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Ban the Cookie Cutters! Personalized Strength Programs vs. Mass Produced Programs

Yes, I’m going to write the obligatory post on why a personal trainer is better for you than a non-personalized cookie-cutter

training plan that you get in a book or online, and I’m going to use myself as an example. Over the course of my adult life, I’ve xerox copied, downloaded, and even purchased many strength training plans. None of them were created specifically for me, but were instead created for the general public. What they didn’t take into account were any muscle imbalances I have, injuries that limit some range of motion, my flexibility or balance capabilities, or my likes or dislikes for certain exercises.

As a personal trainer, and specifically a Corrective Exercise Specialist, I do in-depth range of motion assessments with clients before I even think about what exercises I want them to do. And of course, I’ve conducted the same assessments on myself before creating my own strength training program. So what do my assessments tell me? I shift my hips to the right when I do a squat, which means I have muscle imbalances in my hips, upper leg muscles, and glutes (butt muscles). My upper body assessments highlight an old labral tear in my right shoulder which limits my range of motion in it some. The multifidus muscle on the left side of my back likes to get lazy and not work (or activate) as it should, which gives me lower back and hip pain if I don’t do some very simple hip hikes a few times a week. Also, since I sat at a desk job at a computer for way too many years, my static posture in my shoulders isn’t the best. What mobility assessments won’t show is that I despise burpees. Oh, I know the virtues of burpees, but that doesn’t change that I despise them.

So when I read, download, or purchase a mass produced training plan created for the general public, it doesn’t take into account any of the information about me that I just shared with you above. The plan will most likely have me do squats, which doesn’t address my muscle imbalances and just makes them worse because I will continue to do the squat ineffectively. It will include some sort of shoulder press or arm raises, which aggravates my old labral tear. It will most likely have me do chest presses to strengthen my chest muscles, which only exacerbates my rounded shoulders (overactive/tight chest muscles pull my shoulders in and forward). The plan won’t include something as simple and boring as hip hikes so my back and hip pain will continue, and the plan will always, always have burpees.

Since I’m my own client and have created my own strength training plan based on my mobility assessments and posture, I can address my issues. Before I do anymore squats, I’m going to address my hip, upper leg, and glute imbalances by stretching my tight muscles, and individually strengthen the underactive muscles. Once this imbalance is fixed, then I’ll do the integrated movement that makes up a squat. As for my old shoulder injury, I’ll choose a different shoulder exercise that avoids that specific “spot” that ratchets when I move it a certain way. I won’t do any chest presses because my chest muscles are already tight. Instead, I’m going to do a chest muscle stretch to lengthen those tight muscles and do exercises to strengthen my upper back muscles which aren’t strong enough to keep my shoulders from rounding forward. Finally, I’m not going to do burpees. I know enough other exercises that can work the same muscles as burpees that I actually like doing.

I realize it’s easier and cheaper to download a strength program from online or copy one out of a magazine, but before you do, please think about what your specific body needs and is capable of. We aren’t all the same, and we ALL have muscle imbalances. My passion is Corrective Exercise because I’ve personally experienced how effective it is for increasing range of motion, mitigating muscle imbalances, and decreasing pain. I’d love to create a personalized program for YOU so you can live your best life.

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