Workout vs Training

‘I already know exactly how this is going to play out.  He’ll do 10-20 minutes walking on the treadmill, then he’ll do three sets on the Lat Pull-Down machine using a load well above what he can control,  move four feet to this left and do three sets on the machine seated row…also using a load he cannot control, then hop over to the seated machine fly (making sure to slam the weight stack) and then the machine chest press (also slamming the weight stack.)  He’ll finish off with seated dumbbell “curls” ( closer to cleans actually) to press.”            

These were my thoughts as I watched a persons weekly work out. I’ve also noticed odd looks he shoots my direction when I bring in my own barbell or when I attach bands and chains to things.  I suppose he has his own thoughts on what I’m doing as well, and frankly I don’t blame him

“It’s HIS WORKOUT,,Why do you care?” is the question I can hear people asking themselves, and its a good question. My answer is short: I don’t, but it did provide this weeks material.

“The purpose of training is to train with purpose” 

Some people confuse the terms “workout” and “training” and this includes personal trainers. There are some key differences between them, and page 123 of the CPT book didn’t spell it out.

FACT: Some personal trainers live off of putting people through workouts.  They might have an idea of how to train, but not how to train other people.

A “workout” is singular. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but when taking a longterm view they can fall short when it comes to improving performance measures.

Training links individual sessions to form a bigger picture.  The collection of sessions over time is what gets you to your goal.  Workouts have no such goal, or if they do it is often generic.


The goal of every powerlifter at Westside Barbell is to get their name on the record board. Members of the gym have broken over 140 world-records and didn’t reach those heights purely from “working out.”

Training could be considered practice.

In fairness, I will say that workouts can be considered  a necessity at times for at least two reasons: (1) They can serve as a test, and (2) Too much time spent training at high intensities and volumes can negatively affect a person.

Two recent personal examples of workouts being used for positive effects…

12.31.18 “Record Breakers” I wouldn’t normally have three maximum effort lifts in a training sessionThis was set up to test my training, and I tend to do well with targets.

1.Flat Bench Press up to a maximum double for a 2018 record. Simply get the record and shut it down.  If nothing else gets done, THIS is the most important thing as it directly relates to my competition numbers.

2. Loaded Pull-Ups for a targeted rep count (new rep record), then complete remaining reps for the tarted volume.

3. Assisted One Arm Push Ups for a targeted rep count (new rep record) starting with the non-dominant arm. My stronger side will not exceed whatever my less strong side can complete.

1.17.19 “Rough Day”  I woke up feeling out of sorts and the universe told me that it wasn’t the day to Squat or Deadlift…and quite frankly putting anything heavy overhead or over-chest didn’t feel like a great idea either.  Rather than simply skipping training, I decided on working out with a purpose.

1. Dumbbell Chest Press  15-12-10-8-6-4-2

2. Plate Raises to face 15-12-10-8-6-4-2

3. Dips at 75% Bodyweight 15-12-10-8-6-4-2

4. Barbell Drag Curls 15-12-10-8-6-4-2

5. Extension Bench 3×5 with Isometric Hold  superset with 5 Ab-Wheels from the knees and greatest extension I could control.

This was an example of a small workout, but when considering its general exercise composition you can spot exercises that assist in the Bench Press, Squat and Deadlift.  The higher initial rep counts meant I had little choice but use lighter loading schemes and the rest period dropped according the the # of reps completed, making the weight more challenging.


The difference between these workouts and random workouts?  The vision and purposes behind them.  If I were to continually repeat “Record Breakers”  I would quickly stall completely neglect other fundamental movements and potentially injure myself.  If I were to continually repeat “Rough Day” I would improve only to an eventual point and still face overuse injuries….plus I’d get bored out of my skull.


Stupid Stuff

“Kettlebells are stupid, they’re useless and do nothing that Dumbbells don’t do.”

“Barbell Training is stupid. You’re guaranteed an injury and all it does is build mirror muscles anyhow.”

“Bodybuilding is stupid.  It’s basically a non-functional way to train for a beauty contest.”

“CrossFit….”,“Calisthenics…..”,“GroupEx….”,“Yoga….”….and so on. 

