Tag Archives: pfta

Setting Resistance Training Goals

Today I took my first of five personal trainer exams at the Personal Fitness Trainer Association school in Austin. After two weeks of learning the Green section, which is all about program design for clients, I sat down for an hour and fifteen minute test that consisted of over 60 multiple choice questions, 25 matching questions, and identification of all the main muscles in the lower body and abdomen.

PFTA of Austin Notes

A lot of what we learned I would consider basic fitness knowledge that anyone who reads health magazines already knows, things like aiming for 3-5 days of cardio a week, and resting muscle groups for 48 hours before working them out again. Then there is a whole chunk of new information I learned that I never quite knew the details of before: from what types of exercises to avoid when working with a pregnant woman, to types of plyometric training and stretching techniques.

Of everything I learned, I think one practice that escapes many people is how to do resistance training for a certain goal. When most of us head to the gym, our goals are fairly general: lose weight, tone up, or get big (I’m clearly doing it to get big). How we choose to get there is also fairly general: run on the treadmill, do some crunches, do some bicep curls and call it a day. “That was good right? A little of everything, feeling tired, my arms hurt. Let’s get a smoothie,” –and this is where we go wrong. Because we’re just wingin’ it, there is no structure to stick to or results to look for besides movement in the scale (do I weigh more/less this morning? The same AGAIN? WTF). What happens next is, you lose motivation, seethe at your gym bag, and buy a chocolate chip cookie for comfort because nothing seems to make a difference anyway. I was totally guilty of this in the past.

Now I realize that one of the most important things to do before ever walking into a gym is to make a plan. I learned this mostly from my own experience with bodyrock (high intensity interval training). Writing down my reps day in and day out gave me something to fight for the next time I worked out–one more push-up to beat last week’s count. But what if I wasn’t doing a bodyrock workout? I wouldn’t know how many reps to do to achieve my goals, or more importantly, how to structure a plan for a future client of mine who wants to “get big.”

There are four main types of resistance training to plan for:

  1. Endurance. This is typically used for weight loss efforts and involves 15-20 reps of an exercise with only 30 seconds rest in between sets. This is where most people who want to lose weight should start, and with weights that make the last two reps burn.
  2. Hypertrophy. This is when a person wants to get larger muscles (get ripped, get huge, become a bouncer). Here you want 8-12 reps, with 30-90 second seconds rest in between, with heavier weights that in the endurance category.
  3. Strength.This is… when someone wants to get stronger (seriously, that’s my best definition). Think power lifters, strong man competitors, or loggers like Paul Bunyan. This means exercises consist of only 3-6 reps with 3-5 minutes of rest in between, and very heavy weights.

    paul bunyan

    Nice to see you again, Paul

  4. Then there’s also Power. This is the need to generate force quickly to meet a certain demand. Think athletes like football players–they need to react with quick, powerful movements at all times. There are many different ways to train for power, but generally it’s 3-5 reps of exercises that prevent deceleration (like squat jumps–no slowing down on the way up) with about 2-4 sets. *Thanks for this, Dave G.

By textbook definition, this would make bodyrock a mix of endurance training and strength training. I’m completing circuits of exercises with between 8-15 reps each depending, with 10 seconds in between each new exercise set, but maybe a minute and thirty seconds before I go back to repeat the first exercise (if that confused you, don’t worry–I got confused just writing it). The point is, if someone is trying to get a “toned” look, it’s a mix of endurance and hypertrophy resistance training that will accomplish that. I’m not there yet though, my six pack is still Bud Light-like at the end of the day, but let’s not focus on that.

Now if someone were to ever approach me and say “Mel, I want to get toned! What’s the deal?!” I have the answer: less cookies. I kid–it’s starting with endurance training and mixing in some strength over time (a good diet and weekly cardio will help drop the pounds hiding your muscles, too–that’s key). Also, writing down the reps and weights you’re using will ensure you’re staying on track to achieve a specific goal. No more jumble of crunches that will hopefully do something if you just can get 100 more reps in. You’re gettin’ real, baby.

Do you follow a training plan when you workout?

