Training Program Design Fundamentals


This article was created to help you understanding the “why and when” involved in creating your own training program.  All too often, gym goers do what they know and leave it at that due to reasons such as confusion, not knowing where to find trusted information that will work for them or the feeling of overwhelm due to how much content there is out there.  Seriously, I mean where does one even begin?  Not to mention wondering which trainer to trust and hoping that the money spent (which is a luxury expense for some) will create a worthwhile return.  To anyone who can relate to these points, I feel you, I see you and I’m here to happily explain the nuts and bolts of a training program built for YOU.

In this article, I will explain:

• Why you would combine certain body parts together.
• Educate you on major muscle groups and their assistor muscles.
• Help you decide if an all body workout is better for you than isolation days and will explain the different benefits between these two strategies.
• Depending on your goals (power type strength, muscle building and strength or simply toning), you will now know the importance behind the amount of reps you would choose per set along with the reason for suggested rest periods.

Such foundational rules are so commonly unknown preventing even a very active person from the results they truly want; where one can become “the groundhog day” gym member (new day no change).  Don’t get me wrong, you definitely get an A for effort (since showing up is half the battle) but you need to know you CANNOT skip “this chapter of understanding” if you want to train on your own and receive best results for the time you have been investing.  Ready…set….GO (or for the sake of this article;  KNOW)!


Primary muscles are just that, the main muscles being worked.  Assistors are the smaller muscles associated with the primary muscle’s movement.  Two primary muscle examples for upper body are back and chest.   The assistors are the smaller arms muscles that help during most back and chest exercises.  Now visualize any chest muscle exercise where you are pushing at the point of force.  When you push for your chest contraction, your arms extend (straighten).  Anytime this arm extension occurs your triceps (the back of the arm) is contracting and being worked to create this movement. Although your arm needs to straighten through the help of the triceps, your primary muscle is your pectoral (chest) muscle doing most of the work, hence the triceps being titled the “assistor”.  Your triceps are your chest muscles sidekick.  The same concept goes for back exercises.  When you contract your back muscle your arms bend.  Whenever you go from a straight arm to bent, you are working your biceps.  Your back is Batman and biceps are Robin.  I find it best to perform exercises for the primary muscle in addition to exercises for the assistors on the same day or give the assistors a break before dedicating a day solely to them. I’ll explain more of that below.  For now remember:

• Primary: Back    / Assistor Muscle:  Biceps
• Primary: Chest   / Assistor Muscle:  Triceps


A good rule of thumb is to train your lower body muscles (glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves) on the same day or ensure proper recovery time for any of these muscles if you are deciding to isolate them on a given training day.   Simply put, if a body part you trained a day or so before is extremely tight or still sore, you do not want to train a muscle connected to it just yet.  For example, if you had a back training day and your lower back is tight and sore, it is not a good idea to push too hard with any exercises involving the glutes (even though technically it was back day not lower body day the day before).  Believe it or not your lower back does ask as an assistor.  Another example (focusing strictly on lower body) would be to avoid training glutes on Tuesday if you decided to train hamstrings on Monday since your hamstrings would be assisting glutes the day prior.  Avoiding this would provide proper rest to the muscle trained on Monday.   If it’s connected it’s affected!


When considering rest time for recovery of muscle breakdown, it’s best to avoid training the same muscles two days in a row, especially if you are aiming for muscle development/growth.   Let a trained muscle group rest a minimum of 48 hours.  The heavier you go may require more rest days for recovery.  Give the associated muscles and assistors a rest!  After all Robin can perform best on his big day solo when rested the day before; not running around helping Batman the day before then showing up tired.  Rested, recovered and ready to go is always better than spent or fueled on a half of a tank of potential.

Isolation Workout Suggestion:

• Sunday: back (biceps as assistors)
• Monday: legs
• Tuesday: chest (triceps as assistors)
• Wednesday: biceps and abs
• Thursday: cardio
• Friday: triceps and shoulders
• Saturday: rest and/or cardio

Full Body Workout Suggestion:

• Sunday: full body workout
• Monday: cardio
• Tuesday: full body Workout
• Wednesday: cardio
• Thursday: full body Workout
• Friday: cardio
•Saturday: rest

Full body workout days can be great if you just want to tone and have little time.  Quick circuit training can keep you moving without getting too detailed or bored.   You can always repeat daily, however if you have signs of soreness it’s best to rest in order to recover.  Tip:  Protein consumption and BCAA’s help reduce recovery time greatly!


• Power = under 6 reps
• Muscle Building and size = 8-12 reps
• Toning= 15 reps and above

The key is to know your purpose, choose the weight and if you don’t feel a good lactic acid burn by the 2nd set, increase your weight (as long as your form isn’t compromised)


As this is the end of my article providing you a foundational understanding on being your own guide with better clarity on what direction to go in for your goals, I hope it’s just the beginning to your more effective training journey!

About the Author: Laura Coleman

Laura Coleman is the ultimate fitness as a lifestyle enthusiast, touching just about every aspect of the fitness industry. Part of her experience ranges from fitness trainer, NPC figure competitor, Muscle Beach Classic judge, print model, and writer. She also has 12 years experience in nutritional supplement B2B sales, promoting sports nutrition, vitamin and mineral supplements.

Fun fact: She has even had the pleasure of being Ralph Dehaan’s photography assistant during extended lunch breaks in her early years where she’d hop in and be the fitness girl on the bodybuilder’s shoulder one minute while helping Ralph adjust lighting another. Can anyone say, hustler 

She’s been featured several times in Oxygen Fitness Magazine, is the proud face of the Labrada Nutrition Lean Body for Her Protein Box, and is a common face for several HOIST Fitness Systems campaigns.

With 15 years of deep industry experience, Laura is excited to be back and active with the Labrada family through social media and writing. With a world wind of experience, there’s something beautiful about ending up right where she began 15 years ago. She is beyond excited to join Labrada in carrying the message of not just fitness, but TRUE WELLNESS AND SELF KINDNESS. Stay tuned as she continues to make her mark in the industry as a resource of knowledge but most importantly comfort and trust.

Follow Laura on Instagram @laurapcoleman

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.