How to Build a Resistance Training Program

As a trainer and fitness enthusiast, I’ve always had a lot of people coming to me with their questions about health and fitness (our main reason for starting this blog!)  One thing that I hear over and over again is that people like to strength train and want to be stronger, but they don’t know how to do that on their own.  If you’ve ever felt like this, don’t fear…we’re here to help!  We could go into depth and talk for hours about building a program or even just a single workout, but we’ll spare you and just provide a brief overview to give you a good starting point.  Below you’ll find a couple of key components to keep in mind when putting together your resistance training program.

1.) Exercise Selection & Weekly Split – There are countless ways to split your strength workouts.  For example:

  • Full Body
  • Upper Body vs. Lower Body
  • Push vs. Pulls
  • Legs vs. Chest & Tri’s vs. Back & Bi’s
  • Anterior vs. Posterior

No matter how you decide to split your workouts, it’s important to remember to stay balanced!  So what does that mean?  If you take a step back, and look at the major muscle groups in the body, you’ll find the following:

  • Legs – Quads AND Hamstrings/Glutes
  • Chest
  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Core
  • Accessory muscles – arms, calves etc

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In order to stay balanced and give yourself the best shot at staying injury free, it’s so important to train all of these groups and keep in mind that you need to balance opposing muscles.  For example, if you’re training legs, make sure that you’re not only doing exercises that target your quads, but focusing on strengthening your glutes and hamstrings as well. If you work your chest, make sure to work your back that same week (or same day) etc.

This might not be perfect for everybody…we are all built differently.  If you have an imbalance or a weakness, you may need to focus more on one particular part.  I have found that most clients need help on their posture.   This may be from sitting at a desk all day, driving a car, typing on an iphone, holding a baby etc. Strengthening the back and stretching out the chest muscle are especially important for these people.  Because of that, I usually focus on two back exercises for every one chest.

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Another way to look at this is to balance your pulls and pushes.

  • Vertical Pull – Pull Down or Pull Up
  • Vertical Push – OH Press
  • Horizontal Pull – Row (Seated, Bent, Inverted)
  • Horizontal Push – Push Up or Chest Press

2.) Rep/Set Range & Rest Periods – The reps, sets and rest for your program will change based on your goals.  Below is a pretty simple chart that shows the parameters you should be lifting for your particular goal.

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3.) Weight Selection – Selecting weight can be tricky if you aren’t on a strict strength/power program and don’t know your 1RM (1 rep max.) If you are new to resistance training and you really aren’t sure what weights to start with, err on the side of light and increase from there.   It’s really import to ensure that your form is on point and you aren’t sacrificing it to lift heavier weights. (Read: challenge yourself with weights, but don’t injure yourself!)  I always tell my clients that if you can easily complete ALL reps on the final set with no problem, then its probably time to increase.  You should be struggling/failing on the final set.

4.) Progression/Regression – As you get stronger, exercises will start to feel easier.  In order to keep improving, you must continue to challenge yourself.  Obviously adding volume (reps & sets) and/or increasing the load (weight) will make an exercise more difficult, however there are a few other ways to challenge yourself:

  • Increase complexity – Try putting 2 moves together.  For example, add an overhead press to your squat (thruster.)
  • Decrease base of support – Stand on something less stable (BOSU) or take the exercise to single arm/leg (pistol squat.)

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5.) Form – We recommend having someone critique your form before moving onto very heavy weights, but we’ll give you a couple of general rules that hold true to most training basics.

  • Stance – Feet should be shoulder width apart – This will give you a solid base of support
  • Weight in Heels – Ensure that your knee is inline with your heel – Your knee should not go beyond your toes   *Note: for power moves, your weight will shift to your toes throughout the move…as it will when you jump.
  • Toes – Parallel or slightly turned out
  • Knees – Pointing  in the same direction as your toes
  • Core – Tight
  • Shoulders –  Down and back – Keep your shoulders away from your ears & do not tense…unless you are actively performing a shrug
  • Keep a Neutral Spine –  Do NOT round your back – Head, shoulders & butt should all be in one line

Below is a sample workout that hits the whole body.  For more examples, check out some of our other past workouts on our instagram or facebook page.

