Understanding progression of an exercise is an art form.
It’s a strategy that is developed to allow your client to advance in his or her own movement skills. This is especially important to understand because each client has different goals and training needs. The most exciting part about progression for the trainer is that you always have a way to slightly advance the exercise. This could have the opposite feeling from your client’s perspective because just when you think you have mastered an exercise, another piece is added to the movement to keep your client’s attention and muscles challenged.
Developing a progression strategy for each client is important. It allows the client to:
- Learn and perfect a movement skill with proper form
- Develop a sense of accomplishment and confidence
- Keep the workouts interesting and the client motivated
A client may want to progress faster than you see their bodies are ready to. Understanding why one specific exercise is taught before another is a skillful trait. Certain exercises teach basic skills that develop strength needed to perform more difficult ones. The more skills that are mastered and the more challenges added to an exercise, means your client will soon have a wide range of exercises they can perform!
The more strength development from the fundamental level, the stronger your client will become and the more they will progress with advanced exercises. This is why developing a strong base of strength and learning proper form is so important for your clients initially.
Listed below are the primary ways to progress an exercise. These methods each have their own progressions within themselves, but if you understand how each one affects the other and that slight changes can alter a movement to obtain a skill, then you will be able to effectively execute the appropriate progressions for your clients when they are ready to advance.
- Incline adjustment – either increasing or decreasing the incline appropriately
- Speed – changing the speed of how the exercise is performed (faster vs slower)
- Body Position – altering the body’s position challenges different muscle angles
- Sets & Reps/ Exercise Sequences/ Workout Style – How you put these modalities together enhances the challenge of the workout session
Total Gym progression tips
Using the Total Gym is unique when adjusting the incline for increased resistance. Sometimes lowering the resistance/taking away the incline level is a way to progress the exercises. Typically, a higher incline is more challenging for extremity work, and a lower incline is more challenging for core work. For example, performing push-ups on the glideboard with a high incline is less challenging than when the incline is lower. The higher the incline, the more assistance the Total Gym is giving the client to successfully perform the exercise.
When strength is developed and the form begins to look perfect for each rep, then you can progress by adjusting the incline or changing the body position in someway to work a different angle. Analysis of each exercise needs to be done in order to progress your client appropriately during their workouts.
The beauty of these exercises
Let’s discuss 3 excellent exercises you can progress during a workout by adding a variation of the same exercise for an increased challenge. Pikes, Squats, and Triceps are a great combination of exercises to work the entire body while focusing on a specific area.
Try the following exercise progressions with your client according to their strength level.
- Legs Extended
- Single Leg
- Different angles
- Plyometric Jump Squats
Tricep Extensions – straight arms
- Static equilibrium
Watch the video for a few examples of how to simply progress a basic exercise. You can always add in more challenges if these are not enough.
As a personal trainer, it is important to be knowledgeable on how to safely and effectively progress your client through a series of exercises when they are ready to advance. Understanding the modifications, variation and specifics to each exercise will help you intelligently layer an exercise for proper progression. The most basic exercises can be some of the most challenging!
Maria Sollon Scally MS, CSCS holds a Masters Degree in Performance Enhancement/ Injury Prevention and Kinesiology. She has obtained numerous certifications in various areas of fitness and is a national conference presenter. Maria specializes in Pilates, Performance Coaching, and Corrective Exercise Techniques and Kettlebells. She is the creator of the Plyo Pilates Method and has developed a series of amazing workout DVDs. She is a Master Trainer for Total Gym, Resist-a-Ball, Body Blade, Peak Pilates, KettleBell Concepts and is a freelance writer for Fitness accredited magazines, newsletters, and fitness blog sites. Maria demonstrates her knowledge each day and uses her dynamic creativity throughout her specialized line of work.