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The dangers of programme templates

Having been involved in the health and fitness industry for many years now, I have had the privilege to meet numerous excellent athletes as well as the casual gym-goer.

Many of these follow the advice of personal trainers or fitness centre instructors who are available to the centre members. With the development of the information superhighway, ie, the internet, there are an increasingly large number of people following fitness programmes that they get online. These are they types of programmes that you might see in fitness magazines also, and are what the Americans call cookie-cutter programmes. It’s a ready-made programme template or a one-programme-for-all, if you like.

From a personal point of view, I am concerned about these as they don’t take into account the specifics of the person’s circumstances, eg, muscle strength imbalances, hypo/hyperflexibility, injury history, posture, nutritional habits, etc.

Real world example: Joe reads in a magazine that squats are good for developing leg strength. So, he gets himself down to the gym and starts working away at squats. He doesn’t consult an instructor or a physical therapist. Now what Joe doesn’t realise is that due to his office job, his constant sitting down has resulted in tight psoas (hip flexors ) and inhibited gluteus maximus (hip extensor ). This results in his squat being performed incorrectly with him over-relying on his psoas and quadriceps muscles to perform the exercise because his glutes aren’t firing correctly. Over time this increases the imbalance and may lead to hip dysfunction followed by low back pain. What can Joe do differently? Well, he could pick up ideas from the internet or a magazine and check with his personal trainer to see if it will suit him. A good trainer will, following an assessment, see that Joe has inhibited glutes and recommend activation exercises to correct this.

This is a rough example of how a well-known exercise is not for everyone. There are several situations when doing shoulder exercises can be detrimental instead of beneficial to the client or athlete. Yet, every day, someone is doing the exact same programme as someone else, even though his particular physical condition may be contraindicated. At times this can be down to a less-than-educated trainer. Knowledge of exercises is not sufficient. A trainer must know what to recommend and what to avoid depending on the client. If in doubt, consult with a therapist. Not surrounding oneself with a good team can cause problems. For example I surround myself with the best Taekwon-do coach, neuromuscular therapist, and orthopaedic physician I can get my hands on. As a trainer and an athlete, I continue to learn from them, as they continue to learn from the other masters of their disciplines.

In summary, people are unique. Their programmes should be too. What may be appropriate for one, is not appropriate for all Lastly, depending on your posture and daily routines, your needs will change more often than you think.

 

Is there a topic you would like to see covered in a future column? If so email requests to [email protected]

 

Shane Fitzgibbon is a full-time martial arts and fitness instructor and has dedicated his career to bringing his sport in to the modern era, constantly evolving and improving his training methods in line with the latest research. Using the above principles Fitzgibbon has won countless gold medals representing Ireland in European, World and Intercontinental Taekwon-do Championships. He runs Taekwon-do classes all over County Galway and is available for personal training and sports consultation. He can be contacted on 087-2070577.

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