May 10, 2017


How to design the smartest and most effective training plan

AFTER HIGHLIGHTING THE good, the bad and the ugly information within the fitness industry last week, today I am going to focus on the good and provide you with useful information and a smart way to train.

The primary goal for anyone should be to get off the sofa, move more by getting regular exercise, eat healthily, drink enough water and get enough sleep.

Over the last five or 10 years we have seen a hugely positive shift in the number of people taking part in regular exercise.

This is great to see and was particularly noticeable at WellFest — Ireland’s only health, fitness and wellness festival — in Dublin’s Herbert Park over the weekend.

The biggest thing I have seen creep into the industry is intensity. Intensity is good but not for every single training session.

Some people may think they need to keep hammering themselves with lots of intensity, load and volume in each workout to reach their goals but that’s not the case.

We are now encouraged to keep going and going and to take on the most extreme challenges.

A marathon doesn’t seem to be hardcore enough anymore. Now all the talk is that we need to be doing ultra marathons, 500-rep workouts and lots more to be ahead of the pack.

We are constantly being surrounded by quotes like ‘Go hard or go home’, ‘No pain, no gain’,'Don’t stop when it hurts, stop when you’re done’ and ‘Train insane or remain the same’.

The truth is that less is actually more and quality over quantity is an approach that works best for me and my clients. The results speak for themselves.

I have been around the industry long enough to know what works and I try and bring the useful information into this weekly column.

Below I feel is the best approach for a general training template.

1. Know your goal and find the right path to get there

Most people nowadays have busy lives and struggle to find the time to plan their workouts. Try and get in three sessions per week and aim to get the most from those sessions by targeting the areas that need attention.

Most people I train on a daily basis need to predominantly work on their mobility and flexibility before targeting strength, core and conditioning work — depending on the goals of the client.

People are often a bit clueless with their training regime and the training they are doing has little to no resemblance to their goal.

If you are not sure, seek some assistance from a trainer who is particular about technique, has a good pedigree and a proven track record of helping clients achieve results.

2. Build a good foundation

The wider the fitness base the better the individual’s fitness capacity. Spend time on the initial stages and forget about diving in at the deep end.

A simple three-step approach is technique-consistency-intensity.

Work on the basics first, getting consistently good at them, and then start to ramp up with some intensity.

Basic things like building your aerobic base, being able to perform simple mobility drills like a couch stretch or downward dog, or work on some basic movements like the squat and build from there.

The squat is one of the best and most functional movements and people need to fix movements like this before progressing.


‍3. Listen to your body

You know your body better than anyone else and you need to decide what is the best approach on a particular day.

A lot of the time we are encouraged to continuously ramp up the heart-rate, sweat more and keep the intensity up.

If that is what you care about session after session then you are on the road to burn-out or injury.

You need to know when is a good day to bring in high intensity, a moderate to light session or even a day’s rest.

Bringing in some light active recovery work into your routine is something I would encourage.

A walk, cycle or jog could work as could a basic yoga session or a 15-minute body maintenance session like below.


4. Forget the noise and focus on what works

In last week’s article I talked about fitness marketing. Everything and anything is marketed these days from supplements, workouts and training plans.

While interest has been steadily growing in health and fitness, with that we have seen many fads emerge in the industry.

All sorts of wacky workouts making outrageous promises of results are being pitched towards the average gym-goer.

You could go down that route and you may enjoy it, but if you are looking to get the most out of your training then you can’t beat the basics.

Running, swimming, biking, yoga and stretching, along with basic movements like squatting, hinging, pulling, pressing and carries are the exercises that will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

5. Keep it varied yet relative

Doing the same thing over and over again is not a recipe for improvement, you are destined for stagnation and gradual decline.

To get the best from your training you need your plan to match and be relative to the overall goal.

Your programme should be catered towards your goal, your body, your training age, your strengths and your weaknesses.

Vary your training as much as possible. Consider strength work or weight-based training; getting outdoors and going for a walk, cycle or run; doing some high-intensity interval training; getting some yoga flow/mobility work in; or bringing in new weekly/monthly skills or challenges to work on.

Remember physical fitness is very important but how you train and look after your mind and mental fitness is just as, if not more, important.

‍Continue to assess your progress every 6-8 weeks. This could be anything from a body-fat test, retesting a benchmark workout, or working off an eight-week strength programme and then retesting your old 1RM (one-rep max).

David Last is a personal trainer based in Dublin. For more information you can follow him on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Or you can send him a direct message here.

You can also see some of his previous articles here.