Monthly Archives: April 2015

Fat Loss Skills (AKA The 11 Habits of Diet Mastery)

Source credit for the following blog goes to Josh Hillis and Dan John, authors of the book “Fat Loss Happens on a Monday.”   I highly recommend this book and you can purchase it on

I am currently reading “Fat Loss Happens on a Monday” and greatly enjoying it.  I believe the simplicity and reasonableness presented in the book is what appeals to me.

Over the course of my career I’ve been presented with a dizzying number of diet plans and workout routines that seem (at least to me) to require advanced degrees simply to make sense out of them.  I have often wondered how people adhere to them, as difficult things are quite hard to sustain.

MINI BLOG IN A BLOG:  A friend of mine attempted a food combining diet.  Based purely on the allowed foods list it was chock full of healthy choices.  The difficult part was you were only allowed to eat certain foods in combination with each other, some could only be eaten by themselves and some couldn’t be eaten in the same day.   To adhere to this sort of diet you would need an incredible memory, stellar food journalism skills and would likely need to carry around a rule sheet with you at all times.  Attempts at clarifying the rules led to lots of things be missed and to make matters foggier, a descendant of the diets founder had problems explaining it clearly.

Was the diet bad? No, It was quite wholesome.                                                                                   Was there any science to back up the diet?  Not that I’m aware of.  The diets originator was not a Registered Dietitian but was self-educated on the topic. The problem was the diets difficulty.

Fat loss comes down to engaging a series of habits.  The focus is on your eating habits and not some fad (well covered here on MTC.)


Everything starts with having a plan.

HABIT 1: PLAN. Plan your meals (aka your success) on either a Sunday or Monday.  Grid out 28 meals (3+A snack.)  The book recommends “free days” or “free meals” or even focusing on a single meal/meal type at a time, then adding successes from there.

Produce Aisle wholefoods                

The best stuff in your local market is usually in the outer aisles

HABIT 2: SHOP. Do your shopping on Sunday or Monday based on your plan.

Food ScalePortion-Chart

The food scale and portion proportions are handy little things in the kitchen

HABIT 3: COOK. Prepare, cook and portion the food on your plan on Sunday or Monday                                                             


              Hi-Tech or Low-Tech doesn’t matter.  What matters is honesty and consistency

HABIT 4: JOURNAL.  Keep a daily food journal.  Review your food journal weekly either on Sunday or Monday.


HABIT 5: PROTEIN.  Make sure you’re getting protein at every meal.  Shoot for 3/4 gram of protein per pound of body weight.


HABIT 6: CALORIES.  Review your food journal for the total calories consumed.  Compare your total calories to your weekly weight change..

Baby Tortoise

This guy loves eating slowly.

HABIT 7: SLOW DOWN.  Eat SLOWLY!  A meal should take at least 15 minutes to consume.


HABIT 8: 80%.  Leave the table when you are 80% full.


HABIT 9: EAT HEALTHY FATS.  Make sure you’re eating good fats at most meals.  Add good fat to meals you normally feel hungry after and see if that helps make you feel fuller.

Good Carbs

HABIT 10: QUALITY CARBS.  Check the quality of your carbohydrates.  Are your getting most of your carbs from vegetable, fruit,quinoa,brown rice and sprouted grains?


HABIT 11: GRATITUDE.  Everyday write down, or reflect on one thing you like about yourself or your body.  BE GRATEFUL FOR WHO YOU ARE!

Master one habit at a time.  Plan to master that habit and try working in little clusters of habits.  You could, for the sake of improvement, commit to only a single meal per week.  For example, this week I will wake up each morning and enjoy a healthy protein/fiber rich breakfast.   Then you plan out seven days worth of breakfasts in your planning grid, journal each breakfast including how long it took you to eat it.


Focus (AKA Chris re-watched Billy Madison)

The foundation techniques of Hard Style Kettlebell (StrongFirst/RKC/HKC)                                        The Deadlift                                                                                                                                         The Swing                                                                                                                                           The Squat                                                                                                                                           The Clean                                                                                                                                           The Press                                                                                                                                             The Snatch                                                                                                                                           The Turkish Get Up                                                                                                                          Of these techniques the swing and the get up are considered the two basic movements.                  The “sophisticated basics?  The swing and the get up                                                                  Yes, there is that much subject depth and application potential.


I’ve been maintaining a detailed training journal to document the days training including “how things felt.”   Two bookmarks are used to compare the current workout with the last equivalent workout to compare notes, check for progress and address any issues.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Video of my technique in slow motion and regular speed has also been used to clean up some technical errors.  But like anything else, it helps to get a fresh set of eyes on the situation.  In my case, I asked a lot of fresh (and highly educated) eyes to look at things.

