approximate reading time: 5 minutes

1374953898_3803When I go to the gym, I often see people just plain messing movements up. Sometimes it comes down to poor technique, but most times, their bodies just simply aren’t in good enough balance to ever bode well in the movement they’ve selected.

To fittingly follow my most recent blog on analysis paralysis, it would be in good taste to talk about the things that it does make sense to give your attention. My message is not to be misconceived – I don’t advocate a completely numbskulled approach to “shut up and lift” methods. That will get you injured in a heartbeat.  So what does deserve your attention?

Simply put – if you’ve got screamingly evident issues that you’ve chosen to neglect for the sake of a good lift, you’ve got to rethink your strategy.  The most common issue many people decidedly reject is the act of addressing poor posture.  Part of that reason may be because within the realms of ‘good posture’ lies a grey area.  People immediately think good posture means walking around with a gait like they trained for in 1940’s etiquette classes with 3 math textbooks balancing on one’s head.

To me, that’s just silly and unrealistic.

Good posture, in my eyes, comes down to being able to control what the back muscles are doing, at any given time. Strong, responsive upper back muscles will keep the shoulders pulled back moderately and keep the shoulder joint in check, while possessing the strength to effectively be stimulated during a back –dominant workout.  For a prime example, let’s turn to the best practicers of good “posture” in the athletic world – gymnasts. Just watch any gymnast take a seat on the bench after they’ve performed their routine – Or at any time for that matter. The characteristic slouch seems to come out of nowhere. Moreover, it seemed to not even be present during a routine of such precision, strength, and skill.  My point is this: postural issues are only issues when it indicates a deficiency in back strength. Having good back strength doesn’t mean you have to be sitting around like the Duke of Earle at all times. The more severe the poor posture is, the higher the likelihood you’ll need to address it.

Kyphotic slouches, rounded shoulders, cranial tilts.. These gymnasts need to work on their back strength.. right?

Kyphotic slouches, rounded shoulders, cranial tilts.. These gymnasts need to work on their back strength.. right?

Improving posture, as I mentioned above, is a product of making the back muscles stronger. I recommend giving special attention to the lower traps and rhomboids. This will help muscles that raise the ribcage and also the ones that act to pull the shoulders back respectively stronger (you can find several exercises to hit the upper back in my “articles” section).  The reason why this deserves your attention isn’t just for walking around and looking prettier when you do it. It’s because if you’re a serious trainee, it’ll have direct implications to your major lifts like the standing press, deadlift, bench press, and squat. Whether you’re training for strength, training for size, or just for conditioning, you’ll finally be able to stop overloading the same dominant muscle groups which would only perpetuate your already reigning muscle imbalances. Things don’t have to be blown out of proportion. If your posture always sucks, your back is probably weak. Do more pulling exercises and fix it. Enjoy the benefits.

CARRYOVER

With my clients, I try my best to keep things as black and white as what you just read above. Nothing fancy – a cause and effect method of training that still keeps its scientific roots.  It’s very telling as to who responds what way. I’ve been privileged to have great clients in my journey thus far, and thinking about the above makes me think of just what constitutes a “good client”?

To many trainers, looking skin deep, a good client would comprise of someone who is punctual, doesn’t miss appointments, and gives full effort for every session. I’d agree with those three characteristics. When, however, you factor things like trust, value, and control into the mix, it becomes a whole new ballgame.

Time and again I’ve noticed several examples of training clients who can’t seem to be able to draw the line between a service provider (that’s you, the trainer), and a straight up servant (which shouldn’t be in existence these days).  Before I go on, let’s take a step back and examine what the meaning is behind “buying personal training”, from my humble perspective.

A client signs up for and invests his or her money into a personal trainer’s assistance for coaching, program design, technique adjustments, good workouts, motivation, accountability, and overall expertise on the subject of fitness as related to that client’s particular goals.  Granted the trainer isn’t a cement head and knows a smidge of what he’s talking about, chances are there will still be a slight variance between his methodologies and those of other good trainers.  It now comes down to the client in many ways.  The “good client” listed above could create his own caveat if he simply isn’t prepared to invest his trust along with his money.  Surely, as a client, it’s a big step to get out of the mentality you’re used to having – to change the ways you’ve been training for ages, or make a mental shift in training philosophies if you’re already moderately educated on certain subjects. But that’s one of the reasons you’re about to pay a professional for his or her guidance, really. You, as the client, are demonstrating that you’re willing to try. That’s a big deal.

It says a lot of a client when they’re actually big enough to do this. As a trainer, personally I recognize that and realize the amount of respect it shows. Having control over any given circumstance is a hell of a thing, and paying someone to have the creative control to create a workout system based on his professional experience isn’t an easy task.  Alternatively, it’s very easy to be a client who essentially hires a trainer for the purposes of overseeing a workout, done the way that client wants it to be, complete with the exercises of his or her choice, under a program structure that addresses the preferences of that client, rather than the needs of that client (which the professional coach has been trained to find).  Think about the “posture” part of this blog article from earlier; the issues that usually result in training plateaus of any kind typically tend to be areas that the lifter views as less important than others (like strengthening the upper back), and therefore are given less attention.

Let’s face it. This industry is so unregulated, that any Joe Schmo can get a certification and be listed as a “personal trainer” these days.  It’s definitely not as much of a niche industry as it once was – and even back then, it wasn’t as much of a niche industry as it could have been.  With this in mind, my thoughts are that the public eye may have a slightly lowered level of appreciation or respect for what we do – especially the better ones of us in the industry.  Referring back to the “trainer versus servant” idea, the pervasive mentality among many has become one that ‘my trainer is to be held accountable for my lack of progress, even if I’m not taking the time to listen to him’.  It creates trust issues, mutual respect issues, and overall a poor dynamic between trainer and client.

I suppose I can conclude my arbitrary thoughts by sending a message to anyone considering personal training for the first time, or considering training with someone new as compared to previous coaches. Don’t be afraid to take the plunge!  Exploring new methods can be fun, though outside the norm at first. Always remember that someone who’s truly good at what they do will always have reaching your end results safely and effectively in first mind. Building a good relationship with a personal trainer does go both ways, and proactivity on either end is important. Trainers put their thought into what they do for their clients to see the results they’re looking for – but ultimately it’s up to the client to follow suit….

….Even if it’s as simple a fix as improving your posture.

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