As a health and fitness professional, one of the greatest gifts you can offer your clients is to show them how the workouts and movements you design for them are connected to the activities and movements they do in their everyday lives. With an understanding of how what you do in a workout correlates with what you do outside of it, daily tasks can be performed with a potentially greater sense of proprioception and body awareness. This article and workout demonstrate how the ACE Integrated Fitness Training® (ACE IFT®) Model can help you make this connection for your clients by choosing movements, equipment and intensities that create a harmoniously challenging fitness experience that is unique and specific to each client’s needs and goals.

The ACE IFT Model features five distinct movements:
  1. Bend and Lift: A bilateral hip or quad-dominant movement (e.g., squat, deadlift, glute bridge)
  2. Lunge: A unilateral or asymmetrical lower-body movement (e.g., single-leg squat, lunge)
  3. Push: A vertical or horizontal pushing movement, either bilateral or unilateral
  4. Pull: A vertical or horizontal pulling movement, either bilateral or unilateral
  5. Rotation

Bringing the ACE IFT Model to Life

The following workout featuring the Hyperwear SoftBells was developed using the ACE IFT Model as a guide. The ACE IFT Model provides a framework for developing stability or mobility as appropriate in a specific area of the body (phase 1), reintegrating it into full-body movement (phase 2), adding external load and creating a stimulus for strength gains (phase 3) and increasing movement speed to develop bodily control (phase 4.) When using the ACE IFT Model, it is important to realize that if a client requires some phase 1 exercises, it does not mean that phase 3 and 4 exercises are not appropriate. Life makes us lift heavy things and move quickly at times, whether or not we are technically “ready” to do so. This reality is reflected in this workout, which features exercises from phases 2 and 3 and, for some clients, phase 4.

SoftBells, which are shaped like a dumbbell but are soft like a SandBell, provide a new way to use a familiar piece of equipment. A Softbell consists of two soft neoprene weight plates attached to a reinforced plastic handle. Dumbbells range in weight from 3 to 20 pounds and start at $24.99. A soft dumbbell opens up many new movement opportunities, including the ability to move the weights quickly without the risk of damage (to the floor or other equipment), injury or disruptive noise.

Hyperwear SoftBells

A Softbell consists of two soft neoprene weight plates attached to a reinforced plastic handle. Dumbbells range in weight from 3 to 20 pounds and start at $24.99.


In addition to training to improve strength, the exercises in this workout are designed to enhance hand-eye coordination, cognitive processing and reactivity. Each of these lead to (1) a higher physical effort (ENERGY), (2) a higher level of engagement and focus (ENGAGEMENT), and (3) enhanced brain health (BRAIN). The terms in all caps are used to identify when these components are a focus of a given exercise. Here’s a brief explanation of how each of these components may be enhanced through exercise:

ENERGY: Whenever there is any uncertainty in a movement, you will get a higher level of effort, even without having to ask a client for it. This can be a great way to get people to work a little harder when you know they are ready, but they don’t yet believe they are ready.

ENGAGEMENT: Complex movements requiring coordination and precision, such as catching an object, elicit a higher level of focus and engagement. This can be a great way to bring people fully into the moment and into the experience. When there is no room for the to-do list and other outside life distractions, clients exhibit higher levels of focus, which enhances the experience of exercise.

BRAIN: Exercises that require problem solving elicit a larger boost in the brain-protective protein BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). Examples include tossing and catching something thrown in an unpredictable fashion (no two tosses are the same) or that is an unusual shape or texture. (Are you catching the handle or the end of the SoftBell? With how many fingers? With your dominant or non-dominant hand?) Tossing and catching a SoftBell can be compared to trail running, which requires you to problem solve with every step over a changing and variable surface.

The Movements

Side-to-side Swing

How To: Hold a SoftBell in each hand. Drive your hips backward with a long spine, allowing your right hand to drop between your legs while the left hand glides outside the left leg. Use a forward hip drive to return to the starting position. As you get to the top, allow your arms to shift to the right so that as you lower into the next repetition, your left hand is positioned to drop between your legs and the right hand will now pass the outside of the right leg. Continue alternating sides until the set is complete.

ACE IFT Model Phases: Phase 2; elements of Phase 4 are included if the movement is performed more quickly than your “normal” speed

Full-body Lateral Raise

How To: Hold a SoftBell in your right hand and raise it up to the right with a straight arm. At the top, let go of the softball as you rapidly reach across your body with your left hand to catch the SoftBell with an underhand grip. Swing the weight down and then up to the left side and repeat the pattern, alternating arms with each repetition. Allow your legs and torso to assist the movement.

ACE IFT Model Phases: Phase 2; phase 3 if using a heavier SoftBell; phase 4 if using a lighter one and moving more quickly

Toss and Catch Lunge

How To: Hold a SoftBell in your right hand. Perform a step back lunge with your right leg moving behind you as you simultaneously lower the SoftBell to touch the floor just inside your left foot. As you return to the starting position, toss the SoftBell straight up in the air in front of you. As you begin the next lunge by moving the left leg behind you, catch the SoftBell with your left hand and slow it down with your legs by performing the lunge. Note: This is an important cue when catching any heavy object: you touch it with your hands, but you catch it with your hips and legs. The big muscles slow down the forces at work.

Optional: Experiment with different catches. For example, catch the handle only, the sides only or make it random.

ACE IFT Model Phase: Phase 3

Shifting Shoulder Press 

How To: While standing, hold the sides of the SoftBell over your right shoulder. Push the SoftBell up as you bring it overhead. Lower the SoftBell to the left shoulder and repeat. Allow your shoulders to rotate slightly/naturally with the movement while keeping your hips squared. This adds thoracic rotation to a shoulder press.

ACE IFT Model Phase: Phase 3

Plank Side Press 

How To: From an elbow plank position, grasp the SoftBell with your right hand. Lift and push it out to the right side until your elbow is straight. Hold that position for a moment and then bring the SoftBell back in, across and under your torso, placing it near your left arm. Repeat the motion with the left arm and continue alternating until the end of the set. Use a foot position that is wide enough to provide the stability to perform the movement well and keep your hips from rotating, but close enough that it is still challenging.

ACE IFT Model Phase: Phase 3

Single-leg Chop

How To: Remove one end of the SoftBell. Stand on your left leg and hold the SoftBell handle with both hands, with the heavier end pointed down. Lower the SoftBell outside your left leg while bending at the knee and hip. Raise the SoftBell up and across the body, finishing above and outside your right shoulder, while straightening your left leg.

The single-leg chop forces you to slow down and “own” each part of the movement. Additionally, it gives you many ways of exploring balance training. You can keep the eyes and head fixed straight ahead (proprioceptive challenge), keep the eyes fixed and move the head with the SoftBell (which adds a vestibular challenge), or move the eyes and head with the SoftBell for the hardest balance challenge (a visual challenge.)

ACE IFT Model Phase: Phase 2

The Workout

Use time-based sets—a 30:15 second work-to-rest ratio works well—and a circuit-style format. Perform the circuit three times. This covers all of the primary movements and provides some exercise-enhancement strategies as discussed earlier, making this relatively short workout even more beneficial and engaging.