Now, here’s the deal…
You really only care what your workout looks like for the day or week.
But you know what?
THAT IS OKAY!
That’s why you hire a coach!
Hire a coach and let them worry about all the macrocycle and mesocycle business, so that you just show up, kick some butt, and continue to work your way towards the happiest, healthiest, and strongest YOU!
In today’s blog, we get to talk about what you care about most – the planning and programming for your day-to-day workouts.
This is called the microcycle.
What Is a Microcycle?
Let’s start by covering what we already know about training cycles.
Macrocycles cover the picture as the largest training cycle.
Mesocycles give a little focus to the big picture as the quarterly or monthly training cycle.
So, what’s left?
Laser-focus on the finer details of your big picture.
That comes via the microcycle.
The microcycle is the shortest of the three training cycles, as it typically lasts one week. The goal here is to incorporate the proper movement patterns to fit the training block and mesocycle goal.
In order to fit the mesocycle and macrocycle plan, the microcycle must be designed to vary the level of stress throughout the week’s training sessions. Your coach might vary training sessions based on sets, reps, load, rest periods, exercise types, and equipment use.
The variation in training days across a microcycle depends largely on these factors:
- Where you’re at in the Macrocycle and Mesocycle
- Your Training Split (Find your ideal training split HERE!)
- The Number of Rest Days
- Lifestyle & Total Daily Activity
What Are the Components of a Microcycle?
The biggest mistake I see people and unfortunately some coaches make is to base microcycles on muscles instead of specific movements.
Now, when you focus on training movement patterns, you’re working to achieve pain-free lean muscle and functional strength.
As a coach, I strive to incorporate the 6 Foundational Movement Patterns developed by Dr. John Rusin:
Everyone loves squats because they’re labeled as booty builder.
But I have some bad news…
It’s really more of a quad-dominant movement.
So if you’re looking to really build your booty, you’ll need more glute specific exercises (Hip Thrust Variations, Glute Bridge Variations, Hip Extension Exercises, Etc.).
Another knock to squats is that most of us are already quad-dominant; therefore, stacking up squat sets in your training can further create the imbalance if posterior work is not a priority (more on that later).
I know, it seems like I’m hating on squats, but I’m not.
There are MANY benefits to squats – I mean if there weren’t, would they be considered a foundational movement pattern?
Some of these benefits include their ability to strengthen a foundational movement to day-to-day activity, to target a variety of muscles, and to vary and progress the exercise.
It is important to note that SQUAT does not mean conventional barbell back squat. Find a variation that works best for your goals, anatomy, training history, and injury history.
Remember when I said that posterior work needs to be a priority?
Hinges are the perfect way to target your posterior change because it builds hamstrings, glutes, back, and core.
The hinge gets a bad reputation because people believe this is causes low back pain, when in fact hinges are the exact movement you need to strengthen your lower back.
It is very important you practice the skill of hinging and train the associated muscles because if you don’t know how to hinge properly, your glutes are weak, or you’re unable to recruit your posterior chain properly you are putting yourself at risk for low back pain.
Hinges are great because they target nearly every muscle along your backside.
Work with your coach to learn proper technique and learn an appropriate variation for your short- and long-term goals.
Let’s be honest, nobody REALLY loves lunges, but for functionality purposes, lunges are a vital exercise.
They strengthen and teach you to do things on one leg at a time.
Traditional squats and hinges are considered bilateral exercises, which is very necessary, but does mean that one side will take on more of the work than the other. This leads to muscular imbalances, technique imbalances, and potential pain and injury.
Lunges are a unilateral exercise.
This improves your balance and mind-muscle connection since you focus strictly on one side.
In turn, this strengthens the strength of your bilateral movements and day-to-day activities.
Now, when lunges are mentioned, it’s likely you think of the traditional forward lunge, but that’s not the ONLY lunge variation. As goes for squats and hinges, find the right variation for you and be sure to vary it across your training cycles.
Pushing is a foundational movement that can be divided into two separate categories, both are necessary for fat loss and lean muscle building.
When men hear horizontal push, you can almost FEEL the testosterone levels jump in the room.
