Are the days of personal trainers using machines on their way out?
It has become much more common for large chain gyms to have a dedicated “personal training zone”. This is usually an open space with some kettlebells, suspension trainers, and Bosu balls.
This is great for trainers in many ways. It typically puts you and your clients on display, which is good for sales. It also forces us as trainers to step our exercise creativity game up!
But does this mean trainers should no longer use any machines when training their clients?
When it’s OK to be using machines:
When you have your first session with a client, you should do a posture and strength assessment. You need to have an idea of where they are weak and moving poorly.
If, for example, you have identified that their glutes are weak, it can be a good idea to incorporate some isolated glute exercises on a machine before moving to more compound movements.
This can help strengthen the neural connection to the muscle, and improve performance later in the training session.
Just make sure you do incorporate compound movements, such as squats, in the workout.
If you have a client whose goals are specifically bodybuilding based, machines will need to be used in your programming. Bodybuilding is unique in it’s focus on muscle size and appearance, over function.
The meat of a bodybuilding client’s workout should still be compound and functional movements though.
The only difference is they will need the targeted muscle activation to focus on growing a specific weak point.
Why you shouldn’t use machines with your clients:
At a very basic level, it looks lazy.
If you have your client using a machine, you should be 100% engaged and focused on the specific goal of the exercise. This goes for the entire training session, but even more so here.
It should be very clear to your client what they are accomplishing by being on that machine.
Many of our clients are beginners
The vast majority of a beginner’s workout should be focused on proper functional movement patterns and metabolic demand.
Machines will NOT accomplish this.
For example, let’s say you just started working with a very de-conditioned desk worker with bad posture. Should you spend a significant amount of time doing machine rear delt flyes? What benefit does that have? (I mention this exercise specifically because I watched this happen two days ago.)
It does not address their overall conditioning or poor posture. Therefore it is not the best use of their limited time with you.
Personal trainers are exercise professionals
Our clients are trusting us with their time and money in exchange for professional guidance to get healthy.
Is plopping them on a bunch of machines really what’s best for them?
Make use of the functional training zone. Show them the expertise they are paying for!
It bothers me when I see personal trainers use machines almost exclusively. As fitness professionals we should strive to do better by our clients.
Ultimately, there is a time and place for using machines with our clients, but the focus should be on full body integration.