Injured while working out with a personal trainer - Opinions?
December 16, 2011 3:10 PM   Subscribe

Under the instruction of a personal trainer I strained my rotator cuff. A couple family members said that one of the reasons of having a personal trainer is avoiding this kind of thing and that I should find a different one. I'd never worked out or used equipment in a gym. The personal trainer was aware of that. He had me doing dips on a piece of equipment that kept my legs up and in front of me. I was definitely straining, he was pushing me to keep going and then my muscles gave out and I dropped. It didn't hurt right away, it was several hours later that the pain came so we continued the regimen. This was my third session, second working upper body. Should I get a different personal trainer or is this just something that happens and can be brushed off?
posted by mrflibble to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would instantly get another trainer. He/she should absolutely, positively have known not to push an absolute beginner like that. That injury sounds like it's the trainer's fault. Your family members are right.
posted by facetious at 3:13 PM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'd say discuss it with your trainer and see what his reaction is. If he takes it seriously and has good suggestions to minimize pain and damage in the future, I'd say that's great. If his response leaves you feeling unsafe or uncared for, move on. It sounds like you already feel mistrustful, so maybe you already have all the info you need.

But honestly, this could happen to anyone, at any time, doing anything. Obviously working with a trainer is meant to minimize the chances, but bodies are odd like that. If this was early in your training with him, then he is still learning what your limitations really are.
posted by hermitosis at 3:17 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, in my opinion, get another trainer. That is not really an appropriate exercise for someone at your level, and is especially unecessary when most gyms have counter-weighted dip machines that are much safer for people who would struggle to complete proper dips with good form. If you were using the counter-weighed dips machine (I've never seen one that would put your legs up and in front), then the weights were obviously too low. Again: trainer error. Get a new one.
posted by smoke at 3:18 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Personally, I wouldn't work with a trainer at all as a beginner. They aren't really necessary for non-athletes. And since they're usually so gung-ho and want you to feel like you need them, they tend to make you do crazy things. "Go slowly and follow your own body" doesn't really seem like it's worth $50/hr or whatever.

If your a beginner, your lodestar should be that you are NEVER in pain beyond a little soreness the next day. To get fit you'll need to push yourself, sure. But it's essentially to start out very, very slowly so you can tell the difference between good hurt and bad hurt. Until you get to know your body you won't really know wher your limits are. So it's not really appropriate for a trainer to try to push your limits from the get-go.

This is why Couch to 5 is so popular and effective -- it doesn't take an expert to show you how to do it, and it ramps up so slowly that almost anyone can do it without injury.
posted by yarly at 3:31 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who call themselves "trainers" who have minimal or zero qualifications for the job (or have totally fabricated, $200-fee-to-a-website credentials). If you think you need a trainer, it's worth the time to interview a number of them and find out about their experience and expertise.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 3:33 PM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

Before worrying about the trainer, make sure you tend to your shoulder. Have you confirmed that you actually injured your rotator cuff? I recently went through a shoulder injury that I thought was a rotator cuff problem, and had it looked at by a doctor and a PT and found out that it was more than likely an impingement (they did a series of tests for a rotator cuff problem that produced no pain or weakness).

So, before you do anything else, ICE your shoulder -- like, the big ice thing you see pitchers wear after games. And ibuprofen as an anti-inflammatory could be helpful as well. You may want to avoid dips, benching, and any overhead work for a while like shoulder presses. You don't want to keep tweaking your shoulder before you begin a new fitness program as that can get way worse.

I was able to determine that I had some real shoulder instability, tightness in places like the chest and front delts, and weakness on the little muscles that keep the shoulder in place. I have now re-tooled a lot of what I do to try and work on those things and it has been helpful.

And yes, these sorts of shoulder injuries are often a result of people going a bit too hard into new workout programs without an adequate ramping up period -- for example, you often hear of people starting Crossfit-style programs having SLAP tears or Rotator Cuff problems like you had.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 3:45 PM on December 16, 2011

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who call themselves "trainers" who have minimal or zero qualifications for the job (or have totally fabricated, $200-fee-to-a-website credentials). If you think you need a trainer, it's worth the time to interview a number of them and find out about their experience and expertise.

Yes, oh yes. Please understand - anybody can call themselves a "personal trainer". There is a huge number of completely unqualified people who act like they know what they're doing, but really, a ton of them are just meatheads who are trying to make a buck. It blows my mind that many will carefully select and vet a physician when looking for a doctor (and doctors are at least certified by professional bodies) and yet they'll put their body at the disposal of these essentially random people who call themselves "personal trainers".