It is unfortunate to see coaches confidently denounce one type of training…and in some cases ALL other types of training, but claim superiority of THIER method of training (what they’ve already bought into)…quite often without addressing any specifics.

All of the above might suck at certain things, but they have value in other things.

As previously mentioned on this blog, I’ve seen the same happen when it comes to credentialing agencies. I longer recommend any particular agency over another, I simply layout the pros/cons of each as best I know them and let the individual make their own decision.

Training and exercise are a simple, yet complicated topic and there is a high potential for bias. My opinion is, there are many ways to train, but training principles are relatively few, laws even fewer and athletes/clients singular.

The scientific principles of training. (Credit: Juggernaut Training Systems)

  1. Specificity
  2. Progressive Overload
  3. Fatigue Management
  4. Stimulus, Recovery, Adaptation
  5. Variation
  6. Phase Potentiation
  7. Individual Differences

The laws of training. (Credit: Dr.Tudor Bompa)

1.  Joints (Structure,Function and Range of Motion)

2.  Tendon Strength

3.  Core Strength ( Defined here as being the internal and external muscles of the trunk, including the hips and glutes)

4.  The Stabilizing muscles

5.  Movements vs Muscles

Progressive Overload also lists as a law.  

The major training adaptations

  1. Maximum Strength
  2. Speed/Explosion
  3. Hypertrophy
  4. Weight Loss
  5. Endurance
  6. Mobility/Stability/Flexibility
  7. Rehabilitation

“When programming for efficiency, you should always hold yourself to a WHY along with the specifics.  An athletes physical tolerance and recovery ability are finite, and we want to apply the optimal level of demand to facilitate gains.  Extra exercises, or non-specific training “just because” is unacceptable, and will only slow progress or lead to overuse injuries”                                                                       Credit: The System. On Target Publications

The coach/trainer first takes the individual into account.  Following the laws and principles of training they develop a systematic plan for the desired adaption/goal in accordance with the individuals starting point.  There is a reason(s) behind everything done, and they don’t do stupid stuff.

It’s often the tool, and sometimes the teacher that trainers focus on, while potentially losing site of other things.  

A lesson from a construction site: During a Habitat for Humanity community relations project I watched a guy use his saw several different ways, as a saw (what the tool does best with certain materials), using the thick handle to lightly tap a small part into place (like a hammer) and to draw  straight lines on a board using the back of the blade. Were the non-sawing uses better than actual hammers or measuring tapes? No. Were they suitable for the needs at the time? Yes. The guy certainly never said hammers and measuring tapes suck.

Before completely denouncing something as “it sucks”, try fairly comparing the method to the known principles,laws and adaptations to see how things land. This pre-supposes you actually know something about what you’re denouncing.

I took some online heat awhile back for questioning the logic behind standing on a flat end up Bosu (a very unstable surface) while manipulating battle ropes.  Taking the principles and laws of training into account, and then the possible training adaptations I came to the conclusion that the exercise is highly specific at best (to what exactly is still arguable) and stupid stuff at worst.

Instead of looking at the tool, focus instead on what’s being done with it, for what intended purposes and on whom. This line of thinking has led to at least 90% of my Bosu jokes, and probably 100% of all the stupid stuff I’ve seen in gyms around the world. 

The Bosu didn’t decide what was being done on it, an individual made that decision.  Whether it was an informed decision or not is another matter.

My (relatively) unbiased review of training tools.

Barbells: Infinitely loadable, and due to this fact they are the primary tool for maximum strength development. Barbells are my primary training tool, but not for all clients across the board.

Numerous bar designs allow for different stimuli while maintaining biomechanical similarity. Qualified coaches are more common that qualified kettlebell coaches, but that isn’t nearly as many as you’d like to think.

Kettlebells: Very good for power training, helpful for multiple strength adaptations, cardio strength training and mobility/stability. It’s not my top choice for Hypertrophy or most maximum strength applications and the loading limitations can be an advantage and disadvantage. The learning curve is longer than dumbbells, but not as long as Olympic lifting.

