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Behind the scenes – the art and science behind programing your personal training session.


You show up, get changed, go through your warm-up, proceed to get your butt handed to you for the next 40-45 minutes, you drip sweat all over the floor, curse, stretch, shower, get changed again. Just like that it’s over—the workout box is ticked—and you’re on with your day (feeling deservedly accomplished, of course).

Once our workout is done, many of us don’t give it a second thought. But, hopefully, there’s a lot more to your training than simply the hour you spend with your trainer. With a dizzying number of variables to consider, the creation of your personalized training program is a combination of both art and science.

How does your trainer pick the exercises, order, progressions, weights, reps, tempo, pace, conditioning tools, intensity, etc? If your coach is worth their salt—there is a plan—a training program. This program is for you and only you. It takes into account your goals, quirks, kinks, and the ankle sprain you got when you were five. It’s an amalgamation of scientific principles, personal style, and hands-on experience, not to mention the best use of what’s available.

It’s the foundation of your results, and it all happens before you’ve even stepped foot in the gym.

Here are a few of the steps that go into making your program YOUR program:

The Assessment:

The assessment is a sacred ritual. It is an imperative step in the creation of a knowledge-based program. This is the time to gather information—both quantitate and qualitative: How many degrees of active hip external rotation do you have, how many pull-ups can you perform, what physical activities do you enjoy participating in, what is your injury history, main goal, favourite colour? We want to know it all.

Like the design of a training program, an effective assessment relies on both art and science. Effective communication (art) is contingent on a trainers ability to actively listen to what their client is sharing with them and interpret this information as to how it will affect the design of their program. On the technical side of things, a breadth of knowledge in assessment protocols (science) is necessary to gather quantitative data on how the client moves to decipher their needs from a mechanical, anatomical, and physiological standpoint.

Uncovered during this initial meeting; the client’s goals, training and injury history, availability, and personality will greatly dictate the outcome of their exercise prescription.

WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, HOW:

Who is the client? A professional triathlete? A sedentary office worker? A busy mom training for her first marathon? A retiree looking to improve their balance?

What is their goal? General health and fitness? Weight loss? Sport specific or performance based? With different goals come different treatment interventions.

When are they training (training frequency). Once, twice, three, or more sessions per week? The higher the frequency the bigger the opportunity for detail and individuality. Alternatively, one session a week should focus on higher intensity (load) global movement patterns and compound exercises to train the whole body as efficiently as possible.

Where are you training? A fully stocked gym? A crowded personal training studio? The park? The space and equipment available will inevitably affect aspects of the program such as exercise prescription, order, and intensity.

HOW does the client move? The assessment protocol will reveal individual variation in mechanics, strength, and movement competency. Is the client comfortable performing foundational movements: squat, hinge, lunge, push, pull, and carry? The client’s baseline level of strength and movement competency will greatly influence the first phase of programming.

Bringing it all to the floor:

The key to creating and implementing an effective and enjoyable program is considering both the social and scientific aspects that make up a training session. Interpreting science-driven assessment results to write the “ideal” program for a client is relatively easy. Making sure the session addresses both what the client needs as well as what the client wants is often a little more difficult. We rarely enjoy doing the things we need to work on the most, though working on them will often yield the best results.

The following diagram paints a picture of the overlap in scientific and sociological factors involved in each session:

Behind the scenes – the art and science behind programing your personal training session.

You show up, get changed, go through your warm-up, proceed to get your butt handed to you for the next 40-45 minutes, you drip sweat all over the floor, curse, stretch, shower, get changed again. Just like that it’s over—the workout box is ticked—and you’re on with your day (feeling deservedly accomplished, of course).

Once our workout is done, many of us don’t give it a second thought. But, hopefully, there’s a lot more to your training than simply the hour you spend with your trainer. With a dizzying number of variables to consider, the creation of your personalized training program is a combination of both art and science.

How does your trainer pick the exercises, order, progressions, weights, reps, tempo, pace, conditioning tools, intensity, etc? If your coach is worth their salt—there is a plan—a training program. This program is for you and only you. It takes into account your goals, quirks, kinks, and the ankle sprain you got when you were five. It’s an amalgamation of scientific principles, personal style, and hands-on experience, not to mention the best use of what’s available. It’s the foundation of your results, and it all happens before you’ve even stepped foot in the gym.

Here are a few of the steps that go into making your program YOUR program:

The Assessment:

The assessment is a sacred ritual. It is an imperative step in the creation of a knowledge-based program. This is the time to gather information—both quantitate and qualitative: How many degrees of active hip external rotation do you have, how many pull-ups can you perform, what physical activities do you enjoy participating in, what is your injury history, main goal, favourite colour? We want to know it all.

Like the design of a training program, an effective assessment relies on both art and science. Effective communication (art) is contingent on a trainers ability to actively listen to what their client is sharing with them and interpret this information as to how it will affect the design of their program. On the technical side of things, a breadth of knowledge in assessment protocols (science) is necessary to gather quantitative data on how the client moves to decipher their needs from a mechanical, anatomical, and physiological standpoint.

Uncovered during this initial meeting; the client’s goals, training and injury history, availability, and personality will greatly dictate the outcome of their exercise prescription.

WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, HOW:

Who is the client? A professional triathlete? A sedentary office worker? A busy mom training for her first marathon? A retiree looking to improve their balance?

What is their goal? General health and fitness? Weight loss? Sport specific or performance based? With different goals come different treatment interventions.

When are they training (training frequency). Once, twice, three, or more sessions per week? The higher the frequency the bigger the opportunity for detail and individuality. Alternatively, one session a week should focus on higher intensity (load) global movement patterns and compound exercises to train the whole body as efficiently as possible.

Where are you training? A fully stocked gym? A crowded personal training studio? The park? The space and equipment available will inevitably affect aspects of the program such as exercise prescription, order, and intensity.

HOW does the client move? The assessment protocol will reveal individual variation in mechanics, strength, and movement competency. Is the client comfortable performing foundational movements: squat, hinge, lunge, push, pull, and carry? The client’s baseline level of strength and movement competency will greatly influence the first phase of programming.

Bringing it all to the floor:

The key to creating and implementing an effective and enjoyable program is considering both the social and scientific aspects that make up a training session. Interpreting science-driven assessment results to write the “ideal” program for a client is relatively easy. Making sure the session addresses both what the client needs as well as what the client wants is often a little more difficult. We rarely enjoy doing the things we need to work on the most, though working on them will often yield the best results.

The following diagram paints a picture of the overlap in scientific and sociological factors involved in each session:

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So, though it may seem sometimes like we’re trying to torture you rest assured, every exercise, set, rep range, and weight has been carefully selected for a reason – with your best interests at heart! Hopefully, by this point you haven’t realized the last 750 words were slowly encouraging you to stop complaining about the exercises you don’t like!

#programdesign #exerciseprogram #workout #personaltraining #vancouverpersonaltraining #Squamishpersonaltraining

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