What is a Template?
A Template is a model that is created for a given block or mesocycle in an athlete’s season. It will often be referred to as a skeleton or outline.
It is a general outline that serves as an anchoring point for the person programming. Because of this, it intentionally lacks some of the specifics (exercises, sets & reps, etc.)
The Advantage of Templates
Templates allow for the same patterns (e.g. Squat, Hinge, Press, Pull, Midline) to be hit on a consistent, controllable basis allowing for consistent progress. However, it still allows for lots of variety while not allowing overuse of any given facet, or for certain skills to left untouched for long periods of time.
This is a step up from traditional periodization models, especially when programming for advanced athletes because they demand more variety to continue adaptation than beginners.
No More Random Workouts
A common mistakes made by coaches is having too much or not enough movement variety. As a coach, it is easy to want to program a little bit of everything for your athlete.
This approach only works for what I like to call a unicorn athlete. A person who is well-rounded (e.g. no relative weaknesses) and moves exceptionally well (e.g. efficient and effective) in all types of movements. Very few coaches ever get to train a unicorn athlete.
Almost all athletes fall into three categories:
People new to training need to see less movement pattern variety so they can master the basics. Skill frequency is important for motor learning.
Trained athletes often needs to improve in many different aspects of their game if they wish to compete at an elite level, which is why some coaches opt for large movement variety. However, there are usually only a few key ‘logs in the jam’ that if removed will allow their entire system to perform better. Therefore, a weakness model of training will better serve this athlete. Bring up lagging areas and everything improves as a result.
High-level athletes have accumulated thousands of hours of training and are experienced in all kinds of different movements. As they brought up weak points, others were revealed.
The result is an athlete that only has relative weaknesses, and other observing often don’t see them. Some of an elite athlete’s training year will still be dedicated to those relative weaknesses, considering that’s the model for how the Open and other online qualifiers are scored.
However, in a competition prep phase, the goal becomes being as ready as possible for all movements. This is the one time where high-movement variety should be used.
Watch: Programming for Power (Video Series + Notes)
A Template is an Anchor
So, we all can agree…even for experienced coaches, it can be challenging to sift through the sea of movements, time domains and pairing to up with a program that meets an athlete’s individual needs.
Like an anchor, a template prevents a coach from drifting off course with programming. Depending how the anchor is cast, it will allow for more or less movement away from the center point. Depending how you write your template, it will allow for more or less variety and it will keep your programming effective while allow for variety.
Templates help a coach say focused as they write a program. Personally, I have an athlete’s template up on one monitor and write their program on the other. I continually look back to the template to make sure I’m staying within its parameters. As long as I meet the criteria, I can create whatever artfully written workouts I want.
Listen: The Fitness Movement Podcast: #006 Programming for Groups
Template’s Advantage Over Periodization Models
Typically, errors in programming are either random or too structured. Periodization models are too structured. They do not expose athletes to novels rep schemes and movement pairing, while still be organized in a plan.
Typically, periodization models have been applied to the traditional strength and conditioning model. While the model can be effective in bringing up a few metrics at a time, it often neglects many other areas (often unmeasured), and therefore critical mass fails to move forward.
Steps to Creating a Program
1. Determine your athlete’s goals
2. Assess your athlete’s physiology (Strength & Weaknesses)
3. Outline a training year (Competitions, Training Phases, Time Off)
4. Create a template for the upcoming training cycle
5. Use the template to create day-to-day workouts
Download a Sample Template by ZOAR