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A Methodical Approach to Personal Training

Thoughtful and measured progressions help build a fitness lifestyle.

client: Caroline | personal trainer: Ara Keshishian | location: Los Angeles

A lifestyle change. When busy mom Caroline first met Los Angeles–based personal trainer Ara Keshishian, her goals were simple: She wanted to lose fat and build strength. She was eager and motivated and hoped to see fast results. The two agreed to a 1-month trial program, meeting 4–5 times per week early in the morning.

“Work and children make scheduling more challenging, but she succeeded by making her fitness a priority and a new lifestyle,” says Keshishian. “She scheduled her workouts at 5:30 a.m., while her kids were still sleeping, [so] she was able to get her workout done before starting her day.”

A solid foundation. To get a better picture of Caroline’s abilities, Keshishian first facilitated a Functional Movement Screen before training began.

“She scored a 3 on the deep-squat test, in-line lunges, active leg raises and pushups,” he says. “She scored a 2 on the hurdle step and rotary stability. She scored a 1 on shoulder mobility.”

His number-one concern was the lack of shoulder mobility, and so that—plus whole-body stability—became the initial focus.

“We worked on core by doing ‘stir-the-pot,’ sandbag half-kneeling press-out and TRX&reg: crunches,” says Keshishian. “We worked on her stability by doing side lunges, Romanian dead lifts, TRX pushups, kettlebell reverse lunge with knee drive to overhead press, and TRX Rip Trainer pitchfork.”

The overhead presses proved most challenging, owing to Caroline’s limited shoulder mobility.

“We started with the TRX Rip Trainer until she gained strength and mobility. We also worked on her shoulder mobility by doing TRX wall slides, sandbag arc press and kettlebell push press. I also taught her how to foam-roll regularly to get her muscles ready for daily workouts and for better recovery.”

Caroline saw visible results that month—including significant improvements in overhead strength—and was hooked. She decided to continue for another 3 months.

Deliberate progression. From there, the training structure changed every 6 weeks, says Keshishian. He would evaluate her progress and goals and build a new program.

“Overall, we increased the intensity and increased load where appropriate, and advanced her through functional training movements. For example, to further develop her stability, we progressed some exercises to single arm, single leg or half kneeling. Her military overhead press progressed to half-kneeling overhead press, then to single-leg overhead press, and on to half-kneeling to knee-drive press.”

It is this progress that has most impressed Keshishian. He had concerns based on her initial assessments, but she showed significant improvements in strength and mobility.

“She was never able to do the monkey bars before and surprised herself when she tried it,” he says.

Caroline is also able to press three times more weight than she could when they first started.

“She came in with weak upper-body strength, and it’s been amazing to see how much stronger she is now.”

With her newfound upper-body strength, Caroline now has her sights set on pullups, which is something she never thought she’d be able to do. Thanks to Keshishian, she sees that she’s capable of more than she’d originally thought.

Patience equals progress. Despite seeing progress, Caroline would get antsy from time to time.

“She is ambitious and wanted to see results quickly,” he says. “I knew where I needed to get her to and had to remind her that there are no shortcuts; it is a process, and it takes time to progress.”

He adds that this experience has helped him hone his ability to emphasize short-term goals. Motivated clients like Caroline thrive best when they see progress often, he says.

Caroline continues to train with Keshishian, so it seems she values and respects his measured approach.

He thinks other personal trainers can learn from his experience.

“Set measurable short-term goals so your clients stay encouraged,” he advises. “Keep the exercises doable, understandable, manageable and beneficial for long-term sustainability. This is crucial to secure long-term clients.”

Finally, he adds, “Be patient. Progress takes time. There are no shortcuts to doing things right.”

Calling All Trainers

Do you have a client who has overcome the odds to achieve new heights in health and fitness? Send your story to [email protected], and youand your client may be featured in an upcoming issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.


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Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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