<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=424649934352787&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Tricks of the Trade: Exercise Coaching Cues to Avoid Injury and Pain

IMG_7980Coaching cues can really make a big difference in the outcome of your workouts. Sometimes it means the difference in whether you get injured during an exercise. Or are you even working the muscles you originally intended to use? Without cues, it would be foolish to have a client jeopardize their health because they saw someone else do a movement incorrectly or think they read it in a magazine or online. This is not to say that there are not many ways one can do to their exercises, or modifications to spice up their workout plan, but you need to make sure you aren’t compromising yourself and goals in the process.

I aim to clarify several cues you might have heard a trainer speak to their client, or have read about in a magazine or online. With this knowledge, hopefully you will have an opportunity to make more informed and educated decisions about the exercises you are doing in the fitness center.

Wall Sit Knee Pain

A great exercise to utilize on leg day is the tried-and-true wall sit. Due to the nature of the exercise and positioning of the body, it can cause a real strain on the knees.

Dissecting the exercise shows which muscles are active during a wall sit. This includes the gluteus, hamstrings, quads, and calves. The movement is basically a static squat while pressed against a wall, utilizing the principles of isometrics. Lowering the body to a position in which the knee is bent at 90 degrees and the back and head are flat against the wall is ideal.

Knee pain can be a side effect; if so, using caution is always rule #1. To help alleviate some discomfort, some cues to consider include the following:

  • Make sure your feet are flat on the floor.
  • Move your feet away from the wall.
  • Widen your stance a little.
  • Slightly point your toes outward at an angle.

You will still be using the same muscles, but the emphasis will shift away from the knees and more into your powerful glutei muscles. I also cannot stress it enough: keep your head back against the wall and your cervical spine in a neutral position. For an added challenge, you can try being in a wall-sit position, then add in a bicep curl to accentuate the movement.

Overhead Shoulder Press Pain

Yet another staple exercise you will see in the gym is the overhead press. There are many variations to consider, some with free weights and some with selectorized machines. Both ways, potentially, will get the job done, if done properly. The shoulder press is performed by pressing one or two dumbbells or a barbell overhead (if using free weights), or with a designated overhead press machine from your favorite selectorized machine line.

A typical issue that arises during a shoulder press is general overall pain in the shoulder itself, and sometimes discomfort in the upper middle back. If there are no underlying issues with the shoulder, this might only be a technique issue that could be resolved with proper cueing. You can discover whether you do have an underlying shoulder problem by completing a Functional Movement Screening (FMS) at NIFS.

Cues to consider here include the following:

  • Never allow the bar to travel behind your head or neck.
  • Try to keep your elbows forward of your shoulders as you press overhead.
  • Lower the weight until your hands are about at eye level, then press.
  • Use dumbbells only when your skill and experience level allows for it.

Lifting really heavy weight, such as during Olympic lifting, can also be hazardous and warrant special consideration. Sometimes an injury occurs during an overhead Olympic movement, but often injuries happen when a weight is being lowered to the starting position, safely to the ground.

Dropping weights from overhead is permissible when the weight being used gets to a range that cannot be safely managed on the descent. At this point, it is advisable to drop the weight, but there is a right and wrong way to drop. Consulting with an Olympic lifting coach or professional along with experience is the best way to learn how to drop the weights in a controlled and safe manner. Ideally, you are going to be safe, and the equipment maintenance guy appreciates your courteous and safe lifting efforts.

Screen Shot 2019-01-29 at 10.30.09 AM

Lat Pulldowns, the Safe Way

Our final cue is for the Lat Pulldown, which is a variation of a pull-up, using a selectorized machine. Although the motion and muscles are the same, the lat pulldown is an easier way to get good repetitions at an otherwise challenging movement. This doesn’t mean you can flub the exercise at the expense of your health.

Ever since the beginning of strength training, an iconic image in the gym is the “behind the neck or head” lat pulldown. A trainer who cares about you will tell you not to do this movement because it’s bad. “But why not?” you may ask. Without a doubt this is a high-risk exercise, but not for the reason you might be thinking. The equipment you are using is checked, double-checked, and deemed safe, but there is always a chance that the cable will give way, causing the bar or handle to come at your noggin at a high rate of speed. We can all agree that a behind the neck lat pull down is not worth a concussion (or worse).

Here are some cues for a safer lat pulldown:

  • Grab the bar or handle with hands evenly spaced,
  • Pull the bar or handle down to around eye level in front of the body and control the motion both on the way up and back down.

