Things That Bug Me About the Fitness Industry

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It’s the last day of vacation, and I’ll be heading back to Boston soon. All I have to say is this:  1) It’s amazing how fast time flies, because I feel like I just got here; and 2) ohhhhhh boy, do I ever have some commercial gym stories to share.

Nevertheless, I’m going to be soaking up as many rays as I can between now and departure time, so today I have another guest post from Pete McCall. 

Pete’s actually an old colleague of mine and was actually the Continuing Education Coordinator at the first club I worked at in Boston close to six years ago. He and I crossed email paths not too long, and after catching up, Pete expressed interest in writing a little sumthin sumthin for the site while I was away.


Tony and I met a few moons ago when we were both employed by the same New England-based health club company.  Recently I ran across his blog and have enjoyed his pontifications on all things Matt Damon and his occasional tidbit or two on training.

When Tony asked if I could help fill in while he was enjoying sunny Florida, my first response was that’s why I moved from MA to San Diego, because it’s sunny all of the time and every day off is like a vacation. My second was response was “hell yeah” because I’ll have the opportunity to do a little rant-blogging.

Let me be perfectly clear, I’ve been a personal trainer for a number of years; most of them CSCS-certified.  I currently work for a certification organization, I previously taught another organization’s certification, and I fully plan on opening my own conditioning studio within the next two years.

I love what I do because the general public needs professional fitness advice for the most effective way to use exercise for results from better health to a larger contract and signing bonus.  The fitness industry fills a vital role in providing exercise information and helping change people’s lives; however like a piece of food that gets stuck in your teeth and you can’t quite get it out there are a few things that bug me about this industry, so here goes:

1.  Why the flip are we so obsessed with six-pack abs?  I’ve never seen any evidence that the rectus abdominus (or any other muscle) sees itself in a mirror and thinks: “hey baby, you look gooood.”

Muscles do one of two things: they produce force or reduce force. That’s it.  A muscle simply has to convert from the lengthening phase to the shortening phase in the fastest time possible to produce the greatest amount of force.  The amount of time and energy the industry spends on training this one muscle should be redirected to better uses.

Want a strong core? Deadlift. Romanian deadlift. 2-handed cable press-outs. Barbell bent-over rows. Medicine ball chops and lifts. Those basic exercises will produce a rock-solid mid-section; everything else related to six-pack abs is controlled by the proper nutrition, rest and genetics.

2.  Why do manufacturers spend so much time and energy trying to reinvent the same equipment?  Have you ever been to a big trade show like IHRSA or Club Industry?  All of the equipment companies spend tons of time and effort every year to basically put lipstick on a pig and try to upsell health club and studio operators on newer equipment because it is now internet-ready.  WTF?

Training time is the one time when people should be completely disconnected from any sort of device other than an Ipod cranking out old Guns and Roses.  Want to increase strength? Lift something heavy.  Want to increase muscle size? Lift something heavy repeatedly.  Want to lose weight?  Lift something heavy a number of different ways with minimal rest periods.

We don’t need ellipticals that connect to the internet or machines that allow people to sit comfortably while they “exercise.”  Club operators would be better off spending their money on education for staff to teach members how to train for results rather than buying the newest version of a treadmill with a larger TV screen.

3.  Why do so many personal trainers let clients dictate the course of their programs?  Did you ever go to a doctor and say: “this is how I want you to treat my…?”  Did you ever go to an attorney and say: “this is the way we should handle the case?”

No.  Why not?

Because they are professionals who know what they’re doing and we pay them for their professional advice and knowledge.  I’ve heard comments from many trainers like: “my clients don’t like to do that,” or “my clients only like to use machines,” or “my client says that she doesn’t want to sweat.”

Fire. Those. Clients.

We are the professionals; people come to us for advice.  We should have the knowledge, skill, ability and confidence to provide the results clients want.  Insanity is defined as doing the same thing repeatedly yet expecting different results. Clients come to us because they want one thing: results.

Coach your clients on what is needed to achieve results. You’re the professional, they are the client – keep it that way.  If you do a needs-assessment on a client and recommend a specific course of action and the client doesn’t want to follow it then you are not responsible for his or her lack of results. Your time is better spent working with clients who will listen to you because they respect your knowledge and your interest in helping them move towards their goals.

Working in fitness is probably one of the best gigs out there.  Where else can you get paid to tell people what to do?  While I love this industry these are just a few things I’ve noticed over the years that, like that piece of salmon from dinner last night that got stuck in my teeth, are a little annoying.

The thing about the salmon is that I can get a piece of dental floss and the problem is solved. The problems with the fitness industry are a little more systemic and require some action from those of us on the front lines of the business to address by changing the way we do things so we can help move this industry forward.

Hopefully Tony enjoys his trip to the sun and fun of FL.  As he gets settled back in to the last month of New England winter I’ll try not to remind him that with it being sunny and in the 70s every day here in San Diego I actually lose track of what season or month it is.  Stay classy.

Pete McCall Bio:

As an Exercise Physiologist with the American Council on Exercise (ACE), Pete creates and delivers fitness education programs to uphold ACE’s mission of enriching quality of life through safe and effective exercise and physical activity.  He is one of the creators of the new ACE Integrated Fitness Training (IFT®) model of exercise program design.  Outside of his work responsibilities Pete serves on the content review committee for a fitness education website and coach’s youth (U16) rugby for the San Diego Mustangs.



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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.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.

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