Monthly Archives: February 2014

T.G.O.A.T (The Greatest of all time)

Over the past two-weeks I’ve had the chance to catch up on my reading and put everything in place before heading back to work.  I will be the newest rockstar to join the team of Las Vegas Iron House this Friday.  I already have a few athletes itching to get back in the gym and quite frankly I’m ready to do my thing.


NSCA,ACSM,NASM,ACE,CrossFit,StrongFirst and a ton of others…time for my geekiness to come out of the closet.

Believe it or not, I have a second stash of fitness books in another room of the house plus at least one in every bathroom. Buying a house with two walk-in closets was indeed a good buy.  Yes, I do rock those hot pink shoes and yes, those are the red Nano sneakers from the now famous “Bro Hug of Doom” situation.

Funny Pink Shoe Story: Not long ago I caught an XXL bodybuilder guy staring at my pink shoes, he caught me catching him staring at them and when I asked  “I bet you’re wondering if these babies come in your size?”…..I almost fell over myself when he responded in a rather high pitched lisped voice “Yesss….where did you get them, they’re sooo hotttt.”


Recently I took part in an online discussion on “The Greatest of all time” exercises (and you thought this blog was going to be about me!) I am pleased to announce that I won the group consensus based on my personal favorites and ability to state my case for each.

Enjoy the awesomeness….


Technical Point: Note the head/neck position on all three squats.  The head/neck maintain a neutral position on all versions throughout the range of motion.  Many coaches have the athlete look up slightly during the lift, I believe this affects the spinal movement involved in the lift and have my athletes keep their spine in line.  On the low bar squat, I have my athletes initiate the lift from just above their butt when coming up from the bottom position.

1.  The Low Bar Barbell Back Squat.   Athletes: Hopefully this photo illustrates why I am so particular with this lift,  My favored Squat is the low bar back squat, however I’m well aware that this is not a wise option for all athletes.  I will select the Bench Squat, Air Squat, Front Squat, Goblet Squat or Zercher Squat as applicable.  Basically,if I’m your coach and you have legs you’re going to squat.


Pavel, the Godfather of Kettlebells in the U.S.A.  A common mistake I seen is people attempting to “Squat Swing” the Kettlebell instead of swinging it using a hip snap and driving the lats to retract it.  The CrossFit/American version of the swing brings the Kettlebell overhead, the hardstyle version pictured above is often the scaled version seen in CrossFit.

2. The Hardstyle Kettlebell Swing.   I’m learning the intricacies of the hardstyle swing and more importantly how to coach it to others so that it can join the Turkish Get Up, Press and Goblet Squat that I already coach.  Based on sheer number of calories burnt in a short span and the multitude of benefits the swing is among the top choices.


On Sprinting, I’m not looking for Usain Bolt times, I’m looking for YOUR best time.

3. Uphill Sprinting.  The Rules of Hill Sprint Club:  1. We loves us some Hill Sprints.  2. We talk about how much we loves us some Hill Sprints.  3. We stop if we need to, not because it’s convenient or because we see some squirrels doing neat things.  4. Any number of people can sprint at a time, it’s you versus you, not you versus them.  5. One best sprint at a time, everytime.  6. Shirts optional, good shoes mandatory…unless you’re into the naturism/ barefoot running thing (local laws apply.)  7. Sprints will get easier the more you do them, the lighter you get or the stronger you are. 8. If this is your first time at Hill Sprint Club, you will sprint like you just committed a crime.


What is not shown is the poking of the head through the arms.  Technical Points: Athletes new to the Thruster (or Press or Push-Press) will often put the bar either too far behind or in front of themselves.  The bar should have a nearly vertical path with minimal lateral travel and the head pokes through the hole created by the press action.  The athlete must drive through their heels on all reps, after the first rep they can take advantage of the bounce reflex action created at the bottom of the squat.  Regardless of what weight my athletes actually press, we ALWAYS start with just the bar for warm-ups.  Side note (Because I feel like giving technical love tonight) You can press around 33% more in the push press than you can in the regular press due to the momentum created by the partial squat.

