Located in Sterling, VA (703) 421-1200

Little Things Matter, by Matthew Romans

People often wonder why we are so particular when it comes to exercise instruction; many of our clients occasionally kid us about how obsessive we are when it comes to certain aspects of their workouts. Several years ago, Ken Hutchins (the founder of our exercise protocol) was actually described as "a fitness Nazi" by someone in the mainstream fitness industry. While being compared to some of the worst people of the 20th century is irresponsible and extreme, I can understand why those not familiar with our methodology do not grasp the importance of us being so detail oriented. We aren't purposely trying to be obsessive, but details are incredibly important for the efficacy of your workout, and can make the difference between an amazing muscular and metabolic experience and an increased likelihood of injury. Simply put, it's the little things that matter the most.

Speed of movement matters. You may ask why we are so strict about it, but it's really very simple. Movement speed can get very fast in a hurry if we do not adhere to a standard. If you go to a regular gym and watch people lift weights, you will see it typically amounts to throwing and catching the weight over and over; it's appalling. No meaningful muscular loading can occur if you move faster than six seconds on either the positive or negative phase, and most people move a lot faster than that. In addition, the potentially dangerous forces placed upon your muscles and joints increase exponentially the faster you move. Force equals mass times acceleration (F=MA). Our protocol emphasizes a ten second positive phase and a ten second negative phase for each repetition, but anything between eight and twelve seconds in each direction is acceptable. If a positive or negative is completed in 7.99 seconds, we do not count that repetition. If we make an exception, then we lose objectivity, and poor form is reinforced. Once bad habits creep in, they are hard to reverse. Furthermore, turnarounds (change of direction) are important; in fact, they are just as important (if not more) than overall speed. Properly performed turnarounds ensure that the musculature stays under load. Unloading gives the muscles a brief respite, and that is contrary to the primary exercise objective. We want to safely inroad (fatigue) the muscles as deeply as possible to stimulate body improvements.

Record keeping matters. This is how we can accurately gauge a client's progress, and this ties in with the earlier topic of speed of movement. If we don't standardize speed for each repetition, then record keeping becomes haphazard at best and meaningless at worst. Exercise settings, sequence of exercises, and additional notations need to be documented for every workout on the client's spreadsheet. As instructors we have a common language and shorthand that we use, so that if you need to work with a different instructor on a particular day, you won't miss a beat. I propose poundages for a client's next workout at the end of their current workout. I do this because the client's performance is still fresh in my mind and I can be objective in selecting what they do in their next workout. I don't trust my memory if I wait until just before the next workout to do this. It may be a bit obsessive, but it ensures that I am fully prepared. Total Results clients deserve it!

Proper entry and exit of the equipment matters. This is a topic that probably seems a bit petty to many people, but it makes more of a difference than you might realize. Client safety is paramount, and it is the responsibility of the instructor to make sure that the client moves efficiently and safely from one exercise to the next. This is one reason why we generally don't allow clients to carry water bottles during their workouts or drink from them while they are walking, as their vision will be obstructed and they could take a misstep. If a client insists on a water bottle, it should be kept in a centralized location, rather than taken from one machine to another. When entering a machine, unilateral loading of the pelvis and spine must be avoided, and this most commonly occurs when stepping over and balancing on one foot (as on the entry of the Leg Press or Lumbar Extension machines). On these machines, one should enter by sitting down first and swinging the feet across, just as patients who have recently had back surgery are taught to enter a car. I have seen people injure themselves by entering the equipment incorrectly, so I remind them to do this every time. I'm sure clients get tired of hearing me say it, but hopefully they appreciate my concern for their safety.

Correct breathing matters. This is intuitive and usually goes without saying, but sometimes during intense exercise the "fight or flight" response kicks in and panic can result. The fact that you must breathe during exercise is just as important as how you breathe. Try to avoid overbreathing initially, as this can wear you out. Breathe normally and as needed, but realize that as the exercise becomes more intense you will need to breathe more frequently. The muscles need oxygen in order to continue to produce the effort that we seek. It may seem unnecessary to tell an intelligent human being to breathe, but clients have remarked to me on many occasions how thankful they are for the reminders we give them.

Outside of the exercise studio, other little things matter: maintaining a consistent bedtime, minimizing exposure to artificial light just before going to sleep, finding ways to minimize stress (such as meditation), and getting regular sensible sun exposure (to maintain healthy levels of Vitamin D). We care about your safety and well-being, and we will do whatever it takes to help you succeed. Your Total Results instructor will focus on the little things during your workout while you concentrate on the big picture: getting stronger and healthier so that you can get the most out of life.

Posted November 18, 2020 by Tim Rankin