I've learnt a lot about programming in the time I've been a personal trainer, so here are 4 of those things:
1. General population clients are not the same as athletes
We've been pulled into thinking that we should periodise our training plans and set up general preparation phases for our clients, but we are not working with people (for the most part) who are looking to win gold at the next Olympics. We can get away with putting in more random elements and having whole days dedicated to arms and abs because the client enjoys that.
Don't forget who you're programming for and what their goals are.
2. There are no "bad" exercises
Are upright rows bad if you have healthy shoulders?
Are deadlifts bad if you have a healthy lower back?
Are leg extensions bad for your knee's if you want bigger quads and have healthy knees?
No. There are no "bad" exercises. There are exercises that are not optimal for some clients and there are some exercises that do not align with the client's goal or their level of skill, but this does not make the exercise bad, it makes the exercise not right for that particular person at that time.
3. Fun sometimes has to come first
To reiterate point number one - we're not working with athletes. We can allow more room for experiments, games, fun finishers and programming that may not look too different from a Crossfit workout.
Fun will come before fitness and function for some clients.
They may not be in the gym to hit a 100kg deadlift, but they may be in the gym to live a more enjoyable ageing life and making exercise fun could be an important element of that.
4. The client should be involved
Give the client some choice and say in how you set up their programme.
- what exercises or body parts do you enjoy working on?
- what exercises haven't you enjoyed?
- would you like to go up in weight or up in reps next set?
- would you like to finish with finisher A or finisher B?
- would you like to use a barbell or a kettlebell for this overhead press?
It doesn't need to be complicated and some clients will have no interest in having a choice, but it makes sense to get the client involved in how you set your programming up. It will likely encourage them to want to turn up to your sessions if they feel like are involved in the process and given a feeling of autonomy.
The fitness industry is full of myths, misconceptions and bad information. When starting out in your career it’s hard to know what is right, what is wrong and how to tell the difference.