It may seem like an odd title to talk about trainer and coach's approaches to training but it's a very valid analogy. There is a very structured heirarchy in the kitchen and through my ignorance I intend no disrespect but for my purposes here, we'll define them each as such:
- Cook - A cook is one who may be very good at memorizing recipes and producing quality dishes based on a template or pattern that has already been arranged for them. Their creativity is perhaps borrowed and their ambitions may be limited. None of this necessarily effects the quality of their work and they very well may produce amazing results but it is nevertheless often a reimagination of others' work. A cook's meal is one you taste.
- Chef - A chef is one who will look at the big picture and then break it down individually so that the sum of the parts elevates the whole. It is something learned and observed from years of experience. There is a desire to create and always better themselves through their chosen medium. Everything from the dining room's lighting and scents to the presentation and ingredients is taken into great consideration when constructing the menu. Chef's will make you appreciate how the smallest or least interesting ingredient is often the catalyst to a complete dish. A chef's meal is one you experience.
So which is your trainer (or which are you)?
Do your trainer's clients find that they are more knowledgeable about what they are doing and why after working together? Do they understand and explain what purpose each exercise plays in completing the whole and that without them imbalances are created leading to injury? Has your trainer ever taken you through any sort of screening to find imbalances or weaknesses before starting a new program? If any of these answers are no, then you should immediately start looking for a new trainer (or if you are a trainer and don't do any of these things, you should start to educate yourself on how to asap).
At Magnat Center, where I am based, we're all chefs. We even have an Executive Chef who we look up to for guidance. You never stop learning and that has to be passed on to your clients. Knowing when to stop and take two steps back before a potential injury can take you even further back. Knowing the application of movement as opposed to simply muscle groups. No longer is "lower body" an acceptable term for a training day. There's hip-dominant, knee-dominant, posterior chain, dynamic, plyometric, isometric, lateral, ESD and many more other areas of focus that are way beyond simply saying, "today is leg day". Back to the food analogy, simple ingredients doesn't have to mean boring as long as it is approached in the right manner. Just as adding every spice under the sun isn't going to make any dish that much better (in fact, it'll often do the opposite), simply adding exercises for the sake of it can often lead to regression instead of progression. We talk about tastes complementing each other and blending well and it is the same in training where you have to maintain a balance to maintain functionality. I spoke with a former US National Squash coach this afternoon and he relayed a story about when he was based in New York and the Knicks opponents would come in an train at his facility. What amazed him most wasn't the sheer strength that these guys had, or the work ethic, but instead the amount of attention put into muscle groups that seemed counterintuitive for a basketball player to be doing. What players like Kobe Bryant were in fact doing were strengthening the muscles that didn't get as much use during a game so as to maintain that balance in the body. Only chef's make that connection.
If you're not looking for new ways everyday to make yourself better at what you're doing, you need to ask yourself if you;re happy just following recipes.