It's Not About Muscles!


The NCEP Fitness approach to program design is to improve function or movement efficiency.


Know the 7 primary movements ~ push, pull, bend, twist, squat, lunge, & gait.


Muscle can do only one thing, contract! However, muscular contraction can be broken down into 3 categories~

-isometric contraction = stability.

-eccentric contraction = movement control or deceleration.

-concentric contraction = focus on power or the speed of life.


Visit all planes of motion ~

  • Sagittal Plane = forward & backward.

  • Frontal Plane = side to side.

  • Transverse Plane = twisting motion.


Watch the full video to receive every detail!



[The following is the full transcript of this episode of NCEP Fitness Podcast. Please note that this episode, like all episodes, features Mike DeMora speaking eloquently–he is shown with no scripts or editing. Filmed in a single take, NCEP Fitness Podcast has become one of the most popular and authentic fitness series in the history of YouTube.]



Hey! How you doing? It's Mike DeMora again coming live from the NCEP Fitness office here in Redondo Beach. And I know you're going to get this as a video, but anyway we're live over here now. Anyway, what I want to talk to you about a little bit today is about program design, you know program design is what really put the ncep fitness on the map. And when we talk about program design, unfortunately so many of the trainers just don't get it right. And it's not because they dont want to, it's just they really don't have the tools to do so. So what I wanted to do is take the next 5-10 minutes and really explain to you with what we feel is the best way to design a program.


So we come from a functional standpoint. Our whole thing is about a holistic you know, a holistic approach to functional training. So let's just really focus on function, and when we focus on function, we're going to see that we break down everything into 7 primary movements. So your body can only do these 7 movements. So it's a push, a pull, a bend, a twist, a squat, a lunge, and what we call gait. Gait is ambulation, or in other words getting from point a to point b. and theres only 3 ways to do that, and that's walking, jogging, or running.


Now with those 7 movements, that is what we call function. When we work with somebody, all we care about is that their function gets better. Too many trainers focus on what? They focus on muscles. So they say oh, what muscles do or what exercises do the biceps, what exercises do the tricep, it doesn't make any sense to us, because it's not functional. Look if I focus on just the bicep, you know, basically when I tell you how to do this. Im going to say, keep the upper arm next to your body, and then just bend the lower arm and bring it up bring it down, whatever, blablabla. Now, how is that functional?! When do you walk around like this?! When do you..? Oh, look at me, look at me, oh hi hi, no no, you move your arm as a whole unit! You either what, you either push or you pull. That's what function is all about, it has nothing to do with focusing on 1 muscle. Never in real life does your body only use 1 muscle or 1 set of muscles to function.


So we look at 7 movements, now we break those 7 movements down into 3 phases. 3 levels, 3 however you want to break it up, but we look at 3 different things. Why did we pick 3? It just so happens that your muscles only do 3 things. They only do 1 thing, but they break it up into 3 categories. Your muscles do one thing and one thing only, which is contract. And what that means is they have the neural signal and the muscle fibers contract. And with contraction, there are only 3 types of contraction. Now the reason we have 3 types of contraction, all 3 are very, very important for different reasons. So we have to work each one of them. That just makes sense right?! If the body can do it, we need to train it.


So lets look at phase 1 right. Phase 1 would be the isometric contraction. So in our theory, you should be able to hold something before you move it. Does that make sense? If you can't hold it, it's really challenging to move it. So when we hold it, what do you think we hold? Well if we have 7 primary movement patterns, then we have what, 7 types of holds. So we hold a push, we hold a pull, we hold the twist, we hold the bend, we hold the squat, we hold the lunge, and we hold all forms during gait. Does that make sense?


Okay. After we can determine that we can hold something, now we want to start to move slowly. Some people call this movement rehearsal, we want to move slowly. And when we move slowly, we want to focus on the eccentric contraction. Eccentric contraction is your control. Right? Its control. Your body will never produce more force than it feels it can control safely. So to actually become stronger, or to become faster, or to become anything more functional, you have to develop your eccentric contraction. Okay, that would be our phase 2, or our level 2, or however you want to look at it. So we focus on the eccentric contraction and our 7 movements.


