by Bret Contreras November 09, 2010
While there are many differences between bad trainers and good trainers, one of the biggest differences is the form that you’ll see poor trainers allowing their clients use in comparison to the form that good trainers insist upon with their clients. The problem is that bad trainers just don’t know what good form is supposed to look like and they’ve never been trained to look at movement with a critical eye. On a side note, they also don’t know what to do in order to fix poor movement but that is the essence of being a great trainer.
There seem to be three types of trainers in my opinion:
1. Wannabe Strength-Coach Physical Therapist types who are way too scared to ever load anyone up and are way too critical of form and therefore stink as personal trainers or strength coaches because they never get anyone strong or looking their best.
2. Ignorant Meathead types who just keep loading up the exercises with no concern for how the form looks and are therefore horrendous trainers and coaches because they end up injuring everyone they train.
3. Great coaches who know the balance, which is actually 90% in the direction of the Physical Therapist types. You’ll see what I mean by this throughout this blog.
I’ve now posted five different videos of Karli (my client) training her lower body. I think it will be worthwhile for my readers to roll through these videos and see what I see. On a side note it’s hard filming these videos because normally I’d coach more throughout the sets but I can’t see much as I’m looking at the camera and not her form. So Karli is getting robbed a bit due to my desire to film these videos, which I do because it serves the greater-good. More women need to be training this way, and the more videos I film the better butts we can create. Karli doesn’t mind as she’s just happy that she feels her glutes working like crazy during our workouts and her butt and legs have improved since I’ve been training her. I’m always contorting my body in the power rack to get these cool angles of Karli lifting – it’s pretty funny.
Here’s a picture of Karli prancing around Chi-Town in a bikini for Halloween; she went as a shark attack. Somebody is proud of their legs!
Five Karli Workouts
Moving on, here are the videos, followed by my observations.
1. Very happy with Karli’s workout this day.
2. High Box squats – to be nitpicky she plopped down a little too hard on the box and her knees caved in (valgus collapse) slightly, but still very good form.
3. Sumo deads – to be nitpicky her head/neck wasn’t in neutral, she didn’t use compensatory acceleration and drive the hips through, and she didn’t stand tall enough, but still it was great form
4. Hip thrusts – perfect!
1. Not too impressed with myself as a trainer on this day. Didn’t cue enough, went a little too heavy, allowed a little too many energy leaks.
2. Zercher squats – a little too much trunk leaning and valgus collapse toward the end of the set.
3. Chain deficit deadlifts – pretty good; didn’t quite look as natural and fluid as I’d like
4. Full range Bulgarians – awesome!
5. Band 45 degree hypers – perfect!
6. Single leg Skorcher hip thrusts – to be nitpicky I allowed cervical flexion, and on a few reps she didn’t come up to full extension.
7. Cable horizontal chops – very good but could look a little more fluid, and the vectors on the right and left sides weren’t symmetrical.
1. I wasn’t too thrilled with myself on this day either. Allowed a little bit too sloppy of form.
2. Front squats – on max attempt form broke down a little too much for my comfort even thought it was a max, some spinal flexion and valgus collapse going on. With 95 lb set a “valgus twitch” was present on each rep at mid-range, and there was too much foot pronation. I know that Karli can do better, but I didn’t cue enough. Turns out she barely ate that day in efforts to lose weight for Halloween, which she didn’t tell me about until the next day. Welcome to the realities of being a trainer!
3. Sumo deads – Immaculate!
4. Hip thrusts – Great.
5. 45 degree hypers – Perfect! I actually prefer the kyphosis you see in the video – it leads to higher glute activation. This is hard to figure out but if you keep an arch throughout the spinal column you end up using tons of erector spinae, whereas if you allow the kyphosis you get much less erector contribution and more glute and hamtring contribution.
1. Great workout! Form was amazing.
2. Low box squats – Great! Very impressive.
3. Sumo deads – Awesome.
4. Hip thrusts – Perfect.
5. Reverse hypers – Flawless!
1. Very happy with this workout.
2. Front squats – awesome! Much better than last time. Some slight valgus but nothing too be concerned about.
3. Dumbbell full squat – there’s only one word to describe it – Beautiful!
4. Deadlift – decent; some cervical extension and some lumbar flexion during the second set. Nothing to be too concerned with.
5. Single leg hip thrust – great! Some cervical flexion but I don’t worry about this too much.
I hope this blogpost has taught many of you a thing or two about exercise form. A good trainer or coach knows how to get people strong while adhering to good form. They look at the various joint kinematics and see what’s going on at the foot, ankle, knees, hips, pelvis, lumbar spine, thoracic spine, cervical spine, scapulae, and shoulders. They look at rhythm, acceleration, and tempo. They know if something looks right or doesn’t. Being a good trainer is about a lot of things – being a motivator, a nutritionist, a role-model, an expert, etc.
But most important – being a good trainer is about delivering results! Getting people stronger, fitter, healthier, sexier, leaner, shaplier, more confident, pain-free, less prone to injury, and more “dialed in” with their health.
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