personal training

Fitness Trainers Should Help, not Hurt

This morning I woke up, made my coffee and breakfast, and sat down to check my email, Facebook, and Twitter streams. My good friend Erin wrote to me to say that she tried to take a kettlebell class at her gym but couldn't make it through the warm up to picking up a bell. Then she told me the kicker, that the teacher prefaced the class by saying, "this class might kill you". Statements like that really piss me off. First off, a group fitness class should be assumed to be mixed level, which means giving a workout good enough for the advanced but approachable enough for the beginner. Second, a trainer's job is NOT to kill people, but to help them get stronger and more fit. Third, I am failing to understand why a kettlebell class wouldn't incorporate the bells into the warm up.

I teach mixed level classes every single day and manage to give kettlebell exercises to a group that may include pro athletes and grandparents who all get a good workout.

When to Fire Your Personal Trainer

Since I teach at a resort spa, I often train guests who have personal trainers at home. Some of them have been seeing the same trainer for years, and for the most part the trainers appear to be good from the quality of their clients form. But every once in a while I hear horror stories that make me advise, "Fire your trainer!" This is your body, your money, and your time.

Fire your trainer if:

when you say an exercise hurts you she tells you to stop whining
he comes to a session stoned, drunk, or hungover
he tries to sell you the best acne treatment
you're in neck or back pain that is getting worse instead of better
you have been injured in a session with that trainer

Poor Exercise Choices

The longer I work in fitness training the more I see people who have been really injured as a result of poor exercise choices. What makes it worse is that often these exercises were chosen by a paid personal trainer!

What do I mean when I say poor exercise choices?

First, there are some exercises that in general cause more harm than good. These include the seated leg press, the seated leg extension, the hamstring curl, the seated ab/adduction machine, the overhead shoulder press, and spinning. None of these mimics any good movement patterns for daily life and all can make existing injuries worse.

Second, instability does not always equal core strengthening! If you can barely stand on one leg for any period of time why get on a Bosu and try bicep curls on one leg? I can guarantee you will be no better for that exercise.

Third, flexibility is not always appropriate. Stretching your lower back all the time will in fact overstretch your lumbar support muscles and make you more prone to back injury. You want to use stretching judiciously.

Basically, the best exercises are the simplest. Squats, lunges, planking, side planking, bridging, and pushups are all great and you need no equipment.

"Core" Training


Vertebral column.Image via Wikipedia

Today I am going on a little rant about the number of personal trainers and pilates teachers who say they teach "core" training but have no real idea of what they are doing. I see so many guests at Parrot Cay who have hurt themselves in these privates and they all have a few things in common:

1. They assume their trainer, who gets paid for the service, actually knows what he or she is doing, so the client assumes that the pain is part of the process.

2. They are taught to tuck their pelvis under and flatten the lumbar spine in an attempt to stabilize and "protect" their backs.

3. They are placed on unstable surfaces like a Bosu before they are able to really stabilize in basic sitting, standing, and planking positions just on the floor.

The core muscles are the abs, back, butt, and thigh muscles. They work mostly to hold the torso and spine stable, and then also to help move the torso and spine. These muscles wrap around the body and cannot be trained in simply a front to back relationship. Flattening your lumbar spine actually weakens your core by taking away the normal curvature of your spine!

Any personal trainer or coach who causes people back, neck, and joint pain in the quest for core strength should not be teaching. Period. If you have a trainer who does this you need to find someone who knows what they are doing. Your time is money; plus you are paying someone to handle your body.

First learn to stabilize on the floor or mat (that's why Pilates starts supine and then progresses up to standing). Basic simple exercises that focus on maintaining torso stability as you move in different relationships to gravity and resistance (like we do in real life) are much more effective than contrived exercises on new gadgets.

There's no school like the old school! (Thank you, Brady for the quote.)