YouBoob

Watching YouTube isn’t the same as Education.  I don’t believe there is any controversy to this opinion.  In fairness, I can say the same applies to blog sites such as this.

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There are trainers out there that consider YouTube a go-to resource.  Why do I have the feeling they view Wikipedia in the same light?

Yes, there are some YouTube sites putting out exceptional material that can either serve as an adjunct, or possibly clarify a topic through visual examples. The trick is managing to land on a page that is putting out quality information.  Overall I find YouTube to be handy and have picked up some gems over the years.

If you did you manage to land on a quality YouTube channel, the material covered can often require a level of understanding beyond what the video covers.  For example, I know that a kettle bell swing video from StrongFirst, RKC or StrengthMatters will demonstrate exceptional technique.

As a person that has attended the StrongFirst Kettlebell three and single day courses, along with working with three different SFG instructors, and having attended Dragon Doors HKC certification, I can assure you that there is a reason why half a day is spent covering the swing.  

Personally, I believe its possible to spend more than an entire day on single technique.  It comes down to how much knowledge the instructor can pass on and the level of the class.

Remember, with the possible exception of the StrongFirst single day course, people TRAINED  to be ready for these courses.  Hiring an SFG/RKC/SMK certified coach in advance is a wise idea and well worth the investment.

How well do you really think you’ll understand something when the sum of your education came from watching some YouTube videos? Well enough to apply it to another human? Well enough to pass a testing criteria under the eyes of a coach that actually does knows what they’re doing?

The world is full of  YouBoob trainers. This is a profession that sincerely needs more professionals, and less amateurs.

Be Real.

 

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“Look the Part”

Them: “So were you a gymnast, or a sprinter?”                                                                  

Me:  (Hearty Laugh) “Neither, I’m a stiff biff and move at the speed of a tectonic plate”

Truth time, I enjoy the programs offered through GMB (1) and am not the worst sprinter in the world thanks to Training for Warriors level 2.  My stiff biff and tectonic plate comparisons are a bit off and looking like a gymnast or sprinter certainly isn’t the worst look (or more importantly, physical abilities) to have at any age.

In the eyes of a gym goer and a coach that didn’t previously know me, I “looked the part” of a person that was/is one or the other.  While I am not without some skill in teaching bodyweight strength training or improving sprinting form, I don’t consider myself an expert in either.  There are other coaches that fill that need and its good to have them on speed dial. I gladly refer business their way and only ask that they return my texts. (2)

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I didn’t look the part of a Powerlifter, much less a coach that happens to teach the Powerlifts (Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift and their variations)  What were they expecting? The classic big guy with a power gut that gets out of breath eating third lunch?  While there is some truth to the stereotype, it is not representative of all Powerlifters. One visit to Powerlifting meet will prove that fact when you see the lighter weight classes compete.

Mind you, I genuinely liked these people at first meeting, and I can fully understand their perception, especially since I had just dropped off a horizontal bar working on lever holds.

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On one side is what the trainer looks like. On the other is what they are actually capable of doing, and how well they do it. While I believe a balance can be achieved, I favor the side of ability. 

I can reasonably speculate the entire “Looking the part” thing stems from three major sources;  (a) Gym Bro’s that look particularly impressive and won’t take advice from anyone that doesn’t look MORE impressive than they do. (b) Trainers that look a certain way, and believe that no trainer that looks otherwise is qualified to lend an opinion.  (c) The general publics belief that the better the trainer looks, the better they are at training other people.

Speaking on behalf of the Gym Bro’s, I’ve observed a small gradual shift in this line of thinking, and that a percentage of serious Bro’s will seek qualified information regardless of what the source looks like.  They live in a world of results, if a smaller or fatter trainer can get the results they’re seeking, they will listen.

Older trainers can swing either way and be viewed as being either highly knowledgeable or not in touch with modern training science.  As an older trainer myself I will state that wisdom (in training) does not always accompany age.

Possibly BroScience on my behalf, but based on observations I’ve found many of the trainers that overstate the importance of a trainers appearance tend to lack in other areas.  I can’t fault them for playing their strengths, but applying that thinking broadly is illogical.

As a trainer, especially one that deals with the general population, I can understand that overweight or underweight trainers finding themselves at a disadvantage in terms of perceived credibility.  This can be professionally overcome, however it can be an uphill battle.

