Valorie Ness-Sonnemaker and Bill Sonnemaker MS look at how to program simply using ViPR.

According to Dr Bill White of Catalyst Fitness, program design can best be defined as “a replicable process created to systematically apply evidence-based knowledge, human talent, and resources towards meeting specified needs and achieving designated goals or ends.”

Four elements of sound program design

1.   Evidence-based: founded in science and backed by research

2.   Systematic: following a system or process

3.   Progressive: increasing level of difficulty over time and specificity appropriate to the client’s goals, needs, and abilities

4.   Scalable: ability to change and adapt the program and/or session based on how the client is progressing

As we dive into this topic, it is important that everyone is familiar with and recognizes that the nine governing principles of exercise science must be taken into account in order for your programs to be efficient, effective, and safe.

Nine governing principles of exercise science

1.         Overload

2.         Specificity

3.         Progression

4.         Variation

5.         Individuality

6.         Diminishing returns

7.         Reversibility

8.         Recovery

9.         Safety

Acute variables are the things we as professionals manipulate in order to bring about specific neuromuscular adaptational responses with the populations we work with. It is important to note that exercise selection is the most important acute variable. The second most important is order of exercises, which is followed by intensity. After the first three, the order becomes general in nature as they are often interdependent with each other. For example, range of motion and length of lever arm are dependent on each other in that range of motion will decrease as the length of the lever arm increases and vice versa. 

Common acute variables

1.   Exercise selection

2.   Order of exercises

3.   Intensity

4.   Reps

5.   Sets

6.   Volume

7.   Tempo

8.   Rest periods

9.   Training frequency

10.   Muscle action (eccentric-isometric-concentric)

11.   Length of lever arm

12.   Range of motion

13.   Stable vs unstable

14.   Known vs unknown

15.   etc.

See the Catalyst Fitness Acute Variables Handout for specific qualitative and quantitative information when selecting your acute variables for the following common training goals:

View PDF

·         Stabilization

·         Strength (endurance, hypertrophy, maximal)

·         Power

(Four) progressive training principles

1.   Address muscular imbalances/movement restrictions/compensations

2.   Establish optimum multiplanar postural control

3.   Stabilize before mobilizing

4.   Be systematic

Six steps to programming with ViPR

1. Series

ViPR has the capacity to be used in many different ways. These are categorized into series. Quite simply, ‘series’ refers to how ViPR is being used. As a way to maintain structural freedom, the ViPR series is a critical way to prescribe a suitable drill to participants. ViPR series include throw, drag, shlift, tilt, flip, lift, shift, carry, and roll.

2.  Exercise

Just as ‘series’ describes what ViPR is doing, ‘exercise’ refers to what the body is doing in gross movement terms. While the human body has the capacity to move in countless ways, it is important to structure human motion in generalized terms. These include level changes (squatting/lunging/bending), locomotion (walking/running/skipping/shuffling/jumping/hopping/bounding), stationary force (pushing/pulling/rotating) or a combination of these.

3. Hold

This refers to how we grip ViPR. Changing the way we hold (i.e., grip) ViPR will heavily influence how the body is loaded and can be a great way to regress or progress exercises/load without changing to a different ViPR.

4.  Footprint

The ‘footprint’ describes where your feet are positioned and where they will be moving to. Footprint (i.e., foot stance and/or foot movement) changes made while performing the exercises will increase or decrease complexity of the movement, as well as the neural demand.

5.   Handprint

The ‘handprint’ describes where your hands are positioned and where they are moving to. Handprint (i.e., hand position and the associated arm movement) changes made while performing the exercises will change how different muscles are engaged.

6.  Threshold

This refers to acute variable manipulation (i.e., reps, sets, weight, speed, range of motion, complexity of motion). This step serves as your last checks and balances to make sure the drill you choose is appropriate for the level of client.

At ViPR we utilize three different ‘thresholds’ or ‘levels’ if you will. These different thresholds allow us to regress or progress exercises in a systematic and progressive format. Doing so allows us to achieve results with participants in the fastest and safest manner possible.

Threshold 1

• Neuromuscular efficiency

• Eccentric motor control 

•  Anatomical adaptation (prepares tissues for the rigors of movement)

•  Controlled range of movement (ROM)

Threshold 2

• Increased movement complexity

• Increased integrated timing of function

• Increased force output

•  Increased reactive component

Threshold 3

• Dynamic end range movement ability

• High movement complexity

• Dynamic function

• Faster movement

• High force movement

•  Unknown movement (reactive)

Anatomy of a traditional training session

·         Warm-up (myofascial release/movement prep/cardio-optional)

·         Core/balance

·         Reactive/SAQ

·         Resistance: Total body/compound/isolated

·         Cool-down

The following workout and video clip depicts a predominantly ViPR-based exercise session with the goals of both metabolic training and muscle hypertrophy through hormonal activation and repetitive movement patterns.

See the Catalyst Fitness 3/26/15 Small Group Personal Training on Demand workout. You can keep up with our Small Group Personal Training on Demand workouts on our Catalyst Fitness Facebook page:

And you can see program examples on YouTube: 


More information on the equipment used in this video can be found at the following websites:




When designing exercise programs for individual clients, small groups, athletes, etc. it is good to perform a needs analysis and to have the answers to the following questions prior to implementing your program.

1. What are the client’s goals?

2. What are the requirements of the activities or sports your client participates in?

3. What are the common injuries associated with their activities/sport(s)?

4. How much time can and will your client commit to improving their health and fitness?

In closing, it is important to remember that planned program design is always the best approach and all of the previous scientific principles and acute variables that you learned and know how to use still apply to training with ViPR. The only difference is the tool you are holding in your hands.