Higher likelihood of receiving improper instruction compared to barbell, dumbbell or machine training. OPINION: Second only to Olympic lifts when it comes to punishing you for bad technique.

Although they are not my primary training tool, Kettlebells are something I’ve personally invested into in terms of education, coaching and equipment. They also happen to be in the top three things I see people doing stupid $hit with.

Dumbbells: Common in gyms and offers greater loading ranges compared to Kettlebells. Can roughly replicate a number KB lifts, however the stimulus differs even with equivalent loading or be suitable replacements for some barbell lifts. Well-suited for hypertrophy work and as accessory lifts for barbell lifts. 

Sandbags: Finely loadable from light weight to StrongMan class.  Allows for lifts that replicate several common barbell lifts along with three-dimensional movements. Safest load to drop on yourself. Loading limitations are set by the size of the bag.  Not well-suited for hypertrophy work. Equal or higher likelihood of receiving improper instruction compared to Kettlebells, but a shorter learning.

Machines: Pin type (literally put a pin into the weight stack), Cable (some argue they are not true machines) and the plate loaded lever variations.  Save for the cable types, they allow for only a pre-determined path and remove the need to stabilize the load. Excellent for hypertrophy and generally have a shorter learning curve…but like any other tool it takes work to actually connect the movement to the intended muscle group.  Handle variations can slightly, or greatly change the exercise experience.  

My biggest issues with machines come down to engineering and potential lack of adjustability. Depending on the adaptation desired, it is entirely possible to train without them, or ONLY with them.

Bodyweight: Great value and entry point for many people. Can serve as a primary, supplemental or accessory training method. Not all progressions are clear and techniques are subject to the same errors as any other method of training.

Some bodyweight exercises can be agonizingly difficult, and progressive overload requires altering leverages, the removal of working limbs or the addition of external loads.

Bands: Can be very useful for a variety of application spanning rehabilitation to performance. A downside is the lack of tension uniformity among manufacturers.

In my own training, barbells, dumbbells, cable, bodyweight and band exercises are constantly programmed while machines are used selectively.  Kettlebell and Sandbag training are rotated into small workouts when I feel they are the best tools for a particular task (along with Maces and Indian Clubs)

The New Year New Me Crowd

Today’s blog  speaks to those starting off 2019 with the “New Year New Me” goal.  It is written through the eyes of both a Strength Coach and a Gym Bro in the same gym as you.


“It’s January 1st, and there were only two other people in the gym, both of whom I’ve seen before. I was expecting a crowd and came in a little early just to see how crowded things could get. The emptiness of the place was like a Twilight Zone episode.” My January 1st training session.

Every January, the “New Year New Me” crowd signs up with gyms around the world, along the running joke that they usually stick around for only a few weeks. Unfortunately there is some reality to this joke, and the New Year New Me crowd can be a pain in the ass.

For the gym regular readers, please remember that everybody had a Day 1. At one point in history YOU were the new person in the gym, and I guarantee you didn’t show up Day 1 already awesome at everything.

For the New Year New Me readers, history suggests the following are some of the reasons why people fall off….
Lack of perceived progress
Lack of support
Lack of direction (Don’t know what to do….even if convinced otherwise)

I’ll address each point and try to keep things somewhat entertaining.


Me entering the gym, except with more of a scowl. (Dusty Rhodes RIP. Credit WWE)

A client with a prominent beer gut once asked me how fast I could get the gut off him. He didn’t like it when I asked how long did it take to get there. I believe he wanted to hear “I can get that off in 30 days.”   – When a client thought I owned some sort of fat reducing magic wand.

LACK OF PERCEIVED PROGRESS. It took a lot of effort to grow that beer belly, and to get it off safely will be even more effort. I’m well aware that some trainers will resort to extreme, and unsafe measures to drop client weight, but I’m not one of them.

I’ve seen it happen enough that it bears repeating, and its not unique to the New Years crowd. A person comes into the gym several times weekly and does either absolutely random, or exactly the same exercise routines. No weight appears to be challenging to  them and most (if not all) exercises are done seated.

