Monthly Archives: July 2014

Anatomy of a Trainer

I’ve been blessed to meet some fantastic fitness professionals over the years. Despite the diversity out there, I’ve come to believe they all share a few things in common.

It’s not our size, style, coaching methods, belief systems or programming.
It’s not the way we carry ourselves, the way we communicate or motivate. It’s certainly not our methods, licensing agencies or backgrounds.
It’s a culmination of our experiences, training and mentors.
It’s in the way we see the person across from us.
It’s in how we bring out the best in that person.
It’s how we make other peoples impossible, possible.
It’s how we knock the “t” off the word “can’t”
You could even say it’s in our blood.

I say in our hearts.

I believe good trainers honestly care about the person in front of them and genuinely want to help you. The good ones out there are far more than just manners and physique.

Since there are no physical prototypes to reference, if I could build an awesome trainer they would have the following features….

A thick skin: The thick skin serves as the armor the trainer will need. Good trainers will always draw critics take take their shots at you. The weak part is most of these critics fail to ever pull the trigger. If you note, they rarely seem to be going anywhere themselves. Although I’m a few years to old for the word I find it highly appropriate, when was the last time you saw a “hater” doing better than you?   Along with the critics you will meet clients that will test your resolve in numerous ways. The thick skin prevents critics and challenges from getting under it.

A big heart: The pump of life which pumps strength to the body and mind. The heart is a muscle; use and flex it to your full effect like any other muscle. That heart will be needed when your STRENGTH has to overpower the perceived or very real weakness (and possible limitations) that another person holds. You may not be afraid of a barbell, can you put that STRENGTH into a person that is? Knock the T off the “can’t” and make the impossible, possible.

A strong back: Because there will be days that you will have to carry someone into victory. Ideally the trainer is surrounded by others with strong backs and big hearts.

A genuine and huge smile: Everyone loves a huge smile, except for the critics and haters because it gets under their thin skin and there lack of heart can’t take it. Make sure to smile at them often.

Eyes that catch the small details. The trainer is always watching for that ONE thing. It could a split second of athletic awesomeness or the split second that separates success from failure, or failure from catastrophe.

Fast Feet.  Because fast feet are happy feet.

An auto-improving brain: While watching the client with those sharp eyes, the trainers’ brain is always in “assessment mode” asking “How can I make this better?”

“This” could be the clients’ performance.
“This” could be the trainers coaching cues.
“This” could be the moments right after victory or defeat.
Truthfully your “This” could be anything.

A stellar pair of vocal cords with a slight delay: A good trainer listens.  When the client speaks, the trainer listens, pauses, thinks, pauses and then speaks back.  When the trainer doesn’t know, they admit it and get back to the client with the information in a timely manner.  The trainer has the ability to know how, and when to alter the volume of their voice, which words impart the greatest effect on another human being, when to be supportive and when to be a b@st@rd. This depends on how tough it is to remove that letter “T” and what the auto-improving brain and big heart agree upon as the best method to achieve success.


My Trainer Chris Fan Mail 3

It’s been awhile since I posted some Q and A’s here on My Trainer Chris and I’ve received a number of pretty cool questions from around the world to share today. Chris

From London, England!
“What do you listen to while working out? Do you have any songs that particularly motivate you?”

Typically I listen to my own breathing and self-talk. I literally “zone in” and try to keep myself in the moment. There are a few songs that I like listening to prior to, or while lifting things:

Anything by Two Steps from Hell.

The early years of Metallica.

“Let’s Go” by Trick Daddy, Lil John and Twista. (Possibly the last thing I SHOULD listen to, but does elicit positive results)

(Clean version..not the MTC version)

Classic Motown

From Brisbane,Australia!
“Do you pre-qualify clients? Are there clients you refuse to work with?”
I screen the clients’ health history, physical movement capability and fitness level. It’s often during one of these screens where I find out if we can, or cannot get along with each other. Beyond that the client should be reliable and put in their fair share of the work. I will not take a client in pain that has not been medically cleared, nor will I take a client that attempts to negotiate my fee or time.

