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How to Develop a Training Program

The process of creating a training program to help develop an individual's level of fitness comprises six stages:

  • Stage 1 - gather details about the individual
  • Stage 2 - identify the fitness components to develop
  • Stage 3 - identify appropriate tests to monitor fitness status
  • Stage 4 - conduct a gap analysis
  • Stage 5 - compile the program
  • Stage 6 - monitor progress and adjust program

Stage 1

The first stage is to gather details about the individual:

  • Age
  • Reasons for wanting to get fit
  • Current or recent injuries
  • Health problems
  • The sports they play and how often
  • Their dislikes and likes with regards training
  • What sports facilities do they have access to - a gym, a sports centre etc.

Before starting any training, you must have a medical examination to ensure it is safe for you to do so.

Stage 2

The second stage is to determine what components of fitness need to improve. It will depend upon what the individual wants to get fit for - to improve general fitness, get fit enough to play in the Saturday hockey league, run a local 5 km fun run or compete in next year's London Marathon.

Exercise scientists have identified nine elements that comprise the definition of fitness. The following lists each of the nine elements and an example of how they are used:

  • Strength - the extent to which muscles can exert force by contracting against resistance (holding or restraining an object or person)
  • Power - the ability to exert maximum muscular contraction instantly in an explosive burst of movements (Jumping or sprint starting)
  • Agility - the ability to perform a series of explosive power movements in rapid succession in opposing directions (ZigZag running or cutting movements)
  • Balance - the ability to control the body's position, either stationary (e.g. a handstand) or while moving (e.g. a gymnastics stunt)
  • Flexibility - the ability to achieve an extended range of motion without being impeded by excess tissue, i.e. fat or muscle (Executing a leg split)
  • Local Muscle Endurance - a single muscle's ability to perform sustained work (Rowing or cycling)
  • Cardiovascular Endurance - the heart's ability to deliver blood to working muscles and their ability to use it (Running long distances)
  • Strength Endurance - a muscle's ability to perform a maximum contracture time after time (Continuous explosive rebounding through an entire basketball game)
  • Coordination - the ability to integrate the above-listed components so that effective movements are achieved

Of all the nine elements of fitness, cardiac respiratory qualities are the most important to develop as they enhance all the other components of the conditioning equation. You will need to consider which of these elements apply to the individual's training program based on why they want to be fit.

Stage 3

The next stage is to identify appropriate tests that can be used to determine the individual's level of fitness and monitor progress during the training. The Evaluation Test page identifies appropriate tests for each of the fitness elements.

The identified test should be conducted, and the results recorded.

Stage 4

We now know the individual's background, objectives, and fitness level. We need to conduct a gap analysis of the current fitness levels (from test results at stage 3) and target fitness levels (identified in stage 2). This process will assist in designing the training program so that each fitness component is improved to the desired level.

The following is an example of a gap analysis:

Test Fitness Component Current Target
Multistage Fitness Test Aerobic Level 12 Shuttle 2 Level 12 Shuttle 5
30 metres acceleration Test Speed 4.3 seconds 3.9 seconds
Illinois agility run Test Agility 20 seconds <16 seconds
Standing Long Jump Test Leg power 2.4 metres 2.8 metres
Overhead medicine ball throw Arm power 16.1 metres 16 metres

Gap analysis - Aerobic fitness and arm power are good and need to be maintained - sprint, agility and leg power tests are below target - leg power needs to be improved.

Stage 5

The next stage is to prepare a training program using the gap analysis and FITT principles.

  • F - frequency - how often should the individual exercise?
  • I - intensity - how hard should the individual exercise?
  • T - time - how long should each session last?
  • T - training activity - what exercise or activity will help achieve the individual's fitness goals?

For frequency, intensity and time, you should start at a comfortable level and increase gradually, e.g. 10% increments. Aerobic training should last for 20 to 40 minutes. Strength work should last 15 to 30 minutes and comprise three weekly sessions with 48 hours of recovery.

Plan the program in four-week cycles where the workload in the first three weeks increases each week (easy, medium, hard), and the fourth week comprises active recovery and tests to monitor training progress. The four-week cycles aim to:

  • Build you up to a level of fitness (3 weeks)
  • Test, recovery and adjustment of the training program (1 week)
  • Build you up to a higher level of fitness (3 weeks)
  • Test, recovery and adjustment of the training program (1 week)
  • Build you up to an even higher level of fitness (3 weeks)
  • and so, on
  • The tests used to assess the individual's initial level of fitness should be planned into week 4 of the program to monitor the program's progress and effectiveness. The test results can be used to adjust the program accordingly.

    The program must last 12 to 16 weeks to see any real benefits. The planning process should be conducted with the individual to feel they own the program. It will ensure the program is enjoyable and convenient to do.

    Stage 6

    The program has now been agreed upon, and the individual can undertake the program. Every four weeks, meet and discuss with the individual:

    • How the training has gone
    • The test results
    • Progress towards target fitness levels
    • Adjustments to the training program

    Example programs

    The following are example training programs:

    Page Reference

    If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

    • MACKENZIE, B. (2004) How to develop a Training Program [WWW] Available from: [Accessed