Chapter 5: Introduction to the ACE Integrated Fitness Training Model (IFT)


What you will learn:

  • How to help clients using the ACE IFT Model.
  • Why trainers should work on health first, then fitness and at last performance.
  • How to help clients gain positive experiences leading to adherence.

ACE IFT: shows trainer how to develop exercises to impact behavioral change, posture, movement, flexibility, balance, core function, cardiorespiratory functions, muscle endurance and strength,

Health – Fitness Performance Continuum

  • Exercise programs should do the following
    • Improve Health
    • Develop and advance Fitness
    • Enhance Performance
  • Sedentary clients will spend up to 4-6 weeks improving health in the conditioning stage.

Introduction to the ACE IFT Training Model


  • Rapport is the foundation for all stages.
    • Should be developed through the early communication stages with positive experiences with exercise then enhanced through behavioral strategies for long term exercise adherence.
  • Personal trainers should work on obtaining physiological measurements such as resting heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Conduct assessment on functional movement, balance and range of motion (ROM)
  • ACE IFT organized the research into a system that helps trainers asses their clients effectively
  • ACE IFT has 2 primary components
    • Functions Movements and Resistance training
    • Cardiorespiratory Training



Rapport and Behavioral Strategies

  • The greatest impact a personal trainer can have on a clients is to help change their habits and establish a positive relationship with exercise.
  • Rapport is at the core of it all
  • Personal trainer can have an immediate impact by first creating a positive exercise experience which can lead to program adherence.
  • Steps to facilitate behavioral change
    • Enhance rapport
    • Identify clients stage of behavior change
    • Create a positive experience in the initial meetings
    • Proper assessment timing
    • Create programs and supervise workouts
    • Help clients realize that change of lifestyle is a positive thing
    • Prevent relapses
    • Help clients to move from extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation.
    • Work with adapting to the client’s personality
    • Set a short and long term goal that is easily attainable
    • Help them get to the action and maintenance stages
    • Provide extrinsic motivation
    • Prevent overtraining
    • Help clients gain self-efficacy to train on their own
    • Help clients make exercise a long term habit
  • After 2-4 weeks of regular exercise, clients start to experience:
    • Changes in hormones and neurotransmitter levels
      • Endorphins, serotonin and norepinephrine
    • Increase self-efficacy and short term goals accomplishments
    • Improved performance
  • Personal trainer should make exercise fun first with focus on program adherence
  • Once a client is adhering then focus on goals like weight loss or change in body composition.

Training Components and Phases

  • Understanding of the ACE IFT phases and training is important to determine client levels.
  • Clients muscle imbalances, postural issues, and improper movement mechanics should all be addressed in Phase 1, mobility-training phase

Functional Movements and Resistance Training

  • Posture is the core of human movement
  • Phase 1: assessment and training for joint stability and movement
  • Phase 2: movement training (squatting, bending, pushing, pulling)
  • Phase 3: external resistance and loads
  • Phase 4: performance training
  • These phases are based on principles of specificity overload and progression

Phase 1: Stability and Mobility Training

  • Low-intensity training to improve balance, endurance, flexibility and posture.
  • Exercises to stabilize the spine and center of gravity (COG).
  • Initial assessments include:
    • Posture
    • Balance
    • Movement
    • Range of Motion (ROM)- ankle, hip, shoulder complex and thoracic and lumbar spine.
  • Principle goal is to develop the postural stability without compromising mobility.
  • Exercises limitations – stable supported surfaces against gravity (floors and backrests)
  • Main focus should be on:
    • Restorative flexibility
    • Isometric contractions
    • Limited ROM strengthening
    • Static balance
    • Core activation
    • Spiral stabilization
    • Muscular endurance

Phase 2: Movement training

  • 5 primary movements
    • Bend and lift (squatting) – lifting objects off the floor.
    • Single-leg (lunging) critical part of walking
    • Pushing (push-ups) 4 different directions
      • Forward- pushing a door
      • Overhead – putting something on a shelf above
      • Lateral – sliding a door open
      • Downward – getting up from a chair
    • Pulling (pull-ups) opening a car door
    • Rotating (spiral) moving things from left to right or vice versa
  • The warm up should include dynamic balance exercises
  • Resistance training should include exercises that build muscle endurance and promote mobility
  • Emphasis also on controlled ROM and deceleration by eccentric muscle actions.