4. Thrusters.  Popularized by CrossFit and a mean lady named Fran.  Well covered here on MTC and one of the staple lifts in my programming.  The entire kinetic chain gets the love with this exercise and I feel it pairs well with the Deadlift.


Technical Points: The diagrams hands appear to be too far ahead and the head should be in a neutral position. I prefer to have the athletes thumb knuckles in line with their nose and their head and neck in line with the spine, with the chin roughly a tennis ball distance from the chest.   For the Push-Up position variant, I line the hands and wrists in line with the shoulders and lock down the lats and shoulders.  The diagram fails to animate the posterior chains contribution to the plank. Coaches: I’ve had good fortune covering the elbow plank before teaching the deadlift and the hardstyle swing.  The feedback the body gives the athlete from a proper plank is the same feedback that it gives in the final positions of the deadlift and the hardstyle swing.  I would add that this feeling is the same in many other standing lifts.

5. The Plank. A very good exercise, but has the limitation that once the athlete can perform it for 60 seconds there will need to be a modification made since it will reap less benefits. My favorite version is a push-up position plank done between two-benches while rowing a heavy dumbbell.


Nearly every muscle in the body contributes to the deadlift.

Technical notes: There is no need to flip the head back before,during or after the lift. Just look straight ahead and maintain spinal alignment during the entire pull. In the bottom position this means you will be looking downwards at a slight angle.  I coach my athletes to take in a big breath before the pull to maintain abdominal and intra-thoracic pressure and exhale at the top of the pull while squeezing the glutes hard.  The image shows both hands in the Overhand position, some lifters will alternate hands (1 Over, 1 Under) when lifting heavier loads.  I am OK with this but suggest they switch their grips per set.. Lifting over-under alters the load across the joints, tendons and muscles unevenly and can lead to muscle imbalances if both sides are not trained evenly.  Deadlifting is also a key technique in learning the Olympic Lifts.

6. The Deadlift. Humorously covered here:


Not shown in the Turkish Get Up image is the use of both hands to pick up and park the Kettlebell while laying down.  Technical Point: One of the more common mistakes I see is athletes doing is extending their shoulder instead of keeping it packed in.  I believe that “re-packing” the shoulder and engaging the lats prior movement should be emphasized.  On a side note, I believe that the images 1-4, or possibly even just 1-3 can help rehabilitate a shoulder.

7. The Turkish Get Up. A full-body exercise that is far more taxing than it looks, but I suppose the same could be said about any of T.G.O.A.T exercises.


Pictured above is the Farmers Walk Dumbbell Variant.  Barbells, Kettlebells or Odd sized objects can also be used. Note the amount of work the back muscles alone are contributing to the Farmers Walk.  Technical Tip: Go for distance with a given weight. Increase the distance or the weight weekly in a linear progression. The use of straps,lifting hooks or padded gloves is ill advised as (A) Straps and hooks allow for cheating…therefore suck. and (B) Padded Gloves alter your natural grip.

8. The Farmers Walk. A mentor of mine once shared with me his entire strength and conditioning program.  To pay it forward and earn good Karma I shall do the same for you…

1. Pick heavy things up from the ground.

2. Press heavy things over your head.

3. Pick heavy things up and walk with them.

4. Pick heavy things up from the ground, Press it overhead and then walk around with it.

Progression: Pick up heavier things.

My mentor didn’t exactly use the word “things”, but you get the idea.  Fellow Coaches and Trainers: As simplistic as the program is, take a step back and tell me it doesn’t challenge many different fitness domains.  Remember that “heavy” is a relative term depending on the athlete and that strength is a skill that needs to be developed like any other skill.


Ali jump roped. So can you.  Technical Points.  Can’t jump rope? Put the rope on one side of your body and time your jump with the rope.  Go for time or revolutions.  I keep three different jump ropes on hand, one for speed, which hurts big time if you snap yourself with it, a heavy rope and a mid-weight rope.

