R7 Approach To Program Design

The R7 approach is a way to make designing workouts easy and simple for strength coaches, and an awesome way for athletes to digest why they’re doing the work that they’re doing. Not only do coaches now have an easy planning tool for workouts, but athletes will buy-in to the program, no doubt enhancing the gains they will make with each workout.

Mike Robertson, Coach and creator of the R7 Approach to program design talked about buy-in at the 2019 NSCA Coaches Conference, explaining that you could write the best program in the world, but without buy-in from the athletes, it’s nothing.

Goal of The R7 Approach:

The main goal of the R7 Approach is to write superior programs in less time. R7 is pretty much a template that can be followed while planning each workout to make sure all of the bases are covered and that the athlete will see the most amount of gain from their time spent.

There are 7 simple, digestible steps, each one bringing about maximal benefit to an athletes success:

  • R1: Release
  • R2: Reset
  • R3: Readiness
  • R4: Reactive
  • R5: Resistance
  • R6: Resilience
  • R7: Recovery
Photo of R7 Graph

Let’s go ahead and look at each piece of the puzzle a little bit more in-depth.

R1: Release

This first step is release, which is linked to self-myofascial release, foam rolling or any other soft tissue work. The goal of the release phase is to decrease stiffness and prepare the athlete for exercise.

It’s recommended that athletes foam roll the tissues of the body that are predominantly going to be used for the main lift that day, as well as any trouble areas from previous training.

If today is squat day, give a quick roll to the glutes, hamstrings, and quadricep muscles. This release will increase blood flow and likely range of motion, reducing risk of injury and getting the athlete ready to lift.

Generally, the calves, quads/hip flexors, glutes, pecs, lats are the most important muscle structures to release, but of course this may be altered by the athlete’s needs.

Although still important, many coaches recommend spending a little less time on this step and focussing more time on the Reset phase.

Photo of R7 Release by Rolling

If you are unsure what you should be foam rolling, start with the calves, quadriceps/hip flexors, glutes, pecs, and lats.

R2: Reset

Goal: Optimize biomechanical position (get athletes into better positions) and create Autonomic Nervous system balance

People are constantly tight and stuck moving in specific patterns because of prolonged stress. Some stress isn’t bad, but constant sympathetic nervous system activity decreases mobility.

The reset step is a way to get athletes out of a stressed state and move better. Limiting stress = more mobility and more efficient movement patterns.

There are many different ways to reset an athlete, but my favourite is deep diaphragm breathing through corrective movements. Diaphragm breathing forces the athlete to take slower breaths making them feel more relaxed while corrective movements create new options and ranges of movement that they will utilize throughout their lift and hopefully into sport.

An example of a quick reset session before a workout would be a half kneeling hip flexor stretch for 5 breaths on each side, working to inhibit overactive hip flexors during movement that is caused by stress.

Photo of R7 Reset Hip Flexor Stretch

Half kneeling hip flexor stretch while breathing deep, whole breathes to reset the body and mind.

R3: Readiness

Goal: Prepare the athlete for the best possible training session on that given day

The readiness phase is the warm-up, getting athletes ready to kill the workout. Mike Robertson breaks this component into 3 parts: Physiology, Biomechanics, and Specific.

Physiology: Getting the body warm, start firing the nervous system, and get “loose”

Biomechanics: Optimize alignment and move toward more integrated exercises rather than isolated.

Specific: This portion of the warm-up should get athletes ready specifically for the lift they are doing that day. Start working up to speeds and loads that are specific to the lifts they will be performing at the start of that workout.

Once the athlete is warm, they are ready to dive into the actual workout!

Photo of R7 Readiness by Stretching

Dynamic stretching is an example of a physiological warm up, getting the body loose and ready for exercise.

R4: Reactive

Goal: Improve an athlete’s power and explosiveness

Instead of jumping right into lifting huge weights, it’s important for an athlete to be athletic. I’m talking jumps, sprints, throws, Olympic lifts. Literally anything that is fast and explosive can be slotted into this section.

A jumping athlete can be amazingly strong, but never use the force available to them for their sport because of a lack of speed and power.

The reactive phase also serves as a smooth transition between going straight from a warm-up into big lifts. Now there’s a middle man to connect the two.

Photo of R7 Reactive by a Med Ball Throw

Sprints, jumps, Olympic lifts, and throws all develop power and should be utilized by everybody.

R5: Resistance


Simply put, this is the most important concept an athlete can utilize. Lift weights. It really doesn’t matter who you are or what sport you participate in (or if you even play a sport for that matter), lifting weights is good for you.

Even if getting strong isn’t enough to convince you to follow a resistance training program (I hope it is, but why not), this type of training also leads to fat loss, accumulation of muscle, prevention of injury, and other traits that will surely help an athlete in their athletic endeavors.

Lift heavy things, put them down, and then lift heavier things.

Photo of R7 Resistance by Squatting

Everybody needs to lift weights, even if they aren’t an athlete.

R6: Resiliency

Goal: Develop higher levels of work capacity.

Whether you need the extra work capacity in your sport to be able to jump just as high in the 5th set as you could in the 1st, or you want to be able to come home after a long day at work and be able to play with your kids, training your energy systems is important for everybody.

Having an adequate aerobic base is crucial for everybody, but who likes to go run in circles for hours at a time? If you say yes to that question, great! Now go ahead and run yourself right to the psychiatrist. The good thing about the resiliency section for people like me that don’t want to run 10 miles a day, is that there are so many ways to train it.

Long cardio, circuits, interval training, sled sprints. Anything that you can think of that can get your heart pumping for periods of time is great for this section.

“High-intensity/anaerobic performance in sports is built from a low-intensity/aerobic base.” -Mike Robertson

Photo of R7 Resiliency by Prowler Push

Training work capacity doesn’t have to mean running 5k. Try pushing a sled around for 30 minutes and tell me if you feel tired.

R7: Recovery

Goal: Switch into a parasympathetic state

This is the easy stuff, all of the heavy lifting and powerful movements are complete, but it certainly can’t be taken for granted. Putting the athlete into a parasympathetic state (rest and digest) kickstarts the recovery process and gets the body ready to adapt.

The ability to recover and adapt is what truly makes a great athlete, and that’s exactly why recovery is valued so highly on the Sled Dog team.

There are so many ways to end a session and relax, it doesn’t have to be limited to just static stretching! Foam rolling, super low-intensity active recovery, yoga, or even just breathing 10 deep belly breaths are all great, it’s really about what works for the athlete.

Photo of R7 Recovery by Legs up on Wall

Personally, I use deep belly breathing techniques to calm myself down after a lift.


The R7 training method allows for superior programs in less time. Once again this isn’t the only way to structure a workout, but by following the R7 Approach, it ensures that you aren’t missing any important steps that will help develop your goals. The framework that this system builds helps structure workouts quicker and more efficiently.

Ozzy’s Action

Take a good look at your next workout and see how many of the boxes you are checking off. If it’s any number less than 7, think about why you’re leaving a piece out and how much better you could be by utilizing it.

If you have any questions about the R7 Approach or want to support the Sled Dog Team, shoot us a message on Instagram and Sign Up for our Weekly Newsletter!

Big thanks to Mike Robertson who put all of these ideas in an easy to use system. If you want to watch the NSCA Conference where Coach Robertson presented these ideas, Click Here!