Programming Post-COVID

In our last blog, Ramping Up Post-COVID, we talked about the care that needs to be taken with our clients when they are allowed back into the gym. Yes, everyone will be excited but we need to remember our duty as coaches to do no harm. Rhabdo is a real concern in times like this: “familiar movement with unfamiliar intensity. In other words, people don’t get rhabdo from learning new stuff; they get rhabdo by returning to intensity after a break.”

With that said, we wanted to lay out some practical recommendations for how you can adjust and monitor your programming to keep clients safe and healthy:


Step 1: You need to be aware of what you’ve actually been programming.

Movement patterns – there are 6: squat, hinge, push, pull, carry, and rotation.

Rep counts – look at this per movement pattern and total rep volume per day, week, and month

Loading – how much less weight are people lifting right now?

Time Domains – how long have workouts been?

Environment – have your clients been working out in their homes? If your gym doesn’t have A/C, this is going to be a rude awakening for them upon returning!

Equipment – what have your clients been using to provide some external load?

Do the homework. Do the math. Don’t guess.

You need to know the answers to ALL of these questions. For ALL of your clients. Customization of your group class workout has never been more important and it just got more time consuming for all of us.


Step 2: You need to use the knowledge above to inform and influence what you do going forward. 

People have collectively experienced more novel stress these past six or so weeks than ever before. And I’m not referring to being stressed out because they couldn’t lift their precious barbells. We teach this in our First Degree course, but keep in mind that the body sees all stress the same – “stress is stress is stress.” The worst thing to pour on top of the internal stress that people are dealing with? Intensity. It’s like throwing gasoline on the cortisol bomb that their body is already being burdened with.

We’re advising against embracing the most famous Nike slogan, so ‘Just DON’T Do It.’

Remember that intensity can be expressed in a variety of ways; it’s not just a maximal lift. It could also be a lot of reps with little, or no, weights.

Of course, what constitutes “a lot” differs from person to person. With this in mind, we recommend coaches taking the reins and scaling back ALL of your typical rep counts by at least 20%. Use the information gathered from step 1 above to do this using actual data, not guesswork.

Example – Murph has 600 reps of bodyweight movements and 2 miles or running when done as prescribed, so we’d say to knock off 120 reps of movements and the run would total no more than 1.6 miles.

To clarify – NO – we are most certainly not recommending you program Murph right now.


Step 3: You have to be clear on the restrictions/mandates your local and/or state government has put on your facility. In terms of social distancing and sanitation, here are things to consider:

  • Lifting from squat racks usually invites people partnering up, so we’d say to nix this
  • Movements that encourage increasing weights each set, like anything weightlifting related, also promote an exchange of weights between members. Are you planning to sanitize every single bumper plate when it leaves one member’s hand and before it goes to another? We’d nix this type of programming too.
  • Big box stores now use arrows to delineate the flow of traffic. This is a good practice to put in place to control the ingress and egress from your facility.
  • Being outside offers more room to space people out with greater efficiency.
  • More movements in a workout, like chippers, encourage frequent back and forth in close proximity with others. So ‘Fight Gone Bad’ isn’t a good idea.


Step 4: Embrace the novelty, what people are referring to as the ‘new normal.’

The old days are not coming back and constantly hoping for that only serves to undermine the new direction you are trying to lead your tribe. Be positive, be happy, express joy in every interaction.

This is a great thing! Now you can do the things you’ve always wanted under the guise of COVID-related restrictions. Structure class how you always wish you could or would have. Talk more about ‘why’ you do the things you do at your gym. Focus on things other than movement. Like addressing their sleep, eating, and stress management. 

Speaking of movement though, this would be a great time to introduce a new one that requires a good bit of concentration, like a turkish get-up. No, don’t put those into a workout. Make this part of skill development. Work on proprioception with your clients. Explain the benefits of movements like these to their overall goals.

Perhaps you incorporate a more structured cool down session with some timed soft tissue work and static stretching.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right?


The landscape of fitness as we knew it is gone. It changed overnight, but its certainly not settled yet.

The silver lining? This is an amazing opportunity all of us coaches have been given – the chance to shine like never before by doing these things. We are on the front lines!

The time is now to take steps forward to becoming a World-Class Coach. Those are ultimately the ones that will keep their clients around long term. And when clients stay, the business remains sustainable long-term. This won’t be the last crisis we face. Let’s level up together and thrive during the next one!

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