I believe the worst-case scenario would be a trainer that doesn’t look the part and cannot perform the part either.  Having seen this firsthand, my standing advice in this is if the trainer is serious about this profession, they need to hire a trainer of their own (ideally more than one) and spend a year in the trenches learning the craft.

(1) My testimonial for GMB: https://gmb.io/reviews/#is

(2) Sprinting Education: https://primalspeed.com/events/

 

 

Sucker Punch

“Life can change your directions, even when you ain’t planned it
All you can do it handle it, worst thing you can do is panic
Use it to your advantage, avoid insanity manage
To conquer, every obstacle, make impossible possible
Even when winning illogical, losing is still far from optional”

“No Matter What” by T.I, 

Its been barely a week since I posted “Five Years Later”, and I now find myself in a somewhat familiar place.  I no longer have a gym in which to offer my services as I chose to terminate my agreement with the gym over a matter of principles.

I will admit that I’m feeling slightly down about this, but I have a number of options in front of me, and it certainly isn’t the only gym in town. As a matter of fact, a gym just opened up around the corner.  Full retirement is also an option which I have considered.

In the meantime, I have my routines. The single most impacted one is where I can train myself, and even that can be worked around.

Daily routines are an important thing to me.  My morning routine and “daily do’s” has seen some changes over the years but my daily professional reading has been consistent. I am presently reading SuperTraining by Dr. Mel Siff and Dr. Yuri Verkoshansky.  It is a 500+ page encyclopedia  of incredibly dense material steeped in Russian and Eastern European training science.

I’ve found that on average, I can best manage its material in ten-minute chunks in order retain the information.

There are pages with large question marks scribbled in the margins as I need other books to explain this book. Luckily, every now and then I run across topics which I am comparatively more knowledgeable,can absorb the information and apply it in a practical manner.

I’ve been told it takes roughly a year to get through the book during the first read through.  So far that is looking to be a pretty accurate estimate.

It was during one of my ten-minute reading snacks yesterday when I paused my timer (yes, I time things) and asked “If I stopped training people, would any of this (my daily study habit) matter?  I’d have this knowledge, but nobody to share it with or that could benefit from it? Am I simply doing this out of habit?

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Leave no stone unturned. Be able to explain and practically apply each of the methods shown on a athlete defined basis.                                                                                                                                           

Despite the Sucker Punch, I don’t believe the universe wants me to stop doing what I’m doing just yet.  It simply reminded me that standing up for your principles will sometimes mean that you’re going to take some shots in the process.

 

 

Five Years Later

Over the past fives there has been some significant changes, while other things have remained relatively intact. I’ve changed my mind on a number of things and make no apologies.

I still prefer free-weights over machine training, however I am not as opposed to machines as I once was and they serve a purpose beyond aesthetic development.

It’s been my observation that many trainers cannot teach the proper execution of the basic barbell lifts, or even machines for that matter.  This is indicative of a problem in the certification process.  The value of courses with live components that test ones ability to perform and coach lifts cannot be emphasized enough.  Simply passing a written exam is not enough, not matter how academically challenging.

Bodyweight training has always been present, and over the past two years has increased in my programming.

I still don’t train people on unstable objects, but would if there was a direct need. Trainers that are quick to put people on unstable surfaces often have a very hard time telling me their “why?” behind the exercise.

My client base has completely changed completely, and many of the clients I had five years ago are still with me. For that, I am a blessed man.  In addition to my in-person training, I have several international clients as well as deployed military personnel.  At present, all my clients are younger than me.

Five years ago greater than 70% of my clients were older than me and nearly 100% had notable physical issues.  Although it partly contributed to minor professional burnout, part of me misses working with that population, and I still believe they are under-served.  I’ve found that I do best when my client types are relatively balanced. Being something of an extrovert by nature, I thrive with stimulation.

Due to a highly packed schedule it was previously difficult to find time to train myself.  Now I have more than enough time to accomplish both, as I intentionally limit the number of clients I see in a single day.  I’ve personally found it best to separate my training from days I train others.  Both ends suffer when I combine them, and I refuse to be one of the idiot trainers that get in their own workout during the clients paid time.

