What NOT to do as a trainer/coach

We all know the stuff you have to do as a trainer, or at least I hope you know.

Proper form, sensible progression, keep them injury free, etc.

What about what not to do?

Some of these may be common sense, but to some they aren’t:

  • Put everyone in the same category

This is a problem. Many trainers will do this because its easy. They have clients and everyone gets a cookie cutter program with the same number of sets/reps while ignoring their specific needs. Some people want to get in shape, some want to get stronger. You see this with the inexperienced or the trainer that is burned out.

  • Dispense nutrition advice without being a certified nutritionist

Very common. Of course its easy to tell someone to eat whole foods, but there are legalities and issues with “prescribing” nutrition advice without being officially qualified to do so. No, losing weight or doing a contest prep doesn’t make you qualified either.

  • Try to coach someone in a discipline you aren’t qualified for

You coach the squat, the bench and the deadlift. You have seen someone do a clean a few times, you may have even done one yourself. Can you coach it? Probably not. Even with a weekend certification you will need to hone that craft some more to do it. The same goes for anything. If you aren’t qualified to to it, if you have no experience working with a particular sport or lifting style, don’t bullshit your way into it.

  • Ignore client’s needs and/or prior injuries

A man wants to get ready for football season, you have him do a metabolic conditioning workout consisting of kipping pullups and 400m runs. You are an asshole.

Same goes for injuries. You wouldn’t give a recently rehabbed labrum tear a max effort bench press would you? If you think you might, I think you need a new profession.

  • Excessive conditioning

This is addicting because the general public often equates results with “getting their asses kicked”. This is the CrossFit phenomena. You can condition yourself into shit results, injuries and overuse rather easily. It makes much more sense to have a well-planned strength program with simple and effective conditioning workouts geared towards their needs.

  • Stealing other people’s work and calling it your own, whether intentional or by advice

This is an ethics issue for me. I have had numerous clients ask me about carb backloading since I have had some good results with it for myself. Every single time I refer them to Kiefer’s site with the words “he can explain it better than I can”. In an industry where ideas are often borrowed, republished and renamed, you have to be very careful not to fall into that trap. We all want to look like great trainers, but sometimes being great means leading someone to the proper location rather than taking credit all for yourself.

  • Being dogmatic in your approach

The answer to every fitness problem isn’t, “more squats and fish oil”. This is where we need to educate ourselves. When we start off as trainers, we have a one-track mind. As we progress with this career, learn more and apply more, that little track turns into the 405 (if you don’t know, Google it). This allows us to expand our client base, our methods and our results as well. What would you do with an athlete who is already very strong but needs to get more explosive? If your answer is “squats and fish oil” you are missing the boat. You need to take an exit ramp to another area of your brain and figure out what would work for a linebacker who can already bench 405 and squat 550. Would getting stronger really help him or will learning how to use that strength to fire from point A to point B be more efficient, productive and make him a better athlete?

Simple shit, which some of us forget.

Don’t let it be you.


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