Body maps

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 September, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 September, 2004, 12:00am

Anyone walking into a state-of-the-art fitness centre for the first time is usually struck by the array of shiny - and, possibly intimidating - equipment, designed to give you the strong, healthy body you desire in the shortest time possible.

Then, there are the vast number of exercises, coupled with advice from the media, fitness experts, your friends and even the fitness centre itself. Add all this up and it's easy to see why many new - or born-again - exercisers might feel overwhelmed and potentially deflated by their initial experience at a fitness club.

The NASM - one of the leading fitness educators and trainers in the US - has come up with a computerised fitness programme called the Body Map - targeted mainly at newcomers and those trying again after a long hiatus. The NASM developed the ' particularly for people who wander around gyms doing what they remember from grade-school gym or physical education classes.

The Body Map's main purpose is to correct this lack of direction by making sure users know what their structural weaknesses are, and then supply the exercises and stretches needed to correct them.

Its aim is threefold: encourage proper muscular balance; establish optimal postural control; and develop good core strength and neuromuscular efficiency, so that when you graduate to a higher fitness level, you're less likely to get injured and more apt to stay with your programme.

There are three steps to the whole process: a posture analysis; overlaying the images on a grid; and then providing the strengthening exercises and stretching required to help with any deficiencies or imbalances discovered during the assessment.

The postural analysis part of the Body Map is quick - it only takes about 15 minutes - and provides the vital information necessary to set the individual fitness goals.

To start with, you do a series of moving squats. It's a good exercise because it also reflects how you sit, stand and carry yourself throughout your everyday life. You perform five sets of squats at different angles in front of a camera: one facing the camera; one from the side; one from behind; and a single leg squat on each leg.

The exercises are photo-graphed as you move through your range of motion and saved for analysis. The images are then superimposed on a grid to identify any unnatural weight shifts, imbalances and functional asymmetries.

Finally, a series of stretches and strengthening exercises is formulated to address any deficiencies or imbalances picked up during the assessment.

So, where can you get the programme? It's just been released in the US and Canada. You can check out the Body Map online at But most of the information is directed at health clubs and personal trainers. The NASM also recommends that personal trainers be qualified in some of their other programmes before they begin using the Body Map.

Not to worry. At the rate Hong Kong gobbles up new technology, it won't be long before this or something like it arrives at a club near you. So, better keep working on your smile: you may soon be on camera doing squats.