#17 – Move well, then move a lot

Training programs are often focused on burning more calories, moving faster, and “blasting” your fat. This approach could land you in a load of trouble.


Hey, everybody! It’s Matt Hsu from Upright Health and welcome to the Episode 17 of the Upright Health Podcast. Today, we’re going to be talking about the priorities and the goals of a personal trainer. What should those priorities and those goals be?

So before I get to that, I do want to mention that I’ve been super, super, super, super, super busy and that’s why the podcast episodes have been a little spotty and not on a regular basis. The reason I have been super busy is because we are entering the home stretch for the release of The FAI Fix — which you can see previews of at TheFAIFix.com. And you can sign up there. Enter in your name and email address and you will be put on the notification list, so you will find out when The FAI Fix is available for you to purchase and download and use to troubleshoot your hip problems — whether you’ve been given the diagnosis of FAI or you feel like you just have a bunch of hip problems.

We have created this eBook and video package, so that you can go step by step to try out the most common things that are going to help, based on the client’s that we’ve seen and our own personal issues. And go step by step and just work through until you figure out what’s bugging your hips. So this is a package that my friend, Shane, in San Diego and I have been working on for the last four to six months, that’s been kicking around in my head for about a year. And basically, we’ve thought through the most common hopeful stretches, tissue work, re-activation exercises that we use and put them all into this eBook. And then we shot a whole bunch of pictures and a video and linked everything together so that you can just go through this eBook. Keep track your progress with the handy TSR tracker, which helps you basically keep track of your troubleshooting and helps you narrow in on what you need to be doing on a daily basis. So go to TheFAIFix.com, check that out, sign up and stay tuned.

Now, as for the other reason I’ve been super, super busy, I’ve also been doing some mentoring sessions with some other trainers here in the Bay Area. Started doing them a little bit more regularly and we’re trying to get those scheduled to be more regular. But it’s keeping me busy and it’s also been making me think about what the goals and the normal, the more common goals that trainers have and how that does or doesn’t align with the needs of many, many, many clients.

A lot of times, I hear that people get hurt. I’ve had people come to see me and say, “I went to this other trainer and I got hurt in the first session; my back went out and it’s taken me six weeks to get better.” Or the one story that actually I heard and that mind fledgling trainers also heard last week was, “I went to a group exercise class. We were doing squats for like four or five minutes and I was fine during the class but the next day, it was just terrible and I haven’t been able to walk properly for three weeks because my back, my hip hurt so much and it just feels terrible now.”

So those were really common stories and it’s gotten me thinking, “Well, why does that happen? What is it about the training paradigm, the perspective that trainers usually have? What is it that makes them so common?” And what I think was going on was a lot of the trainers think their job is to just help you move a lot. So, most trainers, the scope of practice seems to be your job is to help somebody lose weight, burn calories, provide a good example so that people burn more calories than they consume and help them work up a sweat. Make them do multi-joint exercises; make them feel like they are just really just having to kill, right? They are just having to kill it in the gym.

So what does that look like if you’re just trying to kill it in the gym? That looks like doing these complex lunge to press motions; that looks like doing a bunch of jumping jacks; that looks like doing a lot of burpees; that looks like doing a really high-intensity interval training circuit; throwing the ball against the wall, slamming the ball. I’ve seen team other things like (this was probably the worst thing I’ve ever seen) it was a trainer who had a client who was probably in her seventies — very frail looking woman — and he had her standing on two of those balance discs. She had one foot on one disc; one foot on the other disc. And these are wobbly discs. They are the inflatable kind of you just can’t ever get a firm piece of stability on them — they are just constantly wobbling.

So he had her standing on these two balance discs. And then in her hands were probably five, maybe seven-pound dumbbells. And he had her just kind of squatting a little bit on these discs and then doing bicep curls. That was probably the worst thing I’ve ever seen. Well, I don’t know about “the worst,” but it was one of the most notable things I’ve seen somebody doing with a client, that I thought was really not advisable. So that’s what it looks like when you’re trying to help people get stronger or just trying to get them more explosive, help them burn calories and just work up a sweat.

