In the coming paragraphs you will understand practical strategies to create an adaptable training program – because if something goes wrong and you need to change your training program, you don’t want to start from scratch.

It is important to be flexible in your approach to training. Sometimes you’ll have the time available to train normally, but every now and again something impacts that. When you have a specific deadline or an upcoming competition, these interruptions can throw a spanner in the works. It might mean you are unable to hit every training session you had planned for a week within your training block. Perhaps you’re away for a day or two without gym access, or maybe your family unexpectedly arrives from out of town so you have to skip a session.

There will be other times when a training session gets cut short. A busy gym might mean you had to wait for equipment to be available so you couldn’t fit your entire session in, or perhaps you’re in the gym and you get a call that means you have to leave early. If you’re human, these things will happen from time to time. You’ll have the “perfect” training block planned and something interferes with it. That’s life.

Source: Anastasia Shuraeva on Pexels

To ensure these disruptions don’t derail your progress more than they should, it’s crucial to build prioritisation into your training program. Here are some practical strategies to help you maintain flexibility and stay on track towards your goals.

The information for this article is based on a written piece by Hayden Pritchard for Stronger By Science.

Hayden Pritchard is a CrossFit athlete and the host of the “Stronger Dads Collective” podcast. His Instagram profile reflects his commitment to helping fathers become stronger versions of themselves in various aspects of life, including fitness, parenting, and personal growth.

Pritchard’s work extends beyond social media and podcasting; he has a dedicated website where he offers further insights and resources related to fitness and fatherhood. Pritchard’s holistic approach aims to inspire and support dads in balancing their athletic pursuits with their roles as fathers and individuals​.

Real Strategies to Create an Adaptable Training Program

Creating a flexible training program is crucial for accommodating life’s unpredictabilities. Even the most dedicated athletes face interruptions that can disrupt their training schedules. Whether it’s due to work, travel, or unexpected personal commitments, having an adaptable training plan ensures you stay on track toward your fitness goals.

Exercise Prioritisation

Exercise prioritisation within a session means arranging your exercises from the most to the least valuable based on your specific goals. This concept, although familiar to many, is fundamental for creating an adaptable training program.

When we talk about exercise prioritisation, we refer to organising your workout so that the exercises with the highest value to your goals are performed first. Value can be subjective and depends on what you aim to achieve. For instance, if your primary goal is to increase bench press strength, then exercises that contribute most to improving your bench press should be done at the start of your session. This ensures that you tackle these exercises when you are freshest and most focused, maximising their effectiveness.

More broadly, complex exercises that engage multiple muscle groups should generally be prioritised early in the session. This not only allows you to perform these demanding exercises with optimal energy and focus but also ensures that if a session is cut short, you’ve already completed the most significant and beneficial movements. For example, starting with compound lifts like squats or deadlifts before moving on to isolation exercises means you hit a wide range of muscle groups early on.

Related: How to Create Your Own Strength Training Program

Session Prioritisation

Session prioritisation involves structuring your training week so that the most important sessions are scheduled earlier. This approach reduces the impact of any missed sessions on your primary goals.

woman rests between sets of back squats Slow Reps vs Fast Reps for Muscle Growth

Consider a typical training week for a strength athlete focusing on the Big Three lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlift. Initially, the layout might look like this:

  • Monday: Main Squat, Bench Variation One, Upper Accessory
  • Tuesday: Main Deadlift, Squat Variation Two, Lower Accessory
  • Thursday: Main Bench, Squat Variation One, Upper Accessory
  • Saturday: Deadlift Variation, Bench Variation Two, General Accessory

In this setup, a missed session could significantly affect your progress, particularly if it involves a key lift. To mitigate this, you can rearrange the schedule to ensure that the most crucial sessions occur early in the week:

  • Monday: Main Bench, Squat Variation One, Upper Accessory
  • Tuesday: Main Deadlift, Bench Variation One, Lower Accessory
  • Thursday: Main Squat, Bench Variation Two, Upper Accessory
  • Saturday: Deadlift Variation, Squat Variation Two, General Accessory

By making this adjustment, you prioritise the bench press work early in the week. If you miss a session, you’ve already hit your primary goal for the bench press and can continue with less critical sessions. This method ensures all major lifts for the Big Three are addressed within the first three days, providing a buffer for any disruptions later in the week.

