Monthly Archives: June 2014

Weight Loss Clients

I’m presently corresponding with several personal trainers around the world as well as within the United States. The trainers vary in experience between having less than 1 year experience and two with nearly twenty years of experience.

The trainers’ range in age between their early 20’s to the early fifties. Three are coaches in areas which I am not qualified to teach.

All but one has asked me about exercise programming for weight loss.

Before assumptions are made, no it was NOT the CrossFit coach. She too is trying to help a client lose weight and CrossFit and the Paleo diet are her preferred methods. She also happens to be a personal trainer and is used to working with clients outside of the box.

What this international cast of trainers is asking boils down to a few common things;
1. Exercises that work best
2. Getting, and keeping the clients dietary compliance
3. Tips and Tricks I use for body composition clients

Today on MyTrainerChris we have a blog within a blog. (Because I love you guys!)

MyTrainerChris on Body Composition clients – The Broad (B), Medium (M) and Fine (F) strokes.

“The BMF method” explained. BMF is my layered view and approach when working with body composition clients.

(B) Client Screening. Based on personal correspondence and experience I know that there is a wide difference in the screening methods used by personal trainers. Some trainers simply rely on whatever screening form the gym the hands them, some are quite in-depth and others don’t even know how to screen.

There are many different screens out there, but the two most widespread versions are the Medical Screening and the Lifestyle Questionnaire

Although I’ve developed and simplified my screening methods over the years, I’ve always gone into designing the screens with the idea that the client should be able to pass it and to design for what needs to be done for the clients long term benefit.

My current screen includes performance and functional movement components so that I can observe how the client moves, their strengths and weaknesses, to see what type of motivation connects best with them and if we are a good client-trainer fit.

(B) Is the client a current athlete/aging athlete? Yes or No
Former athletes do not count if they are far removed from their competitive years. What they accomplished 10-20 years ago doesn’t count as much as what they’ve been up to since.

I believe that athletes/aging athletes have a slightly different type of mental toughness and response to physical training than non-athletes. I’ve seen this first hand even among longtime former athletes as well, not so much in their performance abilities but in how they view and respond to training.

If the answer is no, they are considered “everyone else.”

Just because the client is considered “everyone else” does not mean that as the trainer you cannot tap their inner-athlete. A lot of people have one, they just don’t know it. In some cases it was your unknown inner-athlete that led you to becoming a trainer in the first place.

The remainder of this blog is focused on the “everyone else” category clients.

(B) Take the clients’ waist measurement at the widest part. I know that some anthropometric standards require measuring x amount above or below the belly button and this is fine so long as you get the “biggest” measurement as well.

(M) Multiply the clients’ waistline x2. If that number is more than they are in height then the client is a body comp client regardless of their stated goal.

For example, I am 68 inches (172 cm) tall and my last recorded waist measurement was 30.5 inches (77 cm.) My doubled waistline equals 61 in / 154 cm so I am well within waist-to-height ratio. If my waist measured 35 inches (89 cm) I would be slightly above. With a waistline over x2 my height, weight loss/body composition is the actual need, even though I want to build my pecs and biceps to look good at the pool parties.

Can you as the trainer help put slabs of beef on my chest and pump my pythons while still cleaning up my diet? Sure! But remember, I wasn’t that far off away from my goal. If my x2 waistline was considerably more than my height then THAT is the priority,

(F) Think multi-cultural. Western/African/Latin male waistlines over 40 inches (101 cm) and females over 35 inches (89 cm), Asian male waistlines over 35 inches (89 cm) and females over 32 inches (81 cm) are cause for concern. These clients may, or may not have other health co-morbidities. The initial goal is to get the waistline measurement down. Remember, we are thinking long-term client success here.

Current Body Weight

(B) Clients that weigh more than 300 lbs (136 kg) have biological statistics and risk factors different from their lighter peers. Clients over 400 lbs (181 kg) may not fit in all exercise machines or could exceed the safe weight limit on cardio equipment.

(M) Non-Athlete Clients over 300lbs/136 kg = Referrals.

(F) My ideal referral list would looks like this:
A Medical Doctor (General Health, blood panel review and clearance)
A Dentist (Highly obese people often seem to have poor teeth, which might explain why they don’t eat too many crunchy vegetables since that would hurt their teeth while soft carbs do not.)
An Eye Doctor (Can check for early signs of Diabetes.)

My minimum-minimum is the approval of a medical doctor for physical training.

