Programming 101


Writing programs is a mixture between science, guesswork and good judgement.  This article will be kept simple, so you don’t get lost in the details and can concentrate on getting results. 

Please consult your doctor if you’re starting an exercise program after a long break or have any health or orthopedic concerns. 

Long before I was fitness professional, I’d follow training programs I ripped out of glossy men’s magazines because 

  1. They looked like they knew what they were doing 
  1.  I was hoping it would magically transform me from a geek to a freak

And like Dr. Phil used to say, ‘How’s that working out for you?’ 

Men’s fitness magazines
Men’s fitness magazines

It didn’t, Dr. Phil, it didn’t. 

What I didn’t consider is what works for the guys on the covers doesn’t necessarily work for you or me because you all have different starting points, genetics, and reactions to exercise. 

The people on the front covers are already in fantastic shape to begin with and most likely didn’t do the program they’re putting their face on. They just rocked up to the photo shoot looking awesome. 

However, having a training program ripped out of a magazine is better than having no plan at all because going to the gym without a clue is not the best idea and can lead to bizarre behavior.   

This is a theme photo
This is a theme photo

But you’re better than that. You don’t need to blindly follow the masses because after reading and following the advice in this article, you’ll be writing programs that will get you great results without the need for google or men’s magazines. 

The Questions

Question Mark Idk GIF by US National Archives

Before you get into the nitty-gritty of writing your own program, it’s time to answer a few questions.  

  1. What is your goal?

You’ll start by choosing one goal because when chase more than one, but it will take you longer to achieve both. Plus, you’re more likely to have more success if you stick to one goal

Please decide if your goal is fat loss or hypertrophy Take a moment to decide this has a huge bearing on the program you’ll write. 

  1. How many days a week can you train? 

For better results, set aside at least three days a week for training. Exercising three days a week is ideal when doing full body trainings below. 

  1. How much time do you have?

You need to look at your schedule and decide how much time you can dedicate to training because this is going to dictate the length and intensity of your program.  

Answering the above questions honestly will help you stick with your program and allow you to get the results you deserve because you’ll have some skin in the game. 

The Exercises

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To keep things simple, you’ll be concentrating on the six fundamental human movements that work all the muscles in your body. These are 

  1. Squats. For example, barbell back squats, front squats, goblet squats, sumo squats
  2. Pulls. For example, bent over rows, lat pulldowns, seated rows, chin ups, pull ups and single arm rows. 
  3. Pushes. For example, push ups variations, barbell bench press, triceps extensions, floor presses, shoulder presses and dumbbell press variations. 
  4. Hinges. For example, deadlift variations, hip extension variations, hip thrust variations and RDL’s
  5. Single Leg. For example, split squat variations, lunge variations, single leg deadlifts and step ups
  6. Farmers Carry Variations. 

The Templates

Fat Loss 3 Days A Week Training

After your warmup, you’ll start with a strength exercise, lifting a heavier weight for lower repetitions to help you retain muscle and strength while you’re cutting calories. 

You’ll alternate between an upper and lower body strength exercise on each training day.  

Then you will go into a five-exercise circuit alternating between lower and upper body with minimal rest between exercises to maximize calorie burn. Please allow 24-28 hours of recovery between trainings for best results. 

Note- It doesn’t matter what variation you choose as long as it fits the template.

1. Strength exercise (Squat, push, pull or hinge) 3-5 sets, 80-90% 1 RM 3-6 reps 2 minutes rest between sets. 

2A. Squat variation

2B. Pull variation

2C. Hinge variation

2D. Push variation

2E. Carry variation


Training 1 

Complete 8 reps (select a weight and exercise that allows you to do 8 repetitions with good form) of each exercise 2A-2D in a circuit fashion. If you’re performing unilateral exercises, do 8 reps on each side. 

For carry variation, walk 20 yards and then walk back for 20 yards for a total of 40 yards. Use at least 25-50% your bodyweight in each hand.

Each set will take you one minute (if you finish in less than a minute rest) to complete and each circuit 5 minutes to finish. Rest 90 seconds after each circuit and do a total of 2-4 circuits.

Training 2 

Choose a lighter weight than training one and avoid unilateral exercises. Do as many repetitions of each exercise 2A-2D in 30 seconds with good form. Rest for 30 seconds at the end of each exercise.   

For the farmer’s walk, walk 20 yards and then walk back for 20 yards for a total of 40 yards. Rest 2 minutes at the end of each circuit and do a total of 3 circuits.

Training 3 

Do 15 reps of each exercise of 2A-2D in a circuit fashion. For the farmer’s walk, walk 20 yards there and back for a total of 40 yards. Rest as little as possible between exercises and rest 1 minute at the end of each circuit. Do a total of 2-3 circuits.

Building muscle

Hypertrophy requires you to lift moderate to heavy weights for reps which causes muscular stress and damage. Sorry, there are going to be days when it’s hard to use the bathroom.

You’re doing straight sets for strength work to prime your body to build muscle and then supersets to help maximize muscle growth.  You’ll alternate between training A and training B for 3-4 days a week. 

How many sets you’ll do of each superset will be dependent on how much time you have.  


After your warm up, you’ll start with the strength exercise and you’ll use a weight that leaves a rep or two in reserve. If you need more rest between sets, take it. With the supersets exercises please use a weight that allows you to complete all the repetitions with good form. 

If you went heavy with the squat, do a hinge exercise for 2A and vice versa. And it’s the same if you performed an upper body push or pull.

Please rest for 24-48 hours between training.

Training A 

1. Strength exercise (Squat or hinge variation) 3-5 sets 3-6 reps, resting 2 minutes between sets. 

2A.  Squat or hinge variation 8-12 reps 

2B.  Pull variation 12-15 reps

3 sets with 60-90 seconds rest between supersets

3A. Single leg variation 12 reps on each leg

3B.  Press variation 8-12 reps

3 sets with 60-90 seconds rest between supersets

4A. Pull variation (different from 2B) 8-12 reps

4B. Push variation (different from 3B) 8-12 reps

2-3 sets with 60-90 seconds rest between supersets

The next superset is optional depending on the time you have.  Choose a body part that needs extra work and hit it with a superset. 

5A.  Isolation exercise (bicep curl, triceps, shoulders, legs, hips etc.) 8-15 reps

5B.  Isolation exercise 8-15 reps

2-3 sets with 60 seconds rest between each superset. 

Training B 

1. Strength exercise (Upper body push or a pull variation) 3-5 sets 3-6 reps and rest 2 minutes between sets. 

2A. Squat variation 6-8 reps 

2B.  Pull or pull variation 6-8 reps (dependent on the strength exercise)

3 sets with 60-90 seconds rest between supersets

3A. Hinge variation 12-15 reps 

3B. Push variation 6-8 reps

3 sets with 60-90 seconds rest between supersets

4A. Farmers carry variation 40 yards 

4B. Pull or push variation (different from 2 and 3) 12-15 reps

2-3 sets with 60-90 seconds rest between supersets

This superset is optional, if you have the time. Choose a body part that needs the extra work and hit with a superset.

5A.  Isolation exercise (biceps, triceps, shoulders, quads etc.) 8-15 reps

5B.  Isolation exercise 8-15 reps

2-3 sets with 60 seconds rest between each superset. 

Wrapping up

Chappelles Show GIF

Do the training of your choice for 6 weeks in total. If you need more than 48 hours to recover, take it. When the weight becomes less challenging, go up by 5 pounds. Don’t hold yourself back because you’re too good for that.  

If you need any help, please contact me here.