Utilising Set Ranges

Another layer of adaptability can be added by utilising set ranges instead of fixed prescriptions. This approach involves prescribing a range of sets for each exercise rather than a fixed number, allowing flexibility based on how you feel and the time available.

For example, rather than prescribing four sets of an exercise, you could prescribe 2-4 sets. This way, on days when time is limited or your energy levels are lower, you can perform the minimum number of sets and still achieve a productive workout. On days when you have more time and energy, you can perform the higher end of the range.

5 Methods of Progressive Overload to Force Muscle Growth

Slow Reps vs Fast Reps for Muscle GrowthSource: Victor Freitas / Pexels

Research supports this approach, indicating that while more sets can lead to greater gains, significant improvements in strength can be achieved with fewer sets. Studies by Schoenfeld et al. (2019) and Krieger (2009) have shown that performing two to three sets per exercise can yield substantial strength gains, with diminishing returns seen beyond this range. This means that by hitting at least a couple of sets, you are securing most of the benefits, even if you don’t complete the maximum prescribed sets.

Avoiding Overcompensation

It might be tempting to make up for a missed session by cramming it into a tighter timeframe, but this approach can lead to overtraining and increased risk of injury. Instead, it’s more effective to adjust your training plan to accommodate the missed session.

For example, if you typically train four days a week and miss a session, you might think to squeeze the missed workout into a rest day. However, this can lead to consecutive training days that don’t allow for adequate recovery, potentially impairing performance and increasing injury risk.

worst exercises

A better approach is to push your subsequent sessions back by a day. If you miss a Thursday session, move it to Saturday and continue the subsequent sessions accordingly. This way, you maintain proper rest and recovery periods between workouts, ensuring each session is performed with optimal energy and focus.

Read Too: How Long is The Perfect Muscle Growth Program? 3 Weeks, 5 Weeks, 7 Weeks, More?

Adaptability Without Deadlines

For athletes without specific competition deadlines, another effective strategy is to simply push all sessions back by one day when a session is missed. This method works well when there are no impending deadlines for testing or competitions, allowing for a flexible approach to training.

For example, if your usual training days are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and you miss the Thursday session, you can move it to Saturday. Then, push the remaining sessions forward, with Saturday’s session moving to Monday, and so on. This approach ensures you don’t miss any sessions and maintain consistency in your training without the stress of cramming multiple workouts into a short period.

Read Too: Light Weight vs Heavy Weights for Muscle Growth – Which is Better for You?

Summary

Building an adaptable training program involves:

  • Prioritising exercises within each session to ensure the most valuable movements are completed first.
  • Planning your training week so that the most important sessions occur early.
  • Using set ranges to allow flexibility in workout volume based on your available time and energy.
  • Avoiding overcompensation by not cramming missed sessions into a tighter timeframe.
  • Adjusting sessions without deadlines by simply pushing all subsequent sessions back by one day when needed.

By integrating these strategies, you can create a training plan that accommodates life’s inevitable disruptions while keeping you on track towards your fitness goals.

Source: Anastasia Shuraeva on Pexels

In conclusion, creating an adaptable training program is essential for navigating the inevitable disruptions that life presents. By prioritising exercises within your sessions, you ensure that the most critical and beneficial movements are completed when your energy and focus are at their peak. This not only maximises the effectiveness of each workout but also provides a buffer against unexpected interruptions, allowing you to maintain steady progress towards your fitness goals. Additionally, planning your training week to place the most important sessions earlier ensures that even if you miss a day, your primary objectives remain on track.

Utilising set ranges and avoiding the temptation to overcompensate for missed sessions further enhances the flexibility of your training program. By prescribing a range of sets for each exercise, you can adjust your workout volume based on the time available and your physical condition, ensuring that you still gain substantial benefits even on less optimal days.

This method, combined with the practice of pushing sessions back by a day rather than cramming them in, helps maintain balance and reduces the risk of overtraining. Ultimately, these strategies enable you to build a resilient training plan that accommodates life’s unpredictabilities, keeping you consistent and focused on achieving your fitness goals.

Read More: The Science Behind Workout Frequency

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