Three Things We’re Getting Wrong

As most of you know, I am not an internet trainer. By that I mean I am someone who actually trains a full roster of clients so I don’t have much time to muse about random thoughts all day from the safe confines of my laptop keyboard. Not that I really have anything against internet trainers as I’ve learned a lot from reading articles and blogs online. I guess that I am just more of an ‘in the trenches’ type of guy.

So most of the training issues that grab my attention are either things I see my clients doing or things I see other trainers doing. Today, I am going to focus on the latter. Luckily, I get to train at the top facility in the City, so I am surrounded by the best of the best. But none of us are immune to getting sucked into the latest trend, movement or client demand. With that said, here are the three things I think we are currently getting wrong.

We’re too darn corrective

I think it’s great that quality of movement has become a very important issue. When I go into commercial gyms I am still horrified by how poorly people move, usually while using big weight. That is an injury waiting to happen. Of course, now the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Corrective movement has become the new ‘functional training’ — everyone thinks they need to do it, all the time. There are some trainers who won’t let their client do so much as a biceps curl if their eyelid isn’t in perfect symetry with their patella. Point is, we are not physical therapists, we are personal trainers. By all means, make sure your client is performing quality movements, prioritize activation drills when necessary and assess for assymetries. But also keep in mind that people come to us to look better, feel better and perform better. Spending 6 months with a string around someone’s ribcage teaching them how to breathe isn’t helping that client. It’s time to put down the rubber bands and actually get your client fitter. After all, that’s probably what they came to you for.

We’ve become sweat chasers

Whoever said, “for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction” must have worked in a gym. For every corrective specialist there is now a new breed of trainer that I call the ‘sweat chaser’. This guy doesn’t care about anything but jacking up his client’s heart rate as quickly as possible and keeping it there for the entire training session. Whether this person is getting stronger, fitter, leaner or better is besides the point – they walked out of the session feeling crushed so the workout had to be good. There are two major problems with this philosophy. First off, most people are stressed out of their mind on a day to day basis. To add this type of training stress to their already jacked up cortisol will lead to no progress at best and injury at worst. Secondly, these techniques ignore movement and strength improvements (which almost every client needs) because the client is simply too fatigued to pay attention to form or move much load. ‘Sweat Chasing’ looks great on a gym floor and has become the basis of entire training systems such as Crossfit and Barry’s Boot Camp, but honestly it doesn’t work. I see trainers who train every client this way and none of them make any progress. Metabolically demanding work can be great for a training phase (particularly at the end stages of a fat loss phase) but it can’t be the only quality you train.

We Give Them Too Much of What They Want

My mentor, Joe Dowdell, taught me a great lesson early on in my training career. He said “Give the client what they need, not what they want.” Clients are always going to come in with ideas of what they need from their training, and usually it’s related to the training experience they’ve had in the past or what they enjoy doing. There’s the client who’s sure he needs to go through a strength phase, yet gets winded after 5 reps of cable rows. There is the client who runs 6 times a week and is certain that touching anything over 3lbs is miraculously going to transform her into She-Hulk. The point is you should always listen to your clients when it comes to their training concerns and goals, but you cannot be too swayed by the means they determine will get them there. It’s your job as a trainer to figure out what your client needs and how to best serve that end. That is your expertise, not theirs.

I don’t mean to come across as bagging on trainers. I think the industry has come a long way since the days of machine biceps curls and quarter squats (though, believe me, those still exist too!). But, as a whole, I still think we can do better. Don’t get caught in any of the webs I mentioned above and you’ll earn my respect out on the training floor.