Rachel once said to me “if you really want to do your female clients a favor teach them how to set their properly and get them to be able to do it at any time.” She explained what was involved with it and I imagined a can of beans with Kegels setting the pelvic floor at the bottom, drawing the stomach in to set the obliques, tightening the front and then push out against them with the transverse abdominis to set the diaphragm, and letting the lower back contract as needed to make a strong and stable cylinder.
It takes practice to gain control of each step but it’s doable. My female clients did comment that it felt better, that they liked the tightness in the ab area and that they felt more stable doing whatever movement. I came up with cues to help keep the thought present in their mind so they would always has their core set or be a few seconds away from it. It works great. Well, it works great when people hear what I am saying.
Sometimes people hear something else. I’m not sure what it was they were hearing but it was something that didn’t come across well. With my cycling classes, I throw out a lot of general coaching cues to no one in particular – chest up, shoulders back – it’s just there to remind people that these things are important and to keep doing them or get back to doing them. With personal training any general cue can be taken to be a specific cue, as it should be under most circumstances. If I say chest up it means the chest is down or it is beginning to drop. I can see that it is dropping. The issue with the “keep the abs tight” or “are your abs on?” cues is that they are reminder cues only because I can’t tell most of the time if someone is doing a Kegel when they do DB press.
The break down occurs when I don’t accurately explain and continue to remind the client that I can’t see what is happening inside their bodies and can only see the breakdowns. If they believe that I am saying they are not engaging the core when I cue generally about it, and they are engaging it, their is a shift in focus over to something completely unrelated; which is “why is he saying it then, what could does he mean?”
This occurs more with intelligent female clients than any other group with the only exception being intelligent female athletes who try to fix everything and seek out specific clarification when they are not clear on what I have said. Males tend not to say “but I am contracting my core” and just keep doing it. To avoid this pitfall, I must explain that I am giving general coaching to keep their mind on the goal and not specific coaching given that I cannot experience what is going on in their insides.