A Training Program For Health And Physical Improvement!

Most of my personal training clients ask me for a program that will deliver in a number of areas. The program outlined here will help develop the best possible physique while ensuring health and functional ability. Check it out!


Training Program For Health And Physical Improvement (THPI):
The Ultimate Training Program For A Well Conditioned And Better Looking Physique.

It is often hard to find a training program specific enough to accomplish health and physical improvement in the broadest possible sense. Programs typically are oriented toward skill improvement, bodybuilding, fat loss or health, with few taking a holistic approach.

Such an approach might be accomplished by tying in all of the elements necessary to create complete health and fitness. One that encompasses all the training variables needed to ensure a fully functioning, healthy and aesthetically pleasing physique. The program that follows essentially will provide - for most - an opportunity to improve mentally, physically and aesthetically.

A balance of specific resistance and aerobic work, skill training, and a focus on core stability and correct breathing will create an effective balance between the competitive aspirations of one who desires the "perfect physique" and one who aims for health and well-being as a primary goal. The program outlined here will provide this balance and many other benefits, all of which will be discussed shortly.


Potential Problems With Specific Programs

When the overarching goal is health, well-being and physical improvement, specific bodybuilding and sport-specific programs, extreme weight loss regimens and exclusively ultra-low impact work pose several problems, both specific to their individual methodologies and in a general sense.

Of course, if one has a specific sporting goal, or seeks to improve one aspect of their health or physique a narrower training framework will be needed. However, for the general population (and the majority of personal training clients), who for the most part want overall improvements in health, well-being, looks and functional ability, a broader approach should be taken.

In fact, most of my personal training clients ask me for a program that will deliver results in a number of areas. They seek the broadest possible training approach. The program outlined in this article will help one develop the best possible physique while ensuring they build health and functional ability - aspects that are so often missing from narrower, more specific programs.

Bodybuilding Programs:

    A specific bodybuilding program will demand ultra-intense work on a continuous basis, to allow for extreme muscle growth. This approach does have merit for muscle building, but for overall health, other training variables are needed to develop the total package.

    The training program for health and physical improvement (THPI), adopts many bodybuilding techniques and approaches, but balances these with various assisting factors. Bodybuilding programs at the extreme end, although effective for pure muscle building, and by virtue of this, positive flow on effects like stronger bones and fat loss often neglect functional ability, skill development and overall health.

    The THPI method will ensure many key areas of human performance and internal health are catered for - a great physique will come as a natural consequence of the combined methods used.

General Weight Loss Programs:

    General weight loss programs that demand moderate aerobic work and low-calorie diets are notoriously inefficient in terms of weight loss and the development of total health as they, more often than not, lack a resistance training component and therefore do not support continued gains.

    Resistance training with weights (and through other methods) will result in added muscle, which raises the metabolic rate and contributes to greater losses in fat. People on general weight loss programs - which by their nature encourage boredom and stagnation - typically encounter a plateau (their results stall) as the workload becomes too easy and their metabolic rate comes to a standstill as a result.

    The low calorie diets typically associated with weight loss regimens may also contribute to two definite undesirable effects: binge-eating and a lowered metabolic rate (low calories will initially result in water loss along with a small amount of fat, but over time the body may begin to shut down its fat burning processes to conserve energy in the presence of the lower caloric intake).

Sport Specific Programs:

    Sport-specific programs, as mentioned, are good in the sense they will help one achieve a specific sporting objective. Strictly speaking, given individual sports require separate sets of skills and differing energy systems, the sports specific approach may ultimately lead to imbalances in one or more health components (mental, physical or emotional).

    Powerlifters, for example, could become aerobically unfit or overweight if the majority of their training revolves around the big three lifts. However, their sport, as do all other sports dictate an extreme, specific approach to training.


Benefits Of The THPI Method

1. A Less Extreme Approach:

    The THPI method will ensure maximum recovery - as a vital component of health and well being - takes place. Continually forcing the body to do more at an ultra-intense level could be counterproductive in terms of attaining complete health. Exercise produces free radicals (unstable atoms), which roam the body, destroying healthy tissue in the process.

    Nutrition and complete rest are the best ways to mitigate the deleterious effects of free radical production. All training can be destructive if done too often, or too hard. The key is to know exactly when to ease off, and when to apply the required intensity.

2. A Focus On Balance:

    All fitness components will be addressed with the THPI method, making it ideal for those who want to reach their potential on many health and fitness levels. As with most things in life, it is wise to achieve the right balance with one's fitness objectives, as a balanced approach will ensure continued results and program enjoyment - and as a result, adherence.

    Fitness components addressed in the THPI program include aerobic and anaerobic conditioning, skill training, core stability, flexibility, strength and power.

3. Physical Improvements, Without Compromising Health:

    Achieving a great body often comes at a price. Whether it is through drug use, excessive training, over-eating, the neglect of other crucial fitness components or a combination of all these factors, a great physique is often the product of an extreme approach to training and dieting.

    Again, balance is essential for the attainment of good health, and with all fitness components addressed a great body (both externally and internally) will be the result.

    For example, a focus on flexibility and core strength will ensure good posture and a lower likelihood of injury, but will also help lengthen the muscles and open the fascia (the sheath that separates the muscle from the skin) and building core musculature (lower back, abdominals and hips). These things combine to ensure a better-looking physique as well as a more efficiently functioning one.

4. Injury Prevention:

    With a focus on core strength and flexibility in addition to total muscle development, the THPI system lowers the likelihood that the trainer will sustain an injury either during training, or during activities independent of training.

5. Fat Loss:

    Fat loss is something most of us want at some point. The best way to lose fat and keep it off is to turn the body into a fat-burning furnace through regular resistance training coupled with strategic aerobic work. Aerobic work such as walking for a minimum of 30 minutes or running, as a sole activity, is not the best way to burn fat as it targets fat, protein and carbohydrates.

    The metabolic rate is raised during aerobic activity, but it soon returns to resting level. Weight training, on the other hand, builds muscle, which burns many calories at rest; muscle is a metabolically active tissue. Aerobic work without resistance training, and other fitness components, may, at best, result in a smaller physique with marginal decreases in body fat over the long term.

6. A Lifelong Approach To Health And Well-Being:

    The key with any exercise program is to ensure it can be undertaken over the long term. This will assist with the maintenance of all positive program outcomes. In establishing a functional, well-conditioned physique, it is important to recognize the crucial impact consistency has.

    A short-term program will accomplish short-term results. A successful exercise program therefore needs to be set up and constantly modified to enable the adherent to continue achieving goals, while enjoying the process. The THPI method will achieve both these objectives.


The THPI Program

This program runs for 30-days. At completion, the exact same program can be repeated or several modifications (listed below) can be made, depending on how one is progressing. The program is periodized in such a fashion that all fitness components are addressed without undue stress being placed on the trainee.

Once the required adaptations (listed at end of program) are made (usually after a 40-day period), a 1-week break can be taken before repeating the program with further modifications. The underlying assumption with the THPI is that the trainee is at the beginner or intermediate stage. The advanced trainee will use the modified version outlined later.

Equipment Needed:

  • A variety of free weights and resistance machines.
  • Swiss ball - from a range of sizes select one that is suitable.
  • Medicine ball (from 2 to 6 kgs).
  • Exercise mat (for stretches and abdominal work).
  • Stability board.

Exercise Variables Explained:

    Walking:

      As the simplest form of exercise, walking is probably the most effective for enhancing fat burning; if done in conjunction with weight training. Walking is also one of the lowest impact activities making it perfect as a base aerobic activity as an adjunct to a mixed variable training program (such as the THPI program).

      High impact aerobic activities such as running or cycling can be jarring and could prove too much if other training methods are followed concurrently. Walking therefore serves as the primary aerobic component in the total health THPI program.

      However, walking for the purposes of the THPI program comes with two caveats: it should be brisk enough to ensure a heart rate of around 70 percent of maximal training heart rate (220 minus age), and last for at least 45 minutes, for maximal fat burning and aerobic conditioning.

    Side Twists With Ball:

      Side twists are done either with a partner or alone. To perform this movement, hold the ball at arm's length and twist from side to side, while maintaining stability in the legs. Side twists are an excellent way to strengthen, and provide flexibility to the hip/waist/lower back area therefore enhancing core stability and strength.

      With a partner, side twists can be performed by passing the ball from behind and into their hands. They will, in turn, pass the ball back in the same direction.

    Side Twist Side Twist
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    Side Twists With Ball.
    Video: Windows Media - MPEG

    Side Twist Side Twist
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    Partner Side Twists With Ball.
    Video: Windows Media - MPEG

    Weight Training:

      Weight training should be a staple part of any training program for many and varied reasons. It provides the postural strength needed to maintain correct balance and ensure injury prevention.

      Weight training also strengthens the bones, connective tissue and, of course, all muscle groups. In addition, the muscles also become more adept at performing at various workloads irrespective of work type. Day to day activities are therefore easier to accomplish when the muscles are functioning at a higher level. Weight training will enable the muscles to function at their best.

      With the THPI program an emphasis is placed on balanced weight training, meaning all muscle groups will receive a share of total resistance effort. A mistake many trainees make is to exercise either those muscle groups they can see or the ones they know exist. This approach invariably leads to a muscular imbalance, and possible injury.

      For example, training the abdominals while neglecting the lower back might result in a lordosis of the spine (excessive curvature), which could result in a structural weakness and severe pain and injury if left unabated. The same thing applies to all other agonist/antagonist muscle groupings.

    Clean & Jerk With Medicine Ball:

      The clean and jerk ranks as one of the better movements to enhance overall muscle power and development. Using a medicine ball adds an element of stability, given a greater degree of muscle recruitment is needed to maintain control over the comparatively unstable object - hands are spaced apart and an emphasis must be placed on keeping hold of the ball upon descent.

      As a modification, the ball can be thrown at the jerk stage, lending a speed component to this movement, as the muscles will need to contract at a maximal rate in order to throw the ball upward.

      To perform, squat and grasp the ball with both hands, ensuring a tight grip. Simultaneously lift the ball to shoulder height while fully standing. Finally, press the ball overhead to a full contraction.

    Clean & Jerk Clean & Jerk
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    Clean & Jerk With Medicine Ball.
    Video: Windows Media - MPEG

    Clean & Jerk Clean & Jerk Clean & Jerk
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    Clean, Jerk & Throw With Medicine Ball.
    Video: Windows Media - MPEG

    Stability Board:

      Increasing stability throughout the whole body often requires a multi-pronged approach. A stability board will allow one to develop efficiency of the smaller assisting muscles, such as the tibialis anterior of the frontal lower leg, while helping to enhance posture, and skill development transferable to many different sports and activities.

      For the purposes of the THPI program, specific stability training of the stability board will consist of balancing with arms outstretched and to the side, and half squats with arms folded.

      To perform, stand on board with feet evenly positioned at shoulder width. Place hands either to the side or outstretched (as instructed) and maintain balance for a specified period. With squats: fold arms and descend to the half way point, hold for one second, and return to starting position.

    Stability Board
    Click Image To Enlarge.
    Stability Board Balance.
    Video: Windows Media - MPEG

    Stability Board Stability Board
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    Stability Board Squat.
    Video: Windows Media - MPEG

    Abdominal Work With Swiss Ball:

      Given the importance of core training for total health, abdominal work should not be neglected. Therefore, two specialized abdominal workouts will feature each week with the Swiss ball. Training abdominals this way will help to ensure a more thorough workout given the assisting muscles needed to maintain stability on a Swiss ball.

      In some instances, it also serves as a safe form of resistance when working lower abs, for example. The abdominal workout to be used where specified follows. Modifications will be added where necessary, later in the program.

      Exercise One: Curl Ups:

        This is probably a better alternative to regular crunches as the thoracic spine has to work through a greater range of motion, starting from slightly extended through to fully flexed. And, as mentioned, greater balance is also encouraged.

        To perform:

        • Lie with back stretched across the ball, with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
        • Lift head slightly and bring chin toward the chest.
        • Place hands to the ears and point elbows to the side.
        • Curl upper back off the ball, placing all of the stress onto the abdominals.
        • Upon reaching full contraction pause for a count of one.
        • Slowly return to starting position before completing an additional rep.

        Note: Ensure that shoulders and neck do not assist the abdominals and pelvic region if fixed relative to the ball.


    Click Image To Enlarge.
    Curl Ups.
    Video: Windows Media - MPEG - Video iPod

      Exercise Two: Leg Raises:

        Leg raises are great for targeting the lower abdominals. Using a Swiss ball allows for a fuller contraction. The ball serves as both resistance and a means to ensure pelvic stability throughout the movement.

        To perform:

        • Lie on exercise mat and grasp Swiss ball between feet.
        • Simultaneously raise legs and arms until hands touch ball.
        • Contact abdominals.
        • Return to starting position.

    Leg Raises Leg Raises
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    Leg Raises.
    Video: Windows Media - MPEG

    Stretching:

      Stretches to be performed:

      1. Quadriceps:

      • Stand tall with feet approximately two shoulder widths apart
      • Turn feet and face to the right
      • Bend the right leg so that the right thigh is parallel with the ground and the right lower leg is vertical
      • Gradually lower the body
      • Keep back straight and use the arms as balance
      • The stretch should be felt along the front of the left thigh and along the hamstrings of the right leg
      • Repeat by turning and facing to the left

    Quadriceps Stretch Quadriceps Stretch
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    Quadriceps Stretch.
    Video: Windows Media - MPEG

      2. Hamstring

      • Sit on the ground with both legs straight out in front
      • Bend the left leg and place the sole of the left foot alongside the knee of the right leg
      • Allow the left leg to lie relaxed on the ground
      • Bend forward keeping the back straight
      • The stretch should be felt in the hamstring of the right leg
      • Repeat with other leg


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Hamstring Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

      3. Bicep & Chest:

      • Stand tall with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent
      • Hold arms out to the side, parallel with the ground and the palms of the hand facing forward
      • Rotate the hands so the palms face to the rear
      • Stretch arms back as far as possible

Quadriceps Stretch Quadriceps Stretch
Click Image To Enlarge.
Bicep & Chest Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

      4. Back:

      • Stand tall with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent
      • Interlock fingers and push hands as far away from chest as possible, allowing the upper back to relax
      • The stretch should be felt between the shoulder blades


Click Image To Enlarge.
Back Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

      5. Shoulders:

      • Stand tall with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent
      • Place right arm, parallel with the ground across the front of the chest
      • Bend left arm up and use left forearm to ease the right arm closer to the chest
      • Repeat with the other arm


Click Image To Enlarge.
Shoulder Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

      6. Triceps:

      • Stand tall with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent
      • Place both hands above head and slide both hands down the middle of the spine

Triceps Stretch Triceps Stretch Triceps Stretch Triceps Stretch
Click Image To Enlarge.
Triceps Stretch.
Video: Windows Media - MPEG

Weight Training Notes:

    With any prescribed exercise (in the case of a beginner), ensure selected weight is suitable for at least 12 repetitions. To determine suitability of weight, begin the first weight session of each body part grouping with a light weight for each exercise (use common sense here). Complete several sets until the right weight for the prescribed number of repetitions is reached.

    Complete every repetition to muscular failure, meaning continue until another rep cannot be completed.

Warm-Up Set:

    Every first set of every exercise is to be a warm up set, meaning a weight at 40-50 percent of one's maximum working weight should be used for 10-to-15 repetitions. This is an effective means to warm-up and prepare the muscle for correct technique execution over subsequent sets.

    A note on breathing: throughout all exercises it is of vital importance to breathe correctly. With resistance work (weight training, Swiss ball and bodyweight training), exhalation should be completed on the ascent of the movement, with inhalation on the descent.

    For example, with the bench press when the weight is being lifted one should try to breathe out. The reasoning behind this is twofold: first, expelling air upon the concentric contraction will help to prevent excessive thoracic pressure in the upper-rib, lung region.

    Excessive thoracic pressure could result in a failure to properly execute the movement and at worst, cause one to black out. Secondly, breathing out upon exertion helps one to power through the movement as it creates a certain momentum that results in peak contraction.


The Program

Day 1:

    Morning (Between 6:30 & 10:30): Aerobic, Core Strength & Flexibility Training:

    Night (Between 5:30 & 7:30): Leg Training With Weights:

Day 2:

Day 3:

    Morning: Aerobic, Flexibility and Balance Training:

    • Walk for 45 minutes
    • Stretch all muscle groups
    • Stability board:
      Standing on board with arms outstretched for 4 sets of 10 seconds (build up to this level).
      Standing on board with arms at the sides (harder) for 4 sets of 10 seconds.
    • print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Day 3 Morning.

    Night: Rest.

Day 4:

Day 5:

Day 6:

    Morning: Rest.

    Night: Weight Training - Legs:

    • Lightly stretch leg muscles, after two minute warm up on bike
    • Leg extensions: 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions
    • Squats: 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions
    • Leg extensions: 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions
    • Leg curls: 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions
    • Calve raises: 3 sets of 12 to 20
    • print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Day 6 Night.

Day 7:

Day 8:

    Morning: Flexibility & Balance Training:

    • Walk for 45 minutes
    • Stretch all muscle groups
    • Stability board:
      Standing on board with arms outstretched for 4 sets of 10 seconds (build up to this amount).
      Standing on board with arms at the sides (harder) for 4 sets of 10 seconds.
    • print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Day 8 Morning.

    Night: Off.

Day 9:

    Morning: Aerobic & Core Strength Training:

    Night: Weight Training - Back, Biceps and Forearms:

Day 10:

    Morning: Flexibility and Balance Training:

    • Stretch all muscle groups
    • Stability board:
      Standing on board with arms outstretched for 4 sets of 10 seconds (build up to this level).
      Standing on board with arms at the sides (harder) for 4 sets of 10 seconds.
    • print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Day 10 Morning.

    Night: Abdominals (Core Strength Component)

Day 11:

Day 12:

    Morning: Core Strength:

    Night: Weight Training - Legs:

      Lightly stretch leg muscles, after two minute warm up on bike Leg extensions: 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions Squats: 4 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions Leg extensions: 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions Leg curls: 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions Calve raises: 3 sets of 12 to 20

      print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Day 12 Night.

Day 13:

Day 14:

Day 15:

Day 16:

    Morning: Core Strength & Balance Training:

    • Side twists with Swiss ball - 4 sets of 15 reps each side
    • Medicine ball clean and jerks - 4 sets 12 to 15 reps with 2 kg ball
    • Stability board:
      Standing on board with arms outstretched for 4 sets of 10 seconds.
      Standing on board with arms at the sides (harder) for 4 sets of 10 seconds.
    • print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Day 16 Morning.

    Night: Off.

Day 17:

    Morning: Aerobic & Flexibility Training:

    Night: Weight Training - Legs:

    • Lightly stretch leg muscles, after two minute warm up on bike
    • Leg extensions: 4 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions
    • Squats: 4 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions
    • Leg extensions: 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions
    • Leg curls: 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions
    • Calve raises: 3 sets of 12 to 20
    • print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Day 17 Night.

Day 18:

    Morning: Abdominal Training (Core Strength Component):

    Night: Weight Training - Chest, Shoulders and Triceps:

    • Bench press: 4 sets of 8 to 12
    • Incline dumbbell press: 4 sets of 8 to 12
    • Dumbbell shoulder press: 3 sets of 8 to 12
    • Side laterals: 3 sets of 8 to 12
    • Triceps pushdowns: 3 sets of 8 to 12
    • Lying triceps extension: 3 sets of 8 to 12
    • print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Day 18 Night.

Day 19:

    Morning: Aerobic & Core Training:

    Night: Abdominal & Balance Training:

    • Curl ups: 4 sets of 20 to 30 reps
    • Leg raises: 4 sets of 20 to 25 reps
    • Stability board:
      Standing on board with arms outstretched for 5 sets of 20 seconds (build up to this level).
      Standing on board with arms at the sides (harder) for 5 sets of 20 seconds.
    • print Click Here For A Printable Log Of Day 19 Night.

Day 20:

    Morning: Off.

    Night: Weight Training - Back, Biceps & Forearms:

Day 21:

Day 22:

Day 23:

Day 24:

    Morning: Off.

    Night: Weight Training - Back, Biceps & Forearms:

Day 25:

Day 26:

Day 27:

Day 28:

Day 29:

Day 30:

    Complete day off before resuming modified program from day one.


Modifications

As this program progresses, the intensity is expected to increase to facilitate further gains. As noted, aerobic volume and core and balance training, are altered throughout the program enhance continued gains. If done correctly the THPI program can be continued indefinitely, provided sufficient modifications are made.

Modifications to be made past the 30-day stage:

  1. Increase weight on all exercises as strength levels increase.

  2. After the body has become accustomed to 3 sets, increase sets to 4 for all exercises - this has been done to some extent in the latter part of this program.

  3. Increase walking distance while keeping within the 60-minute time limit (buy a timer and use this).


Dietary Considerations

  1. Before training ensure energy levels are adequate through nutrient intake. Eat a small meal of carbohydrate and protein (with no fat), at least one hour before weight training. Aerobic training can be done in the morning on an empty stomach or one hour after a small meal.

  2. After training ensure energy stores are full by eating a meal high in complex carbohydrates and sufficient in protein (around 30 grams) within 45 minutes.

  3. Eat at least five small meals a day. For example, breakfast could be oatmeal with one chicken breast and an apple; lunch might be fish, rice and broccoli. Protein shakes and bars could be used at intervals to ensure food intake is adequate, but be sure to eat at least 3-to-4 solid food meals.

    Eating regularly will help to speed the metabolism to ensure continued fat burning. It will also ensure adequate nutritional factors for training and recovery from training.

  4. As this program will, at certain stages, tax the muscular system heavily (this is when the gains will occur) it is important to maintain a positive nitrogen balance throughout the day by eating sufficient protein. The nitrogen balance is the measurement used to determine the amount of protein in place for recovery and repair. Eat about 30 grams of protein with each of the five daily meals.

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  1. Try to limit fats to the essential variety - fish and flax oils are good sources. Sufficient fat will be taken in through red meat, chicken and eggs - all great protein sources, and suggested foods for this program.


Rest & Recovery

Recovery is vital if all training objectives are to be reached. Without sufficient recovery, meaning the allocated time off between specific training sessions and at least 8 hours sleep every night, the body will not adapt as it should to this program. With this program it is not advisable to engage in any planned sport or further exercise activities.


In Summary (Expected Outcomes)

1. Improved Posture:

    With its focus on core and stability training the THPI program helps to enable correct posture and balance throughout one's physique. The comprehensive weight training component will also build strength in both agonist and antagonist muscles (working and opposing groups), therefore building a body with no weak points, which helps with performance and injury prevention.

2. Greater Strength:

    Core stability training combined with weight training will build strength in all muscle groups, and ensure the often-neglected lower back and abdominals are targeted effectively. A stronger body means a better performing one that is more resistant to various conditions that might limit life expectancy and quality of life.

    Benefits of a stronger body due to resistance training include stronger bones and connective tissue, lower body fat levels, a stronger heart and circulatory system, more efficient digestive and elimination systems and lesser risk of physical injury.

3. A Better-Looking Physique:

    A great looking physique is a most valuable asset. It impresses upon others the fact that underlying it churns a system that is better functioning and more productive. Prospective employers and other important people will more than likely look first to one who appears to be in good health.

    Moreover, a better-looking physique will enhance psychological well-being for the owner of that body. The combination of weight training, aerobic and core training and balance work that forms the basis of the THPI program will help to ensure a better looking body.

4. A Better Performing Physique:

    Performing at one's best, whether it is on the sports field or elsewhere, depends on the correct integration of all fitness components. The THPI program includes important fitness components that will help one to perform in the following ways: aerobically through improved stamina, with better coordination through core and balance training, and in a stronger more powerful manner through weight and core training.