4 Things I hate about gyms and trainers right now……
Nobody likes a moaner but a rant every now and again is good for the soul, so today I am going to cleanse my soul with a rant about the crap I see going on in gyms right now.
As a lecturer to strength and conditioning coaches and personal trainers with Setanta College I am in the very privileged position of being able to facilitate discussions with my colleagues and students and we keep hearing and seeing pure horror shows and have started to make it our mission to spread the good word and clean up some of the nonsense we are seeing on such a regular basis.
So let’s start from the beginning
1) Warms Ups:
If you are sent on a 1km run as your warm up, run away and do not go back.
If your warm up just involves skipping, jumping jacks, running on the spot and a few other cardio type exercises or planks etc, you are dealing with chancers.
The main focus of a warm up should be:
1 – reduce the potential for injury,
2- prepare the body for the exercises that are coming,
3- Increase range of motion of the joints and muscles,
4- ‘Activate’ and ‘Fire up’ the muscles and systems in the body like the Central Nervous System and Neuromuscular system needed to stabilise for balance, for technique and good form leaving you primed and prepared to train hard.
There can be much more to this but just trying to paint a clearer picture as the warm up can set the tone.
2) One size fits all approach to so called personal training:
Just because you are paying for 1 to 1 Personal Training does not make it personal training unless your programme is based around your wants and needs.
What is your movement ability like, what is your injury history like, what is your training history like?
Is your Personal Trainer able to progress or regress the exercises in your programme to suit your needs or work around an injury?
Are you a beginner, intermediate or advanced when it comes to exercise? Is your programme tailored to suit? What corrective exercises have you been given and is any pain or niggles subsiding as a result or is your movement and ability to stabilise improving?
3) Olympic Lifting for the general public ie: Snatches and Cleans / Jerks:
The above 3 exercises are 3 of the exercises you would have seen performed during the recent Olympics and they are performed by serious athletes who are not only physical specimens in terms of ability to perform the exercises but they also have trained them exercises and trained for the purpose of improving those 3 exercises most of their lives as that is their chosen sport much like a hurler trains to improve at the sport of hurling.
The general public trains to look better, feel better, move better and perform better aiming to reduce body fat, get fitter and stronger along the way.
You do not need to do Olympic Weightlifting exercises to improve your strength or your bodyfat levels, while the vast majority of people have not got the physical movement to be able to perform the exercises, are therefore doing them wrong and will not reap the benefit of the exercise which is to improve power. This can be done through jumping and med ball throws for low reps.
4) Exercise Programming
This is the one that really make me sick to the stomach. In terms of gym workouts there are 3 main areas to work on: A) Power B) Strength & C) Cardio or Energy System Development.
A) Power exercises need to be done when fresh but ready so they should be performed as a block at the end of the warm up or alongside the first block of exercises in the session while you are still fresh. Power exercises include the 3 Olympic Lifts mentioned above (we don’t do them don’t worry), Box Jumps and Medicine ball throws or any ‘explosive’ exercise.
If you are asked to do more than 5 box jumps at a time or asked to do them towards the end of the work out get away from that gym as you will either get injured or suffer nervous system fatigue and get sick or both.
B) Strength Exercises involve performing exercises of 5 to 15 reps generally speaking. Strength exercises need to be the foundation to whatever the goal is, whether that is Fat Loss, Injury Prevention, Sports Performance or Muscle Development.
They can be performed with your own bodyweight, dumbbells, barbells, medicine balls, sandbags and resistance bands. The major exercises include knee dominant movements like squats and lunges, hip dominant like deadlifts, along with upper body push and pull exercises like Pull Ups, Rows, Press Ups, Bench pressing and Overhead pressing. They require adequate rest to recover between sets, this can involve moving from an upper body to a lower body exercise, stretching/corrective exercises or foam rolling or soft tissue work with a mobility balls or breathing drills to relax and help focus on the position of the back, pelvis and ribs so that you are aware of these performing the exercise.
So if you are asked to run between sets, do burpees between sets or do huge reps with no focus on form you are not dealing with a gym or trainer who has your welfare in mind and you are definitely not in a strength session.
C) Cardio or Energy System Development are exercises that help improve your ‘fitness’ levels. They can involve traditional running, rowing or cycling etc to improve aerobically or a host of the exercises mentioned so far from body weight to dumbbells and medicine balls to ropes and sleds. They can be performed for a given amount of time, a certain amount of reps and generally involve performing a higher number of reps while there is less rest between exercises and stets. In our Semi Private Personal training sessions we generally put these as ‘finishers’ at the end of sessions or for those who want extra cardio we have designated cardio or conditioning sessions.
One thing is for sure you should follow a programme as it is the best way to see improvements. You should notice a template or layout to the sessions and everything you are doing should be done based on good movement and good technique first before weight or intensity is added. I personally despise the train ‘til you puke philosophy but will hold my hand up and say we have made this mistake from time to time pushing people past what we thought they were ready for but we are always hugely apologetic and usually there is a reason like eating too close to the session while in 2 years I can still count on 1 hand the amount of times this has happened. Train Smart first and foremost.