Flux Programming: How to Program for Your Lifestyle
In Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new book, “Total Recall,” he recounted the days when he would train 5-6 hours each day in preparation for his bodybuilding competitions. And for him, that amount of time was justified, was able to be budgeted in his incredibly busy days, and in the end proved to be worth it as he stood on stage winning six consecutive years at the Mr. Olympia.
Of course, I am not saying that you, or anyone that just wants to be lean or, “look good naked,” needs to follow such an intense training regimen, but it did get me thinking about how we as coaches and trainers budget peoples training session.
The round number that many in the fitness industry has settled on for how long people should train is 60 minutes. We say, “All we need from you is 3 hours a week to get you the body you want” (within reason). But what about for some of you out there that are not working with a coach or trainer and are a little more flexible with your gym time. That is where Flux Programming comes in.
(Not just for time travel)
Flux Programming is the ultimate program design template. If you have 30 minutes, this training regimen can work. Do you have two hours? Great, it works for you too. This is how I have setup my programming for the last few months and in that time I have seen some great results in strength and body composition. Flux Programming has 3 Main Parts. Let’s take some time to go over each one.
1. The Must
The, “Must” section consists of lifts for the day I must complete. These are your main, bang for your buck, multijoint lifts. For me, my menu of, “Must” lifts consists of:
- Warm Up (focus on the main body parts and movement patterns you will be utilizing that day)
- 5 Minutes foam rolling
- 5 minutes stretching
- 5 minutes activation
- Olympic Lifts
- Hang Clean
- DB Snatch
- KB Swing (fits best in this category for my uses)
- Upper Body Push
- DB Bench Press (or other DB Bench Variation)
- Alternating DB Bench Press
- Weighted Push Ups
- Hand Suspended Push Ups (TRX)
- Upper Body Pull
- Chin Ups (grip varies)
- 1-Arm DB Row
- TRX Row
(a great pull up variation. Thanks ex-girlfriend for not being able to keep the camera steady…)
- Hip Dominant
- Trap bar Deadlift
- Single Legged Deadlift
- Knee Dominant
- Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat
- Reverse Lunge with Deficit
- Goblet Squat
- Front Squat
- Sled Push/Pulls
You might have a few different lifts in your, “Must” section, but these are the ones I have come to love and been the most effective for me. Also, it might stand out that there are no barbell bench press variations, back squat variations, or something else that you think is blasphemous for being left out. Again, different strokes for different folks on this one. I still think the barbell bench is a great lift, my pecs just don’t like it so much with the amount of time I have to work at the desk these days.
From that above list, I will chose 1-2 lifts for each of my 4 days I spend lifting each week. It could look something like this:
- Monday: Trapbar Deadlift
- Tuesday: Alternating DB Bench
- Thursday: Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat
- Friday: Sled Pushs
- Saturday: Shoulder Width Pronated Grip Chin Ups
Those are the lifts that I will, unless ill or injured, accomplish those days. The next logical question you will have is, “what about the reps?”
These “Must” lifts will follow this guide:
- Sets: 3-8
- Reps: 3-10
That leaves a big playing field and modification based on the time I have during the day. Ideally, I will fall between 24-30 reps for that main lift. It could be 6×4, 4×6, 10×3, 8×3, 3×10, 5×5, etc. They all work but can have a different training effect based on how you recover, your, “training age,” and other variables. No matter what it is, I make note of how I felt and how the weight moved on that day. You may find your body reacts better from 3×8, others may be 8×3. It really depends on training age and how fast you are able to recover from session to session. But, as I mentioned, if I have some more time to dedicate to lifting in a particular day, I will gladly do 7×5 and take care with how I progress the loading as to stay fresh throughout all sets.
(make sure you keep track of sets completed on a white board or training log. Also feels good to see what you accomplished that training session)
2. The Maybe
The Maybe section is for those lifts that do not give you the same bang for your buck that the, “Must” lifts give you, although there is some grey area and possible disagreements with what I put in this category. Like I mentioned before, based on your goals, sport, or equipment available, your list might be different.
I separate these into Upper, Lower, and Core subcategories and plug in where applicable.