While not a present issue, If licensure for Personal Trainers were to become law, then there is a good chance that I would leave the profession both as a coach and an educator.  Would I still attend courses and keep my reading habits? I’m sure I would.  It would just suck that there would be nobody to share it with.

I have found myself moving in the opposite direction of my initial certification body.  This feeling has continued to grow stronger over the years and I don’t see things changing anytime soon.

In terms of the majority of commercial gyms, I am convinced that I am unhireable. Not so much due to my education or certifications but rather due to a combination of my age and the 100% likelihood of me speaking my mind….and the fact that I’ve been told I can be intimidating  during interviews.

My advice to first and second year trainers, if you are offered upon hire the position of assistant fitness manager/assistant personal training sales manager I ask that consider NOT taking the offer.  Did you go through the process of getting certified in the first place to sell personal training packages, or actually train people?

Professionally, I have become less tolerant of under-performers. This could be a result of age,unrealistic expectations or previous bad experiences.  I will gladly help someone trying to elevate themselves, and I continue to do so at my own financial expense. You wouldn’t believe how many books have never been returned, and even some equipment loans have failed to come back.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Years Ago

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Five years (and two months) ago I retired following 24yrs of military service. I decided that I would enjoy a profession that would allow me to make use of my backgrounds in leadership,problem solving and education and ideally, not let me watch myself get fat in the process.

Three months following retirement I began training civilian populations at a commercial gym. I had trained civilians before, but this represented an exposure to a far wider range of them.

Before my hiring, I earned a certified personal trainer certification and a Fitness Nutrition specialization. My military trainer qualifications didn’t carry-over and the courses weren’t that bad.  In full transparency, I barely studied for the exams.  I reviewed the proprietary information and had to brush up on the exercise science portions.  I always review the exercise technique descriptions as different texts describe things differently.

Three months later I added a Corrective Exercise specialization, which was a completely new way of looking things, and one that I have been moving away from.

I wasn’t a brand new trainer.  I already had close to two decades of practical experience.  I simply wasn’t certified based on the industry standards and my military instructor qualifications only mattered while I was actually serving.

I personally wouldn’t have chosen the Correct Exercise specialization in the first place, but two important things spurred the decision.
(1) I was assigned an unusually high number of elderly and highly de-conditioned clients. This was odd as my primary background and experience was in strength and general physical preparedness, not post-rehab or geriatric fitness.  Eventually, my senior citizen and de-conditioned population greatly outnumbered any other trainers, even if combining several trainers together.

(2) I was being falsely advertised as a Corrective Exercise Specialist before I even signed up for the course.  I couldn’t stand the thought of not living up to billing.

Because of this situation, I rarely taught the barbell lifts. In my mind the clientele were largely not physically prepared for it and the time allotted (25min) was insufficient for the task at hand. Kettlebells weren’t a consideration at the time, or even an option as the gym didn’t have any.

In fairness, it was a very good experience for me as I learned the values of empathy and client defined exercise programming.  The military skill of learning how to become passably smart on a given topic quickly came in hand, and this in turn grew my professional library.

SIDETONE: At the time, the only option I knew of for Kettlebell instruction was the RKC or Girevoy Sport. Five years later there are several highly credible organizations, and a few not worth the paper they are printed on.

I didn’t know that many trainers weren’t certified and that gyms would still hire them, or that bad trainers outnumbered good ones and that gyms would retain them provided they continued to sell.  I always knew there would be a proportion of substandard trainers, but had no idea it was such a high number.

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Despite formal instruction suggesting otherwise, I never touched a Bosu. Five years later I find myself in a gym without one. Does the Bosu have its place (aside from comedy material?) Yes, but the questions that needs be asked; Does the clients goal require its inclusion? What is the intent of the exercise and was the person being put on the Bosu properly progressed?

Insanity was the popular home program at the time, and a number of my middle-aged clients had spoke of it. Namely about the injuries they incurred. Some trainers were even going so far as to copy the material.  I know this because I borrowed a DVD copy as well as the manuals that came with it. I managed to complete the program to gain an understanding of it. Yes, it was challenging.

If a fit, healthy weight person that knows the extent of their injury history and has decent exercise form has problems with the program, what are the odds an unfit,overweight/obese person that may not know the extent of their injury history and not the greatest exercise form will fare better?

