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© 2015 Jason McQueen / McFit Fitness, inc.
Boulder, Colorado 80303 USA

Effective Use of Training Time

October 18, 2015

Effective Use of Training Time

Effective use of training time is a key priority for all personal trainers. The 120-180 minutes of usable training time per week often makes it difficult for trainers to help their clients reach all their perceivably attainable goals. This is particularly true when the needs include all aspects of health related fitness. The traditional, but antiquated, model of personal training that uses body part emphasis and three sets of ten repetitions provide limited benefit for the average person with multi-factor need. Attempting to fix range of motion issues, musculo-skeletal imbalances, as well as body fat reduction and the often associated metabolic and cardiovascular conditions with three sets of ten using bodybuilding exercises is an inefficient use of time. Rather, the exercise program should be broken down into segments with specific emphasis. Separating the needs into discernable categories allows for a more efficient use of the training time and places specific stress related to the desired adaptation. 

Although the exercise program structure may differ on a case-by-case basis, a basic model can be used that addresses the individual need in a periodized, cycled program. Looking at the basics of exercise physiology a plan of attack that separates the energy systems and the tension requirements of the muscle can be used to categorize the gross purpose of the activity and its relative order in the exercise bout. When employing anaerobic and aerobic modalities in the same day the requisite tensions employed for adaptational response can be used to sort out the emphasis. This organization is directed by the energy systems that support each action. The standard order should reflect the continuum from phosphagen to oxidative metabolism and therefore should be ordered in the following manner:

Power–Strength–Hypertrophy–Anaerobic Endurance–Aerobic

Within these categories the energy systems can be further broken down to reflect the specific intent along with individual considerations such as fitness level, training tenure, movement aptitude, etc. Getting back to the underlying exercise science, the activities may be broken down into the phosphagen system and the glycolytic pathway or if unsure about the overlap, 1-5 and 6-12 repetitions. Less than five repetitions to volitional failure reflect phosphagen energy utilization and an intensity greater than 85% of a 1RM, whereas greater than six repetitions of the same effort reflects use of the glycolytic pathway and less than 85% of a 1RM. When more than 12 repetitions are completed the intensity is most likely too low. This will result in the activity dropping out of a strength emphasis and migrating into the early stages of an anaerobic endurance activity.  

Now it makes sense to apply the additional considerations that are relevant to addressing multiple client needs. The inclusion of, and need for a warm-up, a functional skeleton (ROM and strength balance), multi-planar movement efficiency, and adequate caloric expenditure, warrant significant attention. When each of these components are added into the exercise bout, and with the limited time considered, the use of multiple training systems should enter the equation. The use of circuits for dynamic flexibility and glycolytic strength/endurance as well as supersets, contrast sets, and movement combinations can be used to effectively accomplish tasks of different nature. Segmenting the program in a logical order can be accomplished by simply matching the need to the desired outcome.  

This schematic accounts for numerous aspects of a needs analysis and can be manipulated based on those client specific needs. During the muscle preparedness section the tissue should be ready for increasing tensions and range of motion. Foam rolling may be considered as warranted. The dynamic warm-up should use all major movements and progress through a complete range of motion. The activities can be progressive but must give consideration to the common skeletal distortions like upper and lower cross syndromes. These conditions are common and require actions that promote thoracic extension and lumbar-pelvic hip activity. The neural prep is necessary following the use of static stretches aimed at preventing an injury to “awaken” relaxed tissue or for the purposes of significant velocity or tensions used in the core exercise segment. The core area is where the most diversity will be found. It is important to note core components in programming means “primary” and not the trunk musculature. Here the emphasis is defined by assessments and client goals. Some clients have the capacity to employ strength and power exercises as a primary focus whereas others will be looking at movement efficiency, improvements in motor patterning, and a defined volume of movement for initial conditioning, exercise experience, and caloric expenditure. For those able to employ compound lifts at higher intensities, the anaerobic endurance section allows for a large variety of movements and higher training volumes. Lesser conditioned clients would already employ this intensity/energy system relationship as their core components. 

The metabolic segment is often completed by utilizing supersets or tri-sets. This enables a higher volume; challenging the body in a way that is desirable for the outcome yet under the controls of lower intensity. During this section, movement combinations and glycolytic-driven velocities can be used. The actual number of activities that fall under this area are greatest as is the diversity of the adaptional goals. For instance, cable diagonal chops for closed chain hip/trunk rotation, 30 seconds of jump rope for increased heart rate, lateral walking front-loaded lunges for frontal plane core/hip activity, bench push-ups for upper body endurance, speed step-ups for velocity based stability/efficiency, suspension rows for core/shoulder joint endurance/strength; the list could go on and on. Employing metabolic exercise sequences is based on the individual’s capabilities and experience and again is directed by the needs analysis. Some key considerations are performance under fatigue, the force velocity curve, and buffering capacity. The use of two tri-sets, two times through, can increase training volume by 1/3rd, which translates into greater adaptation response and increased caloric expenditure. Metabolics also allow for training practice when stability, coordination or another major influence must be mastered before real loads are used.

When circuits and multi-set systems are employed it should be noted that more is not always better. Excess variety does not allow for adequate time to develop efficient motor patterns. Therefore some level of homogenous programming is justified. Although variety creates more diversity in stress, too much new physical data is tough to manage and the nervous system efficiency is slowed. Rather, select a fewer movements instead of more and master them before adding new exercises or getting aggressive with the progressive overloadfactors.

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