It’s that time of year, and hiring a personal trainer can be a minefield! Not all personal trainers are created equally. While their style needs to suit you and they must genuinely care and communicate well, that doesn’t guarantee expertise. Try asking your candidates the following “trick” questions. More than one wrong, I suggest you move on.
1. Which exercises do you recommend for isolating the lower abdominals?
Answer: No specific exercises exist for isolating and developing the lower abdominals. The rectus abdominis (the abs) is one muscle and contracts as a unit. The “upper abs” and “lower abs” are not separate. The abs have one origin, one insertion, and one primary function – to flex the spine. Exercises that are supposed to work the “lower abs,” such as knee tucks and leg raises, are actually hip flexor exercises, which are, at best, an inefficient way to develop the abdominals. Many people consider their “lower abs” a problem area and are often misled to believe they can zero in on that area. But, localized fat loss, or spot reduction, is physiologically impossible. Only fat loss, through diet, will reveal your lower abdominals.
2. Is it important to vary the exercises from workout to workout?
A personal trainer who understands physiology and biomechanics knows the best one or two exercises for each muscle or muscle group and stays with them. Adding less efficient exercises for the sake of variety can increase joint stress for no real benefit in strength or muscular development. Switching from an efficient and joint-friendly exercise for the sake of variety increases a risk not commensurate with the reward. If a trainer insists on varying your routines, stay away.
3. Does stretching prevent injury and athletic performance?
Many believe that static stretching before exercise or sports activities can prevent injury. However, results of more than 360 studies have shown that stretching is not significantly associated with injury reduction. In fact, pre-exercise static stretches may impair performance by reducing your strength and muscle power. On the other hand, warming up has proven to be helpful. Some light activity, like a short spin on the bike, jumping jacks, or other gentle movements, will increase body temperature and blood flow to the muscles. Any trainer insisting on static stretching before and after your workout may not the trainer for you.
4. Do I need to do cardio if I want to lose fat?
Fat loss is a multifaceted phenomenon influenced by several factors, including genetics, diet, age, sleep, and muscle mass. A well-rounded diet low in refined carbs and sugar, strength training, and good sleep are the best prescription. Insulin, the hormone secreted into your bloodstream in response to the carbohydrates you eat, is the primary regulator of how your body stores fat. If your insulin levels are continually elevated, fat accumulates in your fat cells, regardless of your activity level. Eliminating refined carbs and sugar from your diet is infinitely more effective for fat loss than cardio. If your trainer insists, run away (no pun intended).