Earlier this week, I read an article by T Nation that is titled The Absolute Worst Fitness Trend. I thoroughly enjoyed the article, and I highly respect and admire all of the strength coaches who contributed to the article. However, I had a major ''what the fuck'' moment when I realized that not a single female strength coach or physiotherapist had been included in this list of coaches. To me, this is absolutely mind boggling and shameful, and shows just how far the fitness industry has to go until females achieve the level of representation and respect that they deserve. Also, it is so important that women and young girls have females in the health and fitness industry that they can look up to and learn from. This is a large reason why I felt compelled to write this article.
Without further ado, I have asked some incredibly amazing female health and fitness professionals to discuss what fitness trend they dislike. While on any other occasion, I would have made sure that I represented an equal amount of males and females, the fact that females were completely excluded from the article made me want to give women as much exposure as possible. Enjoy!
The Rise Of The "Fitness Entertainer" And Their Disregard For Proper Form In Group Training
In NYC, and lots of big cities around the country, the rise of the jam packed, night club-esque, group fitness studio is dominating the fitness scene.
We can debate all day about the minute details of which training methodology or programming format delivers the greatest results. What I’m talking about here, however, is the fundamental principle that precedes ALL of that…it’s the basics of proper mechanics and form. The growing degree to which these concepts are being glossed over or utterly ignored is in one word, terrifying.
Yes, of course there are many incredible teachers out there. So before you get all upset, please keep reading.
SADLY, I think more effort goes into making the "sick play list" and posting the “after photo” on social media (#beastmode!) than to meticulously coaching, educating, tweaking, cueing, appropriately regressing and properly progressing clients in class. In place of that, we have frenetic energy, peppy motivation, and SPEED as highest valued component of the class, all at the expense of fundamental form and safety.
Is it the teachers lack of knowledge? Is it too much pressure to make the class into a great performance? Is it because the beautiful actor/model/insta-star is being hired over the well-educated fitness professional?
Sloppy squats with valgus knees. Horrific overhead presses with compensations coming from every joint from the ankle up. Shamefully rounded lumbar spines when moving on and off the floor with weights. And, as instructor demands more speed and more reps during the 1-minute circuit, the unchecked crappy form worsens! Quite frankly, this makes me embarrassed for the teacher, sad for the client who doesn’t know any better, and truly frightened for our industry as a whole.
Maybe I’m biased because I have spent 12 years in the clinical orthopedic setting treating the acute and chronic injuries that result from unchecked poor movement. I just can’t help but think that IF the instructor actually knew what the real time effect that those dangerous compensatory and maladaptive movement patterns were having (or will eventually have) down to the joint level, they would NEVER tolerate bad form in their class, not even for one millisecond. So either they don’t know, or they don’t care. At this point, I’m just not sure which one is worse.
I witness these egregious crimes of fitness first-hand as an anonymous participant in these group fitness classes. Whether it’s the instructor staring at themselves in the mirror for most of the class, being too focused on their own workout to even notice what anyone is doing, or the outright defiant comments like “I told them how to do it right in the beginning, they should have listened.”
I’m sorry, WHAT THE $%#?! This is a word-for-word quote from an instructor who I
I approached after class in a well-known gym that I am a member of. Are you kidding me?! If you are in instructor reading this and you are offended, good! That hopefully means that you are one of the good ones. And we need more like you. If you are a consumer and you thought all of this behavior was normal, I’m sorry. I apologize on behalf of these jokers.
The thing is, it IS possible to deliver the workout of people’s lives AND monitor and reinforce good form. I know because I do it every single day in my own group classes. And, it's EXHAUSTING!
But.... TRAINERS.... it is our job, sorry, no; it is our ETHICAL DUTY to teach and constantly correct faulty form for everyone that attends our class. Demand it, lead by example, and never be afraid to shut the whole damn class down and regress the hell out of the movement in order to get everyone performing at a safe level. The good news is that this education is contagious and it makes it easier for the next teacher who has that student in class! So, start paying that sh*t forward!
