It’s also important to consider whether high-intensity workouts are appropriate for someone who is just starting to exercise. While there is a ton of evidence supporting the benefits of high-intensity exercise for clients of all skill levels, that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for every single person walking into a gym. Now, you might argue that using full body exercises is more functional and helps clients prepare for challenges they may face in their daily lives. Your primary role as a trainer, however, is to not only give clients a workout for the day, but to help them learn how to make physical activity a regular part of their daily lives.
I used to define myself as a “functional trainer” and took pride in creating a variety of movement-based exercise programs. A number of years ago I attended a lecture given by strength coach Mike Boyle, author of the book Functional Training for Sports. He described functional training as training with a purpose, and asserted that challenging exercises may provide a variety of benefits, but if the exercises don’t address a client’s specific interests, or if the client is uncomfortable doing the exercises separate from the trainer, are they truly functional?
In other words, you need to consider the needs of your clients and eliminate the tendency to use the types of workouts you enjoy. Even though I like using barbells and kettlebells for my personal workouts, when it comes to exercising on their own many of my clients are more comfortable using weightlifting machines. More importantly, machines can help clients become stronger while establishing the healthy behaviors necessary to make exercise a consistent part of their daily routines.
Strength training provides a number of benefits and the primary feature of machines is that they use cams and pulleys to place the greatest amount of resistance at the point where a particular muscle is in its strongest position, thus helping that muscle to develop to its fullest potential. If the goal of an exercise program is to create large, well-defined muscles, machine training can be an extremely functional way to achieve that outcome.
Here are six benefits of machine-based training that can help you reconsider whether it’s worthwhile adding them to your clients’ programs.
1. Controlling mechanical overload and path of motion
2. Placing resistance specifically on the contractile element of muscle
3. Creating metabolic overload
4. Time-efficient solution for circuit training
5. Focus on developing definition in specific muscles
The role of a personal trainer is to help clients live healthier lives. If we design exercise programs that are so challenging that our clients don’t feel comfortable working out on their own then we our failing in our mission. While I still design challenging barbell and kettlebell workouts for when I am working directly with a client, I now take the time to also develop a machine-based exercise program that the client can use on those days when we don’t meet or when he or she may be traveling out of town.
Don’t get stuck in the trap of training your clients like you train yourself. You can design the best program in the world, but if the client doesn’t feel comfortable doing it when you’re not there, you’re doing them a major disservice. Opening up my way of thinking to appreciate the benefits of old-school exercise machines has helped me deliver solutions that meet my clients needs and that is the true definition functional training.