Are you FITT to be a personal trainer?
The FITT principle (frequency, intensity, time, type) is the backbone of exercise programming. It is based off the ACSM programming guidelines for healthy adults and acts as a guide for exercise prescription. So how does FITT work? Let’s start by examining the elements one at a time (for additional reference, check the Personal Trainer manual, 3rd edition, page 329).
F stands for ‘frequency’. This refers to sessions per week. For cardiovascular exercise you would plan 3 – 5 sessions/week, 2 – 3 sessions/ week for resistance training, and 2 – 7 sessions/ week for flexibility training. People often substitute the words ‘days/week’ for ‘sessions/week’.
I is for ‘intensity’ – otherwise known as ‘how hard are you working?’ Intensity is defined based on the type of exercise you are completing. For cardiorespiratory exercise, we measure intensity in percent heart rate, percent VO2, or RPE. With resistance training you might be asking your client to work to volitional fatigue, or 19-20 RPE. Intensity with flexibility training is a bit harder to define, although most recommendations state ‘stretch to tightness at the end of range of motion, avoiding pain’.
The first T is for ‘time’. That should be pretty self explanatory – how much time is your client spending on this exercise? We look at 20 – 60 minutes for cardio, one set of 3 – 20 reps for resistance training, and 15 – 30 seconds per stretch for flexibility.
The final T stands for ‘type’ – as in type of activity that is being done. The standard answer here is large muscle group activity. When dealing with cardiovascular exercise, the activity is ‘dynamic activity utilizing the large muscle groups’. For resistance and flexibility training the activity is exercises that include all major muscle groups.
So you know the elements of FITT…but do you understand how to work with them? How you design a program for a client is based on things such as the client’s current health status, their goals, their limitations, experience, etc. FITT is the tool you use to translate these factors into a workable exercise program.
A FITT for a sedentary client might look like this:
F: 3 days per week
I: 50-60% heart rate reserve or 12 – 13 RPE
T: 20-30 minutes per session
T: Walking or cycling
Once your client starts progressing on their program, you can start manipulating the FITT elements to change things up and keep the client from hitting a plateau. For this client you might first change the T(time) to 30-35 minutes per session. Then the next progression might be to change the intensity to 60-65% of HRR. Then you could add in a 4th session per week. It all depends on your client and their specific needs. However, it usually is best to only change one variable at a time rather than taking the above client and changing her program to 4 days a week, 65% HRR, 40 minutes per session, and adding some jogging. That can be too much change at once, leading to an increased risk of injury and burnout.
Any questions? Feel free to contact an Education Consultant at 1-888-825-3636 x782.