But when women hear horizontal push, you can ACTUALLY hear the moans and groans.
Horizontal pushes include bench presses, push-ups, and chest pressing exercises that target your chest, shoulders, and triceps.
I recommend training 2 to 3 horizontal push variations per week.
For men, this might mean cutting back, but for women, this probably means we’re adding a few variations and sets.
The vertical push is a movement avoided by most women because it’s thought to build big and bulky shoulders.
Actually, it builds lean, strong, and great looking shoulders.
The other reason vertical pushes are avoided is because of their injury risk. Your shoulders get a good chunk of work in through horizontal presses, which also puts your body in a safer position during the movement. Additionally, we don’t do a lot of vertical pushing in our day-to-day life, so it’s not necessary to tack on the volume for vertical pushes.
As a coach, I recommend including 1 to 2 variations in your training program per week featured as an accessory exercise.
Just like with pushes, pulls are a foundational movement designed to train the upper back and can be divided into two categories.
Rows are a HUGE part of my clients training programs because it improves posture and fights your natural tendency to round the shoulders forward.
It’s very important for your overall health to master the rowing movement, and if you’re doing horizontal pushing, you need to do the same or MORE horizontal pulling. Typically, for my clients that means 3 to 4 variations each week.
Horizontal pulls aren’t the sexiest exercises, BUT it can work wonders on changing your physique and make your shoulders feel great.
These movements train the upper back from the overhead position.
These are another one of those exercises that are neglected by women because they’re just downright HARD (Hello, have you tried pull ups!?).
Often times it’s not that you don’t have the strength, it’s that you don’t yet have the ability to move the scapulae in the correct pattern during vertical pulls.
Typically, I recommend 2 to 3 variations of SIMPLE vertical pulls to begin with in order to teach the proper movement of the scapula before progressing to vertical pulls like pull ups or chin ups.
To most people, core means sit ups, crunches, or other spinal flexion exercises.
Now, it’s not that these aren’t important for overall core strength, but they’re just not effectively training our core for its primary function – resisting movement to stabilize your spine under load.
For most of us, our core is the limiting factor during our compound movements. This can prevent you from adequately stressing the primary muscles and potentially lead to low back pain.
Anti-movement core movements include anti-extension, anti-rotation, and anti-lateral flexion movements.
I will caution you, these are not always the bada** or sexy exercises you see people doing on social media, BUT I promise, these are the exercises that lead to a sexy and pain-free core and trunk.
How to Design a Training Day.
Now, you can have the perfect number of variations and types of movements, but if they’re not structured in a well-organized plan, you’re still not going to see great results.
When I put together training programs, I design them in a 5-Phase System to simplify the planning while ensuring clients get the adequate training volume.
Phase 1: Warm Up & Mobility
Now, I know, you just want to get to the good stuff, and you’re probably tempted to not just skip over this section but this phase is in every workout.
You’re on a schedule with only so much time to work out, and all you really care about is getting to the part where you’re losing body fat – I get it!
Not to mention, warm up and mobility work isn’t the most exciting and doesn’t really make us feel like we’re doing anything useful with our time…
But this is a HUGE component of your training!
Your commitment to the warmup and mobility work can save you a ton of time because you won’t be nursing as many sore, achy, and painful muscles or joints.
Yet despite what I or the research tells you about how important it is to raise your core temperature and mobilize your joints, you’re still incredibly tempted to just skip it all together…
That’s why I build a warmup into every client’s program that warms everything up. It takes MAYBE 10-minutes and requires zero equipment.
Phase 2: Primer Set
“So I’m done with all the warm up and mobility work, can I get to work now?”
Yes, BUT probably not in the way you would think…
Next comes the Primer Set.
This is a set of 2 or 3 exercises that are best utilized for priming or activating the muscles
targeted in that day’s work out.
“So it’s more time warming up….?”
In short, yes, but when do I ever leave you with the short answer 😉
Your warmup and mobility increased core temperature and blood flow throughout the ENTIRE body, but your Primer Set increases blood flow to the muscles specifically targeted in that day’s work out.
