Creating EFFECTIVE Workouts!

Effective workouts are those that produce results. Last week we discussed the nuances of personalizing your training to best fit your body and goals. Now we are going to explore some ways in which you can assemble your workouts for your best outcomes.

We’re going to examine 6 areas in workout design. They are as follows:

  • Warmup
  • Types of Training
  • Primacy
  • Recency
  • Cooldown
  • Fitness Makers versus Fillers


Some people don’t like the term — but whatever you call it — the warmup is the preparatory phase. It’s when we are transitioning from a resting or non-training status to the primary focus of the session. The warmup is often defined by terms such as priming, cueing, activating, readying…etc. There is a physiological occurrence which includes an increase in tissue temperature and collagen extensibility. We also experience a neurological effect which strengthens the recruitment of specific motor patterns from the central nervous system. And there is a psychological component of warmup in which we become intentional and purpose-driven. Proper warmups move from general to specific and they are as brief as possible…while being as long as necessary. This ensures an ideal state of readiness to train.

Types of Training

Let’s do a quick review of the 5 types of training and their emphases. These are the things we are ordering and emphasizing in workout design.

  • Mobility-Stability Training (MOSTAT): fosters agility.
  • Low Intensity Steady-state Training (LIST): builds aerobic endurance.
  • Resistance and Strength Training (RAST): develops hypertrophy and strength.
  • High Intensity Repetition Training (HIRT): creates anaerobic/muscular power.
  • Maximum Velocity Extended Rest Training (MVERT): delivers speed.

Most workouts will have 2-3 of these components, but probably not all 5 in any one session (waters down the effect). The sport or goal will drive what goes into the session. For example, a bodybuilder will focus on RAST and a marathoner on LIST.


In the context of training, primacy simply means to put what matters most…FIRST (following adequate warmup). The parameter you are trying/needing to develop, or the greatest demand in your sport if applicable, should happen early in the workout when you are fresh and can invest maximally. This is absolutely essential for best results. Doing your most important thing when your CNS or muscles are tired/depleted won’t yield as much adaptation. A sprinter should always work on speed initially; a lifter on strength; or an endurance athlete on aerobic conditioning. We should not only make our primary objective the firstest, we should also make it the mostest (% of time/energy contribution) in a workout.


Your brain and body remember best what you did last (most recent). This is true for both cognitive and motor learning/skill acquisition. The latter portion of the workout is the place to work on a secondary component, particularly if this involves motor skill refinement or mental conditioning. A basketball player might work on free throws; a swimmer on dryland training; a distance runner on fast strides (teaching the body and brain to switch mechanics and gears and learn to sprint when tired.)


I like to think of the cooldown as the exit interview. It’s when we bring the body back down toward rest. The sooner we return to a parasympathetic nervous system state, the sooner the gains and recovery start happening. Brief, light mobility work with active movements is excellent. This allows for a chance to do a systems check and assess any tight spots. We can also get a feel for how the body was initially impacted by the training session. But keep in mind, you won’t know the full extent of this until the next morning because post-workout elevation in certain hormones and neurotransmitters like dopamine, adrenaline, and cortisol will inhibit that assessment. Static stretching is actually one of the most overrated wastes of time in training, BUT, it often gives time to do the above, and also to convene/converse with the coach or team. This is incredibly valuable. However, It’s not necessarily the stretching in and of itself that is most important. It’s the opportunity for fellowship or self reflection. For this reason I usually include some static stretching in most of my athlete’s cooldowns. They like it and perceive benefits, so I don’t fight it. 

Fitness Makers versus Fillers

Most of what we described above is a FITNESS MAKER, a focused session with strong stimulus to drive adaptation…but we can’t do this everyday. FILLER is recovery training. It’s what you do until you can perform the next fitness maker episode. Usually, recovery training involves shorter, easier sessions with lots of mobility work, but not always. It depends on the sport and athlete. As long as workload is not excessive, high intensity can be done frequently to cue the system if duration is kept low. This is secondary to the athlete’s inner beast, metabolic efficiency, and neurotype. It has to do with how fast you recover/repair tissue, how much reactive oxygen species and inflammation your body produces, and the rate at which you manufacture and degrade neurotransmitters, among other factors.

As you can see, there is a lot of mojo that goes into this workout design and application game. If you know your sport science, and know your inner beast, you can make your workouts super effective. This is information that can help any athlete…even if you are self-coached. But, if you need help, hire a good coach who can save you lots of time, energy and frustration while at the same time help you to 10x your results. Coaching is way more than just writing workout programs. It’s a relationship. Some folks want micromanagers using exceedingly high complexity because they somehow believe that means better results. Others crave a cheerleader or drill sergeant coach. I’m none of those types. I prefer a friendly but direct relationship, with a bent toward the academic side (always providing the “why”) and a realistic amount of expectation and accountability. If you’re interested in working with me, just hit the Coaching menu item. If not, no worries. Find the coach that helps you to create your most effective workouts…and results.
Oh, one last thing…summer is here. Actually, outside my window in Montana it is 38 degrees and pouring rain, but let’s overlook that. You need some gear for all your summer training.  TLA Products on the Shop menu include a vast array of shirts, tanks, hoodies, hats, socks, and water bottles. Grab some gear for your workouts and show your pride in being a member of The Lifetime Athlete tribe. I salute you!

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