Whether you consider yourself a serious athlete or you’re just in it for the pump, you cannot allow yourself to compromise when it comes to training quality. For me, this lesson sinks in a bit deeper all the time. Every so often I’ll realize that I’ve been ignoring some glaring athletic shortcoming because I know I’ll have to take a step back to deal with it. My athletic involvement began unguided with the same task-completion mindset that plagues our fitness community at large, and I know all too well how hard it is to break out of that. I’ve pushed through bad movement and pain issues more times in the past than I care to admit, and believe me when I say that it comes at a cost.
Too often athletes and coaches underestimate the consequences of permitting bad (read: non-ideal) movement. To reach the true heights of your athletic potential (or that of your client) you need to have a zero tolerance policy for practicing bad movement habits. Mistakes happen, that’s how we learn (by working at the edge of ability); but the whole point of learning from a mistake is to not repeat it. Repetition, whether deliberate or not, is just going to burn that faulty pattern deeper and deeper into your motor programming, and when you finally decide to fix the problem (or are forced to by injury) it will be like trying to change the course of a river. Deal with it now, while it’s still a stream.
Coaches and trainers, if you are cuing your client for a movement and they just aren’t picking up what you’re putting down, you need to try a different approach. Maybe you need better cues, or maybe those cues just aren’t resonating with that individual. Maybe you need to take a step back (regress the exercise) and give the client a chance to figure out the cue in less demanding situation. No matter the reason, don’t let your failure to effectively cue your client stand as an excuse for allowing them to move poorly. Doing so is a disservice to your clients (who are investing a lot of trust and money in your program) and reflects poorly on you as a professional.
Practice makes permanent, and it is much harder to rewire a crappy motor program than to build one from scratch. If you have a fundamental movement issue that you’re not addressing (“I can’t squat or do a push-up well, but I’m flying through these burpies!”) get on it NOW, because it is going to be a bigger problem tomorrow.
Stop practicing being broken, and move like you mean it.