From Cebu, Philippines!
“Have you ever considered writing a book?”

One of my athletes dropped a hint on that subject a few times. I believe I’m still a few years away from seriously considering it.

From Las Vegas, Nevada!
“Have you ever been turned down for a job?”

I have. In one case I was flat-out told I was overqualified and another told me that my resume’ and interview manner seemed more managerial level than trainer level.

From New York!
“Can you recommend some good books for a first year personal trainer?”

Never Let Go by Dan John (or anything by Dan John)

Train to Win by Martin Rooney (or anything by Martin Rooney)

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

ACSM Exercise Management for Chronic Diseases and Disabilities

The New Rules series by Schuler and Cosgrove

Linchpin by Seth Godin

Keep up your reading. If you read an hour per day on a subject you’ll be pretty smart on it by the end of the year. I read at least an hour per day and usually more than one book at a time.

From parts unknown!
“Do you miss working in a commercial gym now that you’re independent?”

Occasionally I do. As an independent trainer you are left completely to your own devices and marketing and it can get a little lonely if you have no co-workers to talk to or bounce ideas off of. I would gladly return to being a commercial gym trainer provided a few personal requirements were in place and there were opportunities for advancement.

From Manitoba, Canada!
“Have you ever had to be confrontational with a client? How did you handle it?”

Part of being a trainer is having the ability to call out a clients BS. Although the client is the boss, as the trainer you are in the unique position to order the boss around. Sometimes the tactful method fails and being blunt is what will get the job done. By all means try to settle matters in a civil and respectful manner. With all that said listen to what the client is asking for /telling you and consider it carefully. I’ve had a few clients with requests, statements and arguments that came from the far left corner of the galaxy, but most had fairly simple requests that weren’t unreasonable or unrealistic. Having a non-dogmatic approach to your training helps cuts down on a number of possible confrontations.

Mobility Workout

I’ve been playing around with a mobility specific workout for a few days and thought I would share it with you.

The purpose of the mobility workout is to restore functional range of motion,flexibility, engage the core and help loosen the numerous knots found in the human body.

As we age, certain muscles begin to shorten whiles others continue to weaken. I kept these facts in mind along with maintaining an ability to progress, regress or subtract a given movement and still address mobility issues.

Goal: Address 9 common knots
Spine. Shoulders
Hips. Knees

Tight Areas – Lengthen and Mobilize
Weak Areas s Stabilize and Strengthen
Promote functional movement and balance.

Age related weaknesses/tightness
Posterior Chain. Hands
Hips Knees
Ankles. Core

The Workout

SMR: Inhibit overactive muscles
IT Band
Posterior Deltoid

Floor Bodyweight: Focus on Breathing
T-Spine rotation
Elevated Cobra-Child’s Pose
Bird Dogs
Hip Thrust
Knee Drop
Long Stretch

Standing Bodyweight: Static and Active Stretches. Promote relaxing into stretches and fluid movements.
Hip Flexor 90-90
Hip Circles
Shoulder Circles

Kettlebell Series: Flow and Stretch.
Hula Hoop (Back Pass)

TRX Series: Stretch + Engage Core
Shoulders I Y T L
Lunge Arm Slicers
Close-Wide Rows

Sent from my iPhone

Levels of Trainers

I was reflecting the other day on trainers and long-term athletic development.

Yes, in a city with showgirls abound and more buffets than a man can count this thought crossed my mind.

What is the trainers’ mindset and plans with a client beyond the “get this accomplished now” phase?

How far ahead should a trainer plan? After all, not all clients will remain with you for years (in some cases not even days.)

How can a trainer realistically get a grasp of where they stand, and where they can improve? (HINT: We usually know what we suck at, we get better at it, disregard it or avoid the situation altogether.)

Thus far, I’ve narrowed things down to the following:

1. What the trainer knows.

2. What the client needs, if different from what the client wants.

3. What the trainer actually does.

Then I narrowed things down to two questions:

Does the trainers’ knowledge and skill set match the clients’ needs and wants?

