Don’t let AI write your personal training programs

Published by Jason Narog on

AI Personal Trainer

I’m not writing this as a means to catch on to something buzzy. I’m currently playing around with AI chat prompts for work and for play (to the point I even asked an AI blueprint program to help me work on the size of boards I’d need to build a catio) but while doing blog research on fitness, I came to the conclusion that AI robots as personal trainers are downright dangerous. At least for now. Don’t ask AI to write you a program. You could get very hurt. Here’s a live example –

AI suggested workout for a Bulgarian Bag and Kettlebell circuit article.

  1. Beginner Circuit
    • Kettlebell Swings (15 reps)
    • Bulgarian Bag Spins (10 reps each side)
    • Kettlebell Goblet Squats (12 reps)
    • Bulgarian Bag Push-Ups (10 reps)
    • Rest 60 seconds between each circuit; repeat 3 times.
  2. Intermediate Circuit
    • Kettlebell Snatch (10 reps each arm)
    • Bulgarian Bag Cleans (15 reps)
    • Kettlebell Lunge Press (10 reps each leg)
    • Bulgarian Bag Suplex (10 reps)
    • Rest 45 seconds between each circuit; repeat 4 times.
  3. Advanced Circuit
    • One-Arm Kettlebell Clean and Press (8 reps each arm)
    • Bulgarian Bag Swing to Squat (12 reps)
    • Kettlebell Turkish Get-Up (5 reps each side)
    • Bulgarian Bag High Pull (12 reps)
    • Rest 30 seconds between each circuit; repeat 5 times.

Which prompted me – someone who attended the SFG1 Kettlebell Instructor 3 day course in September of 2018 & the Suples Fit Bulgarian Bag Instructor Level 1 certification course in February of 2020 to be like WTF?

“why would you combine kettlebell swings with bulgarian bag spins? typically kettlebell swings involve keeping your spine tight, whereas the spin would be loose, that looks like a recipe for injury”

So the robot responded –

You make an excellent point regarding the concern about combining kettlebell swings with Bulgarian bag spins within the same circuit. It’s crucial to consider how the mechanics and muscle engagement differ between exercises to ensure safety and effectiveness.

The reasoning behind including both exercises in a circuit is to target different muscle groups and functions, providing a well-rounded workout. Kettlebell swings are great for developing posterior chain strength (hamstrings, glutes, and lower back), enhancing explosive power, and improving cardiovascular fitness. They require maintaining a tight core and a stable spine throughout the motion to protect the lower back and effectively transfer force.

On the other hand, Bulgarian bag spins involve rotational movements that engage the core, shoulders, and incorporate elements of dynamic stability and endurance. The rotational aspect helps in improving athletic performance, particularly in sports that involve twisting motions.

However, your concern about transitioning from a rigid spine exercise to a more dynamic, rotational movement is valid and important:

  1. Risk of Injury: Switching abruptly from an exercise requiring a tight, stable spine to one that involves dynamic and potentially ballistic rotational movements can stress the lower back if not approached carefully.
  2. Exercise Sequencing: Proper sequencing and adequate rest or transitional movements between such exercises can help mitigate risk. It might be more prudent to separate these exercises with another that allows the spine to neutralize and the body to prepare for a different type of movement stress.

Revised Approach:

To enhance safety and effectiveness, here’s a revised routine suggestion:

  • Include a transitional exercise between the kettlebell swings and Bulgarian bag spins. This could be something like a plank or a set of push-ups, which allows the spine to stabilize and the participant to refocus on core engagement.
  • Educate on form and transitions: Clearly instruct on how to properly execute each movement and how to transition safely between exercises. Emphasizing the importance of core stability throughout the workout can prevent injury.
  • Adjust the workout structure if needed, such as alternating upper body focused exercises with lower body or rotational exercises to allow different muscle groups adequate recovery time during the circuit.

These adjustments can help in creating a safer and more effective workout routine that utilizes the benefits of both kettlebell swings and Bulgarian bag spins, while addressing the potential risks associated with their combination.

So then I said “typically one wouldn’t go from standing to prone back to standing”

The AI robot pretending to be a personal trainer then said –

You’re absolutely right, and that’s an important consideration for designing workout circuits effectively. Switching frequently between standing and prone positions, especially in a high-intensity circuit, can be disorienting and fatiguing. It can also increase the risk of dizziness or instability due to rapid changes in blood pressure, which might not suit everyone, especially beginners or those with specific health conditions.

A more thoughtfully structured workout would sequence exercises to minimize frequent and rapid transitions between vastly different positions. Here’s a better approach to structuring the circuit that maintains the flow of the workout, keeps participants engaged, and reduces the risk of discomfort or injury:

Improved Circuit Structure:

  1. Group Similar Exercises: Keeping exercises that involve similar body positions together. For example, performing all standing exercises in succession before moving to any that might require lying down or significant posture changes.
  2. Gradual Transition Between Positions: If transitioning from standing to prone or vice versa is necessary, include intermediary exercises that require a half-seated or bent-over position to make the change less abrupt.
  3. Incorporate Active Recovery: Use lower-intensity or static exercises (like holding a plank or a deep squat) as buffers between high-intensity moves to allow heart rate and blood pressure to stabilize.

