There is a sickness in this industry. A mindset of “harder is better”. Harder is not better. Harder is just harder. Better is better.
Last night I had the privilege of taking a class at the gym. It was pre programmed so all I had to do was run the clients through it. After a quick warm up we were into deadlifts and pull ups. After watching some sets I could see there were some obvious issues in deadlift set up and breathing, even intent. So what did we do? I spent 5-10 mins teaching how to breathe, set up at the bar, squeeze the bar off the floor (instead of “snatching” at it with soft elbows) and learning to keep the back tight. Afterwards I received some feedback, “It’s really good how you teach us how to do it”. Wait on.
Isn’t that the purpose of the job?!
Why then, are people surprised when a coach or trainer takes the time to show them how to lift correctly? Maybe it’s their first time in the gym, maybe the way I teach just “clicks” with them; or maybe they have always been rushed through the workout (I hesitate to call it training) trying to go as hard and fast as possible.
I believe it’s the latter. And I’m not talking about anywhere/one in particular, this attitude is widespread.
Any fool can make you work hard. Do 1000 burpees for time and get back to me! That workload will destroy anyone. You’ll be sore for a week and barely be able to get your miserable arse off the couch to make another coffee, let alone go to the gym again that week. And to what end? To prove your toughness? Every now and again as a test, sure. But as training? No.
That is of course an extreme example. But almost every crossfit class I’ve witnessed pushes intensity and quantity over quality. Don’t argue that point, you know it happens. To make things worse this is now what the majority of the public expect! If they are sore for days they think it’s a sign of progress. This makes it extremely hard for the trainer. They may (and most do) have the best intentions but they are stuck in the horrible place between trying to get meaningful results for a client and providing entertainment or what the client perceives as a good workout. For those clients out there, remember this: being sore is a sign of doing much higher volume than usual or doing something new, getting better without compromising your daily life (and hopefully learning something along the way) is a sign of progress.
Excessive intensity is part of the equation. But no matter what the intensity you still have to choose productive exercises.
So if you are a trainer, please, please, only teach exercises with which you are familiar. You need to know how to demo them, how to teach them, and how to break them down into parts that your average client can learn. I have witnessed horrible kettlebell swings. Horrible, make me embarrassed to associate myself with kettlebells, kettlebell swings. I’m talking front raises with 8kg bells, done at the speed you would expect someone to squat, instead of explosively like a swing should be performed. This has nothing to do with what the client expects, this is lack of research and knowledge on the trainer’s behalf. There is no excuse. Learn your craft, teach your craft, be your craft.
Clients: There are some fools out there but there are great trainers too. Search for them and learn from them. If they yell at you to “go faster” or “go harder” without teaching you first, stay away. But if they take the time to teach you, help you understand why they are having you do what you’re doing, and genuinely foster your development, then stick with them, support them, tell your friends, and embrace the journey to better, not just harder.
Trainers: Teach what you know. Have the wisdom to know your boundaries and when to refer on. Don’t blindly make your clients work harder and harder unless you have given them the skill base to work off. If you haven’t already, develop your own code of ethics. These should guide you in everything you do, be it in your personal life or in the gym. And above all, don’t compromise.