A concerned trainer expressed this to NFPT:

“I see a need for us (NFPT) to stress the importance of recognizing the Contraindications to Exercise.  For example, I hear clients complain about joint pain and the trainer ignore it and tell the client to “keep working through it”.  Also, I’m concerned about the lack of emphasis on proper exercise form from many trainers.”  

This gets under my skin too!  I have to wonder why some trainers aren’t guiding their clients properly. Do they not know how to cue proper form?  Did they skim over that part of the NFPT Training Manual?  Is there a lack of knowledge in anatomy?  Are they distracted OR just being lazy?

I think some people (trainers and clients) are simply confused about the role of pain and also failing to communicate properly.

No Pain No Gain
Somehow, many people missed the memo about this buzz phrase.  Probably because it has two sides.  Muscle fatigue and joint pain can get mixed up with one another.  When a client says the “P word”, it’s important for the trainer to ask questions about what they really mean. Communication.

Muscle fatigue or Pain“burn” is experienced in the belly of the muscle, from the build up of lactic acid.  It feels like a rush of heat and often lasts for several seconds.

Joint pain is felt in the joint (hinge) that’s moving.  It’s deeper and more like pins, needles or stabbing.  It can be sharp and short, like a quick flash of lightning.

Pushing through muscle fatigue to train for an event or get stronger is necessary for adaptation to occur.  Feeling the burn means the muscle is being challenged.  Any body builder or athlete will tell you that performance requires discomfort in the muscles.

However, pushing through joint pain leads to injuries.  Maybe not right away, but over time.

Knowledge of anatomy is the best way for a personal trainer to individualize cueing for each client and their unique needs.  It’s also how a trainer identifies whether a client is pointing to their muscle belly or a joint when they complain of pain.

The trainer is indeed the leader and the expert, but I think the client also plays a role in this concern.  In healthcare, each individual needs to be accountable for themselves to some extent.

Responsibility of the Trainer
Personal trainers should educate their clients on the difference between muscle fatigue/burn and joint pain.  In addition, the personal trainer should be focused on their client every minute that they’re being paid and gauging the amount of challenge perceived by the client.  This is how people get results.  By getting pushed just the right amount.

Quality is better than quantity when it comes to exercise.

Questions to ask your clients:

“How difficult is this exercise on a scale of 1-10?”
“Where do you feel this exercise?”
“Do you feel this exercise evenly on both sides?”

Responsibility of the Client
There are good and bad professionals in every industry.  To some extent, it’s the responsibility of the consumer to decide what type of quality they’re paying for.  It’s also their job to report pain, discomfort and dissatisfaction to the trainer.

Is your personal trainer asking you questions, demonstrating, cueing and paying attention to you?  Or are they looking in the mirror, checking their smart phone, talking about themselves and yawning while you exercise?

If you’re willing to give them a second chance, try this.

Questions to ask your trainer:

“Where should I be feeling this?”
“What muscles does this exercise work?”
“What’s the purpose of this exercise?”
“How does my form look?”

I agree whole heartedly with the concerned trainer.  For the fitness industry to keep evolving and play a larger role in the healthcare system, personal trainers need to step it up.  The best way to do this is through education.

Check out the blogs below and make sure you’re up to date on what’s being taught.

Importance of Proper Form Cues
Improve Your Form Cues
Common Form Mistakes

Beverly Hosford

Beverly Hosford, MA teaches anatomy and body awareness using a skeleton named Andy, balloons, play-doh, ribbons, guided visualizations, and corrective exercises. She is an instructor, author, and a business coach for fitness professionals. Learn how to help your clients sleep better with in Bev’s NFPT Sleep Coach Program and dive deeper into anatomy in her NFPT Fundamentals of Anatomy Course.