9. Jump Roping.  It’s inexpensive, low-tech and takes up minimal space.  It’s a cardio workout that burn more calories than you would think, engages the upper and lower body and can be combined with nearly any training program save for rehabilitation.medical exercise and inclusive fitness.  Jumping Rope has been a staple of fighter training for many years, think for a moment about what fighters are training for and the physical demands of combat sports in general.   I do not program jump roping for athletes with certain medical conditions (such as osteoporosis) or with histories of joint problems.  I have had athletes complain of the “jiggle factor” when jumping rope, but unless the jiggles are in dissimilar directions I don’t care, I view jump roping as a “de-jiggler.”


Aging and Weight Training

Since officially parted company with Gold’s Gym on the 15th of February I have had ample time to catch up on my reading and pursue a few side interests.  Among these interests is keeping up with current events. The news reports have been bombarding me with information on the current situations in the Ukraine, North Korea, Venezuela, Sochi and of course the United States.

All this information got me thinking about barbell squats and weight training in general.  Pretty simple really, you need to be doing it. If your an older adult, you really need to be doing it.   


I have had numerous athletes over the age of 55 years old and I insisted that nearly all of them squat. I say nearly all since several did not possess the conditioning or mobility needed to perform squat repetitions.  Just because I believe squatting is a good thing, does not mean it is the best thing for everyone.  The most athletic among my older athletes performed back or front barbell squats and least athletic performed bench air squats, which minimally meant that they would be able to reach a 90 degree angle, control their balance while squatting and building muscle stamina and cardio capacity under body weight.


The Squat Minimum-Minimum

In the cases of clients with functional or medical limitations, my initial training was designed to instill the ability to sit and stand up in an unassisted manner.  The desired outcome is to graduate to bench squats, then on to air squats and progressively more complex movement patterns.  Personally, I believe these cases are best serviced by a Physical Therapist and most commercial gyms are ill-suited for this purpose. .A general CPT has been trained to train healthy populations, not to work with those with major mobility issues

Knowing firsthand that these clients do indeed sign up for personal training, or have been directed to engage in weight training by a physician or physical therapist, the personal trainer must have  a high degree of patience and attention to detail. The coaching cues for this type of training emphasize the basic-basics of the squat mechanics and you can expect varying initial levels of fear or hesitation.


I have a Fiver that say’s this lady would love not having to rely on that cane to get out of a chair or walk-around.

Many of my athletes HATED doing squats, a few outright challenged me or try to negotiate with me so they could do some other exercise.  Truthfully, many of their younger and fitter counterparts hated it too. Some of them hated it simply because being nearly unable to get up by yourself from a bench made them feel weak, others hat


 “Chris, I will do squats on Tuesday if you give me a pass today.”


The “really?” look. (I like Tommy Lee Jones)

What I can’t understand, and honestly find personally insulting is when I have a person that IS perfectly capable of squatting, or has successfully squatted before giving me that look, or worse, actually saying “Really?” when I add weight to the bar or bring over heavier dumbbells.   MyTrainerChris handles it with coolness,wit and inspiring words….AngryBrownManChris would  smack your face off your face.   


 I was told recently that I should let the AngryBrownMan out from time to time.

After reflecting on it for awhile, I’ve realized that very few of my ex-coworkers actually had their clients perform squats with a barbell. Several did with body weight, dumbbells or as part of an HIIT routine, but on the whole I believe I was one of maybe 2-3 that coached the barbell version on a wide variety of athletes.

So why should older athletes squat, or at least use resistance training for their legs?  After all, there are trainers that believe that you shouldn’t squat after age 40 (I’m not making that up…hell, I couldn’t make that up.) For older people, Isn’t walking, jogging or biking enough?  

Walking, jogging and biking are better than nothing at all…just like breathing and consciousness…but in my opinion strength rules all  .


In the February 2014 edition of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (the official research journal of the National Strength and Conditioning Association) the effects of leg strength decline was studied in athletes of advanced age that engaged in habitual endurance training. It was a light reading night.

Bottom Line up Front: If you’re an older adult, you really should be lifting weights. (Gee where does that sound familiar?)

From the study…

“With advancing age, there are significant changes in body composition such that body fat increases although modest losses are observed in muscle mass. The age-associated loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) seems to be consistent in cross-sectional studies in sedentary subjects of approximately 0.5–1.0% per year past the age of 50 years. Approximately 13–24% of adults older than 65 years have lost enough muscle mass to be considered sarcopenic, and this number increases to >50% of adults older than 80 years. 

