Monthly Archives: March 2015

Chris’s Users Guide to Carbohydrates

What’s good Readers?  I hope everyone is enjoying a great week thus far.  Today’s blog spotlights Carbohydrates and when to best consume them to maximize performance.  Coincidentally, I am currently on a very low carb diet (>30g daily) and still maintaining my same workout intensity.  I found that starchy carbohydrates and I unfortunately don’t get along very well.

The Users Guide is broken down as follows:  Type of Carbohydrate, Key Sources, Insulin Response and Timing Suggestions/Comments:


FAST DIGESTING CARBS:  Key Sources: Sugar, Dextrose,Maltodextrin,Vitargo.  Insulin Response: Fast and Strong.  Timing/Comments: Take Post-Workout to encourage maximum muscle building.  A handy option is to consume a small serving of Gummi-Bears with your Protein Shake.  NOT Suggested for weight loss clients.

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FRUCTOSE, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP (HFCS):  Key Sources: Fruit Juice, Soda.  Insulin Response: Fairly Fast.  Timing/Comments:  Bodybuilders are to largely avoid these as fructose must be processed by the liver and both can be stored as bodyfat.


STARCHY: Key Sources: Pasta, White breads, Potato, Pancakes,White Rice (AKA Tasty Stuff). Insulin Response: Fairly Fast.  Timing/Comments: Bodybuilders: The best time to consume these carbohydrates is 30 min post-workout.  Some suggestions are to consume a carb/protein ratio of 3:1.  Along with Fructose,HFCS and Sugar is typically over-consumed in the Western Diet.

Fruit & Veg Basket-500x500

VEGETABLE AND FRUITS:  Key Sources: The Dark Greens and Brightly Colored.  Insulin Response: Minimal.  Timing/Comments: Low in calorie and often high fiber contents make for slower absorption rates.  Pairs well with lean protein sources.


LENTILS AND BEANS: Key Sources: Lentils and Beans, what else?  Insulin Response: Minimal. Timing/Comments: Moderate calories and very high fiber contents make for slower absorption rates.  Beans when paired with an equivalent serving of rice provide an exceptional blend of Amino Acids.


FIBER: Key Sources: Whole Grains, Fruits,Vegetables,Lentils and Beans. Can also be gained from powdered supplements and sometimes added to protein powders.  Insulin Response: Minimal.  Timing/Comments: Avoid post-workout, Emphasize at other meals during the day.  One of the aging athletes supplement friends in addition to Fish Oil and a good multi-vitamin.


COMPLEX: Key Sources: Oatmeal, Brown Rice, Yams.  Insulin Response: Minimal.  Timing/Comments: Post-Workout carbs.  Consume earlier in the day leading up to your workouts.


Meeting people where they are.


“What’s your goal?”   It’s a common question asked by nearly every trainer (OK…it SHOULD be asked by every trainer) to every new client.  I’ve found that in the world of fitness training the big three goals are; (1) Lose Weight  (2) Build Muscle and (3) Move and Feel better.  A fourth common goal would be measurable improvements in a specific task.   I could distill at the least first three down to (1) “I want to feel better.”

Cutler with Strongmen

To put this image in perspective, the gentleman in the center is a 260lb/5’10” (120kg/177.8cm)multi-time former Mr.Olympia posing with several Strongman champions.

Goals themselves are not always so obvious and you shouldn’t judge based on appearances.  Imagine a 375lb/169kg man sits down to talk to you about training.  His physical size suggests he would want to lose weight, therefore is a weight loss client right?  Not necessarily.  Who’s to say and where is it written that the man might have interest in competing in Strongman events, where his bulk would be advantageous?   Suppose he is a bodyguard and simply wants to increase his speed and power?

Once the goal (point B) is known, the assessment determines where they starting from (point A). What if the clients point A isn’t the greatest?  Instead of putting obstacles in front of the client, try meeting them where they are,train them to your level and to their full potential.

For example, a clients movement screen and goals both support that would benefit from hip hinge work.  This also happens to be a fundamental pattern with carry over to both life and sports.  Now imagine said client is intimidated by barbells.

barbel center knurling

Yes, this has happened to me.  To get to point B, the client would benefit from  hip hinge work. Starting a point A, the idea of barbell deadlift terrifies the client.  The barbell and fear are the obstacles.

Chris’s Deadlift Course Correction (Fear of the Bar)


  • 1. Try running stick hinge drill to teach the neutral spine/packed neck position and the difference between a hinge pattern and the squat pattern. Zero load involved.
  • 2. Try teaching the deadlift using less visually imposing tools such as a Kettlebell or Sandbag. In the case of the Kettlebell bands can be added to increase the load at lockout.
  • 3. Try teaching the deadlift in the rack from a pinned position, first working on the lockout portion, then progressively lowering the bar before adding weight.

