I’m sure for many reading, you’d be hard pressed not to think back to your childhood and not remember a time where you’d spend hours on end with a vat of Play-Doh making various shapes and figures that, despite knowing better, you’d eventually either stuff up your nose or try to eat.
Okay, maybe that was just me. But suffice it to say, for many who reminisce about their childhood, Play-Doh was the shiznit back in the day.
Admittedly, it’s been YEARS since I’ve even touched a can of Play-Doh, but as I was coaching a new client through his deadlifts the other day, I couldn’t help but think that, in many ways, I play with Play-Doh everyday.
Hear me out for a second. I promise, things won’t get weird.
As a strength coach, a fair potion of my job is, well, coaching. As such, I’m not one of those coaches that just stands there, twiddling his thumbs, counting reps, and otherwise looking completely disinterested in his surroundings. Walk into most commercial gyms and observe the personal trainers, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
On the contrary, on an almost daily basis, when I’m on the gym floor, I’m constantly touching, adjusting, pushing, poking, pulling, and otherwise following a Play-Doh philosophy to coaching.
Using a real life example, just the other day I was working with a new client taking him through his first session of deadlifts. Now, just to give a little backstory: this guy is an ultra-runner; meaning, a “light” run to him is 20 miles. Kind of bad ass, right?
Not surprisingly, he walked into the facility a little beat up. And by a “little beat up,” I mean the guy was/is a walking ball of dysfunction. Literally, you name a joint, and he could name the time, date, and race he hurt it.
Nevertheless, he’d finally seen the light and recognized that (proper) strength training could, in all likelihood, keep him from breaking down even further. As we always say at CP: strength training CAN be corrective in nature.
So, we walked over to the trap bar station and I said, “Let me see how you would set yourself up to pick that up off the ground.”
He walked over, bent down, and well, lets just say it didn’t look pretty. In fact, I blacked out, it was that bad.
A few adjustments to the bar, however, along with several verbal cues, and we got it looking somewhat better. It wasn’t until I actually started placing my hands on him – adjusting his neck, pushing his t-spine into position, tapping his chest with my finger to keep it tall – that we got it to look like an actual deadlift.
Likewise, I did the same thing when we moved over to perform some standard planks. I literally stood over him and tapped his stomach to teach him to brace his core. I tapped is tush (yes, I just said tush) to get him to learn to squeeze his glutes so that he would’t drop into lumbar extension. Additionally, I adjusted his hips and neck to make sure that he stayed in proper position the entire time.
After the first set he noted: “Man, I never knew planks could be so hard!.” Well they are when you actually do them correctly!
And this, more often than not, is where I see many personal trainers (and coaches) miss the boat entirely. Whether it’s due to inexperience (acceptable), insecurity (acceptable, kinda), or just sheer laziness (absolutely un-acceptable), many are scared to put their hands on clients. Given we live in a very litigious society, I can’t say that I blame many for not wanting to be so “hands-on.” But lets be real: there’s a fine line between being a coach and Creepy McCreepypants about it.
Nevertheless, if there’s one thing I want you to take away from this post, it’s that you need to COACH!!!!!! Standing there only to count reps and not correct form is just downright lazy. Unfortunately many trainees lack the kinesthetic awareness to get themselves into proper position, and as such, you’re job is to help them do so by being a bit more hands-on.
Again, lets tone down the creep factor. Slapping the glutes of a new female client without first building some sense of rapport probably isn’t the best approach.
To that end, try to take a more Play-Doh approach to coaching and learn to mold your clients into deadlifting and planking freaks! Or, squatting and seated rowing freaks. I don’t care – it’s all good. The point is, be more proactive. Not only will you become a FAR better coach, but your athletes and clients will benefit as well.