Personal Trainer or Coach – which do you need?

Upon introducing myself as a “Body Composition Coach”, I often receive a somewhat puzzled expression. To clarify, I respond by using the more well known term “personal trainer”. So what’s the difference? Ultimately the answer to this lies in the notion of training vs exercise.


General view of Personal Trainers 7/7/2013

Our clients are from two main groups. Those wanting to look and feel better (lose fat, add muscle/tone up) or those wanting to reduce or eliminate pain. Both groups need to do specific “work” in order to achieve their goal. Both groups require a gradual, consistent and logical progression plan in order to improve. Both groups need to train, not exercise.

The notion of training vs exercise is an interesting one. Well known and highly regarded international strength coach Mark Rippetoe ( has used the analogy of sun-baking to describe the effects of exercise. If you want to tan, you need to expose the skin to sunlight. If you expose the skin for 20 mins per day for a week, the skin should have adapted to the sun exposure by getting darker.

If you continue to expose the skin to 2o mins of sunlight every day for the next month the skin will not continue to darken as it has already adapted to the stress imposed. You would therefore need to continue to increase the exposure in order to continue to adapt. Some is good but more is not necessarily better as this example clearly demonstrates.

Any exercise with a low skill requirement that can’t be reasonably progressed has an adaptation point that can be reached quite quickly. Once the adaptation point has been reached the body will no longer be required to improve. The requirement to improve is what drives change.

Personal Training Flemington, Kensington, Ascot Vale, Melbourne

Exercise is activity that requires movement. It has no greater purpose. It achieves very little in it’s own right. Training is conducted with a goal in mind. Training has purpose. For our clients that purpose is to change body composition or reduce/remove pain.

In order to change body composition an amount of work needs to be done within an amount of time. That takes planning, That takes progression. In the same way that you can’t get a tan in one day, you can’t just launch in to the required amount of training volume on your first day, the body needs to be prepared and conditioned.

To reduce or remove pain requires a plan, it requires gradual and considered progression. Structural imbalances and the resulting poor movement patterns are often displayed when pain is present. Strengthening weak muscles and developing neuro-muscular pathways is essential when dealing with chronic pain.

Training through a program that is designed to continually expose the body to unaccustomed stress is the key to progress. While this can sometimes be achieved through greater work (more stress) it’s often done through different stress. Intensity, volume, tempo, density, time under tension, energy systems, rest, line of pull are all examples of differing stress. A good strength coach understands how to manipulate training variables to maintain the appropriate stress level.

So in answering the title question of coach or trainer, you only need to ask yourself the following.  Do you need to exercise or train? Do you just need to move more, to exercise randomly with little thought to progression or purpose? Or do you have a goal to achieve that requires a gradual, consistent and logical progression plan? If it’s the latter, you’ll need a coach.



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