Exercise Programming for Performance Goals

Jan 11, 2019

By Tim Saye

As an online personal trainer some of your clients will likely have athletic performance goals, these can range from performing a pull-up, being able to complete a run or obstacle course race in a decent time, being able to hit lifting targets, or perform better in their chosen sports. These goals will require careful assessment and exercise programming to help the client progress while minimising the chances of getting injured.

In this article, we look at the steps you, as an online personal trainer can take with your clients to create to the best-suited training program that aids their goals while considers their needs and exercise history.

Step 1. Assessment

Your general fitness assessment methods will need to be tweaked to take into account the specifics of the sport and/or the athletic goal of your client and include a carefully designed performance test to identify their starting point, strengths and weaknesses. If you have the appropriate knowledge including a movement screen assessment can help to create an effective structural balance foundation to your programming.

In step 1 you can also spend some time evaluating the movement patterns of that specific sport, especially if you haven’t had much experience performing it in the past. For instance, obstacle course racing has become huge in the past decade, and many people attempt completing one for the first time every year.

The demands of completing a Spartan race will be completely different from that of any normal run race, regardless of the distance. Ensure you understand where your client need to improve and what movement patterns need strength and conditioning to serve their overall goal.

Step 2. Select the Right Exercises

While a runner will need help in both muscular strength and endurance to become faster, a newbie powerlifter will need to improve strength and power primarily, and from a pure athletic performance perspective, they don’t need to include endurance type of sessions in their routine.
You can classify your exercise choices into two categories: core exercises and assistance exercises.

Core Exercises

In this sense, we are not referring to the body part, but to the exercises that will form the core part of the client’s resistance training program and usually include compound movements that hit one or more large muscle groups. Think about squat, deadlift, bench press, pull up and the like for strength development and power clean, clean & press and snatch for power development. Generally a good strength foundation should be gained before looking at power movements.

Assistance Exercises

These will be movements that involve smaller muscle groups and typically only a single joint. Some of the moves can mimic sport-specific patterns and work on weaker areas, especially if a sport or activity places uneven demand on the body. Think golf, tennis, football, or any kind of throwing sport.

Here are a few examples of patterns and what exercises may help with strengthening and conditioning the muscles involved:
• Kicking – leg extension, hip extension, abductor/adductor exercises
• Jumping – Squat, jump squat, calf raises, cleans, box jump
• Throwing – pullover, triceps extensions, internal/external shoulder rotations, ball slams.
• Rotations (golf, tennis) – Woodchops, T-rotations, core strengthening exercises

While assistance exercises can add that plus to any training programme, focusing primarily on steady strength gains and compound movements will also help to aid injury prevention.

Step 3. How Often Should Your Client Train?

Considering clients will likely have a work and family life that will come before any athletic goals, their programme should find a good compromise and balance in their lifestyle, so they can carry on living their life AND progress towards their goal.

You will need to consider how many sessions each client is willing to attend per week and be prepared for a contingency plan for when life gets in the way. This is the main reason we previously stated that a traditional periodized training plan may not always be suitable to most online PT clients.

If your client is the exception and they are willing to do whatever it takes to hit that goal, go ahead and set them up for a periodized exercise programme. If not, as little as two well-designed full body workouts per week can help them achieve their goal eventually.

Step 4. Set, Reps and Recovery

The structure of a resistance program will depend on the goal. If your client’s performance goal includes being able to perform a specific exercise for reps, the programme will need to be designed to improve the strength and the endurance of the muscles involved.

An elementary performance goal example is to be able to perform 20 push-ups in one go. While their plan can incorporate upper body compound movements to improve overall and core strength, it can also include accessory training on pushing exercises to enhance the endurance of the chest, shoulders and triceps muscles.

You could use different set, rep and recovery ranges on the big compound movements for strength while finishing off the workout with accessory work in the endurance range.

Step 5. Progress Tracking

Progress Tracking and progressing the workouts as your client’s performance starts to improve is crucial to keep them getting better at their chosen sport or exercise. You should encourage your clients to keep track of the performed sessions, including sets, reps and weight for resistance workouts, intensity, distance and speed for endurance workouts.

There are multiple ways to establish a standard with your clients, so they would recognise when they need to increase the load or the intensity of their workouts. Teaching clients to effectively self select weights using a small rep range can be simple and very effective, while using the RPE scale is another simple method to achieve that. If you want to get extra feedback on your clients training intensity the PT Distinction integration with MyZone is a great option.

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