Two weeks ago you met your new client, Donna Jean.  And last week you learned how we gathered the information we provided you with (and got some awesome past programming lessons as a BONUS!).

So, how’d you do with writing her program, ?

Did you fumble around with the information provided, thinking of all the ways you could write a program for her?  Maybe you lacked certainty in the choices you ended up making?

Well, today we first introduce the program design checklist, and it’s about to make your life a whole lot easier.

First, print that shit off, save it to your photos, get it tattoo’d on your forearm—whatever you need to do to keep it top of mind…

Next ask yourself, can you, right now, check all of those boxes with confidence as you sit down to write a new program?

The new member intake, assessment and personal orientation process already provided us with a bunch of these answers:

  • Client name
  • Goals
  • FMS/assessment notes
  • Other concerns/notes
  • # of training days

Now we need to answer a few additional questions, and we’ll be able to write ol’ Donna Jean a ballin’ ass program (technically speaking).


Who do this person remind you of?

Do you start with a blank slate when you write a program?  A huge part of me hopes that you’re shaking your head yes, because you’re about to save a whole bunch of time.

Never. Start. With. A. Blank. Slate.

Every time we start someone new at the gym we think, “who do you remind me of?”

I know, it helps that we’ve had just shy of 400 semi-private personal training clients at BSP NOVA over the last 6 and a half years, but you don’t need a Rolodex of clients that thick…

When you’re just starting out, that first program you write will stand as your template for the next one.  And that’s okay because, for the most part, everyone is going to squat, hinge, push, pull, … and you’ll just look at what needs added, removed, and/or modified for the new person.  As you train more people, you’ll have more to choose from.

You’ll notice our template has areas to drop in all of the pertinent information (top-down):

  • Name
  • Block/Phase
  • Reps for power, strength, and assistance for the entire block, with the current block highlighted
  • Goals with “so that…” statement
  • FMS concerns
  • Other notes/concerns
  • Workout key, with prompts to reassess
  • Workout A w/ notes of loading type for power, strength, assistance, and conditioning + exercises, sets, reps, and RPE
  • Workout B w/ notes of loading type for power, strength, assistance, and conditioning + exercises, sets, reps, and RPE
  • Cool-down

With all of the information so easily displayed on one page, it couldn’t be more convenient.  Simply open a program and start tweaking it to the individual you’re currently writing for.


“How the hell did you already pick all of those reps for the entire block?”

Great question, .  Because, intent.

[Hopefully you checked out those past programming lessons, as we covered this in depth in those…]

Of course we are influenced by scientific principles, but we really think about things like experience, skill-level, mobility, goals, …

If you were to program power work for someone, right now, how many reps would be appropriate?  Give me your lowest number, give me your highest number…

Come on, don’t look ahead- formulate an answer in your head right now…

I’m guessing you said something in the ballpark of 1-5 reps.

After all, the NSCA has this to say about power:

3-5 sets of 3-5 reps @ 75-85% 1RM for multiple-effort event; 1-2 reps @ 80-90% 1RM for single-effort event

– Paraphrased from Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 2nd Edition

Shocker, but we are going to agree to disagree.  You see, we are not creating weightlifters… but rather weekend warriors, better desk jockeys, athletes, we’re blowing off steam, helping people drop body fat, whateverthehelltheywantttt.

Maybe we want to work up to 8 reps!

Why up to 8?  Uhhhh:

  • 8 kettlebell swings
  • Hang power cleans performed as 4 clusters of 2 (that equals 8)
  • 8 Skater Jumps

What else would these be?  I think we can all agree that these would still appropriately be labeled as power.

You want 10 reps say you?  Cool, I’m sure you could make that work, so long as you have a why…

What really matters is intent.

And you can replace power with strength, assistance, conditioning, etc…



First and foremost, we use the Goal, Intent, Skill Down/Up Assessment, and it works like this:

Down assessment: What’s your goal (for selecting a given exercise)? What’s your intent (with the given exercise)? How’s the client’s skill (with the given exercise)?

Up assessment: Does their skill, allow you to express their intent (power, strength, patterning, etc…), so that they can reach their goal?

For example, if someone’s goal is to get stronger, you could choose the barbell deadlift as their main lower pull movement.  After all, it fits the goal (strength for dayzzzzz), it fits the intent (an exercise you could incrementally load, increasing strength).  Now we just need to check on skill…

Wait, your client has never barbell deadlifted before?  It’s their first week of training?  They’re not going to have the skill for this!

Let’s start with an easier entry-point, like the kettlebell deadlift.

Run your exercise choices through this little assessment, and you can thank us later.

Ready to jump into the whole program design system?!

Trust us, this puts everythingggggg together—from the new member intake, assessment, and orientation, to the delivery of a first-time program, and then all the way over to training and progressing someone month after month.  It’s a lot to take in… like 2+ hours—yeah.

So, take the next 2 weeks and chunk this down into manageable periods of time as you have them.  If fact, plan them with KYST journal!



First we’ve got a recording of the New Client On-Boarding Webinar from March 1st, 2018.  This is a really in depth presentation of our 1-on-1 assessment & goal setting session and personal orientation.

I was going to record it over for today’s lesson, but after re-watching I feel like there’s nothing I would really change!



Next we’ve got our (NEW!) programming presentation.  This presentation walks you through the program design checklist, completely dissecting the BSP NOVA and Strength Faction approach to program design for general population.



In 2010, two dudes Chris and Todd, started the business that would eventually become Strength Faction.

You know how they say the rest is history? Well, it’s not.

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