The Exercise Prescription – Part 15 – Designing A Program

The greatest medication any one of use can take – is to develop a good exercise program.

Consider the needs analysis. What things do you need to work on? What sporting/exercise activities do you enjoy? Are their old injuries that need to be focused on?

Here is a list of items to consider for training that should be include:

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The first four are the cornerstones of a good program design. The last may be a result of the program or needed as a supplement. A good program incorporates multiple components Each component can be advanced and improved on over time.

I will present this in the following way. If you are really out of shape and it has been a long time since you have exercised – you need to start with walking. Walking is the most fundamental exercise. Walking distance is correlated with longevity. I suggest 1 mile a day or more if you can. If nothing else is done, after a month of walking daily you would notice fat loss. Walk with good posture too. Like you are strutting – this is ideal to help with any low back issues that may have happened in the past or may arise. Hopefully this sets the stage for developing more of an exercise program once this habit has been installed. If you can, walk twice a day. If you have a dog, this can help.

Time constraints willing, I recommend picking a sport as the next step. An exercise program should be something that is enjoyable. Selecting a sport to work around will maintain engagement with a system where you can constantly hone a craft. Exercise will become more than just about weight loss or strength gain – it will be about improving yourself in competition. This can be a powerful motivator. I caution though not to set goals – remember an exercise prescription is about creating a system – every day the system is kept in place becomes a victory.

The Next component to add, would be a HIIT training program. Which can be done in as little as 20 minutes a day. Perhaps sprinting on a bicycle is the chosen sport. Sprints on a bike can be done with 30 second intervals and initially 60 seconds of rest in between. These intervals can be adjusted for longer exercise time and less rest time as you progress. The goal is 4-6 cycles initially and this can also be increased as you progress. It will not take long to complete a workout in this scenario. If this is all that can be added I would suggest starting with circuit training and mixing resistance training with HIIT training to have a more complete exercise program.

The next component to add time allowing if it is desired to separate HIIT with resistance training on different days-in order to optimize both strength and cardiovascular health. I would recommend incorporating exercises in your routine that require balance – and do these first. Exercises that require progressively less balance should be done in that order – This will help prevent injury. For example, one- legged-squats should be followed by split squats, should be followed by sumosquats. Also, the exercise that requires the most strength, should be done last or next to last after you are fatigued. Yes, it will limit gains, but yes it helps prevent injury. Most reps should be done in the 8-20 range. This should be varied every 4-12 weeks or so as well as the angles should be varied. Meaning 4-12 weeks of flat bench is okay if followed by 4-12 weeks of incline bench. This is how periodization is incorporated into the program. I would not recommend super high rep ranges as this can cause overuse injuries and stress the joint. I also would not recommend very low rep ranges unless you are young and healthy and want to increase power – also because it will help prevent injury. The goal is to have something you can do long term. This component should complement the sport. Weather it is Golf, Tennis, Boxing etc. I also recommend keeping a lift log to track progress and remind yourself of previous performance.

Finally, do not forget to add a few minutes of stretching either after a workout or at a separate time. Dynamic stretching exercises or good to include pre-workout as part of a warm-up.

This is the framework for an exercise prescription.  To summarize:

  1. 1 mile a day at a minimum.
  2. Decide how much time you have to commit.
  3. Decide on a sport you would like to train for preferably.
  4. Design a HIIT program. – If time is limited, incorporate resistance training alongside balance training. Consider circuit training as a beginner. If more time available separate resistance training from HIIT on different days. Do not forget to warm up. Remember 4-6 cycles with an 2:1 rest to work ratio initially. This can be adjusted as fitness improves.
  5. Add resistance training. Take precautions to prevent injury. Do exercises that require more balance first. Stay away from ultra-high and ultra-low rep ranges. Consider hiring a personal trainer or at least watching videos on how to safely perform exercises.
  6. Add periodization and variability for workouts every 4-12 weeks.
  7. Track your progress. I recommend a Fit Bit or something similar. I recommend keeping a lift log for resistance training. You won’t know what to do if you do not know what you have did.
  8. Congratulate yourself every day you stay with the system you have created – create a winner’s mindset. Do not be too hard on yourself on the days you miss training. It happens.