Tests and Biases of Gyms, Trainers and Coaches

November 26, 2013

I love tests. I don’t mean the kind of test that students prepare for by cramming all night in the hopes of getting a good grade in a class, but the kind of test that gives me information and that you cannot cram for. As humans we are either constantly being tested or testing things. How does the food taste? Does it need more salt? You sample it. Want to play varsity basketball? The coaches test by holding tryouts. In order to be effective, tests need to be easily administered, easily graded and givtesting. Every day we test something. Is the water cold? Stick your toe you information that you can use immediately.

Common tests used in the fitness industry include height and weight measurements, body fat measures, strength (how much can you lift?), flexibility, endurance, agility and speed tests. These tests tell us basically someone’s size, body fat content, and general physical abilities. The devices used to measure and “grade” these tests don’t lie. They just give you a number. They might be inaccurate, and that could be due to the type of test being done or operator error. Measuring of body fat is a great example of differences in methods and equipment. Calipers, Bio-impedance (hand held devices or scales), DEXA and the BODPOD are all acceptable ways to measure body fat levels. Some of these are cost effective (read “cheap”), some are accurate, some allow for operator error and some are affected by simple things like hydration status, full bladders or environmental factors (temperature and humidity). Regardless of the method used the information sought after is the same – amount of body fat. College Pro days are another great example of differences in operator error in measurements. Scouts from professional football teams come to the school and observe athletes being tested in the 40yd dash, vertical jump, pro bench and other events that would be used at the NFL combine. In timing the 40yd dash we would use a laser timing system as a gold standard and the scouts would verify their stop watch times with our results. Without fail the athlete would already be moving when we heard the beeps of the stop watches starting. We would always subtract two tenths of a second from the times we had to better coincide with the times the scouts had. So that 4.3 you thought you had? Sorry it was actually 4.5…

So you’ve developed your goals, researched and learned the different options you have around and they range from your standard Planet Fitness or Golds Gym type establishment to yoga/pilates/zumba studios, Crossfit or athletic performance focused facilities. Now you take a closer look at your goals and determine what you really want to focus on. What do you need to work on? Do you need to get faster? Do you need to lose weight? Do you want to learn something new? Does it need to be enjoyable? Now you need to determine the most effective way to accomplish your goals without getting hurt. Not all training methodologies are the same and not all are appropriate as methodologies should be goal specific. Every trainer, coach and gym have their biases based on their experiences (personal and professional), education and goals. Our biases are few and simple. We have five when you take a look at all of them.

  1. Is it backed by science? It is our slogan and it is on our wall. If the research is mixed on its results, doesn’t support it or there is just insufficient research on it then it is not appropriate.
  2. Movement quality trumps movement quantity. This could be #1, but it is already backed by science. Poor technique may seem easier and more efficient and more effective, but in the long term it is less efficient and less effective and can create a host of other problems for individuals. Correct technique is more effective and more efficient even though it may not seem so initially. The better movement quality is, the lower the injury potential, the more resilient and the better the athlete is. So we test and evaluate before we train.
  3. Is it appropriately safe? Each client is different and has different goals and abilities. What is safe, effective and appropriate for a wrestler may not be appropriate, safe or effective for a baseball player. So we test.
  4. Discipline, consistency and hard work cannot be substituted. There is no magic pill. Things take time, but effectiveness, efficiency and appropriate training can reduce the time required and almost seem like a magic pill.
  5. Elite athletes are human, but not all humans are elite athletes. We love to work with athletes. We love to see them improve, to compete and to succeed. Training like an elite athlete is not for everyone, so we don’t train everyone like elite athletes unless they strive to be one and then we test and evaluate.

There are training facilities, gyms, trainers and coaches depending on what your goals are. When you evaluate them and consider getting a membership or hiring them, find out what their biases are, what kinds of tests and assessments they do and then how that information is used. For many people the only test they are concerned with is what the scale tells them and that is fine. For athletes the scale is not enough. The more goal oriented information you get through tests and assessments the better able you are to determine if something is right for you.

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Awesome place! Love the way they tailor my athlete's workouts to her age, ability and goals. We have seen her gain strength and confidence beyond measure. Read More

- Sherry Hall