Pouring into Broken Glasses (1)
Back to School
An education in Exercise Sports Science is largely comprised of memorizing muscles, understanding movements, and practicing tests to apply to subjects in a lab setting. You learn the scientific theories behind testing as well as the protocols themselves, which test for specific values. Most of this information is straightforward, similar to the medical field: If the test results are outside of the normal, “something is wrong.” This information is a wonderful foundation for students to begin constructing their own theories and putting into practice what they have learned. Once you leave the school setting and start to navigate your way through the fitness industry, it can be very interesting to see where you settle in this business. These are a few things I have learned to accept in the fitness industry that may help coaches, trainers, and clients progress a little more smoothly.
What Do Clients Really Need?
Attempting to apply the black-and-white guidelines set in school into the private sector industry for strength and conditioning is a challenge when fancy lab equipment is not available. Clients don’t want VO2 Max values anyway. They want to get healthier through weight training. Programming for athletes is one thing, but what about a client who has never played sports in their entire life and can barely move properly? You revert to your education. You remember Kinesiology, how the body moves. You remember flexion and extension, and how every limb moves properly with individual muscle contractions. So we just place an external load on the client and start training, right? Nope. Back to square one.
Start with bodyweight squats. Squatting the load of one’s own body is drastically different than squatting with an external load (barbell). While one’s education in Exercise Sports Science is helpful in many ways, teaching these progressions takes a good eye and understanding of how the body needs to stabilize a load properly. Just like a good squat, this skill requires its own progression, perfected over countless repetitions. So what would a progression like this look like? It would start with the understanding of basic body position from the floor all the way up the chain of the body: feet, knees, hips, torso, chest, shoulders, and head. We have clients complete reps of the movement, focusing on keeping proper positioning and correcting when these positions become compromised. Understanding why a movement and position becomes compromised takes hours and hours of training, seeing hundreds and thousands of people doing the same movement. Repetition, repetition, repetition. This is how an aspiring strength coach and trainer develops his craft as a mechanic of movement to aid people in becoming better. As coaches we also rely on continuing education from mentors and other professionals in the industry that share our passion for making people better versions of themselves. This is the first phase of pouring into glasses. If the young coaches stand the test through the trenches, they will be glasses half full and ready to hold more information.
As we transition (just like progression in movement) from school to practical strength training, we will see how to maneuver through the basics of working with a client and breaking down some barriers of movement like we talked about earlier. We must then move forward to attack the barrier of knowledge and (mis)understanding from fads in the fitness industry that ultimately keep people further from their goals. This will basically be debunking toxic information previously poured into clients that erode their “glasses” and could potentially cause them to break. Knowledge in the fitness world is a powerful thing, but so are people who know just the right amount of “buzz words” to make themselves sound knowledgeable. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” as they say.