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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Back to The the gym

Having spent some 15 years in the fitness industry as a personal trainer I have had the opportunity to attend many different seminars and continuing education talks and workshops.  It is always interesting to me to see the ‘newest’ toys and exercises that are featured. Learning new things is good..right? I mean it can give you new tools, skills or methods of dealing with things, help you reach a goal or specific result or perhaps just give you a new perspective.  I can’t help but to look around the room and wonder juts how many of these trainers are going to run home and throw this new ‘stuff’ at their clients first thing Monday morning.  Sigh

As a trainer in a facility with over 40 trainers I often feel the same way when we hire on new staff.  I feel very confident in the in-house training our staff undergoes as well as the ability of the existing trainers to relay and teach the information. What I am sometimes leery of is a new trainer’s ability to discern when to use the ‘fancy moves’ they are learning. 

This is an equal opportunity pitfall open to trainers and gym goers everywhere. We’ve all seen it.  In walks Jane Doe for her evening workout, magazine in hand carefully folded open displaying the fancy ‘new’ workout complete with fancy name and photos of body parts going in every direction.  She walks over to the dumbbell rack grabs a pair, steps up onto a BOSU, attempts to balance on one leg with her eyes closed and perform a one legged squat while curling and pressing the dumbbells over head.  The end result is anything but optimal.  Was it the exercise’s fault? Nope.  The magazine’s fault? Nope. Hmmmm, where did things go wrong?  Let’s step back and think first about Jane Doe’s goals.  What are they?  Weight loss? Sports performance? Is this exercise appropriate for her goals? If it IS an appropriate exercise selection then we move to step two: breaking it down. Is she proficient in each piece of the exercise- single leg balance on unstable surface, single leg squat on an unstable surface? Can she perform those well on a STABLE surface? Can she perform a dumbbell curl while on an unstable surface? How about an overhead press? This advanced move may be very appropriate for someone who has mastered each individual piece of the move- first on a stable surface –using both legs, then on a stable surface using one leg, then on an unstable surface with both legs, then with one and finally with their eyes closed. If the answer to all of these questions is ‘yes’ then by all means please proceed with your exercise.  If not, let’s start over. Let’s start at the point she is walking towards the dumbbell rack. 

I see it time and time again-grab a weight and do an exercise. Why? Because that is what everyone else is doing? That is always a great answer.  How many times have you seen an exercise being performed improperly and wondered if it would even be possible for the exercise to be executed WITHOUT any external load? Meaning, can the person properly execute the exercise using only their body weight?  Let’s get back to the basics and progress from there.  After all progressive overload is the premise of exercise, right?  If we start at the end point then where do we go from there- besides home after we get hurt!

Is it even possible to put together an a$$ kicking bodyweight workout? Oh hell yea.
Where do we start? Well, at the beginning of course.  Let’s build a program for someone looking for general fitness/weight loss.  Honestly, regardless of your goals, you should be able to perform a general bodyweight workout FIRST before jumping straight into an advanced specific training program.  Next we want to be sure to include all primal movement patterns: pull, push, squat, lunge, bend, and twist. Easy enough. Body weight row or pull up, push up, squat, lunge, dead lift pattern and any type of rotation. Depending on the ability of the client the twist may be built into one of the other patterns- the squat or the lunge or even the pull or push. 

I generally like to have clients do some type of general warm up such as run, walk, cycle, row or jump rope for 5-10 minutes and then perform a more specific warm up with movements that are a little more closely related to the exercises we will be using in their training session.  So let’s say Jane walks briskly on the treadmill for 10 minutes.  Then she will perform a more dynamic warm up using leg swings in the sagittal plane (forward and back) as well as frontal plane (side to side), walking high kicks, butt kicks, high knees, carioca, lateral lunges, squats, arm swings forward and back as well as with lateral flexion and walkouts or inch worms.  Depending on what a person is accustomed to doing in their training, this may be an entire training session!  Let’s say Jane makes it through this just fine.  Now we move on to the meat and potatoes of our session.  Remember her goal is general fitness/weight loss, so we will be performing these exercises in succession with little to no rest between until completing one round of each exercise. 

Four sets of the following with a minute rest between each set:
Body weight squats x 25 (squat to ball to maintain depth)
Step-ups alternating legs (or alternating lunges)x 30 seconds
Jump rope 1 minute

Rest 3 minutes

Next, three sets of the following with a minute rest between each set:
Push up to T-stance  x10
Body weight row x15
Jump rope 1minute

Rest 3 minutes

Then 5 sets of the following, rest as needed, but no more than 90 seconds
Burpee x10
Mountain climbers x30 seconds
High plank hold x 30 seconds

Rest 3 minutes

Top it all off with a 500-1000 meter row and you are D-O-N-E!

Using a plan like this, exercises can be regressed or progressed based on a client’s ability level and workload capability.  One size does NOT fit all.  Any monkey can pull exercises off of YouTube that look cool or write a program to just kick someone’s butt.  However, the ability to adequately evaluate a person’s readiness or ability level, and ascend or descend exercises accordingly takes quite a bit more knowledge. What do you do if you are training on your own? First, look at the general outline of the training plan.  Who or what is it geared toward? Strength, size, endurance, sport specific?  Does that match YOUR goal? If it does, carefully look at each exercise.  Can you break the exercises down into multiple parts? If so, can you properly perform each part before doing them together? If you answer no, then just start with each part by itself and go from there. 

Remember, the basics are there because they are the BASE of everything.  If you don’t have a solid base, chances are the rest of your program will come tumbling down- just like a house without a solid foundation.  Don’t go adding the roof or the skylight until the walls have been put in place. There is an order to building things, whether it is your house or your physique, be sure you are progressing properly.  Master the basics before you throw pain at the walls.

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