Monthly Archives: January 2016

Bar Fight (AKA Chris is a meathead)

Note: My laptop died this morning so until it is replaced all blogs will be done on my phone.  CS

Some time ago I did something I shouldn’t  have and certainly know better.  I engaged in an ultimately futile internet argument with a person I will likely never meet.

What was the arguement about? Glad you asked, although I hope it doesn’t re-ignite any further arguments.  I’m not out to defend my position just merely lay out my side of things.

The arguement was over my belief and practice of teaching new lifters how to safely drop a barbell. The opposition stated not only is this stupid, but it demonstrates my lack of skills and knowledge as a coach and that guys like me are part of the reason why people hate gyms… know,us bar dropping meatheads.

I tried explaining we don’t drop bars simply to drop them or to make noise and ONLY drop if needed,but she wasn’t having any of it.

I don’t mind views that conflict with my own.  I even intentionally seek out studies and articles that counter my thoughts in order to have a balanced view of things. I believe I’m fair in comparing the merits of each side.

Normally when I run into a person that seems to be disagreeing simply to disagree I ask the almighty question of questions “Do they even lift?”

Based on photographic evidence the answer was a solid no.

So instead of comparing the relative right/wrong of barbell dropping I decided to compare the two trainers involved.  This might provide some insight into why we feel the way we feel.

The other trainer….

Works in a corporate fitness facility. By her own admission most clients are middle-aged or older, sedentary, weight loss and general fitness types.

The gym is not designed for heavy training.

Clients do not pick up loads heavier than they weigh.

General exercise is the pursuit.

She had around 5yrs experience. Does not lift relatively heavy things.

I on the other hand….

Work in an old school gym. 33% of my clients are other personal trainers, other clients are weight loss,aesthetic or performance type clients.  The oldest client is 10 years younger than me.

The gym is designed for heavy training, suitable up to competitive Powerlifting or Strongman standards.

Strength,Weight Loss, Mobility and practical education for trainers are the primary adaptations and pursuits.

Over 25yrs experience (which makes the fact I argued online an even more meatheaded) Lifts relatively heavy things.

Very different experience levels,  situations, gyms and clientele.  What’s right for one isn’t necessarily right for the other.

Since the other trainer doesn’t deal with the same situations I do and has no practical barbell experience she is not entitled to an opinion on the subject.

So why do I teach beginning lifters how to drop a bar? The short answer is barbell wrecks happen and I would rather they have the knowledge of what to do and not need it rather than need it and not have it. The primary objective is to always control the load in a safe manner, but sometimes things happen and you need to know how to escape a bad situation.

There are some choices here.  (1) Find a highly qualified lifting coach to teach you the basic and sophisticated barbell lifts.  You will learn from that persons past mistakes.  (2) Disregard #1 and get injured in a bar wreck because you didn’t know how to abort a lift safely. (3) Always lift with suboptimal loads and fail to reach athletic,aesthetic or hygeinic goals.










What is Exercise, What is Training?

What is Exercise?

This is the type of question I ask myself at the oddest times and I feel it’s both a simple yet complicated question.  When was the last time you tried coming up with your own definition?  I am well aware that I will contradict myself at least once in this blog, but I’m comfortable holding conflicting views in my head if you’re comfortable reading them.

According to Google… Exercise is  an “activity requiring physical effort, carried out especially to sustain or improve health and fitness.”

My own thoughts…Every movement, or prevention of movement we do every day, conscious or not involves some force applied to the body and our body’s subsequent response to that force.  But would we normally define everything we do as exercise?  Probably not, though an argument can be made.

Stupid BOSU suitcasecarry

Left: Dumbbell side bends on a BOSU vs Suitcase Carry with a Kettlebell. While both by definition are exercises, one produces greater adaptations over time has more application to daily life, a different learning curves,load limits and applicability to a potential swath of humanity.  I wouldn’t put a 70yr old on the BOSU but have no problems with the idea of programming loaded carries or static unilateral holds on a stable surface.

Personally I feel the standard definition is vague.  Ultimately it depends on how the individual chooses to look at challenges, exercise and how they wish to define them.  There will always be some room for interpretation and the start point needs to meet you where you are. Ideally, it will measurably take you to where it is you want to go.

I liked Mark Rippetoe’s definition of exercise: “exercise is what happens today”                “After I do these exercises I will be sweaty and out of breath”                                             “After I do these exercises my muscles will feel stretched and my joints mobile”                     “After I do these exercises I will feel a pump”

There is nothing inherently wrong with this.  I personally support the idea of having a less structured session thrown into a weekly training and my current clients that train greater than three days per week with me have one session less structured than others by design.


I personally believe this has helped keep injury rates extremely low, morale high and functional abilities progressing.  There are a high number of far smarter coaches’ that have written about the value of “play” and they couldn’t all be wrong.


A problem occurs when this is the only way you are doing things.  You are essentially hammering screws into wood hoping to build a house without a blueprint or having laid a foundation.

What is Training?  Training is about specific intent. Taken broadly, this could be athletic, aesthetic or hygienic. Training therefore is the strategic application of resistance with the goal of eliciting a response, normally in the form of a chronic physiologic adaptation. The exercises that compose the training being of appropriate frequency and stimulus.

