Common Questions Trainers Get Asked by Stuart MacEwan

Why can’t my trainer count?

I hear this one a lot from everyone’s clients.  The fact is your trainer can count to 10 better than most people.  We count reps so much that we sometimes count things while we dream at night.  We constantly are counting; sometimes up, sometimes counting down just to switch it up.  If you catch us not counting, it’s usually because we were paying attention to something much more important, like your form or trying to see how far you had to go before you hit failure on an exercise.  One caveat… if we really involved with talking to you (swapping stories) while you rep out your exercise, we probably weren’t counting and it’s both our guesses what rep we are on.

How many reps should I do anyhow?

I really avoid using a rep count as much as possible with my clients. That’s because I want my clients to focus on going to failure for most of their working sets.  Whether they fail (meaning that they simply cannot do another rep with good form) at 6 reps or 9 reps, I’m not really counting.  The important thing is that my clients’ muscles and nervous systems are pushed as hard as they can go at some point during our program.

But I don’t like going to failure.  It hurts!

Yes, yes it does.  A healthy body doesn’t respond to being asked nicely (working through injuries are a whole different matter).  Your body needs to be pushed to its limits and sometimes beyond.  A smart and experienced trainer will watch you carefully to ensure that you stay safe while you explore your limits.  Your physiology is made to adapt when it is pushed to its extremes.  It has no reason to adapt if you simply walk your body through mediocre stresses.

Is it better to do many exercises in my program circuit style, or just focus on a few exercises for high numbers of sets done to failure?

A well designed program will have some days that are designed to use moderate weights, low rest, and lots of variety to get all your bodies’ muscles to fire and fatigue.  Think some Cross-fit, HIIT, and circuit training.  This kind of work is essential for building your cardiovascular capacity, expanding your lactic threshold, and refining the shape of the muscles that you work so hard to build.  There should also be days where you simply focus on one or two exercises.  These should be done with a focus on moving heavy weight for few reps.  The idea is to give the body an entirely different stimulation. Lifting heavy weight generally is about building muscle.  Circuit training is about refining muscle.

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