Top Program Design Resources

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Q. Hey Tony, what do you feel are the best resources out there when it comes to strength/hypertrophy training with regards to program design? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

A: I probably get one of these emails once a week from upcoming trainers and strength coaches. As it is, I see a lot of other well known and respected (why not, I’ll throw myself into the same mix) coaches tossing out their top lists on stuff, so I figured I might as well throw my two cents in as well.

I’m going to get to the books/DVDs in a second, but first I just wanted to give some props to people who are a lot smarter than myself who consistently put out top notch content every day. To me, blogs, articles, etc have a bit more face value since they’re relevant to what’s happening now.

Books on the other hand, can oftentimes take 1-2 years to come out. By the time the author does the research, writes the book, goes through revisions/copy-editing, wants to drop kick their publisher into a volcano, and finally witnesses a consumer actually holding a copy in his or her’s hand, the information could actually be out-dated.

As such, you never have this issue with blogs and articles. The idea or concept is what they’re thinking about today, not 2008.

In any case, here are some of the blogs that I read on a daily basis:

Eric Cressey

Brian St. Pierre

Mike Robertson

Bret Contreras

Nick Tumminello

Alwyn Cosgrove

Leigh Peele

Cassandra Forsythe

Bill Hartman

Mark Young

Carson Boddicker

Jen Sinkler

Mike Reinold

And a few others that I’m probably forgetting at the moment. Needless to say, just reading those alone will pay huge dividends in terms of the quality of information you’ll read, which will undoubtedly make you more proficient at program design.

Additionally, websites like,, as well as (albeit, there’s a fee) are awesome sources of information and will expose you to a plethora of different topics ranging from program design, corrective exercise, functional anatomy, and how to make girls want to hang out with you.

Nevertheless, below are a few of the top resources I often recommend when it comes to program design for strength/hypertrophy

MIke Boyle’s Functional Strength Coach Series – you’d be hard pressed to find any product(s) more thorough on program design than these.

While Volume III is the most recent and up-to-date, Mike’s earlier installments (ONE and TWO) are just as valuable now as they were when they first came out. What’s equally impressive is the fact that between volume II (which was taped in 2006) and volume III (which was taped in 2009), you can see me in the background and notice just how more “gunny” I’ve gotten as the years have passed.

Advances in Functional Training – Mike Boyle

Again, Mike is the Jedi-master when it comes to program design. This book is easily one of the best I’ve read in the past three years. The sports hernia section alone is well worth the price.

Gray Cook is One Smart Mofo – as far as DVDs are concerned, Gray’s “Secrets” series:

Secrets of the Shoulder

Secrets of Core Training

Secrets of the Hips and Knee

Primitive Patterns

…are some of the most comprehensive around in terms of assessment, corrective exercise, as well as showcasing progressions one can follow. If I had to choose, I’d pick the hips and knees – but that’s only because I have the knees of a 70 year old man.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – David Eggers

One of the most poignant and funny memoirs I have ever read. It’s awesome, just read it.

No-Bull Muscle Building Plan – Kelly Baggett

I know he’s not quite as well known as many of the others I’ve mentioned above, but Kelly has written a lot of phenomenal stuff throughout the years, and this is one his best.

Essentials of Strength and Conditioning – my “Captain Obvious” choice of the bunch, this book should be a staple on anyone’s book shelf who’s considering training athletes.

Assess and Correct – Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson, Bill Hartman

You can’t say the term “program design” without first talking about assessment. Having the ability to assess someone and to better ascertain what it is they need to work on from a postural/movement quality standpoint is crucial.

You need to learn to add/subtract before you learn division, right? Well, the same can be said about program design. You need to know how the body functions and have a fairly good grasp on functional anatomy before you start haphazardly writing programs.

Muscles: Testing and Function, with Posture and Pain – Kendall and Kendall

Granted, you may have to read the same page 17 times before you understand it; but again, having a better understanding of how the body works will definitely help you become more proficient at designing programs on an individuals to individual basis.

Yeah, yeah, yeah….I’m sure I’ve left a lot of good books/DVDs off the list. Relax! This isn’t an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination, but I feel it’s a great starting point for anyone looking to expand their fitness library. By all means, though, feel free to share your thoughts/recommendations below in the comments section!

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