The fitness industry is in it’s early stages. At the start of it, people that looked good or competed, were the go-to people to get advice from on how to get in shape. Arguably it is important to demonstrate that you can walk the walk, not just talk the talk, but looking good doesn’t necessarily mean you know what you are talking about.
Some say one of the most influential pioneers of this industry is Paul Chek. Paul is famous for saying that anyone who teaches health should be able to do so without a shirt on. His point being that this should show that they know what they are talking about. But I think these days, coaches and trainers need to go one step further, and ensure they always have a good grasp on the theory, not just the practice of what works for them.
Past, present and future…
When I started my career 20 years ago the trend was on fixed axis machines. This meant you sat in and pushed or pulled in one direction, and the environment was very controlled. Then the industry moved away from this and went through a phase of going crazy about stability or instability and swissball/ cable training. More recently, we have been heavily influenced by the USA almost taking us full circle. Facilities are now minimalist, with equipment that can be used in a multitude of different ways, with a focus on ‘functional training,’ if there is such a thing.
Historically coaches and trainers got known for one particular avenue of fitness. Having a niche was the norm. Rarely did you see people cross over in terms of their schools of thought. Today we find the best coaches and trainers focused on understanding all areas of training, taking aspects from all of them, resulting in the industry growing and developing rapidly. For example, one of Ido Portal’s phrases which demonstrates my point is, “I don’t do fitness, I do movement.” His belief is that you shouldn’t use tools to train with until you have a good understanding of your own body. He advocates movement which it could be argued incorporates many aspects of fitness, certainly flexibility, strength, cardio-vascular fitness, endurance and motor skills. Another example is, Crossfit. For all it’s pro’s and con’s, it brings together elements of Olympic Lifting, gymnastics, body weight movements, Energy systems training, with circuit training and to a certain degree flexibility/mobility.
It is definitely important for trainers to have an appreciation of all types of training, and schools of thought, because as we know, one size doesn’t fit all.
Who has influenced me over the years. and where do I see the direction of travel…
Personally my training has been influenced by the the likes of Charles Poliquin for exceptional programming in Strength, Conditioning and Fat Loss, Ido Portal for amazing body-weight and movement training, Christian Thibaudeau for advanced strength and conditioning programming, Martin Rooney for quality group exercise and motivational strategies, Scott Alexander for very advanced cardio vascular programming and fat loss techniques, Andy Dubios for solid endurance programming for endurance athletes, Rawdon Dubois for Body Transformation, Nutritional Strategies and Body Building Techniques, Dave “The Bulldog” Beattie for the best knowledge in Powerlifting and Strength Training, Chris Sommers, the USA gymnastic coach and Ryan Hurst from Gold Medal Bodies…to name but a few! These guys are all incredible at what they do, which is why I use elements from each of their teaching methodologies with my clients every single day.
Out of the methodologies I’ve learnt over the years, it always comes down to balancing the tipping point in the direction of results. I don’t like leaving things to chance. I believe that if you are going to train, dedicating time and money, then you may as well shoot for the results you want.
As an industry I think we have learnt that all elements of training are important and impact each other, therefore we need to have a training plan that brings them together.
The one thing that nearly always gets neglected is mobility. It’s scary, but almost everyday I see someone that cannot perform a deep squat or another simple movement to full range without being in pain. Usually this is because as people grow up, life takes over, and they forget the importance of movement/mobility, and at the same time, spend too much time sat at a desk. This means I often find a big part of my job is teaching people how to move again, and to develop consistent movement patterns as a foundation to build on.
So I hear you asking yourself, what’s the most important thing to focus on first?
Well this is the million-dollar question, this is of course up to you. But what I always suggest is putting together a long term plan, with short term goals and milestones. Decide what success looks like, and map out your route there. Speaking as someone who can’t train just for the sake of training, and always needs a goal, I can testify that this is the best way to stay focused, consistent and feeling like you are progressing.
Here and now…
As an industry we are leaning towards clarity in understanding all elements of fitness via clearer coaching and clearer spaces to train, one-to-one, small group training and large group exercise sessions. I think we have gone away from complexity and towards better coaching, planning and motivation. A fair few of the big industry players have sold up and the days of having a membership in a commercial gym are starting to look like a thing of the past. People are choosing their spaces to train based on service and return on investment.