Considerations When Designing a Resistance Training Programme for Beginners.

Samir Oukili

There are a lot of mistakes to be made as a PT, I know because I’ve made most of them… If you continue to learn and dedicate yourself to the craft then that is all I can ask of you.

*shameless plug alert*

One of the best ways you can better yourself is coming to the PT Toolbox Event Series.

My coach and good friend Samir Oukili will be delivering an amazing presentation on Sunday 28th of January at Bath University.

He will take you through the essentials for building an effective resistance training programme for general population clients. In his lecture, Programming for Beginners, Samir will discuss the major pitfalls that personal trainers face when they design programmes for beginner clients.

Samir will be covering loads of information including;

– Exercise selection
– Intensity, frequency and volume
– Advanced training techniques

Samir Oukili has been a personal trainer since 2010 and since beginning his career he has managed his own CrossFit facility, worked at one of the most prestigious personal training gyms in the world and has built up a successful personal training business. Samir has spent hundreds of hours researching, developing and refining his process of building programmes for his clients.

Book your tickets for the January PT Toolbox Event by clicking here


When designing a programme for beginner clients a lot of personal trainers make some fundamental errors.

This article will give you a few of the guidelines that I teach my students and that I use with my clients to make sure that they can attain the maximum benefit from their programme and also maximise long term adherence.

Mistake 1 – Taking the personal out of personal training

Because my training academy is located in a commercial gym and I have years of experience in commercial gyms, I have seen this over and over again.

Typically, I’ll see a personal trainer with five or six clients throughout the day and they will repeat the same workout with every client regardless of that client’s individual needs or goals.

I put this down to two things…

1. Laziness
If a personal trainer is using the same programme for each client because they literally can’t be bothered to put in the time and effort to make the programme match their clients’ requirements then this in my opinion is inexcusable.

2. Ignorance
However, maybe this particular personal trainer has just qualified and doesn’t know any better, in this case I just hope that they will be progressing enough as a trainer in both experience and knowledge to offer a better service to their clients.

IF this is you…

Then you need to start considering your clients individual needs, including…

– Goals of your client – what is it they want to achieve?

– Time available for each session – if your client only has 30 minutes to train maybe a 120 minute GVT session is not a great idea!

– Frequency of sessions per week – can the client train 2 days or 5 days a week or somewhere in between? Your exercise selection and programme setup should reflect this

– Training age – if your client has been training for two months is it worth including the Olympic lifts, 99% of the time, no. For beginners keep it simple and focus on the exercises with best ROI

– Level of conditioning – if you had a semi pro rugby player and a 50-year-old office worker the amount of volume and intensity they can handle would be COMPLETELY different ends of the spectrum and you must factor this in to your programme accordingly

– Nutrition – what does your client’s overall nutrition look like? Will their nutrition support the demands of the exercise you have set them?

– Injuries/limitations – if your client has mobility issues or nagging injuries you may need to adapt some exercises to work around their limitations

Mistake 2 – Neglecting the foundations

Another common mistake I see is personal trainers focusing too much time and effort on the shiny new toy at the gym or an overcomplicated programme that they read on T Nation.

Generally speaking, for most of us in the UK fitness industry we will be dealing with general population weight loss clients.

Ideally, we would want to build their baseline levels of fitness first before embarking on a super complex, periodised, gluten free programme.

This could include some focus on cardiovascular fitness, mobility, strength and muscular endurance whilst also learning to move well.

Remember to focus on building the foundations of your client’s fitness first and don’t overcomplicate the programme for no reason!

Mistake 3 – Constant unnecessary changes

A lot of personal trainers that I have spoken to feel that they need to change the session they deliver to clients on a session by session or weekly basis.

Commonly I’ll hear things like…

“I want to keep the sessions fresh”
“I don’t want my clients to get bored!”
“It needs to be interesting”

Let me tell you a secret…

The one thing your client is interested in above all else…


If your client is looking to lose 15lbs for her wedding and the measurements and scale weight are coming down.
99% of the time she would do the same workout every day as long the results keep coming.

Changing exercises just for the sake of it is going to cause your client to not have enough time on each exercise to make any fundamental progress in that movement. As we all know progressive overload is going to be key to either maintaining muscle mass throughout a diet or getting the full effects of hypertrophy when trying to gain muscle.

I would recommend choosing a selection of “core” exercises that you can rotate without sacrificing your clients progress.

Here are my two workouts that I complete twice a week each.

Workout A.
Incline Plate Loaded Press
Incline Back Ext.

Chest Press
Lying Hamstring Curl

Seated DB Press
DB lateral raise

Workout B.
Machine Split Squat
PL Lat Pull Down

Leg Press
T Bar Row

EZ Bar Curl
Lying EZ Bar Extension

I will keep performing these exercises for around four weeks before I rotate some of them out. There are two reasons for this.

1. I know I can maximally stimulate my target muscles with these exercises
2. Four weeks gives me enough time to see progress throughout the month

Throughout my seven-week transformation (FYI it finishes on the 23rd of December) I will continue to use these exercises as long as my measurements and numbers keep improving.

Mistake 4 – Make the programme fit the client

Your client is an individual, by using a template programme or a “cookie cutter” approach you are really underestimating the effect their individual differences will make to their workouts, adherence and results.

By learning anatomy, joint actions and movement patterns you can adapt and accommodate for your client’s individual needs.


To get more from one of the best in the industry come to the next PT Toolbox event on Sunday 28th January 2018 at Bath University.

Book your tickets for the January PT Toolbox Event by clicking here


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