How We Program Routines at Fit in 20

Ashna Varma Deadlift, 180 lbs for 12 reps

Ashna Varma Deadlift, 180 lbs for 12 reps


Knowing What Exercises to Give a Client

When I program routines for my clients, they are based on client goals and objectives.  The entire routine itself, the “Macrocycle,” is a 3-, 6-, 9- or 12-month plan designed to get them to where they want to be.  A Macrocycle is comprised of “Mesocycles,” which are intermediate periods of training that are made up of different types of training, each with their own goals, all designed to get the client to the “Macro” goal.

For example: a female client wants to lose weight, and “tone up,” and they have 40 lbs to lose.  How would I program for them?  First, I’d suggest a 6-month program.  Following a carefully designed food plan from my buddy Tony Vassallo (, and a carefully-crafted workout routine created by yours truly, a woman can expect to lose 1 to 2 lbs per week.  This is a healthy rate of weight loss.  Let’s call this 1.5 lbs per week on average, and this would take about 26 weeks, or 6 months, for them to reach their goal.

So, what would their routine look like?

Programming a Mesocycle

Each “Mesocycle,” which are smaller components of the “Macrocycle,” lasts for 4 weeks, generally speaking (there are exceptions), and consists of 3 weeks of “Working,” with 1 final week of “Deloading.”  The “Working” weeks are where we lift as heavy as possible within a given repetition range (i.e. 4 to 6, 6 to 8, 8 to 12, 10 to 14, 12 to 16 or 16 to 20).  The “Deloading” week is a week where we lift on 50% of what we can lift for about 10 repetitions, and we do that only 10 times, 3 sets total.

This keeps the body active, but also allows it to rest: hence it is also called an “Active Rest Week” by some.

We choose the repetition range, and exercises, based on the goals of the client.  We generally begin by working on muscular endurance: compound (multi-joint) lifts, done for 16 to 20 reps (about 1 minute of lifting), at a “2020” pace (i.e. on a Squat, 2 second descent (“2”), no rest at the bottom (“0”), 2 second ascent (“2”), and no rest at the top (“0”).  We do full-body workouts, 3 days per week, taking very short rests between sets.

So, our first Mesocycle is about creating muscular endurance, and lasts about 4 weeks.  We would then switch to a 4-week “Hypertrophy” (muscle-building) Mesocycle, designed to start the “toning” process (toning = losing fat + gaining muscle).  The repetition range here would be more like 10 to 14 or 12 to 16 reps, with moderate rest between sets (90 seconds or so).  We would end the 4th week with another “Deload.”

Our third Mesocycle would be about developing more strength.  We would decrease the rep range to, say, 6 to 8 reps, increase the weight lifted, and increase the rest period between sets to allow for more recovery.

The fourth, fifth and sixth Mesocycles we would program based on how we see our client progressing.  Perhaps their body adapts better to pure strength training, or perhaps that’s just what they prefer: in cases like this, we lean more towards strength.  Or perhaps Hypertrophy is more their thing, and they benefit most from it.  Or perhaps a combination, in which case we might use something called “Daily Undulating Periodization.”

Everything we do is goal-driven, so that at the end of 6 months, the client is 40 lbs down, and looking as close to the way they had hoped they would as is possible for them.

How Do I Know How Much Weight to Use?

In each Mesocycle we have programmed a particular repetition range specific to the goals of that cycle.  So, for example, if we have programmed 12 to 16 reps (a Hypertrophy focus), we want to choose a weight that allows the client to complete at least 12 repetitions, but no more than 16.  Here we have included a video of Dr. Ashna Varma completing 12 Deadlifts at 180 lbs.  Her routine has a Hypertrophy focus, and her prescribed rep range is 12 to 16.

In this case, she was able to just barely complete the prescribed # of repetitions, which means she succeeded in her lift.  We chose a good weight for her.  Had she been able to do more than 16 repetitions, the weight would have been to light.

How Much Weight Should I Use on Each Exercise?

The answer is, I don’t know!  You have to use trial-and-error to determine how much weight will stop you at the top end of your rep range but allow you to do at least as much as the bottom end.  If you’re trying to lift for 6 to 8 reps, you have to choose a weight that lets you do 6 but is heavy enough that you can’t do more than 8 without losing form, and/or potentially injuring yourself.

So, the short answer is, you must experiment!

I Need Help!  I Don’t Want to Figure this Stuff out on My Own!

Awesome!  I’m available to help you!  I’m a personal trainer in the Mississauga area who trains clients locally at my gym.  I also offer in-home personal training through accredited and experienced trainers who work for me.  Whether or not you want to come to us, or we to you, we can accommodate you!

We also offer personal training services at a distance: it’s called “online training.”  We have clients across Canada, across North America and across the world who benefit from our expertise in helping them to lose weight and get in shape.  Whether or not you want to become fitter, stronger, more muscular, lose weight, or all the above, we can help!

Feel free to reach out to us at 647-677-6025 by either text or phone.  Alternately you can contact us here:, or at  We’d love to hear what it is you want to accomplish, and we’d love to help you reach your goals.  Don’t forget to ask us about our 90-day money-back guarantee!  The consultation is free, and we guarantee your results!  Reach out today: you’ve got nothing to lose except for the weight!