I posted some videos online asking a group of StrongFirst coaches to review my technique in the Snatch, Clean and 1 Hand Swing.  Responses came from coaches across the United States, the Philippines and Malaysia.

Suffice it to say, the feedback was enlightening.  I was not outright terrible (at least I wasn’t told so) and two techniques according to feedback “met passing standards.”  This meant a lot coming from a StrongFirst coach, but I know that I can do much better and will improve over time.

My new kettlebell program is straight forward.  I only train one of the 6 foundation techniques daily.  Some workouts are performed entirely with one bell, while others require 3-4.  Presently my weights are 16, 20, 24 and 28kg.  I came up with the idea for this program from a few sources.  In the book “Never Let Go” by Dan John the author spoke about a single lift per day program.  From “Enter the Kettlebell” Pavel spoke about the concept of greasing the groove and the benefits of frequent low-rep executions of a movement pattern.

I’ve decided to take things one step further and incorporated lessons learned from re-watching the movie “Billy Madison”   I need to re-visit the basics and spend some extra quality time with each technique.


“Back to school to prove that I’m not a fool.”

“Billy Madison”                                                                                                                                      Mon:   Snatch Focus                                                                                                                            Tue:     Swing Focus                                                                                                                            Wed:   Get Up Focus                                                                                                                      Thu:    Swing Focus                                                                                                                              Fri:      Squat Focus                                                                                                                              Sat:     Clean/Clean Press Focus                                                                                              Sun:     Swing Focus: Same as Tue.

The rep schemes are simple and add over time.  Workouts are either 45 minutes consecutive with breaks taken as needed, or in small batches throughout the day.  Looking over my ultra-basic program….

  • It’s emotionally and mentally easy. Physically it can be exhausting.  Swing focus on Thursday proved how exhausting kettlebell swings can be.
  • Some people would get bored of this program very quickly. This might not be something meant to be done longer than a few weeks.
  • Guesswork has been removed; equipment is minimal, always available and is portable if need be.
  • There may only be one technique, but there are numerous coaching points and corrections that need to occur. My first Get Up day provided several learning points that I had previously missed.
  • I have options in the variables (weight, reps, sets, time etc.) My goals are to first improve technical skill, then develop work capacity.  Volume with proper technique will believe will cement proper skills. This is about quality over quantity.

My little online coaching experience also proved a few points I’ve made in the past                            Community is a good thing                                                                                                          Every trainer could use their own trainer from time to time.                                                                  There’s nothing wrong with the basics.                                                                                              There’s nothing without the basics.                                                                                                Approaching things with a beginners mind is awesome.

Exceptional Automobiles and Fitness Professionals (AKA Chris visits a Rolls Royce dealership)

I decided one fine morning to visit my local Rolls Royce-Bentley-Aston Martin dealership to personally experience the Rolls Royce Wraith and compare it to the Bentley Continental GT.   I’ve been an admirer of the RR Phantom since its introduction and the Wraith is a very beautiful vehicle.  I have a somewhat difficult time accepting the fact there is a BMW 7 series engine that lies beneath. If I wanted a BMW 7 series I’d buy a BMW 7.

Looking over the spec sheets and brochure for the Wraith while sipping complimentary coffee I came to few conclusions:

  1. This is a very beautiful automobile.
  2. This is not an automobile for everyone. Some people will find its lines polarizing and the upkeep and maintenance on these vehicles can be quite costly. Honestly, if you are taking ownership of such a vehicle you are likely not concerned with upkeep investments.  This car makes a decided statement about the owner.
  3. Reliability wise, I would be better off in the long term purchasing a large class American SUV. From the entry level price points, I could likely buy two large SUV’s for the price of the Wraith. (Note: I’ve owned a Ford Expedition before and would highly consider purchasing a Chevy Suburban or Cadillac Escalade.)
  4. I have the driving skills and experience to master it.
  5. I look good behind the wheel of it.

2014 BentleyContGT

2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed in Dark Sapphire Blue, 2014 Me in Graphite and Black

What does my automobile shopping have to do with fitness professionals?  Glad you asked!

I view training as “the performance of an exercise program designed to achieve a higher purpose.”    Training therefore has a purpose beyond simply moving your body and body parts through space and against some form of resistance.

“This is a very beautiful automobile”  So are you, with all your dents and dings, scars and tattoos.  In this case, the fitness professional serves as your subject matter expert, mechanic and salon level detailer.  The more they know of the human body and how things work the better.  Your fitness professionals physical appearance itself does not equate their level of competence.

