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The Pitfalls of Home-Based Personal Training Systems Lacking the Actual Trainer

July 27, 2010 by NCSF 2 comments

Infomercials have driven the popularity of home-based personal training programs. Twenty-minute commercials of testimonials, motivational speeches, and surprising results from seemingly average people inspire general consumers to spend three easy payments of $39.95 (plus $19.95 S&H). These types of programs commonly claim that anyone can reap the rewards of physical activity and see similar results (to the models) in body composition and muscle mass through “special sequences”, “muscle targeting”, or more legitimately significant caloric expenditure from very high volumes of training. These self-implemented personal training systems commonly provide for a variety of exercise programs and activities to be performed over a series of weeks or months. The guidance is a bastardized combination of traditional personal training and group exercise. Furthermore, strategic marketing develops the perception that participants receive expert instruction in the most convenient and safe environment possible; all at a lower cost than hiring a certified personal trainer. The only thing missing is the actual qualified personal trainer.

The idea of quick results, low start-up costs, and an invigorating workout sounds like a great deal and for some individuals it may be a viable answer. But for most Americans, the high intensity activities may cause more harm than good. What makes a person who does not work out regularly believe that they can start off with an hour of (muscle isolated) intense, high volume training? For some individuals, it’s seeing a person they can relate to on the commercial; others do not understand the demands of the programs, whereas still others are sold by the idea of home-based instruction. The videos remove common barriers like time or scheduling constraints, the cost or availability of a quality fitness facility near their home, and general anxiety about working out in a public fitness facility due to body image or a lack of experience. It makes sense – participants who are significantly unfit or deconditioned often cite that they perceive fitness facilities as intimidating environments and do not feel confident enough to even train with a friend or personal trainer. Whatever the reason may be for choosing home-based personal training systems over training with a certified professional, one should be aware of the potential drawbacks to engaging in one of these programs.

Certainly some individuals can engage in these types of programs without any negative consequences, and in many cases a personal training client may want to adjunct their workouts with some home training. Either way, personal trainers should educate clients and members who inquire about home-based training programs on the following issues of engaging in one of these training systems or when comparing the option to personal training services provided at a facility.

When using a home-based personal training program:

  1. No personalized screening or assessment process is implemented to evaluate baseline fitness data and/or starting points. This can place special population participants and unfit individuals who purchase the program at risk, as everyone is instructed to perform the same programs at the same relative intensity - which may or may not be appropriate.
  2. There is no formal supervision to ensure that proper form is maintained during testing procedures nor the actual exercise session. Likewise, no one ensures the correct training parameters (e.g. frequency, resistive intensity, rest periods, recover) are being maintained to prevent overtraining.
  3. Individual-specific progression or regression reflecting the degree of adaptive response or risk for injury is void. There is no feedback or manipulation of training variables to echo individual-specific progressions, modifications, or limitations.
  4. No balance is established for individual recovery. Some of these programs encourage a new exerciser to engage in activities beyond their appropriate capabilities for six-days in a row – talk about insanity. Overall, when using a home-based personal training program assessment, observations, and constructive feedback are not provided based on the participant’s individual needs.

There is no doubt if anyone performs intense exercise for an hour or more a day, six days a week, they will see results, and these programs have been able to motivate some to accomplish this task. And why not? The workouts are fresh, exciting and popular and will certainly work if someone makes it through unscathed. But the reality is, if an individual performs any activity intensely enough for an hour or more – he or she will see results. For example, walk into a forest and swing an axe for sixty minutes straight, alternate directions to mix it up each day, and you have a calorie-burning workout with discernable results. Is it appropriate for everyone – most likely not. Cookie cutter workouts do not discriminate who they are appropriate for and suggest everyone should be able to accomplish them regardless of training tenure, movement aptitude, age, and relative physiological system efficiency. While these programs are fun and exciting for some they may also be detrimental for others. If personal trainers recommend these programs to enhance results it is important to review the exercises, teach the techniques, establish appropriate starting points, and ensure the activity is not detrimental in any way. This is not to say people shouldn’t engage in these workouts, but rather they should be appropriately educated and prepared if they do.


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Robert Johnson
November 17, 2011, 03:05 PM
Good stuff! The cost of the diet program is not what I was ready for. I was spending 200.00 a month just on the diet for P90X at that cost I should of got a personal trainer myself.
James Beaumont
September 18, 2010, 09:23 AM
Great article. Very well put. I think many trainers have been trying to say the same thing to people about these home workouts, but this sums the whole thing up perfectly.