Clueless Gym Behavior: Ask the Personal Trainers

Who is THIS moron? Oh wait...

Welcome to our first installment of  "Ask the Personal Trainers!"  We have four personal trainers lined up to answer your questions, and they're a diverse, knowledgeable, and amusing bunch.

Plus, since I can't keep my mouth shut, I'll weigh in too! Sure, I have absolutely no qualifications whatsoever.  But when has that ever stopped my from offering advice before?

This time, since we have introductions to make, there's only one question and it's mine.  This is because it's my blog and I'm a greedy control freak I wanted to start off with a general question that could reflect each trainer's overall fitness philosophies.   

However, we gotten some great reader questions! I haven't forgotten them, and some of these have already been submitted for next time.  (These involve rotator cuff problems, core work and post-hysterectomy recovery, and unmotivated clients, so stay tuned!)

What's today's question?

What is the most clueless thing you see people do in a gym, and what should they be doing instead?

But first, let's meet our trainers!

Taylor Ryan, Fit Women's Weekly and Lifting Revolution 

Taylor Ryan is a NASM certified personal trainer, Venice certified nutrition consult, a vegan foodie and all around health junkie. She spreads her love of fitness at her personal blog, Lifting and at her online fitness community, Fit Womens Weekly.

Taylor lives in Charleston, SC with her husband and their two crazy fur-babies (Nike and Zoe) where she owns and trains a 7-location women’s boot camp. Fitness is her thing and she loves talking all things exercise and nutrition!

Over the course of her fitness career she has participated in dozens of 5Ks, several 10Ks, a strong women’s competition, figure competition, mud runs, and is now gearing up for her first 1/2 marathon later this month.

Dave Smith from Make Your Body Work:

Dave Smith is a personal trainer who's been at it for more than a decade. If there's one thing Dave is serious about when it comes to fitness it is...Exercise Efficiency! Dave teaches people how to maximize their fitness results using body weight exercises that can be done anywhere, anytime. After all, who has time for 2-hour sessions in the gym these days?

You can learn more about Dave's fitness philosophies and training methods at (maybe even try out a workout while you're there!)

Chris Kelly from Peak Fitness:

As the trainer of over 80 women per week, I am a motivator, friend and constant dispenser of burpees. With schedule so often the disconnect with fitness, I specialize in time efficient fitness solutions and strategies for breaking down the barriers to achieving a flat stomach and improving strength (without bulk) without the need to set foot in the gym. My motto for all clients is: Give me 15 minutes per day and I will show you your abs.

You can out find quick and efficient workout tips and strategies at Chris's blog, and more about Chris and his team over at Peak Fitness .

Alfonso Moretti, Angry Trainer Fitness

From the age of 18, I worked as and was certified as a personal trainer. I’ve worked in big gyms in NYC, private studios in suburbia, and in home training everywhere. I’ve been certified in many different specialties, but my own time in the gym, my time training clients, my PASSION for health and fitness, my own lifestyle, those are my credentials.

In my early 20′s, I got really serious about the importance of nutrition and began a hobby as an amateur bodybuilder, culminating nearly 10 years later with me winning first place in the light heavyweight category at a natural bodybuilding competition. I’ve also dabbled in entertainment – finishing third on Boot Camp, the Fox reality show from 2001, and recently filmed a Wipeout style pilot for NBC called It’s a Knockout. I’m a regular contributor to Men’s Fitness, write for Discovery Fit And Health and am a spokesman and contributor to FitStudio – the new online fitness venture from Sears.

On a personal level I have two young sons that look up to Dad and know what I’m trying to do and how I’m trying to fix the fitness industry.

You can find Alfonso at Angry Trainer Fitness.

And now, on to our question!

Q: What is the most clueless thing you see people do in a gym, and what should they be doing instead?

Taylor Ryan, Lifting Revolution

I see some pretty clueless stuff every time I go to the gym. I try not to roll my eyes or giggle but sometimes it’s tough. Okay, so I don’t giggle but I do try to spread the fitness knowledge so they don’t keep making the same fitness goofs over and over again.

This takes the cake: seeing people (especially women) focusing all their attention on the isolation machines. The machines like the bicep curl, tricep press and of course the thigh adductor.

While these will give your little muscles a “burn” they aren’t going to help transform your figure.

Machines are a waste of time (unless you’re rehabbing an injury). Because they run on a track, the range of motion is fixed and your muscles aren’t pushed to the max as if you were doing free weights.

There is also the issue of calorie burn. By working small muscles (like the bi’s, tri’s and thighs) you’re not going to get the calorie burn you would, say if you were doing big exercises like: lunges with a curl, squat to press, etc.

So get off the machines, pick up a dumbbell and start focusing on what is really going to yield results... moving.

Let’s face it, exercise isn’t suppose to be done sitting on your butt, so why should you move from chair to chair for the machines? Food for thought.

Although this kind of sitting... perfectly ok!

Dave Smith:
You've likely seen them (or maybe you're even one of them!)...They take a seat on some piece of exercise equipment and sit there. Then they do a a few reps. Then they sit there some more. Then they get a drink. And then they talk to their neighbor who is also sitting there. Then they look in the mirror for a while. And then they get another drink (you do have to stay hydrated at the gym you know!) Soon 10 minutes has gone by and very little distance has been covered.

