As trainers and coaches, I think we often get too carried away with our programming to the point where we’re more concerned with impressing our clients with bells and whistles than actually getting them healthier.
I was at a commercial gym not too long ago, and I watched – in horror – a trainer take his female client through a session that included alternating BOSU ball jumps (jumping from one BOSU to another), pretty much the worst kettlebell swings this side of a Jillian Michaels video, TRX stuff (that admittedly wasn’t that bad), and some kind of hybrid push-up/monkey humping a football thingamajig that I have no clue what to call it.
All told, I’d say that probably 90% of the program was far too advanced for that particular client. If she were my client, I would have regressed every single exercise.
And there’s no shame in that.
Not surprisingly, we’re so adamant on progressing clients – making them feel like they’re working hard, about to pass out in a pool of their own sweat – that we often fail to realize that regressing IS progressing.
To no fault of our own, we attend seminars, watch dvds, read books and manuals, spend hours on youtube, and it stands to reason that we want to try new things with our clients. Why wouldn’t we? But I think many (not all) trainers and coaches would be wise to take a step back, and recognize that not everyone can (or should) be performing kettlebell cleans and snatches on day one.
Obviously, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t make certain exercises harder or more challenging – that’s just crazy talk. What I am saying, however, is that we shouldn’t get into the mindset that we HAVE to make exercises harder or more challenging just for the hell of it.
Without question, we want to be cognizant of progressive overload and what have you, but if you have a client that looks like Quasimodo when he or she performs a conventional deadlift, it’s generally a sign that you need to take a step (or two) back. Not add more weight.
Regressing them to say, a trap bar deadlift, where they’re center of gravity shifts more to the center and they’re able to maintain proper thoracic extension would be much more beneficial to them than trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. It’s about setting them up for success, not beating them to a pulp.
Similarly, if someone has a bum shoulder and benching with a full ROM aggravates it, regressing him or her to a board press or maybe something like a loaded push-up variation would be the way to go.
Again, there’s no shame in REGRESSING clients. If anything, it shows you have their best interests in mind. As a matter fact, and using myself as an example, I’d be willing to bet that I end up tweaking 10% of the programs I write at some point or another. Things happen – but most often, I’ll miss the mark or just simply over-estimate someone’s capabilities, and as a result I’ll have to re-asses and make some changes to the program.
I mean, it could be something as simple as takng some weight off the bar.
I can’t tell you how many times I watch someone warm-up, only to turn around and then turn back again to see them with 300 lbs on their back looking like they’re going to break in half.
In the end, if something looks like crap, or worse, causes pain – it only makes sense to use common sense and regress. In a way: regression IS progression.