Multiply that scenario over a period of months or years.  The person isn’t seeing any further progress because their body has gotten very good at doing very little…even when it might seem like they do a lot.

Fact: Initial progress isn’t visible to the human eye as it happens on the cellular level. Beginners can see near weekly strength gains early in training due to CNS adaptations and it takes 8 weeks ( possibly more in some cases) to see improvements in certain areas. Generally, flexibility and cardiovascular are two relatively quick areas to improve,but they’re also the first to go when left untrained.


Credit: Westside Barbell

“You’re fu-king late! If you cant crawl under that fu-king’ bar and hit ### lbs without a warm up then you have NO FU-KING’ business being in THIS gym!”  An old school ass chewing I took. If you were late for training you had to start with whatever was on the bar at the time. My being late was considered disrespectful and unsupportive to my training partners.

LACK OF SUPPORT. CrossFit, and to an extent some group exercise classes have nailed creating a sense of community within their members, which in turn creates built-in support. The downside is neither always meets you where you are starting from.

I know those CrossFit WOD’s and hardcore bootcamps look tempting and fill your head with visions of them whipping you into shape so fast your fat/weakness wont know what hit it. It is an awesome thought, but I highly recommend you consider starting with something simpler.

Fact: Think of it this way, some people have adapted exceptionally well to years (decades?) of sitting on their butt and not exercising. Suddenly flipping the switch and trying to do 3-5 45-60 minute weekly workouts of exhausting difficulty might not be the best plan to jump headfirst into.

In the past I’ve challenged trainers to design a workout without any seated or laying exercises. It’s not that these exercises are inherently bad, and truth be told theres times when they might be the best answer on a client defined basis… but they can also be a way for a trainers to be lazy as well.

“If you think fitness is expensive, wait to see what ill-health costs you”  Not mine, but a quote I’ve always liked.

Cost. The rise of low price/high volume gym models has opened up gym membership to a greater number of people, and for the most part I believe this to be a good thing. They are also often the entry point for new personal trainers, and some gyms do a better job here than others. Unfortunately it’s not easy for the general public to identify if a trainer is actually any good or not.

Fact: The low price/high volume gym model WANTS YOU to not show up. To them, thats free money. The small gym where I currently train has over 500 members, but the room is so small I could verbally correct a lift from across the room.


TRAINER: “I charge $50 a session for a single session, $20 a session for 2x weekly and $10 a session for 5x weekly.”

ME: “So what you’re actually saying is that you are worth $10 a session.”

A later evaluation of the trainers skills told me they were expensive at half their lowest price. The lowest price gym might be a necessity, but the lowest priced trainers are generally not a good deal.  Also, the trainers math skills seem a bit off.

“I HONESTLY DON’T CARE IF YOU HIT THREE PLATES IN HIGH SCHOOL”  also..”NOBODY GIVES A SH-T ABOUT YOUR LEG PRESS RECORD” The sheer number of formerly amazing bench pressers and leg pressers I meet is crazy. Interestingly, they all seemed capable of formerly lifting far more than I do now, but cannot in the present (in front of me) due to one reason or another.

Lack of Direction. The you of today is not the you of your high school glory years. What can you do NOW is what I need to figure out, along with what you shouldn’t be doing…at least until you can be progressed there safely.

That’s a broad stroke of what a trainer is supposed to do. The problem being that even hiring a trainer is no guarantee that THEY WILL HAVE a good sense of direction. Although there will always be exceptions, the low cost gym models are not exactly known for retaining their top talent trainers.


Fact: Initially, nearly anything you do with consistency will yield some positive adaptations as it is a new stimulus to your body. Proper technique isn’t a strict requirement for muscle growth…although your joints, ligaments and tendons will get pissed at you, and there is a limit to this honeymoon phase. Eventually you will plateau and probably regress.  This is where programming comes into play.

Finding a good trainer is like finding a good mechanic, hair stylist or any other professional. They’re unfortunately a minority in the profession.

You are only as good as your NEXT workout”  I’d love to take credit for this, but I’m sure someone much smarter said it before I did.

Injury. Outside of the odd acts of God (an unforeseeable accident) a training related injury is outright discouraging to anyone.

