Sessions shouldn’t be designed with the intent of making clients drown in their own sweat or vomit, unable to move or desperate for a nap. Good trainers know that sessions don’t need to induce these things in order to be effective. Trainers worth working with do not write ‘workouts’, we write programs.
If your gym time consists of trying to ram every exercise you can think of for whatever body part you are training that day with what I assume is half-ass, sloppy form, then you are just ‘working out’…among other things, like asking for all sorts of injuries and imbalances and lookin’ like a damn fool.
A session consisting of sets of 4 or 5 exercises performed carefully, with good form is 110% more effective than a mishmash of leg presses, leg extensions (*cringe*), lunges, squats, calf raises, leg curls or whatever other shit people do in gyms ‘for the heck of it’ or just to really FEEL THE BURN, MAN.
Which do you think is going to make you more of a savage life-slaying badass..spending 20 minutes with your ass plopped on a hip abductor machine or spending 20 minutes perfecting your heavy ass to ground squats?
Training is a process and every process takes time. It’s very important for clients to understand this. And I’ve seen on WAY too many occasions than I’d like to, mostly in real life, of not only trainees misunderstanding this, but trainers as well. Progress takes planning, lots of thought and time.
Can I hop on the ‘certified does not mean qualified’ wagon here for a second? There are tons of “trainers” who become certified because they “like working out” or think they are experts because they go to the gym a few times a week, read bodybuilding.com forums and can make totally awesome protein shakes, bro, but don’t really understand how much science there is behind ‘working out’.
I’m going to be honest..my personal trainer certification class was only a month long and I’m pretty sure that my Grandma could have passed both certification tests with flying colors..so it’s no wonder there are so many less than par trainers out there. It also taught me nothing about programming.
Not saying that I’m an expert BY ANY MEANS. I have a very long way to go and tons more to learn. I just only passed my one year mark as a trainer and I’ve spent the past year balls deep in every bit of information I could soak into my brain. (It’s mind-blowing how much I’ve learned this past year and I can’t wait to see where this year takes me..).
I put so much effort into designing programs for clients and treating each client like they are my only client. So it kills me when I see other trainers not taking their jobs seriously and just throwing random workouts that they put together three minutes prior to their session to really ‘kill their clients’ and use ‘muscle confusion’ …and then use that same workout for five other clients throughout the day..or when I see other trainers doing initial consults involving showing their potential client how to use the leg extension and elliptical machines and high rep bicep curls..without doing any sort of assessments or explaining anything. Doing this is just setting the client up for disaster.
I wish I was making this shit up..but I, believe it or not, see it everyday, unfortunately. Making certain exercises more challenging just for shits and giggles or to keep clients entertained (ie bicep curls on a bosu ball..on one leg) from session to session is ridiculous. I am not hired to be a client’s entertainment or ‘hire-a-buddy’ or to train you to do ‘fancy’ exercises fit for a circus act. I’m hired to make you healthier and better at life.
If you want otherwise, go pop in a Jillian Michael’s dvd, grab a fat free yogurt and forget my name.
So, here is what I go through in order to create safe, effective programs for clients.
Every program should consist of mobility and flexibility work, strength training and some form of conditioning.
The volume and type of each depends on the client. In order to determine this, I run a series of assessments during my initial consult with them. The most important assessment I do is the ‘Overhead Squat Test’ using a pvc pipe. I also test shoulder, thoracic and hip mobility, upper body strength and cardiovascular performance. I take a ton of notes on each test.
I also ask them tons of questions. Then I go home, review my notes and get to writing.
The most important phrase I remember when designing programs is “train movements, not muscles.” A 200lb woman (or any woman for that matter) does NOT need to be doing tricep extensions or chest flyes. What she does need to be doing is basic, compound movements, on a regular basis.
My clients see me only 2x a week for an hour at a time, therefore I need to be completely on my A game when designing something effective for them.
- Every session starts with a warm-up..we work on mobility and dynamic stretching and finish with movements specific to the workout we’re doing that day. (This usually takes 10-15 minutes)
- Next is strength training. The biggest, most demanding movements are first. Think deadlifts or squats..in whatever form, be it with kettlebells, a bar, dumb bells or even just body weight, depending on the client.
- The rest of the movements include (depending on the day/workout) horizontal pushing and pulling, vertical pushing and pulling, an upper or lower body unilateral movement and some sort of core work (think pallof presses, all forms of planks, farmers/waiters carries, cable chops, etc.) None of these involve machines, except for the cable machine and I make sure their program hits each type of movement.
- The session may end with some kind of quick conditioning (>10mins), this could involve sprints, kettlebell swings, circuits.. (again depending on the day/client, obviously I would not have a severely overweight trainee performing burpees, etc)…
What exercises I choose and the number of sets/reps all depend on the result of the client’s assessment and their goals. This is just a BASIC overview of a session with a general client and obviously there’s a bit more that goes into it, but you get the idea.
So, if you decide to hire a trainer, make sure you do your research first. Ask them about their philosophies and background, make sure they have your best interests in mind, are passionate about what they do and plan on continuing their education. And don’t be afraid to ask them just as many questions as they ask you..
Here’s a great piece by Eric Cressey. “5 Coaching Tips for the Up and Coming Fitness Professional.