When speaking with clients and potential clients, personal trainers are often asked their opinions about the latest fad in the exercise industry. I can't count how many times I am asked my view on such workouts as P90X, CrossFit, etc. While these are good workout programs that certainly have their place with certain segments of the population, I do not recommend them for beginners or people who have returned to exercise after a long lapse. For these clients, it is important to first master correct posture and form before jumping in to more advanced levels of exercise.
Several factors such as prolonged sitting, poor posture, diet and certain medical conditions can all have a negative impact on mobility and stability throughout the body. For example, when someone sits for long periods of time each day over several years, certain muscles such as the hip flexor muscles may begin to shorten (tighten), other muscles such as the abs will become weaker and this will have a chain effect throughout the rest of the body. The end result is poor posture and muscles tightness/weakness that will force the body to compensate in the form of decreased mobility and instability. I cannot stress enough the importance of correcting these compensations before beginning a more advanced exercise routine. Otherwise, the risk of injury is magnified as is the likelihood of dropping out. This is one of the main reasons people do not stick to an exercise program.
When working with a personal trainer, the first thing he/she will (or should) do is a full body assessment to identify these types of movement compensations and design an exercise program to correct them. The initial exercises will focus on stretching tight muscles, working weak muscles and correcting poor posture. Many clients find these types of exercises boring because they want to jump right into the "fun" stuff right away. However, as mentioned, without proper form training, the risk of injury is increased which will likely result in eventual drop out. Think of it as laying the foundation before building a house. Without a strong foundation, the house will collapse. The same concept applies to the body. So, if you are new to exercise or are just starting back after a layoff, my advice is to hire a trainer to help you identify the areas where your posture and movement need to be corrected. It may not consist of the latest and greatest "fun" workout, but believe me when I say your body will thank you for it later. After you learn proper mobility/stability, then your trainer will increase the intensity of your workouts and continue you to challenge you. Hang in there, be patient, and most of all, have fun!
Until next time, work hard, stay motivated and be safe!
Certified Personal Trainer
The American Council on Exercise