for more on this.
LAY OUT YOUR SETS AND REPS
Training is very much about giving your body the correct stimulus. This can be endlessly complicated and the subject of thousands of books, studies, countless internet debates and all kinds of nonsense. How many sets should you do? How often? How many? anmd with what weight? Optimal varies on the individual, the style of training and many other factors. Good enough/ decent can be made clear. So here’s the deal, on this programme you get to choose ‘The Simple Way’, or ‘The More Nuanced Way’. But, until you’ve got at least 4 months consistent work under your belt, you do it the simpole way — after that you’ve got the option to add more sets and experiment a bit more.
THE SIMPLE WAY
It’ simple: 3 sets, 3 times per week, or 2 sets per day 4, 5 or 6 days per week.
If you’re just beginning, if you’re on a particularly calorie restricted diet, or if you just want a minimalist strength routine, do your best 3 sets of each move, 3 times per week, or your best 2 sets 4, 5 or even 6 times per week. Do it right, on the full programme, and that’s a pretty serious stimulus.
The set and rep options do get more complicated and more flexible in ‘The More Nuanced Way’ — you should want that eventually, but for now, know that if you do three sets of each exercise, three times per week, that’s a perfect start. Do it and your body is going to change.
THEN LAY IT OUT OVER YOUR WEEK’S TRAINING
With all those decisions made, one would hope you are ready to slot your exercises into an actusal simple little routine — your programme if you will.
You’ll know your sets and reps, you’ll know how you are going to group your exercises, now you simply need to decide whether you are going to do every exercise every day of your programme, or (for those of you who are going to train 4 or more times per week) if you want to break it up so you do some exercises on different days to each other.
I haven’t laid out every possibe combination for you, there are so many and it seems redundant, but if anything’s not clear, or you want to ask, please ask me. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can and work to make the instructions clearer.
UNDERSTAND YOUR REST PERIODS
Rest is dictated by the phase of training you’ve selected. You don’t have to be too exact on this programme, but as a general guideline:
For Strength: We need the most rest, about five full minutes betweeen sets of any one exercise.
For Mid-Strength: We need a little less rest, about 90-120 seconds between sets of any one exercise.
For Strength-Endurance: We need only a little rest. About 45-60 seconds per set.
But, of course, you don’t have to just stand around. You can pair exercises or do other stuff in your rest.
E.g. If you’re pairing Static Chin Ups with Constant Tension Skater Squats in a mid-strength phase, it’s gonna look like this:
–> do your set of chin ups
–> rest 30 seconds
–> do your set of skaters, maybe even with 10 seocnds
–> rest rest 30-60 seconds
–> repeat until you’ve done all your sets
THEN GET ON WITH IT
You could argue this is the most important bit!
Now, whatever you have set out to do on this programme, — however minimalistic it looks — the most improtant thing is that you stick to it. Become the sort of person who does what he/she sets out to do, and your best ever physiqe will follow. That matters beyond all else. Take it obsurdly seriously.