If you’ve followed me for… pretty much any length of time, you know that I tend to prioritize quality movement before most other things. That’s why I’ve been releasing one video a day on various exercises for the last 239 days and counting.

So I care about good technique. It’s not always the answer, but biomechanics is interesting to me.

Some clients, though, come in with blatant disregard for technique. This is commonly the recovering Crossfitter or college athlete. They don’t feel like they’ve done a workout unless they’re lying in a puddle of sweat by the end of it. They might do 2 hour workouts for fun. They’re usually addicted to the burn.

To be honest, I don’t know if I’ve ever trained someone who fits this persona exactly. I’ve trained plenty of poor movers who want to push themselves harder, but none beyond reasoning with.

There needs to be some compromise when training this type of client. I have three major considerations.

1) Stay goal-oriented

First, we have to consider why this person trains. If she wants to “get stronger” but also give me a hard time for not feeling drained at the end of the workout, then we have a talk about physiology and how what she wants to accomplish and what she wants to do are mutually exclusive.

2) Change the programming

Second, we have to consider the programming. If they have told me their goal is to “get a workout” or something, then I will just attempt to choose exercises that allow for that. Lots of cardio machines. High reps, nit picking, quick cues. Lots of “no, that’s not right” or “no, try again”.

This client is usually a little more able bodied and physically literate, and therefore respond well to cues. Usually, not always. Plus, cues generally make the workout more difficult, and that’s exactly what she wants. So I hammer the cues.

I might pair three exercises: lower, upper, and cardio sprint. Then I just give them targets or try to get them to pick a heavier weight for their next set. When they complain that something is hard, I say, “Good.”

3) Speak the truth

Third, if I’ve adjusted the program and they still don’t think it’s hard enough, there are two paths.

One is that I make some concessions and play the long game, trying to sneak in the art of the technique (maybe that’s what I should title my book, blech) later on when they get hurt. That’s pretty consistently when they’re willing to listen. Then I give them examples of how doing particular types of exercise, maybe exactly like how they train, can cause issues like they one they are experiencing.

The other scenario is that I try to paint the future for them before any bad stuff happens. If you keep doing __________, you can expect __________. I may even make it sound threatening because sometimes that’s what they need to “scare them straight”.

Wrapping Up

Now, not all ex-athletes move poorly. And not all Crossfitters move poorly. This is more about a goal-oriented mindset in the gym.

When I walk in and think, “This is what I need to do today. And I need to do it as fast as I can with as much weight as I can.” Well then, you’re going to push your body to the limits. All of your body; joints included.

That might be what you need. That might be what’s important to you. That’s okay.

Just understand that your actions have consequences. If you’re prepared to deal with them, continue as planned.