It’s More than Knowledge

- it’s What you Do With it?
One definition (Oxford dictionary) of knowledge in English is « The sum of what is known ».
As (personal) trainers, we are encouraged to learn many techniques, acquaint ourselves with many tools, earn certification through multiple systems. As a student, I learnt about systems (and tools), as a trainer I sometimes based my training around such systems (and I have integrated tools and techniques into those trainings), as a lecturer I teach use of such systems, techniques and tools.
Techniques, tools, systems can be great. All trainers should learn about multiple techniques, tools, and systems. This knowledge serves trainers well. But not knowledge alone. Knowledge of techniques, tools, systems alone is not enough. The best trainers do not always have the most knowledge or certificates. For knowledge to be useful it must be examined critically. Knowledge must be used precisely in specific settings. Knowledge must be directed towards specific problems to bring about (somewhat) predictable specific gains.
I believe that if we wish to be a more than an “occasionally effective” trainer we must be able to use knowledge conceptually to optimise training. Why? Because if we can’t we will be blocked within the guidelines of a system, or miss important steps in re-shaping the constructed “physical reality” of our clients.
That sounds nice, but what does it mean? Let’s take a simple real situation:

  • My client in a corrective (stabilisation) phase of training and has a problem with knees falling inwards (identified in OHS). I identify hip internal rotation and anteversion of the pelvis as part of the problem. Following a period of flexibility work on the appropriate structures, appropriate core and balance exercises, a range of single leg and biped exercises in resistance and some low level plyometric training I can see important progress in the problem areas. However, even on low amplitude reactive exercises in the impulse phase a knee valgus continues to precede each jump. 
  • Now what? More of the same: Floor bridges? Maybe progression to SL Floor bridge? SL Balance exercises and all the variations I can imagine in a Stabilisation phase? More Squats? Maybe Step ups? Strict (narrow) interpretation of some systems such as NASM’s OPT would suggest this is the course to follow.
  • Personally, I would look at borrowing an exercise which under that strict (narrow) interpretation of some systems such as NASM’s OPT seems reserved for a later (Force) phase: SL Squat.
  • My logic? Well, to teach my client’s body to reflexively stabilise the knee under high stress (high rate of force production in even low amplitude jumps) I have to find an exercise which will start to create some similar stresses dynamically through an appropriate ROM. Squats or “fixed low flexion” exercises just don’t stimulate the neuro-muscular system enough to learn to anticipate and control the stresses applied in functional settings requiring a high rate of force production.     Sounds logical?

Are we going against or outside the OPT model? No, the OPT model gives a structure to learn to relate exercises and remind us of some of their logical interdependence. A system cannot clearly describe every situation. Your conceptual understanding of functional anatomy and physiology, force production, motor learning, etc. must help you structure and use your knowledge most effectively.
By the way, the Oxford Dictionary also gives multiple other definitions for knowledge. I like this one better « Awareness … gained by experience of a fact or situation… ».

Niels Kingma is a NASM certified Personal Trainer (CPT, CES, PES) and teacher. This article was brought to you by the Physical Coaching Academy, Belgium, a EuropeActive accredited training provider.