Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ten Things A Personal Trainer Should Never Do

Rather than provide another list of qualities to look for in a personal trainer, here’s a list of things a trainer should never do during a session. Almost 20 years ago I was taught that there’s a right way and a wrong way to treat clients and I still abide by these guidelines today. I insist that the trainers who work in my facility do the same.

A personal trainer should never…

1) Ask a client, “Have you ever done this exercise before?”

This question reveals that the trainer is not familiar with a client and/or hasn’t kept proper records tracking their client’s sessions.

2) Ask a client, “How much weight do you use with this exercise?”

As in the above, asking this question also reveals a lack of attention to detail and a lack of professionalism by the trainer. If your trainer ever asks either or – god forbid – both of these questions it’s time to look for another trainer. Asking either of these questions is a Cardinal Sin.

3) Leave a client alone during a session and let them continue to exercise.

There are always emergency situations that could result in a trainer being called away during a session, and in these rare instances the client should never be left alone to exercise. But the reality is that trainers do leave clients alone while they are in the middle of a session and rarely because of an emergency. This is unacceptable trainer behavior.

4) Not keep a detailed record of every training session.

Keeping an accurate account of all workouts for each client is one of the trainer’s most important responsibilities and avoids them having to ask the two dreaded questions mentioned above. Furthermore, keeping detailed records allows a trainer to track a client’s progress and can help determine – or rule out - the cause of soreness or other post-workout discomfort.

5) Use mostly equipment during a training session.

Using machines in a session is a sign of laziness on the part of the trainer. Since training on equipment is inferior to working out with free weights you really aren’t getting what you paid for. Anybody can move from machine to machine and do 3 sets of 10 repetitions at each stop. You don’t need to pay someone to watch you workout.

6) Sit down during a session while the client is working out.

A trainer who sits down while a client exercises is a sign of laziness and disrespect. It’s one thing to sit down with your client during a rest period while carrying on a conversation, and I sometimes sit or kneel on the floor while coaching or correcting a client during certain lifts like the squat or lunge. But flat out sitting on a bench or other piece of equipment to rest while a client works is a no-no.

7) Talk to another person – or turn away from a client - while a client is exercising.

The client deserves undivided attention while performing an exercise and needs to be under the watchful eyes of their trainer. During rest periods there’s nothing wrong with speaking to another client or trainer, and frankly I’ve had clients who weren’t interested in talking while they rested. But during exercise, a trainer should always be watching their client.

8) Do the same exact workout with every client.

When you aren’t working with your trainer, watch their sessions with other people. If they are doing the same exercises in the same order with everyone then you aren’t getting the most out of your sessions and certainly aren’t getting what you paid for. People, no matter how similar they seem, require different programs. No two people are alike, and a trainer’s sessions should reflect this reality.

9) Answer their cell phone during a session.

This sounds ridiculous, but I’ve actually seen this happen and it’s the ultimate sign of disrespect and unprofessional behavior. There are rare exceptions to this rule, but not many. Obviously, if your trainer should be paying attention to you and not be talking to other people during your session, they certainly shouldn’t be talking on the cell phones. This is just a sign of the times. 15 years ago it was the beeper, and now it’s cell phones. If it’s time for your trainer to answer their cell during your session, it’s time for you to get a new trainer.

10) Eating during the session.

Another sign of disrespect and laziness, there’s no reason for a trainer to eat during a session in front of a client. I know from the days of having 8 people straight through that the schedule is no excuse for this behavior. The proper way for a trainer to handle this situation is to take 5 minutes before a session starts and explain to their client that they’ve had 4 or 5 straight sessions and that they need to grab an energy bar or a fruit. Even now if I’m booked solid and if I need to grab a fruit, I’ll do so when my client needs to get water or is on a 3-minute break.

