Monthly Archives: February 2017

Force Majeure

Force Majeure: An event or effect that cannot be reasonably anticipated or controlled — compare Act of God.

Unfortunately, accidents in training can happen. In the best case scenario nobody was hurt and things continue normally. In the worst case scenarios there may never be another session.  As fitness professionals we must remember that while engaged in the science and art of our profession only one thing is important and demands our full attention, the person(s) in front of us at the time.


From Hagakure, The Book of the Samurai.  It’s those small things that people trip over and creates issues that could possibly been avoided in the first place

I’ve had a machines cable snap on me and adjustable benches lose positioning under loaded movement. I’ve sat in chairs that were wobbly and seen treadmills suddenly stop moving.  While these sorts of things are not predictable, as coaches and trainers we can take measures to reduce the likelihood of accidents happening.

I have a natural affinity to hardcore chalk and iron gyms. A person would think I wouldn’t care what sort of gear I use so long as it is heavy and gets the job done. Fact is I care about my clients safety and experience. Every trainer will likely say that, but their actions don’t always match their words.


Case in point, the handle pictured above costs around $30 USD to replace. Thanks to having an internet connection I can have one at my doorstep in two days.  The gym owner/personal trainer that owns this handle was seeking input on what tape holds up longer than a few months and plenty of trainers were eager to provide input.  Aside from the biomechanical and sanitary considerations, what sort of image does having broke ass equipment laying around send to clients?

What are the odds the handles taping would be (and remain) identical in diameter?  If the diameter differs the grip pattern and muscle activations differ. Each side of the kinetic chain would be challenged differently.

SIDEBAR: Yes, I have bought equipment for my clients if I felt the gyms option was inferior. I take pride in my work and that extends to the tools that my clients use.

Several of my athletes are State and National level lifters or fighters. A lifting accident  could be hospital-level serious given the loads these people work with.  That said, even light weights are not underestimated and the same level of attention is given to my non-athlete clients.  I pre-inspect equipment prior use, including “stress testing”benches,bands and TRX units and run machines through loaded reps usually above the clients ability simply to make sure things are working properly.  I even run my fingers along the grip surfaces to feel for flaws that could cut into hands.

If something feels sketchy, it probably is sketchy and I’d rather the equipment fail on me than a client.

Words of wisdom from people far smarter than myself.
“First, do no harm” Hippocrates

“If an athlete gets hurt in training, it’s your fault.” Coach Dan John, Strength Coach and Master RKC

“Training should not lead to injury.” Coach Mike Boyle, Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning

“Accept responsibility for what you do” Coach Vern Gambetta, Gambetta Sports Training Systems

“Any “trainer” can make you tired and sore. Not every “coach” can make you a better athlete and person.” Coach Martin Rooney, Training for Warriors

In my opinion too many trainers never learned this, or somehow believe the words don’t apply to them.  Demand better.



“If you cannot teach a lift, don’t use it in your program”                                                                Mike Boyle, Advances in Functional Training.

Teach (Verb) show or explain to (someone) how to do something. Synonyms: educate, instruct, school, tutor, coach, train.

Guess (Verb) to estimate or suppose (something) without sufficient information to be sure of being correct. Synonyms: suppose,imagine,suspect


I’ll start by saying that the comment above is an example of guessing and not teaching and that Yoga certifications exist for a reason. Replace the word Yoga with “TRX” or “Kettlebell” or “Medical/Post-Rehab Exercise” or “Olympic Lifting” and you can begin to see where problems could occur.  “It’s going great”…until it doesn’t.

My definition of “teach” means the following: You as the teacher KNOW the subject,tool or method. Not “know about”,”know it by sight” or “know where to find it on YouTube.”  What you teach is literally and extension of you.


You can perform the exercise in a technically sound manner under a load that represents a challenge. I’ll cut the injured coaches or those with medical conditions some slack, but they’ll need to excel in the other areas in order to teach the material.

Sidenote: I don’t consider Weakness an injury or a medical condition.

The challenging load will vary according to your relative strength. I personally would rather learn to Deadlift from a person that can Deadlift 225lbs exceptionally well than from a person that Deadlifts 500lbs with non-existent form.

For example, I have one athlete with a Deadlift well above 2x my maximum. He also happens to be 200lbs heavier than I am. This didn’t mean I couldn’t help increase his lift total. I’d be behind the eightball if I lacked the experience of knowing what it’s like to strain during the Deadlift.