Yes, the latter will lose weight.  Frequency and Intensity along with inefficient movement  and a caloric deficit tends to create weightloss.

Insanity also my first encounters with MLM peddlers. I had no idea there were so many MLM peddlers in the field. Many started off as peddlers then became trainers, others were the opposite scenario.  Based on observation a percentage hop between various MLM ventures.  I’ve always wondered if the original MLM was so great, why did they leave it for another?

SIDENOTE: I could care less if someone likes a particular MLM product. That is their choice and pocketbook. It’s when they start trying to push it on to clients, or other trainers and their clients is where I have a professional problem.

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I’ve given up trying to convince otherwise good trainers to leave MLM.  I considered requesting the Pro-MLM trainers to put together a group of four and engage  in a civil debate in an open forum.  I would gather three Anti-MLM trainers on my side, and believe me I say that I would come rolling in with serious gangsters.

In the end I decided it would be a waste of time, and I have doubts that the Pro-MLM side would be able to field a team.

 

 

 

Survey

I was recently sent a survey regarding the personal training industry.  I thought it would be fun to share some of the questions…

Do you have a personal training/CrossFit or any other fitness certificate?  Yes. 11 at present and I am currently studying and physically preparing for future courses*  I can reasonably state that my current educational resume’ will change greatly over the next 18 months as my needs have grown in both sophistication and depth.

Do you hire personal trainers/coaches? I formerly did, and occasionally I am asked to review applicant resume’s as a disinterested third party.

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If so, which fitness certificates if any, do you require? This depends on the gym and its client demographics. Minimums: Current CPR/AED with a live component (not a 100% online course) and whichever certification the gym accepted.  The trainers specific credentialing agency isn’t that important to me as the certificate is only as good as the person who bears it.

Although I place better odds on the more well-known certifications than those considered fly-by-night or overly-easy to pass, the certificate alone (or lack thereof) DOES NOT MEAN the trainer is necessarily better or worse.

I have a personal bias towards certifications that are notably difficult to attain and include a proof of coaching requirement. Standard CPT certifications do not require any proof of ability other than passing a test and CPR/AED qualification.

FACT: Google “Personal Training Certification” and see how many possible results you get. I would like to see a reduction in the sheer number of personal training certifications that are out there, however I also see the value in having price points available to all

Do you think personal trainers should be licensed?  I used to, and it may one day happen.  I personally am against it as it could limit my ability to serve my athletes.  Further, I don’t believe it will weed-out the trainers that are liabilities, at least initially. It might weed out those that are not certified, but not all not all certified ones are good.

Every town has its share of bad doctors and lawyers, and its entirely possible some of  the limitations placed upon me will be made by people without any formal background in training.

I’m in a position where I can choose not to work. If I deemed that licensure was too expensive of a proposition, as it would naturally raise the costs of things, and possibly place too many limitations on what I could offer then I would leave the occupation.  I can’t possibly be the only well-educated and highly experienced near 30 year veteran holding this opinion.

That said, I think it should become harder to become, and remain a personal trainer.  The barrier to entry is low to nonexistent.  I’ve actually had people state that the practical portion of my interviews were “too tough.” The fact is, the practical was based on the material common to the standard personal training certification manual.

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Do you think personal trainers should be held accountable when they breach duty of care?  Yes.  “First, do no harm” should be our mantra.  There have been notable lawsuits involving personal trainer negligence and it never ends well for the trainer.

Personally, I believe if the athlete/client/student gets hurt in training, outside of the unforeseeable freak accidents, its the trainers fault.   As trainers, we will never 100% eliminate or prevent all injuries, but we can take measures to reduce them.

FACT: I talk the talk on this one.  When teaching exercises, including benches, I typically “stress test” the equipment before the athlete touches it. I’d rather an accident happen to me than the athlete.

