As you may have seen, your pals at MFF have been working hard on some improvements to our small group training model. And to that end, I wanted to provide an update on my current best thinking on what constitutes the “perfect” workout.
Now admittedly… perfect is a silly term. In practice, there’s no such thing. But some approaches are more or less optimal based on the individual.
As frequently discussed in these here blog love letters, most people associate feeling tired with an effective workout. And indeed, working out shouldn’t always feel like butterfly kisses.
However, when we think about how a workout is structured, some of the most valuable ingredients don’t always feel particularly hard.
Ultimately, a good workout for virtually any goal will have a few key elements. Here’s the foundational pieces of a Small Group Personal Training Workout at Mark Fisher Fitness.
Yes, it sounds silly to say if you’re an ardent MFF Ninja. But many people attempt to “save time” by launching right into their workout. And this is a mistake. Because we want to prepare the body for exercise.
At MFF, we use warm-up drills that mobilize commonly tight joints like hips and t-spine and “activation” drills to make sure key muscle groups like your glutes and core are “awakened” and ready to party.
We also like to pattern some primary human movements to prep for the exercises to come (squats, single leg work, crawls, etc.). And ideally, we’re moving at a brisk enough pace to raise our core body temperature and prepare our body, mind, and soul for the adventure to come.
Bonus points if you arrive early to give your muscles some extra love with a foam roller!
Next up, we do some more dedicated work to specifically train the core and work on power development.
While the exact drills vary from phase to phase (and from Ninja to Ninja), we like to do some more targeted training for the core. We generally train the core to “resist movement.” In other words, instead of doing things like crunches which use the core to create movement, we focus on activities like planks, side planks, and other activities where the core remains stable as the hips and shoulders do neat stuff.
To save time, we will often pair up some core drills with some exercises focused on producing power. In other words, expressing strength with an element of speed. Examples could be something like jumping onto a box and throwing med balls.
A not-so-fun-fact: power declines faster than raw strength as we get older. Part of why we do dedicated power training is to continue to warm up the body and prep the nervous system to lift some heavy-ass shit. But we also dedicate time to this specific strength quality because training power is valuable in and of itself.
When most people think of working out, this is often what they think of: lifting weights. And by all means, this is an important ingredient in our fitness dish. During this part of our workout, we build and train strength via full body lifts like deadlifts, bench presses, and squats. These types of exercises use LOTS of muscles. That’s why strength training is such a great—if counterintuitive—stimulus for fat loss.
The strength training blocks are also where things get even more individualized. Although all Ninjas are doing the same “pattern” (e.g. deadlift), the exercise variation depends on the person (e.g. a new Ninja may be learning a deadlift with a relatively lighter kettlebell, while a Ninja with more experience may be lifting heavier weights with a barbell deadlift).
This is also where the total number of sets and repetitions need to be tuned to the individual’s background and goals. Since different amounts of total volume and different relative loads create different adaptations for your body, it’s great if you have friendly experts like the MFF team guiding you on the best choice for your situation.
We also design our strength sets to pair “non-competing exercises.” This is just a semi-fancy way of saying we pair exercises that use different muscles. This way, some muscles are recovering while you do an exercise that challenges a different set of muscles.
For most Ninjas, this is a final chance to play with different strategies to get in some extra calorie burnin’ and cardiovascular training. We like to vary the choices here. This is another chance to express some power, get exposed to different movement stimuli, and play with other pieces of equipment and “toys.”
NOTE: For Ninjas most focused on muscle gain, we will tend to skip the cardio-focused finisher to get more total volume of exercises on muscles they’re looking to grow. For obvious reasons, this is often one of MFF’s notorious “Arm Farms,” where our coaches put together a diabolical string of arm exercises guaranteed to give you a delightful pump and fill out your shirt sleeves.
The Cool Down
Cool downs are super important. And perhaps even more so than warm-ups, they’re often completely neglected. (Your author sheepishly gives you a guilty look.)
Particularly after a vigorous finisher, we want to gently tell the body it’s time to land the fitness plane. At MFF, this often looks like using a foam roller on tight muscles, breathing drills, gentle stretching, and even meditation.
A Note on Classes
I think classes are an amazingly fun way to get in some servings of fitness. And with our newly streamlined 45-minute classes, they’re more efficient than ever.
While I always want people to do things they love, I’ve also never made it a secret that I think small group training is a superior fitness choice. Classes are a great way to get in a thoughtfully designed cardio session via bodyweight and kettlebell strength training. You’ll get a great warm-up, we’ll always thread in some dedicated core and power training, and so long as you allow for time, you’ll still be able to cool down properly.
However, we don’t have the equipment in class to do true strength training. We also can’t track progression in an incremental and systematic fashion. Nor do we have the ability to offer as much individualization as we can in smaller group settings. This is why small group training is a much better option for those who need options to work around injuries or other movement limitations OR are most concerned about putting on muscle mass.
That said, there’s no doubt about it: classes are a total blast and some people just prefer that style of training. And because we’re able to train more people at once, it means classes are a more affordable option. These are both valid considerations; we always have to consider what an individual enjoys, and what works for their logistics.
But now that we’ve redesigned our approach to small group training, it’s our hope that more Ninjas than ever will choose to make it the anchor of their fitness adventures!
So there you have it.
Whether you’re currently working out at MFF, plan to join us soon, or simply want to take a look at your current programming, I hope you find value in the above “recipe!”
Much love and hope to see some of you in ONE WEEK aaaaaahhhhhh,
P.S. Want to get in on some in-person MFF magic?
With the Ninja Academy 28-day trial, you’ll get access to 6 in-person classes and 4 small group personal training sessions for just $99. And a 100% money back guarantee to boot!
Only hitch is we sold out the first few weeks already. Womp womp.
But if you’re interested in getting booked for a spot when we have availability again, we can get you squared away. Just email us and we’ll get you set up!