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Program Design



An exercise program should:

a/ Be designed to both motivate participants to come to a class and to stay involved; 

b/ Be designed to ease participants in and out of a period of higher heart rate without causing any stress or discomfort that could both be dangerous and/or could discourage participants from returning to future exercise sessions.



1. Decide Who Your Program Is Being Designed For:

Is it for yourself alone; perhaps yourself with a small group of friends, or perhaps an exercise class which you are going to lead. You need to have some knowledge about the participants. If the participants don't exercise regularly already; it is generally wise to carry out a fitness test before settling on too many details in the program. This enables you to plan a program which fits the participants capabilities. (see the Pre-screening Checklist in the chapter on safety).


2. Decide What The Aim Of The Program Is:

Any program should have a warm up and cool down phase; but the main body might aim to achieve any combination of the following:


*Improving/Maintaining Cardio-respiratory Fitness

To achieve this participants need to ideally keep their heart rate between 70 - 85 % of their maximum heart rate for at least 20 minutes of the class. The longer the heart rate remains this high the more the individual is increasing their fitness. People who do not exercise regularly, should start with a training heart rate (THR) of 60% of the maximum heart rate (MHR) for their age group (exercising a minimum of 3 times per week). For people who are of medium fitness who are trying to increase or maintain reasonable fitness a THR of 60-75% is appropriate for 20 to 60 minutes per session, and 3 - 4 sessions weekly. For athletes, an 70 - 85% THR 5 times or more per week, for up to one hour each time is appropriate.


To calculate your maximum heart rate and how to work at 70 - 85% of this utilise the following formula.


220 - Age = Maximum Heart Rate Range

Multiply this by 0.7 and 0.85 = Target Heart Rate Range


Example: 25 year old person

220 - 25 (yrs of age)

195 x 0.7 and 195 x 0.85

= 136 and 165


This particular person needs to work between 136 and 165 beats per minute to achieve a suitable cardio-respiratory training effect.


To find out if this is occurring an individual may take their heart rate either by placing their pointer and middle finger on the radial (wrist) or carotid (neck) pulse. Once the pulse is found the beats are counted for 15 seconds and then multiplied by 4 to calculate for 1 minute. The result is to fall between 135 and 165 for the example above. If this is outside the range the participant needs to either work harder or slow down. Working above 85% is achieving results in the anaerobic fitness component. If the individual is working below this range (ie: 135 b/p/m) then they need to increase their intensity (bigger, faster or higher impact movements) otherwise their optimum results will not be achieved.


*Building Strength In Specific Muscles

To increase the strength in major muscle groups can be done through designing work outs specific to that particular group. Lets say the legs were to be toned and strength increased, a series of leg exercises would need to be performed. Squats, isolation thigh and gluteal work and general aerobics jogging (impact).


*Building General Muscular Strength

Some work outs can be designed allowing the entire body to have a complete body work out therefore increasing overall muscular strength. This can be achieved through big movements of the entire body with large leg and arm actions.


*Improving Flexibility

This can be achieved primarily in the beginning and the conclusion of the class. After the participants have warmed up a series of stretches take place decreasing the risk of injury. These exercises can also be very effective in increasing flexibility. Stretches need to be held for at least 20 - 30 seconds and often repeated. Sometimes a stretch may be performed with the assistance of another person who will increase the  resistance applied. If flexibility was to be one of the aims of the fitness class then  more muscle groups would be stretched, they would be held for longer and more than  one repetition would be performed. Stretch classes are becoming very popular in aerobic timetables because of increased concern, especially in the elderly of poor mobility.


Stretches need to be specific to the particular muscle group that is being exercised. For example an intense leg work out could be performed followed by a series of gluteal, hip  flexor, quadriceps, hamstring and calf muscle stretches.



The final component of an exercise class may be the cool down, and often a relaxation section is included. This can take from 5 - 15 minutes depending on the type of class or time available. Some classes may have 45 - 60 minutes of just relaxation/stretching exercises. This is great way to take time out and can often be referred to as Yoga or Meditation classes. Such classes are definitely not aerobics based, but are still  considered a form of aerobics on the aerobic timetable in gyms/health clubs.



3. Duration Of Sessions

The duration and frequency of sessions will depend on what you are trying to achieve.  This might be influenced by both the aim(s) (ie. step 2 above) and the time available (some people have limited time to exercise). A session might be as little as 30 minutes three times a week, for maintenance of reasonable cardio-respiratory fitness. A session might be as much as 1 hour or even longer if a number of other specific benefits are being targeted.



4. Write Down What Should Be Done, In A Framework Of Time.

This covers what you are going to do, and how long you are going to conduct each component/exercise. You might also include a list of equipment required.


5. Review

Any program should be continually reviewed. As people participate, their abilities and fitness level should change; and the program they are undertaking should change accordingly. This review might involve routine fitness testing, and adjusting the type, difficulty or intensity of exercises accordingly.


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