The longer I’m a trainer, the more I read, the more I find myself constantly changing/tweaking/improving the exercise programs of my clients. Long gone are the days when I thought I knew it all and was too good to change. First it was balance movements with the stability ball, BOSU, and air disc. Then I fell in love with suspension work using the TRX. Now I’m Russian kettlebell certified (RKC) using kettlebells & sandbags… along with all of the standards (barbell, dumbbells, bodyweight). What typically leads me on these research journeys is when someone either plateaus or worse, gets hurt.
When I start using a new program or equipment, I use it with everyone. What good is a program if I can only use it with some of my clients? That was my initial beef with kettlebells. All of my clients weren’t good candidates for, nor should they try, kettlebell snatches. It wasn’t until I received my RKC that I realized that maybe they’ll just learn to hip hinge, and perform the deadlift. That’s okay. It’s when someone starts to complain about pain that I’ll investigate the movement, first by critiquing their specific movement pattern, and if that’s okay, then the movement pattern of the exercise. What I’m starting to observe is that you have to write your workouts in pencil, not pen. Unless you have Superman’s x-ray vision or a portable MRI machine, you’re not going to know what’s going on inside their body, or as I like to say…”under the hood”. Variable leg lengths, scar tissue from past surgeries, joint capsule issues, past injuries, are just a few of the obstacles that can make your dream exercise a ticking time bomb for someone. Next add all of the negative lifestyle issues that affect posture into the mix.
A well respected strength coach who works with world class athletes eliminated working on stability balls because a ball burst while he had one of his million dollar athletes working on it. It didn’t help that he was holding a pair of 120lb dumbbells. Lucky for him he wasn’t hurt. I think that may have been an emotional knee jerk reaction, but I understand his reasoning. There was a risk of injury, time to re-evaluate the exercise. I’m frequently asked about CrossFit. I love many of the exercises that they perform in CrossFit, but I’m not a fan of working a skilled exercise to exhaustion. I think you walk a fine line of risking injury when you do that. I personally feel that physical therapists have adopted Pilates as “their” strength training protocol not because of the results it demonstrates, but more because of the low risk of injury. I feel that the best exercise routine is the routine that will make you stronger, leaner, and improve mobility without hurting you. I’m willing to state that you truly don’t know the long term effects of many programs until you implement them. So what’s best- bodyweight, suspension work, kettlebells, sandbags, barbells, dumbbells, or ropes? I’ll answer that with 4 simple words. For what & for whom. See you in the gym.