17 Signs Your Trainer is Screwing Up Your Workouts
STACK interviewed Dr. Seedman for this article, which originally appeared on stack.com on 1/29/16. Dr. Seedman provided information for slides 8-15.
The single biggest mistake I see with strength coaches and trainers is turning everything into a numbers game and neglecting technique and muscle function. Strength coaches often feel overly compelled to increase the numbers and weights their athletes are using simply as a way to display to the athletes and coaching staff that their training is producing results. Although this may produce a quick yet temporary increase in numbers, unfortunately it leads to dysfunctional movement patterns, injuries and training plateaus.
One method I see used consistently in weight rooms and gym settings that encourages this problem is the use of what I refer to as "assisted spotting." In essence, the trainer or strength coach spots the athletes by actually helping them lift the weight, since excessively heavy loads are greater than what the athletes are capable of handling. It's very common on the Bench Press as well as the Squat. It is often done to increase morale and ego of the athletes; however it does little to stimulate strength and size gains
Poor Instruction on Technically Challenging Movements
A common issue, particularly in high school and collegiate strength training settings, is incompetent teaching of technically difficult movements such as Olympic lifts. Olympic lifts are great movements, but because they're fairly complex, they need to be taught properly or they shouldn't be taught at all. I've lost count of the number of athletes I've worked with over the years who informed me that they were efficient at the Olympic movements from having been taught them in high school and college, only to find out when I examine their form that they've reinforced faulty movement patterns and dangerous lifting technique. Besides placing the athlete at a high risk for injury, flawed biomechanics can take quite a bit of time to correct.
Neglecting the Smaller Muscles
One scenario that's prevalent among strength coaches and personal trainers is crushing large muscles but neglecting to target smaller muscle groups and stabilizers. For example, most strength coaches now understand the importance of training the hips, since they are pivotal for all sports. Unfortunately, most of these coaches fail to address foot and ankle mechanics, which greatly short-changes the results they are trying to produce in terms of hip function and power. Similar issues are seen in the shoulder region and spinal stabilizers. If any of these smaller areas are weak, undertrained, or neuromuscularly inefficient, this creates a strong likelihood for leaking energy and compromising force transmission, no matter how strong the primary muscle groups are.
Relying on Familiar Training Concepts
A common issue that's seen frequently in strength and conditioning settings is strength coaches having their athletes train a certain way simply because that's how they were trained when they were an athlete. The best strength coaches think outside the box. They obviously use aspects of what they learned from their own coaches; however, they also explore, analyze and implement other forms of effective training techniques that they may not have been directly exposed to.
The "Rep Counter"
What's particularly annoying are what I refer to as "rep counters." This describes a training situation where the trainer or strength coach ignores what the athlete is doing from a technical or mechanical standpoint, but simply counts each rep of every set to show the athlete that they are standing by and paying attention. Rather than demonstrating their exceptional counting skills, these coaches would be better off tuning into the form and technique of the athlete and providing solid coaching advice and training tips.
Ignoring the Basics
Ignoring the basics is a common issue among strength coaches and trainers. As a strength coach, I often catch myself falling prey to this, by assuming that most athletes have the coordination and foundation of basic skills, although often these areas are greatly lacking. For example, it's easy to assume that athletes know how to jump. It's something they do almost daily. But based on my own experience, few athletes truly understand what proper jumping mechanics entail, and teaching them the basics such as arm drive and hip hinge mechanics can go a long way in terms of improving their performance attributes.
Forgetting About Recovery
It's easy to forget about the physical demands and stressors that athletes endure. Between skills practice, speed training, conditioning, strength training and the demands of school or everyday life, many athletes are already over-stressed and run-down. Neglecting aspects of recovery and physiological restoration is a common issue among even the most elite athletes, as coaches and trainers are always pushing the athletes to perform with greater intensity and volume. Providing adequate rest and recovery and knowing when to dial back the intensity are crucial for maximizing performance, and they are often distinguishing attributes of exceptional coaches.
Neglecting the Basics of Sports Nutrition
Many strength coaches become so consumed with aspects of training and performance protocols that they fail to tune in to the basic tenets of sports nutrition. Unless an athlete is reminded or given proper instruction, he or she will often under-consume the right foods and overeat the wrong ones. In addition, taking an athlete who hasn't eaten all day and having him or her perform a high-intensity strength workout can do more harm than good. Taking a few minutes to discuss the basic principles of pre-workout and post-workout nutrition can be critical for maximizing strength, hypertrophy and recovery.