Is the training designed to produce actions that match the goal?

This in turn made me consider trainers with various levels of skill. I’ve known non-certified or formally educated trainers that were exceptional at their craft.

I’ve seen many with credentials that appeared to not know (or seem to care about) what they are doing to another human being.

I’ve seen some that despite having their clients’ do nothing of benefit and with considerable risk (AKA has the client do silly stuff) remain well employed with a high number of clients and highly capable trainers unable to attract new clients.

The last pair deals essentially with salesmanship, word of mouth referral and possibly charm. I’ll stick with things I know something about.

Today’s article focuses less on “certification” but rather “qualification.”

Level 1 Trainer / Coach
“Do no Harm” The rule of both medicine and personal training.
I am not talking about the standard Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS) or the “pain, but in a good way” pain, I am talking about aggravation of previous injuries, causing new injuries or creating environments where injuries are a certainty.

The Level 1 trainer applies proper exercise selection, common sense and develops programs within the range of the client. Although any exercise has the potential to cause injury, the trainer makes the selection and provides instruction and supervision needed to minimize potential issues and not prescribe exercises with risks that outweigh potential benefits.

A trainer with a noted history of injuring clients’ fails to meet the absolute minimum-minimum of “Do no Harm” and is therefore a “Level 0 trainer” regardless of their education or credentials.

Bodyweight calisthenics, mobility and flexibility training, resistance machines and low/non-impact cardio training typically fit this bill. This is often the conservative position taken by the American College of Sports Medicine and can work for de-conditioned (but otherwise healthy) clients as well as clients with medical issues.

Level 2 Trainer / Coach
Can identify and/or address issues and qualities. These are trainers with specific knowledge or training in a given area. They can see a weakness, strengths, asymmetry or need (vs. want) in a given client and prescribe exercise accordingly.

In the case of body composition, they can work with muscle gain or fat loss.

In the case of bodybuilding, they can identity asymmetrical muscle size or definition and how the parts of the body relate to each other.

In the case of movement specialists, they can improve range of motion, stability and strength.

In the case of performance specialists, they can identify and improve a skill need (speed, strength, power, balance etc.)

In the case of CrossFit, there are numerous CF Specialists coming into the field that address issues such as Olympic/Powerlifting, Gymnastics and Mobility.

The Level 2 Movement, Performance and CrossFit trainers are quite likely Level 4 in their given field of expertise.

Level 3 Trainer / Coach
The trainer can match the needs of training to the needs of the sport/event. Simply put, the programming is designed, periodized and directed for maximum transfer between the training and the technical base.

Volleyball players, football players, combat athletes and sprinters all train differently, even though there are shared elements and needs. This holds true for non-competitive athletes, beginners and the de-conditioned clients.

Level 4 Trainer / Coach
This can trainer literally programs for a singular person and consistently tweaks the program to address the immediate and ultimate needs of the athlete.

High level bodybuilding coaches, fight coaches, personal CrossFit coaches and advanced movement specialists provide excellent examples of this type of trainer. The relationships between the coach-athlete and the coaches’ level of understanding of training, sports and psychology are some of the major keys to success.

If you’ve read this far you might be saying to yourself “I want a Level 4 trainer!”

Of course you do. But here’s the rub.

Some trainers are Level 0 and will not evolve past that.

There is NOTHING wrong with being, and staying Level 1.

Not every trainer can be a Level 4. Some simply cut out for it.

Just because a trainer has the skill level of 2-4, doesn’t mean they will deliver level 4 services. Truthfully, I’ve know Level 1 trainers that performed at Level 4 with their clients.

I can put together a program tailored to a single individual that addresses whatever needs they have (at the time) and I can work that program to meet the clients needs and wants. I continually monitor and assess their performance and always ask myself “How can this be made better?”

Level 4 right? Not so fast…
Just imagine I used the same program for EVERY client….now I’m down to Level 0, at best Level 1.

Once again…
What the trainer knows.
What the client needs, if different from what the client wants.
What the trainer actually does.