Personal training: Information to correct mistakes with performance

This type of feedback usually informs the client about one or more of the following:

  • Knowledge of results – this relates to knowledge about the outcome of performing the exercise. This may be directly accessible to the client; for example, a weight they cannot lift or the number of repetitions or duration they perform for (intrinsic feedback). It can also be provided by the personal trainer (extrinsic feedback).
  • Knowledge of performance – this relates to information about the performance of the exercise – what parts were performed correctly and what needs to be corrected. The personal trainer is the main source of this knowledge for beginners and intermediate clients, for whom this type of the feedback is especially valuable as they are often unable to detect which aspects of their performance need to be corrected and in which areas they are improving.
  • Kinaesthetic feedback – this concerns the way the movements feel whilst performing the exercise. This type of feedback allows clients to evaluate whether the exercise was performed correctly and as intended. The more skilled the client, the more accurate they are with this evaluation; this is because beginners have not yet developed a memory regarding how the exercise should feel when it is performed correctly. This evaluation is aided by other sensory feedback and extrinsic feedback from the personal trainer.
  • Reasons for any mistakes
  • Technical changes that need to be made to correct mistakes
  • Reasons why these technical changes are recommended

Give this type of feedback to inform the client about their performance. The personal trainer should aim to feedback something more about a client’s performance than they would have received through intrinsic feedback; it should provide specific information on how to correct mistakes and to reinforce correct technique. Do not make comments that are loaded with judgment or criticism. Comments that are high in judgment and low in information have little, if any, impact on learning, but may have a tremendous impact on a client’s confidence or motivation; for example, a comment such as “You’re still not doing it right” does not explain to a client how they can actually improve, it merely frustrates them and possibly erodes their confidence.

Using extrinsic feedback as a source of information to correct mistakes should be given every time the client performs the technique correctly or as frequently as possible in the client’s early stages of learning techniques. This will help to guide them towards performing the techniques correctly in less time than if feedback were given infrequently. It also increases the chances the technique will be correct from the outset of learning. As learning progresses, however, and technical performance improves, extrinsic feedback of this type should be gradually reduced so the client gradually learns to become less dependent on it to successfully perform the technique. The personal trainer should only occasionally offer this type of feedback to a highly skilled client, aiming to reinforce they are performing correctly.

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