 “This is not an automobile for everyone”  Neither is every trainer a match for any client.  Some have all the exterior trimmings of what one think is an awesome trainer, but underneath all that you’re actually looking at pedestrian or low quality workings.  During a guest spot at a well-known luxury gym chain I witnessed a young trainer have an elderly client attempt plyometric hops, half-burpees and numerous other difficult to perform body weight exercises on a hard smooth wood floor.  I have no doubt the trainer could perform these moves, but an elderly individual that could not bend,hinge or squat in a functional manner?

“This car makes a statement about the owner”  Athletes and Warriors train with a purpose in mind.  In sport or warfare the objective is victory.   Not everyone was cut out to be a Warrior, but I believe that we all have inner-athletes and that proper training can lead to long term athletic development well beyond active competitive years.  While you may no longer break personal records, you will be able to move and live far better than your sedentary peers.

Rehabilitation/Medical Exercise clients train with a purpose in mind.   Distilled to the simplest explanation, the training is designed to restore movement and function to normal or near normal functional movement and/or to improve quality of life.

“Reliability Wise” The General population believes they train with a purpose.  To feel good, lose weight, gain muscle or simply move and feel better being the largest general goals. The problem is that sometimes the “training” is simply exercising.  They hired a trainer based on a impressive exterior that covers a less inner workings, or were handed off to whatever trainer was available.  Never in your right mind would you show up at an automotive dealership with cash in hand and say “I have _____ money to spend, just put me in any car that fits that amount.”

 “Skills and Experience” How skilled and masterful you trainer is means little if they cannot coach you to a level of skill and mastery in a given task.  What separates the skilled and experienced from the not-so skilled and experienced is not always easy to tell.  On an online forum I’m a member of, I recall a person that certified in February of this year.  Within days of passing certification she was looking to set up her own home gym to train clients and admitted she rarely lifted weights and really only knew body weight training.  She didn’t even know what sort of shoes she should wear on the rubber flooring mats.  Flash forward two months and she is issuing advice in weight training to another trainer with a client wanting to run her first marathon.

Exactly how much could she have possibly learned in less than two months?  Enough to advise another person?  Granted, trainer certification courses only teach you so much about actually training another human being, but there still should be some skill developed right?

“Look good behind the wheel” With Automobiles and Fitness Professionals, shop around and find the one that works for you.  Find one that is reliable, within budget, experienced and fits your needs.

Simplicity in Diet

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before…

“The best diet is the one you can stick to.”                                                                                           “The best diet is the one you can live with, and live on.”                                                                  “In dieting, adherence trumps dogma.”                                                                                          “Six packs are found in the fridge.                                                                                                “80% of your results come from diet.”                                                                                        “Everything in moderation.”                                                                                                        “Calories in vs. Calories Out.”                                                                                                              “Less this (Fat/Carb/Protein/Grains/Dairy etc) and more this (Fat/Carb/Proein/Grains/Dairy etc)        “Not all pizzas are supposed to be considered Personal Sized”                                                                                                                                                                                                            There is some truth in each statement, but not everyone applies the truth in the same measure, and things are going against you.

You’re been hit up by the numerous celebrities who pitch various weight loss supplements.


“OMG!!! This actor/actress/athlete uses this stuff?  That settles the argument right there!  Take my money NOW!”

3hr diet Minute Diet 5 minute diet

The One Minute MUST totally be better than the Five Minute Diet or the slow poke 3 Hour Diet!

Not to mention the diets that promise results within what seems to be a dwindling number of days.  I previously thought the Hollywood 48hr diet was the lowest, with 5 days becoming more common, and the 21-30 days diets still holding a place in the market.   I believe I can state that sight unseen, it took longer than 1 minute, 5 minutes, 3 hours, 48hrs or even 30 days to earn a good sized gut that you want to rid yourself of.  Do you honestly think its easier to take off than it was to put on?


Not to mention the multiple MLM supplement companies where the salesman (OK…network marketer or distributor whatever they call themselves) that want to offer you AMAZING weight loss/energy/diet/lifestyle products…only to tap you into becoming a  pusher seller of the products and working for them.

Yes, it can be very complicated. But it doesn’t always need to be.

Medically prescribed/medical nutrition therapy diets are well outside the scope of practice of personal trainers and strength coaches. This is certainly NOT the area of expertise that MLM sellers, celebrities or late night TV infomercial pitch men. This falls under the direction of your primary care physician and registered dietitian.

But what about those of us that just want to lose weight?  We have no major medical issues other than being overweight?

I like keeping the diet simple.  Determine your daily caloric need according to lifestyle.

  1. Eat according the Warrior 20 Food list with a slight caloric deficit.
  2. Exercise regularly. Lift things, get up and move.
  3. Get good sleep, drink plenty of water. Exercise, Get out and have fun.

