This morning I worked out in a gym. I want to talk about what I saw there.

I watched a gym member arrive and begin his workout.  I had coincidentally noticed a couple of weeks earlier a gym staffer setting up a workout routine for him.

The member entered the gym and, without a moment of warming up, in fact without removing the outerwear he had on, he knocked off his three sets of 15 squats.

Not good.

Let me add to this: the member is over 70 years old.  Not good at all.

With temperatures outside hovering just below freezing, this man certainly risks muscle and/or connective tissue damage each time he puts his cold muscles through a workout.

Now, I’m fairly confident he would have been instructed to do an adequate warm up before his weight training routine and that he choose to ignore this, or plainly forgot it.

I lost sight of the member for a while after his squats, but later picked him up again as he completed his hammerhead biceps curls, very well executed and an odd movement pattern which I can only guess was a mis-remembered front dumbbell raise where he held his arms akimbo and then rotated the weights upwards, holding the elbows stationary.  It looked odd and uncomfortable.  I’m not sure I am even guessing the basis of this movement correctly.

After years of working as a floor trainer in gyms (where I saw a member once or twice only to set up a basic workout program), I am quite accustomed to the members who do not remember proper movement patterns. I am also familiar with the members who purposely choose to execute movements in ways other than how they were instructed.  This is definitely a health issue for such members and difficult to address within the confines of the work setting in the former or issues of personal volition in the latter.

Up to this point in this member’s workout, I could attribute the safety issues to choices made knowingly or unknowingly by the member.

These thoughts changed as the member stepped up to the barbell rack, took a barbell and began sets of upright rows.

Not only is this a higher risk exercise, one a knowledgeable trainer would be unlikely to prescribe to most individuals and certainly not to  an older adult, I have neglected to inform you that the member is quite kyphotic, has been for years, and has a pronounced head forward.

I shuddered as I watched.

Not only is it totally impossible for this man to perform this exercise with good form, it is putting his shoulder and spine health in serious jeopardy.

The upright rows were followed by stiff legged deadlifts.

My shuddering was almost impossible to contain by now.

Again, this man could not possibly perform this complicated movement with good form.  He hunched forward, bringing the 30lb barbell to touch the floor on each repetition, shoulders rolled forward, with the joints fully impinged, spine in thoracic flexion the entire time.

Both the upright row and stiff legged deadlift are contraindicated movements in a resistance program for an individual with kyphosis.

Why would this member be given these exercises? Safer shoulder, hamstring and low back exercises exist. Ones that would be better suited to this member’s health needs.

In this case, the exercise ‘prescription’ was offered by an uncertified trainer. The member is in jeopardy because he has, probably unknowingly, placed himself in the hands on an unskilled and untrained staff member.

Calling oneself a personal trainer does not make it so.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.