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March 2, 2012, 10:05AM PT in Fitnovatives Blog  |  5 Comments

Applying the ACE IFT Model to Popular Workout Trends (Part 2 of 3 — P90X and Crossfit)

National Nutrition Month ACE Resources

In part 1 of this series, I discussed how the first two phases of the ACE IFT™ model — Stability and Mobility, and Movement — related to yoga. This time, we’ll take a look at P90X and Crossfit, and how the Load and Performance phases of the ACE IFT Model are related to the popular workout trends.

And most importantly, as shown in Part 1, this post will show how understanding exercise programming can turn an inquiry about those programs into a marketing opportunity for your services.

The Load phase, phase 3 of the ACE IFT™ Model, builds upon the previous two phases by applying external loads, or resistance training, to increase muscle force production. In the Load phase, variables such as intensity, repetitions, and sets (otherwise known as training volume) can be adjusted to either increase muscle size (hypertrophy), or maximize strength output. 

While the Load training increases the magnitude of muscle force production, the Performance phase of training, phase 4 of the ACE IFT Model, includes a component for the velocity of muscle force production. 

Performance training can either enhance the velocity of force production in order to generate as much force in as little time as possible (known as power), or to improve muscular strength to be able to maintain force production over an extended period of time (commonly known as endurance). 

High-intensity exercises such as plyometrics (jumping and medicine ball throws), explosive weightlifting techniques (Olympic weightlifting), and kettlebell training can be classified in the Performance phase because they are based on the application of muscular power.

High-intensity power-based exercises are very effective at developing lean muscle, but they also place a lot of stress on the body and should only be used with the proper guidance and in the appropriate amount. Doing too many high intensity jumps, throws or swings in a single workout could easily result in an overuse injury. 

Two of the most popular consumer trends in fitness right now are P90X (and the recently released P90X 2) and Crossfit.  Both workouts feature high-intensity strength and power exercises, which are consistent with exercise programming from the Load and Performance phases of the ACE IFT™ Model

These workouts are popular because they produce results for participants. There is a lot of research to indicate that power and strength training are effective for developing lean muscle mass while burning fat — two of the most commonly cited goals from individuals who are starting an exercise program.

However, because of the intensity of the exercises in both P90X and Crossfit, if individuals start these programs without first improving the strength of postural muscles or improving movement skills — using exercises from the Stability and Mobility and Movement phases of the ACE IFT Model — then they are at an increased risk of either a soft-tissue or overuse injury. Poor postural control and faulty joint positioning can contribute to injury.

Some Crossfit studios require participants to do a series of personal training sessions before they can participate in the group-formatted Workouts of the Day (WOD). This is to ensure they will learn the skills and techniques of the lifts featured in the exercise programs. 

While this is beneficial, many Crossfit studios try to teach these skills in a group setting where an individual might not get the personalized attention he or she requires for an optimal learning experience. I personally know many people who have had nothing but positive experiences with Crossfit, but I have also heard about numerous injuries due to a lack to proper physical preparation or skill development before progressing to the challenging and physically demanding WOD.  

As for P90X, since it is a home-based program, anyone who is trying to follow it won’t receive any specific feedback on his or her technique, and it likely won’t take long before doing squats or lunges with poor form will cause an injury. 

Another concern about these programs is that there is no gradual increase in intensity and much of the program is based on challenging strength or power exercises — ones that could potentially cause injury to participants who attempt them before they are ready.  There is nothing wrong with the exercises themselves, but many of them are not appropriate for an individual in the initial stages of starting an exercise program.

While P90X does have yoga incorporated into its program to improve flexibility and allows for active recovery days, many of these moves could be potentially harmful — especially without the proper coaching and feedback from an instructor.

So what can you do?

By following the four phases of the ACE IFT Model — starting with Stability and Mobility exercises, progressing to Movement, and ultimately to Load and Performance training — you can provide dynamic programs that are both effective and safe for your clients. 

Yes, you can use all four phases in one workout. See below for an example.

An example workout that uses all four phases:

  1. Start with Stability and Mobility exercises:   bird-dog, front plank, side plank and glute bridge for a basic warm-up.
  2. Progress to Movement exercises: bodyweight squat, anterior lunge with arm drivers, push-up, side lunge and woodchop for a dynamic warm-up.
    Two sets of ten to twelve reps of each of these exercises should provide a more than adequate warm-up and take approximately twenty to twenty-five minutes.
  3. High-intensity strength and power exercise: power cleans, deadlifts, bent-over rows, incline chest presses, barbell lunges and shoulder presses
    That leaves about twenty-five minutes of the training session
  4. Take the time for a proper cool-down.

Pick a weight that allows your client to do five to eight reps of each of those exercises. Don’t allow for any rest as they go from exercise to exercise, and you will watch buckets of sweat pour off them. (Allow them to rest for one-to-two minutes before challenging them to do the same sequence with the same number of reps in a shorter period of time.) 

If you follow this format, then you can provide your clients with the same high-intensity workouts and results produced by either Crossfit or P90X. 

Keep in mind that having conversations with individuals about popular workout programs presents a business opportunity for you as a personal trainer.  If you understand how to design exercise programs for strength and power (the Load and Performance phases of the ACE IFT Model) then you can tell the person asking you about a particular program that you, as a qualified fitness professional, can provide the same results by providing a progressively challenging program that will enable them to reach their fitness goals.

By Pete McCall, MS

McCall has an MS in Exercise Science and Health Promotion. In addition, he is an ACE-certified Personal Trainer (ACE-CPT) and holds additional certifications and advanced specializations through NSCA and NASM. McCall has been featured in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Runner’s World and Self.

More info on Pete McCall »