The Warrior 20 Food List:

image imageimage

Simplicity in Training


It is my belief that simple fundamental programming and exercises provide the greatest overall value for the beginning client.  As training maturity is gained, and techniques earned and owned it still remains something that we return to time and time again.  Further, I believe a strong foundation in the basics helps prevent injuries down the road.

Why simple? Programming, exercise selection and management become much easier.                 A vertical push and a vertical pull                                                                                                         A horizontal push and a horizontal pull.                                                                                               A hinge and a a squat                                                                                                                       An “Other movement” (Sprints,Loaded Carries,Crawls etc.)

Clients can develop skill in fundamentals.  You’re presenting them something that is not only beneficial, but also achievable and highly measurable.                                                           Fundamentals are the foundation and are what more sophisticated things are built upon.                 A solid grasp of the fundamentals leads to confidence and independence.

Simple Basics before Sophisticated Basics                                                                             This lesson has hit home recently.  I’ve been working with double kettlebell techniques and have hit a temporary snag in my double swing.  It’s not a strength issue; the problem lies in my fundamentals.

As of this writing I cannot perform 24kg double swings very well, therefore my double cleans, double front squat and double press are compromised as the double swing is required to get the bell into the preparatory position.   I can (for now) still train the double press and double front squat by “cheating” the bell into the racked position, but this is a far less efficient way of doing business.  I am practicing double swings with 16 and 20kg kettlebells (1-2 bell sizes down from 24kg) and am working to improve my overall techniques.  An advantage of having so many trainers and coaches for friends is that I nearly always have someone I can call when I cant figure something out.

My thoughts on simple stuff                                                                                      –Fundamentals are not always simple or easy.                                                                    Fundamentals have stood the test of time.                                                                    Fundamentals lead to skill mastery

To muddy things up further, I believe there really are no “basic” or “advanced” techniques.”  I choose to view them as simple fundamentals or sophisticated fundamentals.  The lines between each blur depending on who is performing the task at hand.

The Fundamentals of the Deadlift as applied to three different clients.


Client A.  Medically cleared with no previous training history.  Screening indicates weak lower back and core musculature.                                                                                                  Teach the hinge pattern, and hinge vs. squat.                                                                             Teach the body positions in the 3 main phases of the deadlift with particular attention to the area around the clients’ knees in the concentric and eccentric phases.                                                     Teach the emergency escape plan.                                                                                           Program sets with a lower volume initially and train with attention to detail.                                     Use linear periodization initially.                                                                                                           Be prepared to substitute a Kettlebell or Sandbag for deadlifting.

                              Deadlift full

Client B.  3 months self-training history.  Screening indicates generally good functional movement with minor areas of tightness and asymmetry.  Has never deadlifted before, but has performed numerous other back/posterior exercises exercises.                          Teach the hinge pattern, and the differences in hinge vs. squat.                                                       Teach the body positions in the 3 main phases of the deadlift.                                                         Teach the emergency escape plan.                                                                                                 Program sets with a moderate repetitions and train with attention to detail.                                     Use linear periodization initially.


Client C.  1.5yrs training experience and ample time under a barbell.  Presently deadlifts 1.5x bodyweight at maximum effort and wants to learn the Power Clean technique.              Teach the emergency escape plan for positions above the hip.                                                  Demonstrate the differences between the Power Clean and the Deadlift up to hip level                     Drill the second pull phase with an unloaded bar.                                                                           Work shoulder/elbow ROM drills (if required)                                                                           Program low rep ranges with multiple sets.                                                                             Continue progressing the standard deadlift up to 2-2.5x bodyweight.                                                 Involve the use of bands, deficits or rack pulls as needed.                                                                 Initial periodization can be linear, then switch to undulating or block.

The above by no means includes all possible things, but does illustrate the common thread of similar fundamentals being used across clients with different levels of ability and meeting each one where they presently stand.

Client A from simple to sophisticated                                                                                           Presupposing a barbell was not initially used, once a sandbag deadlift is learned and can be done at a relatively high weight, the sandbag bent row or sandbag clean can be taught.  Taking things even further, the sandbag client can then learn the clean-front squat press technique.  The sandbag has the additional benefit that it can duplicate the movements of all barbell techniques, rotational movements and loaded carries.                                                                                         Once the Kettlebell deadlift is learned, the squat and the swing are can also be developed. Once the swing is learned the deadlift will improve.                                                                                       Once the stick drill is learned, the movement pattern has been grooved and can be applied to the deadlift.

I follow a similarly simple approach to diet and movement screening. Diets that are difficult to follow usually remain such and complicated movement patterns can trip people up quickly.  Adherence and consistency to a diet will trump diet type, and proper movement learned early yields results with a lower likelihood of injury.