Overall, these exercises are included daily to further decrease your risk for injury by starting up your Central Nervous System (CNS), initiating the collaboration between the working nerves and muscles, and stabilizing specific joints.
Injury risk aside, one of the reasons I love Primer Sets so much is because it gives you the opportunity to tune in to your body and truly feel HOW it is moving. These exercises are not at all about load and intensity, but about creating tension within the muscles and establishing proper movement patterns within the joints.
Take your time with these first 2 exercises, FEEL your body working, and build your mind-muscle connection so you’re mentally and physically ready for the day’s work.
Phase 3: Strength-Focused or Metric-Based Movements
What you’ve been waiting for!
The good stuff!
If you’re committed to losing body fat and building lean muscle then you need to
prioritize some strength-focused or metric-based movements. This means you need to lift heavy and challenge yourself to PROGRESS.
Lifting heavy is a very relative term.
While it can mean lifting weights that are so heavy you can only perform one repetition (1-Rep Max), that is not how I design programs for my clients.
No, your Strength Focused Exercises are those wherein you will lift a weight heavy enough that you can complete 6 to 10 repetitions of an exercise.
The goal is to elicit a large enough stress on the neuromuscular system primarily through mechanical tension and to a smaller degree, metabolic stress, to drive muscle growth.
As your coach, you will also notice that I include a progression scheme for sets and repetitions has been built in to allow you the opportunity to challenge yourself at the highest level.
I fully recognize that as a woman, some of these strength-focused exercises are intimidating, so I suggest you use the start light to acclimate your body and mind to the exercise.
It’s a great opportunity to master the movement, understand where your body is at strength-wise for that exercise, and recover from the previous phase.
Phase 4: Accessory Exercises
Do you know how an average outfit turns in to an AMAZING look?
With the use of accessories!
Maybe it’s shoes.
Maybe it’s earrings and a necklace.
Maybe it’s a belt, a hat, a bag, or a fanny pack (my personal favorite).
Now, I’ve never been a true girly-girl and my best accessory is probably my dog, but this is the easiest way I’ve found women to understand the value of accessory exercises.
Your program MUST include Accessory Exercises to build strength and improve your
Strength Focused Exercises. These exercises are going to help reinforce the movement pattern, correct imbalances, strengthen smaller muscle groups, and build the core.
It is important to note that you will be performing higher repetitions which does require a lighter load; however, I want to encourage you to find a load that challenges you still to further elicit muscle growth.
Phase 5: Finishers
The final component of your program is the Finisher!
Now, I’m going to start this off by saying that this is 100% optional.
If you wrap up your last set and feel as though you gave it your all and worked your body to its capacity, then it is perfectly acceptable to skip the Finisher and call it a day.
But there might be some days where you want to get a little more work in before calling it a day, and when that’s the case, that is exactly what the Finisher is for!
When you utilize Finishers, these sets are designed to be high to ultra-high repetitions or movement holds. The Finishers are designed to generate metabolic stress, another tactic for sparking muscle growth. These are the sets that are really going to fatigue your muscles and give you that burn feeling.
Look, training program design is not just a draw from a hat, and if that’s how you’re running your training, then you’re missing out on some big-time results.
I know all the excuses:
- You’ve worked with a trainer before or trained long enough to know kind of what to do.
- You don’t have enough money.
- You don’t have the time.
- You’re afraid to get bulky.
- You’d rather lose weight and build muscle.
THE LIST GOES ON.
The Complete Guide to Female Resistance Training busts all of those excuses.
This tells you exactly what to do – exercises, sets, reps, rest periods through written explanations and videos.
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All workouts can be completed in less than 45 minutes.
They’re designed for fat loss and lean muscle building to help you achieve your specific goal.
Give this program a shot, and I CANNOT wait to see your results!
About The Author
Jordan Davies is the Co-Owner of Complete Performance. Jordan has her B.S. in Exercise Science and Psychology, and her M.A. in Holistic Health Studies. She is a CSCS certified strength and conditioning coach, and a PN-1 and NCI-1 certified nutrition coach. She loves to study how the human body needs to be moved and nourished and making that fit to your unique lifestyle. Click Here Now to Apply for Coaching with Jordan