Mistakes Trainers and Coaches Make: Writing Workouts, and Not Programs

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My good friend Mike Robertson ran a fantastic series of the same name over on his blog not too long ago (click HERE to check out parts I, II, and III), and given that I liked the idea so much, I thought what better way to show my gratitude than to shamelessly steal his idea. Don’t worry, he won’t mind. I think.

While I have many pet peeves when it comes to trainers and coaches – unwillingness to include or to adapt to other training philosophies, not taking any initiative with continuing education, overwhelming sense of entitlement, looking disinterested while training a client, their name is Tracy Anderson, etc – one of my biggest is when they have no plan. That is, rather than writing programs, they write workouts.

This would be akin to walking into a mechanics garage, only to have him start taking apart the engine when all you asked for was a oil change. No real rhyme or reason for doing it. He’s just doing it because he feels like it. Likewise, and more to the point, it would be like me writing a bunch of random exercises on a dartboard, blindfolding myself, and then just haphazardly throwing darts at it. Whatever it lands on is what we’re going to do that day. It doesn’t make any sense.

I remember not too long ago, when I was still working in downtown Boston as a personal trainer, I overheard one of the other trainers ask his client, “so what do you want to do today?” My jaw just about dropped to the floor. I couldn’t believe he actually asked his client what they should do. Not surprisingly, he took his overweight client over to the cable machines, and they performed like eight different arm exercises in the span of an hour. Awesome.

I was with a female client at the time, and just to make this douchehole trainer look bad, I had her bang out some un-assisted chin-ups for reps right next to his client. It was priceless.

That said, lets cut through the bullshit here. If you’re accepting money from someone – money that they’ve worked hard for – and they hired you to get them into shape, the least you can do is write a program for them, and not just walk around the floor aimlessly – “oh, lets do this.” There’s nothing worse than a unprepared trainer.

Along those lines, it’s inevitable that you’ll have to roll with the punches and tweak things from time to time – one client feels like absolute garbage because her kid was up all night sick, another client tweaked his shoulder in Fight Club last night, the gym is crowded and the equipment you need is occupied, or, I don’t know, your 4 PM client has a hang nail and is adamant that he can’t squat today** – deal with it. Honestly, one of the traits of a great trainer is whether or not (s)he can assess the situation, tweak things on the fly, and still get their client a training effect within the context of their goals.

This can’t be done, however, if there’s no base or foundation to fall back on in the first place. Write programs, not workouts!!!

** in that case, call him out for being lame and make him squat anyways.

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  • myvagisstrongerthanyourballs

    **did you just make your female client show off like a trick pony, then insinuate that wimps have vaginas? <—might want to rethink that angle. being a girl is not an insult.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Ouch, yeah…you’re right. I wrote that a while ago so I went back and changed that.

      Thanks for bringing that up! Hopefully you weren’t too offended

      • myvagisstrongerthanyourballs

        You’re awesome! Thanks! 🙂

        • TonyGentilcore

          Well, I try. Thanks for understanding. If you haven’t already read more of stuff you’ll see that I write quite a bit on women and fitness and telling them to lift heavy things. I promise I’m not one of those guys who thinks women belong in the kitchen…..;O)

          • kpinri

            lol. i know! I’m always reading your posts on women & fitness – a couple of my fb friends are trainers & they are always posting links to your stuff. that’s why I was surprised by this… but it’s so pervasive, it’s almost hard to notice. anyway, thank you for changing it, and i promise, i’ll continue to follow your posts as long as you keep doing such awesome work. it really has been helpful for me as I get back into lifting. thank you!

          • TonyGentilcore

            Internet high-five!