A patient who had been to several physical therapy clinics over the years and exercised at gyms for decades, asked me why the exercises I show people seem to be more effective than exercises people do at other places, even though the exercises look the same (to him). It was an interesting question for me, because to the untrained eye, most exercises (such as biceps curls or push-ups) do look the same no matter who is performing the exercise. Assuming the exercise technique is the same, there are many other factors to be considered such as intensity, duration, frequency, sequence and the kinetic chain.

Let’s use the example of a biceps curl. What body position should be used—-sitting, standing, or lying flat on your back? Sitting reduces the muscles involved, standing is more functional (and increases the muscles involved), and lying on your back reduces stress to the back and other joints. What about hand position? Palm up, down or a combination of both (rotation) not only affects how the biceps is involved, but also what and how other muscles are being used. What are you trying to achieve with this exercise—build up muscle mass, increase strength of the muscle, build up tissue tolerance—all will help determine how much weight to use and how many repetitions.

When to begin an exercise—are the muscles, ligaments, bones, etc. ready for the stress of exercise?—and how best to apply that stress are additional examples of why education, experience and proper training are such difference makers when it comes to the effectiveness of an exercise. Beginning an exercise too soon, such as running, is an easy way to get hurt. Progressing an exercise too quickly, going from jogging to sprinting for example, is another easy way to cause an injury. You need to know a lot about anatomy, biomechanics, physiology, and tissue morphology, to be able to design effective and safe exercise programs. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people who rely on coaches, friends or observation to learn about an exercise end up getting injured.

Choosing an exercise professional to provide instruction should reduce the risk of getting injured while exercising. But if you want to get the most out of your exercises, whether recovering from injury or improving fitness, choose a professional who not only has the right educational background and degrees, but also someone who has years of experience teaching and developing exercises. See some of our earlier blogs for more information on what makes an exercise more effective.

Coast Physical Therapy Services has experienced and qualified Santa Cruz personal trainers ready to help you get the most out of your workout.  And done safely.