Cookie Cutter Fitness: One Size Fits All


All fitness centers and coaches have their own unique brand or style of training.  Call it their training philosophy.  Within that philosophy you have your own tricks and techniques, beliefs and principles that you follow and implement into your programming.  


Over the last few years the hottest fitness trends have been group training classes.  At home fitness programs like P90x and Insanity, the phenom known as crossfit and everyone’s favourite the bootcamp.  


During a kettlebell workshop I attended last year the instructor reinforced this trend by stating “group fitness was the future.”  I undoubtedly agreed with him.  It’s more affordable than private training, it’s social, it has a built-in support system, it’s motivating and best of all you’ve got an instructor telling you exactly what to do.  Of course there are cons as well.  If it’s large group training [more than 12 participants] you’re not going to get a lot if any attention during the class.  What is the point of doing the exercises if you’re not learning to do them properly?  Scalability is a huge issue, everyone ends up doing the exact same workout with the exact same weights- which can lead to a feeling of failure, poor results and ultimately quitting.


Large group classes work for gyms and trainers because they are profitable.  I hate to say it but it’s the truth.  I have nothing against that model, because at least people are doing some exercise, but I’ve said it before; the only way to true results is to consistently progress your workouts.  If the first time you pick up a dumbbell it’s a 5 pounder and three months later you’re still using a 5 and no one is telling you to grab a 8 or a 10 they 1) don’t care about your results or 2) have no clue who you are.  Either way, they suck!



I started instructing group classes almost one year ago at the fitness studio I was working for at the time.  It was a bootcamp style set up into stations so everyone was doing a different exercise for a predetermined amount of time then you switch and it went on like that until you completed all the stations.  They were good, I would participate in them from time to time, but because of the set up and the style performance wise I would never see any measurable results.  I wouldn’t build muscle, I wouldn’t become faster, more agile, only my muscular endurance may have slightly improved [slightly]….in other words for what I need it would never work.  For the general population and those who are beginning a fitness program it’s fine, but once you have adapted the workouts along with your results will just flatline _____________.


When I started my own training business [Brash Fitness & Conditioning] I took what I had known of group fitness, replaced it with what I believed group training should be and merged it with what I learned from other top tier group training coaches like Marv Mitchell of Blast Athletic [who I also run classes for twice/ week].  What I got was a small group class program based on my set of training principles [Brash Essentials: Training Principles].  Everything that I use in my own training, my private clients training I fused together to create a program that is challenging, engaging, progressive and fun.  At Brash Fitness you are not only encouraged but expected to pick up heavier weights, jump, crawl, sprint, pull and slam heavy objects.  



In order to ensure your training does not flatline we do a couple different things.  First we incorporate different training methodologies.  One workout might be strictly speed and agility focused.  Another will be a strength and power workout.  Next one we will work on your overall conditioning.  Some workouts everyone is doing the same thing at the same time and others it is set up in stations.  But each and every week you are expected to lift heavier, run faster, last longer and try harder.

On the flip side of what my kettlebell instructor said about group training being the future there are those who believe it will go the way of the ab roller, ab chair, ab rocker, ab sling, ab table, ab hat and ab keg [the last four I made up, or did I?]


The argument that they make is that exercise is not one size fits all, hence the name of this blog.  If you truly want results you must have a specifically designed program that is tailored to your needs.  They also use the example of professional athletes, saying that they never train this way, blah, blah, blah.  Now, I have yet to train a professional athlete but I know for a fact that some athletes [NHL, NFL, MMA] do train in a group environment- I’ve seen it with my own eyes.  Former NHL’er Gary Roberts runs a world famous training program for young athletes in a group setting.  

Having a customized fitness program designed just for you is wonderful if you have the opportunity, but be warned just because the trainer says it was tailored for you doesn’t necessarily mean it is.  What?  Trainers lying? Gasp!  Just because it has your name on it doesn’t mean Sally on the other end of the gym floor isn’t working off the exact same program as you.  


The ‘quality’ of Chicken McNuggets

Cookie cutter fitness programs were once described to me using McDonalds and Tim Hortons as examples.  Both McDonald’s and Tim Horton’s ensure ‘quality’ control [I would never- ever use either of those company’s in an example of quality, but…] by using specific guidelines for their products, from the way they serve and package [McDonald’s fries for instance], to the assembly line service they provide.  If you’re blown away by that, imagine what I was thinking!   So the idea in fitness terms is that to ensure their clients are getting ‘quality’ programming they make sure everyone is following the same program. Que?  Think about that for a second.


The debate whether group training will survive and whether it truly is beneficial will continue for years to come.  Is it cookie cutter?  Can it be one size fits all?      


The one thing that is true without a shadow of a doubt is, EXERCISE WORKS.  


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