9 Things Fitness Professionals Should Do

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Before I get to the meat of today’s post I wanted to remind everyone that this weekend (September 22nd) is the 2nd Annual Cressey Performance Fall Seminar and that spots are still available.  With talks from myself, Eric Cressey, Brian St. Pierre, Greg Robins, Mike Reinold, and Chris Howard it’s sure to be a full plate of top-notch information for personal trainers, strength coaches, chiros, physical therapists, fitness enthusiasts, and Star Wars geeks alike.

There’s no point in sugar coating anything:  my presentation will definitely include a few Star Wars references. It’s part of my charm.

In any case, for a full itinerary as well as sign-up information you can click THIS link.

I hope you see you there!

Last week on my Twitter feed I linked to an article written by CP coach Greg Robins titled 22 Things Fitness Professionals SHOULD Do,  and I liked it so much I decided to “steal” his idea and write my treatise on the subject.

Some things will mirror what Greg already stated, but I’m going to add a few of my own grains of wisdom into the mix too. To that end here are nine of them, because eight is lame and ten is what everyone else does.

1. Practice What You Preach:  Nothing grinds my gears more than someone who’s a hypocrite.  Well, anything related to Justin Bieber tops the list, but hypocrites are a close second.

I can honestly say that I’ve never programmed an exercise or protocol that I haven’t tried myself.  Likewise, as a strength coach I think it’s important that I actually, you know, lift weights.

Sadly I know of some fitness professionals – some of which have written national bestsellers – who don’t even follow the same advice they regurgitate.

And this relates to everything:  yoga, pilates, cleanse diets, Shake Weights, you name it.

Integrity is kind of a big deal in my book.  Success will come and go, but integrity is something that shouldn’t have a price tag.

2. Don’t Train Clients How YOU Want to Train:  Powerlifters like to lift heavy things.  Olympic lifters like to lift heavy things quickly. Bodybuilders like to have freakishly orange skin. Yogis like yoga.  And Prancercisers like to, well, I don’t know what the hell it is they like to do, I’m speechless:

The point is – and this is something I had to battle early on in my career – people like what they like, and it’s human nature to want to gravitate towards our own personal preferences and biases when helping out others.

Try really hard not to do this.

You should cater someone’s program to THEIR goals and and THEIR needs; not yours.  As weird as it may be, not everyone wants to deadlift a mack truck.

3. Be Professional:  Stealing right from Greg’s original post: Basically, show up on time, be prepared, act like an adult, make ethical decisions, and treat what you do like a career, not a hobby. If it is a hobby, go find a real job.

Also, on an aside, don’t be that guy who posts blatant shirtless pics of yourself all over the internet (especially your personal website). We get it: you have a six pack.  It’s still kind of douchey.

4. Educate: My degree is actually in Health Education, and I was thiiiis close to becoming a high-school health teacher.  I decided I’d rather spend my days in a gym rather than talking about cell-mediated immunity in a classroom (and have to wear a tie everyday).

Although when you think about it, in many ways, as trainers and coaches, we’re still doing a fair bit of teaching.  I’m constantly answering questions, sending articles to clients, and coaching them on how not to shit a spleen when they perform heavy back squats.

Stop being solely a rep counter and be more proactive with your clients!  Teach them!

5.  Know Your Limits:  I’m still dumbfounded whenever I hear stories of personal trainers diagnosing things like shoulder impingement, low back dysfunction, and everything in between.

The internet has made information readily available, but just because you read Wikipedia doesn’t mean you know what you’re talking about.  Trainers and coaches DO NOT diagnose ANYTHING.  And you sure as shit better not be treating anyone, which in this context pertains to manual therapy.

Corrective exercise is one thing, and I think it’s important for fitness professionals to be “comfortable” in that regard. But even then, it’s important to know (and understand) your limitations as well as scope of practice.

Which parlays into the next point……

6.  Establish Networks: I’m very lucky in that Cressey Performance has an extensive list of PTs, chiros, physicians, other trainers, and the like whom we can refer clients to if or when needed.

If someone is in pain, refer out.

For a better idea of how to go about doing that, read THIS post by Dean Somerset.

7. Have an Open Mind: It’s important to have the ability to adapt, and it’s also important to understand that there’s more than one way to do anything.

Sure, I have my own biases…….but I also like to think that I have an open mind and that I’m capable of trying new things. While it’s a right fit for some, I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of people who pigeonhole themselves into only using kettlebells or only using the TRX or only doing yoga.

They all have their benefits (and drawbacks), and I believe as fitness professionals we’d be remiss not to take advantage of everything at our fingertips.

I think it’s important to have a general philosophy which will serve as the main umbrella of your core beliefs, but just as important is having an open mind to other trains of thought.

8.  Be Comfortable With Saying “I Don’t Know:” You can’t know everything, and if you’d did you’d be Gandalf.

It’s okay not to know the answer to everything, and it’s okay to say “I don’t know” if a client asks you something.  At best you tell them you’ll look into it and hopefully have an answer soon (Hint hint: this is where having a network comes in handy), and at worst you end up causing harm to someone because your ego got in the way.

