Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Interview with Nick Tumminello

In an industry filled with exercise physiologists, physical therapists, personal trainers, strength coaches, PE instructors, aerobics instructors, and educators, it is quite difficult who to follow to broaden your knowledge base. Let's face it, the fitness industry is a big "salad" of professionals that share the same belief that exercise is the most effective medicine for mankind. But when these different disciplines and professionals come together, who does a personal trainer listen to? I have been a big proponent for personal trainers learning from other personal trainers. Yes, physical therapists educate us and strength coaches chime in...but it is apples and oranges to me. A true personal trainer works with an exclusive group of people that do not make up the athletic population or the rehab population. We work with regular Joe-Schmoes. And I can think of only 3 fitness professionals out there that can actually satisfy our hunger for knowledge when training the general population. Nick Tumminello is one.

Recently, I was able to interview Nick for this blog and introduce him to you. If you haven't already heard of him, Nick Tumminello is a great fitness educator working out of Ft. Lauderdale, FL. he has been featured in countless magazine articles, written books, and seen everywhere on the web. You can check out his full bio here and absorb all the info that this man carries.

JI - Right off the bat, I find you to be a very influential fitness professional in a field that is mixed with personal trainers, strength coaches, physical therapists, and group exercise instructors. Reason being...you are a trainer that speaks training to trainers. I find this field is guilty of putting physical therapists in the spotlight excessively, when their audience is made up predominantly of trainers. To me, it is like getting a NASA Astronaut to speak to an audience filled with Hot-air balloon operators. Sure, there are small commonalities, but it is largely apples and oranges. This is my opinion. What are some of the mistakes trainers are making nowadays when entering the field? (feel free to disagree)

Nick – First off, many thanks for your kind words as I’m absolutely trying to bring “fitness training” back to the Fitness Professionals. So, I’m happy people can clearly see that.

I think it’s great the professions are integrating together and that we’re becoming more multidisciplinary. And, Yes! there is certainly a big emphasis on PT-ish education in the fitness world. But, just because something is becoming emphasized in the education doesn’t mean you have to emphasize your actual training in that same manner.

I’m personally attending 4 Physical Therapy based workshops this year, all held by my great friends at North East Seminars, who bring in the best Physical Therapists in the world.

Now, I don’t attend these workshops because I’m trying to be a mini-PT. Quite the opposite in fact! I attend these workshops to 1) go to the actual sources of corrective exercise information, which 2) repeatedly shows me how badly the fitness training world has abused, confused and misinterpreted “corrective exercise concepts.” And, 3) to better understand the current evidence on potential injury mechanisms and treatments, which helps me to 4) better understand how to optimize my training programs and 5) to have a clearer understanding of my scope of practice vs. the scope of a rehab professional.

So, I absolutely think we should learn from everyone. And, think the fitness-training world has lots to learn from the rehab world. But, the “learning” should help us better understand OUR OWN identity and help us to understand WHAT WE KNOW and to DO WHAT WE KNOW. Instead of confusing us and muddying the waters. But, that’s no fault of the great education that’s being offered to us. It comes from not having an identity. As the saying goes “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Unfortunately, I do see this lack of identity leading to 3 big mistakes I see fitness pros make:
Mistake #1 - Not understanding that PTs work with “broken” people, whereas we (the fitness pros) don’t. All too often I see trainers treating their fitness clients like rehab patients by giving them lots of slow, boring, PT-ish exercises that are designed to “get you back” to normal. They’re NOT designed, nor intended to be used if you're already normal (i.e. not broken). Now, we ALL have some minor aches and pains from sleeping wrong or from an old injury, etc. But, that doesn’t mean you’re “broken”, nor does that mean you should be treated as if you are. There’s a big difference between a “client” and a “patient”! 

