Program Customization at Brentwood Barbell

At Brentwood Barbell, we work tirelessly to stay relevant on (1) who we serve, and (2) how to best serve them. As such, we’ve started using “personas” of our athletes. The development of these personas let us customize the training experience for our athletes so we can ultimately best serve their needs. Additionally, we’d like to set healthy foundation for membership growth, so it’s important our SOPs maximize service delivery while minimizing stress and anxiety. Furthermore, consistency in service delivery across our entire staff is important us.

Today, I wanted to take a quick look at how we “fit” our programs to new athletes. Our system involves quite a significant deal of customization. Why? Simple, our athletes continually rate “customization” high on their list of priorities when looking for a gym. We know this because we ask them often. All this considered, we don’t exactly start from scratch with every athlete that walks through our door. Here’s how we go about it.

The Intro Process

Every athlete that inquires about our gym fills out an online application / history form. This allows our staff to review the athlete’s circumstances and goals in advance of our meeting. We spend some time walking through the application with the athlete to make sure we understand exactly how to best serve them. Finally, we give our thoughts on whether or not we’re a good fit for each other.

From there, we schedule the athlete for 3 private coaching sessions with a coach. These sessions are our first opportunity to get the athlete on the platform and assess their current skill / strength levels with the basic barbell lifts (squat, bench press, overhead press, and deadlift). During these sessions we will also examine baseline cardiorespiratory fitness and body composition. All of this data will be compiled into a 90 day program specifically designed for the athlete’s circumstances, goals, and fitness level. At the culmination of this intro process, the athlete then decides which coaching service best fits him/her:

  • Group Coaching
  • Private Coaching
  • Remote Coaching
  • Hybrid (some combination of the above 3 secenarios)
(making sure the athlete understands the program is vital to achieving success)

Template & Program Design

In order to effectively deliver quality programming and not have to start from scratch with EVERY athlete, we have developed program templates. These templates are generically designed to support a goal or gym persona. Much of the program is laid out, making adjustments to exercise selection, reps, RPEs, and volume very easy for the staff. Each of our programs culminate in “end of quarter testing”, something we started this year with rave reviews.

A Few Sample Templates

  • Beginner Templates (ideal for those who are new or returning from a long lay-off)
  • Powerlifting (ideal for those wanting to optimize squat, bench, and deadlift specific strength)
  • Strengthlifting (ideal for those wanting to optimize squat, press, deadlift specific strength)
  • Strength & Conditioning (ideal for those that want general strength increases through a broader range of exercise selection)
  • Endurance (ideal for those that strength train in support of their endurance goals)
  • Power Athlete (ideal for those that strength train in support of sport performance)
  • Powerbuilding (ideal for those that are seeking to get jacked, gain a lot of muscle)

Once we have met with an athlete, we place them in a gym persona description box. From there, our coaches can easily examine the program templates above and resources we have available to use with that athlete. Let’s look at a concrete example.

Sarah, a 42 year old mother of 3 wants to “get back into shape”. She’d like to lose about 15 to 20 lbs., feel better when chasing her kids, and increase her strength. She is not particular about her strength increases (her deadlift or bench strength for example) but does state that “she’s never done a pull up”.

During the Intro process, it is determined that Sarah will utilize the following exercises as her “primary” lifts. Additionally, she can train with us at the gym 3 x per week (T/F/S).

  • Parallel Box Squat (she has some knee pain when squatting lower than this)
  • Conventional Deadlift
  • Bench Press
  • Overhead Press

Sample “Beginner” Program

Day 1

  • Box Squat 4 reps @6, 4 reps @7, 4 reps @8 x 2 sets
  • 1sec. Pause Bench Press 4 reps @6, 4 reps @7, 4 reps @8 x 3 sets
  • Conventional Deadlift 7 reps @6, 7 reps @7, 7 reps @8

Day 2

  • Conventional Deadlift 4 reps @6, 4 reps @7, 4 reps
  • Overhead Press 4 reps @6, 4 reps @7, 4 reps @8 x 3 sets
  • Box Squat 7 reps @6, 7 reps @7, 7 reps @8 x 2 sets

Day 3

  • Lat Pull Down 6-10 reps @8 x 3 sets
  • Barbell Curl 6-10 reps @8 x 3 sets
  • Plank Hold 30s on / 30s off x 5 sets
  • Sled Drag / Rower / Incline Treadmill Walking x 20 min @7

As you can see, we’ve given Sarah a hefty dose of basic barbell training exercises. Why? Because time is money and the most effective thing we can do for her in the short term is to increase her general strength using squats, presses, and pulls. We’ve also dedicated a single session per week to slightly higher repetitions (something she would see more of over time) along w/ some basic cardiorespiratory training. Eventually, we would incorporate more rep ranges, exercise variations, and sprint conditioning but this would happen as Sarah effectively tolerated the current stimulus.

Additional resources for Sarah might include our Simple Eating Plan along with ready made meals from Glia Eats (check them out if you haven’t already). All of these components would help Sarah methodically work toward her goals:

  • Feel Better (most folks who move more report decreased pain frequency / severity)
  • Lose 20 lbs. (proper nutrition for wt. loss education, and easy meals to have on hand)
  • Increase Strength (squats presses and pulls are the foundation, these will lead to increased chinning strength)
learning to squat sets a foundation for life-long increases in strength

On a macro level, we have started the training process with Sarah from a very general point and this is appropriate as her goals at this time are fairly general. Over time, we would expect Sarah’s goals to narrow as she becomes more “invested” in the training process.

What we have done is started with our basic “Beginner” Template and made a few adjustments (training frequency and exercise selection) and added in some additional resources that will likely be helpful for her in the long run (Simple Eating Plan and Glia Meals). As we continue working with Sarah, we’d likely work to develop her understanding of in the following key areas:

  • Proper protein intake
  • Proper macro-based nutrition to achieve body composition goals
  • The importance of training consistency
  • The importance of basic strength and its transference capacity
  • RPE and what to do when “the weight is down”

Eventually, Sarah would have a fantastic understanding of the training process and how to maintain / exceed her strength, health, and composition goals but this would take some time. The pace at which we work with Sarah would be determined by her resources available (how often she can train, what other things she has going on in her life, how difficult or lofty her goals are, etc.). The important idea, from a coaching perspective, is that Sarah would be set up to make progress or “gainzZz” for the long haul.

As Sarah becomes more and more “trained”, she would likely move from one template to the next as her goals, resources, and circumstances changed. This “customized template” approach allows our coaches to quickly and effectively meet Sarah’s changing needs as an athlete. While the template idea was not ours, we have used it with some success here at Brentwood Barbell. Our athletes hare having more fun than ever while continuing to increase their strength!

In Summary

When looking for a new gym, decide what your goals are and how you think you might best be able to achieve them. At Brentwood Barbell, we prioritize athlete education in the areas of (1) strength training, (2) lifting competency, (3) autoregulation of training, and (3) program customization to help athletes efficiently reach their goals. If these seem interesting to you and you’re looking for a gym, go ahead and fill out our Coaching Application, we’d love to talk with you about how we might be able to help.

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Good Luck w/ your Training Friends!

James Harris, MPT

Owner, Physical Therapist