Monthly Archives: August 2014

Circus Tricks

I broadly define circus tricks as things I see in the gym that defy logic or experience. Typically circus tricks involve the use of props, but that isn’t always the case.

Two Large Rogue Plyo Boxes set about 2 feet apart
+ 1 heavy rubber band
+ trainer providing resistance to the band.

Client has heavy band around her waist has to hop up onto the first box while being restrained by trainer, then hop off into the small open space, then up onto the 2nd box (again being restrained), hop off and then sprint 20ft (still being restrained by the trainer holding the band) and then repeat.

But the silly stuff doesn’t end there, not when the gym has Battleropes, kettlebells and an Erg Rower!

His kettlebell instruction involves mostly movements that I don’t think any kettle bell coach would recognize.

I know I sure don’t

RKC. StrongFirst or Kettlebell sport have nothing that even remotely looked like these movements.

Neither did the non-Kettlebell centric Training for Warriors, NASM or NSCA.

The “Squat-Two Hand Kettlebell Swing- Broad Jump repeat for 20 feet”move.

The “Tie a kettlebell to a battlerope, run carrying the kettllebell 20 feet, then run back and drag the rope back” move

The “Straddle atop two tall Plyo boxes and Plié Squat with a Kettlebell” move.
What exactly does the elevation do that simply reversing the kettlebell (heavy end up) not do?

The “Dumbbell tricep kickback”. Which is a legit lift….except when you use a small kettlebell to do it…of all the possible tricep exercises this is possibly one of the lesser effective options.

The overhead tricep extension. Again a legit move, except when done with a 10lb kettlebell, while sitting atop a Glute Ham developer.

And there is what happens with other gym equipment….

Using the concept 2 rower seat for abdominal rollouts….instead of the actual ab wheel (or barbell)

Using the seated row machines to perform 12.5lb cable curls…after having done regular dumbbell curls. OK …not a terrible way to hit the biceps, but a neutral grip seated row will not only work the back,abs and shoulders it will also put the bicep brachialis (aka the peak you want ) in the firing line under a far higher amount of weight.

My favorite to date; A wide leg plank with one hand on a Bosu and the free arm working a battle rope. It sounds difficult, but what exactly is it supposed to accomplish?


The Trainer Continuum


Clients signing up for personal training come from a wide variety of fitness backgrounds, from those that are starting a fitness program for the first time (including those starting late in life) and those for whom fitness has been a way of life and are looking to improve.

I devised the trainer continuum one day when I was bored (oh the shenanigans I get into!) as a training tool when I am working with newer trainers or educating my clients on why training with me is such an awesome deal.

The top half of the continuum shows the knowledge, skills and abilities of the entry level certified personal trainer. CPT’s are typically trained to handle clients that are medically cleared, healthy, under 300 lbs and under 55 years of age. They can generally help a client develop muscle and lose weight.

To maintain a current personal training certification the trainer must complete a specified amount of continuing education per cycle, which is anywhere from every 1-4 years, 2 years being the most common and current CPR/AED certification through a live clinic.Independent trainers must also maintain current liability insurance.

The top three well-regarded CPT licensing agencies are the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA.) Other major agencies include NFPT,NCSF,ISSA and ACE.

The gray area represents the clients that fall between “Medically cleared, but has a risk factor” to the “Fit person with competitive athletic goals.” Erring on the side of caution, I could reasonably speculate there are more trainers capable on the athletic side of the continuum than on the medical side, however this is not always the case and not all risk factors are equal.

For example, a male having a >40 inch waist is considered a risk factor. If the client presents no other major risk factors (I.E. Diabetes, A-Fib etc) and is medically cleared and otherwise healthy then diet is the primary concern and training can commence.

Similarly, a 60 year old client with a lifetimes worth of experience in non-competitive training or a master class athlete is quite a different animal from a 60 year old sedentary client.

Speaking from personal experience, some commercial gyms will assign clients to whichever trainer is available. Whether or not the trainer is actually equipped or capable of training the client is not considered, therefore you could have a trainer that is ill prepared to develop a performance or medical based program to suit your needs.

The Adverse and Apathetic Clients

In the past I’ve had clients that were adverse to the gym, or apathetic towards training in general. This was the opposite of my experience in training most military personnel and combat athletes and made me to see things differently.

I believe I’ve come to understand why some people are gym adverse or apathetic..or least I understand things far more than I used to.

With that said, here are my thoughts.

1. Know the Warrior and the Weapons
You as the trainer are the Warrior. You have been trained to handle clients up to a certain level of difficulty. Advanced training allows you to tackle clients of greater difficulty.

Your methods, knowledge,skills and abilities are your weapons.
Every weapon has its applications and limitations .

The questions to ask yourself is “Can I train and motivate a person that is afraid of the gym, or hates exercise?”

There’s nothing wrong with saying “No”

2. Know the Terrain…
As trainers we typically feel at home in a gym. In some cases the gym is our zen den where lifes issues are temporarily dropped and reality is between you and the iron.

Where you train can make the decision for you.

I train most of my clients in a Powerlifting/Bodybuilding gym. This is not the sort of place the adverse or apathetic client would find attractive. The same could be said of Strongman facilities and CrossFit boxes.

Convincing the adverse or apathetic client that your facility presents nothing to be afraid may take some work on your part.

3. Know the Client…
The gym adverse often seem to have histories of one of the following:

1. A trainer that injured them.
2. A trainer that failed to deliver results. (Perception of such makes it reality.)
3. The client winged it on their own and injured themselves.
4. The client failed to see results despite efforts and expense.

I take these points into consideration, but only so much. Frankly there are clients that will magnify the slightest discomfort and equate it with injury, or put in zero effort on their own and blame the trainer for their lack of results.

Not knowing the full story of their training time I’ll take them at their word until things are proven otherwise.

Left to their own choosing, the gym apathetic will usually not seek out trainers. Typically they are referred from existing clients or their Doctor told them “Exercise and lose weight or die.”

4. Employ Effective Tactics
Establishing trust is key with the adverse and apathetic.
With the adverse you will have to carefully consider both the program and controllable comfort factors.

Would it be wise for example, to send an adverse client straight into the squat rack, or position the client next to people dead lifting enormous loads? Personally I love the sound of a well dropped barbell, but I know that isn’t shared by the adverse .

Regardless, the adverse client will have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Easing them into things may be required.
This is where I inform the client that effort is directly tied to success.

With the apathetic I try to find what motivates them. Some can be extremely difficult to reach while others are quite open about it. Open is good..

This is where knowing the client, their families names or little special details matter greatly. Those details can enhance the effectiveness of your weapons.

5. Measure your Effectiveness
Each week, find some program variable that the client improved upon. I am openly biased in stating that strength gains or weight loss (or both!) are perhaps the greatest measurable indicators that improvements are happening.