We’ve seen it over and over again. People walk into the gym with brave intentions; they spend an extended period of time on the cardio machines, throw in some token ab exercises and call it a day only to be eventually discouraged by the lack of purpose, guidance and importantly, lack of progress.
A structured gym, rehabilitation and conditioning program is the best way for you to clarify your goals and do the exact work needed to get you there within a set period of time. Beginning a well thought out program ensures you’re addressing exactly what you want, how you want and when you want. How can you argue with the biggest results for the least amount of work?
When you are trying to improve performance, rehabilitate an injury or just become more physically active we all have our own goals and limitations to work through. There is no one-size-fits-all template.
Instead of trying something and hoping for the best, an individual strength, rehabilitation or conditioning program is the best way for you to get the most out of your time in the gym.
Rochelle Kennedy, Melbourne CBD Physiotherapy and Sports Medicine’s go-to Strength and Conditioning practitioner, has compiled the 8 elements that make up a successful gym program. How does yours stack up?
- It’s based on your current level.
You know your body better than anyone. Combine that knowledge that with someone who knows exercise prescription and you have a recipe for a tailored gym program that starts at an appropriate level and makes realistic progressions. A good program acknowledges your starting point and will safely challenge you at every progression - edging you closer to your goal.
- It’s focused on your goals
You want to lose weight? Great! You want to improve your muscular endurance to do your first ParkRun? We love it! You want to walk a lap of The Tan without knee pain? Fantastic.
An individual gym program gives you room to improve without needing to keep up with anyone else. Your goals, whatever they may be, is what your gym program is framed around. It’s what will inform the volume, intensity and frequency of training. Additionally, a tailored program is what will keep you motivated and excited to continue turning up and seeing through the work. A solid program is balanced and focused. Some programs may call for more strength training than cardiovascular endurance, while others might favour flexibility and mobility. These are the things to consider when consulting with your strength and conditioning practitioner.
- It’s adaptable
Progress is never exactly linear. We all experience setbacks and challenges along the way. By having someone help set you a program, you have the support of being able to adjust your program with the assurance and confidence that you can continue pushing forward through any new obstacles.
- It fits your interests
For some people, running 20km every Sunday or swimming in Port Melbourne beach at 5am is their own fitness drug. For others, walking with friends or a family bike ride is much more your fitness personality. The point is, when you have a program that you’ll actually enjoy doing you’re far more likely to see results. Exercise should be fun, not another chore in your schedule. Your strength and conditioning program must account for this.
- It fits into your life
Speaking of schedules, when you’re creating a gym or rehabilitation program it needs to fit into your life, not the other way around. When designing your program, be honest about how much time you can realistically put towards the gym and you’ll be setting yourself up for consistency and success.
- It builds in consistency
Consistency is the biggest factor of training. Sustained effort for a long period of time will yield bigger results than distracted effort in a short time. If you can only commit to one gym sessions a week - that’s great! Though your timeline for results may be extended, that’s more preferable than losing your routine completely because you over-committed.
It’s natural to experience a drop in motivation once the excitement of a fresh program wears off. With a long term plan in place that consistently invites challenge and progression, your motivation will be sustained by small milestones that drip feed gratification.
- It factors in rest, recovery and variation
Scheduling rest, recovery and variation into your program will help you stay on track for a long period of time. Going too hard, too fast is a recipe for injury and loss of confidence.
When you workout and your body is challenged, your body sustains micro-damage. This is the exact stimulus needed to signal growth and repair. But these gains aren’t made until your muscles are rested. Once given the chance to repair, your body is slightly more adapted to handle the stimulus. Factoring in rest and recovery is also one of the biggest factors in managing injury prevention.
Rest and recovery is tailored to your current ability levels, and variation (e.g. location, exercise, day of the week, who you do it with) helps keep the motivation fire alive. These three factors when accounted for appropriately in your program will help set you up for optimal consistency and improvement.
- It tracks your progress
What help is a goal-based program if you don’t know your progress? Many people give up on their objective because their goal is so far in the future and they feel they’re not seeing results.
Recording your workouts allows you to look back and see how far you’ve progressed. Can you now lift heavier weights, do more reps or has your body fat % decreased? A solid gym, rehabilitation and conditioning program will measure your starting point and schedule in regular progress check ins. It allows you to see how far you’ve come and is an opportunity to tweak the elements that could work better. At Melbourne CBD Physiotherapy and Sports Medicine, we use a number of different methods to track your progress including our VALD Performance suite and Keiser gym equipment.
About Rochelle Kennedy
Rochelle is passionate about implementing effective exercise based rehabilitation, and is currently completing a Masters degree in Strength and Conditioning. Rochelle particularly enjoys designing, tailoring and tracking individual gym, rehab and conditioning programs that directly addresses her patients’ goals.
Rochelle consults on all musculoskeletal injuries, with a special interest in strength and conditioning and muscle/tendon injuries, particularly in the lower limb. In 2020, Rochelle commenced working with the world renowned LaTrobe Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre, helping to create a tendon rehabilitation guide for sports medicine professionals.