Sarah Shore-Beck by Sarah Shore-Beck

The ACE IFT Model for Obesity was designed to help trainers know how to effectively start training a client who is affected by obesity based on his or her current movement skills, and how to recognize common compensation patterns and providing appropriate exercise solutions. These clients will typically stay in the first two phases of the ACE IFT Model* for several weeks, if not months, and that’s O.K.!

*Note: ACE has created an online course to determine how to progress any client through the ACE IFT Model. Click here to help you better understand this article and to become a more effective personal trainer.

Phase 1: Stability and Mobility

Before moving on to the second phase a client needs to be assessed for relative stability and mobility across individual joints through the kinetic chain. ACE’s definition of joint stability is “the ability to maintain or control joint movement or position.” This is achieved through the synergistic actions of the components of the joint (e.g., muscles, ligaments, joint capsule and the neuromuscular system). The scapulothoracic joint, lumbar spine, knee joint and foot are all examples of body parts that can be assessed for stability. ACE defines joint mobility as “the range of uninhibited movement” around the intersection of two bones. This is achieved through the synergistic actions of the components of the joint and the neuromuscular system. The glenohumearal joint, thoracic spine, hip and ankle are body parts that can be assessed for mobility. These definitions and how they work within the body are essential concepts to understand before determining your client’s ability level.

Phase 1 establishes a base line for every exercise, which is why establishing this foundation is so important. If this phase is bypassed, existing joint limitations might promote ongoing joint dysfunction. If a trainer overestimates the ability level of the client, it is completely appropriate to go back to a less challenging level. It is better to regress than to regret!

Phase 2

Once stability and mobility in Phase 1 have been addressed it is time to see how the body moves as a unit. Poor posture, inefficient movement patterns and incorrect exercise techniques will potentially cause injuries if not corrected. Primary daily activity movements can be categorized in five different patterns: bend and lift, single leg, pushing, pulling, and rotational and spiral movements. For example, a common movement pattern for mothers of young children is a bend and lift. If there is improper alignment in a movement pattern, this can be corrected in a variety of ways, including reactive neuromuscular training to force imbalance correction. During this phase there is still no load unless each primary movement pattern has been mastered. When that happens, the only weight to consider is body weight load or items that would be moved in every day life, such as a child, groceries or a backpack. As a trainer, if you see incorrect mechanics of any of these movements those inefficiencies need to be addressed before adding load and before moving on to Phase 3.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to train clients affected by obesity, check out our Effective Strategies for Training Obese and Overweight Clients workshop. 

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