The start of the new year is a time for reflection and personal growth. That applies to all aspects of your life—including your training program.
As a reader, you are already traveling the road of improvement just by reading the articles and incorporating the videos into your training program to get you to that next level. You don’t necessarily need motivation, because you already crave information and guidance to get to where you need to be. You’re more interested in setting new goals.
So instead of a pep talk, I’ll give you my 14 tips to revamp your training program and make 2014 the best year yet.
1. No resolutions, only goals
Most people have resolutions, which are positive affirmations to help them improve themselves. Resolutions, however, are usually broken, because they are ideas and not actual plans. Saying “I will go to the gym three times per week” is not as concrete as saying, “I will start an 8-week training cycle where I go to the gym three times a week. Each day I will focus on one of the big three movements—Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift.” Resolutions are desires. Goals are commitments.
2. Write down your goals
When I started my own gym five years ago, I wrote down my goals for the upcoming year—from business to training and my personal life. I started them on New Year’s Day and finished by week’s end. Some were small and easy to accomplish while others required multiple steps. Write out your goals for the year. Make them specific and keep them close so you can refer to them frequently.
3. Decide what you’re training for
As you most likely understand now, training for aesthetics is much different from training to enhance sports performance. When you train for aesthetics, the training itself is the sport. You find yourself at the gym working out longer and performing much more volume to build the best body you can.
For sports performance, strength training is a secondary means to help you perform better at your sport. You spend less time in the gym so you can train for your sport. If you’ve been training using a bodybuilding program, this is the year to break away from that and really get the most out of your training.
4. Plan your training year
You have your goals and your focus. Now create a general plan of attack. When your sport is in season, you will spend less time in the weight room to reduce extra stress on your body. Most of your muscle re-education and strength, power and conditioning development occurs in the off-season. Your plan doesn’t have to be too detailed. Just get an idea of where you need to be during each time of the year.
5. Learn from the past year’s training program
It’s great to want to be bigger, stronger and faster, but do not look past your accomplishments from the previous year. Think about where you were at the start of last year. Did your Squat or Bench Press increase? Can you do more Chin-Ups? Did your training program help you perform better at your sport? Did anything in your program hinder your performance? How frequently did you change out your exercises? Answers to these questions allow you to refine your program, build off the positive, and remove the unnecessary.
6. Assess yourself
A lot can happen over the course of a year. Your body goes through many adaptations during performance. Many sports are single-side dominant, like baseball, tennis and soccer. Using the dominant side at a higher frequency can cause strength, mobility and flexibility imbalances in the body. Imbalances can reduce athletic performance, slow recovery and lead to injuries down the road.
When starting a new program, it is essential to assess these areas. Do your ankles have adequate and similar range of motion? How about your hamstrings, hips and shoulders? Can you perform a Single-Leg Squat equally on both legs? Chances are, there is at least one area that you can improve going into your next program—and now is the perfect time to address it.
7. Add soft tissue work
At the beginning of every workout, I have all of my athletes grab a foam roller and roll their muscles out. Some take five minutes to complete the sequence, while others take more time. As you become more in tune with your body, you will realize what areas require more attention. Roll the whole body: calves, hamstrings, glutes, hips, quads, lats and pecs. Soft tissue work stretches, warms and hydrates the muscles, priming them for the work ahead.
8. Add mobility work
After your soft tissue work, it is time to get your joints moving. Simple movements like neck flexion and extension, Shoulder Rolls, Hip Circles, Squats and Knee and Ankle Circles will unlock tight joints by lubricating them, allowing for much freer movement during your training session. I also highly recommend these movements before competition so you can hit your peak performance and minimize injuries.
9. Address what needs to be fixed
Your assessment should have offered up many clues about the current state of your body. Now it is time to address any issues. Corrective exercises fix imbalances. They include band exercises for the shoulders and rotator cuff and mobility exercises for the hips, knees and ankles. They might not be as exciting as Squats, Bench Presses or Deadlifts, but they’re essential to keeping you healthy and performing better.
10. Add agility exercises
Agility exercises train the joints, tendons and muscles to respond quickly to change-of-direction stimuli—essential in athletic competition. Set a timer for 10 seconds and skip some rope. Do quick forward and back hops, side-to-side, single-leg bounds and others.
11. Add more power exercises
This is where the fun begins—using your strength to move an object fast. Beginners can start with Medicine Ball Throws and Slams, then progress to Bounding, Box Jumps and Kettlebell Swings. Advanced athletes might move into the Olympic lifts like Power Cleans and Snatches.
12. Add single-side training
When building a foundational level of strength, you get the best bang for your buck with the big three movements—Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift. They work even better when accompanied by single-side training. One-Arm Rows and Dumbbell Chest Presses are great for stabilizing muscles and addressing any imbalances of strength or mobility on either side. Subsequently, Step-Ups and lunge variations take care of the lower body.
13. Get help
If you enjoy the luxury of having a coach or training partner to work with you, your success will be far greater. But if you train alone, no need to worry—you just have to rely on self motivation. However, I do recommend seeking out a coach occasionally to evaluate your form and training progression. An unbiased eye keeps you on track.
14. Recover and rest
You can’t simply go forever. It’s important to schedule training days off and make sure they don’t coincide with your sports training. Make stretching and other forms of restoration, like massage and Active Release Techniques, a part of your training program. Fuel and hydrate your body properly and get adequate sleep.
Doug Fioranelli | January 14, 2014