Equipment: Why Does it Matter?

15 comments written by Al Coleman

One interesting question that I see brought up on internet discussion forums a lot is, “Do clients really care about the equipment?

Before I give you my answer, I’d like to first provide what I have seen as the most common response to this answer: no.  Mind you, I’ve never heard this response from the majority of clients themselves, but rather from trainers on said internet forums.  The typical explanation is something to the effect of, “Great equipment is all well and good, but most clients don’t care about it and it isn’t necessary as long as you are able to get them in better shape and improve their quality of life.”  For a good number of people this is at least initially true.  However, my 12 years of implementing this protocol for a living have given me quite a different perspective.

What I have seen is that, above and beyond anything else, people want to be good at something.  They want to excel at whatever it is they are being asked to do.  They walk through your door and listen to your reasons as to why they should try this technology to reach what they think their goals are.  After listening to your explanations and/or experiencing a sample of what it is you offer, they either decide to give it a go or they don’t.  If they even half accept the methods you are proposing as valid, then it is up to you to do your best to direct their training towards the ideal manifestation of those methods.

Your assumption (whether true or not) is that the closer they come to performing exactly as you ask, the more likely it is that you can assure them of progress.  In a sense, what occurs is a reversal of roles.  They come to you with a goal and you in turn give them one.  The only way that you can make what you do as a practitioner work is by them understanding that although they may never perfect your protocol (it is an ideal), the effort to do so must be provided in order for them to optimize your program.  I can’t remember who said it, but I always enjoyed this quote, “Striving for 100% compliance will get you 80% of the way there”.  In other words, while the ideal is impossible you must at least aim for it or you will fall way short.

Mike Bianchi Educates New Client on the RenEx Leg Press

My ideas behind why I consider the aim at ideals so important are fodder for another article.  What I wish to stress here is the importance of equipment lending a hand toward a client’s path toward that ideal.  And like any tool, if it makes a project easier then it becomes considered indispensable.  In the case of learning and teaching this protocol, good pieces of equipment make teaching more precise and improve a client’s feedback so that they in turn can efficiently do what you ask.  This efficiency closes an educational gap that seems to elude many people.

Good pieces of equipment provide a person with an opportunity to understand what their body is doing through space and time.  To this end it is extremely important that the machine minimizes obstructions that would muddle the transmission between the instructor’s verbiage and the subjects’ movement.  My experience has shown that the more interference that exists between the instructions I give and the subject’s expression of those instructions, the more frustration will ensue.  The frustration that this interference causes can only end in one of two ways: either the client quits because they can’t seem to figure out how to connect the dots and/or they accept it as is and wind up becoming a slow moving furniture mover.  The latter consequence is in my opinion why so many people have claimed lackluster results from their perception of slow speed exercise protocols, but it is the former reason that may hint at why clients quit.  Of course they don’t say this to themselves, nor would they explain it that way if asked, but I guarantee that folks who gain a better mastery of your protocol are not as likely to quit.

Why would this be?  Quite simply, greater mastery of something increases the likelihood that an individual will have a clearer picture of cause and effect.  Increased mastery leads to a greater level of satisfaction of what one is doing and sparks an inquisitiveness regarding the process.  Going through the motions is no longer an option and suddenly one begins to pick up on things they hadn’t noticed before.

So what does the rambling of the preceding paragraphs have to do with whether or not clients care about equipment?  It is my strong opinion that clients will take interest in the equipment if you do.  If the instructor goes through the pains of understanding as much about the equipment as they can and can in turn use that knowledge in their instruction of an exercise, then you have just asked the person performing the exercise to study the machine and find out if what the instructor said is true.

The whole workout becomes a process of inquiry and over time a client will be to take that inquiry and obtain a new level of intuitive knowledge about the machine they are using.  That new knowledge creates a feedback loop that will improve their ability to fatigue themselves in following workouts.  Any upgrades or improvements one makes to a given piece of equipment can be introduced and explained to a client and the process of inquiry takes a new course.  They will be able to feel how the previous incarnation of said piece was hindering their process in some way and will gain a deeper appreciation of just how much an experience can be improved upon.  Of course, a client probably won’t be able to articulate this process, but they will surely appreciate that it is there and overtime will train for the sake of the process itself rather than what they originally had in mind.

In closing, I have observed that the clients who comprise the bulk of your customer base and stick around, are the ones who appreciate can appreciate just how much a good piece of equipment can improve the training experience.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar John Tatore November 10, 2011 at 6:20 pm


Great article. I’ve never had a client who understood the real objective … understood how to reach it on my re-trofiiteed SuperSlow Systems equipment …. leave …. unless they had to move. The great ones get addicted to this protocol.



avatar Joshua Trentine November 10, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Equipment helps teach…feedback improves how quick the “get it”


avatar Steve Scott November 11, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Hey guys, just curious as we are not in the market (unfortunately) for the machines presently at Rock Bottoms here in Asheville NC, but, how can anyone hope to get the most from this equipment without an actual apprenticeship? I would think there would be a bit of a learning curve even for the McGuffs out there. Is instruction and/or certification included in the purchase price? Is there going to be continuing ed as well? I think this is finally the manifestation of everything Arthur may have imagined originally, how impossible to leap to this directly, how antiquated 1st gen Nautilus seems now. I feel a little melancholy honestly.


