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Sports Performance

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.

Smart Group Training for Sports Performance

As most of you know we spend a lot of time traveling to get quality education. In the process, we meet a lot of great minds and make some great friends. Jared Markiewicz happens to be both.  He is also someone we would love to help contribute to the Smart Group Training website.

Jared works almost exclusively with athletes and we want to make a stronger effort towards putting out more info on Smart Group Training for Sports. Since Jared has been using the Smart Group Training system to perfection in his group sports performance, we know he is a great contributor.  Check out Jared M’s first SGT article below, it’s a great one!!

Take it away Jared!


Used by teams of all ages, group strength training builds camaraderie, chemistry, motivation and unified competitiveness.  However, coaches often use cookie-cutter programs that hardly consider each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

So, what can be done to address the issues of ‘cookie-cutter’ programs and their blatant abundance across the athletic community?

Enter SMART Group Training.

This system is directly influenced by the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), an assessment tool created by Gray Cook and Lee Burton which help coaches train athletes, improve strength and move more effectively.

While many see the FMS as an excellent tool for fixing muscular imbalances, some fail to recognize the important role this system plays in building strength.

It’s imperative that strength coaches ensure athletes do not become injured within the training facility. In fact, staying healthy and free of injury should always be the top priority. However, free from injury does not imply that a program should be easy or even minimized.

By knowing what movements can be performed safely, strength coaches can more accurately modify programs and elicit greater performance gains. Athletes become stronger, faster, more agile and in turn more explosive in their respective sport.

Going into any athletic season, athletes need focused conditioning and strength training for the rigors that a full season presents.

With information from the FMS and Smart Group Training tools, a strength coach can take a team of athletes through a challenging and customized pre-season training program. Theses tools allow the strength coach to individualize the program so each athlete is properly loading certain movements while correcting others.

For example, two athletes are working in the same group while super-setting front squats and pushups. Athlete #1 received a failing score on the trunk stability pushup test, while athlete #2 failed the deep squat test. During the superset the first athlete can load up heavily while performing the front squat, but must use a lower progression such as band-assisted pushups during the second exercise. Conversely, the second athlete should work at a lower progression, perhaps a band-assisted squat, on the first half of the superset. However the same athlete will use an upper-level exercise for pushups, like chain weighted or band resisted pushups. Both athletes make great strength gains and build foundational movements they otherwise lack, all while maintaining a safe training environment.

Without a screening protocol, a strength coach cannot and should not develop a training program for any individual. Moreover, when it comes to large group training, a screening tool like the FMS is optimal. The FMS is very effective and extremely efficient. Following the protocol developed by Smart Group Training, a coach needs merely 10 to 15 minutes to screen a group of three athletes. Once armed with this information, a strength coach then has the capacity to take a pre-designed team program and individualize movements for each athlete.

When used as a screening tool, the FMS helps a group of athletes become stronger, faster and more explosive without compromising movement quality. Smart Group Training incorporates the strengthening and movement focuses that are essential to building a team of well-educated, performance-driven athletes. Unlike cookie-cutter programs, these essential tools can be used to create systems that decrease the risks associated with training. Smart Group Training structured with the FMS will lead coaches to precise, result-driven programs that will revolutionize the athletic community.


Jared Markiewicz BS, ACSM, IYCA, FMS, TPI

Jared M FMS Specialist

Bachelors of Science-Exercise Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Certified Personal Trainer-American College of Sports Medicine

Youth Fitness Specialist-International Youth Conditioning Association

High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist- International Youth Conditioning Association

Speed and Agility Specialist-International Youth Conditioning Association

Functional Movement Screen Certified Specialist

Golf Fitness Instructor-Titleist Performance Institute

Jared opened his first Performance Facility in July of 2012 and was able to grow to 100+ clients within the first 6 months. His client list includes young athletes from ages 6-13, High School athletes performing in various sports, triathletes, weekend warriors, and golfers. He specializes in sports performance training and utilizes his knowledge gained from multiple certifications to adapt to a vast array of athletic endeavors. Five of Jared’s current high school Seniors in 2012 will go on to play collegiate athletics. His adult triathlete clients have set numerous personal records and won a variety of endurance races. Jared’s training programs blend foundational movement re-training with strength, speed, and conditioning philosophies from some of the best coaches in the world. He believes in pushing his training knowledge and is in a state of constant education, learning from his strength and conditioning mentors. Jared believes in practicing what he preaches and is currently training to compete in Olympic lifting at a Regional level. His long-term training goals are to qualify for Nationals in Olympic lifting.