Please stop ruining fitness for clients and your peers.

April 1, 2016 — Leave a comment

If you are a personal or group trainer/coach/instructor and stress the importance of “perfect form”, you are a giant part of ruining fitness for general population and making things harder for the rest of us.

There is absolutely no such thing as perfect form that everyone should be able to perform. Because…we all have different shapes, sizes, strengths, injuries, histories, etc. We are all unique snowflakes.

Here are my rules regarding exercise

  1. It must be safe.
    1. This means minimizing risk. Because just as there is no perfect, there is no perfectly safe exercise either. There are however really clear higher risk positions which we can make sure to avoid.
  2. It should be working towards whatever goal we had in mind.

As an example, the deadlift. The goal is total body strength, more specifically the entire back side of the body. There are a lot of different deadlift variations (please see David Dellanave’s Off the Floor book) and each are fine. And within those variations there will be differences between clients, we just gotta make sure we aren’t allowing the body to get into positions that it is not ready for. Generally speaking in the deadlift that’d be a flexed spine, locked knees, coming off of the heels, letting the weight get out in front of you, or a pez-dispenser-bobble-head situation. It just so happens that if you avoid those common potential issues, you’ll likely be safer and you will have moved the exercise into “yes it is accomplishing the goal”. Now, the amount of knee bend, the grip taken, the exact head position, the foot width, the height the weight is lifted from: all this can vary and still have the exercise be safe, and accomplishing the goal.

This post isn’t about form and variations etc, as that stuff has been written about extensively by many many people. This is about how you as a trainer are screwing things up for other trainers and for clients by scaring the shit out of people to think that there is perfect form or inherently safe or inherently dangerous form in exercises. How is this screwing things up for people?

How it’s screwing it up for your clients

  • You make them scared to do anything “wrong”.
  • You make them convinced they don’t get anything out of doing it “less than perfectly”
  • You spend so much time correcting that you have them feel unsuccessful and frustrated
  • You spend so much time correcting that they end up not getting that much exercising done

How that’s screwing it up for other fitness pros

  • They now have to deal with scared clients, who overthink everything and fall prey to over analyzation and under doing
    • many fitspo memes just say to START. This is true, even if the rest of the memes are stupid.
  • Instead of just getting down to coaching exercise we have to spend a lot of our efforts convincing people that exercise is safe
    • being scared of exercise is a surefire way to make sure you get hurt btw
  • Instead of just getting down to coaching exercise we have to spend a lot of our efforts convincing people that what they are doing, even if it’s not perfect, is very valuable
    • worrying that if it isn’t perfect and therefore useless is an unfortunate and common reason excuse that people fall victim to
  • Instead of just focusing on the benefits of exercise as a whole, we have to spend time explaining why each and every exercise we do is a good idea. That is part curiosity of the client, which is a good thing, but also its because they don’t trust us.

And that last part is really tragic. There are a ton of fitness people and most of us truly want to help people to feel and live better, happier, healthier lives. But we teach clients to not trust fitness people. In order to try and set ourselves apart and be “better/smarter” than other fitness people we constantly bombard potential and actual clients with these types of messages

“top 10 reasons that crunches are bad for your back” “why running will kill you” “why not-running will kill you” “if you can’t squat you’re going to fucking DIE!”

What to do about this? I dunno. I am as guilty of this stuff as everyone else. I know there is a need to stand out from the crowd, a need to drive traffic so you can stay in business, a need to grab attention so people read your redundant-ass blog post, a need to show off exactly how smart you feel after another weekend workshop…etc

What would I ask you, as another trainer, to do? I’d ask you to follow some general rules ideas

  • coach people to understand that there is no such thing as inherently safe or dangerous
  • coach people to understand that they can do way more than they think they can, it just means they need to practice in order to get there
  • coach people to understand that no, they should not do things that hurt, but…with enough time doing things that don’t hurt they may be able to eventually get back to doing things that they can’t currently do.
    • coach them to know that if they can’t squat/deadlift/press/run right now that they can still be successful and have amazing progress and that they aren’t a pathetic loser for not being able to do it now
  • keep them safe and feeling successful. Success breeds success.
  • don’t scare your clients! Ditch the e in that word and that is what you are really doing. (that’d be scar)
  • don’t underestimate how scared and scarred people are when they come to you.
    • definitely Don’t contribute to those feelings.

sorta a brain dump spurred by this article by anthony renna.

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