The consequences of sarcopenia in sedentary adults includes decreased strength, metabolic rate, and maximal oxygen consumption. There is also a clear relationship between loss of muscle strength (dynapenia) and a loss of independence that contributes to falls, fractures, and nursing home admissions. Sarcopenia seems to affect both men and women similarly, although women tend to be at greater risk for loss of independence.”

Skipping ahead…

“…demonstrated that chronic intense exercise maintains thigh muscle mass and prevents fat infiltration in cross-sectional comparison of older master athletes. It is suggested that regular physical activity and structured exercise can help offset the losses in physical function described in older adults. However, our research group has previously demonstrated a loss in maximal aerobic capacity, muscle strength, and power in a cross-sectional group of older adults who exercise regularly, with their losses similar to that of their sedentary peers.

Exercise recommendations for older adults have progressed over the past several years with recent physical activity guidelines including recommendations for resistance training and intensity, whereas earlier versions focused solely on low intensity walking activities.   Starting in 1995, public health oriented guidelines (Centers for Disease Control/ACSM, Surgeon General Report, National Institute of Health consensus panel) suggested that the accumulation of ≥30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week would reduce the risk and progression of cardiovascular disease. However, resistance exercise was not part of these core recommendations. Recent evidence-based Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (2007, 2008, 2011) present a consensus that all adults, including older adults, should have an aerobic activity goal (500–1000 metabolic equivalents [MET] minutes per week), which can be accumulated in bouts of 10 minutes or longer. Resistance exercise was also included in these guidelines to be performed twice a week to improve bone strength and muscular fitness .

Skipping down a bit…

“Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of habitual endurance (no weights-MTC) exercise on muscle mass (sarcopenia) and function (dynapenia) in active older adults.  Ninety-five very active older men (n = 59) and women (n = 35) were selected from a population of 237 master athletes participating in a longitudinal study at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA. Data collection for the main study began in May of 1987 and continued through December of 2001; subjects attended the laboratory biannually for comprehensive physiologic testing.

Subjects self-reported years of training, distance run per week (kilometers), days run per week, and if they cross-trained in swimming, cycling, resistance exercise, and any periods of inactivity due to injury/illness since their previous test. “

The Gems…

“…another important change observed in skeletal muscle with age is a loss of motor units (MU) and a remodeling of skeletal muscle and the preferential loss of the type II (fast-twitch) muscle fibers, which may contribute to strength losses. When one considers the size principle of motor unit recruitment and the fiber types required to sustain endurance running as an activity, the required strength output is low, cyclic in nature, and requires predominantly type-1 fibers.  When these muscle mass and recruitment patterns are combined with the reduction in total training volume (and most likely intensity) observed in our older runners, it is possible that our subjects (who used running as their sole means of exercise) may have sustained enough MU activity to maintain muscle mass but not enough high-threshold MU activity to sustain the faster type-2 muscle fibers that may contribute to the strength losses observed in this group. ” 

Essentially, If you don’t use it, you lose it. 

“…our data does support the newer exercise guidelines for older Americans suggesting resistance training be an integral component of a fitness program and that running alone was not sufficient to prevent the loss in muscle strength with aging. Physical activity and exercise programs for older adults should follow recent guidelines and include specific recommendations for days per week, number of exercises, sets and reps, and the intensity of the exercises performed.”


My Trainer Chris Fan Mail (International Edition!)

Aloha’s everyone,

I’ve enjoyed corresponding with a few MyTrainerChris followers and decided to share some of the fan mail I’ve received.


First Up, Singapore…

Dear Chris, I love reading your blog and now my personal trainer is also following you.  If you ever visit Singapore please come to our gym.  We would love to host you!

Sally in Singapore (and Trainer Cathy)

Thank you very much Sally!  I have been to Singapore several times and absolutely love your country.  If I ever decide to become an ex-pat, Singapore is high on my list of  choices.  If you or trainer Cathy visit Las Vegas please contact me for a complimentary workout.  (Little known fact: I have a Lion head tattoo….maybe I’m supposed to be in Singapore)Image

“Hello Singapore! Who’s up for a Kettlebell Workout?”


