In this article we’re going to look at the techniques used by trainers who really haven’t kept abreast of recent research and modern techniques. At best these practices are useless while at worst they can be downright dangerous. Let’s kick off…
1. Your trainer makes you do steady state cardio
Unless you are extremely overweight (morbidly obese) or are completely new to exercise steady state cardio like going for a 30 minute power walk / jog will not help you lose weight.
If you have only a few stone to lose or have been exercising for a while do not do steady state cardio.
Just go into any gym in the world and you will see most of the fat unfit people plodding along on the treadmill watching the TV of riding a bike whilst reading a magazine. If you can watch the TV or read whilst you are training you are wasting your time. Instead of steady state cardio do interval training, this is where you run hard or sprint for 30 to 60 seconds, then walk or jog for between 1 and 2 minutes. Repeat this process for 10-20 minutes. This type of exercise is a different kettle of fish to steady state cardio. Intervals are great for raising your metabolism and you will be burning calories for hours after.
2. Your trainer doesn’t make you lift weights
You need to lift weights! Yes even you girls need to do weight training; this will not turn you in to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Weight lifting builds muscle tissue and muscle is your friend. It makes you more sensitive to insulin (which is good) and gives you more metabolically active tissue that can burn fat 24/7. Go in to any gym in the world and you will see the lean and strong people in the weight training section.
3. You do the same programme week after week
You need to change your workout routine every 3-4 weeks. This works especially well if you are training 3-4 times a week. Your body is especially good at adapting to the demands imposed upon it and you will eventually get diminishing return on your investment. Your body needs a constant change in stimulus to get results.
As a rule of thumb, when you change your programmes every 3 weeks or so you should alternate between phases of trying to build muscle with phases of trying to build strength. For building muscle you would use higher reps and fewer sets, slower tempos and more exercises per body part. For strength you would use lower reps and more sets, faster tempos and fewer exercises per body part.
4. Your core work consists of crunches and BOSU balls
Doing crunches and training on unstable devices such as BOSU balls and Swiss balls are promoted to be the best way to train your core. Sure, you get muscle activity in your abs, back and pelvic floor, but training on unstable devices does not activate your “core” any greater than exercising on the floor.
What you need to realise is the results of these studies that show greater activation of core muscles whilst training on unstable devices demonstrate levels of muscle activity of less than 50% maximum contraction. The best exercises that create large activation in abdominal muscles are squats, dead lifts and chin ups! Of course if you add in some “core exercises” such as Swiss ball crunches and planks at the end of your workout for fun / variety – go for it, but make proper weight training the focus of your sessions.
5. Functional training is the centre of your workouts
Functional training is the buzz in the fitness industry, but this type of training is BS! Walk into many gyms and you would think the personal trainers are training acrobats and circus acts. People squatting whilst standing on Swiss Balls, jumping on and off BOSU balls, faffing around with the VIPr. As with core training if you want a bit of entertainment training at the end of a workout for fun go for it, but make body weight exercises, lifting weights and intervals type training the core of your workouts.
6. Your trainer shouts and screams at you as motivation
The military approach of being shouted and screamed at, or the no pain no gain attitude works for some, but for most people they need to be encouraged and motivated through a workout. Sometimes it’s better to listen to a client and if they are tired and need an easier session. We all get stressed and even the top athletes know how to modulate their training based on how they feel. However, having said that this should not be an excuse to have easy sessions each time you train!
7. You are told to eat carbs for energy
Carbohydrate loading is a concept that both athletes and the general pubic know of. This is largely due to the marketing of carbohydrate based products such as whole grains, sugary snack foods and sports drinks being the champion or elite sports performance, and in some part to information passed on via successful ex-elite athletes extolling the virtues of the dietary regimens that propelled them to the top of their sport. The concept of carb loading improving performance has been so successful that people think they need to carb load for all and any sports, be it before going to the gym, running a marathon or playing chess!
Carb loading is only really applicable for people exercising continuously at a moderate to high intensity, for 90 minutes or longer per training session. This immediately rules out gym goers and weekend warriors who play team sports. Most team sports or exercise classes rarely demand 90 minutes of continuous high intensity activity.
So there you have it. These seven points are a sure fire way to tell if your instructor is still in the Stone Age when it comes to exercise prescription. If they espouse any or, even worse!, all of these tips then run very fast in the opposite direction.