Programming for Intermediate Clients

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Written by Master Coach, Jade Mckee

Your client has been training for some time now. You have noticed their movement patterns becoming more efficient, and their strength has been increasing. They have more of an understanding of what the exercises they are performing are actually DESIGNED to do, and have become more confident and increasingly independent in the gym. This time frame will vary between clients, and could be anywhere from six months to two years of them stepping foot in the gym.

So, how should you progress your client’s program as they move from a beginner into an intermediate stage of training?

First of all, the periodisation model. Beginners will generally follow a linear model when it comes to their training – starting with higher reps and lower weights as they build their overall work capacity, and learn to master the fundamental movement patterns. As they become more advanced, more advanced periodisation models can be implemented, such as reverse linear, block undulating, or daily undulating models.

As your client’s work capacity continues to improve, they will be able to complete an increased number of sets per body part, and an increased number of sets per exercise. The rep range they will be working in will also increase. Your client will now be more conditioned – both in terms of their neurological and cardiovascular function, and so will be able to tolerate working at both a higher volume, and intensity.

Your client has been repeating movement patterns for some time now, and now that they are able to perform the movements correctly AND efficiently, it’s time to introduce NEW movement patterns. They will have progressed from full body training into splits such as upper/lower, or push/pull splits.

Both compound exercises and isolation exercises will be included in the program, as the client will now begin to focus on working more specific muscle groups, and more variety will be included in the exercise selection. This will provide your client with an increased stimulus as they work towards their strength/hypertrophy/fat loss goal, and will also make the program more challenging. Tempo will also be applied in a more strict fashion at this intermediate stage. Your client will now be able to tolerate increased density, allowing you to program straight sets, agonist/antagonist supersets, and trisets, again adding more variety to the program, and creating a more localised stress on the particular muscle groups you are trying to develop.

The frequency of your client’s workouts will increase to 4-6x/week, but the frequency they will be training each body part will now reduce to 2-3x/week. This is due to your client now working at a higher intensity, lifting heavier weights. This is where their recovery will also need to be prioritized! The intensity method used with your intermediate client should now be the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale, instead of using Reps In Reserve. As your client is now lifting heavier weights, the RPE scale will allow your client to take into account how they are feeling each session.

Even through your client is progressing, it’s not time for you to step back just yet! These clients are still learning, and need your continued guidance and education as they continue to progress through their health and fitness journey.

Want to learn how to structure and periodize programs from exercise selection, rationale and exercise priority, to detailed programming systems for both short-and long-term client goals, leading to life changing results?
Enrol into the Ultimate Program Design Bundle, which includes the Fundamentals of Program Design & Advanced Program Design Online Courses!

Performance PT Coaching Certification Level 2. Clean Health Fitness Institute 2020.

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