Many of my fitness colleagues and I could get around a table and wax poetic on the various mistakes that we perceive in the industry. We all have a laundry list of goofy things that we see trainers doing in gyms around the country and the world. Right now, there’s one particularly common error that’s been on my mind since I’ve been seeing it far too much.
That’s concerning a little thing called SPEED.
You see, the vast majority of the rank-and-file in your typical globogym seem to have it in their heads that “a rep is a rep is a rep.”
While it certainly matters that you get a rep done, of AT LEAST equal importance (and I’d wager much greater importance, actually) is HOW YOU GOT THERE. The path you took and, subsequently, the way you generated the force to accomplish a repetition of any given exercise will directly determine whether that rep is accomplishing the goal you set out to achieve.
If a person is unable to do a movement slowly and with control, it is IMPERATIVE that you as a trainer not further increase the challenge and risk by adding excessive inertia and/or unpredictable motions to the equation. Lock down the basic stuff before asking more of any individual’s neuromuscular system. If this means slowing the rep down to half tempo, so be it! Maybe it means removing weight. Maybe it means you have to shorten the range through which the client is moving, or perhaps alter the points in that range where things are easy and hard (also known as altering the resistance profile).
Here’s a scenario:
Let’s say you have a pair of identical twins you’re training. They both live and eat exactly the same. You have one person just knock out 10-12 reps of lat pulldowns as quickly as they can for a given weight on the stack. You have the other person do the same exercise with the same weight, but slow down enough that the bar path is precisely controlled throughout the entire rep, never letting tension leave the muscles that you are attempting to target (assuming you know which ones could be most effectively targeted by this exercise). Are they going to have the same experience? Will they feel the same? Will these two people progress at the same rate and in the same way?
I PROMISE you they won’t.
The point is, if I had to pick ONE big error that I see trainers committing time and time again, it’s that there’s too much focus on getting an arbitrary number of reps done in a given time, and not enough focus on keeping challenge on the muscles that are *SUPPOSED* to be worked by a given exercise. If you don’t know with confidence what is being challenged at EVERY point throughout a movement, you probably need to slow down and remind yourself of what you’re trying to accomplish. What’s the goal? We are always responsible for the decisions we make, and autopilot is NEVER good enough. As Tom Purvis would say, “every set is sacred” 🙂
Props to The Resistance Training Specialist® Program for helping me to develop the thought process that I continue to hone every day.