By Jess Matheson
In a world where we are constantly being sold 7-minute workouts, fad diets, weight loss pills, and fat-burning supplements, it’s hard to know what’s true and what is just a gimmick. At Fitbliss Fitness, we are gimmick-free and purely evidence based.
Our coaches do not make decisions for our clients based on anecdotal evidence or purely client preferences. Rather, our team seeks out the best and most up-to-date evidence that applies to each client’s unique situation. We then use this to curate a fitness plan that will help them achieve their goals in a healthy and sustainable way.
Natalie Suazo, the Chief Science Officer for Fitbliss Fitness, leads the team in research and implementing proven practices. She serves as a resource for coaches and helps them rephrase questions into an appropriate format that is specific, measurable, and answerable with research. An example is changing the question, “Should I do an eccentric training block for my client?” into “For my novice, female, strength athlete who is in a peaking phase – how will a 6 week eccentric training block impact their meet performance?” This focused approach enables coaches to truly put their client’s health and/or performance at the forefront.
What are Evidence-Based Workouts?
Fitbliss’ team of coaches emphasize Progressive Overload with their clients.
Overload is applying a demand on the body greater than which it is accustomed to and progression is the change in overload in response to adaptation. By putting those two together, this means that we are gradually increasing the strain on our body to allow our muscular-skeletal system to grow stronger.
In resistance training, Progressive Overload can be achieved through manipulating (adjusting) the following factors:
- Duration of rest periods
- Number of repetitions
- Number of sets
- Range of Motion
Once our bodies have adapted to its current training level, this is when the exercise stress should be manipulated so we can continue to achieve further adaptations (strength & muscle growth).
The Use of Compound and Isolation Exercises
First, we’ll need to start off with some basic definitions. Compound Lifts are multi-joint exercises, meaning they work several muscle groups at once. Examples of compound lifts include squat, bench press, and deadlift. Isolation exercises are single-joint, meaning everything is relatively still aside from the one joint that is working. Examples of isolation exercises include bicep curls, tricep extensions, and glute kickbacks.
When putting together a workout plan, our coaches will start with the exercises that require the most strength and coordination while putting the easier single joint exercises toward the end. This means that our coaches usually start our clients’ workouts with compound lifts (squats, deadlifts, etc.) as they work several muscle groups. Additionally, evidence shows that performing a larger muscle group first in your workout will stimulate more anabolic hormone circulation, thus making the rest of your session more effective. In short, starting workouts with Compound Lifts will give you “more bang for your buck.” After compound lifts, your coach will program in your isolation exercises to help build your accessory muscles.
Volume is the measurement of the amount of total work done. Calculating volume helps your coach determine the overall stress on each muscle group throughout the week. Calculating a client’s volume can alert your coach to when you might be overtraining.
When writing a workout plan, your Fitbliss coach will take into account the volume, or total work performed by each muscle group, each week. Ideally, coaches will aim for their clients who are in a hypertrophy phase to perform 12-20 sets per week for each muscle group. Less than 12 sets will either result in maintenance or muscle-loss. Whereas more than 20 sets is often “junk” volume due to overtraining. Clients who are new to lifting, the elderly, or clients with chronic health conditions may fall closer to 8-10 sets per week for each muscle group.
Many of our coaches prescribe either full-body workouts or a split with 2 upper and 2 lower body workouts per week depending on the client goals, schedule, and level of commitment. This is intentional and allows us to space out the sets that clients are performing for each muscle group.
Other teams and coaches may do a workout split that consists of each day dedicated to one or two specific muscle groups, I.E. a glute & hamstring day. There are a few reasons that Fitbliss coaches do not take this approach to our workout splits. First, you do not need a full week for a muscle group to recover. Unless you are a new lifter or an older client, only working a specific muscle group once per week can actually result in detraining. Second, our muscles will fatigue greatly toward the end of a workout. As muscles fatigue, performance dips and you will get less out of those exercises done near the end of the workout.
It may be tempting for clients to want to be overachievers and perform extra sets or exercises that are not prescribed. While we love that our clients are passionate about achieving their goals, we like to caution that overtraining can be detrimental to your growth and can negatively impact recovery.
In addition to calculating your weekly volume, Fitbliss coaches will look for red flags and signs of overtraining. Some of these signs include:
- Tiring quickly
- Nagging body parts (aches & pains)
- Decrease in performance
- Psychologically struggling to get through their workouts (mental barriers)
- Changes in mood (this is typically the first indication of overtraining)
When coaches notice these signs they will plan a “deload week” into their client’s protocols. A deload week is when you are still performing your prescribed workouts, but at a lower intensity. For example, you may be doing your compound lifts at 50% of your 1 rep max as opposed to 80%+. Deload weeks will actually improve your performance by giving you a week to recover while still getting in movement. Taking this time to recover can help you feel elevated and even push through a plateau!
Weekly check-ins allow you to communicate with your coach and notify them when you are noticing signs of burnout and overtraining. It’s also a great opportunity to communicate when you have big life events coming up so your coach can plan deload weeks around those to help keep stress down and performance up!
Structured Workouts vs. “Swipe” Workouts?
Some of you may still be questioning why it’s worth it to do a progressive program (like Fitbliss’ Lifting Club) or to hire a coach for customized training when there are thousands of free workouts on Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok. We’ll refer to these as “swipe workouts.”
First off, it’s important to acknowledge that “swipe workouts” are not necessarily BAD. In fact, we love these workouts because they inspire physical activity and movement! Also, for someone who is just starting to work out on a regular basis, there will be noticed improvement by adding pretty much any exercise at all. However, over time, participants will notice a plateau in their performance and results.
In short, swipe workouts often lack progression and can be difficult to trust in terms of effectiveness, as some “influencers” may post what looks exciting and fun as opposed to the fundamentals which are proven to be effective.
Whether your goal is bigger glutes, a heavier squat, fat loss, or being able to chase your kids around the playground – Fitbliss coaches have a proven track record in implementing and manipulating the variables laid out above to deliver results within a coaching system that can change your life long term.
If you’re looking to take your fitness goals to the next level, check out fitblissfitness.com. We would love to help you find your version of “fitbliss.”