Official Website of Sarah E. Rippel, BS, CPT, FMS

-A Little on Regressions/Progressions and Intervals-


As I have stated before, being able to regress every exercise you program into your workouts is vital to not only the success of your clients but also your success as a fitness professional. The same holds true for progressions as well. Working with groups makes this an even more important skill, along with being able to do so at any time and for any client. I have never had a single group where everyone could do the same exercises, and it is naïve to expect that to ever be the case. I almost always have someone with a “bad” knee or back, and I have had to work around so many different issues it makes my head spin! That’s just the way things go.

The popularity of “boot camp” programs means that people of all levels of ability are interested. Although I do my best to incorporate exercises that serve to benefit general posture and mobility issues and “wake up” muscles that need to be more active in my clients, the point needs to be made that group training is not and will not ever be as individualized as one-on-one training. There is simply no way to devote as much time to each person in your groups, therefore you must become as proficient as possible at sound programming and “tweaking” exercises on the spot.

I typically offer three “levels” of progression, but am always able to tweak these up or down depending on the individuals in my groups. I make a point of having my groups know that if their form starts to break down on any exercise, slow down. If this doesn’t help, then take a few seconds to catch your breath and try again, and if that doesn’t help, then hold a given position or stop altogether. In the group setting, people generally do not want to be seen stopping before the time is up, so this gives them plenty of options.

In going through the circuits, you will probably notice that I favor a 45/15 work-to-rest interval for “strength” exercises. I have found this to be a favorable interval in that it allows for sufficient work while allowing technique to stay clean. In my opinion, a strategy of high reps done in a state of fatigue is simply not smart. I typically have to get people in my groups to slow down rather than speed up (again, the group environment tends to get folks fired up)! I abhor sloppy reps and do not believe it is beneficial for people to sacrifice form for intensity. Yes, intensity is most definitely important, but if the emphasis is always on “GO GO GO,” then the quality of exercise execution tends to fall by the wayside.

Now, for “intense” exercises such as sprints and rope waves, I feel that 20-30 seconds of all-out work is optimal. These exercises cannot be performed for an extended period of time, so please keep this in mind when planning workouts.

A final note: I do my best to incorporate exercises that provide the most “bang for the buck,” in terms of total-body strength, metabolic impact, and overall benefit to my clients. This does not mean that I seek out exercises that are “hardcore” and/or highly technical. One visit to YouTube will offer you plenty of off-the-wall exercises if that is what you seek. I do like to provide my clients with an ever-changing and non-monotonous workout experience, but I believe strongly in the basics and their variations. I am a former gymnast and it is nothing for me to attempt pretty much any exercise, but I would be insane to expect the same from my clients! Furthermore, why spend the time trying to explain a complicated “single-leg burpee to leg kick to toe touch to tuck jump” when you’re the only one who should even attempt it? Why waste workout time trying to dazzle your clients with “impressive” circus-act exercises when they are just wanting to get their sweat on? Use sound judgment and realize that you can never, ever go wrong with the basics.

You will see that I most definitely like some unique variations, but they aren’t ridiculous. Also, you will see that I throw in the occasional single-joint exercise (gasp)! Remember, your clients are there to get a great workout, and this means you must always keep your eyes and ears open when you are with them.

Keep an eye out for my upcoming book of boot camp workouts!

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2 responses

  1. Great Post again Sarah!!!! Someday maybe I will actually put things into words as well. Truly hate to write any more than I have to lol

    November 6, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    • Thank you, Stacy!!!!!!! I am trying to make myself write more often…so far, it’s working…now I just gotta keep it up! 🙂

      November 7, 2012 at 3:40 pm

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