Monday, December 11, 2006

My Brief Stint as a Lemming

Speaking of stupid human tricks....That post got me to thinking about "wall squats." A staple of personal trainers, a variation on the infamous physical therapy "wall slide", this exercise continues to stink up gyms and clinics around the country. And I'm sure young basketball players are still routinely tortured by coaches who make them do "wall sits." Any idiot can make it burn, right? Who needs a Smith Machine when you can have somebody lean back against the ball and mindlessly flex and extend their hips/knees? Don't let those knees go over those toes, Mrs. Jones!

Is there really any reason to do this versus doing a bodyweight squat? Or a sit-to-stand for frail or post-operative patients? Why the ball?

In 2000, I began working for a high-end personal training company. The organization was basically good people trying to help other good people be more fit. And although this is a topic for another blog, I made TWICE the hourly wage that I had previously made working for a prominent St. Louis hospital as a physical therapist! We had an uppity gym in a wealthy suburb of St. Louis and worked with many prominent citizens. One of the things I noticed initially was the other employees using the "wall squat" with our snazzy silver Swiss balls. Not wanting to stand out or be too aggressive (progressive?) with my older, less fit, possibly less open-minded and very wealthy clients, I began doing them too. And then one day, the light bulb went off.

What the hell was I doing?

I'd NEVER done a "wall squat" while working with Derrick, much less with myself. Was I being lazy letting my clients do something that seemed to them to be work, but really did nothing functional for their lower extremity strength, mobility and balance? So I changed my mojo and started, once again, using bodyweight squats, Vern's squat series and yes, even barbell squats. I got their center of mass over their base of support and taught them how to move their bodies--even the personal injury attorney who'd had a laminectomy. That dude now lifts 3x per week (with a barbell) on his own, plays golf and has taken his physical health back after being terrified of exercise--all after the age of 57.

So use your noggin. Don't be a lemming. Don't be an exercise monkey who is satisfied to count reps or hand people weights--in the clinic or the gym or the weight room. Make them think; teach them to work and move their minds and bodies. It's your duty.

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