Absolutely stop seeing this trainer. The first law of exercise - and medicine - is "don't do harm". This means going super slow and always, ALWAYS, erring on the side of caution and too little rather than too much. You must always account for additional factors: age, general health, fitness level, athletic ability and so forth. And then go slower than you think you can.

My advice would be to first go and have your rotator cuff fixed - continuing to work out with that kind of injury can end up very badly. It may be a hassle and cost money - sorry.

Once you have fixed your injury, go back to exercising very, very slowly. If you ever feel tempted to get another personal trainer, please try to find what qualifications they have. Then, when negotiating hiring them, explain how you got injured thanks to your previous trainer, and that as a result, you have a policy of immediately backing off any exercise where you feel unnatural straining. Have them accept that and agree not to push you at that point. And ask them to please go slow in the beginning.
posted by VikingSword at 4:20 PM on December 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

Seconding the advice to avoid this and in fact all personal trainers.
posted by Rash at 4:31 PM on December 16, 2011

I think having sessions with a trainer can be a good idea to know how to do exercises safely and properly (which was apparently not the case here) but that's probably a session or two. If you are going to look for trainers, at least find one that has some form of accreditation like from the nasm, etc.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 4:45 PM on December 16, 2011

I think personal trainers are worth it, even for beginners. I hired one for ~4 months when I started and she got me familiarized with basic to intermediate exercises, gave me feedback on my form, told me what to look for, helped me structure workouts, etc. Also, since I was paying to meet someone, it encouraged me to go.

That being said, I wouldn't stay with this guy. You two obviously don't have a good working relationship because either you aren't comfortable enough with him to tell him when you're at your limit, or he's ignoring you and pushing way to hard. If you injured yourself then there's something missing from the feedback process.
posted by sbutler at 4:47 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Personal trainers are great, but not when they aren't paying attention to you, the person they are supposed to be training.

I'd 1) get medical attention pronto; and 2) when you are healed, drop this personal trainer and get someone else. I would discuss with new trainer the injury and why you needed to get someone new.

Also, when you feel yourself straining, on the brink of muscle failure, stop. Body cues are very important.
posted by bearwife at 5:13 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

In defence of personal trainers, there are a great many good ones out there and it is extremely beneficial for a rookie to be taught proper form and theory early on. Saves you needing to forget bad habits later. It is very important to ensure your trainer is properly certified by an accredited body. CSEP (Canada), ASCM and NSCA (USA/NA) are all excellent certifications that require, at minimum, college or university education. There are others as well. Keep in mind that there are also a large number of poor quality cert's out there, some that take only a few months (or weeks) to achieve. Most insurers also require a trainer to be certified before they will cover them. Do your homework on a new PT before signing up. Any PT that is unwilling to discuss their educational background is generally not a good choice.

More to the point of your question, that's hard to say. Injuries do 'just happen'. Even utilizing proper technique and working at an appropriate intensity, sometimes things do go wrong. One little momentary lapse driven by fatigue, one bit of aggravated muscle tissue that finally gives way and bam. Working with a personal trainer cannot guarantee you will be 100% free of injury anymore than a doctor can guarantee you won't experience a side effect. The study of the human body is, unfortunately, not an especially exact science.

Now that being said, you have to be able to work with the guy. That means you need to let him know when you're uncomfortable and be able to trust him when he encourages you to push harder. I wouldn't automatically fire the guy based on a single unfortunate incident (nothing about a bench dip or the like is an unsafe exercise, even for a rookie), if you are otherwise happy and the trainer is willing and able to adjust the regimen accordingly. At the same time, it's your money, you need to be satisfied. You have no obligation to stick with a trainer you don't like.
posted by vohk at 5:17 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

I honestly think that a trainer should teach you proper form and not let you proceed with an exercise until you got it perfectly. That being said, there are always things you can't fully be prepared for. Like the others said, make sure your shoulder is actually bad then talk to the trainer, it doesn't hurt to try other ones
posted by Trinergy at 6:00 PM on December 16, 2011

Respectfully disagree with the statement that bench dips are safe. The first piece of evidence I would like to introduce is the fact that you just got hurt doing them. :-)

There is absolutely nothing that doing bench dips gives you that you can't get from a non-dangerous maneuver. The shoulder joint is *very* easy to damage. I submit to you that there is no reason for you to get hurt exercising, ever. Find a chilled-out, certified trainer who is experienced in dealing with beginners.
posted by facetious at 6:55 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Agree with facetious. Bench dips just aren't good for your shoulders. Also beware of these (PDF). A good personal trainer is going to stress safety first in the weight room.
posted by Shoggoth at 10:16 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

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