 Next Up, Manitoba,Canada…

Hi Chris,

My trainer has me only on machines.  I’ve been with her for 3 months and that is all we ever do.  Is this ok? 

“Machine Man in Manitoba”


You asked the wrrrroonnnnngggg guy.  

Hi there Machine Man in Manitoba, not knowing your trainer, her methods or your specific goals makes this a hard call. 


Since you took the time to write, I’ll show you the love…

Some trainers love their machines, others are purely old school and some are selective in their choice of free-weights/machines. 

Have you addressed this concern with your trainer? Have you had the chance to observe your trainer with her other clients to see if you are all trained the same?   I’m going on the assumption that your trainer is with you while you are on the machines, not what the trainer expects you to do on your own.  Going off what I’m given I will offer a few scenarios that will hopefully help.

 Not a bad thing.  Your trainer has you working with several machines in a circuit with very short breaks between.  Resistance training performed in a circuit has cardio benefits and if enough machines are used then a full-body workout can be achieved in a short workout. 

For this to be effective, the resistance (weight), volume (amount of repetitions) must increase, or the density (break times) decrease in order to progress.  Better if the pairings of machines work opposing muscles such as push and pull, or upper-body then lower body. 

There are several medical condition where full body workouts are suggested.

Not what I would consider a good thing.  The weights are not challenging and the breaks long.  Heaps of repetitions at unchallenging weights do little to build muscle, and since it is on a machine does even less to train movement patterns.  It does however cut down the amount of work a trainer has to put into a session or programming.


If you are using multiple machines that work the small muscle groups (e.g. Bicep Curls to Preacher Bicep Curls to High Bicep Curls) and none of the bigger muscles (Seated Row, Isolation Chest Press, MTS Row) and you are not in a rehabilitation program then you are not getting a very good return on investment.    

What I would consider a bad thing.  If the trainer told you that machines are safer than free weights then you have been fed a lie.  If the trainer said machines will tone you up and not make you bulky unlike free-weights then you have been seriously lied to.


Last but not least, some e-mail love from the Philippines.

“Hey A$$, Why all the hate on the Shake Weights?  You’re always with the negatives, like a big freaking zero.”  Shake Master of Man-illa.


Normally I would have a string of smart a$$ comments….but since you’re obviously a Harvard man I will tell you to max out reps with those shake weights like there is no tomorrow.  To gain maximum benefits, you should use wrist straps to work the shake weights while on a BOSU ball and all forms of cardio equipment.  Frankly, I am waiting for the day where gyms have shake weight racks and those darn CrossFitters, MMA Athletes and Powerlifters get with the program.  


“Honey…don’t forget get your pre-intra-post shake off drink”

Make sure you get in a strong pre-workout formula to up your intensity and take in EXACTLY 24g of top shelf protein and 75g carbohydrates EXACTLY within 42.5 minutes post shake-off to take full advantage of the golden anabolic window.  Post-Post Workout you’ll need to re-fuel heavily, while I cannot offer exact meal plans, I can say that ALL PIZZA’s are to be considered PERSONAL SIZED.

(Truth Time: The last e-mail came from a friend living in the Philippines.)



Moving Day

I recently decided to end my current employment as a staff trainer with Gold’s Gym Las Vegas.  I am grateful for the experience Gold’s Gym provided me and through them I had the opportunity to meet several exceptional trainers and worked with more than 100 fantastic athletes between the ages of 15 to 77 years old.

To my current, and former athletes, I’m already starting to miss you guys, but Las Vegas isn’t a very big town and I’m not leaving the game, just changing teams.

To Trainers Soonya, Eric, Corey and Mike, I already miss you guys and wish you the best.  If If I ever decide to move from trainer to gym owner you can expect a call from me.

So with all the mushy stuff out of the way….what’s next?


Independence is beautiful.

I have decided to continue working as a Personal Trainer in an independent capacity.  This will prove to be an interesting time for me, but one that I believe I will enjoy success in.   People that know me can verify that I’m not the sort of guy that lacks confidence in himself, now is certainly not the time to change.

Self Competitor