I feel very fortunate to be a part of the fitness industry, and I am very grateful to those people who have helped to coach and mentor me over the years. Over the past decade, I have amassed a great deal of experience and knowledge in my field of expertise. Unfortunately, it seems that the more knowledge and skill you accrue in a particular area, the less tolerant you are of those who do not share your passion for excellence.
When I train myself, I usually hit one of the local Big Box Gyms in my area. A lot of my clients and colleagues ask me why I simply don’t train at my own facility. I chock it up to two very simple reasons: boredom and curiosity. I like to see what’s going on in the wider fitness world, so I go and spend a good deal of time watching and listening to the patrons and the trainers alike. Every time I do this, there is a 100 percent chance that I’ll come across something that’ll make me shake my head in disgust.
Granted, most of the stuff I see is more amusing than it is dangerous and doesn’t get much more than a chuckle out of me. Things like the guy who wears the “badass sunglasses” during his workout; or the thin, lanky teenager who walks around with the really bad case of ILS (Imaginary Lat Syndrome). But there are a few other things that I see on a regular basis that I find much more dangerous than they are amusing. Here are a couple of them:
King Of The Kick Boxers
I’ve been training in martial arts nearly my entire life. I feel confident in saying that I’m an expert in certain areas. I can say that training is no joke and if you don’t know what you are doing, you can get hurt… bad.
One of the gyms I frequent has a large number of heavy bags that patrons are free to work out on. Often times I’ll be in the room where the heavy bags are located doing several kick boxing rounds. More often than not it attracts attention. A couple of months ago, two guys who had been watching from the weight lifting floor came in and threw on some boxing gloves and started chasing each other around the room. As I watched them out of the corner of my eye, it was clear that neither one of them had any experience. One of them threw a punch. I heard a yelp and saw him drop like a bag of potatoes. His friend went and got the front desk worker who immediately called paramedics. Apparently he had dislocated his shoulder while throwing a punch. He got carried out on a stretcher.
I see stuff like this all the time and can’t help but feel it’s somewhat ego driven. I think that every young male out there likes to think that he is viewed as dangerous by other young men. This causes people to “display,” if you will, which is what I feel those two fellows were doing. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out too well for them.
People, if you want to feel confident about your ability to defend yourself, then take up martial arts training, but do so under a trained professional. If you don’t, you’re probably going to hurt yourself of someone else, and the spectators are far more likely to be entertained than concerned.
Recently, I’ve noticed that there seems to be a lot of advanced core exercises filtering into the general gym population. My guess is that they are either coming from a half-read article of Men’s Fitness or someone got the exercise from a friend of a friend of a friend who worked with a trainer. Sadly enough, someone apparently wasn’t paying enough attention.
I’m big on core… and I’m big on doing core exercises right. I work with several clients who have lumbar spine issues and performing core training wrong—by wrong, I mean rounding the back, over arching the back, bending to the side and twisting—can aggravate a pre-existing condition or create one. The core musculature is not meant to do these things. It’s meant to prevent it.
This in mind, I shake my head when I see someone performing these exercises and making these mistakes. I get aggravated when I see one gym rat teaching these exercises improperly to another. I get downright pissed when I see a trainer teaching them. I’m sorry, but if your back starts to hurt when you’re doing your core training, something’s wrong. If your client gets up off the stability ball and starts leaning on the personal training desk when trying to rub out their back with their other hand, it might be time to do a little more research and stop getting your material out of Muscle and Fiction.
Don’t Do Kettlebell Or Dumbbell Hip Swings If You Don’t Know What You Are Doing.
I love kettlebell training. I personally use kettlebells for strength, power, core training and cardiovascular conditioning. More often than not I’ll take a kettlebell with me when I head to the gym and despite how they’ve moved almost into the mainstream in the last 3-5 years, it amazes me how many stares I still get.
One thing about the gym is that if someone sees someone else doing something that “kewl,” you can bet there will be a few people trying it when you’re not looking. Now curls or pushups… hard to mess those up (probably shouldn’t have said that. It’s not that hard), but a kettlebell swing…? Get someone who knows what they’re doing to teach you how to do it properly before you end up in a wheelchair.
This one gym in particular that I go to has a few trainers that have been there for at least a couple of years now. I recognize them. I don’t talk to them and don’t know them by name, but I know them by sight and they know me by sight. After several months of performing a kettlebell circuit near the personal training area, one of the trainers who had apparently been watching me decided to have one of his clients try one of the exercises that he had observed: The Kettlebell Two-Handed Swing.
Now I’m all about new exercises as long as there is a valid reason for doing them and they are fully researched and practiced. Neither of which was the case. First of all this client had something going on. You can tell by the way that someone moves that something’s not working properly, be it a lower back issue, hip tightness or something else. Second, the client had a weak and sloppy core. Even basic multi-joint exercises were problematic for him. Third, the trainer had no idea what he was doing. He had this client swinging a 35-pound dumbbell between his legs while rounding his back, then lifting the weight with his shoulders while he was hyper extending his spine… all while under the watchful eye and pinpoint accurate coaching of the trainer.
I would make a few suggestions to this trainer.
1. Assess your clients to make sure they can tolerate certain exercises.
2. Get a handle on program design instead of just randomly choosing exercises to make your clients do on a particular day.
3. Do the research. If you are going to have your client perform a new exercise, you had better have studied the mechanic in question and have logged the flight time. That way you can teach the movement principles of the exercise in a safe of progressive manner..
And if that all sounds like too much work…
4. Get out of the business. You’re not cut out for it.
I don’t want to sound harsh, but the personal training industry probably has one of the widest ranges of skill and knowledge that I have seen in any profession. I’ve seen and talked with several trainers that are on par with some of the best physical therapists I’ve ever come across. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve met fitness professionals (and I use that term loosely) who couldn’t tell you which muscles are worked during a bicep curl.
As I mentioned before, I’ve met some of the brightest people in the industry, and I personally feel that I owe it to myself and my industry to aspire to reach that same level. It shouldn’t be just me, though. All trainers, in my opinion, should have that same focus. There are too many people out there is this line of work with limited education or practical experience, and it’s these people who have the greatest effect on public opinion regarding the fitness profession. This is the primary reason personal training is not taken seriously.