Programme Design Checklist

Last week I spoke at the WRU Annual Sports Medicine Conference about programme design. The audience was primarily physiotherapists, doctors and surgeons and what I wanted to do was share some simple steps that everyone working with an injured athlete should consider when developing a training programme.

I love to have simple checklists (due in no small part to this book – The Checklist Maifesto – How To Get Things Right by Atul Gawande).

Here’s my programme design checklist that I use when I’m putting together an new programme (you can find out more about my training in The Strength and Conditioning Bible).

Programme Design Checklist

  1. Training Purpose – Establish your training purpose – always start with the end in mind and then work backwards.
  2. Goal Setting – Write down your goals (outcome, performance, process) and make them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Timed).
  3. Needs Analysis – Figure out where you are starting from. Complete your needs analysis covering the five key areas; lifestyle, fitness health, injury, and performance.
  4. Track Progress – Decide what monitoring tools you are going to use to track your rate of change and adaptation (training diary, load lifted, time to complete 5km etc).
  5. Structured Programme – Develop a structured periodised programme that divides your training into manageable phases. This will be the blueprint that you’ll work from. Macrocyle – the complete plan (the largest Russian Doll – the largest one that conceals all of the other layers). The macrocycle is ‘THE BIG PICTURE’. Mesocyle – several continuous weeks of training (typically a 4-6) within the macrocyle where the training programme emphasises the same type of physical adaptations. It can be thought of as the ‘monthly plan’. Microcycle – typically a 7-day period but can range between 5-10 days. This will be your ‘weekly plan’ providing you with details of specific training sessions that need to be completed that week.

When working on your plan you will need to answer the following questions:

– What is your training availability – how often can you actually train?

– What volume of training can you complete based on your training availability?

– What type of training will you be completing during each training phase?

  1. Workout Planning – Start to plan your workouts – for each workout you will need to manipulate the following training variables:

Repetitions – adjusting the repetitions for a given exercise can be a very powerful stimulus that will boost your training adaptations

Sets – inverse relationships exist be sets and reps as well as sets and the number of exercises that can be completed during a workout.

Load – how much weight you lift will dictate the speed of movement (tempo) and force production, both of which impact on specific performance outcomes. Typically, there is an inverse relationship between load and repetitions (high load – low reps , low load – high reps

Speed of Movement – always programme with ‘specificity’ in mind to achieve specific training outcomes.

Recovery – Your ability to recover between sets is linked to ‘available energy’, once the ‘tanks’ are empty you can’t continue, and to optimise performance, recovery times need programmed carefully.

Exercise Selection – select the most appropriate exercise taking into account the level of functionality and how it relates to the performance outcome that you want to achieve.

Exercise Sequence – programme the highest priority exercises and the most complex exercises early in the training session.




Nick GranthamProgramme Design Checklist

4 Comments on “Programme Design Checklist”

  1. Stuart

    Hey Nick, like it that this info went out to Physio’s and those involved in rehab but not necessarily schooled in S&C principles.
    Most Physio’s will have a good grasp of points 1-4, but structuring/Periodisation often gets forgotten (or isn’t too well known about) in rehab-that’s why I love working closely with the S&C guys. Team work, can’t beat it. Know what you know and pass it on.
    Nice read!

  2. Nick Grantham

    Thanks for taking the time to comment Stuart – I’m still amazed by the lack of formal education on programme design in physiotherapy degrees. It’s such an important component and the success of a rehab programme will hinge on the quality of the programme and its delivery.


    hi Nick ,

    i am a 53 yrs old guy who has started to go to my local gym and want to look better fitter and stronger is your fitness book ( amazon co uk ) the one for me as in food to eat and work out plans ? i am not an athlete

  4. Nick Grantham

    Hi Jonathan,

    Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. The Strength and Conditioning Bible doesn’t have a nutrition section (I’m conscious that although I have a post graduate degree in Exercise and Nutrition Science, it’s really an area outside my scope of practice). The book will certainly help you with your fitness training and was written for recreational athletes and general population that like to go to the guym and stay in shape. A really good nutrition book to accompany my book would be The Energy plan written by my former colleague, James Collins – you can check his book out here >>THE ENERGY PLAN< <. I hope that helps. All the very best.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *