Training with Tubing

People are becoming increasingly aware of the many benefits of resistance training: increased functional strength, heightened body awareness, better posture and balance, and improved body composition. But many people seem reluctant to get started on a resistance training program. In some cases, they may feel they cannot afford private personal training sessions, and yet they hesitate to try this type of training without some professional guidance. One way you, as a personal trainer, can help more individuals experience the benefits of resistance exercise is to train small groups.

Training a group of three to six people offers some significant rewards for both clients and trainers. Group training:

  • increases your earning potential, enabling you to command a greater average fee per session
  • save clients the expense of one-to-one sessions
  • provides the challenge and motivation of a team environment
  • offers sociability and increased opportunity for client enjoyment.

To maximize client camaraderie, you can choose group members who are in a similar career or stage of life. Seniors, business travelers, cancer survivors, and office employees are just a few of the potential markets. As a resistance training tool elastic tubing offers the advantage of being completely portable.

Getting Started 
Resistance training programs that utilize tubing have specific space and equipment requirements.

Space. The training area should be large enough to allow approximately 30 to 40 square feet per client. For three to six people, for example, the area should be approximately 90 to 240 square feet. Keep in mind that you will need enough space to move around freely so you can provide feedback to each client.

Rear Shoulder High Row
Partner Rear-Shoulder High Row. The tubing is anchored on a stability bar. Two assist straps are used for the two strands of tubing. The smaller loops of the assist straps are placed over the ends of the bar, and tubing is threaded through the larger loops, which are suspended from the bar. The two assist straps are positioned approximately 6 to 12 inches apart to attain the proper resistance.

Ideally, the flooring should have a rubberized, nonskid surface. But, in fact, most areas available to you will probably have tile, carpeting or hardwood. In these cases, just make sure you reinforce the need for proper footwear-all clients should wear rubber-soled shoes.

Look for a space that has objects you can use as anchor points for the tubing. Possible anchor points include doors that can be securely closed; legs on a piece of sturdy, heavy furniture; chain-link fences (if the area is outside, perhaps on a Partner Rear-Shoulder High Row. The tubing is anchored on a stability bar. Two assist straps are used for the two strands of tubing. The smaller loops of the assist straps are placed over the ends of the bar, and the tubing is threaded through the larger loops, which are suspended from the bar. The two assist straps are positioned approximately 6 to 12 inches apart to attain the proper resistance. tennis court); or large hooks, such as bicycle hooks, which have been secured to a beam or wall stud from one to seven feet above the floor. The availability of anchor points dramatically increases the number of possible exercise options and variations.

Equipment. Since your clients most likely possess varied degrees of strength, multiple levels of resistance tubing will be required. The major tubing manufacturers offer five or six levels of tension, ranging from extra light to extra heavy. It is possible to combine two pieces of tubing-of the same level or different levels-to attain the necessary resistance for each exercise. Try to have one or two sets of tubing for each client. (A set contains a piece of tubing for each tension level.)

Your equipment toolbox should also contain several anchoring straps, or “assist” straps, which are made of very dense, tightly stitched nylon. There are two types. The door anchoring strap is 8 to 10 inches long, and has a 3/4 to -3/8 inch hard plastic dowel on one end and a large loop on the other end. The dowel is positioned over the top of the door or between the door and its frame on either the opening side or the hinged side. Once the door is securely closed, the strap is pulled tight until the dowel end meets the door on the other side. This ensures that the strap remains anchored. The strands of tubing go through the large loop on the other end of the strap.

The other type of assist strap is used to secure the tubing around various objects, such as a sturdy table leg, a chain-link fence, a stability bar or a doorknob. This strap is approximately the same length as the door anchoring strap and also has a large loop on one end, but has a smaller loop instead of a dowel on the other end. The tubing is placed through the large loop, which is wrapped around the chosen anchor and pulled through the smaller loop. Having both types of straps greatly expands your exercise options. For safety, be sure to closely follow the manufacturer’s directions for using the straps.

Triceps Press Down
Triceps Press-Down. In this example, the tubing is anchored from above.

