How To Create Training Priorities

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We have talk about how we don’t just exercise at Southwest Strength to exercise, we always have purpose and we always have direction. Today I am going to explain how we create training priorities for our clients.

Creating training priorities for our clients always starts with an assessment. The assessment is very valuable in creating direction and purpose of the training program. We first meet with the client and have a lengthy conversation about themselves. Goals, training history, lifestyle, job, hobbies, etc. After having the conversation with our clients, we alway start with a movement assessment. The movement assessment is always very basic movements like the following: (these are just a few that we use)

A. Ankle Dorsiflexion Test –
B. Active Leg Raise Test –
C. Single Leg Glute Bridge, 5 rep/leg x 1 set –
D. Thoracic Extension Test –
E. Scap Pull-Up – 5-10 reps x 1 set –
F. Scap Push-Up – 5-10 reps x 1 set –

Our coaches like to look for any imbalances or problems performing the movements. For example if someone struggles to do the active leg raise test because of hamstring limitations at end range, they have no business working deadlifts in their training. The movement analysis and assessment can let the coach have an idea of where to go next in the assessment process.

In the consult goals and prior training history are talked about. We talk about experience with movements, limitations, things they like, things they dislike. After a movement analysis is done and the coach deems necessary they movement on to more specific structural balance testing.

The structural balance testing could look like this:


Level 1:

Air Squat – looking for maintenance of the torso, good range of motion in the ankles/hips – this is our staple in moving on to anything considering more complex or with added loading.

Level 2:
Relative Back Squat – client moves well in the air squat. Goal would be to be able to squat their own body weight safely and efficiently before any change of direction or added force would be added.

Level 3:

Front Squat to Back Squat Ratio: Client moves well in the back squat. Whats the percentage of difference between the Front Squat to Back Squat. A good goal is 85-90% of the back squat. If it isn’t the coach has to find out what the limitations are, this could be a potential training priority in someones training program.

Single Leg:

Level 1:

Forward Lunges – client performs these with basic movement pattern. Back knee touching the ground, front foot out in comfortable positon. Coach should look for any trouble standing up and imbalances between left and right leg..

Level 2:

Split Squats Unload – can the client perform 8 reps @ their body weight/leg.

Level 3:

Split Squats loaded – the client performed 8 reps @ BWT no problem, no the goal is to see if they can split squat roughly 33% of their body in each hand for 8 repetitions @ a tempo of 3010.

Upper Body Push:

Level 1:
Push-Up: looking for scapula mobility while client performs these. Chest only touches the ground, while hips/knees stay locked and straight.

Level 2:

Dip: can the client perform a body weight dip for 3 reps strict. Full range of motion, shoulder past the elbow.

Level 3:

Weighted Dip: now can the client perform roughly 20-33% of their body weight for a loaded strict dip?

Level 4:

Close Grip Bench – whats the max loading a client can push with their hands 16” apart from each other.

Upper Body Pull:

Level 1:

Chin Up: can the client perform 3 strict body weight pull-ups

Level 2:

Weighted Chin Up: Now what is the clients added loaded strict chin up? Good gaol is 20-30% of BWT for women and 30-40% body weight for men. Again these are very generally and definitely sport or goal specific.

Level 3:

Ratio between loaded chin up and close grip bench press: Its important to know the balance between the close grip bench press and pull-up. This can tell you the imbalance between being considered a good Upper Pusher or an Upper Puller. From here you can create priorities in their training design. I use the ratio of weighted chin-up + body weight added should be roughly 85-90% of the close grip bench.


Level 1:

Relative Deadlift: whats the ratio of their deadlift relative to their body weight. General goal for “general fitness” should be roughly 1.5x body weight for guys and 1.25 for females. This is a good starting point for people looking to gain strength and be considered healthy.

Loaded Bending: whats the ratio between deadlift and back squat or ratio of deadlift to front squat. Michael Fitzgerald has gave me a ratio based on the front squat. The deadlift should be roughly 135-150% of the front squat! This is good for competitive athletes competing in crossfit to have good structural balance.

These are some of the basic assessment pieces that I use for clients that come in and want to start training on an individual program. Its important to go through a wide range of tests and record data. If a coach looks at the big picture, its really easy to create training priorities so the client ensures progress.

The assessment is the most important aspect in terms of creating training priorities. From here you can ensure that clients are improving and becoming more structurally balanced overall. A lot of these things take time, but its reassuring to know you are working towards things you should be!


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