Revised Example Circuit:

  • Kettlebell Swings (Standing, dynamic, focuses on the posterior chain)
  • Goblet Squats (Standing, uses similar kettlebell grip, focuses on lower body strength)
  • Static Hold (Like a plank or a wall sit, offers a transition that prepares the body for floor work without rapid position changes)
  • Push-Ups (Prone position, upper body focus)
  • Bulgarian Bag Spins (Standing, introduces rotational movements in a controlled manner after the body is adequately prepared)

By reorganizing the workout this way, you can maintain high intensity and effectiveness while also respecting the physiological and safety needs of the participants. Each exercise still complements the others in terms of overall fitness goals but is sequenced to optimize performance and safety.

So I said “let’s not include specific workouts in blog posts moving forward”

I haven’t posted a blog written by an AI, and I especially won’t be letting the AI write personal trainer posts that include routines anytime soon. They seem good at doing things like generating structure for humans to write blogs, but letting them run free writing whatever they want seems downright dangerous.

That second routine still goes from stand to sit to stand, ignoring the own advice it had regarding gradually transitioning from stand to sit.

So I switched GPTs and went with one actually labeled “personal trainer” to see what it had to say about the blog writing GPT’s original routine. Here’s what I got –

Beginner Circuit

Analysis: This circuit provides a balanced mix of cardiovascular and strength training, incorporating dynamic movements that engage multiple muscle groups. The inclusion of a 60-second rest period is appropriate for recovery, allowing beginners to maintain form and prevent injury.

Suggestions:

  • Ensure proper form, especially for kettlebell swings and goblet squats, to avoid back injuries.
  • Consider alternating the order of exercises in subsequent sessions to maintain engagement and balance muscle fatigue.

Intermediate Circuit

Analysis: Moving into more complex movements, this circuit increases the demand on coordination, strength, and endurance. The 45-second rest period challenges the cardiovascular system more than the beginner circuit.

Suggestions:

  • Focus on technique in the kettlebell snatch and lunge press to maximize effectiveness and minimize risk.
  • Monitor fatigue levels closely; if form deteriorates, additional rest may be necessary or reduce repetitions.

Advanced Circuit

Analysis: This circuit requires advanced coordination, significant strength, and high cardiovascular endurance, especially with a short 30-second rest period. Exercises like the Turkish Get-Up are highly technical and offer functional benefits.

Suggestions:

  • Prioritize quality over quantity; ensure each movement is performed with strict form to avoid injuries.
  • As fatigue sets in, particularly in advanced circuits, it might be beneficial to increase the rest interval slightly or adjust the number of repetitions to maintain safety.

Overall, your circuits are well thought out and provide a good progression. Always remember to warm up before and cool down after your workout to enhance performance and recovery. As you advance, continue listening to your body and adjust as needed to keep your workouts both safe and challenging.

When I went to question the AI personal trainer, I found out I was out of requests for the next 2 hours.

Am I being paranoid about injury? Probably not. At the SFG1 cert, the instructors would wander around and tap those of us on the back who were starting to slouch while watching / listening to the main instructors talk and demo so we wouldn’t hurt ourselves when we had to move on to the next exercise. The change from strict to rotational, especially with the spine while performing an exercise known to mess with people’s low backs when not doing exactly to spec (the kettlebell swing is very explosive, and has a lot of complex moving parts that all need to be done right to avoid injury in general…)

Anyways, here’s how the AI and I finally settled on in terms of a structure for the workout –

  1. Monday: Kettlebell Focus – Prioritize exercises like kettlebell swings, Turkish get-ups, and goblet squats to build foundational strength and power.
  2. Tuesday: Light Cardio or Rest – Engage in activities that promote recovery, such as swimming, cycling, or a light jog.
  3. Wednesday: Bulgarian Bag Training – Focus on movements like spins, throws, and rotational swings to enhance agility and endurance.
  4. Thursday: Active Recovery – Implement yoga or dynamic stretching to maintain flexibility and aid muscle recovery.
  5. Friday: Kettlebell Technique Improvement – Return to kettlebells with an emphasis on refining technique in complex lifts or introducing new exercises.
  6. Saturday: Bulgarian Bag Advanced Techniques – Explore more complex movements or increase intensity to push your limits.
  7. Sunday: Complete Rest or Passive Recovery – Consider passive recovery techniques like massage or meditation to prepare for the upcoming week.

I’ll be writing a post of my own on the subject later, that will include something along this modality in terms of switching methods on different days, but this took a lot of back and forth. If you’re new-ish to training, stick with a real life personal trainer and avoid the AI assistants, at least for now. I wouldn’t even combine kettlebells and kickboxing into the same routine due to the strict vs rotation, which is why I loved Bulgarian Bags. My clients could swing bags then swing their bodies throwing kicks without me worrying. But kettlebells, at least hard style, to rotation in the same session doesn’t sit well with me.

Let’s stay healthy.