What exercises should be in your Personal Training Program?

I spend a bit of time talking, networking and comparing notes & strategies with other Personal Trainers, body builders and fitness enthusiasts about what makes a good program, amongst other things. Ideally as a PT I'd really like to have a consistent approach, that gets results for everyone. In reality though, everyone's goals are different, people are starting out from a different level of ability and de/conditioning, and may have different biomechanical issues to overcome. That's not to mention dietary issues, and how much effort and consistency they are prepared to put into training.

So for these reasons (and more!), there's no "one size fits all" approach. Every client's program will be different, that's why it's called Personal Training. When you hire a Personal Trainer you should expect a personal program tailored to your circumstances and goals in all aspects from exercise selection, volume and intensity, nutrition planning and even style of coaching and motivation.

With that being said, I'm increasingly of the opinion that there are a handful of exercises that should be utilised in the vast majority of programs. These are the exercises that recruit the most muscle activation, improve core stability, burn more calories, and encourage more fat loss. You might be surprised that I am talking about the three classic body building exercises; Squats, Deadlifts and Bench Press.

Now before you stop me because you think these exercises are only for body builders or power lifters who's goal is to get huge, lets address that myth first. If you want to get bigger, eat more and lift heavy! If you want to get smaller, firmer, more toned with less fat, eat less, and lift heavy! Building muscle through resistance training is what will give you that lean, firm and toned appearance that most of us aspire to, while also increasing the amount of fat we burn through out the day. To reiterate, you will not get bigger unless you consume a higher amount of calories than required.

These are also functional exercises that carry over into every day life. For example, practising good lifting technique in the gym with squats and deadlifts will go along way towards preventing spinal injury the next time you have to move the sofa at home, or fetch a box of stationery at work.

The issue with the "big three" exercises is that many people are not able immediately able to perform them. In these cases the Personal Trainer's job is to identify the biomechanical issues (postural, flexibility, and so on) preventing the client from successfully performing the exercise, and then create a program with appropriate stretching and descended versions of the exercises which address these issues.

Aside from our squats, deadlifts and bench press (or the descended exercises which will lead up to them), the balance of exercises included in the program will be selected according to the client's individual needs. For example, a client with rounded shoulders might require stretching of the chest muscles, and strengthening of the back muscles to improve shoulder posture. This is just one of many common postural issues that may need to be addressed in the program.

We've covered resistance training and to a lesser extent stretching, we need to talk about cardio as well.

Again, the choice of cardiovascular exercise will vary from client to client. If you enjoy running or jogging, that's easy - get out for a jog on days in between gym or PT sessions. If you're less likely to enjoy that (like me), we can try boxing drills, bodyweight resistance circuits, interval training, or combinations of all of these.

To summarise, the Personal Trainer's job is to provide a program that is both enjoyable, effective and suited to the client's individual needs. Within the program there should be room for flexibility to alter the choice of exercises as the client's abilities and conditioning improves, or as new functional issues are discovered.

Most of all, a good trainer aims to get the client to a point where their knowledge and ability allows them to continue the program without further instruction. Often times the client will continue working with the trainer due to the additional motivation and encouragement provided, or choose to return sporadically as they find that they need a more challenging program.

Remember, if you're in Brunswick Personal Training and great results are just a click or two away!

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