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He Said, She Said: When Fitness Rules Fail You

From the Show: Train Your Body
Summary: Learn what trainers and instructors teach, as well as how and why they teach it.
Air Date: 3/10/15
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Neal Pire & Grace Desimone
Neal Pier better resized-horzNeal Pire is a nationally noted expert on fitness and personal training. He is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and has served on the Executive Council of ACSM's credentialing arm, the Committee on Certification and Registry Boards. Neal served as vice president of a leading national health management company and now serves as an Exercise Physiologist at HNH Fitness, a medical fitness center in Oradell, NJ. He is widely sought after as a consultant for athlete training programs, performance enhancement centers and fitness industry management. As a 35-year veteran with deep understanding of the subject matter, he is often asked for background, commentary or analysis by media covering wellness, fitness, and personal training.

Grace DeSimone has been in the fitness industry for over 30 years and brings a variety of experiences in commercial, corporate and community settings. She is the editor of ACSMs Resources for Group Exercise Instructors (LWW, 2011) and is an ACSM certified personal trainer and group exercise instructor. Grace is the National Director of Group Fitness for Plus One Health Management, an Optum Company.
He Said, She Said: When Fitness Rules Fail You
With workout rules seemingly changing all the time at the gym, you'd certainly hope your trainer is also up to date.

From squats to behind the neck pulls, it seems the rules change a lot.

Educating yourself can help you to decide if your instructors are keeping up with their education.

In this "He Said, She Said" segment, Neal Pire and Grace Desimone discuss the rules and what's right and wrong with the exercises you're being taught at the gym.

RadioMD Presents:Train Your Body | Original Air Date: March 10, 2015
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guests: Neal Pire & Grace DeSimone Your trainer Melanie Cole is here to motivate and help you perform. It’s time now for Train Your Body.

MELANIE: What do trainers teach you? What do instructors teach you? Do they differ sometimes? Are they pretty much the same? Are they teaching you things that you've read are not that good?

My guests are two of my fan favorites here on Train Your Body. Neil Pire, a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, served on the Executive Council of the Credentialing arm and the Committee on Certification and Grace Desimone. She is definitely the class instructor guru. She is the editor of ACSM's Resources for Exercise Instructors and the national director for group fitness for Plus One Health Management, an Optum Company. I keep making sure to get that in, Grace.

GRACE: Thank you.

MELANIE: Okay. "When Fitness Rules Fail You". So, let's just start with some of these ones people do. Behind the neck pull-downs. That makes me absolutely bonkers. Neil, start with you, buddy. What's going on with lat pull-downs and why are people still doing them behind the neck.

NEIL: Let me start the segment just by saying there are a lot of rules that are put out there that really can't be looked at by actual rules by the professionals. Once size never fits all and you never say never. Those are rules that I live by as a trainer. You really have to assess and then prescribe and teach exercises that are pertinent to the individual. That's one of my pet peeves.

MELANIE: Here, here.

NEIL: There aren't too many people that live behind the head, you know, do pulling and pushing behind the head, behind the neck.

MELANIE: No, they don't.

NEIL: So, it's not going to be one of those ADL-type of approaches with people like that, but, I don't know, a longshoreman or something that's doing something funky on a regular basis, anything that you need to be prepared to do on a regular basis. You should train to do it.

MELANIE: If you're training longshoreman that is doing something funky behind his head, you can do it that way. Now, guys, what I want to ask you and, Grace, I'm going to ask you first, sometimes class instructors will teach a way to do something. You know, a lateral raise or a bent over row, and then your trainer comes along and teaches it to you differently. So, even those these things are individual, do class instructors and trainers learn these exercises differently or are we all learning them the same?

GRACE: Great question.

MELANIE: Thank you.

GRACE: And I think that would be like a big mystery in the world. Here's what I can tell you and you will both relate. When I got certified over 30 years ago, I can dictate to you every single rule that I learned. Now, every 2 years after that, you're supposed to get what we call "continuing education" and the industry allows you to choose your own courses. So, if I didn't, on my own, upgrade my level of information, which was kind of our whole idea of doing this piece, I'm kind of stuck back where I'm stuck. So, I can kind of tell, because I audition instructors all the time, when the instructor was certified by what they do as part of their class.

So, for instance, in spinning, there was spinning sort of the way that we learned it originally where you only had 5-10 degree bend in the knee and now spinning of today where they've upgraded the information to allow more flexion in the knee. Pregnancy. Remember this one? You both remember this one. Don't let your heart rate go above 140. I still have people, I swear to you, that come in and I say, "What do you do for a pregnant client?" "Oh, heart rate never goes above 140." They've never upgraded that information. So, I mean, that's sort of like a problem with the industry, but for the listeners out there, you know, do your homework. Don't take what the instructors and trainers give you as "law". Learn a little bit. Gather information. Learn your body and glean those things that make sense to you because you'll hear it two different ways. Ask questions. I think a lot of what we were thinking about was people have not updated their knowledge base about fitness.