Another useful tool is a lightweight, sturdy PVC or aluminum bar approximately four feet long and 3/4 to 1-1/4 inches in diameter. This bar can be used as a stability aid for clients performing lower-body resistance exercises or balance drills. Nonskid rubber tips on the ends are a plus. The bar can also be used as an anchor in areas that do not have doors or hooks. (One client holds the bar steady while his or her partner performs the desired exercise; then the partners switch places.)

The Required Skills 
As a personal trainer, you undoubtedly have a thorough understanding of exercise biomechanics and an appreciation of how forces are applied against the body during resisted movements. For effective resistance training, the path of motion for each exercise should be in line with and in opposition to the resistance. One of the advantages of tubing is that the direction of resistance is always self-evident.

Your cuing ability, both verbal and kinesthetic, is of paramount importance. With experience, you will find you can use touching as a cue with a nearby client while at the same time offering verbal cues to another client across the room-thereby providing individualized training in the group setting.

Since no two clients will have exactly the same exercise history, ability level or limitations, your skills in analysis and exercise modification are also important. You may need to modify a motion for a beginning client, or alter the placement or method of anchoring the tubing for a client with a joint limitation. For example, what if a client had a limited degree of shoulder abduction that precluded aligning the humerus with the shoulder joint? Before having him perform a rear- shoulder high row, you would assess the degree of horizontal abduction he could comfortably attain (without any resistance applied) and then anchor the tubing at the appropriate height. By modifying movements and altering tubing placement, you enable all the participants in a group to perform the same exercises, yet you acknowledge their individual needs.

Shoulder Press
Shoulder Press. In this example, the tubing is anchored ar the door.

Planning Ahead 
To make the training sessions run smoothly and efficiently, spend 10 to 15 minutes prior to each session to quickly inventory the equipment, Shoulder Press. In this example, the tubing is anchored at the door. review the training plan and set up any training stations with outside anchors if necessary. This preparation helps ensure that the session begins promptly-and keeps your stress level low!

Since some exercises may be done with partners, you need to know in advance how many people to expect for each session. Make sure your trainer- client agreement specifies that clients must inform you ahead of time if they expect to be absent.

Exploring the Programming Options 
Each training session will vary according to the number of people present, so you need to be able to create-and adapt-multiple exercise variations. Once all the clients have learned the individual exercises, you can combine two or three exercises to form a mini circuit. Unless your clients have hypertrophy as a primary goal, it is probably best to concentrate on performing specific motions, rather than isolating specific muscles. This strategy places the training emphasis on balance, stability and posture while developing functional strength.

Timing a set, rather than giving clients a repetition goal, allows you to control the flow of a session. By using a watch’s second hand or a stopwatch to time the duration of each set, you can make sure the whole group starts and finishes together. Remember, the effort of a muscle is not necessarily measured by the number of times it shortens and lengthens, but by the amount of time it is under tension. Most sets will probably range from approximately 30 to 50 seconds, with a comparable rest period between sets; but you can easily adjust the time to accommodate the conditioning level of your group members.

When you first introduce an exercise, clients need time to digest and master the new motor patterns. For this learning stage, choose tubing with a lighter resistance level. Only after teaching the correct movements and identifying any possible mechanical deficiencies should you consider increasing the resistance. For safety, emphasize the quality of movement, rather than the quantity of tension used.

Keep a written record of all your training sessions so you can monitor each client’s progress. In the “Sample Session,” the resistance level used by each client for each set is indicated by a letter. You can use this record-keeping method or create your own.

Enhancing Value 
Traditionally, when people think of performing activities in a group setting, they do not expect the focus to be directly on them. But, in fact, with a little creativity, you can train clients in a small group setting and still tailor the exercises to each client’s needs and abilities. One of your main challenges will be to prove to potential clients that you are capable of providing personalized instruction and attention while they are strength training in a group. All your actions and words should indicate that you are observant enough to modify each client’s exercises and/or body positions to attain optimal results.

Make sure you stress this capacity for individualized training in your marketing materials; for example, refer to training appointments as “sessions” versus “classes,” because the word “sessions” connotes a more personal relationship.

Once you have acquired the skills and experience to conduct effective small group resistance training sessions, you will be able to help more people get the results they desire while making more money and expanding your client base.