9. Don’t Treat Your Clients Like a Patient: I call this the “Delicate Flower” syndrome, and it’s something that pervades the industry, especially when working with clients coming off an injury (or who are de-conditioned)

Of course this isn’t to say that you should go all CrossFit and throw them under the bus; at the end of the day it’s your job to implement appropriate progressions.

But at the same time, even if you are dealing with someone with a unique injury history or who is a complete newbie, give them a training effect!

No one thinks working on glute activation for 30 minutes is fun.

Okay, I could easily keep going, but it’s time to train.  Do any of you have any insights on the matter or some sage advice to share?  I’d love to hear them in the comments section.

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Comments for This Entry

  • josh Landis

    Regarding number 5, what do you consider treatment vs just using corrective exercise strategies to address certain issues? A majority of the clients I work with are post rehabilitative, dealing with some sort of pain or musculoskeletal dysfunction, or at the very least muscular tightness or imbalances. I view it as my job to utilize different movements to fix these issues they have, and I have good success doing so. I never diagnose, and I always tell my clients to get a proper diagnosis if it's an issue that needs it. I guess my question is, where do we draw the line?

    September 16, 2013 at 10:16 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      I should have been a bit more clear. As personal trainers and coaches, I agree with you that we can use corrective exercise (and strength training for that matter) to help address dysfunction. I just think the water becomes VERY murky when trainers start incorporating manual therapy modalities and try to address pain. As far as where do we draw the line? Well, that's a good question! I feel pretty confident in my abilities and feel I can overstep my "bounds" to some degree - but I also have over ten years of experience and a litany of other people I can refer out to if needed. All in all - I think pain is the line. If a client is in pain, refer out. It's better to be safe than sorry.

      September 17, 2013 at 6:30 am | Reply to this comment

  • Cody Bartosh

    Great question Josh. Tony...? :) I've always used pain as the line. If it hurts we regress, train what we can then off to the doctor or P.T. If we can use corrective/activation drills to increase mobility and help the client feel better then great, but if it hurts and keeps hurting then I refer out. As coaches I think its safe to say that we help make good things better but we don't diagnose or treat pain.

    September 16, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Guillermo Muñoz Mireles

    I have the same question as Josh. Where do you draw the line? I have a client who was diagnosed with "IT band syndrome" by a medical doctor. She's went to rehab, therapy, a handful of doctors and in six months didn't see any progress and the pain was killing her. That's how she came to me and literally told me I was her last hope. We're seeing progress with just a couple of weeks of training on her hip stability (which sucked), foam rolling, etc. and the pain has been lower. In a sense I am treating her with exercise. What do you think of this cases Tony?

    September 16, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      And this is where experience comes into play. I also think we have to use some degree if discretion here. IT band syndrome is a fairly common dyfunction, non-life threatening, and the fact that we know exercise a heckuva lot more than most doctors puts the ball in our court. On the other hand, if someone comes to me with neck pain, I'm hands off all the way. I'm not touching that with a ten foot pole. We HAVE to know our limits.

      September 17, 2013 at 6:33 am | Reply to this comment

  • Barath

    Nothing to do with this post, but this video is pretty cool: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaKkeQvt748&feature=player_embedded

    September 16, 2013 at 3:05 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Brent

    Good stuff. I would add, focus on being positive for the most part and not putting people down (preschool taught me this!). There is no shortage of articles on the internet bashing any new fad or diet that pops up (cough cough paleo), or any new celebrity trainer that does something less than cool. I've noticed a lot of people I follow (and no longer follow) seem to have a desire to get into internetz fights more than anything. Yes, Tracy Anderson makes no sense, yes the paleo diet isn't perfect, but what exactly are we accomplishing by taking sides? If anything it screams out that person is looking for attention. Let crazy people be, is my mantra. Crazy people tend to stay crazy. You're not gonna change that :)

    September 16, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Shannan Maciejewski

    Tony, Very true mate. As coaches we need to act professional, and always dress, act, talk and relay our knowledge in a respectable way. There is to much fluff in this industry, and more coaches/trainers need to step up.

    September 16, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Donovan Gary Alan

    In my experience, training effect is key. There are days when I work with some of my clients and after heavy deadlift triples, sled pushes, eccentric pullups and GHDs; but not before activation and mobility drills. Then after 45 minutes of work, they turn to say to me "that's it??" I then have to explain myself as to why we're done working out. So, I have been adding metabolic conditioning workouts towards the end to make them happier, but more importantly do it in a way that they'll actually benefit from it rather than leave in a wheel chair not being careful of what they ask for.

    September 16, 2013 at 9:41 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      hahaha. I have to deal with this too Donovan. People are so engrained to think that they HAVE to be gassed after each training session, that I sometimes have to explain why we've cut the sessions short.

      September 17, 2013 at 6:35 am | Reply to this comment

  • Rob

    #4: Educate...I know it doesn't make the most business sense to have this philosophy (short term at least), but I always tell me clients that if I do my job correctly, they will be able to do everything on their own eventually. I think far too often trainers get into the habit of simply counting reps and encouraging one more rep only to do it on the client's next session, and session after that, and session after that, and so on. Eventually the client turns into a robot. I think that's a huge disservice to the client and the industry as a whole. I try to teach every client I have the "why" of everything.

    September 18, 2013 at 5:42 am | Reply to this comment

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