Today I will be reviewing Richard Pinchen’s adaptive personal training company – Brand Inc Fitness.
Those who have been here before might be wondering what business I have critiquing a fitness related service, as I am moderately disabled, use mobility aids, and have videos all over Instagram proudly proclaiming my new found ability to do things like…get up out of a chair.
Well, I’m pleased to tell you that this is EXACTLY what qualifies me to review this service, as Richard provides a unique service that is specifically aimed at being accessible to all bodies, “regardless of ability or disability.” While many people with disabilities are in physiotherapy or rehabilitative exercise programs, there are few options available to us once we leave these services. Many people with chronic health conditions also report having their physical limits disrespected by their therapist/trainer, even if they have been referred to them for treatment by a doctor. Because of this, many of us (myself included) would never even consider adaptive personal training as something that is “for us.”
Richard is on a mission to change this perception, here’s what he has to say about Brand Inc Fitness:
In a recent interview I was asked how I ‘got into’ adaptive fitness, but in reality, it’s the only approach to fitness I’ve ever known!
Qualifying as a Personal Trainer in 2000, my first placement was as a Resident Trainer at the Central YMCA in London’s Tottenham Court Road. The ‘Y’, as we called it, was more inclusive 20 years ago than most fitness facilities are today.
Keen to learn everything I could, I enrolled as a volunteer on the ‘Positive Health’ fitness programme, designed for those with HIV and AIDS. My volunteering allowed me to work with clients 1-2-1 in this space, and so my career as an Adaptive Personal Trainer began.
From the outset, my philosophy has been one of inclusivity, beginning with my very first clients from the Positive Health programme, to my extensive work with organisations such MenCap, British Blind Sport, SENSE, and London Sport. I have also been fortunate enough to have worked with a large number of individual clients with ADHD, Autism, Depression, Anxiety, Injuries, Amputations, Adult Learning Difficulties, and Visual and Hearing Impairments.
I believe whole heatedly that Fitness should be made accessible to every body, regardless of their unique level of ability or disability.
My 99p Fitness Online Personal Training Programme and live weekly classes are true to this core belief, and I have worked tirelessly to ensure that adaptations are provided to suit every fitness level.
No matter how challenging your individual circumstances may be, there is a place for you at BRAND INC. FITNESS with me!
Time to find out if Brand Inc Fitness lives up to this inspiring story!
(CLICK HERE to jump straight to a summary of my final thoughts.)
Disclaimer: I was given a 6 week free trial of Brand Inc Fitness’ 99p fitness course in exchange for this review. Richard was also generous enough to spend extra time with me outside of this, giving me specific advice on some of the fitness challenges that I am currently facing. While this does of course lead me to have a more favorable view of Richard and his programme overall, transparency and your safety is very important to me, and this review will provide an honest breakdown of all aspects of the programme to help you decide if it is right for you.
It is also important to note that I am not a medical professional and this is NOT medical advice. If you live with a disability or health condition, it is important to involve your doctor in your decision making about partaking in physical activities.
Is this adaptive personal training programme really for ALL bodies?
Before even agreeing to write this review, I asked Richard several questions about his knowledge and experience working with patients with different conditions, particularly Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, as these are conditions that can be negatively impacted by too much/the wrong type of exercise. Richard gave thoughtful responses and acknowledged that working with these conditions often involves a delicate balance, noting that “pushing through” worsening symptoms is NOT the answer. He said that in these cases it is even more important to adapt the programme to suit each individual and recommends that clients in this situation take advantage of his “121 service” (more on this later) so that he can have regular check-ins with them in between workouts, ensuring that they are both on the same page and moving in the right direction.
Richard also has all new clients fill out a comprehensive health survey and gets back to them with advice on how best to use his programme safely and effectively.
I was very impressed by this, and felt that it was a large GREEN FLAG. I much prefer therapeutic relationships that are rooted in teamwork like this, and I’m far too old and jaded to work with anyone who thinks they know my body better than I do!
First impressions of the website and programme structure
My first impressions of Richard’s website were extremely positive. The site was clear and easy to use, including appropriate choices of font and colour contrast for accessibility. It was easy to find all the information about the different services available, and most importantly, billing information was clearly displayed and it was easy to change your subscription at anytime.
My favourite thing about the site though, was the diversity of the models used, not only in terms of ability, but also ethnic background, age and body type. I was extremely heartened to later learn that these were all real clients of Richard!
