How To Assess A Client For Body Asymmetries (repost)

Asymmetric Musculature

I originally wrote this piece for AFE and am reposting it here.

Fitness pre-testing is a valuable tool for evaluating movement patterns and assessing a client’s strengths and weaknesses. The information gathered from such testing can then be utilized to develop a customized program which addresses and corrects functional abnormalities. The more thorough the pre-testing, the better equipped a trainer is to help the client reach optimal potential within the training program, while also guarding against injuries which the client might be predisposed to as a result of compensatory patterns.

Many people have developed compensatory patterns over time. Sometimes structural abnormalities exist from birth, or develop in childhood, and often throw surrounding soft tissues and joints out of alignment. In other cases, injuries from sports or other activities can cause a person to begin favoring one side of the body in an effort to reduce the stress load on the injured side. The problem with these compensatory patterns is that they allow the weak or restricted side to become even worse over time. Because of this, functional weight training should always address these patterns in an effort to correct them.

How To Determine Asymmetry

One of the most valuable early tests for determining structural asymmetry is the single leg stance, in which the client’s ability to stabilize the trunk over the supporting leg is determined. Misalignments of the hips, knees, or ankles/feet can be detected easily with this screening tool. For example, if one hip joint is restricted or otherwise unstable, the client will shift weight in an effort to maintain balance. A trainer can then utilize the information gathered from the single leg stance test to focus on compromised function in a joint or extremity.

Clients will frequently exhibit asymmetries in strength, range of motion, or muscle recruitment which can easily be overlooked if a trainer doesn’t have a practiced eye. Because of this, a thorough assessment of the client’s posture, range of motion, and form should be implemented before training begins so that the trainer can identify and properly address compensatory movement patterns.

Let’s say a client exhibits poor movement while performing a basic bodyweight squat, the source of the dysfunction must be determined so that the trainer can correct it. Is the limitation is coming from the foot, the knee, the hip joint, the pelvis, or the sacrum? Is the issue one of limited mobility, muscle weakness, joint instability, or of poor muscle activation? The origin and the nature of the dysfunction will determine which corrective exercises should be added to the client’s program.

Sports and Compensatory Patterns

Asymmetries are especially common in people who engage in sports such as baseball, golf, soccer, football, and tennis, which rely heavily on one side of the body. Because of this, it is important to ask clients if they currently play sports or have played them in the past. It is also important to ask clients about any past injuries which may be contributing to current compensatory patterns. Compensation results from a number of factors, including muscle weakness, impaired joint mobility, musculoskeletal asymmetry, leg length discrepancy, previous injury, and even joint stress from obesity. Joints can become lax and unstable, forcing contralateral muscles to take the brunt of the movement in order to stabilize the dysfunction. What often results is overuse in the compensating region, which in turn adversely affects the client’s training, and also reinforces the asymmetry.

The Unmotivated Client

lazy client

If you have been working as a trainer for a while, you know that motivating some clients can be as challenging as pulling teeth. You know the type of clients I am talking about, who moan and complain about the training regimen, who lean heavily upon the phrase “I can’t”, and who make you want to rip your hair out in frustration. You became a fitness professional partially due to your passion for fitness and partially out of a deep need to inspire others and to guide them towards reaching their fitness goals, right? So why would some people resist your efforts to help them when it should be obvious that you have created a career around getting people fit? Sometimes clients can be so highly resistant that no trainer or coach will ever be able to get through to them, but sometimes the trainer may have a hand in the breakdown in communication.

One of the biggest rifts which can occur between a trainer and a client is one in which the trainer has forgotten how to relate to the average person. While a trainer’s immersion in the world of gyms and exercise equipment is a natural outgrowth of his interest in fitness, that immersion might cause him to forget somewhere along the way that fitness newbies might not understand or be able to relate to the “gym is life” mindset. Non-fitness people are often extremely intimidated by health club or gym environments for a multitude of reasons. They may find the experience of navigating through a plethora of exercise equipment completely terrifying. They may question their ability to perform exercises with the proper degree of coordination, balance and strength. Though clients hire trainers for their expertise and their ability to motivate, some of them are so reliant on their self-defeatist thoughts, simply because the pattern is familiar, that they often sabotage the trainers’ efforts. Such clients may even hold onto the notion that asking their trainers too many questions may be embarrassing, and if the trainers aren’t very perceptive, breakdowns in communication can easily occur.

The most successful trainers and coaches understand that there is a great deal of psychology behind personal training. For every gung-ho client who is ready to give 100%, there is a client who is indecisive and non-committal. You will have the best chance of building a rewarding trainer-client relationship with the latter type of client if you make an effort to address his or her concerns. Instead of focusing solely on the physical component of training, you will become far better as a trainer if you tap into the mental and spiritual components of your client’s transformation. Another important skill which you should develop is the willingness to adapt a client’s training regimen so that it accommodates any true physical limitations. If you practice a militant approach with all of your clients without taking into account valid physical restrictions, you run the risk of not only injuring your clients, but also of losing your clients’ interest and respect. Make sure to clearly define goals with your clients which are congruent with what they hope to achieve, not what you think they want to achieve.