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As we mentioned before, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to strength training, but we are hoping this gives you an idea of where to start!  If you’re brand new to resistance training, it’s always helpful to start out with a trainer to ensure that you’re executing everything with proper form. If you still are lost or are interested in a2a designing a program for you, contact us!

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It’s Training Time!

So you’ve signed up for your first Civilian Military Combine. Congrats! Now you’re wondering, what did I just get myself into and how do I make sure I’m prepared? Well, that’s where we come in! We’ve got about 8 weeks to get you CMC ready, so we’ve put together an 8 week training program that includes conditioning, strength, endurance and skill work that will have you ready to crush both the Pit and the obstacle course on May 17th.

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The graphic above gives a breakdown of how each week will look. Each Friday, we’ll post the program for the following week in here.

Below is a description of each of the different program elements.

MONDAY

The Pit: This is your opportunity to practice the Pit. The first week, we will ask you to choose the Pit division (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, or Delta) that you think you’ll be doing race day. See the graphic below for a description of each. You’ll track your reps completed and use that as a benchmark for when you do the Pit again a few weeks later. After the first week, we’ll provide you with variations of the Pit (7 minutes instead of 5, heavier weights, etc.)

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Conditioning: This will typically consist of a shorter run or row or interval training. The objective is to get your body conditioned for the obstacle course as well as the Pit, and to test your work capacity after completing the Pit.

TUESDAY 

Strength: Tomorrow, we’ll be posting details on how to create a strength program, so stay tuned. If you’re relatively new to strength training and going to be doing it once or twice a week, we recommend that each session be full body. This will also ensure that you’re not focusing only on arms or legs one day so that you’re too sore to continue training the next day. Tuesdays we recommend performing fewer reps at slightly heavier weights to focus on building strength. Each strength session, we will recommend a movement that you should incorporate. For example, pull-ups, dips, seated row, etc.

Skill work: These will be focused on getting you ready for the obstacle course and will include things such as farmers carries, bear crawls, rope climbs, tire flips, etc. We know that everyone might not have access to all of these things, so we encourage you to get creative!

WEDNESDAY 

Endurance: This will be a longer conditioning piece. We’ve included recommendations – stairs, run, row, etc, as well as a time period or distance.

THURSDAY

Rest Day: This is just as important, if not more, as the other days! Your body has been working hard the past three days and needs to rest! Spend some time mobilizing. (we’ll post more on how to do this later) or get a massage. If you really need to move, go for a walk or a yoga class. Then rest up so that your body is ready to go hard for the rest of the week!

FRIDAY 

a2aWOW: We’re going to continue posting our a2a Workouts of the Week, and this time they will specifically be catered to getting you ready for the CMC.

Conditioning: Friday’s conditioning piece will usually involve stairs. The Poconos course is not flat and we want you to be ready to climb! As we progress, we’ll add objects for you to carry while climbing the stairs. These can be done on a stairmaster/stepmill or outside.

SATURDAY

Strength: This is your second strength session of the week and we recommend performing more reps with lighter weights to increase your muscular endurance. Again, we will suggest movements that you should include.

Skill Work: Similar to Tuesday, we will recommend a skill for you to practice.

SUNDAY 

Rest Day: You’ve worked hard this week! Spend some more time on mobility, eat something yummy, and get ready to get back to work on Monday!

We hope this gives you a good picture of how we would recommend training for the CMC. Obviously, we know everyone’ s schedules are different. You might not be able to start your week on Monday and rest Thursday/Sunday, and that’s fine. Adjust how you see fit. Don’t want to skip out on your favorite spin class? Totally cool – there’s your endurance! High Intensity training studios such as the Fhitting Room (aka come to Julia’s class!) are also great ways to work on your conditioning and muscular endurance.

