Monday, December 10, 2012

5 Reasons Why You Are Programming With Your Mind, and Not Your Heart

Sounds like a sappy title, eh? We have so much information nowadays when it comes to exercise programming that I am not sure many trainers, nor strength coaches---are absorbing it and fully understanding it.

I find that many trainers are designing exercise programs for their clients, the same way most testosterone-filled twenty-somethings simply reading through magazines and websites glancing at photos. What is particular about personal trainers is that they are designing programs based on what they have read in the certification textbook or seen on YouTube. This pigeon-hole type of programming, not only sets a client up for failure--but devalues the service of personal training. This approach to exercise programming: "if they do this, apply this...or if you find this apply that" builds no value to a trainer's growth or street cred.

I am guilty of this. When I purchased Michael Boyle's first book, "Functional Training for Sport" back in 2004. I read through that book faster than reading the lyrics to Detroit Rock City. I checked out every photo in the book and went to the gym to apply those exercises. On Monday morning...I tried every exercise from that book with my clients. My first Perform Better 1-Day Learn By Doing seminar that I attended was in 2001. That seminar was chock-full with great presenters and the newest fitness trends. That seminar was held near Boston, MA on a Saturday morning and by Monday morning,  I was back at work trying everything that I had learned with my clients.  No understanding, no rationale, no fundamentals. Just new ideas from fresh memorization. 

This same scenario is still played out in the industry.  After every seminar, every conference, after every new hot book or video--trainers gather "new ideas" and apply them to their unknowing clients. Here are 5 reasons why program design should come from your heart and not from what you read or view:

1.) Trying one modality on numerous clients gives you more feedback than trying multiple modalities on one client.
I am still a trial and error guy. I believe a trainer should make a mistake and should learn from different sources. Each client is a "source". Let's say you knew two farmers. One farmer has a huge multi-acre farm land...and farmer #2 has a smaller ranch but has many, many cows.

Farrner #1 has his trusty cow.
Farmer #1 has only one cow but has tried many different techniques to breed, feed, and keep the animal comfortable. It has helped him learn more about his cow, but is not sure how other cows would react. Farmer #2 has a hundred cows and has learned what modality of feeding, breeding and comforting work by applying certain ones to certain cows and trying other modalities on other cows. He has learned what causes certain reactions in some cows and not in others. Simply, he has more cows to try his methods on.

Farmer #2 finds what works and what doesn't.
Many trainers try new exercises learned on their clients--without performing them for self-physiological feedback. This feedback is critical more so  when a trainer has many clients and is able to observe what actions and response different bodies have towards certain training programs. Basically,  the more experience you develop,  the clearer the picture gets to finding what works and what doesn't. 

2.) Being stuck on assessments.
Assessments may come early in the client-trainer relationship. Why? Because most trainers want to begin a exercise program centered around what is "wrong" with the client and how to fix it. Generally, what is wrong is that the client has neglected his/her health and is now gotten to a predicament where they need help.  

Want to assess for ankle mobility? Sure go ahead--chances are it sucks.
Want to assess for protracted shoulders? Sure go ahead--chances are its there.
Want to assess for anterior pelvic tilt? Sure go ahead--is it obvious enough for ya?

The "dysfunction" that most clients have walking into your training facility is not the shortened hamstrings or hip's consistency with exercise. That is the bigger picture. And if you can focus on getting a client to become consistent through trust, quality rapport, testimonials  support and empathy--then you will get your consistency and all muscular deviations uncovered will resolve in due time. Because  it takes "due time" to help someone with any physiological changes: including fat loss, strength increases and flexibility improvement.

3.) Focus on improving quality of life instead of the quality of a burpee. 
With the popularity of Crossfit, Tough Mudder and Strongman---capable people are concerning their efforts with this "superhuman", "bust-out-of-my-former-self-mentality". Coaches and trainers are following suit. Most coaches and trainers are pushing people beyond their limits. Pushing them harder and harder in pursuit of uncovering long-lost inner strength. This is an example of ill-perceived consequence All's it takes is a "crack", "rip", "snap", or "jolt" to seriously injure muscle tissue and that client will forever be tarnished by the misconception that exercise has to be balls to the walls and not Calm, Cool, and Calculated. Think sniper here.

99% of ADVANCED exercises look cool. However,  they are advanced because only cool people should be performing them. Cool people have an understanding of exercise adaptation, higher-than-normal strength levels, and generally, have higher fitness levels. This is okay. You don't need to bring a fire-hose connected to the hydrant outside your home to put out your candle. Program with progression in mind.

4.) Cause an affect outside of training. 
We hear about building a rapport or community-like atmosphere when it comes to successful training facilities; which is 100% true--however, it is nothing new. Huge globo-gyms have been preaching the same thing for years:

"Learn members' names, greet them at the door, say goodbye, treat them with respect, and entice them to purchase a protein shake and drink at the juice bar." 

Basically, we have taken what commercial gyms use to be successful and applying it to smaller venues: personal training studios. However, I like to leave my mark (sorta say) in a different way. Results are my thing. I like to reach a destination in my clients that turns on a switch in them. I like to focus on the bigger picture. Exercise needs consistency to work. Many coaches and trainers focus too much time and effort on reaching certain benchmarks with training numbers (i.e. vertical leap inches, bench-press sub maxes, or squat totals) and not thinking about the intangibles that training can result in. Although, keeping track of numbers is excellent for feedback on progression and a vital tool for measuring the quality of the overall program--it is the intangibles that allow a program (and the client) to become successful.
Sleep deprivation affects many people that don't have the initiative--including energy--to exercise consistently.  If the "lowest common denominator" of exercise success is consistency--then as a trainer, I need to know if my client is getting adequate sleep. If the answer is No...I need to tailor my programming to help them lose fat efficiently and gradually, they will improve sleep. Look at it like this:


Instead of focusing on deep squatting depths or degrees of humeral rotation--try focusing on what has prevented your client to engage in exercise on a regular basis up until now? Put away the goniometer and use the heart. 

5.) Learn to care about others because they represent you. 
I've talked bout this in my book, Secret Skills of Personal Training. Whenever a client enters your training facility or desires to be trained by you in their home or elsewhere--the trainer must understand that the client now becomes a representative of your services. The only way that client will succeed is directly correlated with how much EFFORT the trainer puts into the training sessions, programming and relationship. To accomplish this, the trainer needs empathy. The trainer that admires himself in the mirror while training a client or checks his cell phone during a session does not coach.  Treat your client like he or she is a freshly spread canvas; and paint the picture your mother or grandmother would love to frame and put on her wall. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post John! These are good tips on how to design an effective program with your clients. I am glad you shared this to us. Good job John, keep it up!

    Rick Kaselj
    Exercises For Injuries


Thanks for checking out the blog and commenting!