At the end of the day, delivering a “hard” workout is easy. Ensuring that everyone is challenged AND performing in a smart, biomechanically sound way IS what separates the true fitness professional from the “fitness entertainer.”
Dr. Laura Miranda - Doctor of Physical Therapy, Strength and Performance Expert. NYC
Telling a woman you can help her "get rid of unsightly belly fat" or "say bye-bye to her cottage cheese thighs" is complete and utter bullshit. Not only are these products and programs normally super low-quality, but the ethics of a company who would be willing to sell to women that way is low-quality in my opinion as well.
If they are willing to make money off of telling women that there is something wrong with their bodies that needs fixing, do you think they have the integrity to care if their products and programs actually work? It's unlikely.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with offering products and programs that help women change their bodies, but shaming them into thinking their bodies “need fixing” is a whole different story. At Girls Gone Strong, we are incredibly passionate about delivering women safe and effective nutrition, training, health, wellness, and lifestyle information, and showing them all of the “options” they have for their bodies by displaying a wide variety of shapes, sizes, ages, and ability levels on our site. We want women to understand that their body is THEIR BUSINESS and only they get to choose how they want it to look, feel, and perform.
Want Delts of Doom and Quadzillas? Awesome. Want to smash a 225 lb. squat? Love it. Want to lose some body fat and feel more comfortable in your skin? Fantastic.
You can want to change your body while also loving it the way that it is right now, but first you must realize: you are not broken. You don’t need fixing. And only YOU get choose what’s right for you and your body."
Molly Galbraith - Owner, Girls Gone Strong
People Who Think That Killing Themselves Each Time They Set Foot In The Gym Is The ONLY Way To Train
While HIIT or a hard training session can be an important part of your training program there is also merit in low intensity conditioning. Pushing oneself to the point of exhaustion every session will only lead to injury and burnout. Your program needs to have some undulation in order for it to be sustainable – meaning there should be some hard days followed by less intense days. That’s where low intensity conditioning comes in. Not only is it great for improving recovery, it helps in improving one’s aerobic capacity or in other words making one’s engine bigger, and arguably one of the most important aspects is it helps chill you the f*ck out. Most of us are guilty of being overly stressed and on the go all the time, which has put our sympathetic nervous system in a constant over activation. Therefore adding in some low intensity conditioning is crucial. By adding it in a few times a week you can actually help improve your more intense, HIIT style training sessions.
Lori Lindsey - Strength coach. Former U.S. Women's National Team soccer player. Washington DC.
The Mindset That "Sweatiness" Equals Effectiveness
When someone says that they didn’t get a good workout because they didn’t sweat, I want to yell from the top of my lungs “it doesn’t matter goddamn it” (insert dramatic movie scene).
While many fitness professionals understand that an effective exercise session is not determined by the amount of sweat produced, it seems that the general population is still catching up.
I think this trendy paradigm has been driven in 2 different ways. The first from Insta-experts who look the part but lack the knowledge and expertise to deliver scientifically founded exercise prescription. They rely on exercises that make people sweat because "sweat means calorie burning." “Think of all the calories you are burning” says one Insta-PT as she frantically reps out hundreds of plié squats.
The second factor driving this belief is from the ‘elitist fitness’ camp. With the rise of obstacle racing, Crossfit, and ‘hardcore’ training we are seeing more and more people getting suckered into the notion that fitness has to be ‘hardcore’. High intensity exercise that pushes people to their extremes is seen as effective and only for those ‘worthy’ of training at that level (like being accepted into a secret sorority).
But here’s the reality. Any monkey ‘I got my certificate off the back of the cereal packet’ personal trainer can make anyone sweat. My grandma could make a client sweat simply by telling them to do 100 burpees and run a mile. The client would sweat but it does not mean that the session was effective.
