Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Right Way, The Wrong Way, & The Best Way

I have spent at least 3 days a week of my life in a gym since 1993. That's 728 weeks or 12,015 days of my life--give or take a few due to sickness, vacation, or just plain laziness. Add some to the last 6 years because of employment. In all that time, I have always wondered what how some people learn how to "lift". Some may have learned from their coaches, fathers, ex-boyfriends, the aerobics instructor, a friend, exercise video, magazine articles, or from a trainer.

I know how I did: Joe Weider.

Yep...until about last summer, I had almost every issue of Muscle & Fitness dating back to 1989-1993 in MINT condition. But I tossed them all out one day last summer. It was an "all-day" event as I sat back with a glass of lemonade and looked through some old issues.

It's funny how research and exercise have evolved since those days. Its funny how "I" have evolved since those days. I can honestly say I lifted incorrectly the first 2-3 years of my life. Never knew it at the time...but I was lifting all wrong. I'm not blaming Joe Weider....he had nothing to do with it...hell, all Joe did was supply me with glossy magazine photo's of drugged up bodybuilders with razor-like striations, swollen biceps, and pulsating vascularity. Joe did a great job of pulling that carrot further away from me every time I got closer and closer to matching strength and size with these guys. But Joe and his editorial crew were smart and they knew how to make me "want" those results more and more.

As the years went by and I began to expand my knowledge and gain experience training others, I began to "see" the discrepancies in my own training and that of others. As I learned and researched the effect of muscular imbalances on human movement and uncovering them through assessments, I noticed a difference: I was getting stronger, more agile, and leaner in less time. As a trainer, I assessed my clients using protocols that I had learned and I discovered what were the most commonly imbalanced parts of the body were.

Muscle & Fitness never taught me that! Sure I learned how to perform a biceps curl, but I never thought the shoulder played a major role in stabilization during resisted elbow flexion?

Suddenly training clients became easier. the more I understood how a tight psoas muscle can great affect the tilt of the pelvis and curvature of the lumbar spine during movements, I started addressing these red flags. Can I fix them all? Nope. Did I think I can fix them all? Nope. But I did what I can and helped my clients understand also. As my clients began to see and feel changes, their confidence levels grew. They roamed the gym more confident and they began correcting the form of their spouses and friends. And I would hear, "My trainer taught me that". It was the best feeling to hear a client spit out my name when addressing scapular retraction during a row to a fellow gym goer.

I wasn't teaching anyone anything new. But I was teaching my clients how to assess themselves. My experience has proven to me that I am less afraid when I have an idea of what is behind the door. Well, that is what I do. I teach clients what is behind the door. So many people workout every day, every night walking through a door unaware of exercise form or efficiency. I began to show my clients the RIGHT way, the WRONG way, and the BEST way of doing certain movements:

So I came up with an easy way to assess my clients during their workouts. This simply methods has allowed me to cue and coach better; and has allowed them to train injury-free:

1.) RIGHT WAY - this is the way that is globally accepted by most. The exercise is copied to a "t" and the movement is sufficient. Most trainers will glance at the movement as a client performs it. if certain aspects of the movement "look" correct; then the exercise is given a thumbs up. Again, it is correct...but not optimal.

2.) WRONG WAY - this version of an exercise is completely off-base and is at risk of causing injury. The movements may resemble what the lifter wants it to look like (i.e. squat), but the form is horrendous. The form usually suffers because of poor instruction, poor supervision, excessive load, or the lifter is simply being a dumb ass.

3.) BEST WAY - this version corresponds with the right way; however there are a few specifics that are stressed upon to make this version optimal. This is really the responsibility of the coach or trainer to stress certain cues and make simple corrections that make the exercise better. By "better", I mean more "bang for your buck". This added value simply means optimizing certain joint angles, concentrating on breathing patterns, maintaining core activation, adding active recovery drills, movement preparation, and purposely firing certain muscles during compound movements. You can find out what I mean in my video "Moving More Muscles":

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