Are you getting the most out of you exercise routine?


We Need To Get More Exercise


I work out at 24 Hour Fitness.  I see Larry and Suzie there on a regular basis. They are dedicated to their routine, which I can say from observation, is very routine, with little if any variation.

Larry is so consistent that I can pretty much tell you what time he will be doing his sit-ups (or neck curls) between the rowing machine and shoulder press.

Suzie loves her cardio. She is a die-hard on the elliptical trainer, where she often appears to be catching up on the latest in the Journal of Vogue.

Don’t get me wrong. I respect and admire people who value fitness for their health (and vanity).  I just feel that when a person joins a fitness club, they should be screened about their knowledge and health and given some guidance so they can attain their goals.

Larry and Suzie do the same thing for every workout. They look the same and I would be willing to bet that they reached a plateau with regard to fitness, body composition and overall health.

Are you a Larry or a Suzie?

What did you SAID?

Exercise creates adaptations – Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands (SAID). The body will specifically adapt to the type of demand placed on it.

Weight loss, lean body mass gain, conditioning, general health and performance enhancement are a few reasons (desired adaptations) that people are hoping to achieve through exercise.

Exercise is not one-size-fits-all. Assessments combined with an evidenced-based training model are the keys to attaining your goals.


Optimum Performance Training is an evidence-based model created by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) to educate trainers, coaches, athletes and exercise enthusiasts on how to achieve goals safely and efficiently.

There are 3 blocks in the OPT model:

  1. Stabilization
  2. Strength
  3. Power

There are 5 phases:

  1. Stabilization endurance
  2. Strength endurance
  3. Hypertrophy (muscle building)
  4. Maximum Strength
  5. Power





As you can see, the blocks build on each other, with stabilization as the base.

Everyone needs stability. It is essential for:

  • Muscle endurance
  • Joint stability
  • Flexibility
  • Posture
  • Neuromuscular efficiency

Exercising for stability is corrective in nature, with a strong emphasis on flexibility. Training is progressed to unstable yet controllable environments (e.g. discs and balls), and involves light weights and high repetitions.

Stabilization is essential both for reducing injuries as well as ensuring that one’s body in ready for the demands of the more advanced exercise routines (or phases).

Even athletes and those with experience should be assessed for their ability to stabilize. Workouts in this phase are not necessarily easy, as they should be structured to address an individual’s deficiencies based upon an assessment.

The Strength building block has 3 phases: stabilization strength, hypertrophy  (muscle building) and maximum strength. Whether or not a person enters into the hypertrophy or maximum strength phases is dependent upon their goals.

Exercising in the strength phases creates the following adaptations:

  • Improved endurance
  • More strength
  • Increased capacity to perform work
  • More joint stability
  • Increased lean body mass

Training strategies in the strength phases vary depending on whether one is seeking endurance, hypertrophy or strength.

For endurance, moderate weight and repetitions are used as well as super setting (pairing) a strength exercise with a stabilization exercise.

Hypertrophy adaptations require higher volume and weight with low to moderate repetitions.

Maximum strength requires higher amount of weight and lower repetitions, with longer rest periods.

In the strength phases, flexibility training is more active.

Exercising in the Power Phase is used for those desiring:

  • Enhanced neuromuscular efficiency
  • Enhanced strength
  • The ability to generate more force and speed

Training for power involves super setting a strength exercise with a power exercise. Power exercises are performed as fast as can be controlled. Flexibility in this phase is more dynamic.

What about cardio?

Cardiorespiratory training has numerous health benefits:

  • It decreases: fatigue, anxiety, depression, coronary artery disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis and obesity.
  • It increases: flexibility (potentially), work efficiency, recreational and sports performance, sense of well-being, “good” cholesterol, insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance and immunity.

A cardiovascular workout should include a:

  1. Warm-up
  2. Workout
  3. Cool down

Keep in mind the FITTE guidelines, which include:

Frequency- Most days of the week

Intensity- See below based on zones

Time- 20-40 minutes

Type- Run, walk, bike, machine, etc.

Enjoyment- Do something you like to do

Cardiorespiratory exercise can also lead to adaptations. These adaptations depend on the zone in which one works:

Zone 1 (Stabilization)- 65-79% of predicted maximum heart rate (220-age)- aerobic energy system.

Zone 2 (Strength)- 80-85% of predicted maximum heart rate- aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.

Zone 3 (Power)– 86-90% of predicted maximum heart rate- anaerobic energy system.

Cardiorespiratory exercise of lower intensity uses carbohydrate and fat as fuel. As the intensity increases, the fuel requirement switches to glycogen (stored carbohydrate).

If the desired outcome of cardiorespiratory exercise is fat loss, then metabolic or power training (Zone 3) has been shown to be more effective than low intensity activities (Zone 1).

In the power phase, even though the primary fuel for this activity is carbohydrate, the metabolic effect results in EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption), which means fat burning during recovery, sometimes for a few days after the activity.

Another interesting fact about more intense cardiovascular training is that it benefits all energy systems (i.e. glycolytic, anaerobic and aerobic), whereas lower intensity training is limited to the aerobic system. Athletes should keep this in mind when training for their event.

How to use the OPT Model

Prior to beginning any type of exercise program, it is essential that you undergo a needs analysis and assessment. This analysis helps to determine one’s current physical condition and enables a health professional or trainer to determine how to design an exercise routine to help you achieve your goals safely and efficiently.

The OPT model is an integrated exercise program. Each phase includes:

  • Flexibility
  • Cardiorespiratory
  • Core
  • Balance
  • Reactive (plyometric)
  • Speed, agility and quickness (optional)
  • Resistance


You don’t have to be a Larry or a Suzie. Find a health professional or personal trainer who is NASM trained in the OPT model who can help you achieve your desired adaptations.

About the Author

Dr. Geoff LecovinNaturopathic Physician/Chiropractor/Acupuncturist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist/Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist/Certified Sports Nutritionist/View all posts by Dr. Geoff Lecovin