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The Importance of Standardization in Exercise, by Matthew Romans

In any endeavor, there needs to be a certain uniformity in terms of language and methodology, otherwise confusion can occur and best practices cannot be achieved. That is the case in the medical field, computer programming, and in criminal law. Standardization helps to ensure that everybody involved is on the same page, and it also allows the best opportunity to arrive upon an optimal outcome. At Total Results, our goal is to give you the best workout experience money can buy, and we are obsessive about the little details that make that possible. Standardization is one of many things that sets us apart from the rest of the industry.

The most important things to standardize are form and speed of movement. This is critical certainly from a safety perspective, but it is also necessary to ensure proper loading of the musculature. In order to achieve a proper exercise stimulus, momentum must be minimized (if not eliminated) by keeping the movement slow - between 8 and 12 seconds on both the positive and negative phases of the movement. When momentum is introduced into the equation, there is little to no mechanical work being done by the skeletal muscles. Remember, we want to fatigue the musculature thoroughly enough to stimulate a growth response by the body. We will be able to more effectively achieve this end by moving slower rather than faster.

What is meant by proper form? Certainly speed of movement is a factor, but it's more than that. Proper form means that we not only want a slow movement on each repetition, but a smooth and evenly-paced movement as well. We want to perform turnarounds (change direction) without firing out or unloading the musculature. It's important to avoid form discrepancies such as ratcheting, breath holding (Valsalva's maneuver), and movement of the head and neck (to avoid exercise-induced headache and potential neck injury). Form discrepancies should be acknowledged and corrected right away, to reinforce good habits and prevent bad habits from gaining a foothold. Perfect form is the ideal and the standard that we measure ourselves against. While we strive for perfection, we expect that we will fall short, but achieve excellence and positive results along the way.

Everything that we record on a client's chart during the course of a workout is considered data. This includes order and selection of exercises, machine settings, weight, and time under load (TUL). If we deviate in terms of order and selection of exercises (or time in between exercises) from one workout to the next, we cannot make a reasonable comparison of progress. While some variety of exercises can be a good thing, it is not absolutely necessary. Most of my twice per week clients perform an "A" and a "B" routine; this helps us to cover some of the smaller muscles that do not get as much involvement in larger compound exercises. However, I keep the order and selection of exercises in each routine the same, unless there are extenuating circumstances such as injury or exercise-induced headache.

We generally record TUL rather than number of repetitions because I believe it is a much more precise measurement of how one performs on a given exercise. Counting repetitions is a step function; you may complete five repetitions and get halfway through a sixth, but by this measure you only get credit for the repetitions you finished. With TUL, you would get credit for the time you spent working on that sixth repetition without finishing it. In my opinion, this paints a more accurate picture. In the case of negative-only or manual exercises, we do record the number of repetitions, simply because it is most feasible. In addition, standardization of language and chart notations is helpful when and if you need to work with a different instructor. This makes the transition seamless.

Why don't other exercise protocols and instructors require this level of detail? One reason is that many other instructors don't take safety as seriously as we do, and they are also ignorant of the fact that muscles are unloaded with faster speeds of movement. The instructor certification for our exercise protocol was the most demanding and detail-oriented in the industry, and we have an obligation to our clients and to ourselves to continue to meet the highest standards in the field of exercise. We will continue to educate and improve ourselves to show that we are worthy of your business. Twenty years of excellence at Total Results is an accomplishment we are proud of, and we look forward to serving you in the future!

Posted April 07, 2020 by Tim Rankin