The last workout of 2018 was a record breaker day for me. It was planned and I had progressed myself to a level that nearly guaranteed success. One lift involved bench pressing a specified load for 2 repetitions, setting a lifetime personal record in the process.

After the lift was completed, I KNEW I had another 5 more pounds in me. Did I add load and take that next lift? No. I shut it down with my win and moved on to the next record-breaker lift.

Why? I’ve seen enough gym accidents to know when to leave things at “good enough”

Had I taken the additional lift, my odds of injury just went up. I am also well aware of what I can recover from, and I’m not exactly representative of a New Years New Me male of my age. The issue is that many male, and some female beginners will get ahead of themselves and over-do it after years of not doing it. This is a situation primed for injury.

Make 2019 yours, and start from where you need to start from.  Remember that this is a process, and that change takes time, consistency and intensity.

2019 Advice to Personal Trainers

My last entry for 2018 serves as a message to any Personal Trainers following this blog, and a warning order of sorts for people employing them.

Personal Trainers: If you avoid doing the below you are already doing better than many of your peers.

Clients/Athletes: If your trainer is doing these things, find a new one. The one you’ve got sucks a$$.

FACT 1: Some trainers do things that irk me, but I reserve a substantial amount of hate for a few things. Literally, Days of Hate.

FACT 2: I’m thankful that bad trainers exist.  I’ve learned at least as much from sub-par trainers as I have from top trainers…and I see sub-par ones far more commonly.

FACT 3: I’m aware of my biases, so I polled members of my professional network asking “What sort of things do trainers do that piss YOU off?  Responses did not disappoint.

Random workout generators. The amount of hate I have for trainers operating off these things could easily be a blog of its own.


A random workout differs from needing to go off script from an existing plan.  Going off script can be done for legit reasons (equipment unavailability, lowered training states being just two), but to replace yourself with a meme is ridiculous.

Why do I need you when I already know how to do a Google Image search? Random workouts at best, are physical crap shoots.

False Experts:Trainers thinking they know something just because they’ve heard of it, have seen it done or can somewhat physically duplicate the movement. There’s at least a 50% chance they saw something of low quality in the first place and it’s the client doing the work, not you.

There is nothing a trainer can say to me that I will take as an acceptable reason for this.

Equipment misuse. I reserve a special brand of hate when trainers misuse equipment.

I recall a trainer that had the majority of her clients do step ups and various ab exercises on the bench press bench… but I never once witnessed her teaching anyone how to bench press. Her clients ranged from petite teenage girls, to middle-aged adults and a number of obese people.

It could be argued if  any of the pictured exercises were “good ideas” for any of those clients in the first place, but in any event guess which bench developed a bunch of soft spots, cracked upholstery and uneven padding a few months later? The same bench that is supposed to stabilize a person performing an exercise with heavy loading potential.

This was the same jackass trainer that placed barbells in the highest position in the safety rack so clients could do inverted sit ups.  In addition to the obvious client safety concerns (one bad day and you have a headfirst drop) and the dubious logic of the exercise (seriously, why?)…do you think a few bars might have gotten bent in the process?

Even if nobody spiked their head, and the inverted sit-up was the best idea ever….you just warped the bars that other people use for barbell lifts.

Enough of me, here are some responses from other professionals….

“Trainers that do way to much with their clients just because it looks cool”  Samuel (Miami, Florida)

When a trainer can’t explain the basic science behind their prescription. This is indicative of a critical leaning deficiency as well as a lack of basic competence. Trainers should have a supervised mentorship with clients until they’re up to speed.  (Joshua, Twentynine Palms California)

Please don’t use your phone during my training session UNLESS you’re looking up something/showing me something. That phone should be on silent and should stay in your pocket.   This was repeated in a later response… “One of the trainers I work with spends every single session with every single client, on his phone. Texting and Calling.” (Joshua, Twentynine Palms California and Emma, Greensboro North Carolina)

Seeing trainers give the same exact workouts for all their clients. (Bryan, San Diego California)

