Ensuring Safety

Women and Group Exercise: Theories From a Male Instructor | Breaking Muscle

In order to provide classes which are as safe and effective as possible, the fitness professional needs to take into account individual differences, yet still be able to modify the session where necessary.

Challenges when taking a group class as compared to working with individuals:

• A larger group demands more concentration as one needs to focus on all individuals
• One needs to be careful not to provide too much attention to individuals who demand attention, at the expense of those who are quieter and could possibly need assistance
• Exercise intensity needs to take into account everyone in the class. Tall people for example may find it more difficult to complete fast movements due to the length of their levers

Health Screening

It is vital that all participants taking part in exercise complete a screening process before partaking in exercise sessions.
All participants should complete a PAR Q (Physical activity Readiness Questionnaire) before exercising.

The group fitness instructor should be aware of all individual needs, and should not allow new participants to start a class, without prior knowledge of

a) medical history

b) fitness level and goals/needs.

The fitness professional should ensure that the participant completes all health related questions, so as to derive a good overview of health needs.

Take note of all health concerns when conducting a health screening interview. Once all information has been gathered, the personal trainer can begin to plan the programme for this individual. The programme should take into account:

• Needs – Real needs do not always match with needs expressed by the client. Always remember that you are the fitness professional, so you use your knowledge to determine what the real needs actually are
• Goals – Both short and long term
• Health – Current status
• Previous history of health
• Level of fitness
• Injuries which may affect ability to exercise
• What the participant most enjoys – The participant is most likely to adhere to a programme which is fun!

Creating a Safe Environment

The physical environment can affect the adherence of an exerciser to an exercise programme. The following are some factors which should be taken into account:

• Create a warm, friendly fitness environment. Gyms can be very intimidating for new members!
• Try to make the gym as unintimidating as possible
• Temperature – Ensure that it is neither too hot nor cold. Instructors taking classes outside should pay careful attention to weather reports, and have a ‘Plan B’ if one cannot exercise due to extreme heat or cold
• Ensure that the times of training are practical for the individual, or at least most members of a group class
• Be as professional as possible – The fitness professional should have a private consultation room available for assessments

Correction of Body Alignment and Posture

Once the fitness professional has established the basis for static postural assessment, he/she can progress to dynamic postural assessment.

When the fitness professional has an awareness of postural kinetic checkpoints, he/she will be able to identify distortion patterns and make corrections.

With practise, the individual will become familiar with correct biomechanics and body awareness, and he/she will be able to effectively participate in exercise classes.

You will discover from the static and dynamic postural assessments that no two people are exactly the same when it comes to body alignment and how they move. It stands to reason therefore that the exercises given to people should not be exactly the same. This is not however easy to implement when in a group setting. One should however always take into account individual differences in exercisers, and the exercise session so as to take into account differences which may exist between participants.

Differences which may exist between individuals:

• Exercise experience
• Fitness levels
• Injuries which may limit movement
• Flexibility, mobility and agility
• Strength differences
• Motivational level


Modification of intensity

The intensity of an exercise can be manipulated by using a number of methods e.g.:

• Modify the number of reps
• Modify the resistance
• Modify the number of sets performed for the exercise
• Change the length of the lever e.g. bending the knees and bringing the legs closer in to the body results in easier movement when doing straight leg raises
• Modify the speed of movement
• Modify the amount of times a muscles group is used in a week

When looking at modification of the technique of an exercise, one needs to take into account the principle of exercise scrutiny.

Scrutiny of Exercise

When supervising an exercise session, one should be able to scrutinise exercises, and assess whether or not they are effective, fulfilling their purpose, and safe.

In order to scrutinise an exercise, you may follow these steps:

• What exercise is the participant doing and what is the purpose of the movement?
• What joints, muscles and levers are being utilised?
• What types of muscle contractions are involved in the movement?
• Does the movement fulfil the purpose?
• Are there any risks involved in the exercise?
• Can you modify the exercise so as to reduce the injury risk?

Safety Guidelines for Exercise

The American College of Sports Medicine gives the following guidelines as to quality and quantity of exercise recommended for adults:

Cardiorespiratory exercise

• Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week
• Exercise recommendations can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week)
• One continuous session and multiple shorter sessions (of at least 10 minutes) are both acceptable to accumulate desired amount of daily exercise
• Gradual progression of exercise time, frequency and intensity is recommended for best adherence and least injury risk
• People unable to meet these minimums can still benefit from some activity

Resistance exercise

• Adults should train each major muscle group two or three days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment
• Very light or light intensity is best for older persons or previously sedentary adults starting exercise
• Two to four sets of each exercise will help adults improve strength and power
• For each exercise, 8 – 12 repetitions improve strength and power, 10 – 15 repetitions improve strength in middle-age and older persons starting exercise, and 15 – 20 repetitions improve muscular endurance
• Adults should wait at least 48 hours between resistance training sessions

Flexibility exercise

• Adults should do flexibility exercises at least two or three days each week to improve range of motion
• Each stretch should be held for 10-30 seconds to the point of tightness or slight discomfort
• Repeat each stretch two to four times, accumulating 60 seconds per stretch
• Static, dynamic, ballistic and PNF stretches are all effective
• Flexibility exercise is most effective when the muscle is warm. Try light aerobic activity or a hot bath to warm the muscles before stretching

Neuromotor exercise

• Neuromotor exercise (sometimes called “functional fitness training”) is recommended for two or three days per week
• Exercises should involve motor skills (balance, agility, coordination and gait), proprioceptive exercise training and multifaceted activities (tai ji and yoga) to improve physical function and prevent falls in older adults
• 20 – 30 minutes per day is appropriate for neuromotor exercise

Safety in the Gym

It is the responsibility of the fitness instructor to perform regular maintenance and safety checks. Most gyms keep logbooks for safety checks, however the instructor should still be aware of any possible dangers to the clients.

The following are some examples:

• Loose cables and nuts/bolts
• Frayed cables
• Lubrication of machines on all settings
• Hygiene and cleanliness i.e. machines are kept clean at all times

Should the instructor find any reason for the equipment to pose a threat to the client, an “Out of Order” sign should be placed on the equipment until it has been repaired. Instructors should document all repairs/maintenance done on equipment.