By gaining personal experience with things you can gain empathy for your clients and the positions you are placing them. You can explain what goes into the lift using simple words, or in the languages of functional anatomy, physics or biomechanics.  I try not sounding like I swallowed a Latin Dictionary when I explain things to people.

Most importantly, you can explain WHY the client is to perform a particular exercise or why it is a good choice/not a good choice for them.

You can work with the person with the inability to touch their toes to the person seeking to build their maximum effort level lift, and perhaps most importantly you can custom fit the exercise per individual Each person has their individual ranges of motions, exercise tolerances, learning curves, learning styles, rates of progression, goal(s),strengths and weaknesses.  Your job is to meet the client where they are and build them up from there.


Consider what it took the learn the alphabet to where you are now.  You had to learn each letter and then the sequence in which they appear.  Later you learned short simple words and then bigger simple words.  Words formed sentences,sentences formed paragraphs, paragraphs formed stories and so on.  You simply can’t go from not knowing your ABC’s to writing the next book of the month and people have been embarrassed by incorrect word usage (including me.)

Training isn’t much different, it has its own  alphabet of motion and the basics form the basis of everything else you do.

You can spot lift flaws and prescribe the appropriate interventions. You continually polish the lifters performance even when confidence and competence has been achieved.

You continually polish your ability to coach.

Coaching the Experienced

Some months ago I came across a question on a fitness board:

“Who has trained people for Triathlons? What is one of your go-to exercises?”

Despite a board size of more than 6,000 members the question went unanswered. I have my speculations as to why.

First, in training one size does not fit all and there is no such thing as a “go-to exercise” as every athlete is different. The closest “go-to” for Triathlon would be the sport specific swimming-biking-running training in that order.

Speculation 1: The client has never competed in a Triathlon, but is fit enough to consider it a goal.

Speculation 2: The client HAS competed in a Triathlon (or some type of endurance event) and wants to improve their performance.

I am not speculating the trainers inexperience with Triathlons, I figured that fact was obvious and this is not a knock on the trainer. If anything, I’m glad they asked.  What I hope didn’t happen is the trainer telling the client “Yes, I can do this.” and in reality cannot deliver the goods.

How does one Coach the Experienced?  Afterall, EVERYONE can benefit from a good Coach.

Not everyone that hires you will be a total beginner. Some have years of training and you could find yourself being compared to past trainers/coaches.
A percentage have reached a level of competence.
Not every trainer is capable of taking someone past a certain point of performance. This doesn’t mean the Trainer is bad, it simply means the trainer lacks experience with populations above a particular skill level.

Training defined by the individual and their needs.  It would do little good to improve the powerlifters 100m swim time, the sprinters maximum effort bench press in a bench press shirt or develop the swimmers ability to balance on one leg while standing on a Bosu Ball.

Programming Considerations Primary type of strength and fitness required,The sports speed and movement needs,The sequence of events,Rest periods,Athletes relative strength, Athletes dynamic range of motion vs the sports range of motion,Strength deficits,Athletes training history, Athletes injury history, Timeline between last competition to the next competition, Competition history, Level of competition (local event vs International/Olympic qualifier), Athletes disposition in training (Introverted or Extroverted), Athletes age and gender (Youth through Masters Class), High frequency injuries found in the sport, Is the athlete in/out of Prehab-Rehab.

These considerations are in addition to the athletes health history, and frankly there are always other considerations.

Coaching My method is simple and draws from combined experiences in training combat athletes,Powerlifters,CrossFit athletes,high school sprinters and military populations.

Shut Up,Observe and be non-judgemental. The client already has a level of skill.  You starting point in training will differ and too much cueing can be distracting.

Ask the trained client to perform several sets/reps (or whatever the relative measure happens to be), shut up and watch what happens naturally. You are trying to answer the question “How can this be made better?”

I’ve found that natural athletes are often visual, or visual-kinesthetic learners. As a coach this means your technique, and ability to communicate it needs to be solid when demonstrating a movement and it should try to approximate what it is you want the athlete to accomplish.  Video taken from multiple angles has proven invaluable in these cases.


No,not a coach.

Define the desired outcome and draft the path towards it. We want improved performance by objective measures, but subjective measures cannot be overlooked. We also want to improve safety, which outweighs everything else. The task is figuring out what needs to be done, and addressing it with the safest and most effective means via a sane risk to benefit ratio.