avatar Joshua Trentine November 10, 2011 at 7:40 pm

One of my all-time favorite Coleman articles!


avatar Kevin Fontaine November 11, 2011 at 9:09 am

What you’ve done to develop and “perfect” your equipment has parallels to what Steve Jobs did at Apple. You, as Jobs did, developed pieces of equipment that put the user as close to direct experience as possible. You’ve eliminated the extraneous stuff that complicates and dulls the experience. In otherwords, the machine doesn’t dilute the experience, it enhances it. Again, like Jobs, the simplicity of your equipment disguises its complexity. Eventually, the quantum difference of what’s experienced between your equipment and what’s currently out in the market may make your machines essential to those who take their work seriously.


avatar Joshua Trentine November 11, 2011 at 7:04 pm

“the machine doesn’t dilute the experience”

This was actually a design goal, we’ve done everything we could to get the machine out of the user’s way.

…and I do agree, the simplicity of the design is the real elegance. There are many problems that we’ve had to solve, in many cases we’ve had multiple solutions and in every case the team as agreed to solve things in the simplest way possible.

The sum of all of the improvement really has provided a quantum leap.


avatar Al Coleman November 12, 2011 at 9:32 pm


Thanks for your comment. I really see this as much more of an art at this point than a science, as did Jobs.

Direct experience cannot be quantified. Science can give you a description of direct experience, but it can’t give you direct experience itself.


avatar Joshua Trentine November 14, 2011 at 12:17 am

“Direct experience cannot be quantified. Science can give you a description of direct experience, but it can’t give you direct experience itself ”

I just wanted to repeat this again for those looking for all of the data….some things can be quantified , but no one will be completely satisfied until they have the experience.


avatar Ed M. November 11, 2011 at 4:19 pm


If the client had not had the experience of superior equipment over time it would be near imposible to understand the difference between Brand x and Ren-Ex. But once the difference has become part of your consciousnesss the difference is painfully apparent. As my wife said just this morning: “this stuff is just plain clunky”.

On the other hand, having to use brand x on off weeks is a real character-building experience.

I can’t wait to try them all.


avatar Al Coleman November 12, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Thanks Ed.

This is one of the things I was wishing to relay. People do care about equipment when it directly impacts their exercise experience.


avatar AShortt November 14, 2011 at 10:14 am

“Good pieces of equipment provide a person with an opportunity to understand what their body is doing through space and time.”

This is why I think folks tend to favor freeweights even today. Balancing and coordinating is so second nature people ignore it. They get the sense that freeweights ‘feel’ more natural. Its great that someone in the exercise machine business is not throwing the baby out with the bath water. One thing Johnston and I noticed as we were exploring ‘zoning’ is how so much old school B.B. thinking was reasonable though applied without much logic or technology. Things had been noted that were important just never really adjusted for in a systematic manner. The ‘heavy air’ approach is clearly the way to go.



avatar Al Coleman November 16, 2011 at 8:45 am



I agree. Barbells and free body exercises, if properly applied, trump most machines. You’re right, it was the lack of a system that has led to there ‘misuse’.

Josh and I have talked about how ‘good’ bodybuilders will intuitively cam there barbrell exercises.

I really appreciate what you and Brian were doing. I have always thought that properly applied (and with good equipment), our protocol mirrors zone training in many ways.

I don’t have it right now, but in Z3 there is a caption of what a trainee should say to themselves while training (it is formed as an inquiry), that sounds EXACTLY like what I think to myself during my own workouts.



avatar Joe A November 16, 2011 at 12:51 pm


I think this is the section to which you refer…

“Certainly what helps in exercise performance in general, and especially with Zone Training™ (since it is so eclectic and things can go right or wrong with little advanced notice), is to become absorbed in what is happening to the muscles at every moment. As you begin a set… as you work through a set… think to yourself:

How can I make this set perfect… how can I make each contraction feel perfect… what must occur at any particular zone… what seems to be transpiring and will transpire by the time I get into the next muscular contraction or the next zone, and how do I make my actions feel as challenging and as best I can?”


avatar AShortt November 21, 2011 at 11:00 am

Yes we were just trying to describe what we were doing. That is rather than trying to make a rep count or just focus on external form aspects (head/neck position, relaxed breathing, high chest, square shoulders and so forth). We were trying to say…well anyway the point is this is where I see the progress which RenX is bringing appears to be born from.



avatar Scott Springston November 22, 2011 at 11:02 am

the clients who comprise the bulk of your customer base and stick around, are the ones who appreciate can appreciate just how much a good piece of equipment can improve the training experience.

I agree that better equipment can definitely improve the training experience! I think I can get similar results whether I used barbells or crappy low grade machines , Nautilus or REN-EX but I think the training experiance, the best and most pleasurable path to attaining the desired muscle is best had by using the best machines available. From what I can see from here it seems REN-EX has that distinction at the moment!


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