“Listening to trainers complain about the clients they have. How they do not show up, or they are cheeting on meals and are so weak! ”  which later added “Big turn off when I walk into the gym and the first thing I hear from a trainer is “I’m tired/bored” or complaining of any sort. Ain’t nobody got time for that, just GTFO” (James, Magnolia Iowaand Liz, Las Vegas Nevada)

“Trainers who stand around with hands in pockets not engaged in the clients workout.” and later…“Not paying attention or LISTENING to the client. How dare a client voice a concern or question?  An elderly student of mine recently thanked me for listening when she said something hurt and needed to modify a move, her last exercise instructor just told her to get through it. And this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this, especially from seniors. Grrrrrr   (James, Magnolia Iowaand Ann, Seymour,Connecticut)

“Anytime I see a trainer use BOSU ball for leg balance work, and when they teach their clients that abomination of a KB swing, the squat to lateral raise while the client is literally just gripping the bell and squatting and raising their arms. You could Google kettlebell swing and teach it better for the first time then some of the sh-t I see at the gym.” (Daniel, Lakeside California) and later “If a trainer puts a client on an inverted BOSU…a lobotomy should be scheduled for the trainer post-haste. Possibly chemical sterilization as well to prevent further Darwin Award attempts. (Joshua, Twentynine Palms California)

“Soliciting other clients” (Screwing over other trainers by attempting to steal their clients. (Brandie, Overland Park Kansas)


….and the man whom I might be related to, James from New Orleans Louisiana.

“Fitness professionals who watch you work with your client implementing a well planned and personally desgined program and then next week they are doing the same routine with their client but skipped all the progressions to get to that point.”

“Young trainers who have no experience talk about their expertise in an area.” 

“Trainers who think their certifications make them better than others.”

“Trainers who don’t train at all or don’t look the part. Coaching and training are different in my eyes and if your a fitness trainer you should look the part of a healthy individual.”

“Trainers who run the same workout with all clients no matter age or fitness level.”

“Trainers who think 10 minutes on a cardio machine is an effcient warm up for all upcoming activity.”

“Trainers who don’t explain why or what they are doing in the sessions and their program design methodology to their clients.”

“Trainers who use equipment with their clients they dont know how to use and or have never used themselves.” 

“Trainers who don’t personally test the programs they write, how can you coach me through if you don’t know how it feels or how I should feel right now?” 

“Trainers that think one methodology alone will fix or improve everything.”

“Trainers that employ no movement training at all in their clients programs.”

“Trainers who are in the field for the wrong reasons, or those who just do it because its a fun little side job, or I look like I’m fit so why not be a fitness trainer?”

“Trainers who do it poorly just to have a free membership to a gym facility.”

“Trainers who aren’t actively and constantly imoroving themselves and their skills.”

You never know…

“Remember that all eyes are on you.” 

Personal Trainers face two truths….

Fact 1: You never know who is on the gym floor watching you.

Fact 2: People on gym floors watch trainers, and they talk to other members.

Opinion: An uneducated or unqualified trainer can often be spotted a mile away by well-educated and qualified trainers.  They know you’re faking it and can see through slabs of muscles, the prettiest of looks and the flashiest of exercises.

This of course is the opinion of a reasonably educated trainer.

In the last month I’ve observed two different trainers working with their clients. The former instructing the Bench Press and the latter the Kettlebell Swing. By all measures I will state that they were guessing their way through things. I would make this same statement under oath, in a court of law.

It was painful to watch, and potentially dangerous to the clients. I would make this same statement to other trainers, but with far more colorful language.

When possible, I like getting in training sessions with other trainers and athletes. We get a chance to be regular people and I always come away with something new to pass on to others.  The last months trainer shenanigans brought two highly relevant people to mind.

1. A Super Heavyweight Class Powerlifter that is currently training for international elite status. He’s held multiple lifting records and is an imposing sight.

2. A veteran StrongFirst certified Kettlebell instructor. She also happens to be a Medical Exercise Specialist, and was the first StrongFirst coach that taught me the Kettlebell lifts. She’s a badass

Imagine the thoughts going through our heads while watching trainers CLEARLY amateur hour things with clients that might not have any initial business bench pressing or swinging a kettlebell.

