Chris Bottomley’s top 10 Program Design Tips for Personal Trainers / Strength Coaches

By October 9, 2019 No Comments
Chris Bottomley’s top 10 Program Design Tips for Personal Trainers / Strength Coaches

After investing tens of thousands upon thousands of dollars on program design / strength coach certifications, from PICP levels 1-4, Advanced Program Design with Charles Poliquin, every internship on offer from Kilo Strength Society as well as Private tuition from one of the worlds best program designers in Stephane Cazeault (to name just a few) you could say I’m a program design geek, and could spend hours talking shop.
In this piece below I want to give trainers an insight into my Top 10 Tips to consider when designing client’s programs.
These might seem basic however it’s the basics done best over time that wins.
1. Exercise execution trumps all program design variables.
Master set up and execution and then the variables such as reps, sets, tempo and rest count. If your form is sub-optimal so will be your results.
2. Learn and understand the Principles of program design such as;
When you master the Principles you can manipulate programs and anticipate outcomes. Determine how to manipulate these variables to suit your client.
3. Learn and understand the Variables of program design such as;
4. Reps are the single most important Variable as it dictates what the Sets, Tempo, Rest and Load will be to achieve a specific stimulus.
Remember its the total TUT that dictates the stimulus.
5. Tempo, in my opinion, is paramount in a training program, especially when it comes to strength training.
Knowing how to manipulate the Eccentric, Concentric and Isometric contractions will provide a completely different stimulus to the given exercise. Remember Reps x Tempo = TUT (Time Under Tension), which will dictate what stimulus we’re exposed to. Standardizing the movement helps determine if there is a true progression, whether it be through quality of movement or load.
6. Loading is what separates a good from a great program.
The program is as good as the paper it is written on if it is not maximised. A coach who understands how to load and maximise the client’s training will always have better results. I see it time and time again on the Gram all these half wits throwing around fancy rep schemes and training like pencil dicks. Master Step Loading and Constant Loading of Straight Set rep schemes with your clients before implementing Descending Sets, Broad Pyramid Sets, Wave Loading, etc…
7. Build your programs around the Primary Lifts such as;
Squat (Back and Front)
Shoulder Press
Bench Press (Flat & 45* Incline)
Chin/ Pull Up
Each Macrocycle you should prioritise 1 Upper and 1 Lower Primary Lift to design your program around.
Focus on improving your weak lifts or links and 
you’ll be guaranteed to make progress.
8. A well-designed training program will have an A, B and C Series
The A-Series is where we program our Primary Lifts. The goal is to achieve maximal force potential through the quality of repetition and technique rehearsal.
The B Series is where we program our Assistance Lifts. The goal is to support the weakness of the Primary Lift.
The C Series is where we program our Remedial Lifts. The goal is to support injury prevention, improve structural balance and increase lean muscle mass.
9. Understand how to Periodise programs for the short and long term.
I’ve seen it time and time again where trainers download the latest program from their favorite coach with no understanding of how it’s been periodised and then give it to all of their clientele on repeat. Learning and understanding periodisation, whether it be Linear, Undulating, Concurrent is a must.
Having the skillset to Periodise programs, whether it be for Strength, Hypertrophy or Fat Loss was a game-changer in my coaching development, which I attribute to producing consistent results time and time again.
As the saying goes “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”
10. Understand your clients preferred Learning Style.
This isn’t program design specific however knowing your clients preferred Learning Style will help you maximise their outcome and help educate them in the process.
As the saying goes “give a man a fish, you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you’ve fed him for a lifetime”

If you’re a PT who’d like to learn more about program design, take the guess work out of periodization for your clients anywhere from 12 weeks upwards to 4 years of training cycles, and deliver world class results time and time again, my upcoming Advanced Program Design Weekend is just the ticket!

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