“So I was doing (insert home training program or app) and now my knee/back/shoulder hurts”

Every so often I have a well meaning client consultation to help treat injuries accrued from poorly planned exercise programs targeted to women via “12 weeks or less bikini body” and guys through high intensity 3 month “muscle confusion” programs.

It's vital to appreciate that no exercise or training system is without its flaws. It's only because of these flaws or perceived flaws about lifting weights that these dangerous and inefficient programs are able to flourish in the first place.

Here are 4 reasons why bouncing around in front of your TV or smartphone isn’t the best place to start your new exercise regimen.

Beginners need to master body weight movements first.

When someone is inexperienced, they need to stick to bodyweight movements before increasing the intensity and/or adding weight. Where these programs fail individuals is in their exercise progressions. The belief that because you’re a beginner, you should perform high rep sets is problematic. This is the opposite approach I would take.

If you’re new to exercise, then it’s probably your first exposure to a lot of these movements. The likelihood that your form will be acceptable on rep 20 after only learning it a few minutes before starting is going to be low. This also applies to trainers who deem it necessary to throw 135lbs on the bar for a back squat on day 1!

Controlled Tempo first before ramping up intensity

From a principle-based point of view, these injuries are no surprise to me. After all, if you don't have weights, the only way to make your customers "feel the burn" is to perform high reps at a fast pace, with minimal rest between repeats. That particular combination of variables increases fatigue while simultaneously decreasing movement control, which decreases net safety.

Many programs are too quick to progress you with little said about proper jumping and landing mechanics. When an individual lacks proper motor control, they’re unable to absorb the forces placed on their joints through multiple squat jumps and jumping lunges. This is exponentially worse if the individual is overweight or obese.

One size doesn’t fit all

If only it were that easy to create a training program that helps people become stronger, leaner, faster, and less prone to injury – those type of results require the expertise of an exercise professional, not a multi-level marketing convert masquerading as a fitness trainer.

A proper assessment is the key to creating a well balanced program. Neuromuscular Therapist Johnny Tea of JT Athletics works closely with individuals to un-do much of the soft tissue damage from home based or mobile fitness app programs. He mentions “when a program lacks a thorough assessment, it will lead compensation patterns with the end result often being an injury.”

Related: How to Select the Best Strength/Personal Trainer to Meet Your Goals

Isn’t doing something better than doing nothing?

No, I don't think anything's better than nothing, and here's why.

As seen by the infomercial before and after testimonial it works for some individuals. But for every one person who succeeds, there are dozens who give up long before they can really make a positive change to their bodies. Many give up because there's no accountability when you don't need to leave the house. If you quit, no one will know!

Now imagine that you're really out of shape and you haven't seen your toes or other important appendages in years, and they're understandably anxious about starting a new exercise program. Many of these individuals already lack confidence to even step foot in a commercial gym. Some believing that they need to work up to joining in the first place or feeling the need to "get in shape" before hiring a personal trainer. Injuries aside, the damage done on ones psyche is huge and not worth the risk to me. 

So What To Do?

Can someone with no prior experience get in shape simply by downloading an e-book or following along with a DVD program? Yes of course, but I would be weary of most of the “popular” options out there.  If the choice came down to two options:

  • Save money upfront by buying a program and doing it at home but with the likelihood of an injury and bills to see doctors and therapists down the road.
  • Spend a little bit more money upfront to get a solid program or hire a qualified trainer to teach you how to properly execute movements and think for yourself in the gym.

I would go with the latter.

Here are a few I trust and would recommend to anyone I know looking for a progressive program to do on their own.

For the Ladies:

1.     Lean and Lovely by Neghar Fonooni 

2.     Strong Curves by Bret Contreras

3.     The Modern Woman’s Guide to Strength Training by Molly Galbraith 

For Men

1.     High Performance Handbook by Eric Cressey 

2.     High Tensile Strength by Dean Somerset 

3.     Bulletproof Athlete by Mike Robertson 

Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t take an opportunity to plug myself! If you’re in the Los Angeles area, I would be glad to work with you barring availability. Fill out a form and I’ll contact you soon.