Even if that doesn’t matter to you, when has ANYONE telling others that you’re the personal trainer equivalent to clown shoes ever been considered a good thing?

My suggestions:  Next time you are training someone, imagine you are being closely observed by an expert, and that everything you say and do is being recorded and graded.

Think of it as the trainers version of a driver license skills test. You might think you’re great, but will the expert say the same? Furthermore, would you pay money to someone that is clearly guessing their way through a project?

The Athlete Defense

The “Athlete Defense” is a term I use whenan athlete (or group of athletes) to serve as testimony to the effectiveness of something. The something is often a particular training method, training device or a supplement.


Time for me to play amateur lawyer.

Below is an example of the athlete defense being used and the usual ways in which its applied which I’ve identified in bold.

“These are the same (device,supplement,training method) that some professionals athletes have used to help them (improve performance, lose weight, address issues.)  Grant Hill is one person that comes to mind. Prior to his stint w/the Phoenix Suns he had a long history of (poor conditioning, weight issues, poor performance,injuries) on ce he was traded to the Suns, who (follow a particular training principle, use a particular device, prescribe a particular supplement) he was able to (play better, maintain/lose weight, remain uninjured) because of  (this particular training method, device or supplement) If you want research, then Google (other athlete names+training method, device or supplement) The proof is in the pudding.”

Holes in the athletes defense….

1) There is an assumption that top althetes are the ideal study subjects.  These are people that are ideally suited for the sports they excel in and have years of training and coaching behind them along with the injury history that goes with it.

2) The assumption that what applies to top athletes will always directly apply to the general population. I believe people exist along a continuum….

Top 1% Athletes………………..(Everybody else)…………….Bottom 1% Unathletic People

Athletes at a high level can do things that lesser athletes cannot, that is part of what makes them elite.


Furthermore, theres the assumption that what works for one athlete will automatically work for all other athletes…even if they are in the same sport.  Would what works for Ed Coan work for NBA legend Michael Jordan?  

3) The assumption that the athletes are NOT getting assistance from a myriad of other sources (Diet,Manual Therapy, Other training changes, Medical assistance, PED’s etc.) and that this (method, device,supplement) was the ONLY change made.

4) The claimant could not produce any evidence to support their claim other than other testimonials.

Small Workouts


A mace, a resistance band and a single kettlebell make for an efficient warm-up, or with a little creativity (and knowledge of the tools) a small training session.

“First of all, you must be fast and very strong to excel at powerlifting. This requires a training program that is 50% to the development of absolute strength. The workouts must be separated by 72 hours! So, what can you do in between? You can do small workouts, 15-30 minutes per workout.”   Louie Simmons, Westside Barbell

“Movement Principle 1 states that we should first move well, then move often
Seek a qualitative minimum before we worry about quantities. If moving well is the standard, moving often is the foreseeable outcome.”  
Gray Cook

I’ve noted that numerous thought leaders have spoken on the value of frequent, small workouts that can be done on days in-between larger efforts.  In some cases, the days work could even be broken into multiple small sessions.

While I am draw principally from Westside Barbell, there are also inspirations taken from other sources. Like the main training sessions, small sessions are defined by the individual and their specific needs.

My current personal small workouts are designed to address the following…

Weak areas / Lagging muscle groups.  I’ve discovered two so far (Left Hamstring and Left Medial Tricep head) and can afford to add weekly volume to my trap, low back, abs and and calves.
Raising General Physical Preparation  Outside of competition dates this is a continual matter.
Mobility/Stability.  As a bench press specialist and someone that has increased back squat set volume this cycle I’ve become near paranoid about my shoulder health
Recovery and Restoration. As a Drug Free Masters division lifter my ability to recover from sessions is less than my younger counterparts, and recovery is where all the good things from training happen.

Aside from passive recovery sessions (massage,chiro,sauna etc) small training sessions are of modest intensity and should be relatively short.  Based on the pacing I average this creates sessions that last between 30min to 50min.

If I push a small session too intensely my performance is effected the next day, whereas when I program modest levels performance is either unaffected or positively effected.

