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Exercise Choice: What You Really Need To Know…


How do you go about selecting exercises for yourself or your clients (if you’re a personal trainer)?

We’ve all been guilty of following workout programs that both look and sound, maybe its the workout of a peer in the gym, your favourite athlete or simply a cool exercise you saw on instagram.

Let me be clear, following such an approach is one sure way to discard the importance of individuality especially when it comes to our unique bone structure, mobility and stability capabilities and those pesky pre existing injuries or asymmetrical imbalances which play a key role in determining the risk or benefit one can generate from certain exercises.

I took some time this afternoon to highlight what I consider the three most important factors everyone must consider when mapping out their own/or a clients training protocol.

Exercise Choice: What You Need To know!

1) Does the exercise get you or (your clients) closer to their goals ?

Consider its purpose and functionality. Consider your end goal, is it: fat loss, strength, injury rehabilitation or sport specific performance? 

2) Can you (or your client) get the movement right and benefit from it?

Are they ready to conduct the exercise? In other words do they possess the right level of motor control to execute the moment perfectly?

Think of motor control like the brain singling the right muscle to fire at the right time.

I like to use the analogy of car journey. Starting a new exercise is like going on a journey without a sat nav, you stop, you start, you take wrong turns – its ugly etc. The motor control is just not right! The problem is exacerbated even further when load (weight) is added hence my favourite expression – never lay strength on top of a dysfunctional movement pattern (a fancy term for shit technique)

On the other hand, a well trained movement is like driving to the local shop and back, you can do it with maximum efficiency, heck even with your eyes closed. One must realise it takes time to develop such a skill.

The more complex the exercise (such as squat, deadlift and certain olympic lifts) the greater the need for sharper motor control and strength. If these qualities are not In place then your chances of injury will increase tenfold – trust me.

Phil Graham Personal Trainer Articles

But walk into any gym in town and you’ll see it hour after hour, personal training clients and hard training gym warriors putting their bodies through hell with shitty technique and overloaded exercises

Improve your skill through repetition. The saying Practice makes perfect is complete nonsense. Perfect practice makes perfect – period! You can try and learn it from a book, or youtube video but there’s no way it will come around as quickly as it would when performed under the watchful eye of a seasoned pro. Hence why a highly qualified and experienced personal trainer/coach is worth their weight in gold when starting out!  

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3) Can they conduct the exercise pain free?

If the answer is no – then the exercise is not for you or your client. Ignoring such important sign is one sure way to create trouble!