If I ask my clients what their goals are… the answers are usually the same… “I want to get into shape, I want to get tone, I want to lose weight, I want to get stronger”, etc. I occasionally hear that they want to hurt less or be able to move better, but unless they were referred to me for that, It is rare that people care how they move. I had a girl come in recently who has been doing a popular style of training for about a year, and has lost 50+ pounds… along with multiple knees, back, shoulder and hip injuries. I asked her why she kept going. She told me if it will make me skinny, I’ll deal with it. I can’t change societies obsession with image, but, I can hopefully help people to understand that you can be successful, look better, lose weight, get stronger, get tone, and get into shape, and not have to struggle so hard through the pain and injuries. I want to help people understand that everything starts with a strong structural base.
Now let’s talk about training. Foundations are the base of any structure. Your body is no exception. There is a reason that so many injuries occur both in exercise or sport. Poor structural movement and stability are the primary reasons why these injuries start to occur. Too many programs try to start people exercising aggressively. They use big movements and targeting high volumes without even a basic structural assessment. Then, rather than address a problem, people tend to “work around” it. This leads to further structural imbalances, pain, and can lead to bigger injuries. Poor hip mobility can lead to knee pain, hip pain, and back pain. Poor shoulder and thoracic spine mobility can lead to shoulder injuries, back pain, elbow pain, and neck pain. Poor ankle mobility can cause foot injuries, shin pain, knee injuries, hip pain, and back pain. The frustrating thing is that basic structural assessments are easy to do. Basic mobility and stability programming, and instruction are simple in nature as well. However, programs usually involve a 5-10 minute warm-up and then get after it.
Now I can’t write everything that needs to exist in a foundation program, but I would like to outline how to go about building this foundation. First, do some kind of structural assessment and have medical clearance for past injuries. Know where you don’t move well, and learn the mobility movements to improve your restrictions. Know what basic stabilizers aren’t strong and learn the stability exercises to strengthen them. Start with basic movement patterns and learn how to do those movements correctly with body weight or light resistance. When I am referring to basic movements, I am talking about squats, lunges, bend movements, pull movements, push movements, and twisting movements. Avoid compound movements (putting multiple basic movements together like a squat to shoulder press or lunge and row) until you have mastered the basic movements. This allows your nervous system (or your “muscle memory”) to learn the movement patterns and allows your body to begin to integrate them into compound movements safely.
Safe programming starts with a good foundation phase of at least 4-8 weeks. Phase 2 should increase the load on basic movements and incorporate circuiting. Phase 3 moves into compound movements as well as continuous load increases. Phase 4 is specialization when it is required. Here you create movements that simulate or are designed to improve sport or job-specific tasks. A well-designed program will safely progress a client in order to create adequate movement and stability. It will progress them into basic strength and endurance, and it will continue to progress them into advanced movements and conditioning. When they reach this advanced point, they will also be confident that they can perform that program with minimal risk of pain and injury. This is how we should all be looking at programming. We should be preparing our clients for long-term strength, and healthy, pain-free bodies, continuously through their lives. Make your client better at 50 than they were at 40. Remember that a 6-month goal does you no good if you regress after a year.
Stay strong, live healthy, and remember that you have the opportunity to live a long time….enjoy it!
Ryan Golec | Director of Movement | Performance EDU Fitness