Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Meet Mark: The Case for Online Training

Meet Mark. Mark is a 30-something father of two and administrator at a university.

Mark enjoys being active. His primary fitness goals are simple: to look good and continue engaging in recreational sports with his buddies.

Lately, Mark’s been experiencing a plateau with his resistance training routine, though. He’s tasked me, his online personal trainer, with evaluating his current program and making some recommendations to help him break out of his rut.

I begin by reviewing Mark's current routine. He typically hits the local commercial gym 4 to 5 days per week for 45 minutes to an hour. He employs a body part training split, supersetting chest with tri’s, back with bi’s, and legs with shoulders. Mark finishes with a few hundred reps of floor-based ab exercises at the end of each session.

For cardio, Mark likes to do the agility ladder and run intervals on the treadmill for 15-20 minutes, although he’s just getting over bone spurs in his foot that have been him preventing him from doing so.

Mark’s training frequency and session length are ideal. He would likely benefit, though, from switching from his body part split to full-body training. Full-body training confers greater training frequency for each muscle group as well as a more balanced ratio of upper to lower and anterior (front side) to posterior (back side) exercises.

Mark’s training sessions are usually comprised of 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps of 6 exercises (two per muscle group being trained). While this training volume and repetition range is certainly a logical choice for Mark in terms of building muscle, he could definitely stand to incorporate both lower rep (4-6 reps) and higher rep (12-20) work for optimal muscle growth.

Like most men, Mark’s best muscle is his biceps. He would like to improve his chest and tricep development, as well as his legs. Mark lists his go-to exercises as follows:

  • Chest: flat bench, incline bench, decline bench, flys, push-ups
  • Back: lat pull-down, seated row, rear flys, machine back extension
  • Shoulders: overhead press, front raise, lateral raise, shrugs
  • Biceps: curls, hammer curls, reverse curls
  • Triceps: dips, rope pull-downs, close-grip bench press, skull crushers
  • Legs: back squats, deadlifts, walking lunges, machine leg curls, calf raises
  • Abs: crunches, physioball crunches, physioball prone jackknife

For the most part, Mark’s exercise selection is commensurate with his goals. There are just a few instances in which bodyweight exercises could be substituted for machine ones for improved transfer to his sporting activities (i.e. pull-ups in place of lat pull-downs, physioball leg curls instead of machine).

The one area of Mark's training that would benefit from a paradigm shift is his "ab" work. Although high-rep crunches will indeed improve the definition of his abdominal musculature, they may not be the safest choice for his spine nor the most applicable to his athletic endeavors. Instead, I can recommend exercises that focus more on "core stability" (i.e. planks, suitcase carries, and anti-rotation presses).

Below is the program I come up with for Mark, including set/rep prescriptions and videos for unfamiliar exercises. As far as weight selection, I recommend starting conservatively and progressing by attempting to add 5-10 pounds every week.

Directions: After a thorough warm-up, perform A/B couplets in rapid succession, rest 1-2 minutes, and repeat for a total of 3 rounds.

Day 1
1A. 3 x 6-8 x Deadlift
1B. 3 x 8-10 x Bird dog 

2A. 3 x 8-10 x Dumbbell bench press
2B. 3 x 8-10 x Seated row

3A. 3 x 12-15 x Rear fly (dumbbell or machine)
3B. :30/side x Dumbbell suitcase carry

Day 2
1A. 3 x 8-10 x Dumbbell walking lunge
1B. 3 x 8-10 x Dumbbell overhead press

2A. 3 x 8-10 x Anti-rotation press
2B. 3 x 8-10 x Straight-leg sit-ups

3. 10 x :15-:20 x Hill sprint – Rest down to heart rate of 120 beats per minute between sprint repeats)

Day 3
1A. 3 x 6-8 x Back squat

2A. 3 x 6-8 x Pull-up
2B. 3 x 10 x Bar dip

3A. 3 x 8-10 x Physioball leg curl
3B. 3 x :10-:15 RKC Plank

Day 4
1A. 3 x 8-10 x Dumbbell step-up
1B. 3 x 6-8 x Machine calf raise

2B. 3 x 10-12 x Dumbbell skull crusher

3. 1 x 100 x Dumbbell bicep curl – Complete as quickly as possible with perfect form; choose a weight you can do 20+ reps with

Ultimately, if Mark is to comply with his new routine, he has to be completely comfortable with every aspect of it. As such, I focused on small tweaks to his previous routine, making changes where necessary while leaving as many of the favorable aspects of it intact as possible.

Mark and I will check in weekly over e-mail to see how he's progressing. He'll repeat the above routine for about 4 weeks, at which point it will be time to change things up again by pairing new exercises together, using slight variations of the same movements, and even incorporating some completely novel elements in order to progress and spice things up.

Online Training

If you're interested in working with me in a similar capacity as Mark (initial evaluation, monthly training plans and consultations, weekly e-mail correspondence, video feedback, etc.), you're in luck.

This November, I'll be opening up FIVE new online coaching spots. One of them could be YOURS!

For more information about my services, fill out my Coaching Page with a little bit of information about yourself -- and I'll reply with more details.

Like I said, spots are limited, so hit up my Coaching Page now!

After working with me online, Mark is seeing great results and is a happy camper.

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