Earlier this year I attended the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Personal Trainers Conference. During the conference, I learned some useful information and received validation that I am on the right path when it comes to my personal approach to workouts and fitness in general. Since these types of conferences are a good reflection of current trends and future directions of the health and fitness industry, at least among true fitness professionals, I thought you might be interested in learning about the most discussed topics during the conference.
On a side note, there are always personal trainers and other health and fitness employees who have no interest in increasing their knowledge or providing better information to their clients/customers. These people are not representative of the entire health and fitness industry, although they do make up a significant portion of it. The true professionals realize that health and fitness information is constantly evolving and we have to keep learning if we want to provide our clients with the most accurate information and the best quality service.
Personal trainers and other health and fitness employees who are not interested in improving their knowledge or staying up to date with information are usually more concerned about making money than they are about their clients. Naturally, it is best to avoid these people whenever possible, because they generally provide lower quality products or services that will not help you effectively reach your goals and generally result in disappointment and frustration.
Okay, with that little diversion out of the way, let's get back to the conference. There were many different topics covered during the conference including nutritional issues, performance enhancement for athletes, training special populations (children, elderly, people with injuries, etc.), and more. However, even with this wide variety of topics, there were some topics that seemed to keep coming up over and over in different presentations.
Probably the most frequently discussed topics were related to movement, specifically the importance of moving correctly and training to correct poor movement patterns. If you have followed my writings over the years, it should be no surprise that proper movement is very important to me and it is great to see that movement issues are taking a more prominent role in the health and fitness industry.
There are many reasons why movement technique is getting more attention, but one of the driving forces is actually the rising cost of health care. As health care slowly shifts from just treating problems to actively preventing them, research has found that people who have incorrect movement technique are more likely to develop muscle and joint problems later in life, which results in higher numbers of joint replacements, falls, and other major problems. To make matters worse, these problems are not only found in the elderly.
With the removal of physical education from many schools, children are growing up being less active. This not only has implications for increasing levels of childhood obesity, but it has consequences for movement as well. We are finding that inactive children are much more likely to have poor movement technique when they grow up, which results in premature deterioration of their body. Younger people commonly have physical problems that should not occur for another 10-20 years or more and many of these problems are the direct result of poor movement technique putting excessive wear and tear on their muscles and joints.
The good news is these incorrect movements can be retrained and when poor movement patterns are replaced with correct ones, people can dramatically improve their long-term health. Unfortunately, training biomechanically correct movements is more complicated than just performing random exercises and exercising on traditional machines will generally not do the job. It takes concentration and awareness of what muscles are contracting and how each segment of your body is moving, along with the knowledge of how each movement is technically supposed to be performed.
When all these elements are put together in a well-designed training program, people of all ages and ability levels can improve their overall health and physical function. This was evident at the conference, because there were sessions on exercising and training movements with many different types of people including, children, elderly people, athletes, pregnant women, and people with injuries. It is clear that training is advancing past simply working individual muscles and becoming more about training each muscle to work correctly with the rest of the body.
Proper movement was not the only topic covered and many of the usual subjects were represented as well. On the nutrition side, protein intake and supplementation are still popular, because people are always interested in learning things they can do to improve their results. Another topic that continues to be noteworthy is eating disorders, along with the importance of developing good eating habits. People with bad eating habits (eating too much before they go to bed, eating too few calories, etc.), almost always have a hard time making progress, because even a great exercise routine can be undone by poor nutritional habits.
There were also many sessions with practical information about different types of training and demonstrations of new training equipment. Much of the focus was on training to improve specific attributes, such as speed, agility, power, and balance. Improving these different characteristics is important for improving physical performance in athletes, but they also have applications for improving performance in everyday tasks and improving the quality of life in all segments of the population.
Of course, no conference would be complete without sessions on core training, because everyone cares about their abdominal muscles. Fortunately these sessions were not about generic topics, such as training to get 6-pack abs, but rather training to improve the function of your body. The core muscles are essential for protecting your spine, maintaining good posture, preventing back pain, and much more, but many people still only think about how they look and not about how they function.
The topics discussed above were not the only ones covered during the conference, but they were the most common ones. When looking at everything, it's clear the overall theme and general direction of the health and fitness industry is learning to use specific exercises and movements to improve physical function in people of all ages and ability levels. As time progresses, hopefully training not just to improve appearance, but also to improve physical function, will become a standard for personal trainers and others in the health and fitness industry. Unfortunately, right now we are still a long way from that happening.