Trainer Tip: Flex Your Muscle Against The Weights!
What do you think is the biggest mistake that most decent personal trainers make on the gym floor? To be clear, I'm referring to otherwise solid individuals who know how to put together effective programs, care about their clients, and push hard at the appropriate times. We aren't talking about rent a friend trainers, or the piece of wood who just stands there mumbling a rep count. The latter are the worst trainers of all by the way, utterly irredeemable and totally unsuited to personal training. I should know, the biggest hiring mistake of my life (thus far anyway) was a trainer who no matter how many chances we gave her, how much coaching she had, and how hard she tried, was as energetic as a wet dishcloth and not right for this great industry that should demand the highest of standards at all times.
This mistake that I'm referring to, is probably caused in part because it's something that you very rarely get taught on Personal Trainer Courses (UP Education aside), and those who have the best mastery of it have typically spent many years training themselves, and almost always have a good amount of exposure to authentic bodybuilding training. Admittedly, much of what we learn in standard bodybuilding training is either just plain wrong or wholly inappropriate for regular three times a week clients, but the in-the-gym skills that a smart trainer can pick up from working out with serious bodybuilders are invaluable, and the one single consistent shared feature amongst the most elite trainers I myself have ever worked with. It's one of the things that has served to make UP such a good breeding ground for trainers because of all the bodybuilding influences that we have and the ongoing encouragement I've always given everyone to max out their own training and push the envelope. This exposure to bodybuilding is even one of the reasons a Strength Coach like Charles Poliquin has been able to cross the gap into being a recognised authority on body composition training as well, name me another professional Strength Coach who has been able to do this?
The one single trait that all good trainers with bodybuilding exposure have, that many of their otherwise excellent personal trainer colleagues lack, is the skill to focus on not simply moving the weight from point A to point B, but instead to emphasise and teach the ultra important necessity (and yes, if you've read much of my work, this won't be the first time you've seen this) of flexing the muscle against the given resistance to achieve the hardest possible contraction. So when executed properly, a biceps curl isn't what most trainees envisage it as being, it isn't simply flexing the elbow to get the wrist to the front shoulder. If that's the way you currently curl, next time you do it decrease the weight by 75%, close your eyes, and simply focus on contracting your biceps as hard as possible. If it helps, imagine your doing a front double biceps pose!! If you are attempting to elicit the strongest possible stimulation then you should always remember that the weight is a mere tool in your hands, and it is how you contract your muscles against that weight that will really get you the desired results.
To really achieve the best results for all your hard work in the gym you need to learn how to milk every rep of every set for all that it's worth. If you lack the neurological connection to a muscle, more commonly known as the mind-muscle connection, then do some unilateral work and place your free hand on the working muscle as this can really assist you in feeling the muscle contract. The back muscles are one of the hardest to feel working, so if you really struggle here, ask a training partner to touch your back in the spaces that it should be working. I know it sounds a bit hokey, but it does work. If it works for me, at 6ft 3 inches tall, then it will work for you.
If you feel you have a body part that is struggling, try out these easy to use tricks and let us know how you get on by leaving a comment below.