Upon entering the member’s area, I was initially a little intimidated by the sheer amount of content available. There were video categories for warm-ups, cool-downs, stretching, mobility, core, cardio, and strength – all of which had beginner, intermediate and advanced options (or lying down/seated/standing options where appropriate), with new videos coming out in several categories every month.
There was also a suggested programming spreadsheet with the days of the week, suggestions on how to space out the different workouts for best results, spaces for the client to fill in which video/s they completed, and how they felt they fared with them. I was originally concerned to see only ONE rest day each week (I currently have 2-3 rest days each week and that is already challenging enough!), but upon further inspection, I found that some of the videos, particularly the core and mobility videos, were quite short and that there was more of a focus on finding SOME movement in each day, rather than completing daily workouts at maximum capacity.
Some other useful features of the website included how-to videos; which demonstrate how key exercises (such as push-ups and sit-ups) can be performed with correct technique at different fitness levels, as well as mindfulness videos, and suggestions on how to do more (accessible) movement outdoors.
Access to all of the content mentioned above is part of Brand Inc Fitness‘ 99p per month fitness programme.
You can also get access to weekly live fitness classes with Richard for just 9.99p per month. This can be either instead of, or in addition to the 99p fitness programme, and videos are also recorded for later use if you can’t make it to a live class.
Richard also offers a “121” service which ranges from 40-80p per session. This time can either be used for a one-on-one live training session or for a discussion about specific fitness questions or goals. The online sessions are a great alternative for those with limited mobility or energy levels.
After discussing with Richard how this could become very expensive for the people who need it most (many people with disabilities have extremely limited income), he has also added a 30 minute session for 25p.
My first workouts
After reviewing my health survey, Richard got back to me to and tickled my ego with a little validation, saying that he felt I was already knowledgable about how to safely exercise within my limits, but to watch out for my low blood pressure, specifically when changing positions or when pausing in between exercises. He advised me to keep gentle movement going in between exercises (such as knee raises) to keep the blood pumping up to my head. He told me that many clients with low blood pressure tended to be hit the hardest when they stood still after getting their heart rate up. While I have been aware of the phenomenon of blood pooling in the legs for a long time, this was not something that I had specifically thought about in regards to structuring my exercise, in fact, previous trainers had encouraged me to do static exercises like planks or held squats straight after cardio to “help re-condition my heart,” something which has gone about as well as you would expect…
I’ll be the first to admit that I have a tendency to skimp on warming up but I was determined to do this programme RIGHT, so I started with the seated mobility, warm up and pre-workout stretching videos. Being hypermobile, I’m not usually a big fan of stretching before workouts, but I wanted to experience everything that Richard’s programme had to offer. I found some of the stretching to be a bit too passive for me, but fortunately not aggravating. I also had some mild twinging in the hips from the leg lifting exercises (I was in rough shape after my flight home from Australia!), but all in all, I found it to be a good, comprehensive warm-up, and not too boring. It was perhaps a bit too easy for where I currently am in my recovery, but I think that always having a range of difficulty levels available is great for people with dynamic disabilities, because it means there will always be something to suit how they are feeling on any given day.
(A link to the seated mobility warm up video – this will be converted into an embed as soon as possible!)
The main thing on the menu for me on day 1 was the seated/beginner cardio. As someone who continues to really struggle with cardio because of fatigue and issues with low blood pressure and tachycardia, I thought that this was a great beginner workout, and was impressed that Richard was able to get my heart rate up moderately while still seated. In my opinion, it’s the type of workout that would be perfect for someone who is just starting to incorporate cardio back into their routine, or for someone who has more experience, but is having a troublesome day with their symptoms and needs to remain seated. The multitude of crunches at the end of the workout was a little challenging for me, and I resolved to go back and study Richard’s how-to video on crunches before I returned to it!
Cool-down is another area that I tend to cut corners (I like to keep the suffering going with some foam rollering instead!), but I noticed that cooling down properly did help my heart rate and blood pressure to be slightly less troublesome after my workout than they otherwise would be. I’m interested to see how cooling down properly impacts my post-workout recovery long-term.
The following day I completed the specialised calf stretching videos. They were more in-depth and appropriate for someone with hypermobility…and hooray! I finally got a stretch in my calves after getting coached into this position:
I also appreciated how Richard mentioned (both in this and other videos) about the importance of wearing shoes during exercise, for additional support and safety.