Mistake #2 – Focusing on the stuff that you’re clients CAN’T do instead of what they CAN DO. It’s great to assess our clients to better understand what exercises we may want to use and not use. But, at Performance U, we are more concerned with what we CAN do with you in order to get you to start exercising because that’s what you came to us for in the first place. No one comes to a fitness trainer for rehab. They go to a clinic for that. So, the assessment just tells you what movements NOT to load and gives us more confidence on what we CAN load to help our clients achieve their goals (lose fat, build muscle, move faster, etc.). As Thomas Myer says “For every 1 thing that's going wrong in your body, there’s a thousand things going right.” We focus on what going right and capitalize off of that! 

Mistake #3 – Forgetting about the power of good old exercise. Many people have aches, pains and lack of body awareness because they simply don’t move enough. Many of their “issues” magically go away when you reinstate movement into their life through a well-balanced training program. And, inspiring them to build a love for movement and for their own body doesn’t hurt either!

That said, famous physical therapist Jim Porterfield (from Porterfield & DeRosa) said at one of his workshops “There’s nothing guaranteed in PT. But, a good exercise program can improve someone’s physical and mental state in 6-weeks.” It’s funny how even good PTs admit that corrective exercise is “iffy” at best. But, a good strength program is proven to work. And, here we are as the “exercise experts” and all we can seem t want to talk about is corrective stuff.

JI: Lets imagine the personal training industry is purchased by a large investment company and you've been named the CEO and president of the board...what are 3-5 changes you'd make to better the field?

Nick - Thanks for making me the new dictator of the training world. There’s way too much stuff floating around the industry that’s being taught to us as its fact, when it’s really based on pure opinion. I’d instate a policy that obligates everyone to state which parts of what they are teaching is actually proven in the research and what’s not. I’d fire anyone who feels they must use jargon or overly complex terminologies to “teach” their approach. If you can’t teach a beginner who’s not “already in your special training system”, I’d send you packing! I’d also fire anyone who didn’t design a program based on the goals of their clients. Now, in many cases, the client doesn’t follow through with the program or their diet. But, I’m not talking about that. What I’m talking about is if your client’s goal is to (let’s say) gain muscle and lose body fat, and I see that the training program you designed for them is geared around improving their inline lunge pattern and teaching them how to master a kettlebell snatch, you’re ass is soooo FIRED!


Now, those are great exercises and things to work toward, don’t get me wrong. But, they aren’t what your client is paying you to achieve. To many trainers make the program they design about THEM and what they want their client to do, not about what their client wants and what is best to use in order to achieve the client’s goals.

As trainers, we can certainty add value by sprinkling in what we feel the client needs. But, priority #1 needs to be achieving the goal of the client! Or, at least doing everything we can to help them achieve their goal as safely and as fast as possible. That’s what they’re paying us their hard earned money for, and it’s what they’re taking time away from they’re family and work in the hopes of achieving.

To me, if you’re not designing a program that emphasizes and prioritizes achieving your client’s goal, then you’re not doing your job. Therefore, you’re incompetent. Not only that, it also shows me that you’re so selfish and arrogant that you’re willing to take your client’s hard earned money and waste their time by giving them a program that’s based on impressing your colleagues (and yourself) over giving them what they’ve paid you for.

Even if your client achieves the goals YOU set out for them. If they don’t ALSO achieve the goals THEY themselves have, you still didn’t do your job! And, if you don’t do your job - I don’t care how many degrees or certs you have, or how many other trainers say you’re awesome – Your ass is still FIRED!

JI: Today, many trainers focus much of their efforts on correcting every muscular imbalance that they find in a new client. From "caving-in knees" to "externally rotated hips"; would you say there is a "splitting hairs" phenomena happening in the field--especially with new trainers?

Nick - I think its great trainers are using assessments with their clients and not just loading them up and sorting it out later. But, the confusion lye’s in WHY we’re you assessing. In that, at Performance U, we use assessments to find out what exercises we will (and won’t use) based on how someone moves. But, we DON’T use assessment to diagnose dysfunction because I’ve never met a fitness trainer who’s qualified enough to tell us the difference between “dysfunction” and simply a “variation of normal.” Heck, the jury is still out on that. So even most PTs will admit they don’t really know either… at least the one’s who aren’t ego maniacs will admit that That said, PT’s use assessments to find a treatment diagnosis for specific issue. And, they’re certainly more qualified to tell the difference between adaptive issues vs. a protective issue. And, what’s potentially dysfunctional and what’s just a variation of normal.