Yes, exercise can be daunting but "hanging out" at the gym is a waste of time and the people who do it are like cars driving below the speed limit in the fast lane...they're just taking up space without really getting anywhere!

To avoid being "one of those people" I recommend you invest in the best workout buddy money can buy...a stop watch. Now try this workout protocol:

  • Start your watch as soon as you begin your workout
  • Do your exercise and then check out your time, say 20 seconds has gone by
  • Give your self exactly 1 minute before you begin your next exercise
  • So, at 1:20 you will do another set and then check your watch again
  • Allow another minute of rest
  • Repeat
Before you know it you'll have completed an awesome workout (that included somewhere between 15-20 sets), you'll feel great (okay, you're body will temporarily feel like hell because you actually did some hard work!), and you'll be out the gym door in 30-40 minutes! And the best part?...seeing all of the "slow-moving vehicles" who are still in mid-workout (with another hour to go) watching enviously as you head home!

What a feeling.

Chris Kelly:
Ah where do I begin. I have seen everything from burpees on a moving treadmill (and subsequent wipeout) to barbell back squats on a gym ball.

But the issue I want to address is why 98% of gym goers never physically change: completely random workouts.

Most clients I work with want to tone their arms, run a marathon and rehab their bum knee all in one session. As a result, what they do in the gym changes from high intensity sprints on the treadmill one day to 45 minutes of curls and tricep extensions the next.

I am all for muscle confusion but really this just becomes confusing. The key is to stick to the same basic program for 3-4 weeks and focus on making exercises more difficult versus changing with each session. Here is an example for anyone seeking to improve basic endurance and muscle tone:

Strength training-
Exercise 1- Push up
Exercise 2- Hip lift
Exercise 3- Inverted row
Exercise 4- Deadbug

- Perform each exercise back to back for 6-8 reps.
- Repeat circuit three times and add weight or difficulty if you can do more than 8 reps.
- Attempt to add weight/difficulty with each week for a period of 3-4 weeks.
- Perform routine 3 days per week.

The Bottom line here is that we shouldn't let the stupid things we see in the gym take our eyes off of what we really want. Pick 1-2 goals to focus on for the month and train these aggressively. And if you are bored after your workout, feel free to throw a few of these in to the mix. Enjoy =)

Alfonso Morretti, Angry Fit Trainer

The most clueless thing trainees do is trying to get results without a plan! Are you walking around doing some of these and a few of those or choosing exercises you feel like that day?

Too many of you are going to the gym and training like bodybuilders, with multiple sets of muscle specific exercises, or taking Yoga, or riding a bike for hours on end or just exercising in a way that’s not productive to your goals and that's not benefiting your life in a functional way.

If you want to be a bodybuilder, then train like one. If you want the endurance to ride 50 miles on a bike then SPIN may be your answer.

But if you want to look like an athlete, toned, strong, fit and lean – you need to train like one! That means that you should have great variety in your program and use many modes of exercise. The more you expose yourself to physical challenges the less pronounced your weaknesses would become.

I’m of the mindset you should also be tracking your workouts and measuring your progress. If you ran ½ mile in 5 minutes last week during a session, try to beat it by even just a few seconds this week. If you performed 3 rounds of 3 exercises for 15 reps each, try getting 16 or 17 reps this week, or get it done faster. SET A GOAL. It’s not good enough to just show up and push hard. Your body is adaptive and you need to coax it to want to change. That requires effort, intensity and a PLAN. If you’re truly serious about being the best YOU, taking 5 minutes to jot workouts down won’t be too much to ask.

I hate to use quotes but “Failing To Plan is Planning To Fail” is 100% applicable here. Make sure your goals are clear, you have a plan and you’re using the right tools. If you’ve got those three things then nothing is impossible!

Good luck, be well, stay ANGRY!

Crabby McSlacker, Cranky Fitness

The most clueless thing I've seen people do in a gym is pick one machine or accessory and stay on it forever and ever and ever, especially when they pick a machine that I want to use.  What they should be doing instead is getting the hell off and letting me go about my routine as if I owned the entire gym. And if they are on my machine when I want to use it, then by definition they've been on there too long.

Plus, this sort of single-minded fixation is actually not good for overall fitness, for reasons explained above by the experts.  Some women who are skeletal looking to start with fear that strength training will make them "bulky" so they spend hours and hours at a time on the cardio machines, trying to shrink themselves down until they are entirely invisible.  While across the room some of the bodybuilder dudes will insist on doing set after set after set of weights, lifting and resting and lifting and resting as the sun sets and rises and sets again--yet they can't run to catch a bus without getting winded.  Their cardiovascular systems aren't visible and can't be admired by onlookers, so what's the point in building those up?

However, oddly enough, I don't find it annoyingly clueless at all for someone to spend hours and hours on equipment I don't use myself.  Go figure!

So, feel free to ask questions either follow-ups from today or brand new questions for future posts.  Or weigh in on gym cluelessness, or just check in about how your week has been!

Stability ball photo: Trainer Josh

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