In addition to the training program, we will be posting weekly tips for you, which will include ways to be efficient in the Pit, what to wear on race day, nutrition, etc., so follow us on Instagram – @average2athlete and @Powercakes – to be kept in the loop.

Finally, be sure and check out our Meet-ups page, where you’ll find opportunities to come practice the Pit with us! For those of you in the NYC and Pittsburgh areas, once the weather breaks, which it looks like it finally might (finger’s crossed!), we’ll be hosting meet-ups outside as well. Stay tuned for more dates!

CMC 101: What is it and why should I care?

WHAT THE HECK IS THE CIVILIAN MILITARY COMBINE?

So, you’re thinking about joining our team for the Civilian Military Combine, but you’re still not quite sure what it entails. Well, beyond encouraging you to visit the CMC website and watch their awesome pump up video, we figured it was about time we wrote a post about it.

To give you the quick and dirty version, the CMC is a combination of a short, high intensity workout, known as “the Pit”, immediately followed by a 4+ mile race packed with military-inspired obstacles – climbing walls, crawling through mud, pushing sleds – that kind of stuff. The race was co-founded in 2010 by Matt Keller and Sean Rogers, two former college roommates. As mud races gained popularity, they participated in their fair share, and while they had a blast doing them, they felt there was an element missing. They wanted to add a piece that would require athletes not only to excel in speed and endurance, but also strength and power – enter: The Pit. Moreover, Matt and Sean both have close military ties, and they wanted a way to bring both civilians and military together to raise awareness and honor those who have or are currently serving. Thus, the Civilian Military Combine was born.

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HOW IS THE CMC DIFFERENT FROM ALL THESE OTHER MUD RACES THAT I HEAR ABOUT? 

Two words: The Pit. The Pit is the revolutionary piece that is completely unique to CMC. No other race has anything like it. The combination of the Pit and obstacle course has attracted thousands of hybrid athletes that do not specialize in one aspect of fitness, but aim to excel across the board – from power and strength to endurance, agility and speed. In other words, being well-rounded instead of specialized works to your advantage here.

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Another cool thing about the CMC is that 80% of participants register as part of a team. This doesn’t mean that you have to remain with your team throughout the entire race (yes, I know some of you are super competitive), but you all enter the Pit in the same heat and start the race together, and let me tell you that knowing you’re surrounded by a team of your biggest supporters as you walk into the Pit is HUGE!

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WHERE DOES A2A/POWERCAKES COME INTO THE PICTURE? 

Having participated in a couple of CMCs in the past, we were beyond AMPED and honored when Sean contacted us about creating a team and having a presence at the race this year. So we met with him (over a workout, of course), and were immediately blown away by his energy. Those who have run the CMC before might recognize him as “the guy on the mic.”

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His enthusiasm for CMC was infectious, and we could tell right away that this is going to be a huge year for them, and that we wanted to be a part of it. As we began putting a game plan together and reaching out to people about joining our team, we thought of our good friend, Kasey, AKA of Powercakes, and thought, why not team up with another fitness powerhouse, create a super team and race the CMC together?!

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HAVE YOU RACED A CMC BEFORE? WHAT WAS IT LIKE?

We were introduced to the CMC a year ago, by our good friend and trainer, Dennys, and signed up for our very first race in New York City last April. We weren’t really sure how to train, so we just continued working out like we normally do and threw in a “Pit Practice” once a week. It was a FREEZING cold spring morning and 7 minutes of the Pit left everyone sounding like avid smokers, but we powered through, pain faces included.

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The obstacle race for this one was short and sweet, just like we like it! A prowler push immediately followed by a sandbag carry up a gazillion flight of stairs, a few walls, farmers carry, cargo net rolls, and BOOM, we were done!

