Training Edge

Industry News, Insights & Tools

by Laura Quaglio

For clients who dabble in cold-weather sports, taking extra steps to assess and train them can help reduce their injury risk.

Cross-Training Clients with Winter Sports

Variety is the spice of life, right? Well, it can be great for fitness, too, says Tony Ambler-Wright, MS, LMT, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, CSCS, senior practitioner for Fusionetics™ and a Master Instructor for NASM: “For clients who want to add something new to the mix by opting to do a winter sports workout, I’m all for it!” The secret to remaining relevant to these clients, says Ambler-Wright, is to highlight the value you provide in helping them prepare for (and recover from) their escapades. Here’s how he uses assessments, grounded in the NASM Optimum Performance Training™ model, to do just that:

Do a goal check. “How and why a CPT encourages someone to dabble in winter sports should be goal-dependent,” says Ambler-Wright. For example, if a client wants to use a winter sport as a form of cross-training to rest overused body parts, you’ll first want to determine if the sport will actually do that—or if it will exacerbate an existing injury or involve movement patterns that the client is already performing frequently in his or her sport or exercise program.

Get dynamic. Dynamic assessments like the modified LESS test can help trainers quickly determine if a client exhibits poor movement patterns that may increase susceptibility to injury in a new sport. Based on the results, you can modify programming to ensure you’re addressing the areas in greatest need.

Look inward. Assess the client’s wellness and readiness. This may not be on your radar normally, but skating into unfamiliar territory can increase the risk of injury if a client isn’t mentally and physically up to the task.

Do your homework. If you’re not familiar with the winter sport a client has chosen, do some research to ensure that you understand its demands. Use what you learn to address those concerns in future workouts.

Assess “soreness.” After a session on the snow or ice, look at how your client’s body responds. Which muscles were most affected? “This can identify areas that need greater attention from either a mobility perspective, a strengthening perspective, or both,” he says.

Ultimately, cross-training with winter sports can be productive, effective and exciting. But keeping clients safe should be at the pinnacle of your priorities. “While no accident is 100% preventable, if a client is snowboarding to give their shoulders a break from tennis, and they fall and strain their rotator cuff or sprain their AC joint, that can do more to set them back than not taking time off from the sport,” says Ambler-Wright. By changing up how you think about their training, you can help clients have a safe, enjoyable and successful winter.

Read more from Ambler-Wright on winter cross-training, and on the modified LESS test, at

“Resist” Using Ibuprofen Right After Resistance Training

Resistance training and ibuprofen have been studied separately to document their benefits to bone and muscle as we age. Recently, researchers in Canada studied how both interventions used in tandem affected postmenopausal women. The results, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, revealed a surprise, says lead researcher Whitney Duff, PhD, CSEP-CEP, of the College of Kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan (2017; 49 [4], 633–40).

“Resistance training and ibuprofen both appear to be beneficial for bone health in postmenopausal women. However, when ibuprofen is taken soon after resistance training, the bone-building benefits of the exercise seem to be blunted. If it is known that a postmenopausal woman will require ibuprofen with exercise (e.g., with arthritis), then it could be taken several hours beforehand as a preventive measure,” says Duff. “Otherwise, it would be best to wait and take as needed several hours after exercise.”

Not in the senior set yet? Check out the results from a similar study on 18- to 35-year-olds in our Q+A.

A Better Obesity Measure Than BMI

There’s a more useful body fat formula based on height and waist size, Or simply try landmarking measurements of specific body parts.

Body mass index is a buzzword, for sure, but a recent study in PLOS ONE reports that there’s a more accurate way to predict obesity and disease risk. Michelle G. Swainson et al. took body measurements of 81 adults using five methods: BMI, waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, waist-to-height ratio and waist/height0.5. They then compared how well each method measured up to the super-accurate but expensive DXA scan, looking specifically at calculations for whole-body fat percentage (%FM) and visceral adipose tissue (VAT) mass (2017; 12 [5], e0177175). Waist-to-height ratio was the clear winner, with the cut-point for obesity at 0.53 in men and 0.54 in women, and a cut-point for abdominal fat obesity at 0.59 for both genders. Knowing a person’s %FM and VAT is important because these numbers increase in parallel with disease risk.

Fabio Comana, MA, MS, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, and a faculty instructor with NASM and San Diego State University, likes the idea of finding a better way to address body fat and shape because current measures are “expensive or unreliable.” For example, skinfold measurement requires a lot of expertise, and both DXA scans and accurate hydrostatic (underwater) weighing can cost hundreds of dollars.

“Everyone may want to know ‘What’s my body fat?’” says Comana. But as a fitness pro, you’re looking to show clients their improvements. So, if you calculate waist-to-height ratio or BMI, he suggests using the result as a basis of future comparisons rather than focusing on what that number “means.”

Comana recommends taking circumference measurements at various locations (for example, neck, chest, waist, hips, thigh, calf and biceps), but only if other techniques are not available. (Learn more about circumference measurements in NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training [6th ed., 2018; 127–28].) In addition, snapping front- and side-view pictures provides visual proof of client progress.

“I think there has to be a shift in emphasis from body fat to body shape and health status,” says Comana. Fortunately, he adds, this shift has already begun.

A Proper Plank: It’s Not Just Time That Counts

Cue clients to unclasp their hands. Most of us spend too much time with our hands together.

We love the plank. “It teaches intervertebral stability, which can stabilize the spine at the top of a kettlebell swing, squat or deadlift,” says Mike Fantigrassi, NASM-CPT and Master Instructor. But to get the full perks from planks, it’s important to focus on form and posture, not on a lengthy hold time.

