Coming Full Circle: A Better Program for your Best Body
"In terms of goal training - full circle sets can be applied to everything from bodybuilding, power lifting, athletic development, and overall fitness and weight loss."
Developing a successful exercise program requires the careful collaboration of strength training, power development, energy system demands, time under tension, mobility, and many other subtle factors. It is so much more than just throwing down a few exercises and kicking your own tail, or your clients tail, around the gym until the session is done.
Sure, you could just do four sets of ten of all the exercises you've ever seen in your favorite magazine. You'll probably even get some results if you train hard enough and you train consistent.
But, you should want more.
You should want to maximize your time in the gym in an effort to better achieve your goals, achieve total fitness, and possess the body that reflects your vision. You should want to be taking care of the invisible parts of your body with same intensity that you throw at your biceps and triceps on arm day. You should criticize your shoulder mobility or the quality of your hinge with the same attitude that you give your body fat percentage.
For this purpose I share with you my personal system of programming that has helped me help hundreds of my clients over the years with achieving their fitness goals. The best part is that it always helps me get the goals that they want, but even better, it helps them achieve the goals they didn't even know they had.
It is a variation of something I published a while ago called Density Strength Circuits. You can read about it here.
Take someone who is constant pain or tightness for example. They've spent the last however many years walking around compounding their tightness and pain with even more. Whether it is long hours in the seated position, or countless workouts focused on personal abuse - the body hasn't been "released" in quite some time. Often times these people don't even know that they are so tight. It isn't until you reveal to them via an assessment or a movement dysfunction that they get it.
And when they get through it, wow do they notice the difference.
A carefully constructed program that factors in the necessary corrective exercises and mobility work in addition to the typical focus on strength, muscle building, or fat loss is a program that is going to succeed in its intentions.
You can't program how other coaches program though.
You can't just throw a few correctives into your warm up and call it a day. You can't rush through the preparation in order to get to the demanding movements and expect your client to see the results they seek.
How can you expect someone to improve their deadlift if you aren't factoring in their hip mobility, glute activation, lat tension, or the myriad of other factors that take a perfectly good deadlift and turn into a dumpster fire?
Or, more commonly to the personal training industry - how can you expect a client to want to workout when everything hurts all the time? Their resistance to movement may be stemming from uncomfortable tension and lost strength in critical places.
Even if you are reading this as a person who just "goes to the gym and works out"... how can you expect to achieve your ultimate goals of physical excellence and world domination if you aren't willing to go the extra mile and address the hidden factors?
Your exercise program has to reflect your goals, and those goals are so much more intricate than lift x weight or lose y pounds. They are full of subsets, individual goals that must be achieved in advance of achieving the greater objective. Like levels in a video game - you must pass one before reaching the next!
It's time you think about your fitness becoming full circle. Or better yet, it's time that you incorporate full circle sets into your programs.
A full-circle set is designed to properly prepare the body, train the body for desired adaptations, train supporting muscular and fascia systems, and address movement quality within the confines of six individual, but connected exercises.
The goal of the set is to provide a cocoon around the focus exercise, one that prepares the body for it's best output of force, while simultaneously training critical factors such as core strength, mobility, and antagonist relationships.
The six pieces of the set can function independently, but when brought together in a thoughtful manner lends to a better workout, and in time, better overall progress. Let's explore the individual components:
The activation exercise is something simple such as a glute bridge or a banded pull apart. The goal is to turn on the muscle groups that actively stabilize the critical joints of the body, especially the ones that are active during your primary movement. The set should be taken to the point just before fatigue, not exhaustion.
kneeling band pull a parts address the core and the posterior shoulder sling/rotator cuff
2. Full Body Power
Humans are force producing animals, so long as they are aware that they are being challenged. It's very hard for the body to go zero to sixty in terms of it's force potential. Thus, a great technique to use during your set is a simple full-body power exercise, like a box jump, broad jump, or medicine ball throw to prime your muscles to explode.
