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Trainer Takes a Whole-body Approach with ProBodX

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Aristotle once wrote that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. The same might be said of the principles behind ProBodX, a conditioning program developed in Orange County, Calif.

We should train the entire body because its parts work in sync with each other, not in a vacuum, said Marv Marinovich, a Rancho Santa Margarita-based sports conditioning specialist, who created ProBodX (which stands for proper body exercise).

Marinovich, best known as a former conditioning coach for the Oakland Raiders, had been developing the elements of his program for several years in private practice in Orange County and applying them on amateur and professional athletes such as Jason Sehorn of the New York Giants and Steve Finley of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

But this year, he and Edythe Heus, a chiropractor from Dana Point, organized the exercises into a regimen and packaged it with Zone-based recipes for the book "ProBodX," (HarperCollins, $25.95).

The book and the program are featured in the October Men's Journal.

"ProBodX is at the tip of the wave," said Hank DeGroat, a certified strength and conditioning specialist at Boston Sports Club in Waltham, Mass. DeGroat has tried the program and evaluated it.

"It's the beginning of the fully integrated approach to fitness, health and wellness," he said. "The program addresses in coherent fashion the shortcomings of the different exercise protocols out there and looks at the imbalances that result."

So what are we doing improperly, in Marinovich's view?

Most classic fitness regimens fall short of harnessing our best athletic potential, he said. For example, strength training calls for us to use exercises to "isolate" specific body parts. When we work out the upper body, we typically will divide our exercises in categories such as for chest, back, shoulders and arms.

What's more, some of us make the mistake of lifting weights that are too heavy for us, resulting in large muscles and bulk that compromise how we move, Marinovich said. "People overtrain certain muscles and that puts off their balance," he said.

We usually separate flexibility exercises from those for power and core training (stabilizing the muscles of the trunk), when combining these is not only possible but maybe more beneficial, Marinovich said.

Because of limited time for exercise, training on the other components of fitness - balance, hand-eye coordination, speed and agility - falls by the wayside. In ProBodX, these are integrated into the workouts for strength and flexibility, according to Marinovich.

ProBodX equipment borrows from physical therapy. Most are objects that provide instability and allow us to work on various planes: an inflated exercise ball; a slant board - a wooden or metal board that can be set at various degrees of incline; two balance disks and two poles; and two PVC pipes. For strength training, exercisers use a pair of hollow weights - empty plastic "smart bells" that look like a cross between a cow's udders and a teapot and can be filled with water to the desired weight.

Some exercises are done by balancing on the disks and holding on to the poles, others while balancing on the pipes, standing on the slant board, or lying down or seated on the ball as we hold the bells in our hands or feet.

The movements crib from physical therapy, Pilates and yoga.

The sequential exercises are done with bare hands and feet in a repetitive fashion until we're no longer able to maintain correct form. We don't have to aim for a specific number of repetitions. Once the exercise becomes easy, we challenge our body by increasing resistance, rapidity of movement, range of motion or stability.

The program does not include cardiovascular conditioning, but offers tips on training for speed and endurance for runners and those who exercise on a rowing machine.

Rese McNatt, 24, believes the regimen boosted her game as a varsity volleyball player at Southwest Missouri State University. Marinovich trained McNatt for two years beginning in 2000 during the summer and Christmas holidays. "It's totally different from college athletic training," said McNatt, of Fullerton. "It's nothing like I've done before."

McNatt would train intermittently for about four hours every morning at Sports Lab, Marinovich's facility in Rancho Santa Margarita. "Even my toes would feel that they got a workout," she said.

She saw the difference especially in her digs and kills. "I was much quicker, had more power, was able to scoot around the court easily," she said. "My defensive game skyrocketed." That's not always an easy feat for a 6-foot woman.

The performance difference earned her at least one most-valuable player award and enabled her to be drafted for the U.S. Pro Volleyball League.

While amateur and pro athletes who have trained with Marinovich praise the regimen, it's too early to tell whether recreational athletes and exercise enthusiasts who follow the program only through the book will benefit. One shortcoming is that there are no published studies that show that the regimen is safe and effective.

And learning ProBodX from Marinovich and learning it from the book are not the same, DeGroat said, just as reading a cookbook is not equal to learning to cook a gourmet meal with a master chef.

Still, DeGroat believes ProBodX has value. "It's a very well-put-together program," he said. "What it does is teach the body to play like a symphony, not as a bunch of sections."

Some highly experienced fitness enthusiasts may be able to do the exercises quickly and properly after reading about them, he said. But others will need guidance. DeGroat suggested getting help: Read it, take it to a personal fitness trainer or a certified strength and conditioning specialist to look over and learn the program with proper supervision.


(Lisa Liddane is a health and fitness writer for The Orange County Register and an American Council on Exercise-certified group fitness instructor. Write to her at the Register, P.O. Box 11626, Santa Ana, Calif. 92711 or send e-mail to


(c) 2003, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.). Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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