In my world, I typically favor mobility first, volume comes before intensity, stable exercises before unstable and fundamental long before sophisticated.  Based on personal experience, current and former athletes starting from a post-rehab point A often tend to less patient than their uninjured but de-conditioned peers.  Creating smaller, reasonable goals in-between point A-B can help keep the client motivated and over time can demonstrate where the client is improving at the fastest and slowest paces.

Pain in a given movement or range is the red flag that is cause for an immediate referral.  Training may, or may not be able to occur around the issue (such as upper body exercises while a leg heals.)  It is best to have a Physiotherapist, Orthopedist of Sports Medicine professional look at the situation.


I will start this blog by saying that no trainer on the planet has not made mistakes.  We are humans and good trainers everywhere continually hone their skills and improve at their craft.  It is my firm belief that every trainer should hire a trainer of their own from time to time even if the coach trains in the same method as the trainer.

It’s hard for me to watch a trainer using methods and techniques that they are clearly not skilled in and working out of their depth.   Personally, it hasn’t gotten easier with time even though I try to not let it bother me.

It could be argued “Chris, you have no idea what the clients situation is, what the goals are and if there are any physical limitations the trainer is facing.”

You would be right.  I don’t know these things much less anything about the trainer.  The trainer might be a perfectly nice person and otherwise well meaning.

But wrong is still wrong, at least in my world.

I can reasonably expect a beginner to not have perfect form in a given exercise.  We all start somewhere and learning curves vary greatly.  The key that improvement occurs over time using progressive resistance to instill physical literacy and technical mastery.


I routinely see trainers living up to this statement.

A trainer should be able to teach an exercise correctly, provide coaching cues and course corrections to improve the clients form.  If the movement is taught wrong in the first place all sorts of things can go wrong.   It is entirely possible to have terrible form on a machine just as much as a free weight.  Form is important.


The 45 degree leg press (top left) is a very different move than the FMS Squat/Inline Lunge Tests (top right) or the NASM CES Overhead Squat.

I cannot fathom how using the 45 degree leg press machine can be a substituted for a functional movement or corrective exercise squat test.  For a RM test it can be the equipment of choice (repetition maximum, how heavy and how many times a weight can be moved generally expressed as 10RM, 5RM or 1RM.)  It has been a staple in bodybuilding for local leg hypertrophy for years and strength gains can transfer to other activities to a degree so it is certainly not without its uses.  Functional movement and corrective exercise screenings just aren’t one of them.

The Movement and Corrective Exercise guys know what I’m talking about.


The Overhead Barbell Squat.  Not a beginners move.

If a beginner older client cannot perform a decent body weight, goblet or front squat I see no reason whatsoever to try making them perform barbell overhead squats.  The overhead squat performed with a dowel or PVC pipe has purpose in screening, loaded bar overhead squats are used to develop Olympic lifting skills, which indicates shoulder, hip and thoracic mobility along with core stability and a foundation of strength has been developed.  The former is performed early and not under a load, the latter is for athletic populations.

The Performance, Strength and Conditioning, Olympic lifting, Power lifting and Kettlebell Coaches know what I’m talking about.

I haven’t even addressed trainers taking on clients that they are ill-equipped and under-educated to properly service and utilizing training methods that I can charitably call questionable, or in some cases outright dangerous.  Those medical issues, over 55 years of age, non-athletes over 300 lbs and children all have different training needs and a one-size fits all approach cannot be taken.

My advice to trainers:                                                                                                                   Train to your level and do it as best you can.                                                                                   No matters how well read you are on a subject, practical experience still trumps it.                             If you cannot do it, don’t make someone else do it.                                                                   Saying “I don’t know” can be tough, but is something you need to be honest about.                 That’s a human being you’re moving.  Think about what you are doing and apply logic.

So I went to a StrongFirst Workshop (AKA Chris is back!)

Hello Everyone,

I have recently come down with a serious case of writers block so I decided a little time away from blogging would do me good.  During my time away I have focused on setting up the Trainers Dojo (now with over 80 members!) and laying the foundation for what I hope to one day make of it.  I have also been continuing with my personal training and took my second step towards StrongFirst Kettlebell certification.

SFG 1 Day

Group photo from the SFG 1 Day Workshop held at Revolution Fitness in La Jolla, California.  (Cool Part: The workshop was led by Senior SFG Franz Snideman and my partner in was Angela Knox who are both members of the Trainers Dojo!)

In the past few months I’ve come to know a few of StrongFirst coaches, both personally and online and find that they share common bonds.  After having served my country for more than 24 years I still feel the need to belong to something greater than myself, just as I have the inherent need to help others become more than they believed they were through my personal training.

If you are considering Kettlebells I highly recommend investing in private lessons with a StrongFirst coach or attending the one workshops.  It is money exceptionally well spent and you will come away with an appreciation for that simple cannonball with a handle.