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Tricks of the trade

May 01, 2011

Questions and Answers

How do you incorporate body weight leverage training into clients’ workouts?

I use body weight leverage training (BLT) to some degree with almost every client. Given that every client is a human and all humans have to deal with gravity and momentum while moving around the earth, it’s only natural that I use this training modality with everyone.

This style of training provides the benefit of requiring full-body stability and mobility; it successfully provides a challenge to the moving, working parts of the body as well as those parts that are designed to be held in place. Additionally, this type of exercise requires that the body be in relative balance from front to back, side to side and top to bottom. So what else does BLT provide?

Better Body. It guarantees better mind-body integration. With BLT, exercisers must stay focused on what their bodies are doing moment to moment. Likewise, changes in body position immediately provide proprioceptive feedback, virtually eliminating the “where am I supposed to feel this?” type of questions that clients have been posing forever. And almost any BLT movement can be scaled up or down to modify intensity for any exerciser.

Better Movement. Whatever activity someone is into, it will involve movement in multiple planes and the need to create and control movement up and down the body. BLT, by its very design, creates an exercise experience that enhances the body’s ability to coordinate and execute movement with gravity and momentum in multiple planes. However, this type of body-wide challenge can be very difficult for those who are not used to it. As a result, when introducing BLT to clients who are either deconditioned or more used to traditional “seated” resistance training, let them know they may get more tired from a limited amount of BLT exercise than they might expect. It’s important to be conservative with the volume of BLT exercise you introduce in the first few sessions.

Better Time. No minimum amount of BLT exercise is required for it to be beneficial. Many clients of mine have been blown away by how they’ve reduced their workout time while, much to their surprise, increasing the intensity. When you can deliver a successful workout experience that is possibly more challenging, in less time, and that leaves a client feeling challenged yet somehow still energized, you will look like a miracle worker. Last, BLT is a truly portable exercise. That is a great benefit for those who travel, need to work out at home or simply like to exercise outdoors when the weather allows it.

Using the Tools. Some clients enjoy a workout that is exclusively based on BLT training, others prefer to integrate BLT with more traditional weight equipment training, and still others prefer to use BLT only when traveling or when the weather is nice and they can exercise anywhere. There is no one correct way to use BLT. As with just about anything else in training, it is a collaborative effort between trainer and client. The trainer makes recommendations and provides guidance and advice; the client expresses goals and exercise preferences and gives feedback on his or her experiences; and the trainer in turn makes adjustments as necessary.

Jonathan Ross
TRX® Master Trainer
Owner, Aion Fitness
Personal Training Manager, Sport Fit
Bowie, Maryland

My clients are all Baby Boomers and seniors. Most suffer from wrist, shoulder, neck, back or knee problems. In addition, some have diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis or osteoporosis. Despite these conditions, they are in good shape, eager to work around their ailments and enthusiastic about using new “toys.” Their restrictions make many body weight exercises a challenge (push-ups and many TRX Suspension Training® moves hurt their wrists or shoulders, and inverted positions lead to dizziness), but with care and individualization I have been able to incorporate body weight leverage training into most of their workouts.

After a thorough warm-up, most clients will do a series of squats and lunges. The TRX Suspension Trainer™ gives my most deconditioned client a great tool to help her balance on her lunges. Fitter clients will alternate body weight lunges and squats with weighted lunges and squats. I add rotational and directional movements for those without osteoporosis or back problems. The rotation movements often use the TRX. I increase challenge by having clients perform traditional strength moves, such as dumbbell biceps curls, while squatting, lunging or standing on one leg.

Because of the risk of orthostatic hypertension, I do not do a lot of up and down movements with my clients. Much of the workout is standing, and a favorite exercise is a TRX march. The TRX equipment is suspended above, the handles are held slightly in front of the client’s hips and the client does alternating knee lifts or hamstring curls. I make sure the client’s heart rate has slowed before we proceed to floor work. I have found that some clients can do push-ups and planks if they place their hands on 8-pound octagonal dumbbells. If the wrists cannot handle that, most can do elbow planks. I like to alternate push-ups with supine dumbbell flyes, or planks with glute bridges. Most clients have been able to progress to single-leg bridges. I will often sneak in some additional exercises while a client is stretching; for example, prone contralateral limb raises with right arm and left leg extended, a child’s pose stretch, then the limb raises with left arm and right leg extended. I have found that alternating body weight leverage exercises with resistance exercises keeps the workout fresh and challenging.

Janet Weller, RN, CES
Owner, Weller Bodies Personal
Closter, New Jersey

In the corrective-exercise environment, body weight training can often be considered a significant progression within a session. Although we all operate on a daily basis in the presence of gravity, how we position the body in relationship to the gravity vector can significantly affect the body’s neuromusculoskeletal response.

People may be upright and ambulating on a daily basis, but often their way of moving is far removed from the most biomechanically efficient way to move—meaning they are getting the movement done, but not getting it done right. Therefore, depending on the client, the goal and where we are in the progression, we also seek at times to minimize the influence of gravity.

For corrective exercises, we position the body in various relationships to gravity:

  • supine
  • prone
  • side-lying
  • quadruped
  • kneeling
  • half-kneeling
  • sitting
  • standing
  • split-stance standing
  • single-leg standing

By manipulating the body position, we can use gravity as a force to overcome (a concentric acceleration), a force to control (an eccentric deceleration), a force to create motion (momentum for mobility) or a force that allows for neuromuscular relaxation (by unloading antigravity postural muscles).

Our clientele must always demonstrate that they can execute body weight exercises successfully before we add any external resistance and/or unstable apparatus. Body weight exercises are also excellent for a client’s home program because they don’t require equipment.

Anthony Carey MA, CSCS
CEO, Function First
San Diego, California


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