Cookie-Cutter Programs (mmmm, Cookies)

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I was flipping through the channels on my television over the weekend and happened to come across my favorite** show, Workout on Bravo. I wrote a brief review for the paper version of The Herald a few months ago, that I think twelve people read. To recap, I basically stated under normal circumstances, any show which depicts two chicks making out every episode should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but since the show basically makes me want to throw an ax into my groin, it kind of defeats the purpose.


**And by “favorite,” what I really mean is least favorite. ZING! I am so on point today.

Anyways, I was watching the show for all of about five minutes, when I thought to myself, “hey I don’t completely hate myself,” and went to Barnes and Nobles to hang out for a few hours. However, in the five minutes that I did watch the show, I noticed something that I see quite a bit in the fitness industry: trainers using cookie-cutter programs with their clients. Even worse, trainers having their clients perform exercises where they’re sitting the entire time.

It should be no secret that what works for one person may not work for the next. Unfortunately, a vast majority of trainers and coaches just don’t care or are too lazy to actually learn how to design their own training programs. Many will just regurgitate programs from fitness magazines or books they have read and apply them to every client they work with, regardless of training history, health history, or any consideration towards one’s weaknesses or postural/musculoskeletal imbalances that may exist.

The last point is what bugs me the most about many trainers– many have no clue when it comes to “corrective exercise” or how to apply it properly. I often see trainers take a client with a history of low back pain and put him/her on the leg press, thinking that it’s a safer alternative. When in fact, it’s probably the worst thing they could be doing with that particular individual.

Time could be better spent on any of the following:

1. Drills that teach the individual to dissociate their hips from their lumbar spine.

2. Drills that help improve thoracic and hip mobility.

3. Drills that help improve lumbar stability endurance, as well as help people re-establish basic motor learning skills (think planks, various rolling drills, etc). In the case of the latter (re-establishing basic motor skills), I highly recommend Gray Cook’s “Secrets of Primitive Patterns.” I’m just starting to include some of these drills with a few of my clients and have seen promising results.

4. Lots of single leg work, assuming they’re pain free.

5. Core stability exercises, such as the Pallof Press.

6. Additional glute activation drills. Two great articles to read are this one and this one.

7. Basic conditioning to help them shed some fat: sled pushes, med ball circuits, intervals on a low impact machine (elliptical, Arc trainer, etc).

I really like the Arc Trainer (pictured above) because it allows for a bit more hip flexion, which in turn will help people get a little more psoas recruitment. For those with chronic low back problems, this is huge.

Furthermore, if I were a trainer, why would I take someone who sits on the train to work, sits in front of a computer all day, and then sits on the train back home, and have them sit even more during their training session? It makes no sense! I had the pleasure of listening to Thomas Plummer speak a few weeks ago on why most trainers never make any money, and one of the biggest reasons was because (and I’m quoting him here), “single joint sitting on your a$$ training is dead. Clipboard cowboys/cowgirls are useless. GET YOUR CLIENTS UP AND GET THEM MOVING!!”

Here’s a video of a client of mine (Deb) who does in fact sit in front of a computer all day at work.

She did her overhead keg walks after performing some heavy cambered bar squats, a few sled pushes, and a medicine ball circuit. If I had her only do “stuff” where she was seated the entire time, she would probably stab me in the eye with a syringe full of rabies, and I would deserve it. Having her get up and move is a helluva lot more motivating (and fun) for her than just having her do some bland machine circuit where all I do is count her reps.

In the end, we as trainers need to get people moving, and we also need to write programs that are catered to them and their individual needs– not just some program printed off a website.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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