Thursday, September 12, 2013

I Use Mirrors in My Facility (And Don't Care if Your Guru Doesn't)

Many strength coaches shun the idea of hanging wall mirrors up in their facility. Many of the top strength & conditioning facilities don't install mirrors on their walls. Why? Search me....

I don't train athletes...I am like you...although you probably try to be like them. I train the general population--your mom, dad, neighbor, boss, aunt, doctor, etc, etc.  Most personal trainers train the general population. Very few train "athletes'. I mean, full-fledged athletes.

My assumption is most big, bad strength & conditioning facilities shun mirrors because it makes the place look a commercial gym atmosphere. And we know what that environment entails: no deadlifts, cardio bunnies, and dumbbells that end at 60 pounds. Wall mirrors make the place look inviting, friendly and open. Mounted wall mirrors also put the emphasis on aesthetics...which can be a double-edged sword for those that have self-image issues.

I mounted mirrors up for specific reasons. I like mirrors for the general population because I think it is an added tool to my coaching.

1.) Mirrors enable me to observe my clients in action from a "third person" point of view.
When you coach clients through technical lifts or even simple movements, it is important to get constant feedback. Observation of an exercise is the constant feedback a trainer needs to direct the program effectively. This feedback enhances the workout session because you are able to assess the amount of improvement and efficiency in your client's exercise execution.

Checking out a client's form in front of mirror together reinforces team-work. It visualizes coaching. It creates a commitment imagery. At that time, the mirror is a tool and is not a "weapon" of embarrassment. Also, I like to observe my clients as they are in front of me--but also at different angles. I am notorious for keeping an Eagle Eye on my clients as they are training. As they squat, I contort my body so that I can view their body in the mirror at different angles. By the last few reps, I position myself again behind them for assistance and spotting.

I don't like exercise form when it deteriorates and if being able to watch from different angles helps me help my clients--than I am all for it. Today, most coaches video tape exercises and assessments to view later or repeatedly. To me, that is mirroring without a pause and rewind option.

2.) Mirrors force clients to face their struggles.
At first, there is an awkwardness when a non-exerciser begins to strain and push in front of a mirror. They don't like it. It makes them uncomfortable. It may increase their anxiety and draw them away from exercise. But if coached effectively with compassion, fortitude and strength--that same client will begin to face their struggles and visualize their efforts through their progress. 

I truly believe that when people exercise HARD in front of a mirror and make every grunt and strain count, they build a sense of confidence. There has been many times over the years, that I have seen the facial expressions [made by clients] and you can see the level of confidence rise. This is an important facet in personal training. If the client's confidence does not improve over time, their time with you will surely end soon.

3.) Mirrors help teach body awareness.
Athletes understand body awareness. They understand certain movement facilitate certain actions of their sport that will help them excel. The general population does not understand body awareness very well. To a typical non-exerciser, body awareness equates to knowing which remote control buttons to press in the dark. Training with constant body awareness cues can change that. I prefer to point out, talk through, and interact with the client [in front of the mirror] during a certain exercise. On lighter sets,  this is the best time to focus on the deviations that may occur and cue the client to make the changes necessary to clean up the lift. After this is done, constantly reinforcing the same cues helps the client develop that awareness so that it carries over to everyday life. And that is what makes every personal trainer's job easier.


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