Trivia note: India is ahead of the game on T2D as they have Dr.’s that specialize in Diabetes. I personally don’t know how bad T2D is in India, but they’re not playing around. Hopefully the world catches up with them.

Diet and Mental Toughness
(B) Weight loss isn’t a fight, it’s a battle. Battles are won by initially overwhelming the opponent then sustaining actions to maintain the victory.

The first 4-6 weeks must focus on “what” and “how much” food is going into the hole located under the clients’ nose.

(B) People usually know what food is healthy and which food is not. When it comes to food, clients often have the habit of telling the trainer what they think we want to hear.

(M) Food Journals and a provided list of healthy foods are key. Keep the clients cultural/religious or medical dietary needs in mind. Medical diets are the responsibility of Doctors and Registered Dietitians, not Personal Trainers.

Do not screw with a medically prescribed diet. If you have input, ask the clients Doctor/Registered Dietician.

(F) The food journal and the 4-6 week dietary commitment helps build the clients mental toughness needed to overcome possibly the most difficult thing to do…to change ones lifestyle.

(F) Good Food is pretty easy to recognize. Typically it only has one ingredient. Presently the trainers I am corresponding with hail from Canada, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and three different U.S. States. If you were to take a look into the pantries and refrigerators of these trainers, or even among athletes in their countries you would probably see many of same foods.

Exercise and Mental Toughness
(B) Everything will work, but nothing works forever. Initial programming should be 4-6 weeks strict dietary control and 4-6 weeks of creating movement patterns (Squats, Pulls, Pushes, Bending and Pressing.) I recommend 3-5 days per week exercise with 1-2 days dedicated to active recovery.

(M) Inefficient movements typically burn the most calories and lead to greater EPOC. Inefficient movements can also have higher odds of injury. The client must be watched carefully at all times.

Inefficient movements include sprinting, barbell complexes, loaded carries, interval training and circuit training divided into large muscle groups. The results of a proper movement screen can help you design your program

Efficient movements could include flat surface walking, low-no impact cardio, slow paced movements, isolation resistance machines for small muscle groups and long slow cardio.  This is better than nothing at all and may be the start point for your client. They need to eventually progress to bigger things.

(F) It is my opinion that continually training to failure leads to more harm than good. Failing to scale in CrossFit, vomiting mid spin class and barbell wrecks because the load was too heavy/lifted too many times is never fun.

(B) Standardize your measurements and track the clients workouts down to the lb/kg lifted and the workout date/times.  Try to standardize the frequency and time you measure your client.

(M) Psychology trumps Physiology. Each week find SOME program variable the client improved upon. To walk away from a workout with some small victory is awesome no matter who you are.

(F) If you’re not measuring and tracking then you’re not managing…you’re just sort of directing and counting.

Taking a big view my BMF method you’ll note the following…

The Medical/Lifestyle Screen drives Referrals (if needed), Referrals drive Diet+Exercise

The Physical Screen drives Referrals (if needed), Referrals drive Exercise.

In either case, the Screen is the foundation.

Diet+Exercise with early heavy emphasis on the dietary half. Both drive mental toughness.

Mental Toughness drives exercise program progressions and diet adherence.

Management ties everything together.

The weight loss client will sooner or later freak out when they look at the scale and see something they don’t like / didn’t expect. While the fact that the scale doesn’t tell the whole story has been blogged at length on MyTrainerChris and around the web it still comes up. Here’s a chart that can hopefully provide some guidance and launching points.








I believe that training to failure is good once in awhile. This is not meant for every goal or every client.  

I believe low intensity exercise is better than no exercise, but just barely.

I believe the words “get stronger” and “keep the workout comfortable” are not found in the same program.

I believe that not everyone that hires a trainer or joins a gym is serious about improving their fitness.  

I don’t  blindly believe everything I read even when it comes from an otherwise highly reputable source.  The gym floor, self experience, research journals. articles and lab studies all provide information and all have their inherent flaws. 

I believe that in sometimes firing a client is necessary.  

I don’t believe in singular methods of training.  I believe there is no single best method for everyone and that a program should be developed around the needs of the client.

I don’t believe all methods that share the same goal are equally effective.

I believe in teaching movement patterns over exercises.

I don’t believe a calorie is a calorie regardless of source.

I believe that people can start exercising at any time in their life. This includes children and the elderly.

I believe just as much training happens in the rest periods between sets as during them, if not more.

In a beginners programming I believe most exercises for out of shape or weak (but otherwise healthy ) clients should be performed standing instead of seated, and principally compound instead of isolating muscles. The exceptions would be handicapped or post rehabilitation clients.