Trainers Who Don’t Look The Part

personal trainer fat

Have you ever seen a trainer who looks like he or she is in sore need of a trainer? It amazes me when I see trainers who are in horrible shape, but who are training others. I have even heard a couple of trainers berate their clients for practicing poor eating habits, then I will see them drinking Starbucks frappucinos or eating food from McDonald’s!

If you work in the fitness industry, you have a responsibility to LOOK THE PART. It’s not about looking like you are photo shoot ready all the time, but you should at least be in decent physical shape, practice healthy lifestyle habits when out in public, and be clean and well groomed for your clients and followers. Your appearance is your business card and your logo, so when you show up looking like you have been on a long break from working out, you lose your power to motivate others through leading by example. The thing is, leading by example is critical to igniting that spark in people to pursue fitness goals and replace bad habits with good ones. No one wants to follow the lead of someone who looks like a lazy pig!

There is one trainer I have seen at one of the gyms I train at who, over the years, has turned into, well…a sloth. She was never in very good shape, though I can tell that she was one of those people who went through a mega transformation and lost over 100 pounds at one point. On the one hand, she should be proud of what she has accomplished. However, just because she got a weekend certification doesn’t mean she knows diddly squat about training people. I have watched her train clients, and I swear I could use those observations as a sleeping aid, because she doesn’t know how to train people, and she is so damned slow and boring!

As the years have passed, she has spread in girth, and walks more slowly than ever, with a severely stooped posture and a belly so big that I honestly thought at one point last year that she was pregnant (no, she wasn’t). What boggles my mind is that she seems to be completely clueless about most of the equipment at the gym!

I would never say anything to the trainers who don’t look like they have any business instructing others on exercise, but it really bothers me that they have somehow convinced their unwitting clients to train with them.

Personal Fitness Training Is 90% Motivation

Female+with+female+personal+trainer
I will never discount the value of a skilled fitness trainer, because I know the importance of having a strong foundation of knowledge in exercise principles and the ability to demonstrate proper form on exercises. However, all trainers must develop the ability to motivate their clients if they are to maintain a certain level of success in taking their clients to the next level and helping them to ultimately reach fitness goals.

I have to laugh when I see trainers who are basically just really good at counting when they are with their clients. One trainer I know of spends the entire session time blabbing on and on about all of his personal business, never instructing his clients, putting them on no-brainer machines, then interrupting his boring personal stories to count out reps. IMMEDIATELY after the client is done with a set, the trainer continues with his story! This has occurred, without fail, every single time I have been near him when he was at the gym training a client. In addition, he is seriously overweight! At least he recently began working out at the gym from time to time (not consistently), because he went for years without training at that gym, and it definitely showed. It blows my mind that he even has clients, because he does absolutely nothing whatsoever to motivate them. In addition, his clients NEVER transform. His physique doesn’t transform either. Sorry, but no trainer should look like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

A trainer should be a cheerleader for clients, encouraging, motivating and challenging them. It isn’t enough to hold clients accountable for showing up for training sessions. Great trainers motivate clients to continue with consistent healthy choices both in and out of the gym. Great trainers also lead by example, and focus on their clients instead of wasting energy during a training session by talking about themselves. Whenever I am training a client and the client asks me personal questions, my answers are brief and punctuated with, “I’ll tell you more after the training session is over”. How can I expect my clients to focus on their workout routines if I spend time gossiping about my personal life? I honestly think that there should be a veil of mystery when it comes to a trainer’s personal life in order to preserve the trainer-client relationship. Though the trainer-client rapport is very important, I firmly believe that the focus should ALWAYS be on the client. After all, the client is the one paying for the expertise of the trainer, and deserves to be the center of attention for the 55 minutes allotted.

Minimalist Footwear

minimalist footwear

Please check out my latest article for American Fitness Educators which discusses minimalist footwear! Original post can be found at:

http://www.fitnesseducators.com/blog/minimalist-footwear/

Merrell-Road-Glove-Barefoot-Shoe
Less Is More

Are there benefits to training in minimalist footwear? Studies have demonstrated that training while wearing minimalist shoes results in enhanced performance due to greater foot pliability and a closer approximation to a barefoot stance. Since our feet adjust to wearing raised heels over time, it can be incredibly challenging to keep our heels on the ground while performing exercises like deep squats. Proponents of minimalist footwear may even argue that barefoot is best for heavy weightlifting, but the risks of exposure to microbes or hazardous fragments of glass, metal, or rocks, make minimalist shoes a much more feasible choice while at the gym.