- Upper Body
- Cable X Pull Downs
- 1-Arm TRX Row
- 1-Arm Half Kneeing Cable Row
- Chest Supported DB Row
- Rainbow Pushups (some call these hand switch push ups, basically a shoulder/scap stability drill)
- Seated Cable Row (I have no real seated cable row but will use a Kaiser station sometimes to mimic it)
- 1-Arm Overhead press
- 2 Arm Overhead Press
- Military Press (used sparingly and I go light)
- Lower Body
- Walking Lunges
- Reverse Lunges
- Reverse Lunge to Forward Lunge
- Single Legged Squat
- Slideboard Leg Curl (and 1-leg variation)
- Glute Ham Raise (again, I don’t have a real GHR, so I have to do a modified version of these)
- Hip Lifts
- Antirotation (Pallof) Press
- Cable Chops/Lifts
- Plank Variations
- Farmer Caries
If we are still using the 60-minute lift as our gold standard, you should be able to get in 4-6 sets of 3-6 movements on the, “Maybe” list depending on how you setup the set/rep scheme of the, “Must” lift.
Here are two examples:
- 1A) Chin Ups 8×5
- 1B) TRX Push Up 5×10
- 1C) Moblity Work (2 movements 4 sets each as active recovery)
(THIS SHOULD TAKE 25-30 MINUTES MAX IF YOU STAY ON TASK)
- 2A) 1-Arm Overhead Press 3×8/SIDE
- 2B) 1-Arm Cable Row 3×10/SIDE
- 3B) Ab Wheel Rollout 3×15
Now there is another 15 minutes of work. Allowing for 15 minutes left to spend on warm up and conditioning
Full Body Training
- 1A) Chin Ups 5×5
- 1B) Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats 5×5
- 1C) Box Hip Flexor Stretch 3x20s/side
(This will be a little more taxing with the RFESSs, so we will budget 35 minutes)
- 2A) Single Legged Deadlift 3×8/side
- 2B) Push Up Variation 3×12
- 2C) Ab Wheel Rollout 3×15
That should be about 15 minutes, leaving you 10 minutes to warmup. Conditioning could be part of the training with you limiting your rest periods in between sets.
If you only have 30 minutes, you can still get in 8-10 sets of lifting after a 10 minute warm up. Plenty of time to get in the, “Must” lifts.
3. The Extra
The, “Extra List” is exactly how it sounds. If you have extra time, this is where the, “Extra” list comes in. It consists of some more specific lifts to work on particular flaws in your movement patterns, mirror muscles, and conditioning. Some people will say I am being completely stupid for putting conditioning in this list, hear me out before you tell all your friends on Facebook. I fit in conditioning where ever I can when I am busy. Have some free time Sunday morning and it is nice out? I will head down to the high school field and run some sprints. Have a tv show I want to catch up on? I will throw the Airdyne in front of the TV and do a 5, 8, or 10 mile timed ride. I do consider sled work to be crucial for lower body power development and maintaining my cardiovascular health. That is why it is in the, “Must” list.
- Hammer Curls (you know, for grip work)
- EZ Bar Curls
- Tricep Extensions
- Distance Conditioning
- Bonus Mobility Work
- I am a believer in being great at a few lifts (opposite of the, “Jack of all Trades. Master of none” saying). Some people might get bored with the same lifts from week to week, but you can implement variations of a lift to keep things fresh. Think about implementing dynamic effort work, eccentrics, isometrics, range of motion modifications (like floor presses), etc.
- Don’t forget about your goal. The setup of the Flux Program will vary based on your goal. If you want to focus on strength or hypertrophy budget some extra time for rest in between sets. Shorten the rest periods to make it more like a metabolic lift.
- Have fun. If you are not having fun while training, you are not going to want to train. Throw in some fun exercises like, “Workin’ on tha Ahmms.”
- You don’t have to live in the gym, but if you want to spend more time in it, that does not make you a bad person. If you have 2 hours to train and you want to be in the gym that long, who am I to say you are wasting your time. I do not know your goals, your current state, and what else you have going on in life. If you are working hard and enjoying life, you are doing it right.
Hopefully I am getting my point across. If Arnold could find 5-6 hours a day to train while taking college courses, acting lessons, speech lessons, working construction, training clients, being a landlord, and selling his own line of lifting products out of his apartment, you can find time to get in 2-30 minute training sessions in each week.
Maybe life isn’t crazy right now and you have your mind set on some physique or strength goals. Flux your program to take advantage of that time and get stronger, more symmetrical with your lifts, more mobile, leaner, faster, bigger, whatever. If you need anything or have questions hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.