In the second part of Hiring the Right Trainer, we continue to reveal the insider’s secrets to ensuring you don’t waste your money or time when choosing a personal trainer.
When meeting trainers for the first time, one of the ways I can gauge their knowledge and ability as trainers is to listen to the terminology they use. If they sound like a late night info- mercial and liberally use the terms “muscle tone” or “lengthen muscles,” I know they are absolutely clueless. If a trainer throws these terms at you, know that they are telling you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear.
Muscle tonus- The muscle in a steady partially contracted state caused by the successive flow of nerve impulses.
Even at rest, most of our skeletal muscles are in a constant state of partial contraction called tonus. Tonus is maintained by the activation of a few motor units in the muscle at all times, even in resting muscle. For instance, while you are standing in line at the grocery store, numerous muscles are partially activated to keep you upright and from falling to the floor.
When a trainer uses the term, such as “We are going to improve your muscle tone by performing high reps,” they are either confused, misinformed, or worse, telling you what you want to hear.
In this instance, the trainer is misapplying the word tone. What the trainer really means to say is to reduce your body fat, so that the underlying muscle becomes visible. For instance, we all have abdominal muscles, but not everyone’s are visible because they are hidden beneath a layer of fat.
But this is not to say that tonus is undesirable, as a partially contracted muscle is more visually appealing than a flaccid muscle and performs better. The only way to improve tonus is by performing low reps with heavy weights. For men, this means working in the 1-6 rep range and for women, 1-8 reps.
My biggest pet peeve is when a trainer tells a client their workout is going to “lengthen their muscles.” The ONLY method for lengthening a muscle requires a surgeon to cut you open, detach the muscle’s tendons at both ends, stretch your muscle apart and re-attach the tendons to the bone. Not what you were expecting? As with tonus, what they mean to say is to lose body fat so your muscle becomes visible.
It may appear as if I’m making mountains out of mole hills, but the implications are important. Either the trainer does not understand the terminology or does understand, but is using “buzz words” to tell you what you want to hear to put more money in their pocket. Which one is worse? A trainer with a limited grasp of his profession or one who practices deceptive techniques? Remember, how you do one thing, is how you do everything. If your trainer uses these phrases, you may want to go elsewhere.
Plyometrics is a type of high-intensity power training in which a muscle is loaded and contracted in rapid sequence. Also known as shock training, plyometrics was developed by Yuri Verkhoshansky with the goal of utilizing elastic energy to jump higher and throw farther. This elastic energy is generated during explosive muscular contractions, such as landing from a jump and then rapidly contracting the muscle by jumping up as high as possible.
Plyometrics, while not dangerous, are an extremely advanced training method, which should not be performed by the casual athlete. While running, your body absorbs a force up to three to four times your body weight. Plyometrics can generate forces up to six times your body weight, placing demands on your joints and tendons they may not be prepared to handle.
One of the main concerns with plyometrics involves their long term use by people who have not been properly instructed in their use. Plyometrics were designed to be used 2 or 4 times a year, whenever an increase in peak power production was required to improve performance with each phase lasting 3-4 weeks. Compare that to the majority of trainers who use plyometrics with their clients year round. Not only does this increase a client’s risk of injury, but it reduces the effectiveness of the technique over time.
What Your Trainer Doesn’t Know
In addition to knowing how to implement plyometrics, the trainer must make certain to teach the client proper landing mechanics. Improper landing mechanics is one of the most common causes of non-contact ACL injuries in young women.
The heavier you are, the greater the risk of injury. A heavier athlete will generate greater forces upon landing than a lighter athlete. However, there is a difference if you are 225 lbs at 8% body fat instead of 225 lbs at 30% body fat.
In order to ensure the client can properly handle the large forces generated, they need to be able to squat a specific percentage of their bodyweight. If you weigh 225 lbs, but struggle to properly squat with 200 lbs, there is no way you are going to safely handle 6 times your body weight upon landing. Your tendons will disintegrate like month old Olive Garden bread- sticks.
Athletes training with plyometrics during their athletic season are the definition of crazy. Most sports already involve a plyometric component and performing additional work in the weight room is going to decrease your performance on the field.
What To Ask
Ask your potential trainer what criteria they have for determining when and how to implement plyometrics. Remember, plyometrics are usually reserved when an increase in power output is desired, such as before a competitive event. They should not be used just because your trainer ran out of different exercises for you to perform.
As mentioned in the intro, out of 300 training certifications, there is only ONE that requires you to demonstrate an appropriate level of expertise before becoming fully certified, the Poliquin International Certification Program (PICP), designed by Charles Poliquin.
Widely recognized as the most successful strength coach in the world, Charles Poliquin has coached Olympic medalists in 17 different sports and world record holders in 10 sports. The PICP consists of 5 different levels, with each having three parts: a theory, a technical, and a practical component. While most other certifications can be completed in a few days, the PICP has additional criteria beyond the course material that must be met in order to receive full certification. For instance, PICP Level 5, the highest level possible, requires you to meet 4 of the 7 following criteria:
- Train a medalist at the Olympic Games
- Train a medalist at the Senior World Championships
- Participate officially as a coach or athlete at the Olympic Games or World Championships
- Train a World Record Holder in a recognized discipline
- Train an athlete who wins a distinguished award in their professional league: i.e. Norris (NHL), Cy Young (MLB)
- Develop course material for the PICP
- Work as a National Coach for 5 years
Obviously, the PICP requires their coaches to possess a high level of knowledge and skill, which other certifications cannot match.
The PICP is the only certification I recommend, and the only one you should ask for by name. For more information, visit www.CharlesPoliquin.com.
As you can see, there are numerous factors to consider when hiring a trainer. Our goal has been to empower you with the best information possible to ensure that you hire a trainer capable of helping you reach your goals.
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