Dysfunctional movement patterns become established throughout the body over time. Conventional athletic shoes can often contribute to ankle and foot dysfunction because they inhibit natural foot action. If you don’t believe it, then try to perform some of your physical activities barefoot and see how well, or poorly, you perform. Chances are that the impaired mechanics in the feet and ankles will make it difficult at best to perform those activities. By gradually switching over to minimalist footwear, an athlete can essentially correct improper foot mechanics and optimize kinetic feedback throughout the body during movement.

Benefits Of Minimalist Shoes

Conventional athletic footwear features a cushioned heel which also can compromise power. In contrast, minimalist footwear features little to no heel, and the soles are very thin and malleable, so they allow the joints in the foot to move and adjust to weight loading movements. In addition, the heels and midfoot make solid contact with the floor, causing more activation in the glutes and hamstrings. Studies have demonstrated that people who wear minimalist footwear develop greater strength in their legs and feet, since more power is transferred from the working muscles, through the feet, and into the movement. Plyometric movements and sprint power will also be enhanced while wearing minimalist shoes.

A 2011 study by Squadrone and Gallozzi assessed the ability of experienced runners to estimate the degree of inversion, eversion, dorsiflexion, and plantarflexion, of a slope surface board placed under their right foot while standing. They found that the degree of proprioceptive feedback which subjects received while wearing Vibram Five Fingers® was much more accurate than in subjects who wore a standard running shoe. In conclusion, cushioned shoes conferred a distinct disadvantage when compared to minimalist shoes during assessment of foot position awareness.

How To Transition Into Minimalist Shoes

Anyone who is transitioning from conventional athletic shoes to minimalist footwear needs to do so gradually, since the body has to adjust to radically different proprioceptive input. There have been cases of metatarsal stress which developed after converting too quickly to minimalist shoes. However, once the transition is made, noticeable strength gains should occur. Try spending about 15 to 30 minutes, twice a day, wearing minimalist shoes around the house. After about a week or two, you can try them out at the gym one to two days a week until you become accustomed to the feel of the shoes. Be aware that your gait and foot stance will probably change as you acclimate to this type of shoe.

REFERENCES:

Squadrone R, Gallozzi C (2011) Effect of a five-toed minimal protection shoe on static and dynamic ankle position sense. J Sports Med Phys Fitness Sep;51(3): 401-8.

Competition Strong Trainer Directory

Stacey-Naito-4
Are you looking for a trainer to help you get into the best shape of your life? Please check out the NEW Competition Strong Trainer Directory, which has trainers in various locations across the U.S., Bermuda and Barbados. I am honored to be listed as one of the trainers in this directory, and am excited to watch this directory grow as more trainers and coaches are added.

Please click on this link to see my bio on this great site, and be sure to check out the other fantastic trainers listed too!

http://competitionstrong.com/trainer/stacey-naito-ca/

Personal Fitness Training Is 90% Motivation

Female+with+female+personal+trainer
I will never discount the value of a skilled fitness trainer, because I know the importance of having a strong foundation of knowledge in exercise principles and the ability to demonstrate proper form on exercises. However, all trainers must develop the ability to motivate their clients if they are to maintain a certain level of success in taking their clients to the next level and helping them to ultimately reach fitness goals.

I have to laugh when I see trainers who are basically just really good at counting when they are with their clients. One trainer I know of spends the entire session time blabbing on and on about all of his personal business, never instructing his clients, putting them on no-brainer machines, then interrupting his boring personal stories to count out reps. IMMEDIATELY after the client is done with a set, the trainer continues with his story! This has occurred, without fail, every single time I have been near him when he was at the gym training a client. In addition, he is overweight and has never once worked out at the gym in the eleven years I have seen him there! It blows my mind that he even has clients, because he does absolutely nothing whatsoever to motivate them. In addition, his clients NEVER transform.

A trainer should be a cheerleader for clients, encouraging, motivating and challenging them. It isn’t enough to hold clients accountable for showing up for training sessions. Great trainers motivate clients to continue with consistent healthy choices both in and out of the gym. Great trainers also lead by example, and focus on their clients instead of wasting energy during a training session by talking about themselves. Whenever I am training a client and the client asks me personal questions, my answers are brief and punctuated with, “I’ll tell you more after the training session is over”. How can I expect my clients to focus on their workout routines if I spend time gossiping about my personal life? I honestly think that there should be a veil of mystery when it comes to a trainer’s personal life in order to preserve the trainer-client relationship. Though the trainer-client rapport is very important, I firmly believe that the focus should ALWAYS be on the client. After all, the client is the one paying for the expertise of the trainer, and deserves to be the center of attention for the 55 minutes allotted.