When someone first starts an exercise program that you have created, they will probably see some pretty good results for the first three to six weeks. After that, it is very common that every three to six weeks you will need to change their program to keep seeing progress on a regular basis. This is because the human body has the wonderful ability to adjust itself to the stress and load of your current workout program. This is adaptation is also known as hitting a plateau.
Overworking and lack of proper down time can also make your client hit plateaus in their workout programs and keep them from achieving their goals. Another thing to consider if they have hit a plateau is whether they're eating too much or not enough and what they are eating.
There are five goals that a trainer should have and coach their clients on:
1. Personal guidance and the accountability for that client - This goal is the most important goal to help the client reach their fitness and life goals. Hold them accountable for their time off from you; have them keep logs on their cardio, outside activities and what they are eating. Spend some time with your client outside the gym via email; this gives you that opportunity to help them with their nutrient intake (i.e. recipes and smoothies), motivational quotes and other educational references.
2. Resistance training - You need to monitor their workout schedule and see their progression to make sure they pass their plateau. Make sure you keep logs of each workout. You should reference their weights lifted, number of sets and number of reps. Also, keep track of how much weight they are losing or inches coming off their waistline. In their functional training program, it is not only the exercises you will need to change but also the equipment their body adapts to. So here are some examples:
- Basic bench - stability ball
- Dumbbells - weighted ball
- Barbells - weighted bars
3. Cardiovascular training - Here is where the interval training comes into play. Keep it simple, but demanding, on their bodies. Monitor their cardio workouts to see their progression and to make sure you change it when needed. There are many different types of interval training out there, but this program keeps it simple. Here is an example:
Start with a five minute warm-up; each cycle should be a 20-40 seconds on the higher intensity and a minute to minute and a half for the recovery period. Modify as the client hits their plateau. Have your clients keep a log of where their heart rate is at in both cycles, how they are feeling after their cardio workout and the length of time. This will give you the information on how to modify their interval training program.
4. Food intake and supplementation - Coaching them on how and what to eat is very important in their lifestyle change. Teaching them that diets don't work and to eat the right foods at the right time will help them reach their goals. Make them keep a food log for at least a month so you can coach them on what to eat and when. Also, coach them on the right supplements to take to help them maintain their optimal health.
5. Flexibility and recovery - Your clients need that range of motion to be able to complete the exercises that you are giving them. This will also help to decrease common injuries due to outdoor activities. As stated above, you need to rest your body after a hard workout. During the days after their workouts, the more rest they get, the better the broken-down muscle fibers will have a chance to rebuild. This will allow your client to recover and return for the next workout. A foam roller will help to massage the sore muscle groups.
Hitting plateaus and adapting your client to their workout is not only common but guaranteed unless you cover most or all of these guidelines. Keep it interesting for them, and help them stay motivated. Donï¿½t let them quit! It is your responsibility to push them through their plateau and reach their fitness and life goals.
Dean Milam has been a certified personal trainer for the past three years, having his certifications with NESTA and ACSM. He and his wife own four Anytime Fitness facilities in the Boise, Idaho, Treasure Valley area.