The Why and The How

Training, exercise prescription and to a degree exercise technical execution are client defined.

Programming is a tailored process designed to lead to specific objectives and physical adaptations.                                                                                                                                                                   

The value of a specific exercise depends on the person in front of you. 

I believe some trainers have either forgotten, never learned or ignore these facts.

Too many times I have been told of trainers making up the days exercises on the spot and applying it to all clients for the day. The facts that the clients are completely different people,that the exercises may or may not build on previously performed work or are even appropriate for the individual and their goals beyond converting oxygen and raising core temperature notwithstanding.

Why am I doing this exercise?  How will this exercise help me? Why is this detail important? How will this help me towards my goal?      

I have stated that for every exercise being prescribed the coach MUST be able to answer the question “WHY IS THIS THE BEST CHOICE?”  If I program Push Ups, Swings, Deadlifts, Overhead Press and Loaded Carry for a client, Why am I doing so, and are these the best choices for this persons goal(s).

Both the Why and the How relate to the Who.  Depending on whom you’re speaking with dictates which take priority, although I put more weight on the Why.

With a beginner client that has never stepped foot in a gym, much less a strength focused gym. I start with WHY.  The fact that my gym offers Mono-Lifts, competition benches, lift platforms and weights in bumper,iron and calibrated kilograms provides nothing in answering “Why.”  They just know my gym has a lot of stuff that sounds heavy.

They want to know if I can help them and have the means to do so.  A well-equipped gym helps, but is secondary to a coach with the skills needed for the task at hand. What experience and skills do I have that can help them?

How I do things, provided it is safe is often secondary in the clients mind unless they’ve had the unenviable, and unfortunately too common experience of previously hiring a crap trainer or was injured by one.

With clients beyond the novice stage, or in my case as a coach and trainer of other trainers  the HOW becomes more important.  Unless the tool or exercise is something they’ve never dealt with before they often have a degree of existing level of knowledge in the why.

They will know how the leg press differs from the free weight squats, but may not know when, or why its use would be the preferred way to go.  They may or may not know the effects of varying the relative foot position or adding resistance bands into the leg press.

With the unconventional tools; Kettlebells,Sandbags,Maces,Clubs,Strongman and to an extent some bodyweight exercises things get even more interesting.  Even previously known movement patterns take on new characteristics and challenges once a new tool is introduced.  With time and appropriate volume, competence and confidence improve. The Why and The How both apply.

Ironically, its the unconventional tools that the beginners often want to jump right into using. My guess being because they saw it some TV spot and it looks far more awesome than the seated leg extension.  The fact that they can be completely ill-prepared for some of the physically demanding and complex movements is not an initial consideration.

The good news is unconventional tools can be taught safely, and some tools on a client defined basis have a better “Why” than others.

On the other side of things,the experienced exerciser sometimes wants to stick with stuff they know such as free-weights, resistance machines and cardio equipment. My guess being is they don’t want to look like a beginner again.  I used the word “exerciser” as the person may have lots of experience moving around and doing things in the gym, but ZERO experience in TRAINING.  I make the difference between the two clear during the initial consult and the fact that I deal in the latter.

Going slightly off-topic and based purely on personal experience, which I know does not make for the best evidence, but is the same self-evidence they use, the MLM supplement pushers that have approached me HAVE NEVER been able to answer the WHY (as in Why I need their product) or the HOW (as in How does it work.)  I would think if you’re trying to sell me something, or in this case get me interested in the idea of selling the stuff you’d be REALLY GOOD at providing the Why and How.

I know I have to give the Why or How talk each time I teach a new exercise or make program changes.


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