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Beginner To Intermediate Programming: General to specific

The principles of programming dictate that over time, a person's program should go from general to specific. What this means in simple terms is that you should start as basic as possible, and add in more detail slowly over time.

For most everyone, training will revolve around four main movements: the Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift, and Press. These movements cover the body's entire index of muscle, and can apply a significant enough stress to cause serious change. Over time, imbalances and sticking points make themselves known, which triggers a programming decision to address these problems. This is what is meant by specific. The program must reflect the person's specific needs to continue to drive progress by intelligently choosing different movements directly related to overcoming sticking points. Once you have reached this point in your programming, you are now classified as an intermediate and no longer a beginner.

If someone is training for a specific event, i.e. a marathon or powerlifting meet, the training will have to get specific much sooner than if they weren't. In these cases, training for that event needs to look more like that event. In all other cases, building a general base of strength will apply to the widest range of activities. It is a good thing to stay as general as you can for as long as you can still make progress doing so, but moving into intermediate programming when necessary is critical.

An example of how this may look is below:


Beginner program (1st day of the week):

Squat 3 x 5

Press 3 x 5

Deadlift 1 x 5


Intermediate program, 6-12 months later:

Week A:

Squat 3 x 5

Pin Press 3 x 5

RDLs 3 x 8

Chins 3 x AMRAP


Week B:

Squat 3 x 5

Press 3 x 5

Deadlift 1 x 5


In this example, the lifter has graduated to some intermediate movements such as the Pin Press, and RDLs. This athlete has likely hit a sticking point in their Press training, so the Pin Press allows for overload work at the sticking point.

RDL's and Chins address a lifter's deadlift in a few ways. RDL help reinforce the extension of the back in a similar way a deadlift does, while also stressing the hamstrings and grip strength. Chins work the muscles of the upper back through a full range of motion. This lifter is training for their Deadlift, instead of training the Deadlift every single week. This reduction in frequency is a nice twist because it aids the Deadlift in driving the overall strength of the lifter without the massive stress placed on the body that the Deadlift provides every week. At some point, the Deadlift becomes too stressful on the body to recover from in a seven-day window. This is how a lifter could get around that problem.

Intermediate programming looks a little different than beginner programming, but with a specific purpose behind it's methodology. Choosing movements that address the lifters specific problems is the key to driving continued progress. For more, watch below.





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