How to Determine the Correct Stimulus to Get Results

How to Determine the Correct Stimulus to Get Results

Last month’s Knowledge Series, a members-only webinar, focused on the idea of how everyone responds differently to the stimulus of exercise. After studying this for more than 25 years James FitzGerald has come up with an equation that helps predict and explain the response someone will get from exercising. That equation: Intent + Modality + Person = Dose. This blog will explain each part of this equation giving you the ability to determine the correct stimulus your clients need to get results.

Dose: The Response to Exercise

Dose is the mechanical or metabolic response a human has to a physical activity. Controlling the dose is how you help clients achieve their goals. When coaching a client, think of the dose as the goal for the exercise and session, whether that be developing motor control, the aerobic system, or testing the creatine phosphate system. (Learn more about energy system training here.) In order to control the dose you give to your client, you need to understand the three variables that influence the response: intent, modality, and person.

Intent: The Mindset Around the Exercise

The first variable that influences your client’s dose (response to exercise) is their intent, that is, the internal reasoning the client has for performing an exercise. Intent encompasses a client’s grit, belief, level of competence, and capability. As a coach, it’s important to help set the intention with the client for each exercise session, whether that be working on a specific skill, getting stronger, recovering, etc. This can be a simple note in TrueCoach or a consultation in which you discuss the reasoning behind the next block of training. Establishing intent with your clients is a great way to build their competence and control the results of their training. 

(Coach’s Note: To truly understand your client’s intent you need to understand them. A simple high-five as they walk into the gym just won’t do. A great coach builds relationships with their clients and over time learns about their deepest priorities. Learn how to understand your clients and start building meaningful relationships in this free coaching course.) 

Modality: How the Exercise is Performed

The second variable that influences the response to exercise is the modality, that is, the method in which the exercise is performed. Modality is a variable because every type of exercise has a different power time curve and thus a different response. Resistance training is a great example of this. Think about how different the feeling of doing a 4-second negative bench press is opposed to a 1-second negative. To put this into practice think about the response you want the client to have from the exercise, then pair it with a modality that will facilitate that response.

Person: Who is Performing the Exercise? 

The third variable is the person performing the exercise. This variable focuses on developmental age, that is, where the client is relative to their maximum physical potential. To simplify this, James views developmental age in three categories: growing, peaking, and resisting entropy. There are no set ages for each of these categories as everyone is unique. A good way to think about how developmental age will affect the response to exercise is to picture multiple ages performing a sprint. 

First, picture a 7-year-old sprinting all out for a minute. Once they have completed the sprint they will probably only need 30 seconds to recover before they can do it again. Compare this to a 20-year-old who might need 5 times the amount of recovery and it becomes pretty clear how developmental age affects the response.

Effectiveness over Creativity

As a coach, part of your journey to coaching mastery is to realize that there are a million different doses from exercise; everyone responds differently. When you realize this and begin examining the current fitness market you will notice a gap.

Most coaches do not understand what influences the response to exercise. In fact, they focus on creativity over effectiveness. This gives you an opportunity to create a lasting career in the fitness industry by learning how to create effective programs. Learn our system of personalized fitness coaching that puts an emphasis on results over creativity in our free coaching course, The Professional Coaching Blueprint.


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