Principle #3 Exercise


We never know which task life may throw at us; therefore, we believe in preparing for the unknown and unknowable.

As fitness professionals, one of our jobs is to ensure that we prescribe the appropriate exercises at the appropriate intensity. You might think that a 17-year-old, aspiring professional athlete’s program would look completely different to that of 72-year-old retiree trying to lead a healthy lifestyle. In fact, their programs would look very similar, because individuals’ physical needs vary by degree, not kind, meaning that both their programs could look exactly the same, but the former would simply require a lot more intensity.

What is the purpose of this workout?

Your personal trainer should be able to answer this question about any workout that they have programmed for you. The purpose will largely be dictated by the current level of fitness, as well as the specific goals of the individual, however there’s a couple of elements that must be considered by the person writing the program, regardless of who it’s for:

10 General Physical Skills

We believe in developing the 10 general physical skills: endurance; stamina; strength; flexibility; power; speed; coordination; agility; balance & accuracy. We are as fit as we are competent in each of these 10 general physical skills.

Metabolic Conditioning:

We have three energy systems – phosphagen, glycolytic & oxidative. The first two, the phosphagen and glycolytic, are ‘anaerobic’, and the third, the oxidative, is ‘aerobic’. ‘Anaerobic’ means without oxygen, conversely ‘aerobic’ means with oxygen.

“… efforts at moderate to high power and for lasting less than several minutes are anaerobic, and efforts at low power and lasting in excess of several minutes are aerobic.” (Glassman, 2002)

“The key to developing the cardiovascular system without an unacceptable loss of strength, speed and power is interval training. Interval training mixes bouts of work and rest in timed intervals.” (Glassman, 2002)

As you can see, when designing an exercise program there’s a number of factors to take into consideration, which is why we consider exercise program design an art. This is why it’s called personal training; you’ve got to factor in, amongst other things, exercise history, past/current injuries, any medication, past experience, amount of time available & access to equipment.

Practicing vs Training vs Competing

When we exercise, we are doing one of these three things: practicing, training, or competing.

“Practice is done with low heart rates, it’s done with low loads, under 60%, with the goal of improving your movements.” (Bergeron, 2017, 00:02:18)

Training is done with heavy weights, high heart rates … and your goal is to improve your engine, or your strength.” (Bergeron, 2017, 00:02:28)

“Competition is done with max loads, max effort, and the goal is to beat somebody else.” (Bergeron, 2017, 00:02:38)

When we do an exercise session, we should be practicing and training the majority of the time.

Practice relates to improving our skills, more specifically the last 4 of the 10 general physical skills: coordination, agility, balance & accuracy. Let’s take bar muscle-ups as an example. If you are unable to do one, trying to learn to do one at the end of a workout when you are fatigued would not be the best time. The best time would be at the start of the workout when you are fresh, both mentally and physically. Break down the movement, and consistently practice until you have learned the skill.

Training has more to do with the other 6 of the 10 general physical skills: endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power & speed. Let’s use bar muscle-ups as an example again. Once we have acquired the skill to do them, we can start to incorporate it into our workouts. For example, attempting to do 30 bar muscle-ups for time with a time cap of 5min. Now it’s a matter of training to improve our endurance & stamina for this particular exercise.

Competing should only be done occasionally, roughly 10% of all workouts.  If you go to the gym and try to beat your previous time in every workout, you are competing. Competing is done with maximum effort, it’s about winning. For the general population, we aren’t trying to win a competition, we are trying to promote quality of life through proper movement. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with occasionally testing ourselves and trying to improve our time for a particular workout, but the best way to do that would be through practice and training. Think about a football team wanting to improve, they wouldn’t play a match every day, they would spend the week leading up to the match practicing and training instead.

A question your personal trainer should always be asking themselves is, “What is going to bring my client the most value for their time?” After your initial fitness assessment, there should clear areas for improvement. Thereafter, conducting regular fitness assessments will be crucial for your personal trainer to measure your progress, and make any adjustments, if necessary.

We hope you found this information valuable. If you’re looking for a professional coach to help you on your health & fitness journey, please do contact us

Reference list:

Glassman, G. (2002) ‘What is Fitness?’, CrossFit Journal, 1 October. Available at: (Accessed: 9 December 2019).

How to Train with Intention (2017) YouTube Video, added by Ben Bergeron [Online]. Available at [Accessed: 9 December 2019].

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