Depending on your starting point, your program will have various elements, which may seem a little confusing or random. Our goal here is to decode some of the more confusing or less common parts. Part 2, which can be found here, goes into the exercise names and descriptions.
Depending on the format of the program sent to you, you may notice that each exercise has a letter, or a letter and a number before it.
The letter denotes the grouping of exercises and the number denotes the order. So for example, if you had this programme to follow:
You’d do the first movement (A1) for one set, then the second movement (A2) for one set, then return to the first movement (A1) and repeat for the designated number of sets.
Once you’ve completed all the sets and reps for the “A” movements, you’ll move onto the “B”s, which will have a specific number of movements (B1, B2, ) that you will rotate between. Again, complete all sets of that letter before moving onto the next.
The number in the coloured box at the end represents the relative effort expected for that exercise. See this guide for more information on what these numbers mean.
For the most part, repetitions will be indicated in one of two ways, either as a set number, i.e. 10, or as a range, i.e. 10-12.
If the repetition goal is a fixed number, then the objective is to choose/use a weight that allows you to get the defined number of reps with good technique, without reaching failure.
If the repetition goal is a range, then the objective is to choose/use a weight that allows you to reach fatigue or failure within the defined range of reps without sacrificing good technique.
Reaching fatigue is defined as completing a given number of repetitions and stopping because any further repetitions would result in poor technique or failure. Failure is classed as the inability to complete a repetition, either in absolute terms, or if there is a defined tempo, then on pace.
For more advanced training methods such as pauses, clusters, breathing reps, etc. these will be explained on the program itself.
Some programs will have the rest periods defined, if so, it’s important that you stick to these. If the rest periods aren’t indicated, then the rule of thumb is as follows:
For fat-loss: rest just enough to feel almost recovered, minus 30 seconds
For strength: rest enough to feel recovered, plus an extra 30 seconds
For general conditioning: rest just enough to feel almost recovered
If you’re not used to training in this format (strict rest periods), it’s important to recognise that you may have more systemic fatigue, meaning you’ll just feel a bit more tired than usual a few hours after, or the day after, training. This is why getting good sleep (7-9 hours) and paying attention to nutrition are so important.
For certain exercises in your program, you may see a ‘Tempo’ denoted, this will be written as four figures, e.g. 3-0-1-0 or 3010
The first number represents the negative rep, which is the portion of the exercise where the weight is lowered. In this case, the weight should be lowered for a count of three-seconds.
The second number represents the amount of time to pause after the lowering or eccentric part of the lift. In this case, no pause.
The third symbol represents the concentric rep, which is where the weight is lifted. In this case, 1 second ('X' would indicate explosive, or as fast as possible).
The fourth number represents the amount of time to pause after the lifting or concentric phase. Again, no pause in the example shown here.
The reason for set tempos, is that changing how the weight is moved, the time under tension or the stress on a portion or position of the life, can alter the training effect considerably.
In the even that no tempo is defined, you should follow the following general guidelines:
For up to 7 reps, lower the weight under control, but lift as quickly/explosively as possible
For 8 reps or more, lower the weight under control and lift the weight smoothly without momentum
At the bottom of your program, you may see a small box:
This is in case you wish to print your program and record the weights and reps you use/complete for each workout and also the amount of time it takes you to complete.
If one of your goals is improved fitness, stamina or conditioning, we’d suggest doing this, as a reduced completion time is indicative of improvements in all of these areas.