“I was a little too obsessed with the technical aspects of music & I had to do like many of the great jazz musicians have done: learn everything then forget everything.” – John Frusciante
In school we’re taught that there’s an order to how training programs are structured.
First, there’s the mobility work/warm-up. This is where we prepare the body for what’s about to happen. It also gives trainers a chance to assess things, from how you’re moving to your body language and facial expressions. Maybe it was a crap day at work or your dog is sick or someone stole your bike. Life has a habit of interfering with the gym.
Once we’re mobile and warm, it’s on to the the Big Lifts. This could be an Olympic lift like a snatch or a clean; it could be a barbell lift like a squat or a deadlift. The thinking is, you want this exercise to come first because it requires the most energy. You want to be fresh in order to hit a personal best, something you should aim for each session.
After the Big Lift, there’s everything else. Some call it “assistance work” or “secondary exercises”. Some don’t even bother and call it a day after hitting their PBs. This is often a mistake, as it’s a good idea to spend some time shoring up your weaknesses with these exercises. Face pulls, back extensions, skull crushers, lateral raises — these are all classic examples of secondary exercises. No need to break records here. Focus on the feel of the movement and pumping some blood into the muscles.
What happens next is usually ab work or some form of conditioning, both of which are often done poorly due to the client being physically exhausted and/or mentally checked-out.
This is how things are done. This is what we are told. And for the last few years this is how I’ve operated.
Recently I’ve begun to reassess this approach. These days I’m placing ab work and conditioning up front, incorporating them into the mobility work and warm-up. The reason is simple: everyone needs to improve their core strength and conditioning, so why relegate it to the end of the workout where it’s treated as an afterthought? How is a person supposed to perform a proper plank when their core muscles are gassed from being engaged for the last 45 minutes? How much effort is someone going to put into the interval circuit you’ve created when the only thing they’re thinking about is how much time is left on the clock?
Placing some moderate-intensity core work and conditioning drills at the top of the sessions ensures they get done and get done well. This will carry over into everything else that follows. Loaded carries and plank variations are my weapons of choice. Take the bottoms-up kettlebell carry. Not only will it get your clients heart rate up, it builds grip strength, trains the external rotators, and also creates some context for what it means to “engage your lats”. Three birds, one stone. Heavy farmer’s walks jack the nervous system too. Two or three sets of 30 second carries and your client will be amped and ready to crush whatever it is you have in store for them.