Factors to Consider When Planning a Program

Personal trainers develop and implement exercise programs based on their clients' specific needs. You will not be a very successful trainer if you fail to develop individualized programs. Generic, one-size-fits-all programs will not address the specific needs and goals of all of your clients. Considering multiple variables when creating a program will help your clients reach their goals safely, efficiently, and in a timely manner.

Personal Variables

Every client you work with will have a different lifestyle and personality. Some may be workaholics who never sleep; others may be new moms who need some time for themselves. Some clients will be confident and focused and some will not. These factors will impact the design and function of the exercise program:

  • Time: The time your client can devote to the workout will determine how many exercises you can include.

  • Frequency: The number of days per week your client can exercise will impact the balance of strength and cardiovascular training.

  • Personal Preference: If your client does not enjoy the program you put together, she will be much less likely to comply.

  • Goals: Your clients' goals will impact the focus of your program. The client who wants to lose weight will spend much more time and energy performing cardiovascular exercise than the client who wants to gain muscle.

  • Motivation: A client who is highly motivated will be willing to work harder and longer than one who is unmotivated.

  • Lifestyle: Look at where your client is starting and make small, manageable changes in her lifestyle. Anything drastic will not be maintainable.

Physical Variables

Your first priority should be to create a safe program. In order to do this, you must consider your clients' age, health status, and the results of the exercise testing. The client may be taking medications that will impact his response to and tolerance of his program. Or he may be trying to prevent the cardiovascular disease that runs rampant in his family. If your client wishes to run a five-mile road race, but performed poorly on his aerobic testing, you know you have to really work on cardiovascular conditioning. If your client has an old knee injury, you will probably not include squatting in his program. There are so many physical variables that it would be impossible to discuss each one. The main thing is to be aware of them, learn how to handle them, and ask for assistance when necessary.

Special-Needs Populations

At some point you will likely be approached by an individual who has special needs. A person is considered to have special needs if he requires program modification due to factors that put him at a greater risk of injury or adverse health effects. They may have a specific medical condition or simply be in an age group that requires special consideration. If you do choose to work with special-needs clients, it is even more important to have an understanding of their specific needs. Before you agree to take on a client who has special needs, assess whether or not you have the knowledge and ability to develop a safe and effective exercise program.

In today's fitness industry, you have many opportunities to obtain additional certifications or education to work with various populations. Special-needs populations fall under a vast array of categories. Most likely you would choose one or two populations in which to specialize. The following is a list of some of the populations you may encounter:

  • Youth

  • Baby boomers

  • Prenatal and postnatal women

  • Postrehabilitation patients

  • Patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes

  • Cardiac rehabilitation patients

  • People suffering from degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis

  • People who are obese

  • People with musculoskeletal limitations

  • People with severe asthma

When you are working with these populations, there will be times when you will need assistance from someone who is more qualified. The person you should turn to is the client's doctor or physical therapist. Or in the case of a healthy population, you may speak to a more experienced trainer. Your primary responsibility is the safety and wellness of your clientele.

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If you choose to work with a population that's dealing with medical problems, you must be prepared to work in conjunction with a medical professional such as a doctor or physical therapist. They may give you an exercise prescription, which is simply an exercise program provided by a medical professional.

Baby boomers are, as a group, an increasing part of the special-needs population. They are getting older but wish to maintain an active, fulfilling lifestyle. Because of their age, they will likely have some orthopedic considerations such as injuries or arthritis. They are also at higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol than the middle-aged population. These people have been on this earth for many years, and a great deal can transpire that you will need to consider when making your programs. The program that is suitable for a thirty-year-old will likely not be suitable for a sixty-year-old.

Today's youth are playing organized sports at an earlier age, thus increasing their need for strength and conditioning and increasing their potential for injuries. Not only are they playing earlier, but children are specializing in one sport year-round instead of playing several. This increases the chances of developing muscular imbalances, which ultimately limit joint function. You will need to understand the age of the client and the sport they're participating in, as well as assess physical condition, in order to work with this population.

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