“Large muscle groups recuperate in 72 hours and small ones in 24 hours or less. So it is quite possible to train many times a week.”  Louie Simmons



Based on the individual,identify the things that need work and state why they need work (There needs to be a WHY? to things)

A. Back for Squat, Deadlift and GPP
B. Abs for all lifts
C. Grip for Deadlift and Bench Press, adds to GPP
D. Pectorals as they are a lagging muscle group
E. Biceps for the Bench Press and protection in Deadlift.
F. Glutes for all lifts
G. Left Hamstring and Left Tricep (comparatively weaker than right side)

Based on the identified needs, select exercises that offer the greatest return on investment with the lowest loading requirements, or with the lowest amount of volume. (The minimum and optimum effective dosages)

UPPER CASE: Greater Effect
lower case: Lesser Effect

Kettlebells: Offers variable loading, but with sizable jumps between loads.

Kettlebell Swings addressA,b,c,F,g
Turkish Get Up addresses a,B,G

Bodyweight: Challenges can be increased/decreased by altering leverages, stability or involved limbs.

Push Up variations address a,b,d,f,g
Pull Ups variations address B,C,E,G
Inverse Rows address b,e,G
The McGill Big 3 addresses A,B and Stir the Pot addresses A,B,g

Specific Grip training addresses C directly

Barbells: Infinitely loadable with ability to micro-load.

Hip Thrusts address a,b,F loaded up to 1/3rd of Deadlift 1RM
Chaos Bench press addresses B,C,D benefits with loads as low as 30% 1RM
Koji Squats addresses A,B,G and can benefit at warm-up level loads.

Bodybuilding: Reduces stress to smaller muscle groups and can increase localized hypertrophy.  Dumbbells, Cables or Machines are all options to attack muscle groups from various angles.

Curl variations address C,E directly
Dumbbell chest press variations address D directly

From that information you can design your small workouts several possible ways.

Muscle Priority Concept 1: Which muscles are the most lagging, regardless of their size?or Muscle Priority Concept 2: Which muscle groups offer the greatest return on investment, and which offer the least?  (What offers the greatest contribution to the main goal of the training cycle, at this point?)

Either way, the job is now to find exercises that fit the bill…
McGill Big 3  for the Low Back/Abs.
Kettlebell Swings for the Posterior chain.
Row/Pull Up variations I usually select both a horizontal and vertical pull in small. sessions. In the heavier sessions I split them up during the week.
Push Up variations are programmed for 33-50% of the total Row/Pull-Up volume.
Squat/Lunge variations, I remove axial loaded versions in small sessions.
Isometric Ab Work. I approach this in a method similar to gymnastics.

A few examples…..

Small Workout 6
Batwing Rows 3×5 with 10sec hold superset with Strict Dumbbell Curls
Kettlebell Swing variation 10×5 superset with Bird Dogs
Pull Up variations. 10×2. superset with Side Planks 1/1
Goblet Squats with KB Curl at bottom  3×5 superset with 5 Push Up variations.

Small Workout 8
Offset Kettlebell Squat. 5×5/5
5/5 1H Swings after each set (50 total)

Pull Ups x30 in as few sets as possible, change hand position each set.
10 2H Swings between sets as active recovery (30 total)

Kettlebell Lunge. 2×5/5
10 Swings after completed (10)

Push Ups x20, change hand position every 4 reps
10 Swings after completed (10)

Total work included 100 Kettlebell swings

Lessons Learned (so far)

Where I made mistakes…                                                                                                                       – I have a natural habit of going over 45 minutes. For what its worth, CrossFit has nailed the idea of short sessions.
– Initially I did not address priority weaknesses as best possible.  It is natural to fall back to things we are already good at doing, but it doesn’t help to be strong in the wrong exercises.

What I largely nailed…
– Utilizing different angles and ranges. It helps to take a cue from the Bodybuilders in this regard.
– Largely smart loading, although I have a tendency to load heavier than I should.                                  – Rotating the small workouts and adjusting sets/reps/loads based on how I felt that day has been to my benefit.