New PTL program gets underway at Keesler

  • Published
  • By Steve Hoffmann
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
When you learned to walk, there was a dance you did with gravity, clumsily at first, but you finally got the beat, learned the steps and began to walk. Your muscles learned the proper way to hold themselves in order to achieve balance and mobility.

Al Ciampa, 81st Aerospace Medicine Squadron exercise physiologist, has a new program that draws on that learning process and has begun teaching it to Keesler's physical training leaders.

Ciampa's human performance course teaches PTL's how to lead and teach their Airmen and is designed to strengthen the entire body by using its ability to balance itself.

To that end, Ciampa designed Keesler's new Warfighter Fitness Court which features weightlifting tools designed to challenge the entire body at once.

"This room is designed to promote full-body exercise in free space," explained Ciampa. "There's no machine in here that locks you in cutting off the rest of the body. In here, you're constantly challenging the entire body and neural system in free space the way nature intended and the way the body is designed to function."

Perhaps the most striking feature of the room is its emptiness. Everything is against the wall leaving the room wide open like an exercise playroom. Users pull out what they need in open space leaving plenty of room to exercise the whole body. There are parallel bars, monkey bars, pull-up bars, lightweight rowing machines, jump ropes, medicine balls and kettle bells.

Ciampa's philosophy is based on the assumption that years of sitting at desks in school, at work and benches and machines in the gym leads to muscular imbalance leaving the body weaker and more prone to muscular strain and injury.

"When you put people under a load and challenge them in ways they've never been challenged before, they start sweating and shaking they say 'why can't I do this? I can squat 500 pounds'." Ciampa noted. "But they're excited about learning this stuff, learning a new way."

"Al's course is a giant step in the right direction," said Lt. Col. John Fox, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron chief navigator and fitness program manager for the 403rd Wing. "It teaches members proper movement patterns, exercise selection, and, most importantly, it helps the member develop mental toughness and to not give up when the training gets a little difficult. Al is a master at simply pressing ahead and giving the trainee one option -- to learn the proper movement, stick with it and make it happen."

Ciampa has already taught one eight-week course and is halfway through a second. The first half of the course focuses on bio-mechanics and teaching members proper movement. The second half applies that proper movement to very simple, high intensity strength and conditioning routines.

Ciampa says that he likes to use kettle bells, which look like a cannonball with a handle, because they lend themselves to teaching proper movement while strengthening. But there are other tools and workout routines that can be strung together to create an effective workout.

"This course has changed the whole way I view fitness," said Tech. Sgt. Jason Washington, 81st Training Support Squadron curriculum developer supervisor and PTL. "Years ago, I bought into the whole body builder approach of isolating muscles but have found, after training so closely with Al, that this isn't the way our bodies were designed to move. I have noticed total improvement in my day-to-day movements such as picking up a pen from off the floor, bending down to tie my son's shoe, squatting, breathing, running, etc. I now lead PT with the same principles and movements that I learned during the course."

"The goal is to teach proper movement, and to give PTL's tools that they can take out into the track and field," said Ciampa. "We get buy-in from PTL's because they've experienced change in themselves. They're getting creative and really trying to implement what they've learned."