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.


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