I have a strength and conditioning background, and as such have always approached training from a goal-oriented perspective; that is, what does this body in front of me need to do? Once i know what they need to do, i look at what is stopping, slowing, or inhibiting them from performing this job, and prescribe movement accordingly. Sometimes it is a area of tightness that is restricting full functional movement. Sometimes it is an area of immobility that is causing strange or dysfunctional movement. Sometimes it is an area of weakness that is compensated somewhere else… more often it is a combination of all three!
When you think about exercise like this, a marathon runner will have distinctly different areas of tightness/immobility/weakness when compared to a swimmer (and this is not factoring different body types and genetic factors). A pole-vaulter will have radically different tasks to perform than a golfer. A rower will have different physical requirements and areas of improvement than a computer geek. A lawyer will have different areas of tightness/immobility/weakness to a labourer. A shop keeper will have different physical requirements, that we can train for, to a mum…
You get my drift??
Mums have a unique physical requirement to perform, on a daily basis, in order to fulfil their role. These physical requirements will vary from mum to mum, depending on how many kids they have, how old their kids are, whether or not they’re a stay-at-home or working mum, what sport and activities they participate in, and also where they’ve had pain before (old injuries will present in current posture). For this reason, it blows my mind when i see mums neck and neck with a male, 20-something-lawyer, performing the same movements, sets, and reps.
Why? What for? What purpose?
What does this actually accomplish for the physical body that the mother is inhabiting? Apart from “general” fitness and a promise of aesthetically pleasing abdominal area (which painfully few people ever accomplish), how does this approach change their lives for the better?
I spent 6 months at the New South Wales Institute of Sport, and if i trained a cyclist the way the fitness industry is training mums, i would have been asked to leave in the first 10 minutes.
For one, the screening process has to change. Women make up a minimum 50% of the training population, of which at least 80% will be or are mothers. For common injuries in other populations, such as ACL and rotator cuff, we can plainly see the compensations in front of us in the way the person moves. Furthermore, there’s less stigma associated with a rotator cuff injury, and the person is more likely to tell you about it, in comparison to a pelvic floor injury (for example). A mum is less likely to tell you that they are incontinent than they are likely to tell you they have a sore shoulder. But it is equally important. And we CAN train to prevent it and resolve it!
If you train mums, i would encourage you to stop ignoring the common areas of tightness, immobility, and weakness. I would encourage you to ASK about the areas that you can’t see, and program their movements specifically for this purpose. After all, are the slim chances of beautiful abs really worth a lifetime of weeing yourself? As a personal trainer, isn’t it more rewarding to prescribe life changing movements that ensure someone’s insides stay on the inside – rather than inadvertently cause hernia or prolapse through your own ignorance (or negligence)?
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