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Once we finished the race, all we could think about was signing up for the next event in September, which we did immediately (after a little post-race celebration…)

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September rolled around and we were stronger, faster and ready to rock. It was a much nicer day, and the atmosphere at the venue was infectious. There were dozens of teams getting amped up to compete – from gyms, Crossfit boxes, and random groups of friends. The energy was pretty incredible. As they called our team into the Pit, we each jogged to our stations, where our judges introduced themselves and reviewed each of the movement standards with us. As the countdown began – 3, 2, 1…GO!, the butterflies in our stomaches were in full force, and we once again why the heck we signed up for this. Once we started though, adrenaline kicked in, we found our own grooves and we kept pushing. Each time we wanted to stop and just lay there on the ground and catch our breath, we told ourselves, it’s only 7 minutes! You can do anything for 7 minutes! Plus, our judges were super encouraging and kept telling us what a great pace we were keeping, which helped a ton. Julia ended up going well beyond her expectations, outperforming her April performance by a long shot with 161 reps! Kayte rock in with 153 – a solid performance by average2athlete and our entire team!

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We then had about 2 minutes to recover before we were sent off into the obstacle race. The beginning was a nice jog, which most of us used as active recovery as we were still coming down from the Pit. We were then faced with about 3 miles of obstacles, from hopping over walls to crawling through mud, climbing cargo nets and pushing heavy sleds. It seemed to fly by because we were having so much fun. Even though our entire team got separated during the course, we were surrounded the entire time by athletes who were in the same boat, facing one obstacle at a time, helping each other over walls and coaching each other along the way.

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Crossing the finish line was a great feeling, especially knowing we had a cold beer waiting for us, but the best part was watching the other athletes coming through and seeing the combined look of pride, relief, and exuberance on each and every person’s face. Pretty awesome.

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We can’t wait to race again this year – not to compete, but to run alongside our teammates as they get to take part in this same incredible experience.

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And of course, to enjoy a post-race beer with a bunch of awesome athletes!

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OK, I THINK I’M INTERESTED…BUT WILL I BE ABLE TO HANDLE IT? HOW DO I TRAIN?

Don’t worry, we have you covered! To start, this year’s Pit includes 4 different variations of increasing difficulty, so that any athlete can participate, regardless of their fitness level or limitations.

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The folks at CMC will be posting videos with the movement standards for Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta very soon, so stay tuned.

As far as training, there are several things that you can do, and we’ll be helping you along the way:

  1. a2aWOW: Those of you who follow us on Instagram may have noticed that for the past several weeks, we’ve been posting workouts that people can do at home, requiring little to no equipment. These are typically meant to increase “metabolic conditioning” – aka get you read for the Pit. So take a look and start doing these if you haven’t already.
  2. Training Program: Taking the a2aWOW a step further, we’re going to be creating a training program for you guys. We’ll put together a calendar that will most likely include a day for the a2aWOW, a day to practice the Pit, a day of strength exercises (designed to increase your pulling strength for things like climbing over walls) and an endurance day, to help you conquer the obstacle course. Be on the lookout for this to appear mid-March!
  3. CMC Meet-ups: CMC will be hosting a series of meet-ups throughout the New York area, which will give participants the opportunity to practice the Pit and meet others who are doing the race. We will be attending several of these, and will let you know the exact dates and times.
  4. a2a-Powercakes Team Meet-ups: We will also be hosting our own meet-ups and will keep you informed via social media on dates/times.
  5. High Intensity Training – Learning how to push your body to maximum capacity and increasing that threshold is going to be the biggest factor in training for the CMC. Whether you are following our workouts, training on your own or with a trainer, taking classes or CrossFitting, high intensity training is key.

THIS BLOG POST WAS SO CONVINCING, I’M IN! WHAT DO I DO NEXT?

It’s pretty simple – all you have to do is follow this link to our team page and SIGN UP!!! Use the code CMC20 for $20 off. And stay tuned for more updates!

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