Have you ever been injured or developed some sort of a niggling pain from training. I always seem to be picking up new clients needing help after a training injury or to help with a problem that is preventing them from training. Before I can help I need to get to the source of the problem, which isn’t always easy but I’m starting to see a bit of a trend developing. Lots of these people are coming to me as victims of intensity.
Right across the board, the fitness industry seems to be completely obsessed with high intensity training, where the goal of every session seems to be to simply work out as hard as possible. Just look at the number of motivational slogans aimed at pushing you to your limit and whilst most of the industry is geared towards getting people to lose weight this message is only perpetuating the myth that higher intensity or harder work will burn more fat, when the reality is how hard you work has very little to do with the fat you’re likely burn.
When I think back to when I was a newbie trainer, the goal of each and every session was simply to work every client as hard as I could in every single session, to leave them exhausted and sore, making them sick was a bonus and it really makes me cringe, but it’s what I was trained to do. This seems to be what is expected of trainers and I was just fulfilling my role. Deep down I always knew there were better answers out there and this is what started my journey down the movement rabbit hole.
I was training a new client recently and she asked me how I ended up specialising in movement. The interesting thing is that I don’t really think I have specialised at all as it’s really just personal training but applying the research I’ve read to the client in front of me I only prescribe what I think are the best answers to help that client get towards their training goals. It’s just incredibly rare to find a client where high intensity training with no regard for the movements being performed is the best course of action. Yet this is the shit that our industry is continuing to push.
The most important thing for any trainer is to ensure their clients remain fit and healthy and one of the most common markers for getting injured is fatigue. You are much more likely to get injured from training when you’re fatigued and training hard in every session will lead to fatigue long before it leads to fitness. These injuries don’t need to happen during a session, a lot of the time people I see that have hurt their back don’t actually hurt themselves in a training but doing something like drying their toes that night after the shower (true story) but that doesn’t mean that the hard training you did earlier in the day didn’t contribute in some way to that injury. Imagine training someone to the point that their body is so beat up they can’t bend over and touch their toes.
Injury prevention is a pretty awkward topic as it’s pretty much impossible to prove if a program actually prevented an injury, so when I train a client to get through their first full football season injury free in years, or if I help someone though an ultra run or a marathon or whatever the goal was? It’s still hard to say whether it’s the effect of my training, who’s to say what would’ve happened because in reality it’s all just speculation, but as long as my client reaches their goal then I’m a happy coach.
Movement is the foundation of all training, it doesn’t matter what you’re training for but every time you train you’re definitely going to be moving and before you can even think about hitting the body with any kind of intensity then you’ll need a series of movements to perform to access the energy system. When looking at the client in front of me I have to ask the question, can they perform the movement properly before loading it.
I believe this is at the heart of where personal training goes wrong and why HIT training sets people up for failure and why I get quite a lot of business from people who get injured from training.
Personal trainers and Fitness Professionals aren’t properly prepared to teach people to move. I know this seems bizarre as one of the PT’s main functions is to teach people new movements and I get that all fit pros know a bunch of exercises and the vast majority of Fit Pros know how these exercises should be done correctly but the process of actually coaching a real life person to perform these exercises leaves a lot to be desired.
You may be wondering how I know what most personal trainers are doing but by going through the personal trainer education system myself and more recently from teaching and mentoring new personal trainers I can assure you that the process of developing movement skill is completely missed out in the training process to become a personal trainer. I’ve had spend a lot of time and thousands of pounds since qualifying searching for the answers I needed to really help my clients get the best results possible.
By glossing over the development of movement skill you neglect to properly prepare yourself to move under fatigue. Fatigue will absolutely change the way you move and if your development has been from the PT manual where you’ve been shown the exercise, you’ve demonstrated that you can do it fresh and then asked to rep till failure or with the goal of breaking down tissue then I can guarantee you’ll be doing a different exercise by the end of the session. That different exercise that you’re now performing may now be carrying new risks that you are unaware of and I put risk management as one of the most important skills needed to avoid injury and if you’re unaware of the risks, how can you manage them.
Changing this approach isn’t going to be easy as the entire fitness industry is based upon the idea that there are two types of training. Resistance and cardio training. When the reality is that during any exercise you do, your heart is always beating, you’re always breathing and even when you run you’re still resisting gravity. It’s just how much emphasis or load the program you’re trying to achieve puts on each aspect of the training. But as a human being trying to develop yourself physically I believe you should be looking to split your workout into two categories, skill development and performance enhancement. The fitness industry is already obsessed with the performance enhancement that you can get that anywhere. It’s the bit that comes first and arguably the most important bit they miss out on. The development of the skills you’re trying to improve the performance of.
This post has gone on long enough and to talk about skill development here would drive this post into book length but my next post will be based upon the intricacies of skill development and how to go about teaching others and yourself to actually move better.
If you have any questions or queries about anything I’ve covered in this article then please write a comment in the section below.
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