Establish Secondary Trust and Credibility. Trust and Credibility are hard to come by and easy to lose. Initial trust was earned during the consultation and screen, or at least by people observing your actions in training.  As a trainer, you are ALWAYS BEING LOOKED AT, AND JUDGED AS BEING COMPETENT OR INCOMPETENT.  Secondary Trust is achieved when you and the athlete have resolved part of their issues, or found and solved issues they didn’t know existed.

Make singular changes, observe the results and apply polish.  Sometimes it’s as simple as repeating a singular performance change that is so significant that little flaws get corrected in the process.

If multiple flaws are present, address the one of greatest concern first. Be prepared to repeat efforts until it is minimized. Keep reps at manageable numbers to avoid fatigue  and allow for the appropriate neural adaptations to occur. This is a learning process.

After a 90% hit rate can you move on to the next issue. I like to stack my fixes by adding the new fix onto the previous.

Bro Knowledge

“You are about to witness the strength of Bro knowledge”

“Most personal trainers seem like they’re shady”

“How is it that any monkey can become a trainer? Some of these guy are real fu-king idiots.”  

“You’re one of the few good ones I’ve seen, and I’ve been in a lot of gyms over the years”  

“Based on what I’ve seen since I’ve been here, you’re the only trainer here I would trust to spot me or give solid advice.”

The people making these statements are not beginner lifters.  Among them are two Master class Powerlifters, A national record holder Super Heavyweight and a lightweight former world record holder. One happens to be working towards his Bachelors degree in Kinesiology and hopes to attend Physical Therapy school.  Given their accomplishments and gym reputations, their opinions can carry a lot of weight.

FACT: Bro’s notice things. They will talk about what they notice and more importantly, many of them are very smart. They may not know everything that goes into a being a personal trainer or providing service to a client, but they do know stupid stuff when they see it.

Nearly four years ago I wrote a blog based on some negative things a trainer had stated. I still believe they helped fuel my drive to continually improve. Looking back on things, I can honestly state I’ve learned quite a bit from the worst within the industry,.

The quotes below are his thoughts on personal training. Based on both current and recollected observations they are accurate of his practice.

“Working out isn’t fun” There is a grain of truth to this quote. Some sessions will take it out of you, at some point either physically and mentally you will find yourself humbled. All sessions should not, and realistically cannot be painted with the same brush. If anything, I want my clients to look FORWARD to training.  I want training to be the highlight of their day.

I offer the following considerations…

“Working out” isn’t training. Hard training is a relative thing, and hard isn’t automatically synonymous with necessary,effective,productive or optimal. Challenge however is important.

If you find yourself dreading the next session, or needing pre-workout stimulants just to prepare for things then you need to look at what you’re doing, or being told to do.

Something is wrong. The exercises may be a poor fit for you, are being incorrectly prescribed based on your current level or you are over/under-training.

“You can use the same workouts for everyone.” Digest version: No, you cannot.

There are many methods and tools in training, but the principles are few.
Overload and Progressive Overload
Rest and Recovery
Regularity and Diminishing Returns

For brevities sake I will deal with the first two principles, but all principles apply.

The principle of Individualization states that exercise should be specific to the individual performing the exercise. As people respond differently to exercise, the exercises and training program must be client defined and tailored to the persons unique needs and capabilities.

The principle of specificity states that exercises should be specific to the client’s goals.

“I’m blunt and straight forward with people. I’ll tell them they are fat, unhealthy and out of shape.” The words fat, unhealthy or out of shape themselves are harmless. It’s the context in how they are used.  In this case, they are used as weapons.

What good ever comes of this? Is it to make the less fat, comparatively fitter and healthier trainer feel better about themselves or to make the other individual feel worse?


I suspect that deep down the trainer knows that he is not well suited for the job and feels the need to put down others…or he is just be an ass.

SIDENOTE: I blame the gym for hiring and maintaining him just as much as I blame him for not growing as a trainer.

I don’t think he realizes the words could also be used on a comparative basis, for example it wouldn’t be hard to run down to the local CrossFit box and find someone with lower body fat and broadly superior athletic abilities, then he would be the fat and out of shape guy.  

My personal and professional opinion, I honestly don’t believe the Trainer could even define what fat, out of shape or unhealthy actually mean.

He is still employed at the same minimum wage paying gym and hasn’t grown professionally in the least bit since (at least) 2012.


Meanwhile, I keep moving forward and upwards.  This photo represents my last four months and doesn’t include other educational sources or the books I’m currently reading.  Three of these books had to be read two or three times, and that is not unusual for me.  That said, academics are not enough and one must be capable on the gym floor.