How many times have you been in the gym and argued with either another trainer or a client about the name of a particular exercise?
For example, a new member starts at your gym, and they have a fair idea about resistance training, considering they’ve had gym memberships in the past and had a variety of trainers. But for some strange reason, they’ve got different names for exercises that you’ve never heard of.
Or perhaps, you’re working on the gym floor as a trainer, making your way in the industry. Your exercise knowledge is increasing by the day, you know certain exercises by certain names, but your fellow gym floor compatriots correct you that exercise X is actually called Exercise Y.
These are common situations that happen every day. There can be multiple names for the same exercises and people know them differently.
Is it a Plank? A Prone Hold? A Bridge? A Low Plank? Or a High Plank?
Is it a 4-Point Stance? A Superman/Woman? Or a Bird Dog?
Is it a Glute Bridge? A Hip Extension? A Supine Bridge? Or a Hip Thruster?
Is it a Static Lunge? A Split Squat? Or a Bulgarian Squat?
Is it a Shoulder Press? A Military Press? Or a Strict Press?
Is it a Romanian Deadlift? Or a Straight Leg Deadlift?
How confusing? Which one is the right one? Maybe we should call a summit and invite all fitness leaders from across the world! Put them in a boxing ring and let them sort it out, last woman or man standing can once and for all decide what we call each exercise!
Of course, that’s not necessary. Nor is worrying about what exactly to call each exercise. Whilst it can’t hurt to know every name to every exercise, there are more important things to focus on.
In amongst all this confusion lies a greater, often neglected importance – and that is for the client to perform the exercise correctly, safely and effectively.
At the end of the day, it actually doesn’t matter what an exercise is called, as long as the client, the most important person in all of this, knows what to do.
So let’s look at the techniques that will assist you as a trainer to provide your client with the best possible outcomes for their goals, and their health and wellbeing.
Let’s start with how people learn. As we know, everyone learns in a different way and our job as trainers is to modify and adapt our approach to suit the individual. Here are the basic tips to remember when delivering a movement for resistance based training.
Firstly, it’s key to provide a demonstration of the exercise. Make sure it’s done with the right speed, range of movement, breathing techniques and correct body alignments in all planes of movement. This will assist visual learners to understand and implement the right technique.
Secondly, provide the client with minimal and easy-to-understand teaching points – 2 to 3 maximum is a recommendation. This provides the client with the opportunity to learn in an auditory manner without being bombarded by too many instructions or complicated terminology.
Thirdly, instruct them while they do the activity, this provides the client to learn kinesthetically (by doing) with your encouragement and support. During this phase of learning, it’s important to remember some key strategies as a trainer to empower and provide positivity to your instruction.
Start with a regressed exercise option then progress if required. A common error for many trainers is prescribing exercises that are too difficult, too unstable, or too complex for the client. Then, when the client fails at this, the exercise is then regressed. This can leave the client with the feeling of not achieving and feeling a bit inadequate.
The regress-first approach will provide the client with the opportunity to achieve a task, then challenge themselves for something slightly more difficult. This is a great motivational strategy for your clients.
Position yourself correctly and attentively watch the client to assist them in maintaining the correct technique. This can be done with the appropriate spotting techniques, touch cues, tools to provide stability such as a wall or a dowel rod.
Reinforce the good. While the client is completing the activity, provide positive reinforcement of the technique. For example, rather than “Good work, keep it up” – try “Good work, you are doing a great job of maintaining a steady speed in this exercise”, or, “Good job, you are doing a great job of pushing through your heels in your squat”.
It’s important to gather feedback from your client. Ask questions like, “Where did you feel the exercise working?” or “On a scale of 1-10, how hard were you working in that exercise?”
In addition to this, remember the non-auditory points of feedback such as facial expression, breathing, sweating, failing technique or signs of exertion in the client. All of this provides the client with good, open communication and a consultative approach to the exercise prescription.
Also, provide visual reminders for the client of each exercise. Do they have pictures they can refer to on their phone, iPad or on their program card when they are training solo?
If you are running your own business or your gym allows it, you could use an iPad or a phone to record video of their technique. This provides a visual reference point for the client, something they can refer back to when needed and also provides the client with next-level professionalism in their gym experience.
There are many apps available these days using video technology to assist in a variety of techniques, from a golf swing, kicking for goal or the correct knee alignment in a client’s first barbell squat.
From country to country, state to state and gym to gym, there will always be variations in exercise names. In the big picture, the name of an exercise isn’t anywhere near as important as having a client perform it safely and effectively.