Be Your Own Personal Trainer
Have you ever wondered how a personal trainer decides what exercises you should do, how many reps or sets should be included, or how they safely add variety to your workouts so you don’t hit the dreaded plateau?
Below I’ve broken down and explained how to apply four of the basic training principles from the Can-Fit Pro personal training manual. I’ve also listed three innovative ways you can modify your reps and sets so you know how to keep challenging yourself and take your fitness level to the next level. Go ahead – be your own personal trainer!
Basic Training Principles
1. The SMART system
The SMART system guides you through the goal-setting process. The “S” stands for specific goals. The “M” stands for measurable goals. The “A” stands for action-oriented goals. The “R” stands for realistic goals and the “T” stands for timed goals.
This is an important principle to keep in mind when planning any fitness program. Many people make vague, unmeasurable and unrealistic goals. And not surprisingly, they end up failing and feeling frustrated at themselves for their failure. Don’t pick a vague goal such as “I want to get in shape”. Pick a clear and measurable goal like “I want to work out three days a week for one hour for the next month”, or “I want to train and complete a 5 km race in two months”. Then sit down and clearly outline the steps that will help you accomplish that goal.
2. Progressive Overload
This principle suggests that to improve, you must continually challenge your fitness. For example, if a person’s fitness is not progressively challenged (through increased intensity, duration or complexity), the person will “plateau”, or cease to make improvements.
If you’re following a specific exercise program, then you need to change that program every 4-8 weeks. If you always do three sets of 15 repetitions, try implementing some of the “alternate set techniques” that are listed below to breathe some new life into your program. If you always do the same cardiovascular routine, try a new type of class or machine.
Recovery should not be seen as optional, but as a mandatory principle of training that you must consider for every program. For example, every program must consider other activities you’re engaged in, such as the type of work you perform. The recovery must allow for you to return to the next workout at least as fit as the previous workout, if not more fit. If you don’t have enough recovery time, you’ll eventually become ill or injured, and discontinue training altogether.
When resistance training, always allow 48 hours between muscle groups. If you’re training for a sport or event, always allow one full day of recovery, and possibly some cross-training days, so you don’t run the risk of developing a repetitive strain injury.
4. Structural Tolerance
This principle suggests that structural tolerance (the strengthening of tendons, ligaments, etc.) will result in the ability to sustain subsequently greater stresses in training, with a greater resistance to injury.
This principle is connected to the principle of progressive overload. As you increase your fitness, you’re able to handle lifting more weight or running a longer distance. Conversely, if you try to lift too much too soon, or run too far when you’re not strong enough, your tendons, ligaments and joints won’t be able to support the weight you’re trying to lift, or the movements you’re trying to accomplish. This is significant if you have a goal of running 10 km or bench-pressing 100 lb. For the 10 km race, you have to structure your training program so you gradually build up to 10 km, and you have to make sure you include exercises that target the ankles, knees and hips so your tendons, ligaments, joints and muscles are strong enough to support you.
Approaches to Set performances
If you’re one of many who are guilty of constantly doing the same workout over and over again, try one of the suggestions below to spice up your workout and keep your mind and body from getting bored.
Tempo is the speed at which an exercise is performed.
Change up your tempo or the duration of various positions in your exercise. Examples include: A. Increasing the duration of a lifting or lowering motion by two to five seconds. B. Halfway through the lowering phase of the motion, hold for four seconds. C. Hold yourself at the bottom of a motion for five seconds, then explode upwards (perfect for squats or lunges).
2. Pyramid sets
Multiple sets are combined in an ascending or descending (or both) fashion. Throughout the set you modify both the weight and reps completed.
Pyramids are one of my favorite ways to challenge my clients. Here’s one of my favorite pyramid sets below: A. This pyramid combines push-ups and a plank/row exercise. In the plank/row exercise, hold yourself in a plank position with a weight in each hand. While maintaining your plank position, row your elbow up to the ceiling. Perform:
- 2 push-ups, 2 plank/rows each arm
- 4 push-ups, 4 plank/rows each arm
- 6 push-ups, 6 plank/rows each arm
- 8 push-ups, 8 plank/rows each arm
- 10 push-ups, 10 plank/rows each arm
Two or more sets are combined with little or no rest for the same or different muscle group.
If you want to stress one section of the body (i.e., legs), perform two exercises for the same body part back to back.
: Weighted squats with squat jumps. Or, do two different body parts back to back so you’re resting one body part as you work another one.
A. Deadlifts with hamstring curls with the swiss ball. B. Push-ups with dumbbell rows.