On day 3, I completed the beginner shoulder strengthening workout. I again thought that it was pitched at a good starting level for most people, although maybe a little fast paced for people who are new to strengthening/joint stabilising exercises. Hypermobile people in particular might want to use these videos in conjunction with one-on-one time with Richard (or another health-care professional) so that they can get additional support with posture and shoulder positioning. I bring this up because for me personally, shoulder position has had a huge impact on the efficacy of my efforts in the past, and has really helped me target my rotator cuffs and prevent my shoulder from dislocating.
The final workouts that I tried were the core workouts. Although they too are divided into beginner, intermediate and advanced sections, I wasn’t totally convinced that these categorisations were accurate. In the set of videos that I worked on, beginner was focused on back-lying exercises, the type of workout that we typically think of when we think about working our abs. This was actually the hardest of the videos for me, as I struggle with hip and neck pain when doing exercises in table-top position or when doing crunches.
The intermediate video was focused on front lying exercises. It was great to see these being included in the core category – because core is not all about the “abs!” and the advanced video was focused on various plank and side plank variations. While these videos did contain a variety of beneficial exercises, I would have liked to have seen more videos that contained a combination of different exercises for a more balanced workout, and easier variations on the back-lying exercises for abs-olute (haha) beginners.
One-on-one follow up
After my initial exploration of the website, Richard suggested we meet on zoom to discuss my specific fitness goals and concerns. This is similar to what he provides to clients as part of his diary service.
Richard is a warm, smiling man, who is clearly driven and passionate about what he does, but it was clear that that drive doesn’t override the kindness and sensitivity required to work with diverse clients. He seemed genuinely delighted when I told him that I was impressed with the site’s diversity and level of accessibility.
I tell him a little more about my backstory, about how 2 years ago I was bed bound after a huge Fibromyalgia flare up, and was eventually put into a hospital rehabilitation programme. I told him about how this was helpful for stabilising my hypermobile joints, but equally unhelpful, as they pushed me too hard too soon and sucked me into a push/crash cycle. I recounted how I eventually left the programme when I got tired of not being listened to, and started private Pilates lessons shortly afterwards, something which was a much better fit for me.
We went on to discuss how I was starting to incorporate small free weights into my exercise regime, and was also trying to do more cardio, but was struggling due to my low blood pressure and re-recurrent tendonitis.
Similar to our conversation on Instagram, Richard seemed to have a good grasp of the challenges of balancing training when one has both EDS and Fibro, and suggested I start incorporating some small changes into my daily routine, rather than just focusing on movement during “exercise time.” One of the examples included standing on one leg while brushing my teeth. He also offered to look at my form when static cycling at home and gave me some advice on how to use varying resistance levels to help reduce the strain on my knees.
He also suggested that I look into getting some resistance bands with handles to help with my wrist pain, and to give me a greater variety of ways to add resistance to my exercises. Richard explained that when choosing a resistance level it was best to see if I could complete 12-15 reps of my desired exercise without feeling like I couldn’t do one more rep if I absolutely HAD to. He said this was the best way to build muscle without straining my joints or burning myself out too much. He also explained a little more about the importance of leaving 24 hours between cardio sessions and 48 hours between strength training sessions for maximum results.
I brought up a few points of feedback at the end of our call about things I felt that the programme was missing, such as targeted stabilisation and proprioception exercises. Richard took this on board graciously and said that he hoped to keep expanding the website according to client needs, and would be happy to make those things a priority.
Challenging my fitness levels
I decided to continue to work through the available videos and see if I could use them to gradually boost my fitness levels.
As I have been doing shoulder strengthening in physiotherapy for sometime, I felt confident to go straight to the intermediate video. It turned out to be quite a significant step up, especially the push-ups and rows! While there were several different modifications available for the push-ups, I struggled to complete the sets of exercises in rapid succession. I would say that Richard’s training style in general takes elements from both the strength and security of Pilates, and the fun, fast-paced nature of circuit training. While I think this can be a great way for people of different abilities to boost their fitness levels, and I appreciated Richard’s focus on the joy of movement for movement’s sake, it may take some getting used to, especially for those of us who have always felt that we had to really concentrate and focus on small movements with perfect form (this is important sometimes too of course, they are just very different mindsets!).
Next I tried the intermediate cardio workout, alongside the standing warm up and cool down videos. The standing warm up was doable, but felt a lot more like actual cardio to me. The exercises were similar to what I used to do in the hydrotherapy pool in the hospital, but without the water to aid me in my quest for balance! That being said, I see no reason why someone in the earlier stages of their fitness/recovery journey couldn’t practice a lot of what’s in these videos in the pool if they wanted to!
