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The Basics Of Exercise Programming For Young Coaches

Written by: Kosta Telegadas, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


As the strength and conditioning industry evolves, many more coaches try to come into the profession. I welcome these young coaches with open arms and hope to see them succeed in their journey into the field. With all the programming science, recovery techniques, and advancements in technology, we have lost sight of the basics. I believe that as a field we have forgotten what programming is all about and how to teach it to a younger generation so they do not get lost along the way. In this article I will break down specific principles for programming, two different charts, Micros, Mesos, Marcos, and more.

Woman and personal trainer making exercise plan in gym

Principles, Law of Accommodation, and GAS

SAID Principle

  • The SAID Principle stands for specific adaptations to imposed demands. All this means, in a nutshell, is that the stimulus being presented on the body (if programmed correctly) will result in an adaptation.

Overload Principle

  • The Overload Principle is very simple, but can be manipulated many different ways. It basically states that an exercise must become more challenging over the course of a training program in order to continue to produce results. For the sake of this article I focus on load volume to illustrate this principle.

  • Let’s suppose John Doe warms up on his squats and has 4 sets of 5 reps at 100 lbs as his working sets. 1 set of 5 is 500 lbs total at the end of his first set. He then repeats this with success 4 more times. He totaled 20 reps at 100 lbs each. The total load volume for the prescribed volume is 2,000 lbs. Now John Doe is in his 3rd week of training for the squat and he hits 100 lbs for the first 2 sets of 5 and feels good. John now decides he can go up in weight and he successfully hits 115 lbs his last 2 sets of 5. Let’s break down the math. 100 lbs x 5 reps x 2 sets leads to 1,000 lbs of total load volume for his first two sets. Now for his last two sets John hits 115 lbs. 115 lbs x 5 reps x 2 sets = 1,150 lbs for his total load volume. Adding 1,000 lbs and 1,150 lbs together we get a total load volume of 2,150 lbs after successful completion of all 4 sets.

  • After 3 weeks of training, John has increased his total load volume up 150 lbs. Thus successfully applying the overload principle.

Principle of Specificity

  • This law states that to become more proficient at a set skill, you must practice the set skill more to obtain higher levels of adaptation. An example would be to squat more weight, you must squat more frequently while addressing weaknesses in the movement.

  • Please note: in later articles I will dive into how this may not be the best principle to apply down the road at higher tenures. For now, you may find the law of accommodation helpful for understanding how the specificity principle may not always be the best technique to use. Please take this law with a grain of salt.

Law of Accommodation

  • The Law of Accommodation causes your performance to stagnate or decrease. Zatsiorsky stated that “the response of a biological object to a given constant stimulus decreases over time.” Put simply, if you do a specific variation of an exercise long enough, the body will fully adapt. However, with full adaptation comes stagnation. If you back squat for too long under a certain stimulus, you will eventually plateau in your progress. This is why the overload principle works so well and your body cannot gain strength without adding reps or increasing load at certain points in training.

  • In higher tenures of athletes and lifters the law of accommodation may actually get to such a point where, as coaches, we need to change to variation of a movement pattern. A great example is training the back squat close to a plateau, then realizing mobility may become an issue. Now we can change the lift to a front squat to let the athlete change variations, increase mobility due to a more vertical squat angel, and maintain high heavier loads on the athlete. Some of the variations in my programming to help prevent athlete plateaus are below:

  • Barbell Back Squat -> Barbell Front Squat->Barbell Back Squat + Chain Resistance (40 -50 lbs total)-> Barbell Front Squat + Chain Resistance (40 -50 lbs total)


GAS or General Adaptation Syndrome is the the process by which an organism adapts to a specific stimulus and contains three stages — the alarm stage, the resistance stage, and the exhaustion stage. The alarm stage is similar to the fight-to-flight response, and the body mobilizes resources to react to the incoming stimulus (you will be very sore). The resistance stage forces will be built up over the training cycle when the stimulus is detected as continuing week to week in a training program. The exhaustion stage will cause overtraining if the body is unable to overcome the stimulus and the body breaks down.

  • Please note: if you see your athlete's technique breaking down on lifts it might be time to de-load in a microcycle.

Charts, Charts, Charts

Relative Intensity Chart

Above is the relative intensity chart. The chart helps break down intensity based off a 1 rep maximum lift. If our athlete has a set of 5 reps at 74.5% of 1 rep max, then the lifter at the end of the set will have accumulated a stress that equals 85% of 1 rep max. So if the athlete has a 1 rep max of 100 lbs, then 74.5 lbs would be needed to achieve a relative intensity of 85%. This chart can help us use the Overload Principle mentioned above to help elicit a specific adaptation in higher-tenured athletes without breaking down their bodies too much and helps prevent over-training.

