Biggest Mistakes of Group Training Programs

There have been a few things I have noticed over the years of working in a training environment. I am truly guilty of making many of these mistakes in the past, that is what motivated me to write this blog. Lots of reflection….Working in groups is nothing new, but more recently the boom in bootcamps(or outdoor exercise, lets just call it what it is), and Group Personal training have really increased popularity of it.

1) Lack of programming over any give period of time

Many groups are  not planned.  The trainer or instructor, at  the last minute sets up some stations and says lets go for it, this sounds like fun today. This is fine on occasion but what is the overall philosophy or plan.  Sometimes they actually take the time to write workouts for a week. The workouts are challenging and hard, and many times actually compliment one another during the week, but don’t progress from the previous week and will not even come close to matching up. Meaning one week there may be deadlifts in low reps for a few sets, another week there are some pullups, the next there are tons of burpees, but you never get better at anything except maybe some conditioning. Muscle confusion does exactly what it says.period.

2) Intensity Intensity Intensity

How many times have you heard people talk about almost or actually throwing up in class or how they are consistently sore for days after every workout. Here is the deal, working out hard is important, but intensity is only one aspect of training. The latest trend 40 minute high intensity “Metabolic Conditioning” sessions may feel great for awhile but eventually the floor will drop. Most crash intensely. Lack of energy and strength, or injury usually set in. The sad thing is it takes awhile for people to actually realize that the exercise is causing the problems. They will blame the gluten, or sleep, but God forbid someone attack their workouts.  The only people that are usually immune to this are those that really won’t(have common sense) or can’t push themselves to the intensity levels required.

3) Strength Biased but Too much Conditioning

I usually go through other fitness websites looking at their posted workouts of the day or a persons blog/training journals. Recently I saw a site that had a strength biased training program. It really looked solid. Deadlifts programmed in low reps with some assistance work and some pullups and stabilization work. Looked really solid. Then the post workout conditioning comes in. Sprint400M, 20pullups, 20swings, 20 pushups, 20 body squats,20 situps. Repeat 4 times. What just happened?  I will tell you what happened, that deadlift workout just went to shit. Those people will never get better at deadlifts. They will be bitching about not improving 6 months from now. That much “conditioning” post strength workout is a great way to just “confuse” your muscles into weakness. Believe me I know from experience.

4) No Strength Bias at all

This is true of many bootcamps I see. Not all bootcamps, just some. So if you run a solid bootcamp don’t go defriending me on facebook. Yes, not everyone cares to get strong, but this is my blog, and I think strength is one of the biggest factors that needs to be considered, so if you don’t like it then read something else. Setting up cute obstacle courses, and doing “air” shoulder presses. Yes I have seen it, people “pretending” to press weight. Now is this better than sitting at home and doing nothing? Yes, of course, but I am pointing out that just jogging in groups and doing sit ups or throwing 8lb medicine balls won’t cut it for long term results in strength. All of the benefits of increased bone density and metabolism come from gains in strength, not strictly cardio. Those that do only conditioning are weak.

5) Scaling Gone Wrong

Scaling is important in group setting. So what is scaling? Well it means to modify a workout based on skill or experience level.  In reality there are some people that really don’t belong in a group in the first place and probably need One on One training. Sometimes they sneak in. But here is the problem I have. If a trainer is going to scale do so wisely.

I have seen videos where they are teaching beginners in a group setting how to do the olympic lifts. The progression they are showing these people that are new, is to use a PVC pipe since it is light. My opinion is that this is trash. Mainly because most of these people don’t even belong Olylifting. My scaled version would be to have them practice Squats, Deadlifts, and kettlebell swings for 6 months to build a base of strength and proper movement before they try and advance into the olylifts.

Another angle that I like to take is that is if someone can’t do an exercise figure out why, and maybe during that exercise in a group setting they should be doing a corrective drill that will help improve.  This may not be greatest for their ego in a group setting but they will thank you in the long run. An example; I had a client that was aggravated with swings at times. Sure, doing deadlifts is a great scaled version of the swing, but to take it a step further I knew that their hip flexors were completely over active and causing tons of trouble. So during swings I prescribed hip mobility drills. I then supersetted deadlifts with hip mobility which turned out to be a better choice than grooving the deadlift alone.

I will be the first to admit that in some of my groups there are individuals that don’t always have picture perfect form. Some individuals will revert to old ways and get in the intensity zone. Of course as a trainer I make sure to get things to get back on the right path quickly. I remember that my job is to design effective programs, teach skills, and of course  to coach them through a strong workout without doing any harm.

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