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ACE Fitness Conference 2011 Review

November 13 2011

The American Council of Exercise (ACE Fitness) conference 2011 was held in San Deigo on Nov 2-5. I had ACE certification years back and this was my first ACE symposium. Here are some of the presentations which I thought were interesting.

American Council of Exercise (ACE Fitness) conference 2011 held in San Deigo

Thomas Plummer

The keynote presentation titled “Changing lives .. Creating a Fitness Career that matters” by   Thomas Plummer.  He founded the Thomas Plummer Company and the National Fitness Business Alliance (NFBA). Plummer speaks to more than 10,000 people each year through engagements as a keynote speaker, workshop host and private consultant.

This was a good one. He talked about where the fitness industry was, where it is now and where it is heading towards. The topic was very relevant and he communicated his points really well, I thought.  

He talked about the end of traditional training model which was based on the training philosophy of the bodybuilders in the 1980's: the circuit machines and the steroid bodybuilders. It was all about lifting heavy weights, using machines, single joint exercises, crunches, and long cardio sessions, and low fat, high carb diets. The fitness field is moving more towards full body, functional, multi-joint than the one day a body part, single joint exercises bodybuilding model.

I agree with most of what he says. And I have wrote in the past how the majority of what bodybuilders do do not apply to the majority of the people who go the gym.  The recent article I wrote about the lat pulldowns is an example of this.  We are taking a model which may be good for a bodybuilding population and applying to a completely different population whose goals, priorities, motivation levels are completely  different.

And as I always say it always goes back to client goals and preferences.  If someone wants to get muscular, it is always better to focus on multi joint exercises, lifting heavy,  with a few isolation exercises here and there  than just working with ropes, medicine balls,TRX and other functional movement stuff all the time. You can also throw some functional stuff at the end to spice up the workout for your client. You don't have to look at it as an either or situation which is what most people tend to do.

Another good point he talked was the failure of the big box model clubs with lines of circuit machines , ab area, and personal trainers. The new generation club are much smaller,circuit lanes are replaced with functional cable machines, they carry a few dumbells, a few squat racks, a floor area with number of fun tools like kettle bells, medicine balls, bosu balls, ropes, sled pushing, a few treadmills and ellipticals,and group training instead of one- on-one training. This is true and I see these small facilities popping up everywhere. This is basically the Crossfit model which has gained so much popularity  these days.

But I am not sure if this is entirely true because places like Planet Fitness, 24 hour, Lifetime  are just the typical box model types and they are all just growing. For example,  Planet fitness has around 400 to 500 fitness centers in US with around 5K-6K members and almost  95% of them are making profits. Planet fitness does not have contracts and their memberships are around 10-15 dollars.  Compare this to an average gym which makes you sign contracts and makes you pay around $49 a month!.  Now get this, they have machines, and they also have a designated circuit machine workout area with lights to time your circuits!

He talked about some other few points but I forget. And  I am yet to see the presentation slides that the ACE people told they will upload to the website in a few days. Talk about customer service …

Todd Durkin

Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS, is an internationally recognized performance-enhancement coach, personal trainer, massage therapist, author, and speaker who motivates, educates and inspires people worldwide.  He is the founder and creator of Fitness Quest 10 & Todd Durkin Enterprisesin San Diego, CA. He is a 2 Time Personal Trainer of the Year (IDEA & ACE) and has received numerous industry accolades

Todd is an excellent speaker and is very motivating and energetic. He was like a Bull on red bull. Hs presentation was titled the “The business of personal training”. It was just an overview about how to make your personal training business better or in his words - 'world class'. He had a lot of good points about how to motivate your clients and your team, but nothing really that I wasn't aware of. If you are really customer focused, if you really want  to improve, you would come across these. 