“Planks should be held only as long as perfect position can be maintained,” says Fantigrassi. “Start with a maximum contraction of 3–10 seconds and work up to 20 reps,” he advises. If you think clients will find that surprising, look at these other ways to perfect and progress the plank:

Start high and finish low. Elevated or “high” planks won’t cause the butt to pike in the way that knee planks can. Begin with hands on a bench or Smith machine bar, which can be lowered a little at a time. Once clients can hold this high plank in perfect form for 30–60 seconds (or for 12 reps at 5 seconds each), they’re ready to progress to the floor, then to forearms.

Check the kinetic chain. With feet shoulder-width apart and toes under heels, align heels, knees, hips, shoulders and head in a straight line, keeping back in neutral, shoulders down and back, arms shoulder-width apart, elbows under shoulders and eyes on floor. “Keep the hands apart,” reiterates Fantigrassi. It breaks up the position used for long periods of driving or typing.

Squeeze out more benefits. To keep the body in alignment, draw in, brace and engage the glutes. Too easy? Squeeze the quads, too. Want more? Dorsiflex the toes and pull the elbows toward the toes (without moving), or move the elbows forward beyond the shoulders.

Challenge their balance. Lifting a hand or foot (or one of each) can add a layer of difficulty. However, it can also throw off proper alignment. Keep these moves minimal: Cue clients to simply point one toe and/or (in pushup position) lift one palm slightly.

Watch for form breakdown. Call for a reset when you see the back, hips or head sag (or pike) or the shoulders shrug. Also, cue a rest break when you can see that muscles are not contracted, which means the ligaments and bones have taken over the job of supporting the body.

Put Your Heart Into It

If clients are having trouble making time for workouts, here’s more scientific evidence of the perks of doing something each day—even if it’s just a 10-minute brisk walk. In a survey of 15,486 people across the globe who had stable coronary heart disease, this amount of exercise was associated with a lower risk of death, according to an article published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (2017; 70 [14], 1689–1700). Interestingly, those who started off as habitual sitters and those with the highest risk of death showed the greatest benefits from adding exercise to their day.

Changing Old-School Thinking on Seniors

Little Miss Shirley (shown doing weighted ball squats) lifts the same loads as many men who are much larger than she is.

When Joe Carson, NASM-CPT, FNS, began working at the Spann Wellness Center at Oklahoma Methodist Manor in late 2016, his exercise class participants (now with an average age of 84) were accustomed to seated workouts using minimal effort, light loads and low exertion—a trend all too common in senior facilities, he adds. The residents were leery of the tougher circuit training workout that Carson proposed, but when he explained how it would benefit their bones, brain, muscles and more, they were sold.

Today, the group’s usual routine is a dynamic warmup followed by 45 minutes of short bouts of activity, alternating with short rests (basically, the time it takes to transition to the next station). These octogenarians are now specialists in a variety of moves that take younger exercisers to task, including planks, cable rows, TRX® chest presses and the Superman, to name a few. Sets started out with 30 seconds under tension, and Carson has boosted both load and duration every 2 weeks as residents have grown stronger and more confident.

“The results have been nothing short of remarkable!” he says. For example, a woman with cervical fusions is pain-free for the first time in years, and a man who’s had multiple knee surgeries has brought his range of motion back within normal ranges.

Carson’s advice on working with an older population? “Train them intelligently, proficiently and with a level of vigor that will yield desired results. Though they are a bit more challenging to work with due to medical limitations, the aging adult population is the largest growing segment of the U.S. population, and fitness professionals need to know how to satisfy the demand for their services accordingly. When you can train these people to move, improve their quality of life and help to minimize their preventable medical issues, it is not only rewarding for you as a professional, but it re-gifts the gift of life to a person who has earned it.”

On the Ropes? Is Less Rest Best?

A small study, published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, looked at metabolic responses to different rest periods between battle-rope sets (2015; 29 [9], 2375-87). The 22 participants did 15 seconds of single-arm waves and 15 seconds of double-arm waves, followed by either a 1-minute rest interval (1MR) or a 2-minute rest interval (2MR)—for a total of 8 sets. The 1MR group had significantly higher VO2max, heart rate and energy expenditure. Plus, stripping out that extra minute would mean 7 more minutes for working out. Planks, anyone?

To Bust New Year’s Excuses, Figure Out the Trigger

Megan Johnson McCullough (in pink) helps clients find their balance

As a professional natural bodybuilder, Megan Johnson McCullough, MA, owner of Every BODY’s Fit in Oceanside, California, knows what it takes to get results. This NASM-CPT and AFAA-certified instructor also knows what it’s like to fight temptations, both personally and as a support for clients. Here are her tips for managing common triggers of postresolution pitfalls:

“My social life derails my healthy goals.”
>> The trigger: The bar environment (and alcohol)! Become the host with the most and offer up Happy Hour at your place, where you can opt for your better choices. “Cheers!” to water and workouts!

“Dinner becomes a binge.”
>> The trigger: Waiting too long to eat, or using food to destress at day’s end. Make lunch your “main meal,” and/or drink a protein shake on the way home from work. This sets you up for a better belt loop by making it easier to stop at one serving of dinner.

“I eat healthy for 2 weeks, then I fall apart.”
>> The trigger: Choosing a plan that’s too strict and unrealistic. Create a lifestyle change that you can follow today, tomorrow and next year. To develop a healthy relationship with food, view it as nourishment, rather than restriction or reward.

“I don’t have time.”
>> The trigger: Not planning and prioritizing the use of downtime. Well, what’s your favorite Netflix show?? Yep, you have time. Watch it and work out, using your smartphone or iPad while on the treadmill or elliptical. Use your free minutes to better yourself!

Meet our experts

AFM_Author_Quaglio Laura Quaglio, has more than 18 years of experience as a writer and editor for numerous magazines, books and websites on such diverse topics as wellness, nutrition, fitness, finance, after-school activities and parenting.

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