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Most Important Ideas for Successful Workouts

functional training

When it comes to having successful workouts people always rush to look for “magical” exercises, training equipment, and so forth. Sadly, they are often looking at the wrong places because the real success of a workout is far more about the program first and everything else second.

How could I say that? If we don’t start with how to create good workouts, then we get this odd combination of randomness that may not go together and we could be working hard, but getting minimal results. That sounds really frustrating right?!

At the same time, I know many people hate the idea of adding “work” in the form of writing programs. We live in an age where everyone is overstressed, lacks time, and so on. The idea of writing a program instead of just doing workouts can feel overwhelming right?! In truth, it doesn’t have to be that complicated and just following a few steps can make a world of difference to the success of your workout.

Here are some important examples of how we can use programming to do great things in simple ways.

Start with the Movement

While most people are searching for the “right” exercise, they often forget to start with a movement first. As we have spoken a lot about, there are 7 movement patterns that we think about when creating our workout. Now, not all 7 are going to make every workout, so whatever you don’t use in that one workout, you use in the next. I’ll give you an example.

sandbag training

Workout 1: 

-Hip Hinge (unilateral, maybe a rear step deadlift)

-Vertical Pull (like a pull-up)


-Vertical Push (like an overhead press variation)

-Anti-rotational drill (a pallof press for example)

-Gait (dead bug, bird dog, side plank, carry, march, etc)

In the above, we hit 6 exercises that emphasized 6 of the 7 movement patterns. Pretty good right? Our next workout we can make sure we get that other movement pattern and add some other considerations like one leg/arm vs two.

Workout 2: 

-Squat (single leg like a rear foot elevated split squat)

-Horizontal Pull (a suspended body row for example)

-Lunge (we may lunge in a different direction or load the body differently)

-Horizontal Push (push-up variations for example)

-Rotation (USB rotational press outs or around the worlds for example)

-Gait (if we did something on the ground in the first workout, we are going to do a march, carry, or something more standing now)

A third workout could repeat the first or we could keep playing off the variations we have with the movement patterns. Variables like one leg/arm vs two, direction, and/or plane of motion are some of the best ways to add purposeful variation.

Think About Direction & Plane of Motion

So, I mentioned these concepts up above, but what do I mean? Almost every movement can change its direction and/or plane of motion. First, why is this important? All the best coaches in the industry will say in one form or another that doing so is important to train our nervous system to have more options in knowing how to move.

What does that exactly mean? The analogy I like to use is think about language. If you only know a few words, you can only express yourself in a small amount of ways. That can become difficult to truly communicate. The same happens with our body. An exercise is teaching our software (our nervous system) so if we only move just up and down, we become limited in how we express our strength and fitness in different ways.

Every movement can be performed moving up and down, side to side, and rotation. Well, almost every one. Lunges for example can’t really go into rotation without hurting our knee. Pressing can have rotation and lateral movement, but of the body, not so much of the arm.

Our body can move in all three directions, but it can also resist any of these directions. In doing so, we train more muscles and make our body smarter in how we train. Here are some examples to make more sense.


A base bilateral press is sagittal plane and is important in establishing a good foundation.

We can then challenge the press with resisting lateral motion. This can come in the form of being in a sprinter stance or half kneeling. It can also be related to movements like our Arc Press or alternating kettlebell presses from any stance. If we combine these presses with sprinter stance or half kneeling we really emphasize the lateral motion.

Scroll through these variations of all challenging frontal plane pressing. 

We can move our body into drills like rotational presses that we see the arm not rotating, but the body. So, it is important to understand that we are focusing on the movement of the entire body, not a segment like the arm. A lot of people that are trying to use these concepts in their workouts are misunderstanding this important principle.

This means that we can do a push (either horizontally or vertically) every workout if we change….

-Our stance

-Going horizontal or vertically

-Using one or two arms

-Changing the plane of motion

While this may sound like are creating unnecessarily complicated workouts I would tend to disagree. In looking at your workouts in this manner and your overall program, you can see great balance in your training, you have better purpose with the workouts, and you know how to keep layering success.

A program is simply a guide to your training. Not having a program, but jumping around workouts doesn’t keep your body guessing, it just never lets your body learn and get smarter. Sure, you will get sore and really tired, but that doesn’t mean you are getting better.

When people ask me for help in their workouts the first thing I do is ask to see their programs. Most times I hear there isn’t one. That is the biggest issue because that tells me that people haven’t defined a clear purpose or direction with their training. A program can change and it should over time, but we can’t evolve or grow something we don’t even have!

In upcoming posts I’ll break down other attributes to good programs. However, if you started just with these ideas you would be so greatly ahead of most in the business in the creating workouts that deliver on results, not just fatigue!

It is this reason we dedicated a whole module of our L.I.F.T certification to help making programming smart workouts easier and more fun to do! Don’t miss the final days to save 25% and get awesome FREE gifts for getting our NEW L.I.F.T. modules HERE with code “lift25”. If you aren’t interested in our free Ultimate Sandbag or programs, you can get the modules for a very special price of just $99 with code “lift19”. Train hard, but train smart!