Thursday, August 2, 2012

How are these “custom” programs being designed?

I’m sure by now you have seen, heard or even done some of these “customized” fitness programs out there.  Typically, what you are buying is a DVD with a man or woman showing you a series of exercises that helped them achieve the body they have, which conveniently happens to be the body you want.  Here’s the problem though.  If 5,000 people buy this DVD program, you have 5,000 people doing the exact same thing – so how is this a customized program?  Maybe the customization comes from the fact that this fitness guru has broken the program into 3 categories: Beginner, Intermediate and Expert.  Ok, so if that’s the case, how is it determined what your fitness level is?  Let’s face it, any way you slice it, these are not customized programs.  There are several key elements that are needed to know before designing a true, customized fitness program. 

Let’s take a look at three of them….

First, posture is very important when designing or having an exercise program designed for you.  It can show you possible reasons for pain or discomfort, signs of previous injuries and let’s you know what exercises should and should not be implemented in the program.  For example, a man who sits at a desk all day with poor posture has rounded shoulders, forward head carriage, posterior pelvic tilt and chronic shoulder pain wants to start a fitness program to loose 20 pounds for his wedding.  Let’s say he pops in that DVD that we mentioned earlier and the first round of the program has him doing push-ups, shoulder presses, bicep curls sit-ups and mountain climbers.  Do you think these exercises would help the man’s posture and shoulder pain or make it worse?  Most of these exercises promote flexion (push-ups, sit-ups, and mountain climbers) and due the man’s poor posture, the shoulder presses are not the best idea unless done with proper form and good posture and bicep curls are usually done with the shoulders coming forward – usually a sign that the person is using too heavy a weight or has just developed a faulty movement pattern. 

Secondly, assessing someone’s core functionis crucial.  Now, if you’re thinking core function is based upon how many sit ups you can, guess again.  A few of the assessments that I use to test someone’s core function can be humbling because it might look and sound really easy, but when push comes to shove, only the stable triumph. 

Lastly, we need to look at length tension relationships.  How can a program be designed before we know how flexible someone is or how overly flexible someone is?  A common problem that happens to people, especially in yoga classes, is they over stretch their muscles.  Don’t get me wrong, I love yoga and I think it’s very beneficial, but if your muscles are already long and possibly weak, why would you stretch them ever further?  What we need to do is find out what is already short and tight & long and weak, then stretch and strengthen the muscles appropriately.      

So, with everything listed above, do you see how and why these things are so important to know before you or trainer just starts to throw you on a machine or have you do their new favorite workout?  If you are already working with a trainer, or are thinking about working with a trainer, ask them if they test or know how to test these 3 elements.  I guarantee that if these 3 things are properly addresses and taken into consideration when designing or having a program designed, it will be far more superior to these other “customized” programs because now you have a program that is designed to improve posture, core stability, flexibility and overall function. 

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