The Scientific Method of Programming: A Case Study

By Evan Peikon
With the level of competition in the sport of fitness growing each year the demands placed on both coaches and athletes are growing exponentially.

The days when we could follow “Crossfit Strength Biased” programs or run a “Black-Box” style program in which we combined a tried and true strength program, like Westside, with metcons are over.

So…. where does that leave us?
The answer isn’t black or white and will depend on a myriad of factors. But, in general it means that an Athlete should be following a well periodized strength & conditioning program that is tailored to their goals AND that factors in their individual makeup (I feel like i’m beating a dead horse by even having to mention this again….).

So, now we have a new question… What goes into writing the aforementioned program and how do we at Peak Athletic Development go about carrying it out?
The answer isn’t simple, but through the following case study of an athlete i’m currently working with the process should become quite clear.

***Note- All data, training splits, etc are for a regional level athlete i’m currently working with. That being said, the program mentioned below is based off their INDIVIDUAL needs, strengths/weaknesses, recovery capabilities, lifestyle etc. You are free to steal any and all of it if you please. Just know their needs may not be the same as yours. 

Observations & Inferences: The Initial Testing Phase
The first, and possible most important, step in programming for an athlete is the assessment. In this phase, we put the athlete through a battery of tests designed to assess their structural balance, movement deficiencies, strengths/ weaknesses in terms of both movements and energy systems, Essence, Neuromuscular Efficiency, ATP-CP Battery etc.
Note- Before initial testing we consult with our athletes about their training history, lifestyle (work, hobbies, stress etc), nutrition and so on.
Below I will provide the results of this athletes initial testing phase and explain the take aways (some numbers/ reference points have been omitted both to protect the athletes identity and our intellectual property)

CP (Strength) Testing:
Back Squat- 385 (AMRAP @85% 1RM  @tempo- score =7)
Front Squat- Withheld
Deadlift- 405
Clean- 275
Snatch- withheld
Bench Press- withheld
Press- withheld
Wtd. Prone Pullup- 108
Wtd. Bar Dip- 92
Structural Testing- exercises/ #‘s withheld

BS:DL- Deadlift priority
BS:FS- In Balance
BS:Clean- Clean priority
BS:Snatch- Snatch priority
-Athlete is stronger than they are fast.
-Athlete has Low Neuromuscular efficiency
-UB Pressing In a HUGE priority
-Athlete is deficient is scapular strength
-Athletes Glute Medius doesnt fire properly

Gymnastic Density & ATP-CP Battery:
50 HSPU For Time- 10:09
30 MU For Time- 4:30
8 Min AMRAP Power Clean @90%- 29 reps
20 Snatch @77% 1RM- With Held
20 Sets of 5 Unbroken C2B Pullup For Time- withheld

-Upper body pressing endurance is a priority
-Proficient with snatching at moderate loads (for reps)
ATP-CP Battery is good, but not great.
-Proficient with both MU and C2B Pullups, but would like to see improvement on both.

Cyclical Energy System Testing (scores withheld):
10 Minute Airdyne for Cals
60 Second Airdyne for Cals
60 Second Airdyne for Cals/ rest 12m/ 60 second airdyne for cals
60 Minute Row for Max Distance
2,000m Row
500m Row
500m Row/ Rest 90s/ 500m Row

-Aerobic work is a priority over anaerobic.
-Athlete needs speed development in off season.

Mixed Energy System Testing (Tests and Score Withheld)
-Athlete is comfortable with “going there”.
-Athlete has strong scores on anaerobic tests, but needs work on aerobic.
-Athletes mixed aerobic work is better compared to their cyclical aerobic.

Training Split (Accumulation Phase for This Athlete)
Now is the fun part of the article where we analyze the athletes current training split, the logic behind it, and get a glimpse of what an actual training week looks like…
But, first we must discuss this athlete’s essence (term coined by OPT).

Athlete Essence
-This athlete is stronger than they are fast.
-This athlete is slightly more powerful than they are enduring (not much though).
-This athlete has a low Neuromuscular efficiency.
-This athletes CP-Battery is well developed, but not at an elite level.

This info is what tells me what types of protocols to use on this athlete in order to improve what they are lacking. For example….
If I had a High Neuromuscular efficient athlete I would NOT program them 10-12 rep Back Squats, Squat Clusters, Drop Sets etc.
If I had an Athlete with a low CP Battery I would NOT program they high rep Olympic lifts with a HIGH % of their 1RM.
However, neither of these situations are the case for this athlete, so I will program accordingly (the same type of principals apply to energy system training as well. Different athletes respond to different methods and part of the coaches job is to know how to progress with them correctly).

When designing the training split there are a few things to think about including…
1. Adaptation- What are you looking to accomplish?
2. Interference- Don’t send mixed signals (in regards to cell signaling).
3. Purpose- What is the specific goal of each session?
4. Direction- How will this progress over time?
5. For more check out the article on Concurrent Training Optimization. 

The Training Split (For this SPECIFIC phase):
In the diagram below we include…
1. The goal for each day (ie- what parameter we are trying to improve upon)
2. The Type of Session/ Training Split Skelton
3. An example of a training week.

Tying it All Togeather
Life Style Factors & The Athlete-Coach Dynamic
While not as sexy as talking about training, the external factors imposed on an athlete play a large part in how they respond to training, how they recover, and how they feel on a day to day basis. These external factors, much like training, have an effect on physiological adaptation (this is going to be an article in and of itself very soon) which is why they must be addressed.
When working with an athlete I always make sure to address these factors and to ensure they work in out favor instead of against it. Knowing the in’s and out’s of an athletes life also allow me (the coach) to modulate certain factors in training (such as volume/intensity) so that they athlete keeps progressing as needed.

These include but are not limited to…
1. Quality and Quantity of Sleep
2. Nutrition– Quality, Quantity, Macros etc.
3. Stress (work stress/ life stress etc.)
4. Commitments, Priorities and values.

Going Forward:
As previously mentioned, the training split shown above is for part one of the accumulation phases. After this phase/cycle ends the athlete will go through another testing, or retesting, phase. The purpose being to see how the athlete improved on the parameters we were working on (highlighted in blue).
Based on the results of the second testing phase we will then begin a new cycle with a new focus, which will be influenced both by the athletes current needs and the time of year relative to competition.

Part II
In the next installment of the “Case Study” article series I’m going to break down a case study for a facility program design and the ideas surround it. Stay Tuned!


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