We know how to organize our long-term plan, monthly plan, and weekly plan. Now it is time to discuss the key concepts of daily planning. Every workout should begin with a warm-up, move into a main set (the meat and potatoes of the workout as I call it), continue with auxiliary movements, and end with a cool-down. We’ll outline the importance and ideal structure of each category.
The warm-up is critical to raising our core body temperature, lubricating the joints, increasing the elasticity and responsiveness of the muscles, and priming the neuromuscular system. All of these benefits may reduce the incidence of injury, and optimize performance in the ensuing workout. Within the warm-up there should be general and specific movements. General warm-up movement examples include easy jogging, skipping, cycling, or rowing. Specific warm-up movement examples include dynamic stretches that mimic ensuing exercises, build-up sprints, light barbell exercises, or any submaximal effort for an ensuing exercise. Don’t overdo the warm-up. Once you’re heated up, the joints and muscles are mobilized, and you’ve performed a few submaximal activities, it is time to move into your main set.
The main set encompasses the one or two most important activities of your workout. In the gym, this may be a power clean, snatch, or squat. On the track it may be your sprints, plyometrics, or interval runs. The movements selected for the main set must be extremely purposeful toward your goals, and offer a maximal reward of improved performance for your efforts put toward them. What you accomplish in this category of the workout has everything to do with the overall success of your training plan. Leave the low-stress exercises and activities out of the main set. They can be included afterwards as auxiliary movements.
Auxiliary work is any activity, exercise, or movement that supplements your main set training to help you achieve your desired goal. While main set training tends to be very specific, auxiliary training may be more general. In this category you can include less-taxing exercises, isolation movements, corrective exercise, or anything that may help you reach your goal in a supplementary role. On the track, an example auxiliary movement may be moderately paced striders following an intensive sprint workout to increase training volume and general conditioning. When the main set and auxiliary work is completed it is time to cool-down.
A proper cool-down can help to clear metabolic waste, calm the nervous system, safely decrease respiration and heart rate, or serve as a great time to address flexibility needs. The cool-down should be a very low-stress time of the workout. A slow jog, slow cycling, static stretching, or foam rolling are all good choices. If improving flexibility is important, the cool-down period is the optimal time to address this need.
Get your body ready to train in the warm-up. Train the important stuff in the main set. Add a few supplemental tasks in the auxiliary category, help your body unwind with a low-stress cool-down.
Next up in the Getting Started Series, Part 7- Exercise Selection