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The Perfect Fitness Program

By Marc Perry / July 1, 2017

Do you ever dream about your perfect fitness program? Ok, maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always wondered how I could adjust all the variables in a fitness program just right so that I could reach my potential as quickly, safely, and efficiently as possible.

I will go over all the variables to consider for each of the three major components of your fitness program that affect your body composition (1) Strength Training, (2) Cardio and (3) Nutrition.

1) Strength Training

Your perfect strength training program would take into account the following variables:

• Frequency (# of workouts per week)
• Duration (length of workout)
• Body Part Split (muscle groups to focus on each workout, or types of movements – (squat/push/pull etc.)
• Sets per Exercise
• Reps per Set
• Rest b/w Sets
• Resistance/Weight
• Type of exercises
• Order of exercises
• Tempo (how fast each rep is completed)
• How these variables change over time

2) Cardiovascular activity

Here are the variables to consider:

• Frequency (# of sessions per week)
• Duration (length of session)
• Intensity (Measured by heart rate)
• Type of Cardio
• How these variables change over time

3) Nutrition

While I’ve precisely tracked all the variables below in the past, it’s a very demanding experience. Bodybuilders and elite athletes for example control these variables. Your perfect fitness program would take them into account as well:

• Total Number of Calories
• Calorie Breakdown (between protein, carbs, and fat)
• Calories per meal/snack
• Timing of Calories
• Sources of Calories (Balance of food groups + vitamins and minerals)

I may have missed a couple variables, so let me know if I did. I think after reading this article you can appreciate that designing a fitness program can be a very challenging process (I do it all the time!). By the same token, I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed.

The truth you NEVER hear is that the difference between a good exercise program and the theoretically perfect exercise program is not that large from a body composition perspective. Maybe you lose an extra couple pounds over a month period, not that big of a deal. When you are an Olympic athlete and your success depends on a hundredth of a second, than it becomes a lot more important. When you are looking to sustainably improve your body, not as much. That doesn’t mean we can’t dream about the perfect fitness program, right?

I must tell you the difference between a bad exercise program and a good one, however, is large, so I don’t want to belittle the importance of exercise program design, but I do want to give you some perspective. At the end of the day, finding something you enjoy that’s sustainable is what’s it’s all about. The perfect fitness program is just a dream after all!

I’ll be following up with some more sample workout routines to make these variables I’ve introduced seem less daunting.


  • Brian says:

    helpful reference

  • jak says:

    Some other possible variables I would consider: how much water/hydrating fluids to drink; how much sleep to get, whether or not to nap/power nap and for how long; whether or not to take supplements, natural or otherwise, and how much (omega 3s, caffeine, l=carnitine, vitamin d, etc); person's level of activity aside from exercise sessions (do they spend 8 hours per day waiting tables or sitting at a computer?).

    And I think other, less direct variables may have an impact, such as the amount of stress in the person's life and his/her ability to deal with it; whether or not it makes a difference to really concentrate and visualize during strength training, versus just going through the motions while listening to music and thinking about other things. Also, there is the person's age and current fitness level to consider.

    • Marc Perry says:

      Hey Jak, those are great points that I really should have included. Thanks for pointing them out.

  • Toni says:

    I would amend this article slightly to add in flexibility. Yoga is the fountain of youth and I don't know anyone who couldn't benefit from being a little more limber. I usually do yoga three times a week (in the evening) for 20-30 minutes on the days when I run in the morning. It helps me to destress from the day and sleep better too. Just a thought.

    • Marc Perry says:

      @Toni - Thanks for sharing. That's a solid point. I think flexibility is very important.

  • Sher says:

    What is the % breakdown in fats, carbs, and protein that is required for a balanced day?


    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Sher - Depends on who you ask is the simple answer, and more specifically, what your goals are and also what works best with your genetics. I personally like around a 30/40/30 split give or take 5% either way between protein/carbs/fat, but some people do better on lower fat, and others do better on higher fat. Ultimately, you should figure out what keeps you the most satisfied without eating too many calories if your goal is to lose body fat.