“Appropriate” takes the individual into account along with the idea that “one size fits all” doesn’t always apply and that there are more considerations.

“Stimulus” implies both choreography (simple v. sophisticated movement, type of load, range of motion etc) and being something that is manipulable,

“Frequency” implies that in order for favorable adaptation to occur there needs to be a degree of return on stimulus investment, once again this is person dependent.

Don’t play Doctor (Aka Chris is Back!)

Yes, It has indeed been a long time since I’ve posted any blogs here on MyTrainerChris.

Over the past four months I’ve been to the StrongFirst Level 1 coaches certification, grown the Trainers Dojo network to more than 150 members worldwide including Ireland,Korea,Malaysia,Italy,Australia,Canada,Brazil and Taiwan as well as across the USA,taken on a role as a trainer of trainers, have been found by a new mentor/coach that has tremendously impacted my performance, moved to a new gym location that worked out better than I could have ever hoped and have been exploring the idea of creating a fitness professionals summit here in Las Vegas.

But those are all topics for another day, Today’s blog is on Trainers that Play Doctor and how trainer should be referring out when situations call for it.

For trainers working with the general public just getting started in training, I present the following suggestions and the perspectives of a 25 year veteran of BroScience. (P.S. In this case BroScience is not a negative term, please read on.)

1. Know when to refer out.
PT/DC/MD/OT or LMT. The safe answer is always refer the client to their primary care physician.  I have an admitted bias towards a PT as I believe they do a better job at screening and diagnosing musculoskeletal issues. Not all states or countries allow direct access to PT’s and they must be referred by an MD. Chiropractors on the other hand are often a walk-in service in many places.

Beyond musculoskeletal injuries I refer them to their primary care provider and let the Dr Order the blood panels and refer to whoever best fits the role.

With obese (over 300lb non-athlete) beginners I follow another coaches advice and suggest the Primary Dr, an Optometrist and a dentist.

Self bias here, ideally the professional is, or was an athlete.

2. Do your homework.
Read and learn things from books and articles you can’t buy from a newsstand.

Sorry, but Muscle and Fitness,Livestrong and Shape Magazine are not go-to resources here. Your NASM CES or FMS certifications, although both being excellent educations, are seriously just skimming the surface and are entry points to higher education.

3. Have at least the minimum minimum knowledge.
Have at least a lay understanding of the basic injury so you don’t sound like a total dumbass when speaking with an allied health professional.

There is a distinct set of lanes here, you and the allied health professionals are not fellows of the same occupation, so don’t act like you are or think otherwise.

You know you hate it when the cardio bunny or morbidly obese MD tries telling you squats are dangerous, toes need to always be pointed straight forward and to never NEVER go below parallel in the squat when they’ve never lifted anything heavier than themselves or a 5lb pink dumbbell.

4. Pause,Think,Pause,Speak
You must have at least a basic command of BroScience. Specifically how to separate fact from fiction.

Knowing things such as the fact that Pilates does not actually lengthen muscles, dumbbell pullovers do not actually expand the rib cage and weightlifting does not turn women into bearded men or kids into midget adults will help keep you from sounding like said aforementioned dumbass.

5. Details matter.
Start learning what things are likely important based on the issue rather than leaving
someone the task of teasing out the details. As best possible, try getting all known relevant facts together based on current research from credible sources. Saying “My client has shoulder pain” could be any number of things from the client being a wussy weakling thats feeling a little muscle fatigue to having bone cancer.

6. It seems to work
While not entirely useless, anecdotal evidence and even some case studies do not make for the greatest evidence.

7.  F your N=1
Just something worked for you personally,or some guy you knew, doesn’t mean it works for all.

I’m not sure if the scale is tilting towards trainer arrogance or ignorance here, but neither side is good.

8. Know the Credible Sources
Locate the best available  evidence/research to aid and support your decisions.

Fact: This isn’t to going be found on Dr. Oz, FoodBabe, Wikipedia,Tracy Anderson or your BeachBody coach. As matter of fact, I consider NONE of the MLM supplement sellers to be credible sources as a matter of principle and professional ethics.  They MIGHT BE RIGHT and be otherwise fine trainers (there I said it), BUT part of me will always view them as selling products of questionable value at a marked up price (there I said that too.)

9. Stay in your lane.
Fact: Some trainers lanes are a mile wide and an inch deep, others are an inch wide and an inch deep  Let that sink in for a minute.

Trainers, saying “I don’t know” are not bad words and they don’t make you a bad trainer.  Unless of course that’s the only thing that comes out your mouth. That said, I would far rather hear “I don’t know” than listen to you try to BS your way into or out of a situation.No trainer knows it all, no matter how many letters are after their name.

Opinion: Based on a lengthy history around many trainers I’m of the belief a high number are working way outside their depth.  A combination of flawed or outdated academic knowledge and little if any practical experience leads me to this opinion.

I applaud the eagerness to help, but re-centering and training to ones ability needs to happen. If you are ill equipped or lack the experience to safely work with a person presenting a given condition/complication now is not the time to play Dr. Trainer.

Refer to someone who does. Referring out makes you a better trainer and is the professional thing to do.

“If the client gets hurt in training its YOUR FAULT”