Personal Trainer Dilemma

I have a problem. I keep seeing people come in here who want to train, work hard with a goal in mind….and they are totally jacked up physically (that’s a technical term, of course). What I mean by that is that from years of working, they have developed compensations that are preventing them from moving effectively — and many of them have recurrent pain or injuries.

Many want to work their “core”. Unfortunately, what they think is the core is the rectus abdominus….that six-pack muscle that we want to see “ripple and rip”. While I have to admit that looks pretty darn good, it’s not the core. The core of the body is lumbo-pelvic-hip complex (LPHC) — lower back, pelvic, hips, butt. There are between 29 and 35 muscles that attach to the lumbar spine or pelvis. That’s a LOT! Since the LPHC is in the center of our bodies, it’s directly associated with both upper and lower extremities…so, dysfunction in the LPHC can directly *affect* lower and upper extremities and vice versa.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten a little technical, what does all that mean? Here’s an example: You chronically have low back pain. So you take anti-inflammatories, some pain killers, and lay on a heating pad. That may take it away for a while, but you haven’t really addressed the problem. You probably have weak gluteus maximus and minimus muscles (as most do) and have a pelvis that tilts so that you have a great curve in your lumbar spine. What do we do to help? We activate those glutes and build the muscles that help keep that pelvis tilted more to the rear, while also relaxing those that keep it pulled to the front. That’s a simplified, short version of what to do, but you get the idea.

Now back to the dilemma. How do I put together a class to meet the expectations of clients yet not continue to exacerbate existing problems?

  1. Put together a program which works on chronically weak muscle groups and systems in the general population
    • most people have certain muscles that are already overworked. Implement exercises that strengthen those that are generally weaker while also inhibit and stretch those that are over active in warm-up.
  2. Stress the *correct* way to perform an exercise
    • doing a great number of squats incorrectly just to get the numbers in doesn’t do a lot of good. Slow down, make sure the back is straight, butt is tucked, knees don’t go over toes, knees don’t turn in or out (they should be in line with the second toe), and push up through the heels. It will burn more….and is harder to do.
  3. Watch individual clients to check for compensations
    • pay attention to individuals in the class to see if and how they are compensating. If they are, understand why it’s happening and offer an alternative exercise, if necessary, until the imbalance can be corrected.
  4. Work at intervals for greater cardio training and fat burning
    • pairing exercises that alternate bursts of intense activity with intervals of lighter activity in the tabata protocol (20 sec work, 10 sec off, 4 sets each) will help improve cardio performance, burn more fat, and is less boring than a traditional workout. It also allows for you to work at your own level rather than that of others.

Now those are my own solutions, which writing this has helped me work through. Your trainer may have different goals, but remember, your class should help you, not hurt you. Pay attention to your own body and talk to your instructor if you are having pain in any part of your body (other than burn). You should be able to make changes when you need them to help you.

Get moving and have fun!!!

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