While today is not exactly a Workout Wednesday post, it is something important that I think is worth going over.
These days, there are tons of fitness professionals offering online training (myself included!), or distance coaching programs. These can be excellent if you can’t afford personal training, or if you want to work with someone who is outside of your geographical area. The internet has allowed us to be able to reach clients just about anywhere, no longer being limited to those who live in our general vicinity.
But with this, comes some pretty serious responsibility. If you are doing a program that has been created by someone and has been sent to you without an in-person assessment (as is the case with most online programs), there are certain things to know ahead of time in order to keep yourself safe.
How should you properly warm up? How do you know when to back off or take a rest day? How do you know when to push yourself harder? But most importantly — how do you know that you’re doing the exercises correctly?
Some coaches will send you a program and you’re on your own. Some coaches will send you descriptions and/or videos of exercises so that you can make sure your form is correct. And some will even go so far as to schedule video/skype sessions to monitor your form on specific movements, noting ways in which you can improve to make your workout safer and more effective. I offer the last two of these options (both PDF descriptions and skype check-ins, as either of these can be beneficial depending on the client). Click [HERE] for more info.
When it comes to exercise form, however, there are some lifts, particularly if you are involved in a heavy lifting type of program, that you should really have checked out in person by a qualified professional before attempting them on your own. Certain lifts can be extremely technical, and without proper form and real-time cues can lead to injury and/or inefficient training. And while obviously none of us want to get hurt, inefficiency in training is also a huge no-no. Why waste time on a program if you’re not going to get the results you want to see?
While most lifts and exercises can be “taught” via descriptions, videos, and video chat sessions, there are a few that I strongly believe should be taught in person. Does this mean you have to spend hundreds of dollars training with someone just to learn a lift? Not necessarily. Many gyms offer introductory PT sessions, and most personal trainers can be hired on an hourly basis. Find someone who is local and qualified, and have them help you with these crucial lifts before beginning a program on your own. Your body will thank you later!
Exercises that should be done WITH a trainer:
The deadlift is a highly technical lift that utilizes just about your entire body. From head to heels, there are important movement and stabilization cues that a trainer can give to you in real time that you just can’t get through video or descriptions. When this lift moves into the heavy weight ranges, improper form can be dangerous (although proper form makes this one of the most beneficial lifts you can do, period).
Without proper cues and corrections, an improper deadlift can lead to muscle strains (best case) or spinal injury (worst case). I’m not saying this to scare you, but I am saying this to let you know that if you have a trainer who has prescribed you traditional or sumo deadlifts and you have never performed them before, it’s essential to work with someone in person before performing this lift with any significant weight. Heck, even light weight deadlifts can pose a problem with horrific form.
The deadlift incorporates different phases and essential movements, all of which are important to master before ever weighting the barbell (or picking up the barbell at all). Find someone who can train you on proper hip hinging, grip, core stabilization and lock out mechanics, and you’ll be good to go.
The exception to this would be dumbbell or lighter weight Romanian Dead Lifts or Trap Bar Deadlifts. Both of these can be performed safely with good instruction, but I would still recommend a video session with your trainer to ensure that your hip hinge is sufficient to be performing these types of lifts.
Kettlebell swings, just like deadlifts, are extremely technical in terms of proper form. From your set up before even touching the KB, to the way in which the KB is placed on the ground at the end of a set (and every important aspect in between), there is a lot of room for error here. The swing is something that should be learned incrementally, with a trained professional before attempting it on your own. With the combination of the all-important hip hinge, plus the highly dynamic momentum of the movement, there is too much potential for injury if done incorrectly. Not only is this a technical lift, but it is also pretty advanced.
If you are someone who has little experience with weight lifting and proper movement patterns, I would suggest staying away from this one until you A)have gained a little bit more experience in the weight room building your base strength movements and B)have perfected the hip hinge with a qualified professional.
Olympic Lifting – Clean/Snatch/Clean and Jerk
Olympic lifts are far and away some of the most technical lifts that you can do or be asked to do. Yes, your neighbor Susie does these all the time at Crossfit (at insanely high reps, usually with questionable form), and she’s never lifted before joining this gym! But that doesn’t that you should be doing them too. I am a firm believer in mastering the major lifting motions (push and pull for both upper body and lower body movements) as well as proper core bracing before attempting anything as advanced as a clean and jerk. Hoisting a heavy barbell over your head without first properly addressing strength and mobility concerns is just asking for disaster — whether that means injury or sheer embarrassment in the gym. Do yourself a favor, and stay away from these unless you have considerable time to work with a coach one on one. And this shouldn’t be just any coach — you should see someone who is experienced and trained in olympic lifting. Otherwise, it’s not much better than doing it on your own, to be honest.
These are lifts that I won’t program for my own clients if I’m not seeing them in person (and I don’t program olympic lifts in general). Please be wary of trainers who will throw highly advanced exercises at you without any sort of movement assessment or in-person session ahead of time. If something feels too advanced for you, check in with your trainer before charging ahead. Keep yourself safe, and worry about impressing others later. You won’t be impressing anyone when you’re sidelined from injury, so always remember: form comes first!
Note: If you’re interested in in-person (Boston area only) personal training or online/distance coaching, please check out my page at Rondeau Heath and Wellness. I have several packages/offerings to fit any level and/or budget. Happy training!