An effective session is one where the training meets the requirements of the goal. If someone wants to increase strength, lifting weights is necessary. They might not sweat but they will get the results they are after. If someone needs to correct a movement pattern, implementing and performing exercises for that movement pattern is necessary. Yet again, they might not sweat! Even from a fat loss perspective, there are many exercises that are hugely beneficial for fat loss but do not create a sweat response.
Keep this in mind the next time you feel good about ‘sweating’ a lot in a session.
Nardia Norman - Strength coach. Sydney, Australia
High Intensity Group Training Programs
There are a lot of gyms popping up that place their key focus on high intensity, using EPOC as their selling point, and making unfounded, unproven claims that people burn up to 1,000 calories per session. Some programs incorporate the use of heart rate monitors or "color zones" to encourage participants to stay at a certain work level, promising "optimal results" if they do.
Here are a couple of problems:
1. This type of marketing feeds into people's misguided belief that main purpose of exercise is to burn off excess calories that you've consumed. If a person’s sole reason for a fitness program is to work off excess calories, they'd be much better off just eating less food every day and getting their diet in check.
2. While intensity is an important aspect of fitness, it is misguided when people think it's the ONLY factor that gets you results. Simply going faster, harder, will not always be the best element to focus on. If you are truly looking to change your body and/or increase strength and fitness levels, it's also important to focus on technique, form, and progressive overload.
3. In a group setting, it's natural for people to want to push themselves harder due to the peer pressure they feel, not wanting to stand out as less fit or less capable than others in the group. While the support and motivation a group setting provides can be beneficial, it's all the more necessary that a coach makes specific recommendations for each individual. When groups are so large that the coach is outnumbered, this becomes near impossible. With such a lack of guidance for modifying and missing feedback on form, the risk for injury increases.
If you enjoy high intensity classes in a group setting, it may be worth your time to hire a coach for several one on one sessions so you can at least learn proper form for most standard exercises and get professional feedback on what key areas you should be specifically focusing on to stay safe while achieving results.
Jeannine Trimboli - Strength coach. Albany, NY.
Combining Sports Specific Skills And Strength Training
You see it all the time: strength coaches preaching programs that are sport specific. Besides being highly marketable and making parents of kids "oooh" and "ahhhh," these programs are about as useless as a virgin in a nudist colony.
Worse yet, I still see strength coaches taking sport specific skills and adding load to it in the weight room. A baseball pitcher needs a stronger pitch? You bet some coaches will attach his arm to a loaded sling shot. Or a soccer player wants a stronger kick, and you may see a girl kicking a medicine ball.
Not only is this dangerous, limits full range of motion, and disrupts neurological patterns, we're complicating a rather simple topic in performance enhancement.
In order for athletes to have more powerful kicks, throws, swings, or tosses, get them stronger. More importantly, train the movement patterns that allow them to execute these skills. As an example, if a soccer player needs more power in her shot, you bet your ass we're training the whole shi-bang: transfer of force between upper and lower extremity (med ball slams), hip extension (single leg deadlifts or hip bridges), or torso stability/psoas activation (bird dogs/hanging leg raises). And these are glossing over the tip of the wonderful world of strength training iceberg.
Sure, there is value teaching in mechanics, but across all sports, strength is strength. It's nothing revolutionary. It's science.
Erica Suter - Strength coach, technical soccer trainer, fitness blogger. Baltimore, MD.
There are many horrendous fitness trends I come across, but physique competitions are one of the worst. Although I think all physique competitions are ridiculous and damaging, here I’m focusing on female physique competitions, including all levels from “bikini” to “bodybuilding”. I’m getting more prospective clients than ever wanting to train for a competition, and I straight-up refuse to work with them.
Bodies that strut across stage not only send the message that aesthetics is what fitness is all about, they’re also incredibly weak for all the muscle you see. They’re depleted, they’re dehydrated – they’re just not healthy.
Measuring food, severely restricting calories, and introducing only extremely limited “cheats” (a word that instills guilt, which should never be associated with food) is not about fuelling your training and amazing feats of strength – it’s about how the food you eat is going to affect your physique. That’s just borderline pathological.
