Disclaimer: I have not been working in this field long and am in no way, shape, or form claiming to know everything. I will never claim to know that as this branch of healthcare is a constantly changing field with new research always being completed and shared, and every professional should want to learn as much as they can about their field throughout their time in it. However, I have made a few observations.
I was listening to an NSCA podcast this morning as I worked on various chores about my house. One of the questions asked of the guest speaker was, if he was starting a new strength and conditioning program, what three things would he absolutely need or want? My mind, as I’m sure the minds of many others did as well, jumped to equipment. Not his. He said three good coaches. That’s it. He continued about how three solid coaches would be able to develop and run a solid program without needing a bunch of equipment. If they wanted something to lift, they’d go out and find rocks.
I have been working to make sure my new clients have good form with body-weight exercises before I let them touch the plates and bars so they don’t end up unable to stand up straight or raise their arm above their head in the future. They don’t just do a few air squats and call it a day; I’m still putting them through a solid work-out that has them huffing and puffing, sweating, and leaving red-faced. Once the warm-ups are done, if I’m ok with their form, we go to the weights; if I’m not ok with their form, I get out resistance bands.
Oh the complaints.
My favorite complaint to despise: we’ve always done it this way.
My usual response: yeah? how’s that working for you? Have you met or come closer to meeting your goals? Are you able to perform all these movements without pain?
I explain everything we do – what muscles the exercise is working, why we do warm-ups, why I choose to have them do 3 sets of 10 with 30 sec of rest between sets for one movement and 3 sets of 3 with a minute of rest between each set for another movement. I remind them of the goals they gave to me. If increased flexibility is a goal, then stretching/cool-down is going to be a little longer some days than others.
Some of the complaints have started to decrease; others are becoming more stubborn and looking for any little thing about which to moan even while being happy with the improvements they are now noticing with increased range of motion or being able to add another 10# to the bar after being stuck at the same weight for a month or so.
Going back to that podcast, if I’m unable to train my clients without extra equipment, without the bars and plates and rigs and machines, I would most definitely not be a resourceful trainer or coach. Without being resourceful, I would not ever be able to call myself a solid coach let alone expect anyone else to say that of me. The ultimate fail, in my opinion, is a trainer who knows the form of their clients is not proper, but lets them continue down that path that will eventually lead to an injury simply because it’s the way they’ve always done it.
Moral of the Story: It’s great to question your trainer as in, what is the purpose of this movement? Why are we doing different sets/reps for this exercise than for that one? It keeps us on our toes and gives us practice and the chance to explain something we love. But please don’t be that client who complains about everything even as you see yourself improving and coming that much closer to your goals. We have, or should have, your best interests in mind as we create a program for you. It’s our job to keep your injuries and medical history in mind as we create a program for you. We observe that wince of pain – not challenge – followed by slipping form as you go for that overhead press with increased weight. That tells us we need to modify your program a bit. Maybe an old shoulder injury is keeping you from moving your arm properly, and you would benefit from more ROM exercises for that shoulder before trying that weight again.
We’re trying to help you break bad habits developed over the years and help you create good habits in movements and patterns even while we work towards bettering ourselves as trainers.