The Framework Exercise Program

Bottom Line Up Front: Exercising without planning will lead to less than ideal results. The framework exercise program offers the minimum structure while giving maximum flexibility to the athlete to execute their strength and conditioning plan.

Framework Exercise Program

In my last post, I discussed the concept of training vs working out. I introduced the concept of a framework-based program, which will allow you to have flexibility in your program yet keep you on an actual program instead of just stringing together random workouts. In yet another earlier post, I went into great detail highlighting how you could develop your own strength and conditioning program. It is a very detailed look at constructing something for yourself. While this article gets into nitty gritty, you can still apply the lessons of this post to that article to developing your framework. In fact, halfway through the post, it shows the framework (the general plan) before moving on to the specifics. If you care a lot about program design, read the post and return to this one. It gets nerdy. Email me questions or post in the comments.

What is the Framework Program?

The framework program is a happy medium between having a very specific program detailing sets, reps, weights, times, etc. and one with no planning at all (having no program).

Below is an example of a workout from a very specific 12-week program written by Kevin Cann for an olympic lifter. This is one workout in a program of multiple months with a clear endstate in mind. Each workout and each week build on the previous.

Day 1 (week of 2/1)
2 sec Pause Squat 50%x5, 60%x5, 70% 5×5 (35)
Bench w/ Slingshot 65% x3, 75% x3, 85% x2, 90% 2×2, 95% 3×1 (13)
Squats 50%x5, 60%x5, 70% 5×4 (30)
DB OHP 4×8
Hypers 4×8

* See the full program at

The opposite of this would be waking up each day with no idea what you are going to do. You feel good, you do a long run. You happen to look at your bike in the garage, you ride it. It is raining, you lift weights. What exercises do you do? How many reps or sets? Whatever you feel like. Rains again, lift weights again.  You see this is a lot of exercise but there aren’t any objectives, goals, or planning involved.

In my experience, there are people who want to be told exactly what to do and they will do it. There are others who are less regimented who like the idea of making daily decisions on what they will do. This is OK except it is probably not optimal for making progress. With a few tweaks, you can develop a framework to guide you. Best of both worlds!

Setting Up a Framework

You can choose to be real loose with your framework or a little more specific based on your goals. For a detailed discussion on all of this, refer to the previously mentioned post on program design. But for a more general look, here are some steps to setting up a framework.

Define Your Time. What is your available time to train? Do you have a regular schedule? Let’s say you do and it’s 4 days per week (Mon, Tues, Thur, Fri).

Define Your Goals. What are you trying to achieve with your exercise program? Are you interesting in General Physical Preparedness (GPP)? I think most of us should be. But you could also have a goal of being a great distance runner (yuck) or as strong as possible or as muscular as possible. Let’s say it’s GPP because it’s the right answer.

Structure Your General Outline. For a 4-day per week GPP focus, here is an example general framework:

Monday: Cardiovascular Endurance

Tuesday: Strength

Thursday: Muscular Endurance

Friday: Speed

You could just stop here and you’d be at the basic framework level. You could do no more planning than this and have some semblance of a program. You have a goal to be well-rounded and you are accomplishing that by training diverse components of fitness.

Add Some Meat to the Frame. You can move a few steps closer to a specific program with some more guidance in your program like this:

Monday: Cardiovascular Endurance. 20-40 minute run, row, bike, or swim. You pick the time and method each workout.

Tuesday: Strength. 5 sets of 5 repetitions for one Squat (ex. back squat) movement, Push (ex. overhead press) movement, Pull (ex. pull-ups) movement, and Hinge (ex. deadlift) movement. You pick the movements each workout.

Thursday: Muscular Endurance. 15-30 minute increasing rep ladder of one Squat movement and Pull movement one week then one Push and Hinge movement the next week. You pick the time and movements each workout.

Friday: Speed. 10-20 rounds of 1:1 work to rest ratio sprint intervals (ex. 20 seconds of sprinting then 20 second of resting) on rower, bike or running. You pick the number of intervals, length of intervals, and method each workout.

Add More Meat to the Frame to Tolerance. At this point you can further add to the frame all the way until it gets too specific for you and loses its flexibility. You can add additional work to each session like weighted carries (you should) or further define the movement types, the times, and the modalities. Most people would be fine just getting to the previous “some meat” stage. Remember you can change this up and should periodically. Just make a new general outline and add meat to the frame based on your goals, interests (try something new), or schedule. Good luck developing your framework. Post questions below. I will be happy to assist in your framework development.


QUESTION: How specific do you like your training program to be? Post thoughts to comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *