Exercise Pool: Program Design

Updated: May 22

Joe Kenn | Vice President of Education and Performance

The first step of program design is to determine which exercises are being considered for a specific program. This is by far the most important part of the of the process. Before a set, rep, or an intensity can be prescribed, the practitioner must consider the exercises that will be considered in the program. This list is considered the exercise pool.

There are two questions the program planner must ask when creating the exercise pool: 1 – Can I teach it? As a coach, am I competent and capable of instructing an athlete to properly execute a specific movement in a safe and efficient manner? 2 – Do I have the necessary equipment to safely implement this particular exercise? Once you have answered these questions, you can now create your pool. It should also be noted that just because National Championship teams use specific exercises doesn’t mean your athletes need it as they may not be capable of performing it in a safe manner. Also, you cannot add exercises to your pool if your facility is not equipped with a specific piece of equipment.


Everyone’s pool will be different based on the answers to the above questions. This pool will consist of all the exercises that are being considering for the specific program. This does not necessarily mean all of the exercises will be used, but, it allows the program planner to evaluate each exercise and the importance to the program.



It should also be noted that when reviewing and analyzing the needs of a specific sport, that there are some exercises that may not be worth the risk to an athlete. These are exercises that although may be very good movements, they may not be the “best” choice for a particular sport.


Example: Tennis Training

Although hip extension is a focal movement for the tennis athlete, it may not be in the best interest of the athlete for the coach to have them perform full pull and catch movements such as the power clean to help develop hip extension. This exercise may not be worth the risk of injury. The stress to the athlete’s wrist from the force of catching the bar in a racked position could lead to injury. The hand and wrist are tremendously important to the tennis athlete and therefore an alternative exercise may be best suited to enhance hip extension and reduce the risk of injury. The alternative may lie with a dumbbell or barbell power pull or shrug pull where hip extension is still emphasized without the catch phases of a clean movement. These are questions that need to be asked and answered when developing athletic based programs.


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