The "Big Three" require right start

  • Published
  • By Christina "CJ" Stein
  • 1st Special Operations Aerospace Medicine Squadron
You walk into the gym, and you see a ripped, toned and extremely powerful-looking Airman. You ask him what he does for his workout regimen, and he says "_______."

You'd be safe with filling in the blank with Crossfit, Insanity or P90X. These "Big Three," as dubbed by fitness experts, are the craze now. All three are characterized by high-intensity, explosive movements and quick results. This sounds like just the kind of challenge you are ready for, but there's only one problem - you don't know where to start.

First things first: participating in one of the "Big Three" workouts or other high-intensity regimens requires individuals to have a high baseline level of fitness. Becoming "fit to fight" is like building a house; the first thing that must be laid out is the foundation.

The first step to building that foundation is to have a comprehensive and individualized kinetic chain assessment or body movement from bottom to top. This is an assessment that determines individuals' strengths and weaknesses with regard to posture, movement, strength, flexibility and athletic performance. Prior to beginning any exercise routine, muscle imbalances in the kinetic chain must first be resolved to reduce the risk of injury. This assessment is done during a gait analysis at the base Health and Wellness Center by an exercise physiologist.

Next, you are ready to design your program.

According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine's Optimum Performance Training Model, phase 1 establishes stabilization endurance. This is the base to ensure maximum safety and reduce the risk of injuries while building on a properly-progressing exercise program. This phase is also important to revisit between periods of higher intensity training used in phases 2 through 5. This phase, also known as controlled instability, focuses on increasing stability, muscular endurance, improving flexibility and increasing proprioception or body and spatial awareness.

There are multiple arenas this should be applied to: flexibility, cardio respiratory health, core, balance, reactive, speed, agility, quickness and strength. Let's use the core as an example. To enhance core stabilization, exercises may include floor bridges and plank holds. If these exercises cannot be completed safely using proper form, you should not progress past this phase until you can accomplish the exercises appropriately.

Phases 2, 3 and 4 include setting a foundation for strength endurance, muscle build and peak strength. These phases combine focus on increasing the motor units involved, how quickly the muscle fires and how the motor units work together. These combined phases are critical prior to progressing to phase 5.

Lastly, phase 5 establishes power. The focus of this phase is on high force and velocity to increase one's power. Only individuals that have successfully completed phases 1 through 4 should begin this phase.

The "Big Three" and other high-intensity regimens focus their workouts in phase 5. Not all individuals are candidates to begin these types of workouts from the start. Proper progression is essential. If you fail to address the previous phases, the likelihood of injury increases exponentially.

It is highly recommended that you consult a qualified professional to determine if these workouts are appropriate for you, or if other areas need to be addressed first. The HAWC provides the tools to help you build up to phase 5, so you can get the maximum results from your workout regimen while also minimizing your chances of injury.

For more information, please contact the HAWC at 884-4292.