What Planning For a Dinner Party Can Tell You About Program Design

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It’s not lost on me that not many people are having dinner parties of late.

World pandemic and all…😒

For the past year the closest my wife and I have gotten to a bonafide dinner party is ordering take-out every Saturday night with our 4-year old, and then sitting at the table with his army of super hero action figures.

Excuse me Hulk, can you pass the garlic sauce?

That said, here in the States we’re inching ever so closer to some semblance of normalcy and my wife and I are beginning to make plans with friends for get togethers in several weeks.

And it got me thinking…

…planning for dinner parties is very much analogous to writing competent training programs.

Copyright: Cathy Yeulet

What Planning for a Dinner Party Can Tell You About Program Design

No surprise, there’s a lot to consider and plan for when constructing a classy dinner party:

  • Picking the perfect Canva template for the invitations.
  • Should you get catering or will this be a self-culinary event?
  • What kind of playlist for background music?
  • Should there be any board games involved?1
  • Finally, and I’m just spitballing here, but what about maybe requiring a password to enter? We could go all Eyes Wide Shut and make things weird:

Annnd, Get Me the Fuck Outta Here


All of the above are important things to ponder.2

(Don’t you dare forget about the cheese board).

Above all else, of course, would be ensuring your place is spic and span for your guests.

Think about it this way: If you’re planning on having guests over for dinner, and you need to tiddy up the place, where are you going to concentrate your efforts?

  • Vacuuming the floors?
  • Dusting?
  • Cleaning (and putting away) all the dirty dishes in the sink?
  • Making sure there isn’t any dirty laundry laying around?
  • Fluffing the pillows on the couch?
  • Lighting a few scented candles for some added ambiance, perhaps?

Those all sound like winners to me.

You’re likely not going to focus on iron pressing your ties, scrubbing down the shower, or, I don’t know, organizing your spice rack alphabetically.

The point is: You’re going to focus on the “big rocks” and save the superfluous, extraneous minutiae for another time.

By comparison, when working with a personal training client and you only have, if you’re lucky, two, maybe three hours per week with them, what should be the priority with regards to their training program?

More globally, what THEMES should be emphasized to help him or her make long-term progress that sticks?

NOTE: The answer to both questions can (and should) be dictated by one’s goal(s), injury history, and ability level (to name a few)…

…but let’s briefly take fat-loss as an example.

Speaking for myself, if a client of mine expresses interest in focusing on fat-loss, from a programming standpoint I’m going to concentrate my efforts toward the BIG ROCKS:

1️⃣ Discuss Strategies to Promote a Caloric Deficit

I’d rather jump into a shark’s mouth than go down the rabbit hole of discussing calories here.

There’s a myriad of things to consider and take into account:

  • Lifestyle
  • Social Support
  • Medical History
  • Favorite Color
  • Socioeconomic Considerations
  • Food Likes and Dislikes
  • One’s “Relationship” With Food
  • And Other Psychological Factors

Instead I’ll just direct you toward people like Andy Morgan, Sohee Lee, and Dr. Spencer Nadolsky who are more authorities on this topic than I.

Needless to say…if fat loss is the goal, a caloric deficit needs to happen in some fashion.

2️⃣ Strength Training

Sure, we can have a discussion on the efficacy of utilizing approaches such as supersets, compound sets, intervals, finishers, circuits, AMRAP sets, and so on and so forth to help promote more metabolic type training.

However, for me, I’m still going to have my client lift appreciable weight to “remind” the body to keep as much muscle as possible during a caloric deficit, which means I’ll still emphasize compound movements such as deadlifts, squats, rows, and various presses in order to hit as many muscle groups as possible in a minimal amount of time.

Seems pretty logical, right?

Again, if I only have a limited number of hours per week with a client, I’m going to use that time as efficiently as possible.

Why, then, would having your client perform 15 lb. standing tricep extensions followed by 1-legged lateral raises while standing on a wobble board even enter the equation?

Sadly, I see this type of programming a lot.

Going back to the dinner party analogy, that’s akin to me vacuuming the insides of my shoes in the in the bedroom closet.  It makes absolutely no sense!

Stop Majoring in the Minors

Far too often I see trainers focus on the minor, sweating the details to the detriment of actually giving their clients lasting results.

When you think about it, it’s the Pareto Principle to a T.

“80% of your results are going to come from 20% of the work.”

My good friend, Bryan Krahn, said it about as succinctly as possible recently:

As far as GLOBAL themes are concerned (the stuff that most people would bode well following), you’d be hard pressed to do any better.

(Maybe add some bicep curls?…haha)

I am by no means suggesting I know the best way to train every client – particularly yours.

All I’m saying is that when it comes to program design – and by default, exercise selection – trainers need to take it upon themselves to think critically and ask: “is this really going to get my client the best results in the quickest, most time efficient way possible?”

If not, then start over.

Now, excuse me while I go organize my He-Man underoos.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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  1. For the love of god, please, NO. I’d rather give myself 47 paper cuts on my tongue

  2. Except the group sex part. Just want to be clear I was only joking. Kinda. No, really, I AM joking…😶

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