I wish the content was a bit more organized, and also he didn't skip content in the slides. Every time when I see presenters skipping content and slides, I just think they didn't care enough to make changes or rehearse it.  He gave a lot of good tips and books to read throughout. But I like to focus on concepts and big picture rather than tips. They are like those typical Muscle & Fitness articles like '5 Tips to lose weight or a stronger bench'.  If you cannot see the underlying concept, you will be like one of those 16 year old's waiting for the magic bench program in the next Muscle & Fitness edition. Todd was nice enough to raffle out free DVD's and books which I thought more presenters should do than just send a paper around to get people's email addresses.

Michol Dalcourt

Michol Dalcourt is an educator, author, trainer, inventor, and an industry leader in the areas of human movement and performance training. is currently an Adjunct Professor at the University of San Francisco in the Faculty of Sports Science, Director of the Institute of Motion, and Co-Founder of PTA Global.

The tile of the presentation was “Correcting Dysfunctional Movements”. I know where this was going, but I wanted to say what he had to say and if there is anything new. After 20 min of going an  exercise of finding joints which are primary and secondary, he went to show some slow, one- legged exercises which was suppose to make  your foot pronation right. Somebody who was really smart asked if can we indeed change the foot dysfunctions and as they all say he replied “you can do it, but it will take along time”. Sure if it doesn't work, you didn't do it long enough or you didn't do it right!  He also made sure he had some biomechanical explanations for every little twist and degree change you do with the exercise. And I am guessing he did this for every major joint, but I didn't wait for that long.

People always say research is mumbo jumbo. Research is pretty simple. You take a group with back pain or knee pain, make them do exercises to fix pronation or whatever and show that as their pronation improved, their knee or back pain improved compared to a control group. This is the basis of randomized controlled studies (RCT) in research which is the gold standard of finding if a drug or treatment works.  They don't care about the biomechanical mumbo jumbo or your rationale for doing the exercise. And the whole correcting movement dysfunctions or posture or FMS field is lacking these basic RCT's. Even the shoulder scapular dysfunction studies show decrease in pain with scapular exercise, but the scapular dysfunction remains the same. There are people with scapular dysfunctions who have no pain and people with no dysfunctions have pain. What does that tell you about 'dysfunctions'?

I went to a few more , but it was mainly group fitness ones and activity type classes.    I just wanted to get better at it so that I can train my instructors. You guys wouldn't be too interested in those stuff anyways. ACE fitness conference I felt was more about the 'How' than the 'Why' like at the NSCA conferences. That’s all I have.


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near60lifter | Sun November 13, 2011  

Thank you for giving us details of the event. I was especially interested in your reporting about foot pronation. When I was in practice, my observations were that if it was bilateral, athletes seemed to have few problems. Unilaterally, pronation caused more difficulties of the knee, hip and low back. The unilateral condition I believed caused greater asymmetry of movement through the chain and stronger compensatory challenges.

Foot pronation was not always easily presented. In some athletes, without some load or stress, the pronation problem was not observed and was missed by trainers. I had athletes who demonstrated pronation only when they executed a active loading action like the squat. They usually had a complaint of the knee, hip and or low back when they squat in training or had prolonged weight bearing stress on the track.

My observation in regards to why some who have mechanical dysfunction have greater symptoms than others has to do with how they were “wired”(unscientific term). Some physiology’s have the magnificent way of rerouting to a new movement pattern to avert inflammation and function fine. They are sometimes, if the rerouting is “hardwired”(sorry),exacerbated by trying to “correct” the dysfunction. Others who aren’t gifted, develop chronic inflammatory conditions with a poor prognosis.

Anoop | Sun November 13, 2011  

Thanks nearlifter! You always have some good points.

I think it goes beyond the foot pronation. I was just giving foot pronation as an example. The problem here is the bio-mechanical model of pain. It is an incomplete model to understand and treat pain.

And I don’t think anyone has ever showed that they can change flat feet or high arch either with exercise.

There might be issues with your feet due to changes in loading on the feet, but there is no evidence to show that this will effect your low back or knee or the hip and hence should be fixed. Even the heel lift studies do not provide much evidence because they all lacked a control group.

