Member preview

Is Your Program Good? A Quick Assessment

We get a lot of questions from people asking if their program is good. This is such a general question and usually comes down to much more than a simple yes or no. However, heading into the new year, we want to give you the ability to assess your program and determine wether it is good or not in under 5 minutes.

We use a lot of different methods to build and evaluate program effectiveness, but one of the simplest and most effective screens that can be used is asking one simple question. Does your program contain all five of the basic human movements?

There are five basic human movements that every person should be able to perform efficiently. The squat, the hinge, the push, the pull, and the carry. The push and the pull can be broken down further into the categories of horizontal and vertical, but for simplicity sake we will lump them together as one. Long story short, if your program has all of these movements, chances are you are headed in the right direction. If not, good news! Now you know what to focus on in order to get the most return for your efforts.

So how do you identify these movements?

The squat movement pattern can be defined as those containing considerable hip and knee flexion, and includes movements such as squats, lunges, split squats, and the like. While machine based exercises such as leg extensions may train the muscles used in the squat, they do not mimic the squat movement pattern. The leg press is an exception in this case as both hip and knee flexion are achieved, but still not as ideal as a free weight variation.

The hinge is an exercise that is characterized by signification hip flexion and extension. These include deadlifts, single leg deadlift variations, kettlebell swings, etc. Once again machine hamstring curls, although they may have their place in a program, cannot substitute the need for a hinge. Train movements first, then muscles.

The push and pull can be broken down into both horizontal and vertical. There is a bunch of pre screening methods to determine how much of each you need and when, but for the simplicity of today’s article I recommend you have the majority of your pulls be horizontal, and have more pulling than pushing. Pushing is still a fundamental human movement though, and should not be neglected. The pull and the push are a little different than the other movements in that we will count machine based variations here. I would still like the majority of the pushes and pulls you do to be with free weights or bodyweight, but for the sake of this article and program evaluation method, I’m ok with you counting rows on the hammer strength row machine as a horizontal pull.

Lastly we have carries. Like Dan John, I believe every trainee should have carries in their program. They just offer so many benefits from strength production to fat loss and conditioning, as well as a great total body movement that is relatively low risk. These can be farmer carries or any variation, as well as sled work including pushes and pulls. Yes, the sled isn’t technically a carry, but if the worst mistake your programming has made is using a sled, I think you will be just fine.

There you have it, a quick and easy five minute evaluation to see if your program is capable of taking you where you want to go for 2018 and beyond. Good luck.