How can the general public, who have never worked out before, protect themselves against bad trainers?  (1) Don’t base your judgement on the # of followers the trainer has on social media. Fact is, some trainers still don’t have any major form of social media and are “word of mouth” hires.  (2) Realize that if you’re paying $10 USD a month for gym membership your odds of landing an exceptional trainer are on the low side. (3) If the trainer will willingly introduce you to his/her other clients, ideally those with similar needs to your own, it is a positive.**  (4) If the first session has very little exercise (possibly none) a screen, health history interview and talking about your goals, then this is a positive thing.  If the first session resulted in you lying in a puddle of your sweat then it isn’t.  (5) The trainer should be able to provide proof of their certifications/related degree and CPR/AED qualification. Ask to see the liability insurance of Independent trainers (those not directly employed by the gym), the industry standard is $1 million USD. (6) It helps to be observant. Before hiring a trainer, watch how they actually train other people.  (7) Some established trainers network themselves with Physical Therapists, Chiropractors and Sports Medicine Specialists.  (8) If the trainer is attempting to sell you supplements and is NOT an Registered Dietician I would proceed with extreme caution.  Minimally, they are exceeding their scope of practice and professional ethics and potentially exposing you to something hazardous to your health. (9) If the trainer DOES NOT take you on as a client, it isn’t necessarily a negative as you may have needs beyond their skills,education and experience.  Ideally, they have a trainer they can refer you to.  Personally I wish more trainers would do that, and I have a 100+ trainer network just for these purposes.

This blog features multiple articles on hiring trainers, and light-hearted (but still accurate) ways of finding trainers that suck.

* Even when there are no major courses on the horizon, I’m always studying. Some certifications and specializations have extensive academic, or physically demanding requirements.  Westside Barbell for example requires the reading and familiarity of 19 textbooks, while others courses have performance and proof of coaching ability attached.  Standard Certified Personal Trainer exams can vary between being proctored and timed (NCCA accredited certifications) to online and open book tests. Some are notoriously tough while others are frighteningly easy to pass.

** Newer trainers, or those recently hired may not have the ability of making any introductions as the clientele base is being built.

 

Education

“The shortage of adequately trained strength specialists in local gyms renders the incorrect use of supplementary resistance training as a real possibility for for serious athletes.”  Supertraining 6th Ed (Expanded)

Translation: There are many trainers out there instructing others in methods that they themselves don’t know.  The downside is that the limitations of these trainers may only be obvious to well-qualified and experienced trainers. Degrees,titles or number of letters following a persons name provides no guarantee of their actual quality.

No trainer started off their career perfectly, nor does any know all there is to know.  The good ones grew over time to become what they are today, and many would openly state they are still students and far from where they hope to ascend. This is the importance of continued education, reading broadly, mentorship,asking questions and the practical application of time under load.

100% of my business is through referral from a current athlete, they were a previous athlete or they come to me on the gym floor, often after by being referred by another gym member. My business relies on several key things; (1) Honesty and Transparency (2) Not getting anyone injured (3) Results.

I spend a significant portion of my income addressing #2 and 3, and I always ask myself “How can this be made better?”

Over the past 48hrs I’ve come across an article on a trainer hospitalizing a man after a singular workout (1) and witnessed a feeding frenzy of MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) Personal Trainers trying to recruit a prospect. The former I have linked below, in the latter case, an individual simply asked if an MLM product was an effective business tool or waste of energy.

Interestingly, not one MLM trainer responded to my counter-post showing that when tested by a third-party, the product fails to live up to anecdotes and sales pitches.

FACT: In the online presence of qualified trainers, the MLM trainers typically get roasted when they try peddling their products.

Can an MLM trainer be good? I suppose they could,after all a non-MLM trainer isn’t always good themselves, but I am suspicious of those that are in the sales and recruiting portion of MLM.  To me it is a violation of professional ethics and breeches the typical trainers scope of practice. Its bad when I know details of their product BETTER than they do.

For example, the last sales pitch I received told me that by drinking their special concoction my body would be in near instant ketosis (2).  I asked “How would I know that?”  I was told I could pee on a special urine strip and it would show my level.

FACT: Don’t bring anecdotes to a science fight.

Science problem:  I could take a big dose of  ALA (Alpha Lipoic Acid) and it would render the same results while my blood panels would remain unchanged.  The urine strip would only show I pee’d out what I drank, as once in ketosis my body would be ketones as fuel, and not peeing them out.

If the trainer is strictly a consumer of the product then I’d have no issue.   That said, I believe it has been historically well-established that those who actually know nutrition and have an ability to interpret actual research tend to avoid from MLM products.  The reasons should be crystal clear.

(1) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4680708/Man-sues-Snap-Fitness-personal-trainer-injury.html

(2) http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/180858.php