How a Personal Trainer Can Answer The “Best Fitness Equipment” Question
As a Personal Trainer, we get asked many questions. One of the most common is “What is the best exercise or piece of fitness equipment?”
After I resist the strong urge to roll my eyes (or throw up in my mouth), I calmly explain that exercise variety is important, as long as they are doing things correctly.
I have two answers to this question. Both are related, and both often surprise people. Which one I decide to use depends on how cheeky I’m feeling at the time.
My comedic (but no less true) answer is that the best piece of equipment is “the one you actually use on a regular basis”.
My typical follow-up comment is “In fact, the best fitness tool ever created is your own body”.
When they laugh, I say…”No, SERIOUSLY!”.
People are often so caught up in trying out the latest fitness tool or gadget that they forget to master the use of their own body.
This is why I like athletic style training and typically avoid machines and isolated exercises (except in very specific and temporary situations).
I see our job as a Personal Trainer or fitness professional to move people through “The Movement Spectrum”. When we do this effectively, it provides the greatest possible positive impact on their health and longevity.
Learning to move properly doesn’t require any equipment. We simply need our body and enough space to do the movements we desire. Of course, we still have to move well, but that’s a different post. Here’s one on how to properly teach a squat. Here’s another on the biggest mistake personal trainers make when teaching lunges. Both are performed incorrectly most of the time.
The Movement Spectrum
Let’s do a quick overview of the Movement Spectrum and why it’s important for every Personal Train and their clients.
Our goal is to move and mobilize multiple times every day.
Movement/mobility involves taking each of your joints through a full range of motion whenever you have the chance.
- Practice the essential movements (primal patterns) – No load needed
- Range of motion monitoring, balance, and coordination needed to live life.
- For example brushing teeth, getting dressed, standing, walking, sitting, stabilizing.
Activity is also done each day. This includes our Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s). Some of the greatest general health benefits come from expanding your ADL’s. For example, take the stairs, walk more, avoid using as many “labour saving modern conveniences” as you can
My working definition of exercise is “Activity above your normal baseline of intensity”. The great news is that for people just starting out, this baseline is very low.
Exercise is ideally performed three or more days a week. The purpose of exercise is to take your body above your baseline intensity for a prolonged time relative to your baseline. Examples include:
- Active games and sports, physical play, brisk walking, light jogging, exercise classes done for general health.
With exercise, our goal as a personal trainer is to place a premium on fun, variety, and overall enjoyment.
When we think of Fitness or “Working Out”, it typically involves the gym. This doesn’t need to be the case.
I typically define fitness as “exercise with a specific, targeted purpose”. With fitness, we aim to improve a specific physical parameter such as strength, power, endurance, agility, etc.
This is completely optional. If we just have general health goals, fitness isn’t necessary. The majority of health benefits come from the Movement/Activity/Exercise end of the Movement Spectrum.
Fitness is not essential for base level health, but is highly recommended as part of a vibrant, high-performing life. My goal with clients is to find ways to bring fun and enjoyment to their fitness training sessions.
As a personal trainer and fitness professional, we should challenge ourselves and our clients in a variety of ways, particularly those we aren’t good at.
Here we have another optional part of the Movement Spectrum. Performance activities typically combine specialized fitness and technical skills, performed in a competitive environment (even against yourself).
Again, these are optional, and not necessary for general health improvement.
Performance is often seasonal in nature and requires specialized technical and tactical coaching. It’s also a great motivational pursuit that provides a challenge to pursue, and a test of skills you’ve accumulated throughout the movement continuum.
The Fitness & Performance Issue
Far too many personal trainers and fitness professionals attempt to start out at the fitness or performance level and wonder why they struggle. Eighty percent or more of the health benefits can be achieved from Movement, Activity, and Exercise.
NONE of these areas involve any fitness equipment. Yet, they ALL require people to have good control and coordination of their body.
As fitness professionals, we can best serve our clients by helping them gain this mastery. Doing so will accelerate them to their fitness and performance goals much more quickly and with less failure, frustration, and injury involved. Ultimately, this is why they hire a personal trainer, or join our programs.
Client must first show us they can perform all of the foundational movement patterns correctly. These are: Push, Pull, Hinge, Lunge, Squat, Gait, Rotate, Bracing, Breathing. Then we can continue challenge their form and function to greater levels.
It’s common for many personal trainers I meet to see this approach as too “simple”. They think that they (or their clients) are too advanced to have to worry about it.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), there are no shortcuts to fitness and performance. We can fake it for a while, but injuries, pain, and lack of results will be the end result.
That’s not good for our clients, or our business!
Move well. Have Fun. Move Often