You see the articles: Are you a Rep Counter or a Personal Trainer?
What this line is insinuating is that personal trainers should go beyond just being someone who counts the repetitions of their client in a workout, and in a way I agree with that. Personal trainers have many important roles in their client’s lives that go beyond just counting the number of times someone does a pushup or a squat. Those roles may include, but are not limited to, providing:
- guidance with alternate ways to exercise based on individual limitations in movement
- resources for healthier eating options
- accountability in being consistent with their programs
- a listening ear when things are getting tough, and external motivation to overcome mental obstacles
- feedback with how exercises are being performed
One thing that I have noticed over the years is the backlash of trainers who do count repetitions in a workout session. As if just because they count repetitions, that is all they do. Counting reps or timing time-under-tension is a good way to keep track of a client’s strength and stamina progressions.
Practicing intuitive and intentional training in sessions means checking to see when the body begins to break form from when the exercise began. This allows the trainer to record the number of repetitions completed before the body begins to compensate. So there is repetition counting, but not necessarily with trying to get to a pre-selected number. The client’s progression comes from if they can complete a higher number of repsthan the last time they did the exercise with precise form. If that is just one more than they did before, great. They don’t need to jump up to 5 or 10 more reps to see improvement. This also allows a trainer to see when there needs to be more resistance to an exercise. If they can do more than 20 reps in a weight training exercise with good form, then the load can increase.
The same goes for time under tension training. If there is a set amount of time for an exercise, the trainer can see if the client can continue the exercise without stopping for that set amount of time. If they can with good form, then the intensity of the exercise can increase. If they can’t keep good form for 45 seconds, the trainer can keep track of the amount of time they did have good form and look to have them increase the amount of time they can keep good form the next time they do the exercise.
I understand where critics are coming from when they call personal trainers “rep counters”. It is the overall dissatisfaction with the industry standards (or lack there of). All too often there are individuals who put together the same exercise protocol for every person they meet with, explain an exercise once, start counting and call themselves personal trainers. Being a fitness professional goes far beyond that.
However, my point is this – why criticize counting reps as part of an overall personal training program? It is just another way to organize a client’s information to see their progression in their program. In fact, I have seen the pendulum swing the other way where there is no recording of any information in sessions. It is the thought that every session is a new session, and so whatever happened in the last session doesn’t apply to today. While there is a degree of truth to this thought process, I’m not sure how you can keep track of objective data without having some record of previous sessions.
Tracking repetitions is just one small part of the personal trainer’s role, and it isn’t a part that should be completely ignored.