Mirrors are one of those things you expect to see in every gym. I mean what gym doesn't have its walls covered in mirrors? The problem is that they often cause a ton of problems. Back when I used to have my gym at our old Prime Health Products store, I used to have some mirrors also. They didn't cover the entire wall. They were very simple ones I bought from Canadian Tire and put up with adhesive. They did have their uses, but more often than not I found them distracting. I had a runway of 4 x 6 mats and at the end of the runway, I had mirrors. Whenever I did big exercises like deadlifts or rows, I used to turn the bar sideways so I wouldn't face the mirrors. I found that i was able to concentrate a lot better that way. I also had my power rack turned around so I wouldn't face the mirrors when I did Barbell Squats. I remember a client asking me why I did that and I explained that when you don't have a mirror to distract you, you have to look inside yourself and feel the movement more. You are therefore able to maintain better body position, control your breathing, and therefore get more results from the exercise.
What happens often is that when people see themselves in the mirror they want to look at themselves the entire time while they're doing a particular exercise even if it means messing up your posture and alignment. Here's something to try. Go to a mirror and get in position to do a Bentover Row. So your legs are slightly bent, your back is flat, and your torso is bent over at about 90 degrees or slightly above parallel with the ground. Now look at the mirror and start doing rows with your arms. Seems okay for now, right? NOW, move your head so you look slightly toward toward the ground and do the rowing. You'll find that you're now able to feel the movement a lot better and you won't have that "Goose Neck" problem that a lot of people have when doing these types of exercises. So what it a mirror good for? When you're first learning a new movement. If it's a brand new movement and you're trying to get in the groove, it's often helpful to see yourself. If you're told that you need to raise your arms to a position level with your shoulders but not above, it can be difficult to do without seeing yourself. Once you have the feeling however, it's probably better to ditch the mirrors so you can feel the movement better.
As an in-home trainer I usually am not in a home where there are mirrors everywhere. Even when I had my gym there weren't mirrors everywhere. I only had them on one wall. So my clients are accustomed to feeling the exercises more than relying on mirrors. This gives them the ability to train any time, any where without relying on a crutch. Not to mention that whenever you do outdoor exercise, which I am a huge practitioner of, there are no mirrors around. So are mirrors friend or foe? It depends on how you use them. To learn a new exercise and certain disciplines such as dancing or martial arts, a mirror can be very helpful. But once you have developed some proficiency at it and you're in the groove, then it's time to ditch the mirrors!
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