The actual cardio was pitched at a good level for where I currently am: challenging but not too challenging. The cool down was similar to the warm up, but with a greater focus on increasing circulation and preventing blood from pooling in the legs – perfect!
Risking my life in the name of good journalism
Despite knowing that I wasn’t ready for them, I decided to attempt some of the advanced video classes in an effort to provide the most thorough review possible.
Before doing this, I went back to the how-to video section and reviewed the in-depth tutorials for push-ups and crunches. I feel that this section is one of the most invaluable of the website, and should perhaps be mandatory viewing for all fitness newbies! I was particularly impressed by all the different modifications provided in the crunches video. Richard also encourages the viewer to use any modification at anytime to suit their needs, and I think that this is really important.
I started my first advanced workout day with the standing mobility video, in which Richard likened an un-mobilised body to a stiff door hinge that hasn’t been used in a while – #personallyattacked
There was a lot of good imagery to help the viewer get the movements right, and there were a lot of good, gentle standing poses. I think that this video would be perfect for an ambulatory wheelchair user or a crutch user who wants to to practice their balance in a safe way.
Next, I was on to the advanced shoulder workout. This was very difficult and I could only complete one of the three sets of exercises. Despite it being an advanced workout, it was clear that Richard’s priority was still our safety. He kept the focus on form and not pushing one’s self to the point of not being able to do the exercises correctly. He also pointed out when there were certain exercises where we needed to be careful to not accidentally recruit other muscle groups, such as the back muscles.
The final workout that I tried was the advanced cardio. Although the rest breaks being reduced to only 15 seconds between exercises was a good challenge for me, I couldn’t sustain this pace and was once again only able to complete the first set. There was also a small amount of jumping which I skipped, and despite working on my form, I remained unconvinced about the inclusion of multiple rounds of fast-paced crunches as part of a cardio routine. For me personally, this doesn’t seem to be particularly effective at targeting my abs, nor my heart rate.
Something that the advanced videos drove home for me, was that I really appreciated how encouraging Richard was throughout all his workouts. He promotes using modifications as much as necessary, and says that it is perfectly ok if any given workout can’t be finished on the first attempt. He encourages viewers to focus on their personal fitness journey by coming back to these videos, and seeing if they can gradually increase how many reps/sets they can complete with practice. I feel that this approach goes a long way for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, who may have previously been made to feel bad for having limitations, or been accused of not trying hard enough if their rate of progress doesn’t match that of their peers.
I enjoyed trying the Brand Inc Fitness programme, and feel that it occupies a unique space in the fitness world. It caters to people with a broad range of chronic conditions and disabilities and is headed up by a man who is not only genuinely passionate about making fitness welcoming and accessible for everyone, but who also has the relevant experience to make this a reality. (So make sure you read to the end to get a discount code for Richard’s programme!)
The website is very accessible and intuitive, and the workouts are pitched at a variety of levels: accommodating the vast majority of fitness levels.
For me, the Brand Inc Fitness programme was the perfect way to bridge the gap between physiotherapy and “training” and find a more fun and fast paced way to enjoy a number of the types of exercises that I have already been advised to do for my EDS. However, I do feel that someone who is moderately to severely disabled by their hypermobility or completely new to strength training would be best to use this programme in combination with a traditional rehabilitative movement program (something that prioritises small, slow movements like pilates).
I also feel that the “core” section of the website needs to be further developed to include a greater variety of exercises (especially at the beginner level) and include some videos with a greater focus on slow movements and/or functional movements that will help people with disabilities in their everyday lives (think exercises like hip hinges).
The cardio section of the programme caters to an excellent variety of fitness levels, and I appreciated the inclusion of functional movements (such as getting up and down off the floor). I also appreciated Richard’s focus on safety both in these and other workouts, encouraging us to wear supportive shoes, maintain good form, and not hold static positions which may lead to autonomic problems in some clients.
The website provides a lot of information of warming up and down correctly, as well as mobilising the body, something which is extremely helpful for people with a variety of physical disabilities.
I feel that the overall cost of the programme is quite modest, especially given that the library of workouts is continuing to expand each month, however, I do acknowledge that clients with certain health conditions will need to use the 121 service regularly, which may be a large expense for them.
Thank you Richard for creating this programme and for seeking feedback from real disabled people such as myself!
Get 10% off!
If you think you’ll love Richard’s programme as much as I did, you can get 10% off with the code BIFITSEPT10 when you sign up before the end of September!
(I do not profit from you using this code in any way, I just want you to get a great deal!)
Like this review and want me to cover your product or service for the disability community? Contact me!
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