This is a question I get quite often and to be honest, one that is hard to give a definitive answer to. The reason it isn’t easy to answer is because there are a number of factors involved to substantiate improved health and fitness. Factors to be considered are recovery ability, nutritional intake, adequate rest, outside stressors, time, and much, much more. I have some clients that will train with me three times a week. Quite a few folks will come twice each week and I have a good selection of people training only once per week. The clients who see more frequency of exercise movement seem to do the best with getting stronger and in better shape with regards to cardiovascular improvement as well as improved flexibility. Those who train once-a-week with me are encouraged to stay active during the week. In fact, I encourage all my clients to stay active in some way during the week using the pillars of my Five Components of Health & Fitness (pdf download). Taking care of your health is not a part time job, it’s something that needs to be addressed on a constant basis but it doesn’t need to be so mentally and physically laborous as most folks think. Take a quick look at the “Five Components” and you will see what I’m talking about.
For 30 consecutive days, no matter what you do in a normal day – whether that means you are generally sedentary, run 20 miles or anything in between – try adding in just 5 minutes of jumping rope each day. I don’t care if you are a novice or an expert like Buddy Lee, the simple idea is to just work at jumping for 5 minutes time. If you don’t own a jump rope or aren’t skilled, it’s fine to simulate the movement. “Shadow jumping” – not unlike “shadow boxing” – is still a phenomenal way to increase your heart rate, burn calories and work the muscles of the entire body.
Now you may wonder what an extra 5 minutes each day may provide you with and I would love to answer that question but I’d like you to find out yourself. I would recommend that you weigh yourself on day 1, day 15 and on the last day of your 30-day experiment and see if there is any difference in your body weight. In addition, you may find some other benefits to the activity but like I said, that’s for you to observe.
Tom: You have a concern about youth fitness and obesity rates. You actually wrote an excellent book about getting kids off their butts and moving. What drove you to address these issues?
Fred: My co-author, Matt Brzycki, and I each have a child and when we initiated the book, our kids were approaching their teens. As parents and fitness folks, we felt a personal and professional obligation to bring more attention to improving kids’ health and fitness. We recognized that the ever-growing issues of child obesity, diabetes, and depression were starting to run rampant with today’s youth and we felt compelled to write our book.
We also recognized that parents, coaches, trainers, and schools are all involved in helping get kids on the right path, so we directed a lot of our information towards both the kids and those guiding them. In our research we found matters worse than we had expected, showing kids with disease markers at a very young age. School systems are cutting physical education and today there is an overwhelming need to be connected to the electronic world, which has contributed greatly to ever-increasing sedentary lifestyles.
Matt and I also created a certification program, primarily for teachers, coaches, and trainers. Interestingly enough, we had a school in Canada that used our certification program as a standardized test for their physical education and health classes with great success.
If you coach a sport then you might want to add another responsibility to your check list: evaluating concussions. Concussions can happen to anyone, at any age in any sport so it’s best to have a working knowledge of what is involved in a concussion and how to evaluate one. Of course, it’s best to have a professional evaluate the athlete who may have suffered a concussion but having the ability to do a sideline evaluation is probably a safe investment of your time. HEADS UP, a program instituted by the CDC has some great information for coaches, parents and athletes and should be addressed to further protect the welfare of your athletes.
As a rule of thumb, my clients will perform full body workouts (we work all of our muscles in one session), train no more than 30 minutes in each session and have a training frequency of two to three times per week. I do, however, have folks that train with me once per week and do quite well at keeping their muscle tone and conditioning – assuming that they engage in other activities during the week that challenge their fitness level.
A majority of our work is performed using compound movements (exercises that use more than one muscle and joint such as a shoulder press, leg press and pulldown) for the hips/legs and torso to stress the major muscle groups. This gives us a better “bang-for-our-buck” as it has a tremendous benefit for the entire system. The arms, lower back, abdominals, hands/forearms and neck are all addressed on an individual basis. Our workouts are structured around joint safety and muscle balance which is orthopedically safe for an individual to handle such movements and plains of motion. There is a constant emphasis on proper form and execution of every repetition and hard work is not up for discussion – it’s a must for progression. It is (hard work), however, based on a person’s capacity to handle such work so no one is judged, just encouraged and treated on an individual basis.
Clients will perform an exercise while maintaining total control of the weight while moving slowly and controlled and terminate the set when another repetition cannot be performed in proper form. Rest between exercises is minimized but enough to give 100% effort to the next exercise, but we do not lounge about because our training is geared not only to improve strength and flexibility but cardiovascular and muscular endurance as well.
Each repetition of each set of each workout is personally coached by me in my facility. This is purely a one-on-one, private session dedicated to each client. I require no contracts or a long-term commitment, what I do require is the same dedication from my clients that I have in bettering their health and fitness.
So, it’s really quite simple. Come in one to three times a week, use good form, work hard, be dedicated to yourself and the process and see results!
Tom Kelso: The best training modes to use, the optimal intensity to apply, the correct volume of work, the most feasible schedule, the best exercises to match one’s goal, and other factors. They must be considered for positive results. Is any one more important than another?
Fred Fornicola: All of the above are factors to be considered when developing a fitness program but the one you didn’t mention (but I know matters to you greatly as well) is safety! Safety isn’t necessarily in reference to only exercise selection but performance of an exercise, utilization of the correct amount of intensity and frequency as well as the proper amount of rest and sufficient nutrition to promote healing. This goes back to my above response as most trainees blindly follow along – especially if they are participating in a group class or being coached by someone individually or have read about some training ideas. They have little or no regard for the possibility that they can be injured by choosing an exercise or protocol, training frequency or some other variable that they need to address on an individual level. And keep in mind; you don’t necessarily need to get hurt in the gym as a buildup of repetitive incorrect training (on all levels described above) can lead to injury or illness outside the gym walls.