Whether you are training with a full body, an upper/lower split, or a body part routine, daily strength training program design and order of exercise is vital for the overall strength development and safety. Each training day should start with a complete warm-up. Warm-up activities should consist of general activities to increase body temperature before moving to mobility and muscle activation work which addresses joints and muscles that will be worked on that particular day. The warm-up should end with specific movements that the athlete will see during the training day. The warm-up should be concise and not take up too much of the total training time allowed for the day.
After the warm-up, the strength training program should be completed in a systematic order. As stated previously, this order of exercise should increase performance as well as prevent any training induced injury. The first exercise performed should be the one that requires the highest degree of technical proficiency and/or speed of movement. If you incorporate Olympic movements into your program or have traditional barbell exercises performed at a high rate of speed, the beginning of the training session is the appropriate place for these exercises. The Strength & Conditioning Professional (SCP) should have the athlete complete a few warm-up sets, gradually increasing load until he or she is ready to complete the first working set.
If no explosive movements are included in that training day, the next lift should be the primary multi-joint movements of the day. These exercises typically include squats, deadlifts, and multi-joint upper body pressing. Additional warm-up sets may be needed, gradually increasing in weight to the working sets.
After the explosive or primary movements are completed, supplemental or assistance movements should be performed. There are many ways to organize these lifts, from a push/pull fashion to setting up a circuit or stations. There is not a wrong way to set up the rest of the training day as long as supervision, technique, and effort are monitored and coached. This being said, many supplemental exercises are important for athletic development and this is where many individual and sport-specific needs will be addressed. For example, exercises that address the posterior chain, the neck/trap region, and the core are necessary and should be included each day of training. Areas of concern such as the rotator cuff, grip, and hip work should also be addressed here.
Below is an example of a full body template with exercises plugged in. Notice there are no sets and reps included. This is provided only to show order of exercise.
While this is a very condensed version of strength training program design, it gives you a template to work from. No program should be 100% “cookie cutter,” but this template makes it easy to plug in exercises knowing that you’re creating a comprehensive and properly sequenced strength training program.
This is a short excerpt from Mark Naylor’s chapter on Strength Training Program Design in the IYCA’s Principles of Athletic Strength & Conditioning textbook. Click on the image below to learn more about this book:
Mark Naylor is an Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach for the University of Michigan Football Program. He previously served as the Director of Ball State University’s football strength & conditioning program and has also spent time with the Baltimore Ravens and at Missouri Southern. He earned his BS from Missouri Southern and his MS from Ball State University.