When you enter a gym filled with endless equipment choices, do you feel excited? As a fitness professional or experienced gym-goer, you probably find that all these options inspire you to try new moves and push your physical limits. But what about people who are new to the fitness world? Are they overwhelmed, like amateur do-it-yourselfers standing in the plumbing aisle for the first time? How do you make these exercise tools a successful part of a client's fitness routine?
From the regular gym standards of free weights, stability balls, kettlebells and a host of weight machines, to innovative equipment like the TRX® Suspension Trainer™ and BOSU® Balance Trainer, what you choose and how you incorporate it into a training program can launch a client’s commitment to exercise or totally turn someone off with frustration.
With so many choices, where do you begin? That depends on the individual and his or her current abilities. Starting your clients in a less-intimidating, muscle-targeted activity is an ideal first step, and once they are ready, they can progress to more-demanding, proprioceptive whole-body activities.
Incorporating new exercise equipment means that you, as the trainer, need to provide more-focused performance feedback. This can include giving constant feedback, rep by rep, initially honing in on one or two key performance variables, and then asking how the exercise felt different from one set to the next. Try a tell-show-do approach, which requires being able to correctly demonstrate the movements. “Tell” and “show” what you are doing, pointing out key safety aspects. Then let the clients “do” the exercise as you offer feedback. Focusing on proper form helps them process incoming sensory feedback, allowing for optimal structural and functional efficiency. Select only a few points at a time to avoid information overload; keep the feedback positive while offering the most pertinent corrections.
Once clients are able to safely and effectively perform an exercise, then you can move into the not-so-critical performance corrections. When people have the opportunity to do an exercise while receiving external feedback from you, and they experience success, they will feel more confident about using the equipment during sessions or will even try the exercise on their own in the future. Recall those do-it-yourselfers in the plumbing aisle? They probably aren’t ready to replace their plumbing lines, but perhaps they are ready to tackle upgrading a showerhead or replacing a faucet. That same approach can apply to exercisers if you introduce one new equipment experience at a time.
For experienced exercisers who have used most if not all of the equipment in your toolbox, keep their interest piqued by using their favorites. Add the fun factor with multiple pieces of equipment in sessions and you may even see them crank out more reps than usual. Combine pieces to add unique challenges; be creative, but keep safety at the forefront of all programming. During boot camp or group training sessions in which fitness levels vary among participants, using multiple types of equipment can become a programming challenge. Offer progressions and regressions for each piece of equipment, and perhaps include a body weight–only option for anyone who currently lacks the skills or confidence to use the equipment without feedback or a spotter.
Don’t worry about dazzling clients with all the equipment you have in your toolbox during your first sessions. Introduce a piece or two over a few sessions so clients can feel successful and confident, not frustrated and overwhelmed. Being able to get your clients to their goals doesn’t require a catalog of exercise equipment, but it does require the skill to creatively progress their exercise programs.
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Since 1987, the National Academy of Sports Medicine® (NASM) has been a global leader in providing evidence-based certifications and advanced specializations for fitness professionals. In addition to its NCCA-accredited Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) exam, NASM offers a progressive career track with access to continuing education and specializations. To learn more about NASM, visit www.nasm.org or call 1-800-460-NASM.