Tuesday, March 10, 2015

"This Workout I Found Online Isn't Helping Me...."

Every person is different, everyone's anatomical structures and physiological capacities are different, everyone's goals are different. The list could go on forever however the important thing to understand is that people are different and therefore their exercise programs should be as well. This message is not only important for people hitting the gym every day searching for a magical workout online but also for the trainers, coaches, PT's or whomever is prescribing the program in the first place.  I have to admit, in my early years of personal training I was lacking this blatantly obvious concept in my program design.  I was guilty of writing programs for my clients that were similar to ones that I myself used in my own workouts and enjoyed doing until I realized that my 45 yr old female client probably didn't care if she had huge traps or could bench press 300 lbs. Therefore the theme for today is specificity!

 This concept of specificity is important to realize as you are planning your exercise routine so that your program is specific to you and only you.  It's not always as easy as cutting a routine out of a Muscle & Fitness magazine, following it and then hoping to look like the guy/girl on the cover in 12 weeks.  I often get asked to write a quick program for someone and send it to them without every seeing them in a gym before or knowing their training background.  I try to explain to people that it may not be the best program for them because I don't know what kind of experience they have with some of the exercises, whether or not they can physically do them and/or if the gym they workout at even has the required equipment.  Also, not all people call exercises by the same name, (some exercises don't even have name!) so it's tough to explain the exercises without physically being present to demonstrate them and make sure they are done properly.

Each person is different and responds differently to exercise.  For example a 20 yr old can handle a relatively higher training load and can workout/train multiple hours a day 5-7 days a week whereas a 70 yr old may need days in between workout sessions in order to recover.  Furthermore, some people may not be able to perform certain exercises whether it be from an old injury, lack of mobility or coordination, or they're 7 ft tall and a back squat is completely out of the picture.  Therefore it's necessary to modify workouts so that they not only fit your individual bodies but your goals as well.

Continue below for ideas on how to implement:

Another concept of specificity is training for a purpose or a specific goal.  A football player doesn't need to be running 80 miles a week just like a swimmer doesn't need to be doing a bunch of jump squats to improve their vertical.  Similarly, in terms of fitness goals, if you are looking to lose weight you don't need to be doing 5 sets of 3 reps with 5 minutes in between sets in the weight room, or if you are trying to increase strength and size you don't need to be doing a back squat.... on top of a stability ball.... on one leg....underwater for sets of 100.

How To Do This?
So, now the important question: How the hell do I do this?  Well, below are a few tips on how to design a workout specific to you!

1. Set Personal Goals
Before you start any type of program you need to decide what you want to get out of it. Do you want to lose weight? Build muscle? Improve your endurance? Or just look good in a swimsuit? Regardless of what you want, write it down, set a timeline (a realistic one), join a gym and go for it.  In life you often hear the phrase "more is better" is this case it's not always true.  I'm all for the idea of you wanting to be awesome at everything but some times it's simpler to just pick 1 or 2 goals and focus solely on them because a lot of times if you have too many goals they can get in the way of each other and become conflicting.  For example, it's difficult to try and improve your marathon time while trying to gain 20 lbs of lean muscle at the same time.  

2. Know Your Environment
Know what you have to work with; meaning if your goal is to improve your swim performance but you don't have access to a pool, you may not hit your goal as quickly as you'd like to.  The same goes for weight lifting or gym workouts.  If you belong to a smaller gym that doesn't have a lot of equipment or machines, you need to get creative and design a workout that focuses more on body weight exercises or unconventional exercises such as "playground pullups" or "tire flips."  The creator of P90X has made a fortune off of this concept.  He has designed a plethora of workouts that you can accomplish all in the confines of your own home.

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