How To Design A Personal Training Session

by Jason Brown,
Over the years, we’ve seen more and more gyms start to increase their revenue by way of personal training. Not only is this is a great idea, but allows us to open up our doors to segments of the population that might not want to do CrossFit. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say (even current members) that they didn’t know we did personal training. The perception to the general public is that personal training and CrossFit are completely separate entities. Is there some truth to this? Possibly. I believe the two are more connected than most would like to believe. I’m going to outline how to design a personal training template for your current and new clients that do not necessarily take CF group classes.
First off, a little background on my philosophy of training. The training I subscribe to is constantly-varied and utilizes functional movements. Sound familiar? This system also has an emphasis on challenging people where they need to be challenged most: their weakest links. Some considerations before beginning:

  1. How often is your client going to train with you? 2x, 3x, 4x a week? What days of the week?
  2. How old is your client and what are their goals?
  3. What is their training age if any?
  4. Do they have any nagging injuries?
  5. What is their life like outside of the gym?

Of course there are many more questions that can be asked and screening that can be done beforehand, but this is a basic guide that will work for just about anyone that comes into your facility. I stress the word “basic” because there are always exceptions to the rule. These recommendations come from my own insights after 12 years of training a wide array of athletes from all walks of life. Below I’m going to outline what I feel to be the most logical mesocycles of training for the average client.
Phase 1 General Physical Preparedness (GPP)/Unilateral Work
The first 4 weeks will be devoted to improving your clients base/work capacity through a variety of GPP work. The GPP work will not only help build our clients foundation but it will also serve as our conditioning. In the beginning most GPP work will be quite difficult for your new athlete. We will also look to improve muscle-imbalance and by doing so we will uncover unforeseen muscular imbalances which will serve as a guide later. Most of our training will be in the form of push/pull supersets, total body fashion that will not keep time management efficient will help further build our clients base elevating their heart-rates to 60-70% of Max Heart Rate (MHR). Also, each session will start out with a learning portion each day.
Here is a 3-Day Example Week (Monday/Wednesday/Friday)
– Dynamic Warm-up that includes active mobility
– Learn Box Squat (BW) + BB Push Press
1a) DB Reverse Lunges: 3 x 6-8 ea. Rest 30s.
1b) DB Push Press: 3 x 6-8. Rest 30s.
2a) DB RDLs: 3 x 8-10. Rest 30s.
2b) DB 1-Arm Rows: 3 x 8-10 ea. Rest 30s.
3) Reverse Hypers: 2 x 10-15 (light). Rest 60s.
4) Weighted Plank: Accumulate 90s. Rest 60s.
3-4 Rounds of:
60 yard Sledpush (light)
60 yard Farmer Carry (moderate weight)
Rest 2-3:00 (until HR is down to around 90-100 BPM).
–   Dynamic Warm-up that includes active mobility

  • Learn Back Squat or Front Squat/Partner Assisted Pull-ups

1a) Goblet Squat: 3 x 8-10. Rest 30s.
1b) Ring Rows: 3 x 8-10 (1 ct at top). Rest 30s.
2) Tall Kneeling to Standing: 3 x 3-4 ea. Rest 30s.
3a) DB Lateral Raises: 2 x 12-15. Rest 30s.
3b) DB Side Bends: 2 x 12-15 ea. Rest 60s.

  • Conditioning

Assault Bike: 6-8 x 10s @Max Effort. Rest 90s.
–  Dynamic Warm-up that includes active mobility

  • Learn Sumo Deadlift + BB Bench Press + Turkish Get-ups

1a) Sumo Deadlift: 4 x 5 @Light. Rest 60s.
1b) DB Bench Neutral Grip Single Arm Bench Press: 4 x 6 ea. Rest 60s.
2a) Lateral Squats: 2 x 8 (total) @BW. Rest 30s.
2b) DB Tricep Extensions: 2 x 10. Rest 30s.
3) Sledpull Powerwalks: 4 x 60 yards @3/4 BW. Rest 60s.
4) TGU: 10-12 Total Reps @light KB. Rest 90s.
On the surface, this looks like relatively tame training sessions. I know some of you are thinking, no barbell movements? We will get to those later on— don’t worry. From the outset, we simply we want to learn some new movements and find out what where people are weakest. People will get a great workout, but we want to make sure we stay away from going overboard. Remember when you first started training how you felt the next day(s)? In these cases, less is more.
After the 4 weeks have been completed running a mesocycle that looks similar to above it will be a great time introduce some barbell movements as your core lifts. The format of your training session will be similar sans the learning portion but look more like this:

  • Dynamic Warm-up that includes active mobility and activation
  1. Core Lift: Compound Movements
  2. Assistance Work: Unilateral Work
  3. Direct Ab Work
  4. Conditioning/GPP Work

Once your athletes are moving efficiently and have established a base for their conditioning it will be more plausible increasing volume and loading, but as I said before we want to make sure we provide people with the correct dose of training. Also, varying conditioning work can take place. For instance, work to rest component type pieces work quite well as people begin to improve their work capacity. Remember, we don’t want to “crush” our clients and leave them feeling bad about themselves. “Tester” type workouts with task or time-domain should take place after your clients have gained some confidence and have at least 8 weeks under their belts. It’s not say you can’t perform similar pieces ever in the beginning, it just makes more sense to provide clients with the ability to learn about themselves with regards to their capabilities as well as the ability to learn what it means to “push themselves”. Work to rest pieces like below fit the bill and can easily be modified to any ability.
4 Rounds of 30 work/30 rest: 1a) Air Squats 1b) Abmat Sit-ups 1c) Burpees 1d) Jump Rope
With this in mind, your conditioning doesn’t always need to include a GPP element, but I would recommend you stick to conditioning work that coincides with our strength work and stay away from higher skilled movement patterns that do not depend on technical proficiency.
Personal training is a great avenue to provide individuals with one on one attention. As such, we should be able to design a program that focuses on each individuals’ needs; this is simply a guide to help you start training your clients in an efficient and safe manner. Overall I see most new athletes lack a solid base from the outset of their training. As coaches, we often overlook the “less sexy” or simpler forms of training to be replaced by their technical counterparts. Build your clients base and they’ll reap the benefits in both performance and in body composition!
Jason Brown, CSCS, CF-L2


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