The Four Methods: A Common Ground between Personal Training and Acupuncture

Personal training is similar to the practice of Acupuncture in that both systems, to be effective, employ four methods to gather information in order to offer solutions specific to the client. Each individual must be treated in accordance to the information gathered through looking, asking, listening and palpating at the time of the first and every following training or treatment session.

It is this commonality that makes a personal trainer or an acupuncturist the ideal practitioner to offer a holistic protocol that yields results within a reasonable time frame. Following I will share with you the parallel paths both of these professionals take when developing a program, and for the sake of clarity, I will address the person seeking their services as the “client”, although to the acupuncturist the term “patient” is more appropriate. I will also address the personal trainer and the acupuncturist as the “fitness professional” since both professions seek to improve the client’s overall fitness levels.


The fitness professional starts assessment as soon as visual contact is made with the client. There is a substantial amount of information that is obtained through visual inspection. Body type, gait, posture, skin condition and mannerism, are among several physical characteristics that offer the well trained fitness professional an opportunity to gather sufficient data to establish further dialogue.


Starting an assessment oriented dialogue with a client during the initial visit is an art in itself. The fitness professional must ask questions that provide information about the client’s current state of fitness without crossing boundaries into personal matters. At this stage of the assessment, the skills of “looking”, as described above, dovetails with the questioning process. The client’s body language often offers additional details which he or she was unable to verbalize and the success of the interview hinges on the fitness professional’s ability to guide the session in a comfortable manner for the client.


If a fitness professional wishes to gain the client’s confidence, then it is imperative that he/she has mastered the skill of listening. It is through listening that the right questions can be asked; and if the questions do not have a flow congruent to the clients answers, then the interview is seen as an interrogation from a cookie cutter script and the clients answers will turn into simple answers of yes, no, maybe, and so on. As with the skill of “asking”, listening is also a component of looking and often it is what the client does not say that speaks the loudest.


Acupuncturist and other practitioners of Alternative medicines have for centuries based the treatment of numerous disorders on the information acquired through the technique of palpating the pulse on the radial artery located on the wrists. Data such as pulse depth, speed, width of the artery, pulse strength and at least two dozen other qualities, provide some of the information needed to present an overall image of the patient’s vital signs and internal milieu. Treatment plans are based on this information and progress is equally measured in accordance to the changes on the pulse’s qualities.  Unlike personal trainers, an acupuncturist’s scope of practice allows the palpation of acu-points within the body’s musculature. Palpating the acu-point can be a diagnostic and remedial procedure.

The personal trainer also relies on the pulse for information on the clients current fitness level and as a guideline for writing an exercise prescription.

For example, during the initial cardiovascular testing, the heart rate is recorded by way of feeling the pulse on the radial or carotid artery. Weeks later, the pulse is taking again and cardiovascular improvement can be assessed by contrasting the resting heart rate and the recovery heart rate of the client between the initial and last intake.  Heart rate is also used to establish training intensity or heart rate zone. Several formulas have been developed to determine training heart rate zone such as the Karvonen method and an understanding of these formulas is essential for the client’s safety and training success.

Writing a Prescription

Based on the information gathered about the client’s general state of fitnes/health, the fitness professional writes a treatment or exercise plan designed to bring about the goals set during the initial interview. As long as both parties involved, the client and the practitioner, adhere to the established protocols of each discipline, the client should see gradual improvement in his or her overall fitness and health levels.