A Landmine Squat is a great power exercise with lower risk
3. Primary Movement
The primary movement is the focus of your workout, or at the very least, this set. It will likely be a compound lift like a deadlift or squat. You could also put in an Olympic lift such as the clean or push jerk. You just have to make sure that this is the exercise where your intensity it at its highest. You should be lifting the most weight or doing the most volume/density with this exercise.
Here I use the toe elevated RDL for the hamstrings
4. Complimentary Movement
The complimentary movement is an exercise that acts as a supporting system for the primary movement. It could be a movement that works an antagonist, like hitting rows after doing a set of bench. Or, it could be a movement that trains a specific aspect of your primary lift - such as doing lat pulldowns or pull ups in between sets of squats to emphasize a tight pack in the upper back.
The hinge row is a personal favorite for coaching lat tension and hinge position
The famous buzz word of the industry has a real purpose here. Training the core to stabilize against a force that exists during your primary movement lends itself to strengthening the correct muscles to resist movement. Training your anti-flexion/anti-extension or anti-rotation can serve as a critical cue for your body to brace better when engaging in your primary exercise.
The paloff press high to low is a great variation to train all anti-movements together.
The final piece of the puzzle is a well-selected corrective movement that helps prepare the body for the next round of intensity. A world's greatest hip opener can be a great hip mobilizer to help the body achieve the abduction and external rotation needed to squat or sumo deadlift successfully. A set of PVC dislocations can go a long way to help the scapulae retract better during a pull up or bench press.
The PVC shoulder dislocation emphasizes shoulder mobility on a set core
A full circle set should serve as the first phase of your workout after a proper warm-up. You can and should utilize the full circle method for your first two priority movements, although it's fine if you just want to utilize it once. The goal of these sets is to build an intelligent bubble around your primary movement, so that your body is prepared to give you the maximum effort you require.
In terms of goal training - full circle sets can be applied to everything from bodybuilding, power lifting, athletic development, and overall fitness and weight loss. The key here will come down to how you manipulate sets, repetitions, load, and rest intervals.
For example, a power lifter looking to build better strength in their deadlift may do as many eight or ten sets of this circle. This means that they are doing all 6 movements every time too. You don't just stop doing the critical correctives, activation, and power movements just because you "feel warmed up".
Someone looking to lose weight and move better might keep their loads a bit lighter and pace a bit quicker in order to keep the metabolic rate up during the workout.
A bodybuilder make emphasize time-under-tension and perform slower repetitions on the primary and complimentary movements.
How Does it Look - A sample program
2 sets in order
*World's Greatest Hip Opener
*Thoracic Reach Throughs
*Sphinx Pose to Cobra
***(lacrosse ball to pec minor and rhomboids 20 seconds per)
***(foam roll quads, calves, and glutes)
Temperature Elevation -
*Incline Walk at moderate pace - 5 minutes
Full Circle Set 1 -
*Mini-Band Glute Bridges with Abduction at top x 20
*Box Jumps x 5
*Sumo Stance Deadlift x 5
*Seated Close Grip Pulldown x 15
*Barbell Rollout x 10
*Rear-Elevated Split Stretch and Reach
In this example, the full circle set methodology allows for you to train the absolute snot out of your deadlift, core and pull down, each with unique repetitions and loads, while still addressing your mobility, explosiveness, and glute strength.
After completing your necessary sets of full circle set 1 you'd either move onto set 2, or progress into your accessory work in order to complete your workout. The choice is yours.
Your workout should reflect your goals, and I'm going to assume that you workout because you have some serious goals. Even if you don't want to live and breathe this stuff you should want to know enough to maximize your return on investment.
Focus on developing a full spectrum of fitness and watch as you morph into a more complete creature that has successfully achieved the goals they set and the ones they didn't even know they had.
*** As a note - I'll be releasing another training group to the world. Email me at this address and I'll let you in!