How to write Better Exercise Programs Pt.2

How to write Better Exercise Programs Pt.2

How Proper Progressions Will Help You Write Better Programs

For some, it’s easy to write an exercise program, throw a bunch of workouts together within a certain time period and call it done. Others may spend hours on end painstakingly designing each rep and set. 

While neither of the spectrum is ideal, there is a happy middle ground, one where you spend enough time to create a thorough exercise program while also being efficient enough that your whole day isn’t consumed. Here are three tips to help you reach that middle ground quicker.

In case you missed part 1 you can find it here.

Three Tips to Write Better Exercise Programs

Progress from Motor control -> Muscle Endurance -> Strength Endurance -> Maximal Contractions

The first tip is that all clients must progress from motor control to muscle endurance to strength endurance ending at maximal contractions. To reach one’s highest level of fitness everyone must follow this progression. Where they start is based on their current abilities which a coach should determine during the initial assessment.

Motor Control

The first step in the progression is motor control. During this step, the main focus is learning a pattern of movement at a low intensity and without fatigue. 


Air Squat; 5-8 x 3 sets @ 3131 tempo, 1 minute rest

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Muscle Endurance:

Muscle endurance is the second step. This step is about performing a high volume of the patterns to challenge motor control as fatigue sets in. These exercises are higher repetition, lower intensity, and have a higher time under tension


Goblet Squat; 10-12 reps x 3 sets @ 3131 tempo, 90 seconds rest

Strength Endurance:

The third step is strength endurance. This is performed with a higher tension than muscle endurance. The limitation in strength endurance is the ability to overcome the load, rather than a breakdown in motor control. Strength endurance activities are typically lower repetition, higher intensity and lower time under tension when compared to muscle endurance. 


Front Squat; @30X1, 5-6 reps x 4 sets @ 3010 tempo, 2 minutes rest

Maximal Contractions

The final step in the progression is maximal contractions. Here clients are chasing maximal physical potential through the use of one repetition maximums. Maximal contraction activities are the lowest repetition, highest intensity and lowest time under tension


Front Squat; 1-1-1 @ 20X0 tempo, 3-5 minutes rest

Aerobic Endurance to Aerobic Power

The second tip for writing better exercise programs is to start with aerobic endurance and progress to aerobic power. In a world where high endurance training is ever-popular, this tip begs you to do the opposite. 

Start your clients, with long slow aerobic work in repeatable intervals. A great way to ensure that the work is aerobic is to measure intraset repeatability. Then over time as your client demonstrates their repeatability progress them towards powerful aerobic work. Learn how to create repeatable aerobic workouts in this free course. Don’t get this confused with lactic training, even the faster-paced work needs to be repeatable. 

Sample Aerobic Endurance to Power Progression:

Week 1-8: 30-minute row intervals 

Week 9-16: 15-minute row intervals 

Week 17-24: 10-minute row intervals 

Week 25-32: 5-minute row intervals 

Week 33-40: 3-minute row intervals 

Week 40-48: 2-minute row intervals 

Learn specific aerobic rowing workouts here.

Sustain before Pain

The third tip builds on the second tip. Build your client’s aerobic system before giving them very hard lactic work. A client needs a robust aerobic base to be able to effectively express and recover from hard lactic work. With a well-developed aerobic system, they will be able to recover more efficiently between lactic efforts. Their limited ability to recovery will reduce the amount of volume they can handle in training and their ability to express near-threshold and maintain power for an extended period of time throughout an event or workout.

Writing better exercise programs

Exercise program design takes time to perfect, we get it! But by always learning and refining your craft you will slowly get better over time. That’s why we created the Professional Coaching Blueprint – a free course designed for coaches looking to improve their skills. Sign up now and become the coach you’ve always wanted to be.


Fitness Assessments for New Clients