Historically, I have yet to meet a client whose definition of “hard training” and mine matched. I believe that when a client says ” I like hard workouts” it is best to find out what their definition of the word hard really means.

That said, I believe it is risky for a client to tell an unknown trainer that they like “hard training”.  

I believe every client wants to achieve a level of mastery in their exercises.

I believe that if the client isn’t “getting it” in given exercise the correction is often found in field stripping, cleaning and oiling the technique, simplifying the coaching method or regressing them a simpler exercise. 

A clients physique or exercise tolerance may make certain exercises impossible.unsafe or ill-advised.  I believe that substitutes can always be found.

I believe that sometimes adding a little weight to a lift cleans a technique up.

I believe in the failure points in the clean,deadlift,bench press,pull up,chin up and row. In the squat, I believe I can always get one more rep.

In the trainer-client relationship, I believe three things make the difference between success and failure:
1. Ability to get along
2. Reliability
3. Putting in the work

Success can still be achieved if #1 is absent provided #2 and 3 are high.

Success is far less likely in the absence of # 2 or 3 no matter how great #1 is.  

Absence of of #2 affects #1 and 3.  Quite frankly, the trainer will likely put less effort into your programming.

Absence of #3 will only last for so long.  Measurable progression is key.

The best pairings have all three components.

I believe that client assessments are continual. Everyday you seek improvement.

I believe that a trainer can only manage what is measured.

I believe a trainer can be highly certified yet unqualified at the same.

I believe I would fire, or refuse to hire far more trainers than I would hire.

I believe I could go the rest of my career as a trainer without touching the hip adductor and abductor machines.








Sent from my iPhone


I consider myself a “greatest returns on investments” type of trainer. Everything I  enter into a clients program has a directed purpose and progressions build upon the initial solid foundation. I sincerely consider everything by asking myself questions:

a) Why is that exercise in there?

b) What purpose does it serve?

c) Is that exercise the best choice for this clients ability?

d) Does this exercise contribute towards the clients goals?

I HAVE to be able to justify my programming and furthermore maintain the mindset that the clients’ time and mine is limited and valuable. In my mind, if I was allowed only 20 minutes of exercise per session, what would I do?

I sure as heck wouldn’t spend it on the hip adductor/abductor that’s for certain.

I believe this level of justification and sanity screening is what has kept my 100% safety record and my clients continually able to progress in their training.

I’ve seen what happens without forethought.

One of my least favorites was a trainer directing a beginner 50+* year old woman to “plyometric hop” onto a plastic step. (*50 is my best guess, she could have been well over 60 years old.)

Applying my justification and sanity screening…

a) Why would a 50 year old client need plyometric training? Wouldn’t the risk of falling (in an untrained elderly female that statistically has a chance of having knee issues and/or osteoporosis) outweigh any possible benefit of this exercise?

Fact: Falls kill a significant number of the elderly every year.  Learning to hop isn’t really doing much to help keep her from falling…if anything its inviting a fall in training.

b) As demonstrated by the trainer, and attempted by the client (before the client did indeed fall) was a very slow hop. This is not a plyometric action. Plyometric actions are performed quickly, therefore the slow moving hop does not serve the intended purpose.

c) Having the client perform step ups is a better choice and having her work first in stable movement patterns is even better than that.

d) At 50+ years old, the client probably wants to retain or improve her fitness level, increase or maintain functional strength and move better with little or no pain. This does not call for using exercises that pose greater risks for injury, do not transfer any measurable skill to real life or train power when stability, strength and speed have not been developed.

A case against Sauna Suits

I recently had the pleasure of meeting a young trainer that is currently undergoing internship hours before sitting for her certified personal trainers examination.

Having the opportunity to shadow several different trainers provides insights into a variety of methods,opinions and thought processes from which she can select things that she likes, adapt to her own methods or cause her to re-examine her own methods.

Furthermore, this helps establish a professional network and given the right pairings can set the table for fruitful relationships.

It also exposes the fact that some trainers could be defined as incompetent or even outright potentially dangerous.

During my e-mail exchanges with the young lady I found out that she recently encountered a trainer that has his clients workout in sauna suits under their sweats in order to lose weight and is seemingly proud of this fact.

Somewhere is this mans mind the sauna suit is a good way to lose weight.

While there is information on the potential benefits of hyperthermic training, I would argue that the cost to benefit ratio is too lopsided and that the degree of control and supervision required places too many trainers out of their depth.

