By Nico de Villiers
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Part one of this series is mainly about the strength training philosophy that Ashley follows as well as touching on the programming process. In this article, I will have a look at a 3 step process that any trainer can use when developing a strength program for the weight room.


3 Step process for developing a strength program


Step 1: Time available and desired adaptation 

Time availability obviously is a most important consideration when planning your strength program. It will determine how your weekly split will look like and how much volume can be used in each session.

Training adaptation will also play a role in how you will organise your training week, day and session. Training adaptation can be focused on four main categories namely:

Power (Neural system adaptation)

Strength (Neural system & structural adaptation)

Hypertrophy (Structural adaptation)

Metabolic (Energy system and body composition adaptation)

If you are targeting power and strength (Neural system adaptation), you will need to do much more recovery to be effective (48h-72h) and will only be able to do 2-3 session p/week.

Hypertrophy needs more volume (4-8 session p/week) but can be split into different body parts. Guidelines to improve your hypertrophy can be found in my article, Bulking up for rugby.

Although exhausting, a metabolic session targeting energy system development (anaerobic or aerobic) can be less taxing on the neural and structural system and one can recover from them quicker, thus these sessions can be done more often based on their intensity.


Step 2: Exercise selection

One of the fists step a trainer can do before writing a program, is to compile a chart with all the possible exercises that can be performed in a certain facility. The program you write will always be submissive to the facility and equipment available. Players training in a what they call high-performance gym will have access to more and different equipment compared to your local virgin active. It is thus important to be very aware of the various equipment, how much of it is available and the space you have to work in.

Traditionally exercise selection has been categorised according to the body part; chest, shoulders, backs, arms, legs. This comes from the old bodybuilding methods that focus on changing the aesthetic of a person. Exercises would the be categorised as compound or isolated exercise, multi-joint or single joint, open-chain or closed chain and even functional or non-functional.

A more modern or commonly used way to categorise exercises for sport is to do it based on movement and not muscles. Whether you use Paul Chek seven primary movement patterns (Running, Bending, Twisting, Pulling, Pushing, Lunging, Squatting) or Dan Johns’ five basic movement patterns (Loaded Carries, Squat, Hinge, Pull, Push), your exercises should be categorised according to movement and not muscle.

Below is an example of two exercise selection templates that I have used. You can place any exercises in these categories that are feasible within the facility and equipment available


Lower Body Bilateral: Squat, Front Squat, Deadlift

Lower Body Unilateral: Split Squat, Lunges, Step Ups

Hinge: Reverse Hyper Ext, Romanian Deadlift, Nordic

Push: Bench Press, Shoulder Press, Incline Press

Pull: Pull-Ups, Bend over Rows, Prone rows

Core: Turkish get up, Suitcase deadlift, Rollouts


Lower Body Pushing: Box Squat, Step up, Lunge

Lower Body Pulling (Straight leg): Deadlift, SDLD, Back extension

Lower Body Pulling (Bend leg): Glute bridge, Hip thrusters, SB Leg curls

Upper Body Pushing (Vertical):  Shoulder Press, Military press, Push Press

Upper Body Pushing (Horizontal): Bench Press, Loaded Push-up, Floor Press

Upper Body Pulling(Vertical): Chin-ups, Upright row. Pull-ups

Upper Body Pulling (Horizontal): BB row, 1 Arm row, Horizon pull ups/Chin-ups

Torso: Anti-extension, Anti-flexion, Anti-rotation


An important  point that Ashley mentioned about selecting an exercise to fit into your template is, that it must be:

Programmable (Adress training need required, neural, structural, mechanical)

Scalable (Must be able to prescribe load)

Recordable (Must be able to track progression)


Step 3: Training Splits

The questions that need to be asked and answered first are:

What is the goal of your program? (Power, Strength, Size, Weight Loss)

What is the training age of your athlete? (Less experience, less training needed, more full body focus)

What is your training time allocation? (Less time require more super-set and cutting all unnecessary exercises. What’s your essential lifts?)


Below are a few examples of training splits you can use:

Traditional training split:





3 Day Split (Push/Pull/Squat)






3 Day Split (Upper Push/Lower Push /Upper Push/Lower Pull)





3 Day Split (Upper Push/Lower Push /Hamstring/Upper Push/Lower Pull)






Bill Starr Program


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