This list focuses on “big picture” issues with regard to a trainer’s behavior and quite frankly, frequently trainers who act in any or all of these unprofessional manners haven’t received proper training. In many cases personal trainers are freelancers who answer only to themselves. However, whether a trainer works for a facility or is an independent contractor there is no excuse for them to not treat their clients in a professional manner.

If you run across any of these behaviors, perhaps you can suggest to your trainer that he/she not do whatever it is that is violation of my “rules” and see how they react. Give them the benefit of the doubt. They may apologize and agree that they shouldn’t have done whatever it was. But if they get annoyed or blow you off, you may want to consider looking for another trainer.

Remember, you’re the client. You paid to have someone work with you exclusively for a session. Don’t be afraid to make sure your personal trainer gives you what you’re paying for and for what they are obligated to provide.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Sledgehammer Training With Tabata Intervals

Whether you are a personal trainer looking for something new for clients or a person who trains alone, sledgehammer training is a viable alternative to traditional strength training methods, and a great fitness tip to include into your training program.

Sledgehammer training is a fantastic alternative to the sometime humdrum routine of traditional strength training. All you need to take advantage of this unique style of training is an 8 or 10-pound sledgehammer and either a tree stump, log or old tire. Of course all three together are also great. And safety glasses, you’ll want to get a pair as you don’t want any chips of wood shooting up into your eye. Personal trainers and people who workout on their own should take advantage of the strength benefits offered by sledgehammer training.

Training with a sledgehammer is strength training with a twist, allows you to take advantage of the great outdoors and will push your fitness level to a new and higher level. There is also very little cost associated with this kind of strength training. A good 8 or 10 pound sledgehammer will only set you back about 20-25 bucks and you should be able to score a log or tire for free if you ask around.

So what are Tabata Intervals? Tabata Intervals, or a Tabata Workout, consist of 20 seconds of high-intensity work followed by 10 seconds of rest, and this cycle is repeated 8 times for a total of 4 minutes. Without getting too deep into the science of this program, Dr. Izumi Tabata and his team of researchers provided proof that following this program for 6 weeks can dramatically increase a person’s anaerobic capacity and maximum oxygen consumption.

What was particularly startling about Dr. Tabata’s findings is that this training effect was observed in highly conditioned athletes rather than untrained members of the general population. Untrained people usually exhibit a positive, sometimes drastic, response to training over a short period of time because they have absolutely no training history and conditioning level. Tabata Intervals will push even the fittest of the fit even further into the Fit Zone. Wow, that’s bad; the Fit Zone…geez.

The great thing about Tabata Intervals is that you can use them with just about any exercise imaginable. Sprinting, the stationary bike, squat thrusts, jumping rope, squats, hang cleans, kettlebell swings, you name it and you can Tabata it .

Which brings us back to the sledge and Tabata Intervals.

The key thing to keep in mind is that you have to work all out during the 20-second intervals. And by “all-out” I mean as hard as you can, dare I say “balls-to-the-wall, pedal-to-the-metal.” Sorry girls…

To perform a Tabata workout you cannot just putter along at a relaxed pace for 20 ticks of the clock, you must work as hard as you can. To give you an idea as to the level of intensity that we’re talking about here, if you’ve been pounding away with the sledgehammer and are used to using it, you should be getting 15-18 swings in with the 8 or 10-pounder in a 20-second period.

To paraphrase Billy Shakespeare, let discretion be the better part of valor and caution be preferable to rash bravery. Just do one Tabata circuit the first time that you try this kind of workout and see how you feel during and after. Don’t get all gung-ho and overdo it the first time out. Slow and steady will win the race, especially if you’re working all out.

You can also mix and match in a Tabata-based workout. For instance you can do one, 4-minute Tabata Interval circuit with your trusty sledgehammer and then follow that up with a squat thrust circuit and finish it off with a kettlebell swing circuit. To do all of this you just need 20-minutes. And in this 20-minutes you will kick your own butt.

But for now, try the Tabata Interval program and go through just one circuit while making sure that you are working as hard as possible. Be patient and I guarantee that you will see results.