The use of sauna suits for weight loss purposes is beneficial for a short duration. Athletes that compete in sports with weight categories (I.E. Boxers, Wrestlers, MMA Fighters), models/performers getting ready for a part and pre-contest bodybuilder/physique competitors cutting the last bits of water are the only particular clients I can fathom having the need to use a sauna suit.

Based on personal experience on both sides of the fence of having (1) succumbed to heat exhaustion and (2) having to recover a person that over-heated in a sauna suit I cannot recommend the use of sauna suits for any purpose OTHER than those stated in the previous paragraph, of which should be critically monitored.

My opinion is well backed by multiple sources. I found a topic that all notable authorities (for now) seem to agree upon. Having reviewed several college sized training manuals I could find no single recommendation advising clients to train in a sauna suit and quite a few that advise against it, if not to proceed with caution.

The Certified Personal Trainer manuals published by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) do not support its use. These are 4/5 of the largest authorities in personal training with the research from NSCA and ACSM serving largely as the basis for nearly all other certification. I believe I can reasonably speculate the International Sports Science Association (ISSA) would say the same thing.

Going a few steps further (because I’m that type of guy) I spent a little quality time with more specialized material. Specifically the NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator (TSAC-F), NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES), Training for Warriors Level 1 (TFW-L1), CrossFit Level 1 Trainer (CF-L1), U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command (NAVSPECWARCOM), U.S. Department of Defense and the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) materials.

NATA, NSCA CSCS and NASM PES are credentials seen in trainers that can train up to professional level athletes.

TFW was born in the world of preparing mixed martial art fighters for fights and has evolved into training athletes of any background.

NSCA TSAC-F was designed to develop fitness programs for first responders (Police, Firefighters,Military.)

Naval Special Warfare Command oversees the training of the U.S. Navy SEALs along with Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Special Warfare combatant craft and Diver programs.

CrossFit is known for causing bodies to hit the floor and many first responders, athletes and military personnel train at CrossFit locations.

None of the above recommend the use of sauna suits.

Arnold Schwarzenegger stated in his massive encyclopedia of modern bodybuilding (which I swear causes me to get bigger just by carrying around) that the suits purpose is solely for short term water cutting.

During a six mile ocean swim Navy SEAL candidates can lose up to 10 pounds of body weight due to fluid and glycogen loss. The loss is not permanent, they re-gain their weight once they start re-hydrating and refueling. Remember, these are SEAL candidates who have far higher than average physical fitness profiles.  They are also highly monitored throughout their training with instructors and advanced medical staff on standby during their training evolutions.

On the training side, there are five physiological mechanism of fatigue that I am concerned with during a session: Depletion of the Energy systems, inadequacy of the circulatory and respiratory systems, body temperature elevation, neurological insufficiency and dehydration. I run tremendous risks if I let things go to far, one failure out of five is more than enough to cause concern.

The sauna suit causes an increase in perspiration during exercise and only marginally increases the total number of calories burned. The increased perspiration leads to faster water and electrolyte loss and decreased work capacity. As work capacity drops, fine motor and gross movement patterns begin to falter which brings a host of problems.

This guy is attempting to bring the client to the fatigue point of all five. This much I know. Unfortunately there is far more that I don’t know…

I don’t know if he is monitoring the clients water loss during training. A loss of 2% of body weight during exercise is cause for action and results in decreased levels of performance.

I don’t if he informed the clients that the water weight loss is temporary or even the fact they are losing water weight, not body fat.

I don’t know if he is advising the re-hydration needs post sauna suit training. The increased amount of perspiration will require replenishment of potassium, zinc,sodium and carbohydrates along with water. We can lose up to 2 liters of water per hour of exercise yet we can only absorb roughly 1 liter per hour. I don’t know if he knows that or is coaching his client to do such.

I don’t know if he knows that certain medications and medical conditions decrease heat and exercise tolerance or alter a clients thermoregulation.

I don’t know if he knows what heat exhaustion or heat stroke looks like, much less the first aid procedures to treat either.

I don’t know if he even asked if the client has had a history of heat exhaustion, which subsequently leads to succumbing to heat exhaustion easier. Additionally, if the client is obese their ability to handle hyperthermia is compromised. Since his purpose for the sauna suit is “weight loss” (which as stated is temporary water loss, not permanent fat loss) and the fact that a high proportion of obese clients are on some form of medication he is taking a huge risk in the misguided attempt to help someone lose weight.