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The problem with ‘one size fits all’ workout programs

There is a fitness paradox happening in America today. The public knows more about health and fitness than ever before, but at the same time, as a nation we have a very big obesity problem.

Could it be that the way we program our workout is wrong?

During my 18 years in the fitness industry, I've seen well-intentioned and hard-working people go to the gym and pound out miles on a treadmill, or strain to lift barbells, all in the name of "getting in shape." Quite frankly, most of these people are working too hard on the wrong things. I also see a lot of them getting injured. But try as they might, they just aren't getting the RESULTS they want!

So what can we do?

First, I think it's important that we start to look at fitness programming as a prescription rather than just a Hodgepodge of things all thrown together in hopes that something will work. Just like your doctor prescribes you a specific drug for a specific symptom, exercise should be handled similarly.

When starting a fitness program, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does the program specifically address your needs and goals?

  2. Is it appropriate for your age and fitness level?

  3. Does it address your physical limitations, range of motion and past injuries?

  4. Is it aligned with what you want to accomplish?

If you answered "yes" to all four questions then you have found a well-prescribed program.

Some of the more popular programs out there today are what I like to call "one size fits all." You know, the ones in which everyone does the same workout routine despite their size, shape, fitness abilities and health conditions. These programs are great for getting people motivated and moving, but the problem with this type of workout is that we're not all the same. So why would we think that a cookie cutter routine would provide everyone the same results?

It won't. And that's why your friend gets great results from that fad diet or exercise program but you see nothing. It's not that you didn't try your best; it's because the program just wasn't right for you. It wasn't properly prescribed for you.

Unfortunately this is what discourages people from sticking with an exercise routine.

A better solution? Individualized Training Programs (ITPs). For those who have struggled in the past to see results, ITPs are for you.

ITPs take into account your age, fitness level, health history, past injuries, physical limitations, nutritional habits, body fat, training history and specific goals. They also include range of motion, flexibility and stability evaluations.

By taking all this information into account, a fitness professional can accurately prescribe a program based specifically on your needs. This "blueprint" is incredibly important because now you have a specific plan with easy-to-follow steps for the next 3, 6 or 12 months to keep you on track. You'll also have a reference point for monthly re-evaluations so you can measure progress and be able to pinpoint problems if there are any setbacks.

So if you've been working out for a while and feel like you aren't getting anywhere, maybe now is a good time to consider a different approach.

The best way to get started with your own ITP is to find a qualified trainer. Look for a gym where they offer to perform a complete fitness assessment. At my gym, "Strategy Sessions" are available for members and non-members. The find a trainer with a bachelor's degree in an exercise science or kinesiology plus certification/s such as:

  1. National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)- CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) or the CPT (Certified Personal Trainer)

  2. American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)- CPT

  3. National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)- CPT

  4. Functional Movement Systems (FMS)- FMS Level 1

Bill Tokmajian, CSCS, is the owner of Motivate Fitness in Ambler, Pa. He is a guest contributor on Sports Doc.

Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.