If you’re one of the very few people who can compete in a healthy way, go for it if you must. However, most women need to force their bodies to extremely low levels of body fat, and need to sacrifice their long-term health in the process. It’s common for female competitors to lose their periods for several months because their body fat percentages are so low. That’s a major risk for health problems down the road, especially osteoporosis. In my books, that’s not worth it.
Physique competitions perpetuate the rampant over-sexualization and over-objectification of women in fitness. They also don’t celebrate body diversity. Judges look for a very specific type of physique, which not everyone has the genetics for.
This “stage-ready” look also happens to be the one we see in the media of so-called fit people (who look like that for only a few weeks of the year, by the way), which sends a completely unrealistic message to the other 99.9% of us. Women already have enough body-related bullshit to deal with, bombarding us from every media source. We don’t need yet another arena for idealizing a very specific body type, judging us based on our aesthetics, sexualizing fitness, and encouraging damaging workout and nutrition behaviour.
Yes, we all want to look awesome - and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, it’s much more productive (and empowering) to turn those aesthetic goals into performance goals. You’ll get aesthetic results by default anyway!
Karina Inkster - Strength coach. Vancouver, Canada
Getting Fit After Having A Baby With "Bootcamp Style Workouts"
I'm all for getting in shape after having a baby. Frankly, I think it's a must, but there is a safe way and a wrong way.
When you see those videos or pictures pop up that say, "lose the baby weight fast, only 10 min per day with this extreme challenge," and the trainer is doing lunge jumps and dynamic front planks, it makes me cringe. Those are the worst possible exercises to do postpartum and can leave women with debilitating injuries that can take years to heal.
These get-fit-quickly fitness trends should not be targeted at moms. As a new mom, you need to do very specific exercises to heal your pelvic floor and core or you are more likely to end up with issues like a diastasis, leaks or prolapse. Most women are unaware that so much internal work needs to happen before they are ready for bootcamp style burpees. On the other hand, most women are unaware that many of these issues can actually be fixed! So, let's boost awareness for proper recovery, not jumping jacks.
Dr Sarah Ellis Duvall - Strength coach and physiotherapist. Boston, Massachusetts.
That Women Can't Get "Bulky" From Lifting Weights
I know what you’re probably thinking ‘but..but this is true, women can’t get bulky from lifting’. And you are 100% correct, but you’re correct within your own perception. hey, I’m all for women lifting heavy weights, and challenging their minds and bodies at the gym. I am. As a woman who’s been strength training heavy for 11 years, I understand the good intensions of the above saying . However, let’s not forget that your( and my) perception of the word ‘bulky’ versus the average woman’s is quite different. So instead of yelling at a woman telling you she doesn’t want to get bulky, you need to ask her to define what the word ‘bulky’ means to her. You might even show her some pictures that will clarify the meaning for you. I think that if this is the approach we take with women, there will be a whole lot more women who strength train, because they are more confident you can get them to their specific physique goal.
Sivan Fagan - Strength coach. Baltimore, MD.
Top Female Strength And Conditioning Coaches Are Not Being Represented Whatsoever
Have you ever searched “top strength and conditioning coaches” and see what comes up? You will certainly get a list of the top trainers and coaches, but one thing is missing – females.
Women make up half the population of the world, yet even in one of the most progressive and adaptable industries our input is often neglected and overlooked. Twice this week I came across two articles by renowned publication companies (both were excellent reviews by the way), but what they both neglected to add, was a females perspective. Can a female be a top strength and conditioning coach or a top trainer in the world? Can a female speak intelligently on topics like; strength, program design, assessments, top trends? The answer is yes, and we are out there, eager to position and state our opinion. Contrary to popular belief, we aren't magical unicorns... even though we do incubate and give life ... which is a bit magical like a unicorn...but even that too, takes participation of the male species - the other 50%. We aren't hard to find.
It's simple math.