MELANIE: So, Neil, when you look into classes because you're in clubs all day long and all the time and you look into classes, do you cringe sometimes at what you see instructors do?

NEIL: Well, you know what you see a lot of? I'll give you an example and Grace could probably expand on this a little bit because she teaches classes. When you're doing like body bar exercise and you're doing a chest press and people are laying out on the step, for example, one of the things I see a lot in group exercise classes is people with their feet up on the step while they're laying down on the step. So, they're in that flat, lower back position against the step, which in their head, means they're better supported as opposed to the classic position in a bench press which is 5 points of contact. You have each foot, that's 2. You have your butt, 3. Shoulders or upper back and head. So, you have 5 points of contact which gives you a wide base of support and you're able to better stabilize your body while you're lifting the weight.

MELANIE: So, are you saying your feet should be on either side of the step?

GRACE: Mmm hmm.

NEIL: Yes.

GRACE: Yes. But, what you're saying is absolutely true. When I teach class, I go through this all of the time and based on, also people who take class. You know, they learned it this way, "It's bad for my back to have my feet on the floor because your spine is in neutral, so…"

MELANIE: That's right. So, they think that they're in…

GRACE: Right.

MELANIE: That's right.

GRACE: And, I always explain it to people and then I give people the option because in class, you're generally not pushing a big load of weight. So, because you have the light weights, you're more than likely okay, but if you are going to be pushing heavier weights, you absolutely should be in that position and that's more training, body building, so your personal trainers are going to be much more knowledgeable about a position like that than your group fitness instructors.

MELANIE: That's great advice, guys. The 5 points of contact, Neil. You spoke that very well and that's a good point to look at when you're taking these classes or when you're working with a trainer that says, "Put your feet up on the bench," because you're very unstable being that way.

NEIL: Exactly.

MELANIE: What about squats? Knees over the toes. Knees not over the toes. Lunges, knees over the toes. Don't do this lunge this way, do it only a back lunge. So, Grace, lunges, when you're teaching your instructors how to teach a lunge, do you talk about the knees? Do you talk about the knees going over squats?

GRACE: We always talk about the knees. So, I give it this way. If you're a beginner, you lunge backwards first because it's easier to learn backwards and it's less stress on the knee. Then, you can gradually move forward, but when you're teaching a large group of people, you need to give them options. So, if this is bothering your knees or you're a little off balance, this is what you're going to do instead. Go backwards first instead of going forward. Load your back leg when you're lunging backward because most people lean forward. Remember how smart your body is. Your body will avoid the exercise as much as it can. So, when you're trying to load the leg, what does your body do? "Hey, let me make this easier or you?" And, your body naturally leans forward, so it takes the weight out of the leg, so that's why we're employed. Otherwise, we would not be in work, right?

MELANIE: So, you're loading it backwards because your body is fighting the exercise. I love that you said that. Now, Neil, because we only have a minute and a half left, guys. These go fast. Squats, the same. You know, squats for trainers, you can teach them in the big pieces of equipment. But, in classes, you know, they're doing them freeform and sticking that tush way the hell out. Do you pelvic tilt? Do you tuck it under? Do you straight back, chest up? Give us a good, perfect squat that you might see so the class and trainers are both doing the same thing.

NEIL: Here's the peeve. The peeve is the fitness rule that always fails you which is, "Never squat beyond 90 degrees. Your thigh should always be parallel to the floor." Generally speaking, that is a safe way to a squat, but it's not necessarily perfect for everybody. I mean, when you look at the fact that in so many cultures around the world, people actually live in that deep knee bend position. They live in that butt to the floor, squat down. They do their laundry that way. They feed their kids.


NEIL: And, what's the incidence of knee injuries in those cultures? Zero compared to us. So, it's not about the deep squat. It's about the conditioning and the training and the ability to balance your center of gravity over your feet. That's where the hinge, which is what you're alluding to, comes into play. Cues like "stick your butt back" and "sit back into the squat" help get you into that hinge. I spend more time teaching people to do a proper hinge before they actually squat or deadlift, than actually putting them through the squat. That's something that a trainer can certainly take time and effort to do, that in a group class it might be a little difficult.

MELANIE: Well, stay tuned for more "He Said, She Said". We're going to keep doing these because you're wanting them and they're popular. They're fun and funny, so stayed tuned.

You’re listening to RadioMD.

Thanks for listening and stay well.