Where to start a client
Program development (how to start a client) and program progression (how to advance a client) are key issues to study when preparing for your ACE certification exam. You’ll see questions on the exam and written simulation that address this specific issue. As a new trainer, this can be the hardest part of the job. How do you know where to start someone? How do you answer a question that says ‘Jim Bob is 35 years old, never exercised, but wants to begin an exercise routine to keep up with his new wife. What should his initial cardiovascular exercise plan look like?’
The first step is to listen. Or in the case of the exam, read closely!
When reading the question or listening to the client, look for key words like – beginner, new to exercise, no exercise for a bunch of years, or never exercised. This lets you know that you will be starting at the less intense end of the scale.
Two key sections of the ACE Personal Trainer Manual, 3rd edition, are pg 226 – Progression Plan – and pg. 329, Table11.2. Learn these pages, know these pages, love these pages.
But how do you use them? Table 11.2 on pg. 329 covers the programming guidelines for healthy adults. You can assume that all clients fall into these ranges. For example, if you are designing a cardiovascular program for a client, they should perform somewhere between 3 – 5 sessions a week, at an intensity of 40/50% - 85% of HRR, for 20 – 60 minutes a session. (Hint - that was the top row of Table 11.2).
Yes, that is a very general approach. And no, it doesn’t really help place your client in the correct program. But it does provide you a range to work in. The next step is to turn to pg. 226 to figure out where in this healthy adult range your client can be placed.
Page 226 in the ACE Personal Trainer Manual 3rd edition discusses the three stages of conditioning as defined in the ACSM guidelines – initial conditioning stage, improvement conditioning stage, and maintenance stage. Your client should fall into one of these three stages. Hint, that’s where the key words come into play.
Most clients are going to start in the initial conditioning stage. This is the ‘never exercised, not for years, etc.’ group. These clients may begin with sessions every other day, at an intensity of 40% - 60% of HRR, for 10 – 20 minutes a day. It may be slightly more intense/frequent than that, depending on the client. But if you check back on pg. 329, you’ll see that this program fits perfectly in the guidelines for healthy adults (granted, at the lower end of the range).
If you move on to the improvement conditioning stage (back on pg. 226) you see that the intensity increases to 50% - 85% of HRR, with exercise duration increasing every two to three weeks as well. These are the people who are regularly exercising. Again, this still fits within the guidelines for healthy adults. And you continue to advance your client from there, through improvement to maintenance.
What should you take away from this? When thinking about programming for a client, look/listen for keywords related to their exercise history. Think about the guidelines for healthy adults (pg 329), then think about where in this range your client will fit (conditioning stages, pg 226). Then start to tweak it for your individual client. Learning these steps is key to understanding and implementing cardiovascular programming.
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