Name: Barry Bassin
Location: Long Beach, CA
Occupation: Fitness Professional
How did you hear about MFN?
As a certified health coach, I am always researching various health and medical conditions, especially with respect to applicable exercise guidelines. The Medical Fitness Network came up during one of my searches. I visited the MFN website and was instantly hooked.
How do you or your business help those with chronic disease/medical conditions or who need pre & postnatal care?
My job is to design an exercise and fitness program that is specific to each person as an individual. Exercise selection is a result of that process. And, of course, any exercise program must be safe and goal-specific. This includes lifestyle and self-exercise advice as well.
What makes you different from all the other fitness professionals out there?
It’s not for me to say that I am different from other fitness professionals; that’s for other people to say, if that’s what they believe, and if they have a basis for making comparisons.
But, I can say what kind of fitness professional I try to be, and to be that kind of fitness professional with each client, and with every member of each client’s health team with whom I may interact, and with all of my fitness colleagues.
There’s a joke about what dogs think about physicians: they’re like veterinarians, but only qualified to treat one kind of animal.
I work exclusively with older adults (age 60 through 90s), and people with health issues, ranging from musculoskeletal problems (arthritis, low-back pain, etc.) through chronic diseases and metabolic conditions (diabetes, insulin resistance, etc.). I have earned seven fitness certifications, including personal trainer, health coach, corrective exercise specialist, senior fitness specialist, orthopedic exercise specialist, and weight management specialist.
A quality certification says that there is something to know, and that you know it. This allows me to design exercise-based fitness programs that consider each client’s health and fitness issues and integrate them into each client’s fitness program without exceeding my scope of practice boundaries.
This is especially important when clients:
- have just been released by their physical therapist following a joint replacement or rotator cuff repair;
- or when clients need to reestablish or preserve bone mineral density via weight-bearing exercise;
- or proper exercise modalities and intensities to help with blood glucose regulation;
- or when muscles around arthritic joints need strengthening so that there is less stress on those joints;
- or when clients need to lose weight to reduce the load on their knees;
- or strengthen and condition all of the core muscles (not just the front of the abs) to help manage low-back pain;
- or when clients just want to look and feel better
While there are many serious, well trained and highly qualified fitness professionals, it is a sad fact that the explosive growth of the fitness industry has also created too many certification mills that are nothing more than weekend seminars or dumbed-down correspondence courses, churning out minimally qualified trainers.
What is your favorite activity or class to participate in?
1. Train your body the way you use your body.
Oher than swimming, there really isn’t much you do in a supine or prone position (i.e., lying down) that requires strength, endurance, and flexibility. Conversely, everything you do that requires strength, endurance, and flexibility, you do while standing, bending, stooping, gaiting, or rotating.
Except for clients who need to be seated during exercise, I train all my clients in a standing position. I call this vertical training, and it is the essence of true functional training, as not only are the targeted muscles for each exercise challenged, the synergistic and stabilizing muscles are involved as well. (Imagine swinging a golf club or throwing a ball if all you could use was your arms, while the rest of your body remained in a fixed position. You need your body to work as a whole integrated unit through its interconnected parts, known as the kinetic chain.) So, get your core off the floor, and train your body the way you use it.
2. I only use resistance bands and tubes.
Your muscles are stupid; they don’t know the difference between a dumbbell, a barbell, a resistance band, or a strength machine. They only know that a strength exercise has a degree of difficulty to perform it, regardless of the equipment. When the degree of difficulty for a specific muscle is the same across different kinds of equipment, the result of the training will be the same.
I use a combination of:
- 41-inch continuous loop bands (11 different resistance levels)
- 72-inch flat bands (4 different resistance levels)
- Bodylastics resistance tubes (7 different resistance levels)
There is not a single exercise that can be done with free weights or machines that cannot be done with bands and tubes, whether it’s at the lightest resistance appropriate for a frail elderly client, to a maximum resistance that would be challenging for even hardcore weightlifters. And all while allowing natural body movement patterns, and without joint trauma. So, while your muscles won’t know the difference between regular gym equipment and resistance bands, your joints will.
What is one piece of advice that you would give other fitness professionals about working with special populations or those who need pre-& postnatal care?
Be a great trainer. To be a great trainer, start by being a good trainer; to be a good trainer, never stop becoming that trainer.
Always stay within your scope of practice boundaries, while expanding your core competencies as a trainer. For instance, my interest is senior fitness. Complementary certifications that enhance my ability to work effectively with older adults includes senior fitness specialist and orthopedic exercise specialist, both of which take into account issues that are common with older adults. My ACE personal trainer certification is my foundation competency, and my other certifications expand my qualifications.
And as important as anything, never forget that what your gym or studio calls members, and we trainers call clients, are really customers. And as with customers for any product or service, people expect to be treated honestly, competently, and feeling like they’re getting what they’re paying for. Forget this, and no matter what you call them, you can put the word former before the other word.
What type of community activities are you involved in?
I would love to tell you about all the great community activities I do, but, alas, I don’t do them. I regularly train 21 clients two or more times a week. At the end of the day, I’m tired, and weekends are family time.
What is one of your favorite memories involving working with someone who has a health challenge or disability?
I’m like most fitness professionals: I like helping people and I feel rewarded when positive changes occur.
But I do have one client who is my personal hero. She was born with more than one congenital health issue, including cerebral palsy, and she also has lupus disease, scoliosis, and no ligament in her right foot. She had been told her whole life that there were physical things she would never do. We’ve been working together for more than three years. There are now no exercises that she can’t do, and last year she went sky diving. Wow!
What would you like to see change/develop/emerge in the future of healthcare and the fitness industry?
I’ve always been opposed to regulating qualifications for personal trainers. Whenever the topic comes up, there is no clarity as to how it would be done, who would do it, would it be influenced by commercial interests, and would it be standardized amongst the states. But, now I think it’s time. There are too many minimally qualified so-called personal trainers who over-promise and under-deliver, all to the detriment of the people who hire them, and to the detriment of serious, well qualified professional trainers whose image as industry members suffers.
Hats off to the Medical Fitness Network, who carefully screen fitness professionals before accepting them in their professional network.
And what are you doing to make this happen?
Other than advocating for a workable and credible system for establishing an industry-wide certification recognition system, it’s really up to the best certification agencies like ACE, ACSM, and NASM to take the lead. They, and a few others, are in the best position to work amongst themselves to speak in a unified voice regarding standards.
What is your favorite fitness/inspirational/motivational quote?
There are two:
1. Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do. Not a punishment for what you ate.
I don’t know who to ascribe that quote to, but I love it. While it’s off the mark for a medical fitness discussion, too many people exercise to reverse the effects of how they eat. So, let me appropriate that quote and restate it as “Exercise is a celebration of how we make our bodies healthier today, not . . . (fill in the blank).
2. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? Satchel Paige (1906-1982), baseball Hall of Fame pitcher.
Anything else we should know about you?
As an older adult, senior fitness isn’t just what I do, it’s who I am. My plan is to live forever, and so far, so good.