Personal training: Feedback

What is feedback?

Feedback refers to the information a client receives about their performance.

To be an effective personal trainer you need to develop the ability to teach skills so your clients learn them correctly with a minimum of frustration; feedback is an essential tool in your arsenal.

Why do we need feedback?

It is extremely important as it can motivate and reward clients, improve exercise performance, and systematic learning of skills is impossible without it. It allows us to compare and contrast our exercise performance with the ‘model’ performance, perceive errors and make the necessary adjustments.

Feedback is most effective when it is specific and precise, as it provides information on the appropriateness and precision of our performance so we can monitor and adapt as a result of prior performance; it is a key factor in the learning of skills.

Regardless of how successful a client’s performance is, good feedback can give rise to enjoyment and perceptions of success.

Types of feedback

There are two main types of feedback:

  1. Intrinsic feedback (or internal feedback) is the information a client receives as a natural consequence of performing an exercise, and is received through the senses – how the movement felt (touch, kinaestasis and proprioception), and what they heard, saw, and experienced through their senses. This feedback is produced by the client themselves. Kinaestasis refers to the ability to sense the position, alignment and movement of the body and its parts, and proprioception refers to the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself. For example, sitting on a fitball causes instability which the body unconsciously detects and tries to rectify. Another example might include hearing a weight stack crashing together during a resistance machine exercise.
  2. Extrinsic feedback (or external feedback) is information a client would not usually receive as a natural consequence of performing an exercise; it is produced by an external source such as the personal trainer. Extrinsic feedback can be given verbally, such as when a personal trainer explains how to correct a performance error, or non-verbally, such as when the personal trainer demonstrates how to correct an error. Extrinsic feedback is especially beneficial for beginners as they are typically less mindful of proprioceptive information. So extrinsic feedback from the personal trainer helps them recognise and use intrinsic feedback.

A good personal trainer will continuously observe their clients in action, analysing their movements, and provide feedback.

Feedback functions

Feedback serves three important functions, each of which we will look at in more detail on subsequent pages:

  1. Information to correct mistakes with performance
  2. Reinforcement to strengthen correct performance
  3. Motivation for skill learning

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