Cutting Edge Fitness - Trainer Tutorial

Standard Exercise Machine Procedure

This page describes the standard exercise procedure for all machines. Special considerations for a specific machine are described on a separate page for each machine.

Standard Steps

  1. Introduce the exercise.
  2. Set up the exercise.
  3. Begin the exercise.
  4. Provide cues.
  5. Perform the failure procedure.
  6. Finish the exercise.

Each step is described in more detail, below.

Step 1: Introduce the exercise.

For an experienced client this can be as simple as saying something like: "Now we're going to work the lats with the Compound Rowing machine."

For a newer client, more explanation is needed, but not much. Just point to the muscles being targeted on your own body, and imitate the basic movement pattern if necessary. Do not take the time to actually demonstrate how the machine is used - that takes too long.

Step 2: Set up the exercise.

Set up the machine and position the client. These are the steps you generally follow, but there are always exceptions, so see the machine-specific pages for initial client setup instructions for that machine.

  1. Set the weight pin.
  2. Adjust the machine.
  3. Position the client.

Step 3: Begin the exercise.

  1. Reset the timer and note if the client has had a full minute of rest between machines. Some clients rush from one exercise to the next. If their heart rate or breathing has not recovered sufficiently from the last exercise, it may be difficult or impossible to work the targeted muscles for this exercise to failure.
  2. Take up a position appropriate for monitoring the exercise. Ideally, you want to be able to see the targeted muscle area, the movement being performed, and the weight stack. Secondarily, you want to be in a position where you will not have to travel too far to provide additional trainer resistance for that particular machine.
  3. Perform the standard countdown: 3, 2, 1, begin, 1, 2, 3....
    * Remember to start the timer as you say begin.

Step 4: Provide cues.

A caution regarding cues: There are many, many cues - especially corrective cues - that can be provided for all exercises, but once the exercise begins, keep cues to a minimum. We want to start each exercise with good posture and movement quality, but as the client approaches failure, only cue the client to correct those errors that might lead to injury, or that unload the targeted muscles. Too many cues are distracting and will cause the client's concentration to fail before the targeted muscles. For example, when doing a leg extension, the client may be moving too slowly, tilting the head, arching the back and rotating one leg externally - all at once - especially as they near failure. If you tell the client to correct all of those things, the client's concentration will fail - they will be thinking about body parts other than the targeted muscles, and they will stop the exercise before the targeted muscles have failed. So choose you cues wisely. Remember the primary objective is reaching failure of the targeted muscles, not perfect form.

Cues fall into several general categories, and each category is described separately.

Standard Super Slow Protocol cues

Note: For a new client, be sure to describe the super slow protocol before starting the first exercise. See the Super Slow Exercise Protocol topic.

  1. Always begin an exercise the same way:
    3, 2, 1, begin, 1, 2, 3... (and remember to start the timer on begin)
  2. Optionally substitute the word halfway for the number 5. This is useful for exercises requiring a relatively large range of motion. And always substitute the word turn for ten:
    begin, 1, 2, 3, 4, halfway, 6, 7, 8, 9, turn, 1, 2, 3...
  3. Substitute the word faster or slower for a count, as necessary.
  4. Do not expect the client to conform perfectly to your count or your stopwatch. If they go over by a 2 seconds, do not begin the next phase at 3 (or whatever your watch says), but rather restart the count and perhaps cue the client: "faster."
  5. Except maybe for a new client, do not count the cadence for the entire exercise.
  6. Be quiet when the client is moving well, and provide only the occasion technique correction.
  7. More experienced clients may prefer that you remain silent (so they can concentrate better), and others may want you to cue them as they approach every turn, or at the turn only. When working with an experienced client for the first time, you should ask about this.
  8. Some clients may want to chat - your response to chatting should be a gentle: Focus.
  9. If the client closes their eyes, you will need to pay particular attention to the turns.
  10. There are a few exceptions to the "10-count rule" where very large or relatively small ranges of movement are involved. For example, for the Lat Pullover machine (Pul), experienced clients should take up to 13 seconds to complete the positive (pulling down) phase of the exercise, but only 10 for the negative phase. And for the Triceps Rope (Trope), only 7 or 8 seconds for both phases. (Exceptions are described in the individual machine descriptions.).

Standard Correction Cues

Some of the correction cues below have an extended explanation, which is intended as background information. The client does not need a long explanation, just the shortest cue possible to make the correction.

Correction cueMeaning, usage, more information
Head neutral.Unless a specific exercise requires a special head position, the head should always be neutral on the spine, facing forward and not tilting up, down or to one side.
Head stable.When the client moves their head, they will be recruiting muscles other than the primary targets for the exercise. Near failure, the body usually tries to use the head for ballast or as a throw-weight. Train the client early to resist this impulse. Also, don't let them turn their head to watch the weight stack or stare at you.
Breathe.When concentrating intensely people tend to forget to breathe. Remind newer clients to never hold the breath during exercise.
Relax the {neck, shoulders, forearms, grip...} pick oneAs the targeted muscles tire, the body naturally seeks to recruit additional muscles to provide extra force or leverage, or as a counterbalance. Additional or inappropriate muscles are also recruited if the client has dysfunctional movement in the target area. Activating extra muscles makes it harder to reach failure with the targeted muscles, may limit the range of motion, burn in faulty movement patterns, and create muscle imbalances. So do the best you can to keep the client focused on the targeted muscles, without overloading them with postural cues.
Focus.The client starts to chat. "How about the weather?" An occasional comment near the start of an exercise is fine, but gently encourage the the client to focus if it stretches to more than very short exchange. Chatty clients are easy to spot, and you may need to remind them at the start of each exercise by saying something like:
Okay let's get focused, 3, 2, 1, begin...

Step 5: Perform the failure procedure.

The last 10 seconds before total failure are critical, and on many machines the trainer will apply additional resistance - pressure on a machine part or the weights, pushing the weights back onto the stack. The goal is to apply sufficient pressure such that the client is unable to move the weight. In most cases, additional resistance is applied at the point of maximum flexion. See the separate instructions for each machine for a detailed description of the failure procedure for that machine. For most machines, you will provide "hands on" resistance, but for some machines you just tell the client to stop and hold in a certain position.

  1. Be sure to provide positive encouragement at this point, and avoid corrective cues unless there is some imminent danger.
  2. Always count up to 10 for the final resistance time (not down), and optionally use the word stop or done for the number 10. Get the client used to the discomfort and concentration required for pushing beyond the "first failure" point for a full 10 seconds.
  3. Some general rules of good form apply when providing trainer resistance.
  4. Practice! This is the most crucial part of the exercise, and messing it up can be a big disappointment for an experienced client, and may leave a new client not understanding what complete muscle failure means. Because the trainer's positioning and bracing are slightly different for each machine, be sure to practice each failure procedure with another trainer or a suitable test partner before training clients.

Step 6: Finish the exercise.

  1. At total failure, the client's safety has top priority. So if necessary, assist the client in lowering or getting free of the weights. For most machines, simply letting go of the handles may make a lot of noise, but will not cause the client any harm. But caution is always advised, and absolutely necessary for several machines:
  2. Stop the timer and update the workout log. If you have been providing additional resistance, your hands and your attention will be busy at the point of total failure. So you need to deduct an appropriate number of seconds from the elapsed time when you stop the timer. Be sure to record:

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