I am frequently asked what my rhymes and reasons are when I assess, design and implement a training program for a new client. So here it is in a nutshell. This logarithm is basically a compilation of 6 years university education, 40 years training experience and countless hours in conferences and seminars over the years. I also draw heavily on the many conversations that I have had over these years with physicians, physical therapists and other colleagues that I have had the good fortune to cross paths with.
If some of what follows seems vaguely familiar, you can thank Bob Hoffman, Arthur Jones, Ken Cooper, Jim Fox, Bill Pearl, Peary Rader, and most recently Stuart McGill, Gray Cook, and Pavel… and I am leaving out countless training partners, clients, physical therapists and physical therapy patients… all of whom have had a profound influence on my current thinking.
My first meeting with a prospective client consists of a sit-down interview. Here we discuss medical history, exercise history, recent changes in bodyweight, that person’s goals and plans.
I also take this opportunity to discuss costs and my expectations of that person and what they can expect from me.
If we jointly decide to move forward after the first meeting, I will set up a first appointment. At that first session, I will assess many aspects of that person’s makeup. These assessments usually consist of measurements such as bodyweight, body composition, certain girth measurements, pre-exercise blood pressure and heart rate as well as establish a basal metabolic rate using the KORR MetaCheck computer.
I also perform some type of movement screen. I prefer using components of the FMS screening tool (functionalmovement.com). I will also do gross strength tests of movements appropriate to that client’s goals and age.
Once I identify movement deficits, I usually try to correct them first. I usually use a corrective strategy that revolves around certain established corrective exercises that are designed to enhance extremity movement timing and trunk stability. Particular exercises at this point are also aimed at turning off the central nervous system’s braking reflexes, thus enhancing the body’s natural, deep seated movement patterns. These exercises are done at our gym and hopefully, at the client’s home via an individualized home exercise routine.
In the absence of injury, joint stiffness and muscle tightness is the body’s default mechanism for lack of sufficient joint stability. Once movement pattern deficits are identified and addressed, I focus my training efforts on exercises designed to offer sufficient joint stability. These exercises are done usually one limb at a time, with special focus on strengthening the stabilizing structures of the lumbar spine, shoulders and hips. At this point, I may integrate some balance training centering around auditory and vision drills. I try to stay away from training on unstable surfaces.
When I say strength training, I mean getting the muscles responsible for our body’s prime movements stronger. Compound resistance exercises such as the squat, bench press, pushups, overhead presses and pull-ups are my favorites. I’ll use a combination of barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and the client’s bodyweight to achieve our desired results. I try to stay away from fixed-weight machines. My strength training programs are brief but intense… with ample rest time required for recovery and adaptation.
Why train for power? Well, if you’re an athlete, explosive power can mean the difference between winning and losing. If you an active senior, having the ability to express your strength quickly can mean the difference between falling down a flight of stairs and catching yourself just in time. Power means force, and force = mass x acceleration. So if I am training an individual to increase his power, I will train that person with a resistance that he can move very quickly, but safely. If you’re on the young, athletic side, expect to work the Olympic lifts, kettlebell ballistics or plyometrics. If you’re not, expect rapid stair climbing, skipping or “riverdance” type movements.
- Sports Skills
If you are an athlete, whether young or old, this usually means practicing your particular sport. Here’s where you work with your sport’s coach or other expert. At this point, my job is usually done, except if one is in need of in-season conditioning. Here is where periodized program design is critical. A trainer with a good, basic knowledge of your particular sport would be invaluable in this type program design.