Phase 3: Load training

  • Emphasis placed on muscle force productions
  • Goals include:
    • Changes in body composition
    • Muscular strength
    • Muscle hypertrophy or endurance
    • Looking toned
  • FITT Model (Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type)
    • Used to increase muscular hypertrophy and strength
  • Exercise selection for this stage is focused on isolated or single joint movements and should transition into full body movements.
  • Many clients will stay in this phase for many years.
  • If clients want to move to Phase 4 they should develop strength for power, speed, agility and quickness.

Phase 4: Performance Training

  • The goal of this phase is to improve speed, agility, quickness, reactivity and power.
  • Power training increases velocity of force production by improving muscles ability to generate a lot of force in a short time.
  • Power defined as velocity of force production and rate of performing work.

Power = Force x Velocity   or    Power =Work / Time
Where: Force=Mass x Acceleration Velocity=Distance / Time Work=Force x Distance
  • Exercise selection for this stage
    • Plyometrics jump training
    • Medicine ball throws
    • Kettlebell lifts
    • Olympic Lifts
  • During load training (P3) the focus was to improve muscle motor unit recruitment.
  • Power raining is to increase rate coding.
    • Speed of motor units stimulating muscles to contract and produce force.
  • Maximize the stretch flex by minimizing the time duration between eccentric and concentric muscle action.
    • The faster it is the greater the force.
  • Power training integrated full body exercises
  • Power training develops lean muscle, type II muscle fibers.

Cardiorespiratory Training

  • Personal trainers should focus on steady state training to improve cardiorespiratory fitness.
  • High-low intensity training intervals at or near the lactate threshold.

Phase 1: Aerobic-base training

  • Personal trainers should help sedentary clients develop a base to improve health, endurance, energy, mood and caloric expenditure.
  • Talk-test method: if a client can perform an exercise and talk comfortably in sentences.
    • If yes, then client is below the first ventilatory threshold (VT1)
    • Ratings for perceived exertion (RPE) of 3-4 (based on a scale of 0-10)
      • basically the amount of energy you exert is given a number.
  • The goal here is to help the clients do cardiorespiratory exercises 3-5 days per week for 20-30 minutes at an RPE of 3-4
  • This will also help the clients with improvements in activities of daily living (ADL)

Phase 2: Aerobic-efficiency Training

  • The goal here is to improve aerobic endurance by increasing the intensity of exercises performed.
  • They should be at or above VT1 with an RPE of 4-5 (strong).

Phase 3: Anaerobic-endurance Training

    • The primary focus is on improving performance in endurance events or train fitness enthusiasts for higher cardiorespiratory fitness.
    • The lactate threshold or tolerance training if performed at or near the second ventilatory threshold (VT2)
  • ACE IFT Model uses a 3-zone model for cardiorespiratory training.
    • Zone 1- (at or under VT1) (RPE=3-4) warm up, cool down, and long distance endurance workouts.
    • Zone 2- (between VT1 and VT2) (RPE=5) 1-2 cardiorespiratory workouts per week. Working on aerobic efficiency.
    • Zone 3- (at or greater than VT2) (RPE=6-7) 1-2 days cardiorespiratory workouts per week. Working on anaerobic efficiency
  • Personal Trainers should explain that more training is not always better. Recovery is crucial in completing workouts and adherence.

Phase 4: Anaerobic-power training

  • The main focus is on building upon the previous training phases and introducing new intervals to enhance anaerobic power.
  • New intervals to develop peak power and aerobic capacity to be performed by the client.
  • These exercise routines are performed above VT2 with an RPE greater than 9. (very,very strong)
  • These intervals overload fast glycolytic system and challenge phosphagen system.
  • These intervals are short in duration and high in intensity.
  • Clients training in this phase are usually getting ready for competition
    • 3-7 days per week. 20 min to several hours per session.

Special Population Clientele

  • Use ACE IFT model to adjust the following according to the clientele you train.
    • Exercise selection
    • Intensity
    • Sets
    • Repetitions
    • Duration


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