State of the Fitness Industry

It’s Monday morning at 6:00am and with a tired but determined demeanor I pass through the turnstile of my local fitness establishment.

This is one of a dozen fitness clubs I’ve been a member of in the last 15 or 20 years, a few of which I’ve even worked in part time as a trainer…but not this one. As a health and fitness professional myself, I can appreciate the motivating qualities and anonymity of a different training environment outside the one I work in for 8-10 hours a day.

As I move towards my first exercise I see out of my peripheral vision a staff trainer demonstrating a movement for their early morning client. The movement involves a lunge (one legged squat) and a Bosu ball.  This is a Swiss exercise ball that has been cut in half to provide trainer and client alike with endless possibilities of adding instability to a given movement or series of movements, whether it is needed or not. Beginning my first movement, out of the corner of my eye I can still see the trainer struggling with teaching his client the previously demonstrated movement. With legs and arms flailing, the frustrated client blurts out, “I just can’t seem to stay up on the ball no matter how hard I try”. After several futile attempts, the client’s unsuccessful endeavor to perform a single leg-supported movement on a Bosu ball is met with the all too familiar phrase, “Alright, that’s enough of that. Let’s go on to the next leg exercise”. I grit my teeth and continue with my workout, and so it goes. This series of events is a daily occurrence in my existence. I see trainer after trainer with seemingly no real knowledge or comprehension of the clients’ needs, capabilities or limitations and I watch client after client attempt to perform exercises for which they do not have the control, skill level or seemingly any understanding of how the movement relates to their goal.

The exercises this particular trainer has chosen for his client this morning have very little to do with the client at all. They have everything to do with an industry that is absolutely in the wrong paradigm.

I have been involved in the fitness industry from the early age of fourteen and at age forty, that’s much more than half of my life. Before long, I developed a keen and lasting interest in how the human body works physiologically and mechanically with a passion few people seemed to share. Oh sure, through the years colleagues read the magazines and did the diets and the workouts, they even studied a little bit of anatomy. They all followed the gurus of the day and if it was new and innovative they were doing it. There was only one problem with all that and it still is happening all around me no matter where I go; most of the fitness professionals out there are still following gurus, not science and especially not common sense.

The ability to think for yourself isn’t automatic, this is a learned skill. No one in the fitness industry is learning how to think! I am starting to believe that there is no one out there teaching the basics for my industry. Principles of resistance, anatomy, mechanics, progression and most of all CONTROL need to be far more present. These fundamental principles are essential to master before performing even the most basic movements and exercise programs that are put out there for all to abscond with back to their clients. Have you ever noticed that it’s never the simple exercises the trainer attempts first on the client to even establish a skill level? Witnessing seemingly qualified trainers jump on the first opportunity to try these advanced movements on the unsuspecting masses is the biggest challenge I face in the gym every day. These practices can easily lead to clients not achieving their goals and more importantly; getting hurt.

No matter what high quality fitness establishment of which I become a member, I am still faced daily with what are supposed to be qualified professionals with very little grasp of what their clients really need. In the many conversations I’ve had with trainers and other fitness professionals over the last several years, I get the sense there is something greatly lacking in the approach of the educating bodies that are launching thousands of “Certified Fitness Professionals” every year into the foray. Don’t get me wrong, I know many of these trainers and fitness pro’s myself. These are smart and conscientious people. These fitness pro’s , however, are being taught to learn a guru’s new movement, system of movements or program and transfer that directly to the client regardless of whether or not the client can operate at the skill level required to perform the movements safely and with some benefit.

Maybe it’s a question of laziness on the fitness industry’s part. Continuing education requires effort and these people never have any time.  As for me, I don’t buy it.  Start teaching the basics again; evaluation, force, resistance, progression, anatomy, and exercise mechanics. Make these things be a requirement to work in the industry, not just a bonus to a somewhat hobbled education.

Peter Chiasson BSc,MATcms,RTSm,MAT/RTS Instructor

Core Strength Inc.

One Response to “State of the Fitness Industry”

  1. Amanda Frost says:

    Hi Peter,

    Thanks for that great article. It really highlights the problems with the fitness industry both here in the U.K. and U.S. in a way that I think any gym member can relate to.

    I hope to see more of your articles published soon. Well written and very easy to read.

    Warm regards,
    Amanda Frost cMATS

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