The state of the union is simple - I feel that we are at a cross roads in our industry and it’s an opportunity for a change of culture. Simply put, if we continue to omit women from the conversations around the; training, conditioning and performance dinner table, then we are doing a disservice to the very population we are seeking to support. Now, this isn’t a rant about equality, or sexism ...okay maybe a little– it’s just a plain and simple fact - 50% of the world’s population. If we wish to achieve 100% greatness, then let’s aim to offer that to our public, not just 50%.
Sarah Jamieson. Founder + CEO at Moveolution. Vancouver, Canada.
Not Owning The Basics
I'm all for lifting impressive amounts of weight, beautiful executed advanced calisthenics, and phenomenal feats of joint mobility - however these progressions need to be earned. With the influence of social media, it seems like many people are trying to do exercises that they are no where near prepared to do despite imminent risks of injury. From hunchback heavy deadlifts to ring exercises that are asking for elbow subluxations, folks seem to be in a rush to get to a finish line that doesn't exist despite high risks.
Whether you want to knock out a 300lbs deadlift or a strict muscle-up, the process of achieving these things needs to be respected. There needs to be progression in resistance, progression in range of motion, and progression in neuropatterning. You need to own the basics and create a solid foundation that will allow you to do more advanced training with power and finesse. Good movement (mobility and stability) and high levels of strength take time develop and can't be optimized in rush.
Is it more beneficial to do a hideous 300lbs deadlift? Or 5 reps of a 250lbs deadlift with perfect technical execution?
Is it more beneficial to struggle your way over the rings into a muscle-up? Or is it better to work on some negative chin-ups and dip progressions?
Is it better to struggle to get from Point A to Point B by any means necessary? Or is it better to take time developing movement proficiency and true strength by owning the basics?
Personally I think the latter is infinitely more valuable and beneficial than the first. If you take the time to master the basics, the possibilities are limitless.
Maja Vojnovic - Strength coach. Toronto, Canada.
The Glorification Of Muscle Soreness And Complete Exhaustion
The saying ''no pain no gain,'' words that I absolutely despise, should have become extinct eons ago. Unfortunately, this completely inaccurate and harmful statement has become etched in the minds of so many people. Memes with the saying ''no pain, no gain,'' "pain is weakness leaving the body,'' and many more, litter the Internet. Even worse, many ''coaches'' in the fitness industry, people who clearly lack the education and knowledge to actually help people, continue to make their clients as tired and sore as possible, and at the expense of their results and overall health. Some of these "professionals" even shame or chastise their clients if they don't think they are ''trying hard enough,'' or aren't sore both during and after their workouts.
Brutally misleading and downright dangerous shows like the Biggest Loser also glorify fatigue and pain. There is zero emphasis on form and safety as the contestants are more often than not seen performing all of their exercises with absolutely atrocious form, all the while being verbally abused by a certain coach who I refuse to name. This show, and some of the other disgraceful fitness shows that exist, are giving the general population a completely unrealistic, and quite frankly dangerous idea as to what proper strength training actually entails.
As a result of the misinformation that the general population is constantly bombarded with, many people are working out in a way that is completely detrimental to their overall goals, and is leaving many chronically sore, dysfunctional, and injured. So many people believe that unless they are completely exhausted and sore both during and after their workout, it was not effective or hard enough, and this could be not further from the truth.
As I have explained to a countless number of clients, and I'm sure will have to keep doing for the rest of my career, muscle soreness and fatigue are not indicative of the overall quality, effectiveness, or even intensity of your workout. The bottom line is that your strength training should be geared towards performing 100% your exercises correctly, and making yourself better, not exhausted and sore. Make yourself tired during your conditioning, and even then, you should be mindful of using good form at all times.
If you are fixated on chasing fatigue and soreness, you will severely compromise your ability to improve your strength, power, athleticism, aesthetics (whatever your goal is), and overall health. Any fool can make you tired and sore. Very few can make you stronger, more athletic, and healthier.
Meghan Callaway - Strength Coach. Vancouver, Canada.