The Why and The WTF.

An advantage to going to the gym five days a week is the ability to observe others.  More often than not its the trainers, specifically it’s how they are training their clients that momentarily diverts my attention.

I consider myself pretty good at blocking things out and simply concentrating on the work at hand. That said, there are things once seen that cannot be unseen. THis is where the mental note taking begins, starting with the word “Why”, and sometimes…


To gym goers everywhere: Just because you saw a trainer doing something doesn’t automatically make what they’re doing right. Even if it is right, it doesn’t automatically make it right for you.

Training is client defined and client refined. There is no real standard to how a techniqe can be performed and still be “right.”  I’m ok with people performing exercises differently. Just because something appears different doesn’t automatically make it wrong. Right or Wrong depends on the “Why” and “Why are you doing this?”

Is there a legitimate reason behind the technical alteration, or is it different simply to be different? Sometimes it’s the former, unfortunately it is often the latter and wrong is wrong. 


A local area trainer. I’ve got nothing here. 

OK I got a few things, Starting with “WTF is this person thinking?”  The lady on the bottom is performing what appears to be either a skull crush exercise (a legitimate Tricep exercise) or possibly a barbell pull-over exercise (a legitimate Lat exercise.) I’m not removing the possibility that it was some other exercise, such as a barbell V-up, which given the full situation would make even less sense.

Why are her feet are on a ball?  Both ladies are one loss of posture away from having a very bad day and unstable feet on either presumed exercise add nothing of value.

Why is her head raised?   Actually she has no choice given how she is positioned on the bench, but all this does is (a) potentially strain the neck and (b) reduce the Skull Crush range of motion.

If its a Pullover, why would you want to significantly raise the hips in this exercise?

Why the hell is another lady pinning her down with a resistance band using her near max weight?. Is it to get the lifter to raise her hips and contract her glutes and abs?  I assure you that you can contract both your glutes and abs without needing someone stand on you.

“The Jackstand and the Jackwagon Trainer” a real life case study. Not too many months ago I witnessed a trainer having her client perform barbell deadlifts while the bar remained in the barbell jack stand.


A barbell jackstand is used to raise a barbell off the floor to make exchanging loads easier.  Note the slight angle and barrier created. The distance from the floor to the bottom of a standard Olympic bumper plate when hoisted is around 2in/5cm. 

I can understand the reasons why elevating a deadlift start position could be needed. I perform them myself and have prescribed them as a regression, a post-rehab exercise or as a special exercise to address weakness in the lifters performance.

What I can’t understand is “why” the trainer didn’t place the bar on blocks (the gym has several of various heights) or do it off a pin setting in a rack.  Either answer would have been better. Trying to Deadlift from the jack completely alters the lift…and not in a good way.

img_8001The Conventional Stance Deadlift set-up.  Note the following: The lifters hand position relative to their shin  and foot, the shoulder relative to the arm/hand position and the hip and spine relationship.  Hip position is determined by the lifters structure.  In my case (relatively short arms and long femurs) my hip position is closest to #1. A different body requires some adjustments to find their optimum start point.  Elevating the barbell  creates changes in the involved joint angles and moving the barbell forward changes the balance and further changes joint angles. Illustration Credit: Starting Strength 3rd Ed.

Although the jack does elevate the bar,reducing the vertical pull distance, it also becomes a barrier and creates additional inches of forward space. During the execution of the Deadlift the lifter pulls the bar upwards, while also pulling the bar towards themselves to maintain the load over their center of gravity and pull in the shortest path of travel of possible. The barrier prevents the lifter from centering (or nearly centering) the bar under over the middle of their feet. The jack also becomes a hazard in the event a lift needs to be aborted (aka drop the damn bar.)

By attempting to lift from the Jack the lifter places a disproportionate load on their lower back. Their shoulders being so far behind the bar prevent their lats from being in the maximum angle of efficiency. What this creates is a situation where the lifters arms are not aligned with the scapula and weakened Lat muscles are working from an unusual angle.

My guess answer to the WTF question: The trainer was being lazy, doesn’t know the basic mechanics of the Deadlift, or both.


2 thoughts on “The Why and The WTF.

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