Prilepin’s Chart

Prilepin’s chart was used to help prescribe volume for weight lifters only, but as the strength and conditioning industry has gone on, we have found that it carries over very well to prescribing volume and intensity for athletes as well in the aspects of hypertrophy maintenance and strength gains. The first column is percentages of 1 rep max. So if you had 100 lbs as a 1 rep max then the prescribed weight would be 70–80 lbs in this case in the second row down. The second column details out reps per set. You will see that there are optimal total reps and rep minimums and maximums in the next two columns.

So if you wanted 18 reps at 75% then you would have to take the 18 reps and break them into sets. Now this all depends on how much time you have, the set up of your facility, training tenure of athletes, etc. Let’s say you do 3 sets of 6 reps at said 75 % for week 1 and you wanted to increase load while decreasing volume through out the next 3 weeks.

Week 2 could be a total of 15 reps at 77.5 %. So with the intensity of the lift going up, the total volume must go down. Now as a coach (based on your set up) you decide that 3 sets of 5 reps is sufficient to evoke the adaptation needed. Perfect!

Now what about Week 3? Week 3 could look something like this: 3x4 reps at 80% of 1 rep max. Notice this follows the overload principle mentioned earlier over the course of this 3 weeks.


A micro-cycle is very small sample out of the 52 weeks in a training year. You pick 1–2 weeks to work a specific adaptation to train. This could be work capacity, hypertrophy, strength, strength speed, speed strength, etc. You can even sometimes work on 2 adaptations at once depending on your tenure of athlete. As coaches, we also use the micro-cycle to de-load at specific times of the year. This could be done the week of competition or before testing to see improvement from previous training.


A meso-cycle is normally 4–6 weeks of the 52 weeks in a training year. Most coaches I know go month to month (4 weeks at a time if possible). During this time we decide what adaptation(s) to train based on the phase of year we are in.


Macro-cycles are the reflection of your year-long training program. All 52 weeks are compiled into one year and the coach breaks it up into different micro and meso cycles to enhance overall athleticism. This takes into account all stages of the off-season, preseason, in-season, competition days, and vacations/holidays. I highly recommend coaches develop a 52 week training calendar to assist in keeping track of the stages of programming for the year. The whole goal of the macro is to be built off of the previous years results or to obtain adaptations to test to increase results in year 2 of training. Remember if your athletes have no training tenure, it is important to establish movement proficiency and increase movement progressions as needed.

Progressions vs. Regressions and the Exercise Library

The exercise library is a list of all the progressions and regressions you use in programming. Let’s break down some of the most well-known regressions and progressions of the squat.

1. Body weight squat

This variation is the easiest due to the fact it has no load, can be modified with ease, and no equipment is needed. THIS MUST BE MASTERED PRIOR TO PUTTING THE ATHLETE UNDER LOAD.

2. Kettle Bell/Dumbbell Goblet Squat

This progression is the next on my list due to it being easily modifiable, adding load, and still not placing any stress on the spine.

3. Barbell Front Squat

Similar to the goblet squat, the front squat has limited spinal loading and has a more direct bar path going straight down. it also teaches the athlete how to maintain an upright position under load as well. This lift can be used to test lower body if lumbar spine issues plague the athlete, or higher tenure athletes need variations that work on mobility with anterior chain dominance.

4. Barbell Back Squat

This is the highest progression due to increased spinal loading and higher loads that can be tolerated. Please note for a rep of the squat to count, the hip crest closest to the top of the thigh must be at or below parallel to the floor. This lift also adds higher recruitment of the hamstring muscles relative to the barbell front squat.

Links That Helped Me Program In My Journey In Summary

There is so much more we can cover in programming, but these are definitely some basics to help understand the macro-cycle layout, progressions vs regressions, various charts, and the principles needed to get you going as a young coach. I will be going into more detail in my later articles on more advanced programming concepts and principles.

Please feel free to reach out as needed via my Instagram (@Coach_Telegadas).

Follow me on Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Kosta Telegadas, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Kosta Telegadas is a leader in the strength and conditioning for tactical athletes and martial artists all over the world. He found physical training as a necessity to grow up playing sports, help prevent injury & give back to the country that gave his family so much over the generations. Coach Telegadas has a Master's Degree from the University of Miami (FL) and over 7 years of coaching experience with both professional, college, high school & tactical athletes. He is currently the Head Coach/CEO of Telegadas Performance Training and dedicates his time to make physical training programs & remote coaching accessible to all. His mission: If you stay ready, you never have to get ready!



  • Biagioli, B. (2015). Advanced Concepts of Strength and Conditioning

  • Bondarchuk, A. (2007). Transfer of Training in Sports

  • Verkoshansky, Y. (2003). Supertraining

  • Zatsiorsky, V. Kraemer, W. (2006). Science and Practice of Strength Training



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