What's next? Our next is to move at the speed of life or to move quickly. What contraction do you think we would focus on during that? You're right. We would focus on the concentric contraction, or in other words, the production of force. Right? When we look at the production of force, we want to be able to produce force quickly. That's also known as power. Now power once again is the speed of life. Now, different people have different speeds of life. So when I train grandma, or I train a professional athlete, what's going to change is not the actual exercise program, but the speed at which we complete each movement. Okay when we're in that phase.


Alright, so now we've gotten 7 movements. Now remember, those 7 movements have unlimited number of variability. But were going to look at 7 major movements, and in those 7 major movements, what do we want to focus on. 1, to stabilize, or in other words to hold, or in other words isometric contraction. Then we want to focus on what? Moving slowly. Focusing on the eccentric contraction. And last but not least, we want to focus on moving quickly, or moving at the speed of life, which is also called power. Those are our 3 phases or our whole function. Okay?


Now, after we've realized that we're working on all 7 movement skills, we now then have to adapt the different planes of motion. How many planes of motion are there? There are 3 planes of motion. Forward,back, which is called the sagittal plane. Side to side, which is called the frontal plane, and anything rotational, which is called the transverse plane. Now, all programs if you think about it, and you look at function. How do most of us move? In what plane do you think we dominate? Well we dominate in the sagittal plane. In fact, most people will move at least 95% in the sagittal plane. Does that mean we should ignore the other 2 planes?


No! in fact, because we move in the sagittal plane so much, what we really need to do is work on our stability and moving slowly in other planes, so that we then become more efficient at working in the plane that we're in. I know that sounds a little bizarre if you're not into all of your sciences, but just trust me on this. So when we look at someone's program, when I judge someone's program, and I don't mean I'm judging. But when I'm looking at someone's program and determine if this makes sense. Those are my checklists.


I look first to see, are the 7 movements taken care of? Right, if not, I wonder why? Why are there 8 pushes and 2 pullls and nothing else? Or why is there this and that? We want to make all 7 movements accountable. Now remember, you could say Mondays we're going to work on pushes, Tuesdays were going to work on pulls, Wednesdays were going to work on.. however you determine to break it up, but thatss a really really important factor. The next thing were going to look at what, what phase are you in? So when I ask somebody, and I look at your program and I say what phase are they in? You just started with them? Have you been working with them for a while? What phase are you in or what are you trying to accomplish with this? If they don't tell me I want to work on stabilization, then I'm wondering why they're not. Or I'm wondering why they've skipped it. So in our world, we work on stabilization first. First, they have to be stable before they move slowly. Now remember, they can do all of that all in 1 workout. Can you have them hold a push, and then what, move slowly during a push? And then what, do some explosion during the push? or some power? Yes you can! You can do that all in 1 workout.


Remember all movements are assessments, and all assessments are movements. So what do you think we should assess them? We should assess them while doing these 7 movements. Okay? The next thing I look at are planes of motion. When I see a program thats all in the sagittal plane. I once again question, why are you doing that? Why do you think you should only work on the sagittal plane? Remember, people move 95% or more of their lives in the sagittal plane. Which means, the frontal plane and the transverse plane are not being worked on. Which is horrible, when you look at function. Because remember the old saying, if you don't move it, you lose it. And so we want to make sure they work on all of it and become more efficient.


The goal of us as personal trainers, in our opinion, is movement efficiency. Now I know some of you are toing to say no its not its weight loss, its this, its that! Those are all derivatives, but to me the most important thing is to keep someone moving and moving well. Because if you dont, who else will?


I hope that helped just a little bit, when we looked at program design. And we looked at how we do each movement skill. Because what we're going to do is take each one of those 7 movements and do assessments on them. And based on how well they move, or how well they dont, or how poorly they do move, then were going to base our programs whether they need a little more of this, a little bit less of that, a little bit more of this. But never in our program, do we focus on muscles. We focus on movements.


So what are they again? Push, pull, bend, twist, squat, lunge, and gait. And gait is..? Walk, jog, run. Right? Now we have the 3 phases or 3 compartments or the 3 levels or the 3 whatever you want to look at, or however you want to call it. Phase 1, level 1, is what? Stabilization, hold it before you move it. Phase 2 is what? Move it slowly, focus on the eccentric contraction. And last but not least, move fast. Move at the speed of life. Okay well, I hoped that helped, and I'll see you in the next video. Take care.