Sunday, February 28, 2010

Three Tiers of Exercise Training

Often, friends and clients will ask me my opinion of various exercise training techniques/workouts/programs. Of course, I am bias toward my own programs, but I try to objectively give some feedback. I like to classify exercise training into three tiers, based on quality.

Tier One: "Something is better than nothing" exercise training.

This is what most people will do when they start exercising. It is easy to prescribe but is probably limited to walking and bicycling. Your doctor may say "you need to start exercising" and If you listen to his/her advice, this is what you will do. Most likely, that will be the extent of information on exercise training you will receive, leaving it up to you to pick the exercise mode, intensity, duration, and frequency.

Tier Two: "The Cookie-Cutter Workout" exercise training.

You may want more structure and recommendation on exercise mode, intensity, duration, and frequency. This will give it to you. However, it will give it to everyone. The workout is the same for everyone. You find these in popular fitness magazines, on the internet, and of course there are many gym rats who are all too excited to tell you what to do. Of course, there are a lot of problems with these workouts. For one, the level of this training program may not be appropriate. It may be too strenuous or not challenging at all for you.
Secondly, you may not know how to perform these exercises properly. Many of these "cookie-cutter" programs are described or there are one or two pictures showing you how to perform the exercieses. Third, you may need a modified version of the exercise or an earlier progression. One of the best examples are running training programs. It may tell you how far, how fast, how frequent to run each week, and progresses you each week, but that may not be appropriate for you. What if you get foot or knee pain after following the program for three weeks? Do you push through it? Do you stop training, where and when do you restart. Why did you have the pain; can it be due to bad running mechanics (there is a good chance, but you were never told about this. They simply told you to run).

Tier Three: Personalized, Assessment-Based, Expert Training:

This is the rarest, but best training. The training program is developed based on your history, goals, and most importantly, a personal assessment by an expert. The training may include many "corrective" type exercises and low-level progressions. Once these are effective and mastered, higher- level progressions are added or substituted. Additionally, the training modes, volumes, intensity, and rest can be cycled (periodization) for the best results.
My personal training is of this nature. All clients start with an individual assessment to guide their training. Once a client starts training, they are always being assessed and their exercise technique is constantly being refined. Program variables are adjusted accordingly to ensure the safest, balanced, and most effective training program. I feel it is important for a client to become 'adaptable', not 'adapted' to a specific exercise program.

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