My Favorite Exercise?
Many times I meet someone new, at a party, at a retail store, during an interview, meeting a new trainer, or even at my daughter’s schools and after finding out I am a personal trainer they ask me a question. What is your favorite exercise? That is a very interesting question when you think about it. As a fun loving person you would expect my answer to be immediate and something like Squats, or Bench Press, Lunges, Split Cross or some other special exercise that maybe I created or designed for maximum effect. I have competed for years in American Power Lifting so you could expect it to be one or all of those events but here is the part I find interesting. As a fitness expert I cannot afford to have a favorite exercise. Many times I find myself asking a more important question, what is my favorite exercise for correcting a specific movement pattern in a specific client?
If I have a favorite exercise say “overhead press” wouldn’t I want every person I train to do my favorite like a new restaurant or favorite hike? Here is how I normally answer this one. My favorite exercise by far is the one that gets my client or me the right correction for the goal we are trying to achieve with that exercise. Would it be fair to say that any personal trainer who has a favorite exercise that does not head in this direction for his client is really a none personal trainer (impersonal trainers)? If a trainer does not have the skill set to know when an exercise is the wrong one no matter how much they like it may just be negligent in their practice.
When I sat in my car and watched a Boot Camp Class here in Boulder perform lunges for 45 minutes straight, I knew for a fact that class would crumble and in less than a year it was no longer going. That instructor was lunge happy and was so excited about making people sore that she probably took years off of the life of each of the participant’s knee joint. Poor form, poor technique as the class sacrificed quality movement for the quantity demanded by the instructor who of course was not performing the move just barking orders like she saw in a Clint Eastwood movie like HeartBreak Ridge. Boot camp is at maximum a 12 week gig but people are signing up for 6 months at a time. I truly believe it is the quickest way to get fit and then hurt sometimes permanently.
When questioned I try to explain like I am right now that there are terrible exercises that are perfect for a specific set of conditions for that specific client. Example, I often speak to my clients of forces that are causing damage in their bodies, torque, sheer, compression, hyper extension and in most cases the fix also incorporates the same forces. Knowing what direction and how much force to apply is crucial in order to create an appropriate correction.
So here is my point, we as a society are destroying ourselves with favorite activities, sports and practices that do not pay enough attention to how we move and what we are doing wrong. We have a tendency to believe that the trainer, teacher or practitioner knows what I should be doing. Believe me when I say they don’t. I have watched a large number of classes in most areas of fitness and health and the practitioners do not have training necessary to handle a large class or in many times not even a one on one. It is your body you are playing the “favorites” game with and like Russian Roulette there is usually only one loser.
As the personal trainer I have become and in teaching over 80 other trainers, practitioners and instructors as well as my clients how to take care of their bodies I can tell you first hand that I cannot and will not afford the concept of a favorite exercise and Neither can You.