Many people may have other perceptions, but safety is the number-one priority when you are a personal trainer.

***

Do you have a trainer who has given you cues for exercise? Cues can really make a big difference. If you are interested in safer, more effective exercise, and learning about how your body works in exercise, contact a NIFS personal trainer or health fitness specialist to schedule a meeting to discuss your goals, questions, and next steps to a better workout. Getting the most out of your time at the gym also makes sense. Now get back to work!

Muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: Thomas' Corner injury prevention pain personal training exercises coaching functional movement screen cues

Crucial Conversations: Working with a Coach or Personal Trainer

buffy5years.jpgI recently received a lesson on the origin and true meaning of the word coach. A coach can be defined as something that takes you somewhere, such as a stage coach or coach seat on an airliner. But a COACH is someone who takes you where you want to go. One of the many powers of a coach is the ability to make memories and lessons that stick with you forever, that take you places every day. I have been coached for the majority of my life before ultimately becoming one because knowing the effect these special people had on me, I wanted to be that for someone else.

But that’s me, that’s the way I am wired. But I wanted to find out from people like you why a COACH is so important. I had a great conversation with longtime NIFS member Buffy Linville and I posed the question: Why did you want to work with a coach? She had plenty so say, and I am honored and excited to share her thoughts with you.

Why did you want to work with a coach, Buffy? 

My own experience with a personal trainer came after many years of unsuccessfully trying to lose weight. I finally accepted the fact that I didn’t know how to do it on my own. With great apprehension, I approached a coach at my gym and inquired about personal training. I had to fight off the desire to “get in better shape” first (kind of the same mindset that tells you to clean your house before the housekeeper comes)! For some reason, we’re embarrassed to admit that we need help. That’s sad. In the beginning, it was scary. I didn’t know what to expect and I was afraid of looking foolish. I had never been an athlete or done sports of any kind, so I didn’t know what it felt like to challenge my body—to feel fatigue in my muscles or get my heart rate up. But I also didn’t know what it felt like to feel strong or to be able to run, jump, or climb. I didn’t know what good movement was, or how good it felt to conquer mental and physical challenges*.

“I had to fight off the desire to ‘get in better shape’ first (kind of the same mindset that tells you to clean your house before the housekeeper comes)! For some reason, we’re embarrassed to admit that we need help.

Fast-forward 6+ years… After several years of personal training and group training to various degrees and with various coaches, and after a sprint triathlon, two bodybuilding shows, and three powerlifting meets, I myself am now a personal trainer—a personal trainer who still seeks out personal training and coaching. This is partly because I want to keep learning from people who know more than I do, but also because in spite of all the knowledge I have about how to train and eat well and recover, I still need help. And I still fight the embarrassment of not being where I think I need to be fitness-wise. But this is why a coach is so important—you quickly find out that you’re not the only one. Everyone ebbs and flows in their journey to become better (be it with fitness, career, finances…coaching is valuable in any walk of life that’s important to you).

“Having someone help you establish realistic goals, create a plan, and then push, encourage, and support you along the way makes all the difference whether you’re brand new or a seasoned veteran.”

What are your major reasons to work with a coach?

  • Time and energy: Let someone else make the game plan. All you have to do is show up.
  • Expertise: No matter how much you know, someone else will know, if not more, at least something different than you know.
  • Education: It’s a professional’s job to stay current and always be learning. If you hire a reputable coach, you will likely always be learning something new—new exercises or a new/better way of doing something.
  • Accountability: You may already know what to do, but it’s easy to let things slide when there’s no consequence, no accountability. If someone is paying attention to and following up with you on your progress, you’re more likely to stay on track.
  • Assessments: A professional can take regular quality assessments to determine your progress and help you establish new goals.
  • Motivation: In addition to accountability, a coach will be your number-1 cheerleader. They know how hard you’re working and will celebrate your successes with you and encourage you through rough patches.
  • Efficiency: More than likely, you will work harder with a coach than you will on your own, which will help you achieve your goals faster.
    *Weight loss claims and/or individual results vary and are not guaranteed.

***

I would not be where I am today if not for the coaches in my life, or people like Buffy who have coached me just as much as I have coached her. Working with someone who can get the most out of you, even when you think there is nothing left, is a powerful relationship. Find a COACH, and watch them take you somewhere.

GT-logo-revised.jpgInterested in trying Small Group Training? Contact Tony today to attend a free session!

This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS motivation group training accountability personal training Crucial Conversations coaching