A training program is an essential part of athletic / fitness development and improvement, no matter what your level of participation. As a Trainer and Coach, I spend a huge amount of time developing training programs for individuals to assist them to reach their goals.
I have come to realize there a few "things" which, if kept in mind, can help make the process a little less confusing and time consuming.
- Needs analysis:
Determine what elements the activity / sport demands of the individual? Is it Cardiovascular endurance or muscle strength or perhaps flexibility? Usually it is a combination of various elements.
- Start at the "ultimate" goal and work backwards:
The next step is to enter in the goal date. this might be a final weigh in (3 months) or perhaps an Ironman triathlon (8 months).
Doing this will allow you to work the program backwards, see how many weeks you have to program with, and what the most effective way is to structure the progression of the progression.
- Availability of time / Training frequency:
This is key because without knowing how much time is for training and workouts, the program is not going to be effective. This information must be acquired from your athlete or customer at the outset.
Training frequency looks at how many training sessions per day / week are required to lead to success. Elite athletes train every day, sometimes 2 - 3 times per day. More common is to train every day, with one day as an "off" day. This is closely tied to how much time the individual has available.
- Progressive overload:
Progressive overload is the process which will allow you to safely challenge the body to adapt to the training stress, using progressively increasing training loads and intensities over a period of time.
Too much stimuli, too soon and the system will breakdown. Too little stimuli and there will only be a small (if any) change or improvement.
A simple model is to utilize is 3 weeks of progressively increasing load assignment / volume and one week of reduced load / volume reduction. This will facilitate regeneration.
- Start general, end specific:
Simply stated: At the commencement of any training program, the focus should be on developing overall conditioning - improving general cardiovascular fitness, strengthening connective tissue, enhancing range of motion and mobility etc.
As you move through the weeks and months of training, activities should become more specific to the activity or the sport. This might include speed work for marathon runners or Plyometric training for football players.