- November 20th, 2013
Some of you out there are interested in a career in the health and fitness industry. It is really a cool and humbling experience when you come to me for advice, or ask me for help, or want to shadow my classes or be an intern at the gym. That is all great and I am here to help each and every one of you as much as I can.
But I witnessed something the other day that really bothered me. I was inside a gym (one of the commercial varieties) and saw a young man working with a personal trainer. It was clearly his first or one of his very first training sessions he had ever had. I couldn’t help but hear this trainer pick apart everything this young man was doing wrong, trying to correct every bit of every movement he was doing. By the time he finished I was praying for this trainer to just say “great job today, way to work I am looking forward to taking more steps in the right direction”. Instead, he finished by telling the kid he still needed to work on his form.
I was so disgusted I actually made it a point to flag the kid down, tell him not to get discouraged, and to find a different coach. I didn’t even tell him I was a coach, I wasn’t trying to steal business; I was trying to save a kid from being discouraged to ever work out again.
Here is the down right truth: Every new client you ever train, or I ever train is going to have pretty bad form when they start out. Some will learn quickly some will be more of a process to get things right.
Here is a truth some coaches are too scared to say: It is ok for even intermediate lifters to not have perfect form. In fact it is ok for them to still be working on their form and still make progress with their weights.
Here is what new Trainers/coaches need to realize: In almost every situation you come across with someone you are working with, trying to change too many things at once isn’t going to get you anywhere. The best way to go about things is to fix one issue at a time.
Now I am not saying form is not important. It is actually probably the most important thing there is when it comes to training. Without proper form will not be able to make significant progress, you will put yourself at a very high risk of injury, and you won’t get a whole lot out of your training in general. You will make yourself really sore and your body will ache in places you didn’t’ even think possible, and if you do escape without getting hurt the gains you make are going to be minimal.
There is a huge difference between having perfect form and moving weight in a way that is going to get you hurt. The best way to fix issues with form is also pretty logical.
1. If the athlete or client is doing something that is going to cause injury fix it immedietely. Lower the weight, make them do it without weight, whatever you have to do. You can never let something like this go on.
2. Then you want to try and fix all the little things ONE THING AT A TIME.
If the person has minor flaws that is keeping them from progressing; these are the things to start fixing. It is ok for them to keep up with their training while they are fixing these issues. The human body is pretty intelligent and as you work to fix certain things the body is going to start catching on all by itself. It will probably learn the correct way to move the weight even before you brain fully catches up. It’s a phenomenon called experience.
No matter who you train or who you work with; they are going to be more motivated and work harder when they see results and notice themselves getting stronger/better. Furthermore, I promise you that they are more excited to hear about the things they are doing right far more than the things they are doing wrong.
I am not telling you to sugar coat everything and lie to them. Be honest, but be encouraging. Tell them what they need to fix, show them why certain things need extra attention. But don’t forget to commend their accomplishments, their hard work, and everything they are improving on.
I have shared this story before but it is a good one to show you that no one is above learning more or fixing their form. At a point in time when I was already ranked as the 6th strongest person in the country, I worked with a fellow expert (Dave Davis) for almost a full year every week on my deadlift. My issues were minor, but I still had them. I continued to get stronger while these things got fixed. Not one time did I get hurt while progressing and fixing things at the same time.
Don’t let people who only want to tell you what you are doing wrong get you down. Most of the time it is because you have just accomplished something they never have. Even more common is the advice is coming from someone who has no right to be giving advice on the subject in the first place. Don’t get discouraged that the things you do may not look pretty. Just focus on your progress no matter how slow it may be. remember slow progress is still progress. If you plan on being a strength coach in the future remember these things. Don’t be the trainer I mentioned in the beginning of this post. I know he meant well, and lifting with proper form does make progress, gains, and strength come easier and faster but you can’t fix everything in a day. Give it time, remember when you started you didn’t have perfect form either. You can correct the negative and be a postive influence at the same time.