Method To The Madness

Ever Wondered If We Actually…

Think about the workouts we throw up on the board for all of you to do during the week?  Maybe you’ve heard about things like “constantly varied” or “never the same thing” but does that mean that we just make up a bunch of random stuff and then roll with it?

Well…Kinda, But There’s a Method

When I think through my programming, I first start with a specific goal.  Goals are individual specific mostly.  If you are a competitive athlete, your goals are different than someone whose goal is to maintain a specific level of health and fitness and the training will therefore differ significantly.  I try to narrow my focus for the weeks goal to some of the specific general physical skills (we’ll talk about these later) and create workouts that can be done by everyone and easily scaled up or down based on individual needs.

I Begin With The Basic Human Movements

The generally agreed on 5 basic human movements are:

  1. Push
  2. Pull
  3. Hinge
  4. Squat
  5. Carry

My definition of physical fitness is being able to handle any combination/variation of these five movements safely, efficiently, and effectively (by that I mean it doesn’t completely bury me in difficulty).  I’m always looking for weaknesses in my ability to perform these five movements and their permutations by combining them together in different ways, under different loadings, and at different intensities.


If we look at Crossfit, and I love keeping an eye on what they’re doing, their goal is to prepare people to be able to handle any physical challenge, in or out of the gym.  They believe that the best way to accomplish this is to keep workouts randomized and unknown.  They aim to keep the CNS guessing and the body from adapting to a set pattern or routine and this has worked well for many people.

If I were a purist in this mindset, I could create a list of movements in a spreadsheet and write a short program to select them at random to create my workouts.  That could actually be kind of fun, but the truth is that some movements just go better with others.  Therefore, I like to be a bit more involved in my planning, so I can’t say that the workouts and completely independent and randomized.

There Are Endless Methods Available

And as one of my favorite fitness aficionados Dan John says, “anything will work, for a while.”  I find this to be mostly true and have experienced that firsthand.  When I found olympic weightlifting, my strength increased greatly, same for my flexibility when I found yoga.

I find it helpful to look at the 10 general physical skills:

  1. Strength 
  2. Power
  3. Speed
  4. Endurance
  5. Stamina
  6. Flexibility
  7. Balance
  8. Coordination
  9. Agility
  10. Accuracy

As I mentioned earlier, my goal is to balance my ability in each of these areas and see ALL OF THEM improve over time via practice.  Greg Everett says that to improve the 10 skills one starts, “By improving one’s weaknesses without compromising one’s strengths unnecessarily until every trait is within a reasonable range of equality, at which time the elements can be trained in a more balance fashion.”

You see, if we have a glaring hole in one of the 10 areas, we won’t be able to advance the others.  If your balance or flexibility is awful, your strength, power, coordination, agility, and balance all suffer.

Beauty In Simplicity

I don’t try and overcomplicate this stuff.  I use the 5 human movements to improve the 10 general physical skills.  This is done by focusing on a few of the skills each week and programming around the goal of improving them.

If we keep things mixed up and fairly random then it stays fun and exciting, while preventing us from adapting too greatly to one movement over another.

Granted, there are some combinations of movements that work much better together than others.  We also put a great deal of consideration on safety when programming and make sure we are overdoing it in one area that could lead to an unnecessary and completely preventable injury.  These topics could be explained in detail (perhaps another post).

Something I have been studying recently is the concept of periodization which segments training into specific focuses over others for blocks of time.  I’m just now learning about the concept, but it is very interesting and I may share my findings in another post (and perhaps experiment with it in some programming!).

To Summarize

On the surface it appears that movements and workouts are picked at random and the only plan is to not have a plan.  However, there has been more than one person in history to have said that if you have no plan, you’re planning to fail.

We use basic human movements to attempt to balance out our abilities in the 10 areas of general physical fitness.  The more balanced an athlete you are, the better you’ll become in all 10 of the areas.

Think About That Next Time You…

See a workout you think you’ll suck at.  If you truly want to improve yourself, the goal is to find your weaknesses and attack them until they are no longer weaknesses.  If you ignore them they do not go away, they actually keep you from reaching all that you are capable of.

The O-Board Says…

5 Pullups
10 Pushups
15 Squats

**Last Done 8/16/13; Click HERE

Posted by: Stets