I credit the idea for this post to my good buddy and mentor Mike Anderson. This one is about the value of trust and just getting the basics right.
One of my Strength Campers, as I call them, has always had an issue with her knees, to the point where she didn't like squatting, no matter the benefits. She wears knee sleeves/braces almost every class to keep the issues and pain to a minimum with exercises such as. She's been coming to classes at the facility, mine especially, for a couple years. Various other trainers, most of which are friends and are probably better than me, have tried to help, none have quite found a way to be successful. For me, the only chance I've really gotten to help her is at class. Trying to help her in the middle of a group of 6+ people is more than a challenge, for many reasons that are obvious.
About a month ago my facility was doing a training promotion and she asked me if I had time for her. Without getting too excited I found a spot for her in my schedule. My first thought was, YES some time I can focus on her solely so I can help her knees stop hating her.
She came in the next week, we did a little Q and A to discuss things she wanted, other than the obvious knee pain to stop barking at her. Next thing I did was go through my usual movement screen. I saved the squat portion until the end because I knew I was going to beat that horse dead and start burying it. She was obviously hesitant when we got to that portion.
We progressed, or in this case regressed her, to as far back as I needed to go in my regressions to get her comfortable with the idea of squatting. Passively squatting was not an issue so at least we didn't have to start too far back. We landed on just a simple squat to a bench. We used really easy things to focus on, positioning, initial movement/patterning and weight distribution. After a little glute and core activation we were doing a goblet squat to the bench. Progress was made in that alone.
What was the end result of this session?
After she did some drills I gave her over the next couple weeks. She came to class this past week and the first thing that caught my eye, no knee sleeves, sweet! Front squats were on the docket for the day so was anxious to see how she did.
To end the suspense....it was a million times better. Ok she didn't go to COMPLETE depth, she's still a little gun shy. If you've ever had a mental block like this you know baby steps are big steps to moving forward. That all said, I'll call what I saw a big leap forward.
There were 2 things that played into her getting over this hump, and really to a pro it's not a mystery. First and foremost is trust, no trust means anything you're spitting, goes in 1 ear and out the other. There's usually an initial level of trust with a client that walks into a session with you, building it and maintaining it is on the coach/trainer. I can be THE smartest coach on the planet, but if my clients don't trust me I will make less than 0 progress with them.
As I mentioned, this person has worked with many a trainer/coach before me and all of them were as good or better than me. Yeah trust was probably the big factor and maybe she wasn't actually ready to accept the help. Sometimes the 6 inches between your head is the issue, not a knee, or a shoulder or a foot. As I eluded to before, I'm willing to wager a big chunk of her pain with squatting, was in her head. It's not unusual for something like that to occur, trusting someone is a huge factor in this case.
The other thing that really made this session a success was we kept the exercise(s) very Vanilla, no not even French Vanilla, Vanilla! Vanilla isn't that bad, in terms of ice cream....mmmm ice cream (sorry)....and also in terms of exercising. Some people just need simple basics, especially when there is pain involved. Even those without pain need to get the basics right before you start going off and doing all these ridiculous looking exercises. Per example, if you can not get the basics to a trap bar deadlift right, I'd strongly advise against you jumping to deficit deadlifts, because that makes sense right?
The moral of this story here is, I didn't do anything super secret to help this nice lady. I gained her trust and made sure that she was getting the basics of squatting right. Outside of those things, soft tissue and activation work isn't brain surgery. Don't over do it when the simplest things will win the day for you folks.
That's all I got today guys. Once again I hope I helped even one person, I'll call it a win if so. Go out there and get after it!