The thing is if all you’re trying to do is work up a sweat, you’re just trying to make some people move a lot, you have a higher risk of injury. I know very few people who can do multi-joint exercises quickly, explosively and repetitively in a manner that is safe and good for them — in a way that is edifying. And I’m talking about people who have an athletic background, right? Plenty of athletes don’t move well. Now, you take somebody who has no training, no athletic background, who just wants to lose weight and you start making them do very complex motions, to me, that means that you are preparing to hurt somebody.

So what I’ve been teaching to the trainers I’ve been mentoring, my protégés have been hearing me say this, I say this to my clients all the time: “Goal number one should be moving well.” Not necessarily a lot; the goal is to make sure that somebody can move well. So the plus sides of this are that you’re going to reduce the number injuries. You’re going to help somebody feel better, not only during your workout sessions but also they’ll feel better in the day when they are away from you. And that feeling better is going to help them build confidence in their own bodies, which is in turn going to build an increasing level of happiness.

You know, the longer somebody can train without an injury, the better off they’re going to be, right? If you are helping them move better, feel better, they are going to love it. It’s a natural thing to feel good when you move well. Yes, you can kick somebody’s butt and make them move a lot, but let’s say, for example, you have somebody who can barely squat with proper form; their knees cave in, their feet turn out, their back rounds, are you going to make them do a hundred squats that day and then say, “Nice workout!” slap them on the butt and send them home? It’s, to me, a little bit irresponsible to do when you could be doing things that help them move more efficiently and effectively, so that they can get stronger in the proper form of the exercise, so that carries over into their daily lives.

I have a client that I started working with last year, who was in his early fifties or mid-fifties, and when he came to me, he said he had had knee surgery on his right knee. And even though he had had the surgery, his knees still bothered him. He couldn’t squat anymore. He was really concerned that doing any squatting or running or jumping was just going to hurt his knee and that it was going to hamper his efforts to become a really, really good tennis player. That’s his goal; become a really awesome tennis player. And so I asked him to squat and I could hear his knee creaking. As he got lower, it will go [mimics creaking sound] and then as he came up, it would go [mimics creaking sound].

And for him, it wasn’t even a question of having to do anything really special, right? Sometimes, on my videos, I talk about different stretches, foam rolling, different things that you can do to try to fix this or that for yourself. For him, it wasn’t even anything that special; I just said, “Hey, why you try turning on your right butt cheek while you’re trying to do this? So when you’re going down, just try to keep that knee out a little bit, turn on your right butt cheek a little bit more and definitely on your way up, turn on the right butt cheek. And so he did that and it was like magic. All of a sudden, the knee stopped cracking and crunching.

And since that day, actually, his knee has not bothered him because he has learned and strengthened their correct movement pattern. He’s using the right muscle – the right muscle group, any way — to help him do the squats properly with good form, without causing undue, inefficient and unnecessary friction in his knee. Is he happier? Yes. Way, way happier. And it’s because the focus was on moving well, rather than on moving a lot. Once you get somebody moving well, then you can start to kick their butt. And I think that’s something that’s missing in a lot of people’s training programs; people tend to throw themselves whole hog and just go balls to the walls and try to do this, do that, do a thousand burpees and a hundred push-ups. It’s all great. It’s all good stuff to aim for but, first, think about moving well before you think about moving a lot.

So if you’re a trainer, I think that’s a little food for thought, and you can let me know if you agree disagree. And if you are somebody who’s training themselves, give that some thought. Apply that into your own a training regimen and see what benefits you’ll reap.

That’s it for today. This was Matt Hsu from Upright Health reminding you to move well and then move a lot. And remember that pain sucks; life shouldn’t.


About the Author