I also don't trust a coach who can count to:
I'll accept 3.
Here's an example of a conversation during a typical set:
Me: "1, 2, remember to breathe Karen, 2"
Client: "It's 3"
Me: "Sorry, 3"
Client: "I've done 4 "
Me: "Squeeze the bar harder"
Client: "I've done 12"
Me: "....just testing you"
Client: "...yeah, yeah"
Me: "Great job during that set Karen!"
In my experience, all good PT's and coaches, have the same conversation multiple times during every session they are involved in.
Rule~ A good coach will lose count of their client's sets and reps many times throughout the course of a session/day/week or whatever timescale you want to look at.
I've made jokes in the past about how it's to make the client feel intellectually superior.
In one sense, that's true. It shows my human side.
The truth is, I couldn't keep count accurately if I wanted to.
As many coaches will attest, there is too much going on whenever a client is moving.
There is the client's movement to watch. You have to make sure good form is being used all the time.
If good form isn't being used you need to be furiously working out how to correct their movement without crushing their dreams, making them feel stupid while minimising risk and preventing injury.
You need to make sure no-one is going to absent-mindedly walk into their barbell during a set.
You'll be listening to how your client is breathing.
You'll be thinking about how fast they are moving or the way in which they are controlling the movement throughout a set.
There will be thousands of thoughts brimming below the surface based on all your experience as a coach.
If a coach can keep count during most sets without losing count then they are either far more intelligent and skilled than me (which is highly possible) or they aren't paying enough attention, don't care enough or the client is performing a single repetition set, where even I struggle to lose count.
This is why I don't trust a coach who doesn't lose count of reps numerous times per day.
If the coach isn't doing something silly you can be safe in the knowledge they are losing count because they care, because they want to keep you safe and because they want you to have a great session experience.
If the coach loses count because he's clearly checking out the ass of someone else in the gym for 5 minutes then the coach needs to up their game. We all make mistakes and fail to pay attention sometimes, so feel free to call your coach out if you spot them doing it.
If you are a coach and find you do it regularly, make sure you stand in a position where you can't stare at bottoms when you are supposed to be training your client.
If you are a coach who feels frustrated you can't keep count even though you are paying so much attention to everything the client is doing, please don't worry.
You are losing count because you care.
You don't lack intelligence or competency.
You are losing count because counting reps is rightly lower on your mental priority list than your clients' safety, experience, and movement quality.
Keep up the good work and welcome to the "I can't count to 10 club." Membership is free and lasts a lifetime.
By Chris Kershaw
The Heavy Metal Strength Coach