Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Keeping Your Eyes on the Client's Goals

Sometimes trainers get caught up in what we think is best for our clients.

The clients may have poor balance, or we may notice an imbalance in their backs. It is our job to design programs that correct these problems.

However, we should not be arrogant enough to place what we think the client needs above the client's goals.

There are different protocols for exercise programming depending on the trainer's certification, and trainers should not lose sight of that. I don't advocate ignoring our teachings, but instead, trainers should take take that book knowledge and meld that to the client's needs.

Here is an example: the client is sedentary and his only concern is weight loss. The trainers will recognize that the client needs core work and will try to prioritize core work for the first few weeks before moving on to the weight loss portion of the program. In all likelihood, this may not please the client, who will feel slighted and very well could get upset.

One solution would be to implement core based circuit training. Many exercises that center on the stability ball or Bosu ball are multi-muscle group, muti-planer exercises. While doing these exercises, the client's heart rate will, no doubt, be elevated. They will definitely perspire and no doubt will lose weight.

Crunches on a stability ball may not impress to your client that you are getting the job done — but one set of crunches mixed with bicep curls, chest press or a medicine ball toss followed by one set of stability ball squats will get the job done.

Clients also need to be clear and communicate with their trainers. Clearly state your goals, and discuss how the two of you can meet them together. Never assume the trainer can read your mind, or knows what you think your work areas should be. We may be all-knowing, but giving us a clue gets us to your goals quicker.

The same rules apply for those of us who train ourselves. Don't get hung up on the same old, same old. Keep in mind what you need to accomplish. Are you after fitness improvements or are you going for the sexy? Before you even step into the gym, plan ahead and figure out what you need to accomplish. Then ask yourself, "Am I getting the results I want?" This will help keep you on track.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Is the Kneebone Really Connected to the Foot Bone?

Here is a debate that has been plaguing man for centuries; Is it O.K. to have your knee go past your toes during squat and lunge type exercises?

The answer is (drum roll please) YES it is O.K.
I will give you a minute to catch your breath, before we continue.

You can have your knees extend past your toes as long as the knee is stable. If I have a young client with strong ankles and knees this is a safe maneuver. On the other hand, For one of my seniors whose balance is mediocre at best , this is not a good idea.

Another point to consider is the exercise itself. Squats with a lot of weight may not be suitable because the legs may wobble slightly under the load. Once the legs wobble, the stress on the knee increases to hold the position. (Here is another good example of being sure you can control the weight you are lifting)

Squats in the smith machine, however, are a bit safer to extend out with the knee because you partially lean on the bar, and your feet are farther out in front of you.

I had a friend of mine ask me recently how can ballroom dancers extend their knees so far out past their toes and not be injured. There are two answers:
  • their bodies have become accustomed to it after years of training
  • their knee is only extended past the toe for a second as they flow on to the next movement.
Now! I promise, no more posture related blogs for a while. I will get off my soap box.

If you have any questions about fitness, please feel free to leave a comment.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Form: An Important Part of Any Workout

Dave's number one rule of weightlifting: if something hurts other than what is being trained, stop and check your form.

Someone asked me today why their forearm hurt when doing preacher curls. Unfortunately for him I was with a client, so he did not really get my full attention. (That's another blog entirely.)

Had I been able to focus on this lifter, I would have watched him to make sure he did not leave his wrists flexed when doing preacher curls. Flexing makes the grip more strenuous, which in turn causes fatigue in the forearms. If your form is strong, use a narrower bar to lessen the strain of the grip. Conversely, if your forearms need work, go to a thicker bar or dumbbell.

Another question I get on preacher curls is about shoulder pain during the movement.
If this happens, check your shoulders. Do not lean over the preacher bench. Sit squarely in the seat and let your arms do the work.

Earlier in the day I happened to spot a person doing side bends with a 45-pound plate. As he tipped to the side, his torso also bent forward and engaged his abs (and possibly his lower back). He sacrificed good oblique isolation for bad form. There also was a possibility of low back strain.

That brings us to Dave's number two rule of lifting: never give up good form for more weight.

Another issue I saw was kind of interesting and new to me: a client said he was unable to do squats because of knee pain during the motion. When he demonstrated his technique (with very little weight on the bar), I watched his left knee float in and out of position during his squat. When he corrected his stance — which truly was off by less than an inch — he was able to squat a good amount of weight with no knee pain.

These are just a few examples of technique checks I make every day with clients and weightlifters on the floor.

Remember: when trying to do something good for yourself and your body, don't suffer an injury that could have been avoided simply by checking your form. Get what you can out of a training session — and don't miss any because of injury due to carelessness or misunderstanding.