Exercise Selection for the Gen Pop Client

By now all of you would have seen a few interesting takes to the way I do program design for the General Population Client. Since releasing the Art of Gen Pop Transformations Guide Book one of the biggest questions I am consistently being asked is “why do you not squat and deadlift with the Gen Pop client?”

To answer this here are my 3 keys to exercise selection for a beginner to intermediate client in their first 12 weeks:

  1 – Is the movement of an exercise safe?

This one is simple, you can’t train when you are injured remember! Your health comes first. Splits squats for example are going to be safer than a traditional squat, especially if you don’t have the mobility or structural balance required to perform it correctly.

 2 – Does the movement need excessive amount of cueing?

Again, this is quite simple… any exercise that needs more than 3 direct cues initially, is not a great exercise to bring about fast results. Simplicity is the key initially. Not confusing the client, being fancy or doing something because it is ‘cool’. We are not here to be cool, we are here to get results.

3 – Can the movement of an exercise take to failure confidently?

This is a big reason why I avoid the compound lifts initially with Gen Pop clients. If you want to bring about dramatic results in a short period of time, you need to work hard. Really hard. But we also need to take the exercise that you feel confident to push too failure. A squat or deadlift can easily lead to form breakdown. Once technique is lost, confidence is lost and/or potential for injury rises.

Many years ago, I used to do those lifts initially with clients. But my training results weren’t what they were today. They were too slow, and I was forcing my goals on to the clients. My background as a coach is getting people strong! However, majority of Gen Pop clients don’t want to have a big squat or deadlift…you know what they want? They want to lose body fat and transform their physique. That’s it for majority of them!

Are the squat and deadlift amazing exercises? Absolutely! But general population clients who spend all day sitting down with poor posture and poor mobility are not amazing fits body wise for those movements. Doesn’t make the movement “wrong”, it means the clients bodies are not in a place to safely execute at this stage.

For this reason, I truly believe the split squat is a superior movement for a gen pop client personal training. And then the rack pull is also a much better choice than a conventional deadlift. Examples of these exercises and how to do them correctly can be found below on our Gen Pop exercise video playlists on the Clean Health YouTube page.

The front foot elevated split squat (and variations such as the back foot elevated split squat) take the knee joint through a full range of motion not seen in most people’s squats. Also it does not load up the spine, which means it’s a much safer movement. With this movement we still work the quads through a very full range, whilst also working on improving hip and ankle mobility. By working both legs separately, we also drive up the total time under tension for the quads and associated metabolic stimulus and caloric output.

Another large positive for the split squat over a conventional squat is the fact the client can safely work as hard as possible. If they go to failure and can’t perform another rep, they simply drop the weight, or their knees goes to the ground which is only a few centimetres drop. In comparison to a squat, where it’s not at all a safe movement, it might take to failure with or without a spotter.

Another favourite lower body movement for then gen pop client I like to prescribe is rack pull. The rack pull is a shorter range of motion. This is a positive as it allows us to teach the client basic hip extension. The less range of motion here, allows better understanding of the initiation process of hip extension. 

Less range of motion also means less neurologically taxing, which enable us to train the lower back with more frequency. 

The goal of the rack pull is to work the posterior chain. We can do this very effectively with this movement whilst minimising range of motion, which majority of Gen Pop clients lack the mobility to execute this exercise correctly.

When it comes to getting results, always be clear cut with the client’s goal. No exercise is essential when it comes to fat loss. After coaching clients for years and educating myself and others through the CHFI Industry Leaders Program, I really understood the importance of that. Now I am able to pick and choose the right exercises for each individual client with safety first in mind.

Therefore, remember the 3 keys of exercise selection for a gen pop client:

1 – Is it safe? 

2 – Does it require more than 3 cues?

3 – Can the client confidently take the exercise to failure?

To learn more how to apply specific training methods for Gen Pop get our latest guide book THE ART OF GEN POP TRANSFORMATIONS” specific for female or male. There is a step by step system to help you achieve your client’s 12 weeks transformation program and keep it for life, whether they are a beginner or intermediate client. 

If you still have some questions and would like to educate yourself further either in performance personal training or performance nutrition check our course calendar and choose the course of your interest. Remember, there is never enough knowledge to master your coaching in health and fitness!

Yours in transforming!

Mark Carroll / Master Coach

Clean Health Fitness Institute

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