PT on the Net Research

Freestyle Training for Spot Reduction


I have heard that a style of training called “freestyle training” is the best way to get results for women who have disproportionate legs to upper bodies. It involves doing lower body exercises three days in a row with 20 reps until failure and by doing the upper body eight to 12 as usual. What do you think?


Wow. I can honestly say that I have never heard of “freestyle training.” In fact, it has taken some time to answer this question because I have tried to find out who invented this style and the reasoning behind it. There are many variables that have been left out of the explanation. Remember, we do not care as much about the actual number of repetitions as much as we care about the time under load. Twenty reps done slowly is much different than 20 reps done at a fast pace. Even with that said, 20 reps done until failure three days in a row sounds like a recipe for disaster. We must remember that training any muscle without adequate time to recuperate will tear down the muscle. Depending on nutrition and sleep, this is actually a training technique we give our athletes who need to put on size! There are just too many variables to give you a great answer as to whether or not this is a valid training technique, but with the info supplied, I would suggest that it is not.

Before we want to give anyone that many reps for three days in a row, we need to assess the structure of the individual. The larger body parts may be there for protection from a faulty movement pattern. One particular faulty movement pattern is called pronation. Pronation often occurs when people have worn high heels for a large part of the day. Even most tennis shoes people wear are considered high heels. If the heel of the shoe is built up at all, it is considered a high heel. This would constantly keep the calf in a shortened position. This shortened position tends to make the foot roll out laterally. The foot rolled out would in turn roll the tibia in. The tibia rolled internally would place stress at the knee and eventually lead to an internal rotation at the femur. This would shorten the biceps femoris and stretch the piriformis. Because most people sit for a large part of the day, we can assume that the hip flexors, especially the iliopsoas, will also be shortened. When the hip flexors are shortened, the hip extensors are lengthened. The hip extensors are the glutes. Thus, the glutes are not strong and tend to look flabby. It also tends to be the area where women generally hold any extra adipose tissue they may have. The femurs are rolled in and the greater trochanter sticks out to give the appearance of an even larger hip complex. The last thing we want to do is take someone suffering from a dysfunctional movement pattern and have them do that same movement pattern over and over again.

So what do you do? We need to loosen what is tight and tighten what is loose. This is easier said then done. I would say that the most important part of the program would be to "get the maximum back into the gluteus," to coin a phrase from author Rod Corn. You must establish proper length-tension relationships before we place outside stress to the structures. We must stretch the calves and hip flexors. Please refer to the stretching exercises in the PTN Flexibility Library. After we have stretched them out, the program should incorporate many exercises involving the glutes. Both the gluteus maximus and medius need to be addressed. We can accomplish this most efficiently by having her stand up while performing her exercises. One must have an adjustable cable column or a set of resistance tubing to do this most effectively. Another helpful hint is to have them try to do exercises either in a squat type position or even done standing on one leg and alternating legs between the sets. Standing on one leg and making sure the opposite side hip does not drop will concentrate on the standing side gluteus medius. This technique will actually burn more calories than traditional weight training and will focus on specific needs of working the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex more efficiently. Before you try some new training technique, try to see if it makes sense first. If you first assess the structure, determine what movement patterns may be present and have them move efficiently. You are on the right path. Ask yourself, if this person is really disproportionate in their upper body and lower body, how did they get that way? Why are they like that? Most people squat down in some form or another 20 or 30 times a day in real life. If it didn’t make them smaller up until now, why would it get them smaller by doing it in the gym? I didn’t want to get into the whole idea of doing leg exercises will get rid of fat in the legs. Remember, there are no spot reduction techniques that work. Energy in versus energy out is the only equation you need to remember.