Red Light! – How to Tell a Client They Can’t Do An Exercise Anymore

Why can’t I do this exercise?

I used to do it before.

I’ve even done it at your gym…and was fine.

This is probably one of the most common questions we get.  Why did we red light someone?  Why are we not allowing them to do certain exercises?  Why are we telling them they can’t do something anymore…even though they used to have that in their program?

When it comes to the red light, the answer is simple.  The reason we red light exercises is to minimize risk while maximizing results.  The screening process allows us to identify potential markers that dramatically increase the likelihood of an injury.  If we identify those weaknesses, imbalances, or dysfunctions, we can program around them.  We can minimize the risk by using corrective strategies for those dysfunctional patterns rather than training them.  After the corrective startegies are used and the dysfunction is cleared, then by all means, we’ll start to train that pattern hard.  If we like something, we load it.  We want the resistance to reinforce a movement we like.

The big question to be prepared for is not necessarily the red lighting when someone initially comes in for training.  The big question comes from applying red lights to your current clients after a re-screen.  Here’s a good example of a scenario that happened in one of our gyms recently…One of our clients has been training with us for over two years.  She’s an awesome client and really respects what we’re doing, and she appreciates all the effort we put into the programming.  To keep our client anonymous, we’re going to call her Jane.

Like we said earlier, Jane has been training with us for over two full years.  She’s been swinging a kettlebell for the majority of her time with us.  However, after a recent screen, we decided to red light the swing from her program for the time being.  Jane isn’t the type to argue, but she was curious as to why we would take something out that she’s been doing for years.  Why can’t Jane swing a kettlebell anymore?

Active Straight Leg Raise
Active Straight Leg Raise

Jane has had an acceptable straight leg raise (symmetrical 2’s) since she came in for her initial screen and orientation.  We’ve screened her at least 10x prior to this last screen with no dysfunction.  However, the last time we screened Jane, she lost the ability to get to the acceptable range that we’re looking for.  Why did this happen?  Was it from the training?  Was it from her life outside of the gym?  We would be pretty confident to say that the dysfunction was formed on the 160+ hours away from the gym on a weekly basis rather than the 3 hours she’s with us, but that’s beside the point.  The point is that Jane has a dysfunctional straight leg raise today.  She may have not had a dysfunction for over two years, but that’s was then and this is now.  Jane now has a pattern we need to watch a little closer.

When Jane asked why we took them out of her program, we had to explain the reasoning behind the red light, and that we’ll be applying a strategy to fix the dysfunction rather than keep training on it.  So that’s what we did.  We took those exercises out of her program until the screen changes.  We simply followed our red light rules and implemented a strategy to fix it.  Jane worked her correctives and cleaned up her dysfunction in less than 2 weeks.  She was right back into swinging before she knew it.  We did our job as a coach, and Jane was thrilled.  She was extremely impressed that we take the time, analyze what’s going on with each client, and ensure that they fix their dysfunctions.  Needless to say, she became a raving fan.  She trained with us for almost two years and maybe has given one referral over that time period.  After this little scenario happened, she’s referred three of her co-workers in the past month and a half.  Pretty sure our Smart Group Training system did its job.  Followed properly, the Smart Group Training system will create raving fans ready to tell everyone they know about your program.