Friday, March 20, 2009

Implements and Tools vs. Toys and Gadgets

So I was at the gym the other day, and there was another trainer there working one of his clients. He was a new client, only his second session with the trainer. I'm on the mat doing my foam rolling and mobility work, and I look up to see the client doing push-ups with his hands elevated on a bar inside the squat rack to make it easier. At the same time, he is wearing a 20 pound weight vest to make it harder.

I think to myself, "That's odd, but maybe he needs the added weight of the vest for his next movement." Nope. The next movement is bodyweight lunges, and the guy can't do a single one with a full range of motion. Now I'm puzzled. When they are done with the not push-ups and the partial lunges, they move on to front squats. The client does not have the range of motion in his wrists and shoulders to use an olympic fronts squat grip, so he is using a cross face grip. Now the weight vest is restricting his grip and causing the bar to slide down his chest with each rep.

To me, this is a classic example of a trainer not knowing the difference between a toy/gadget and a tool/implement. A weight vest is an outstanding tool when used properly. In this case however, it was hindering everything the client was trying to do. Having your clients wear a weight vest during a workout is a great way to boost metabolism and progress bodyweight movements. But if the client can't do the movement(s) without the vest, then the vest is just a toy that hinders their performance and their opportunity to make gains.

So now the question becomes, why would a trainer do such a thing. The only answer I can come up with is that the trainer wants other gym members to see his clients using his toys so that they will want in on the action. It's an advertisement. "If you work out with me, you'll get to do this fun stuff too." To the uneducated eye, it can look very appealing.

The same can be said of all of the other tools trainers have at their disposal: medicine balls, Bosu balls, swiss balls, suspension systems, kettlebells. The list goes on. These are all great tools when used with the right client for the right exercises and with the goal of increasing performance in mind. Too many trainers don't know how to properly use these tools, simply because they have not looked at the research, or have chosen not to educate themselves properly.

If you are a trainer who uses UST (if you need me to tell you what that stands for, you should probably turn in your certification, but for the non-trainers in the audience: Unstable Surface Training) with your clients, do them a favor and pick up a copy of Eric Cressey's Unstable Surface Training. Read it before your next session. Your clients will thank you.

Train smart; eat right!

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