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Building Your Training Program From the Ground Up

Building a well-rounded training program that’s designed to get major results is a ton of fun. Program design is honestly one of my favorite things I do on a regular basis; outside of actually training the client. I absolutely love training, and if you’re reading this article, I’m sure we have a common bond in how we feel about training. That’s probably why you got into the field of strength & conditioning, personal training, or rehab. Most of my colleagues all say the same thing, “I just want to help people. I want to be a driving force in their success and help them achieve things they never thought possible.”

If you truly want to help people, the concept of “From the Ground Up” should be well understood and utilized on a daily basis in the gym.

What exactly does it mean?

Training from the ground up simply means that it’s best to start on the ground before working your way to your feet. The floor is the safest place for you to begin. While on the floor, gravity has less of an effect on the body. Since we’re able to take gravity out of the equation, basic stability tends to improve. The floor is giving extra support and stability, so learning basic moves becomes easier if you start on the floor.

I pretty much have all my clients start there…on the floor. After foam rolling and knocking out a couple quick corrective exercises based around their weakest link, our clients all start on the ground. Exercises will vary from individual to individual since we’re all unique and we all have our own little quirks we need to work on, but the concept of starting from the ground and building our way up is apparent in each training session.

Have you ever heard of the 4×4 Matrix?

Dr. Greg Rose, one of the top guys in the FMS, SFMA, and TPI, created this little nugget of information that I use ALL the time. At least that’s where I caught wind of the 4×4 Matrix. Whether Dr. Rose created it or not, the concepts of the 4×4 Matrix has allowed me to get outstanding results in less time. I’m going to list out the 4×4 Matrix and what it means, but I’m really only going to elaborate on the left side of this table.

4×4 Matrix

Position Level of Resistance/Assistance
1. Supine/Prone 1. Core Engaged Assisted
2. Quadruped 2. Bodyweight
3. Kneeling (1/2 or Tall) 3. Core Engaged Resisted
4. Standing 4. Resisted


If you look at the table above, illustrating the 4×4 Matrix, you’ll see “position” on the left side. Notice how the position starts on the ground, moves to quadruped, then kneeling, and finally standing. This is where the concept of “From the Ground Up” begins. We must first be able to perform an exercise well on the floor before we’re going to have success in the next position…usually.

After the movement screen, it’s time to start training. We customize the warm up’s. We customize the strength and power portion of the training program. We tailor everything they’re doing to push their limits whether that’s simply learning how to move an arm overhead with control or progressing all the way to something as complex as a push jerk. So, the next time you’re building a training program, remember the 4×4 Matrix. Remember that starting on the ground and building up will enhance results.

We have two resources to check out to help explain this concept a little better. First, there’s going to be an in-service Steve did at our gym a couple years ago. Steve covers breathing by position and takes you from the floor, to quadruped, to kneeling, to standing. You’ll be able to see that left side of the Matrix in action and start to understand why we start on the floor. Build the base and start to go more vertical.

The next resource we’re going to provide you with is a snapshot of our current warm-up we’re using in our group training program right now. Notice how we begin with the breath on the floor (the most basic, most supported position), we stay in supine, then we move to quadruped, then kneeling, and finally standing. The exercises build in complexity and follow the Ground Up approach. So, the next time you’re building your training program, start to think about building the foundation on the floor and progressing from there.


If you’re looking for more info on how to build your training program based upon the results of the Functional Movement Screen, be sure to check out our resource: Smart Group Training Volume One – Screening and Corrective Exercise. In this resource we’ll show you an exact, step-by-step implementation plan to incorporate screening and corrective exercise into your group training program. This is much easier than you probably think, but no need in re-creating the wheel. Check it out!




Assessment in Fitness Training


I am working on tightening up my assessment process. Making a quick version of a movement screen and a more detailed assessment for special cases. I work alongside a massage therapist so we need a process that covers both of our needs so we can communicate about certain clients. The FMS is great, but definitely not enough in some cases and too much for other cases.

What general or specific assessments have you guys found helpful that are often overlooked?


I’m just going to break this question down piece by piece to be more accurate. Here we go.

Creating your own assessment process is a bad idea – I can tell you from experience that this is a bad idea. I’ve made many screens that, at the time, I thought were better than the FMS. More details, easier, no kit needed, etc. However, after using these screens, I’ve seen the light and understand that the FMS is the standard for a reason. I will make my point with your questions below.

Need to communicate with others about results – This is why the FMS is so amazing! It gives you a baseline to communicate, it gives you a scoring system that tells you about the movement, and it’s the only system that defines what good movement is. If you can’t define good movement than what are you assessing? The Functional Movement Screen and the SFMA were designed for movement professionals to communicate with clinicians worldwide. Why reinvent the wheel?

Not enough in some cases – I can’t think of a case where the FMS is not enough to screen functional movement.  What movement is not covered by the FMS that wouldn’t be considered a performance test or an assessment that a clinician should be doing? If your client is in pain you should refer out. Know your scope of practice. Can they do they movement that you will be asking of them in the gym? The FMS is the best system to tell you which patterns you train, which patterns you correct, and which patterns you avoid.

0 – avoid and/or refer out

1 – correct or avoid

2 – Process with caution

3 – Feel free to rip it

Additionally, the FMS Level 2 workshop has many breakouts for each movement on the screen so you can dig deeper into correcting each pattern. I also have started a series on the SGT blog that shows breakouts for each movement. Between the screen and the breakouts, that should be more than enough information.

Too much for other cases – The FMS takes 8-10 minutes to perform with a client. I don’t’ know how to get this much reliable information in 10 minutes any other way. Doing some of the movements and not all of them gives you an incomplete picture of how someone moves. The FMS is basic movement, you will be doing basic movement with your clients, shouldn’t you at least look at those movements at a basic level without load before training them?

Also, you can always default to the Active Straight Leg Raise and Shoulder Mobility if someone is elderly or severely obese. I can’t think of any situation besides that where the FMS would be too much.

All of that being said – I completely understand that you want to learn more about assessment. I read and watch everything I can get my hands on about the topic and I also tweak my breakouts all of the time. You should always keep learning and questioning the status quo, so I commend you for that.

I’d check out the following resources to learn more:

Assess and Correct by Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson, and Bill Hartman

Functional Stability Training by Mike Reinold and Eric Cressey

SGT Building a Foundation

I do however strongly believe that the FMS should come first so we all can be on the same page with what movement is, and we all can communicate on how to make it better. Great question!