As fitness professionals, it’s inevitable that people ask for our opinions about popular exercise programs — ranging from programs featured in the most recent late-night infomercials to the centuries-old practice of yoga.
To help you answer these unavoidable questions and even turn an inquiry into a chance to market your skills as a personal trainer, this three-part series of monthly blog posts (dates follow at the end) will discuss some of the popular exercise trends, and how the ACE Integrated Fitness Training™ (IFT) Model applies to them.
The Facts About These Popular Exercise Programs
I have said this before and will say it again — there is no such thing as a bad exercise. There is, however, a wrong way to apply an exercise program.
Exercise is a physical stress applied to the physiology of the human body. When that stress is applied correctly, amazing results can occur. But if that stress is applied incorrectly, there can be disastrous consequences. This is true for all exercises, especially for many of the current exercise trends like Crossfit, P90X, Insanity, indoor cycling, Zumba®, and yoga.
Many of these exercise trends can be effective because they feature high-intensity exercises, challenging movement patterns, and use of different muscle groups in dynamic movements. However, because of this, they might not be appropriate for people just starting an exercise program, or for individuals with poor posture or movement skills. The risk of injury always increases when people attempt challenging exercises that are above their existing skill levels.
So when a gym member or friend asks for my opinion about an exercise fad, my response is always the same: Just because it might work for someone else does not necessarily mean it is right for you.
This is where we, as personal trainers, play a vital role for consumers. We stay on top of the latest information so we can help people achieve results with exercise programs that are right for their needs instead of risking injury by trying to follow a popular program that might be too challenging or advanced.
The Benefits of the ACE IFT Model
The primary reason why my colleagues and I developed the ACE IFT Model is because we saw the need to establish a systematic method for applying the principles and variables of exercise program design.
The four phases of the ACE IFT Model for functional movement and resistance training are (1) Stability and Mobility, (2) Movement, (3) Load and (4) Performance. The four phases of cardiorespiratory program design are (1) Aerobic Base, (2) Aerobic Efficiency, (3) Anaerobic Endurance and (4) Anaerobic Power.
Designing exercise programs using theACE IFT Model allows ACE-certified personal trainers to address clients’ specific needs while following a system for gradually progressing in intensity — unlike popular exercise trends that may not take a person's starting point and/or poor posture or movement skills into consideration.
How the ACE IFT Model Can Be Applied to Yoga
While yoga is not a recent trend since it’s been in practice for many, many years, it has grown in popularity over the last decade. Yoga is a fun and effective way to be physically active, but again, it may prove challenging for someone starting a program. While yoga does provide many benefits, it does have its limits in that a traditional Hatha-style yoga class does not use external resistance and elevated cardiorespiratory challenge does not create an overload — both are critical in terms of developing lean muscle and expending calories.
The purpose of the Stability and Mobility phase of the ACE IFT is to design exercise programs for clients that strengthen the core and postural muscles responsible for stability, while simultaneously improving the extensibility of the muscles that allow for joint mobility. The Stability and Mobility phase applies the variables of program design to establish the foundational strength critical for more challenging exercises.
The Movement phase of the ACE IFT Model combines joint stability and mobility to help clients improve movement efficiency and coordination in the five basic movements of exercise — lunging, squatting (or bending), pushing, pulling and rotation.
Yoga is a movement-based practice designed around flowing from one posture or body position to the next. The fact that traditional yoga uses bodyweight as the only resistance, and improves an individual’s strength and coordination would classify it as being part of both the Stability and Mobility, and Movement phases of the ACE IFT Model.
Yoga moves that hold a specific pose or position while maintaining muscle contractions qualify as stability exercises. Seamlessly moving from one posture to the next requires a tremendous amount of coordination and control, which is the purpose of the Movement phase.
While yoga provides many great benefits, in large classes it can be difficult for even the best instructors to provide the specific modifications an individual might need due to an injury or restriction in joint movement. Another challenge is that a participant new to yoga might have a tough time with the coordination and strength required to move seamlessly from one position to the next.
How Applying the ACE IFT Model to Popular Exercise Trends Makes You a More Marketable Personal Trainer
The next time a client or gym member asks about the benefits of yoga, you can explain that it focuses on improving joint stability, joint range of motion, and movement coordination, which you as a trainer can provide in an exercise program designed to meet their specific needs based on their current level of fitness and coordination. If the member is really interested in taking yoga, then taking a few sessions with you first can help them develop the basic, foundational skills they will need to be successful in a class environment.
This is just one example of how you can use your knowledge of exercise program design to explain the benefits of a popular mode of exercise. And this could help you land a new client.
- Part 2 of this series will post on March 2, 2012.
- Part 3 of this series will post on April 6, 2012.