Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Best Question for your Trainer

"Why?" has to be - in my opinion - one of the best questions you can ask someone handing you training/diet advice.  Whether it is a friend, someone you met in the gym, a self-proclaimed "internet expert," a personal trainer, or strength coach.

One should always be able to justify (within reason) the advice her or she hands out like candy.

I love my job, but one of the most frustrating aspects of working in the industry I do is that I'm constantly having to fight ATROCIOUS advice handed out by other fitness "professionals."  For example:
  • "Wearing Sketchers Shape Ups will tone your glutes and thighs."  Really?  Why?  How about we put the doughnut down first, and then talk about why Shape Ups are way to go for shapely legs.  Everytime I see someone wearing these I want to throw myself into a shark tank. 
  • "Squatting on a BOSU ball is functional training."  WHY?  Are we training to prepare ourselves for playing a sport in the middle of an earthquake?  Are we trying to force someone into aberrant motor patterns and teach them fool-proof biomechanics for an ACL tear?  Not that I know of.  As Tony Gentilcore put it: squatting on BOSU balls is about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.  (Disclaimer: they DO have a use in the rehab setting for ankles and shoulders).
  •  "If a female lifts weights, she will become big and bulky."  Again, why??  Where did you get this information?  Are you thinking of professional female bodybuilders who juice up on steroids and bring their body fat down to absurd, unhealthy levels?  Or maybe women believe this because of unfortunate, sad, incidents such as Tracy Anderson telling women to never lift a weight over 3 pounds.  I think my soul just died inside. 
Candace Parker (WNBA All-Star).  Lifts weights?  Yes.  Big and bulky?  Not that I can see...

Along a similar note: I can't tell you how many times a parent approaches me and tells me that I need to run their kid through an agility ladder for 30 minutes and have the child perform endless "plyometrics" in order to make the child run faster or increase his/her vertical.

  1. I think this is a bit amusing because, well, why are you trying to tell me how to do my job?  Do I walk into an accountant's office and tell him/her how to file my taxes?
  2. Do you even know what "plyometric" really means?
  3. Where are you getting this information that agility ladders and plyometrics are the key to increased speed and agility and vertical jump height?
I often tell these parents/athletes to go back to the person that told them this information and ask them:


Without fail, they return to me saying the trainer had no real justification behind his/her advice.

At SAPT, we see consistent improvement's in our athlete's linear speed, change-of-direction time, and vertical jump, and we use little-to-no agility ladder or plyometric training.

For example, we're currently working with a teenager - Kaleigh - who is the current VA state record holder for various sprint distances (ex. 400m, 100m).  After training with us for the past 6 months or so, she has been blowing her her previous times out of the water.  Her father was just telling me the other day that - even during her practice sessions - all of her 30m split times have been significantly faster than 6 months ago.

We haven't run her through a single agility ladder, and plyometric training has comprised roughly 5% or less of her total training program at SAPT.

Is there a time and place for plyometric training?  Absolutely.  However, I don't think a lot of trainers truly understand how and when to use them, and instead just throw them in a program because either:

     A.  They look fancy
     B.  They're unsure of what to do so they just throw crap at the wall hoping something will stick.

Moral of the story: Don't be afraid to ask someone to justify his or her advice in the training/nutrition realm.  I think you may be surprised at the myriad fallacies shouted from almost every rooftop.


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