Training (and PT) are moving targets. Assessments help both types of professionals to better hone in on the target of each individual. As trainers, we use assessments to hone in on how we can help someone get into better shape without hurting them. And, how to improve their fitness & physique while working around what may be currently hurting them. Whereas as a PT uses an assessment to find out what’s hurting someone in the hopes of removing the provocative issue. That’s a BIG DIFFERNCE!

JI: We share a favorite fitness professional in JC Santana. I met JC in 2002 after a conference and interviewed him 2 years ago. When I look at both of you, I see that you both bring a passion AND understanding for working with the general population. What do you think the perquisite for every trainer entering this field should be? Also, can it be learned or simply inbred from whom we are?

Nick - JC is the man! He’s a mentor and a great friend to me! He and I actually first met when I was around 18 and have fond memories of training with him over the years at IHP. It’s funny how things come full circle as I’m now living full-time in south Florida and train clients out of IHP.


In regards to a prerequisite to being a trainer – You absolutely need to be a people person. I also believe you have to walk a fine line between being confident, but not cocky. In that, you have to display enough confidence that your clients believe in you because it’s obvious that YOU believe in yourself and what you’re teaching them. But, if you’re “cocky” people will see that you simply enjoy hearing yourself talk and get off on “leading” people.

A confident trainer understands that coaching is something you do WITH someone and you do it FOR someone. A cocky trainer thinks training is something you do TO some one. A good coach has the confidence that he or she can help people find the wisdom within themselves and within their own body to become successful. On the other hand, a cocky trainer takes personal credit for all the success their clients achieve and has convinced themselves that everything has stemmed from their wisdom.

JI: Professionalism takes on various forms to me. As a past manager, I was always angered by trainers that lacked a degree of professionalism. They either used profanity, dated clients, or habitually late to sessions. They never lasted long under my tenure; but what are some unprofessional things that perturb you?

Nick - I’ve personally been a multiple offender all the things you listed. I’ve also been guilty of double booking clients and standing up clients. Hey, I’m only human and when you train 8-10 sessions a day for 10 years, mistakes do happen.

That said, there’s a big difference between making a few mistakes and maturing as a professional, and chronically conducting yourself in an unprofessional manner. I really don’t allow anything anyone else does to “bother” me, so to speak. But, I do get concerned when fitness professionals seem to design programs that are geared toward achieving goals that the trainers feels the client SHOULD want, instead of designing a program based on what the client actually wants to achieve.

This is a customer service business. And, that kind of practice shows me you don’t care about delivering good customer service. Therefore, you don’t care about your customers (i.e. clients).

JI: It seems that bodybuilding got a bad rap in the early 2000s once "functional training" became popular. Now it seems that Crossfit is becoming mainstream and more and more trainers are looking towards bodybuilding-type training again. What is your take on this "cycle" of training and do you see it another way?

Nick -  I would liken this to what happens in relationships. We split up with someone because we focus on all their negative aspects. Then, after they’re gone, we begin to miss all they’re positives, which we seemed to take for granted when they were around.

That’s a very normal part of the learning and growing process. In that, sometimes we need to explore both ends of the spectrum to finally realize where the middle is. That’s why we’ve adopted a Hybrid approach to training, which allows us to see the strengths and embrace the weakness offered by multiple forms of training. Instead of using one tool for every job, we have a large tool –box, which gives us the versatility to use the right tools for any job.[END]


1 comment:

  1. Great blog post John. Thanks for sharing this insightful information, a must read to all fitness trainers.

    I always look forward to reading your blog.


    Rick Kaselj
    Exercises For Injuries

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