Louis Gifford, one of the leading authors in the field of pain said, “It is important to note that we are full of dysfunctions whether we are not in pain or not. If we are in pain it is easy to find something wrong relevant to a precise tissue model but which may not be relevant at all to the patients state”.

near60lifter | Mon November 14, 2011  

I was taught and found that there are different qualities of pain, especially when joint dysfunction is involved.  From empirical experience of others(many, many years) and myself(many years), when joint dysfunction was found and the area is challenged in joint play, if the subjective reaction of the patient was sharp and lingering, mobilization/manipulation was withheld. If the challenge produced pain that was not lingering then treatment was administered. This model follows the model of joint dysfunction and compensatory joint pain and not direct tissue trauma. As a example, a patient comes in with lower back/sacro-iliac and hip pain that is progressive and not associated with site trauma. Joint play findings(Mennell, Gillet, Faye) demonstrated no dysfunction but pain on challenge then the patient is evaluated for dysfunction of the spine(frequently dysfunction was found at the thoraco-lumbar region) or the lower extremity(mortise and subtalar dysfunctions were frequently found) and treatment resolved many knee, hip and low back conditions.

Yes, the bio-mechanical model is incomplete and I found frustration that mirrors yours when I was in practice. The human condition is very complex and you will not find a map that covers all the complexities.

Anoop | Tue November 15, 2011  

Hi nearlifter,

Here is an article I wrote which talks why the biomechanical model is failing, what is the current pain science, and how to apply it:


near60lifter | Tue November 15, 2011  

Anoop, a interesting article. For a young person, you seem to have a great grasp of the difficulties involved with patient care.

Anoop | Wed November 16, 2011  

Thanks Nearlifter for the kind words.

I wrote an article about this back in 2006 and I thought this would be common knowledge by 2010. But nothing has changed.

Check the references page. I have a few videos and podcasts which explains it even better.

Brad Schoenfeld, MSc, CSCS | Sat November 19, 2011  

As always, good job on this Anoop. I have to take issue with statement by the keynote speaker that bodybuilders necessarily employ a routine that focuses on “one day a body part, single joint exercises bodybuilding model.” Multi-joint exercises form the foundation of most bodybuilder’s routines. Squats, presses, and rows are stables in a bodybuilding workout, so the view that they are doing only “isolation” movements such as curls and leg extensions is off-base. Moreover, while bodybuilders generally employ split-routines, they rarely just train one muscle group per session. The vast majority will employ a split where at least 2-3 different muscle groups are worked, sometimes more.

Bottom line is that we need to train clients according to their goals, needs, and abilities. It is therefore misguided to suggest that everyone should train in a total body fashion using “functional” methods (just as it’s misguided to state that everyone should train like a bodybuilder). As we’ve discussed, functional transfer exists on a continuum and most clients will achieve functional benefits from a wide range of routines and exercises. Hopefully the fitness field is not regressing to a point where narrow-mindedness and hype prevails over science.

Keep up the great work smile


Anoop | Sat November 19, 2011  

Hi Brad,

Thanks for the comment and I completely agree with you!

And even if a bodybuilder train with single joint exercises and once a week frequency, that may be the best routine for his goals and his priorities. Most bodybuilders at that level probably need more isolation exercises and more volume for weak point training and smaller muscles and such. So can’t blame the bodybuilders for us copying their routine blindly. There seems to be so much backlash against bodybuilders and I am not sure why. And as usual he had a picture of a bloated steroid bodybuilder to ‘prove’ his point.

I think the whole functional movement is just another way to impress your clients and keep them interested.I still have no clue why people think they should buy 2 cables with some pulleys and handles called ‘TRX’ for almost 200 dollars! It maybe fun, but I do think the kettle bells are just over-rated.  If there is any benefit, I think it makes the workout a bit more fun and keep the client coming which maybe important for a subset of clients who lack the motivation and such.

And I know we talked about this before, how much functional does someone need to be in their life?

What do you think?



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