There’s No Such Thing As Upper and Lower Abs

This past Thursday marked my second day attending the PFTA school. Wahoo! The teacher, Mark, got right down to business, jumping into the “Green section” which is all about program design for clients. I was ready to learn how to take someone from couch potato to Arnold! But when Mark started using the proper names for muscles (rectus abdominis? Huh? Dominos? We get pizza in this class?), I knew I had a lot to learn.

No! Focus!

I was never the girl in the gym who spent an hour and a half walking from machine to machine, or doing free weights while standing in front of the mirror grunting (were you?). I was the girl who walked in, jumped on the dreadmill for thirty minutes (like that? dreadmill?) and maybe, on a good day, did some crunches afterward. I know three or four machines, and when I say I know them, I mean I know how to make them work, not necessarily which muscles they are working–two very different things. But that’s okay. That’s why I’m taking these classes: to learn my biceps from my triceps, and my head from my toes.

One of the first things I’m responsible for knowing is just that–the proper names and locations of different muscles and muscle groups, and how to engage them. The first big eye opener for me? There’s no such thing as upper and lower abs! Gah! A myth debunked. Your six pack, the rectus abdominis (not Dominos pizza, bummer) is one long muscle. This means that on my good days after the dreadmill, I wasn’t working my lower abs by doing crunches with my legs lifted off the floor. I was engaging the whole shebang. The whole party. The No Ab Left Behind Act. It turns out there’s actually no way to target just one part of a muscle. Interesting, right?

When I was working my lower abs, I also working supporting muscles that I never even thought about–the hip flexors; a group of three muscles right in the pelvis area. Things like scissor kicks and leg raises are focusing on those muscles.

hip flexorsIf I play my cards right, one day I’ll be walking on the beach (I almost never walk on the beach) and hear “Dude, sweet hip flexors, man,” and I’ll say, “Thanks dude, I workout.” Heh. Didn’t you always want to say that?


First Day of my Personal Trainer School Adventure

I did it! I signed up for the PFTA personal trainer school today (read my first post about the school here). I’m so freakin’ excited. I’ve been thinking about doing something actionable with my fitness passion for such a long time, that it feels really good to finally be in the moment.

I brought my camera with me but felt rude taking pictures in the middle of class, so unfortunately I have none to share. But no worries, I’ll tell you all about it and put in pics that give you the idea.

Here is a very blurry picture of my teacher Mark, which I stole from a PFTA youtube video.

Mark Jackson

Today he set expectations of what the program will entail over the next ten weeks, and gave everyone their supplies. Next we learned about body fat percentage, how to approach new clients when we have to measure them (get comfortable, don’t look nervous and let your hands shake.. you’ll make them lose confidence in you), and we actually took our own body composition measurements as well. We used two methods:

A) Skin calipers

skin caliperAh!

and B) a BIA machine

BEA machineMuch better

BEA stands for bio-electrical impedence analysis. When you hold on to the handles of it, it sends an electrical current through your body (not enough to hurt you, obv) and based on the premis that fat blocks the current and muscle conducts it better, it gives you a readout.

With skin calipers, you’re basically pinching areas of skin to measure for fat. The whole class had to get up and measure each other with a caliper to get a baseline for where we’re starting. Not scary… no. There are three key areas for women:

  1. Triceps (mid-upper arm)
  2. Suprailiac (the what? it’s right above your hip bone in the front of your stomach on an angle. That spot where dudes have cuts right above their pants line. mmhmm.)
  3. Quads (middle of the front)

The skin calipers gave me a body fat percentage of 17, while the BEA said 20. I’m going to meet in the middle and say I’m at 18.5, which is “average” according to the American Council on Exercise (pshhh… who you callin’ average). Because there are workouts after each class, hopefully I’ll see some progress. I don’t have any specific goals yet, but gaining muscle is always welcome. The more push ups I can do means the more I can kick Dave’s ass :).

I had to skip out on the bootcamp workout today because I showed up in jeans and sandals like an idiot, but I’ll definitely hit it up on Thursday (class is Tuesdays and Thursdays). It looks like I’ll eventually have to put together a bootcamp routine of my own, too.

New adventure is GO.