Here we are, new site, new gig and our first post for First XV. Let's get at the real root of what sets apart a good professional from say the likes of Tony Gentilcore or Mike Robertson, and your average Joe Biceppeckhead. By no means am I raining on personal trainers at commercial gyms, for god's sake I was one for a long time. I did my damnedest to make sure I wasn't the average. The good "trainers" get a terrible rep because of the stereo types that exist out there. There are some that fit them too, but the ones that take pride in their job, get better every day, learn from the right people and actually CARE about their clients are the ones that need to be celebrated.
Despite being a big box trainer an easy way to make sure you are set apart from the average is to be a Coach. How this is different is you don't just stand there, count reps, pick their nose, look at their cell phone and check themselves out while looking in the mirror (although let's face it, there's days you just feel way too bad ass not to). Trainers just throw together a workout of exercises they saw 5 minutes ago on some dreaded site like beach body, some weight loss show they watched the night before, or a crossfit WOD they read on the internet from Antartica.
A coach, whether they're title at their place of business is coach, trainer, fitness counselor or whatever fuddy-duddy name a place comes up with, does better than that. First off a coach is going to at least do some sort of assessment including; healthy history and some sort of questionnaire, a movement screen, and then get some baseline of what exercises you can and can't handle. I think that should be bare minimum for first encounter with a health fitness professional. Key word in that is PROFESSIONAL.
The movement screen doesn't have to be this amazing breakthrough system you've come up with. Let's face it the good coaches know the right stuff to steal from others and use for their clientele. I'm not saying commit copyright infringement, I'm saying take a something like a FMS (Functional Movement Screen) from Gray Cook and company, and apply it to your own system. Candidly I do not use the FMS myself, but there are many elements of it I borrow because that's one reason people put stuff like that out there and I find it useful.
Next thing a good pro should be doing is making sure they are always learning. Ask someone you admire for some resource recommendations, see if you can borrow them/get them on the cheap and dive in. There's so many things out there to read, you basically have to try to not learn something every week or every day. Go to workshops and seminars, a great place to start is Perform Better's annual summits they do in the summer. They might be a pain for you to get to but they will be worth it! Seriously though just start digging for stuff, you will stumble upon something within hours if not minutes.
I do want to stifle the expectations of those that think book knowledge and watching video demonstrations (regardless of how good and accurate it is) is all you need. There will never be anything quite like real world, hands on experience. This where things like internships come through in a huge way! Yeah you're bottom of the totem pole for a bit, but assuming it's a quality place to learn, be it a school or private facility, it will pay dividends big time!
A person is paying you for your expertise, be an expert, or as close to one as you can be. They're also paying for you to be prepared with a program, NOT just a workout. Pretty much anyone can throw down a workout that get's you sweaty, which is all the untrained and average folks think a sessions should encompass. A program should be well thought out, at least somewhat for all sakes, and have some important elements incorporated that address goals and needs of the client. I always try to follow Dan John's rule of have the 5 basic human movements; push and pull for the upper body, hinge and squat for the lower body and carries (most neglected movement of the 5 probably). After that I incorporate some sort of activation, mobility, core and single leg work. Likely there is also some sort of "finisher" or conditioning to
Finally probably the most important thing a good coach and pro should do can be summed up in one word, CARE! Not just about the clients goals also and getting to know them, very important, also about their safety during the session. Technique should be very high on the priority list in a session, if it looks wrong, it probably is. Make the right corrections and adjustments in a session (this is where all that learning will come in handy). Is your client having a hard time getting into the right position for the exercise? Demonstrate it yourself and go through your cues as you do it. That doesn't get them there? Next step is to get hands on, keep the creep factor down please, but you should get comfortable manually helping them get it right. You can do it by physically moving them into the right position (without load) or a little tap on the muscle that you're trying to get them to engage.
OK I'm off the soap box now, but I only have written about these things today because guess what? I was there too, I probably did all of these things at some point in my evolution into the coach I am today. From college right up to the minute I write this. Mistakes happen, believe me, but learn from them and get better every day.
To review, coach and care in your sessions, don't just count reps. Have a plan set for your session and how to help your client continuously, don't just throw something together haphazard. Finally, you NEVER know enough, keep learning and evolving.
Hopefully this first post wasn't too much of a soap box session, rant or whatever term you wish to put to it. That's all for today guys, go out there and get after it!
Jarrod Dyke, CSCS