PT on the Net Research

Program Design: A Themed Workout

Think about a client you’ve had for awhile.  You started with a thorough assessment, designed an initial program, and are constantly cycling through the variables you and the client have agreed to as being important in this program.  You and she both feel the program is progressing effectively and safely.  Now what? 

When it comes to designing a specific workout within the bigger picture of program design, we can approach it from different perspectives.  I would like to offer “themed” workouts as one option.  A themed workout is one that:

Additional considerations:

Let’s look at three examples of a themed workout...​

Theme 1: Glutes/Butt

Let’s assume for this example that the client has asked about the new small studios in the neighborhood offering “barre” style workouts.  She has heard from friends that their butts feel lifted after taking the workout.  Since you feel glute/butt work is important for this client (and you do address it the program), you have a perfect opportunity to design this themed workout.  Here then, is the thought process:

Step 1:

Step 2:

Step 3:

The next step is to design the workout so that we still address other program components as well.  For example, we can decide to use cables or bands, the VIPR, and a stability ball in addition to dumbbells in today’s routine to also address upper body, and balance.  The idea is to use the hips, glutes, butt muscles in most of the exercise choices in this one workout:

Circuit 1

Lunge and row/cable or band

Lunge and press/cable or band


Bridges on stability ball

Discs on floor

Alternating reverse flys/dumbbells


Repeat circuit


Circuit 2

Lateral lunge and diagonal lift


Single leg deadlifts, bicep curl/overhead press/dumbbells


Single leg bridges/head and shoulders on stability ball

Dead lift/straight arm pulldown/cable

Single leg balance/reach

Repeat circuit

Theme 2: Basketball Player Workout

This workout is perfect for the client who reminisces about the good ol’ days when she did sports in college.  She has general fitness goals, and enjoys the workouts that include agility drills.

So if we are thinking about a basketball-themed workout, some of the components we could incorporate include:

If there is a basket, or a court available, we can add:

After brainstorming about the basketball-style components that we want to use in our workout, we need to decide how to set up these variables with the others that we want for this specific client.

For example, this client also needs:

Using the basketball components, here is what a workout could look like:

Theme Three: Core Integrity Relative to Something Else

Trainers and clients ask me why they have difficulty doing a certain exercise, or achieving/maintaining a posture or position in yoga for example.  In my experience, many times it is a matter of core integrity relative to something else.  By that I mean is-does your core have to kick in while you are lying on your back, holding your arms and legs up, as in a dead bug exercise?  Or do you need core integrity relative to upper body strength as in a push up? 

Let’s assume this scenario:​

Our client says she has difficulty in yoga class, when doing a low lunge.  We ask her to do the movement while we observe, and articulate exactly what she feels:

In this themed, full body workout, we will include movements, postures, and exercises that require her to address these components:

To address core integrity relative to shoulder mobility:

To address core integrity relative to hip mobility:

To work on strengthening the posterior chain, while lengthening the anterior, we can make a small tweak to a traditional prone exercise, i.e. lifting up opposite arm and leg:

In these themed workouts, we can still cycle through traditional variables if it makes sense for this specific exercise choice.  These include, but are not limited to:

In Summary, a themed workout: