How many more reps should I do?
How far should I squat/press/lunge/move?
How much weight should I use?
How fast should I go?
All (and more) can be answered by an ever-so-easy-to-remember acronym, but first, the back story…
For nearly 10 years, I relied on the much more challenging PFROMASTYCC (pain free range of motion and speed that you can control) to answer the most common questions my fitness coaching clients would ask me. Yes, I knew the original acronym was ugly and hard to remember – my clients made sure I knew that – but it worked.
Over the years, I challenged many of my fit-biz friends to help me develop a ‘prettier’ acronym to get the same message across. I asked experts such as Stephen Holt (ACE Personal Trainer of the Year), Alwyn Cosgrove (co-author of “The New Rules of Lifting” series), Bill Hartman (known to industry insiders as ‘the smartest guy in the fitness industry’) and a slew of others.
All agreed that it does indeed get the message across, but it wasn’t so easy on the eyes (or ears, for that matter.)
[side note: I’ve always pronounced it FRAHM-iss-tyke, with a silent “P”. Stephen Holt recently told me he says pee-fro-MASS-tik]
Together, the best any of ‘em could come up with was PROMISE – the “-ISE” represented something along the lines of “Intensity you can Safely Execute” and PROMOTE – “…Optimal Technical Execution”.
I rejected these alternatives on the grounds that the word “Execution” sounded too terminal – it gave me visions of standing blindfolded with my back against a wall in front of a firing squad in some third world country.
And I wasn’t keen on using “Intensity” or “Optimal” since both can be confusing and/or intimidating to those who may be a bit newer to this whole “fitness thing.”
But on a Sunday afternoon in May (yesterday to be precise), in a crowded Kansas City airport at the end of the 2011 Fitness Summit, I had a chance to kick back and talk shop with Lou Schuler (the other half of “The New Rules…” books.)
I figured, who better than an award-winning fitness journalist, and MC of the Fitness Summit I just attended to run my wicked step-sister ugly acronym past and see if he could succeed where others have fallen short. Worst case scenario, I still have PFROMASTYCC.
Apparently not the kind of guy to turn down a challenge, in the masterful way a championship Scrabble player would shuffle tiles around looking for the combination that will score maximum points, Lou rearranged letters while I continued explaining the full intent of my original acronym. After 10 minutes or so, somewhere out of the alphabet-soup tinted fog scribbled on his notebook, PROM DATE appeared. Now the challenge was to fill in the blanks and see if the suit would actually fit.
PROM was obviously the easy part: Painless Range Of Motion…
Having been down a similar road before, I was still concerned that we would end up with yet another ‘almost there’ acronym that ended with the life-ending phrase, “technical execution.”
The exact details are kind of a blur (the Fitness Summit was a blast, and sleep wasn’t as plentiful as usual), but the way I remember it, Lou tossed a few words around and then put ‘Demonstrating’ on the table.
I quickly fired back with “Acceptable.”
But what can be done with the final ‘TE’?
After a series of overly-loud announcements blasted through the airport’s PA system, Lou looked up over his glasses and asked, “Why not just use both letters for ‘TEchnique’”?
Bingo! I’ve been working on this for a decade and in less than half an hour, PFROMASTYCC finally got its much needed makeover.
“Acceptable TEchnique” can always be debated, and every coach/trainer will have his or her own interpretations of what constitutes ‘acceptable’. But I coach my clients to work at the level of “good that gets done is better than perfect that doesn’t.” I find it much more effective to focus on actually doing the exercise than worrying about every little detail. Paralysis by analysis does not a lean, strong, healthy body make.
Low-load and no-load exercises can allow for more wiggle-room. The closer one gets to their maximal effort, the tighter the technique has to be for safety and efficiency of movement.
Think about the last time you dropped your car keys. Did you set up in neutral spine, feet shoulder width, toes slightly out and sit back into a deep squat keeping your torso and tibias parallel to each other? Of course not. You did what we all do: you hunched over like a Texas Armadillo and snatched the keys up off the floor. Far from a ‘perfect’ squat, but mission accomplished, right? Now if you did the same back-rounding, key-snatching movement with several hundred pounds on your back, there’s a good chance you’ll be making payments on your local back surgeon’s vacation home.
As long as a trainee works ‘within tolerance’ – an attention to technique dictated by their abilities, goals and training intensity – PROM DATE serves to minimize risk of injury while allowing maximum efforts – and results.
I’ll always remember PFROMASTYCC fondly, but am happy to put her to rest. PROM DATE just makes more sense.