As a personal trainer, my approach to fitness centres around longevity. We all want to look good, but feeling and moving good is much more important and something we begin to understand as we age.

The first priority of training is and always will be articular workspace. If your joints can’t move into specific zones, then you cannot train those zones. Without consideration for this, the longer you train the more stiff and immobile you will become as your body accommodates to exercises. Therefore it is of utmost importance to maintain or improve the joint workspace of my personal training clients. Next up in terms of importance, is the connective tissue. You can think of connective tissue as the necessary scaffolding, upon which we build muscle. If we were to only strengthen our muscle without consideration for our connective tissue, eventually the imbalance will result in plateau and/or injury. You can improve the general strength of the connective tissue and you can adapt it to meet sport specific needs. Finally, everyone’s favourite thing to train, muscle tissue. As a personal trainer I like to get much more specific with muscle tissue. We can increase the strength of our muscles, we can adapt our muscles to be faster, we can add more tissue, we can make tissue more efficient, and we can specifically train our fast twitch or slow twitch fibres.

Another consideration before I provide actionable advice on how to structure workouts is the anatomy of the body. The joint capsules are the deepest tissue. I’ve already stated joint workspace is #1. Then, the first thing found outside of the joints is rotational tissue (for all joints except the spine, which is linear tissue), then you have the more superficial tissue that most people spend 100% of their time and energy training.

With all of this being said, the standard structure of doing 1-2 main lifts, then doing 3-5 accessory movements, usually for the same muscles, can be vastly improved. Instead of all the unnecessary volume, I take a more logical approach. I start my personal training sessions by priming and improving the workspace of the joints that we will be using for the day. This involves CAR’s and for a lower body day, we may start with a hip internal rotation pails/rails stretch. This primes the joints for the training session and the pails/rails can open up more anatomy to be trained that day. Next, I would program some rotational (or linear for spine) work, maybe connective tissue specific to train that deep, important tissue. For a lower body day, this could be knee rotation eccentrics. Next, would be some linear tissue training. For someone trying to build muscle, this could be continuous tension hamstring curls. Finally, after all the internal training is completed I would program an external movement such as a squat to bring it all together and finish the session.

This logical approach essentially works from the inside or deepest layer, and progresses out to the superficial tissues. It prioritizes internal training, and ends by displaying the abilities of the internal elements in an external movement. It considers the joints, connective tissue, and muscle. It combats accommodation, it eliminates junk volume, and is all performed with high intensity to send our brain the exact signal we want to send to make adaptations.

Obviously, a real personal training session would be more complex and specific to the client and their goals/assessment, but this can serve as a general approach to programming, with longevity and efficiency in mind.

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