Free Personal Training. At first glance, this sounds fantastic. But, like many things, it takes a little digging to discover the true meaning of something.
I was recently hired by a woman in her 60’s to act as her personal trainer. She hired me to help her with the goal of losing 40 pounds. She had previously belonged to a “women-only” gym where the personal training was bundled with her monthly membership fee, so the personal training was included, or “free”. She had been a member at this women only gym FOR YEARS. She was somewhat dissatisfied with her membership there because she felt like she was not making ANY progress. In fact, she had actually been gaining weight before she left the all women gym. When I asked her to describe her workouts at this all women gym, she described it for me. She reported that the basic format was “strength training” exercises, each and every exercise performed on exercise machines designed to target one specific muscle group at a time, done in a circuit style, performing 12, 15, or as many as 20 reps. Some workouts they would add a cardio type exercise in between this strength training performed on machines.
Every 6-8 weeks she was given a new workout. The “new” workout would change the order of the exercise machines and sometimes the selection of specific exercise machine, but the rest of the format would remain the same. For the uninitiated, this workout sounds like it might work pretty good, right? There are several large fitness corporations out there who thrive on offering FREE personal training with their already discounted monthly membership rate. It is very typical of these type of discount gyms that offer free personal training to stick new clients on a circuit of strength exercise machines performing 12-20 reps per set in a circuit style. Well, the problem for this woman was that after the first month or so, there seemed to be no positive effect. And, now, more alarmingly, it seemed like she was actually getting in WORSE shape and gaining weight.
When I started working with this woman, I confirmed what I already suspected and I have seen MANY times before from a person who had been working with a free personal trainer – her strength was very low, her coordination was undeveloped, she was suffering from reduced range of motion, lack of flexibility, and postural problems. IN ADDITION, she had gained about 10 pounds before she finally left this women only gym with free personal training. I honestly felt bad for her. She had been spending all this TIME, in good faith, working on her health, only to discover that she was not getting the service she thought she was. The good news is that in less than 3 weeks working with me as her coach and personal trainer, she had made more progress than she had made in 3 YEARS of free personal training at her previous fitness club. What kind of training did I have her doing? Well, I can tell you one thing- she was not wasting time on exercise machines while under my tutorage.
Beginners (people relatively new to weight training) DO NOT BELONG ON MACHINES. Think about it, you can easily figure out that it is true for yourself. What do exercise machines do? THEY ISOLATE THE MUSCLE GROUP THEY ARE DESIGNED FOR. If you are on the biceps machine, the only muscle doing any real work is the biceps- it’s isolating that muscle for work. What is the reason you isolate a muscle in strength training? ONE reason – to make it bigger. A beginner does not need to make individual muscles bigger, they need to develop basic coordination and strength with free weights. MACHINES ARE FOR BODYBUILDERS ONLY. If your goal is fat loss, general good health, mobility, and flexibility, you ABSOLUTELY DO NOT BELONG ON MACHINES.
Well, what if I put cardio in between my strength training exercise machines? Won’t that help me burn more fat and get in shape? NO. IT WILL NOT. I see this one ALL THE TIME. People want to turn their strength training into cardio. STOP IT. Strength training IS NOT cardio. Cardio is cardio. Strength training is done to GAIN STRENGTH. All your secondary effects, body fat loss, improved appearance, better health, stronger libido, increased metabolism, deeper sleep, increased mobility, increased flexibility… ALL THESE EFFECTS are a secondary side effect of GAINING STRENGTH. All you do when you put cardio in between your sets is increase the acidity of the blood and make yourself weaker, unable to display full strength. Making yourself sweat more HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH FAT LOSS. I can sweat profusely from mowing the lawn or cleaning out the garage, but it IS NOT going to get me into better shape or LOSE ANY FAT.
The next time you hear that FREE PERSONAL TRAINING is included with your gym membership at your local fitness club, you should RUN (not walk) away! The REAL cost of free personal training is your TIME and energy, WASTED. Don’t be a fool and believe that siren song marketing you are bombarded with every day! Most mature adults know – nothing good in life is free.