Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Essence of Program Design by Juan Carlos Santana

As some readers would remember, I'm a bit of a strength and conditioning nut. I've actually made a useful (if undistinguished) part-time career from coaching in this area. I love working with athletes in all sports - especially combat sports. And this is how I came upon JC Santana's book.

I've always known who JC Santana is and enjoyed his articles, but my military approach dictated I look elsewhere for advice. Then, I saw one of his SAID series DVDs made with Rhadi Ferguson. I became far more interested in his philosophy at that time. Since then, JC has become someone I've become quite familiar with. He's a nice guy and answers a lot of questions for a lot of people, despite being a furiously busy guy. I have no idea how he stays upbeat and maintains such good customer service.

I bought the book from, which, at the time, was run by JC with Rhadi, who is now on his own. Honestly, I was disappointed with the shipping costs. It was US$20 for shipping to Australia. Added up, that's probably a few dollars more than I would have paid if the book was available through, say, Amazon.

The thing with JC is that he's all about quality. Quality training, quality service, even quality shipping. 36 hours after ordering the book, it arrived at my PO Box. Mail within Australia doesn't get to me that quickly. In fact, around here, mail from across town isn't likely to get here that quickly. So, that fixes that. I'm prepared to pay a little more for that kind of service.

The book is a very interesting read, but I was initially disappointed with the content. Because I bought the book from Intocombat, I thought I was purchasing a manual on combat sports preparation. While the book does address this, it is clearly not the focus. When I looked into it, I realised this was my mistake. I only mention it to make sure readers don't make the same assumption.

Looking at the book in a slightly different light, though, I found it to be an absolute gold mine! To start with, Santana has a slightly different take on periodisation than I'm used to. There's nothing right or wrong about that, but I am impressed with how his philosophy fits such a multitude of situations.

He even provides a stack of workouts in the book to get you started. He splits them up by training phase, population of interest, goals and fitness levels. The book is a veritable "mentor-in-a-box" for the personal trainer with a varied clientele.

The book opens with some tidbits about JC, the Institute of Human Performance (JC's facility) and the philosophy of training there. It continues with a discussion of the nuts and bolts of program design, simplifying many complicated topics.

I like terms like microcyle, macrocycle, periodisation and training season. PT clients generally don't. They want to hear words they know. They like words like day, week and session. They understand the term block, where they might struggle with macrocycle. The terminology goes on.

JC explains how to put together a plan for a client based on their particular needs. The book has a number of blank and example planning tools, forms and even a very informative and thought-provoking testing guide. It really breaks testing down and reminds you of what's really important and what the client needs.

The IHP Hybrid Training System is the next section and describes various hybrid, complex and circuit exercises and how they fit together. It needs no real description except to say that the FITMOVES section and the section on team circuits have been very valuable with clients I had previously struggled with.

Then comes the meat of the book - the programs. Here, Santana provides sample workout plans right down to exercises, sets and reps. There are about ten for each phase of training. There are routines for just about about everyone, here. The section also recommends supplemental routines for cardio, core and mobility that fit well with the program. There are also excellent reference cards for these mini-routines in the book.

Want more routines? Make 'em up. Santana teaches you how throughout the book.

From there, JC provides more tools for charting and monitoring progression, some exercise descriptions and a neat collection of some articles that he's had published. These articles really do give you some insight into training for different goals.

There are a couple of cons for the book. I found that some of the exercises required more description than what was given in the book. Of course, IHP and JC's other businesses sell products that can help you out there. There is also some emphasis on equipment that may not be easy to come by. You should have little trouble substituting, however.

All in all, this is the best book I've seen at its price for the emerging personal trainer. You could easily sit down with a client and get them on the way to achieving their goals in a step by step fashion and in a short period of time.

For those PTs and S&C coaches looking for a philosophy to follow that yields results in a wide variety of people, this is also a great book for you.

As I alluded, there are other books that equal "Essence of Program Design", but they are either very dry or very expensive. Sometimes they're both. All in all, this book is well worth the read.


Anonymous said...

I don't know who you are, and I don't know how to naviaget through forums, blogs, posts, etc. BUT - someone sent me a link from one of the MMA forum threads. You posted this:

("I don't want to steal Taku's thunder, but there's a review of "Essence of Program Design" at the MAReviews blog. I just moved it to the front page for anyone who wants a look..")

I hit the link and visited your blog -WOW-Holy %$#@! I was floored at what you thought of the Program Design Book! That is the nicest compliment and most complete description I have EVER witnessed. Thank you so much.

It is moments like these that remind me why I got into this business.

Thank you so much,

Please send me your name and address and let me know which of my products you would like for your library. Consider a kind gift from a colleague and friend from across the pond:)


Thank you again for your kind words of encouragement.


Boyne Brazilian Jiu Jitsu said...

No, thank you, JC. You may not know me, but I (and my few trainees) know you. Since before I bought the book, you've been a source of advice. Since receiving the book and the SAID DVDs, more of a mentor.

The book has made it much easier to deal with those clients who don't share my athletic goals.

I'll be absolutely honoured to take you up on your offer, though.