Monthly Archives: April 2017

Approachable / Unapproachable

“Trainers carrying extra weight on them are seen as being more approachable.”

I can’t get behind that line of thinking.  If anything, it sounds like an excuse made by a trainer that happens to be carrying extra weight. Are muscular, athletic or even undersized people naturally considered less approachable than others? I personally don’t believe a person can be equally approachable or unapproachable in the eyes of everyone. Mind you, I’m not a guy that has any issues or bias against overweight or undersized trainers in the first place.  I just hate the idiot trainers.

Approachable:Friendly or easy to talk to.

Unapproachable:Not Welcoming or Friendly.

Neither word is associated with a particular body shape,gender,nationality or age. People form their own opinions on your approachability (or lack thereof) based on any number of factors.

While first impressions matter, so does ones actions and actual abilities.  As I’ve stated before, a persons exterior has no bearing on their ability to do a job well.

The trainers “carrying the extra weight” love hearing, and repeating things like that …along with mentioning the high number of football coaches with guts on them. What they forget is that carrying extra weight doesn’t necessarily mean that your excellent in actual coaching or motivation, or that looking like someone that has put in the work at the gym doesn’t automatically mean they’re a bad trainer either.

In a profession dominated by a lot younger faces, I’m a 47 year old guy who’s just shy of 175 pounds at 5’7″(ish.) Up until I decided to grow a half-white beard I was told I looked much younger and I’m undeniably not a huge guy by most standards. I also happen to be self-employed as a private strength coach, and a number of people contact me for suggestions on programming, strength development,dealing with training problems and for professional advice. I help people, both in the gym and within the profession.

As a Strength Coach, I generally help clients train for strength,size, improved mobility or sport performance. Based on my own job description, it could be argued that my rather average looking physical appearance could render me unapproachable to those looking for a Coach that specializes in the areas that I do.

What  could a 5’7’ medium build older guy really know about strength, or how to train heavyweight lifters? Seeing the results of their work across a variety of individuals is a decent indicator.

“Weak”, “Lazy” “Unathletic” or “Ineffective” are not words I hear attached to my name. If they were it certainly wouldn’t have helped me gain any business or kept me in the good graces of the gyms superior lifters. The fact that I’m routinely seen lifting and training strong people along with being a strength sport competitor certainly hasn’t hurt.

My actions and actual abilities helped determine whether or not I am viewed as approachable, or at least viewed as approachable to the segments of the population with whom I want to view me as such.

I’m perfectly cool if some people consider me unapproachable.

Using my own 80/20 rule (where I stated that 1-2 out of every 10 trainers was actually good) then each side would have trainers of every shape. The 20% has within it trainers that look very average, some that are overweight/undersized and some that present very impressive physiques. It is their abilities as a coach and dedication as students of the craft that define them.  They are always getting slightly better than before.

The lower ends of the 80% reached a comfortable plateau and have decided to stay there, they may or may not be carrying extra weight.



“Think about it, if you read only one book, no matter how many times you read it you will only learn so much.” Louie Simmons, Westside Barbell

Sometime ago a young trainer asked veteran coaches for a list of books they considered to be “the bibles of our field.”  It was late and my eyes saw the word “bubbles.”  According to one person who identified himself as a twelve year veteran the bubbles of our field were…

Essentials of Personal Fitness Training, Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training and Essentials of Sports Performance Training.

Fitness professionals may notice the trend, but for those who are not fitness professionals I will inform you that all three books are from the same credentialing agency.

Sidenote: The early editions of the Personal Fitness Training textbook contained a lot of the material found in the present day Corrective Exercise and Sports Performance texts. They were later separated into three courses. 

Unfortunately, these seem to be the only three books this trainer goes by, or at least considers worthy of mentioning. Once again, not bad choices and he could certainly pick worse. But it is a bad thing if they’re the only three books he has read.  You wind up living within a relatively small academic bubble.

There are positive and negative factors at play here. The information presented was meant to mesh together and work along a continuum, but you’re getting a very limited view of things. I speak with a level credibility here as I’ve completed all three courses. I also happen to read daily, and usually read more than one book at a time.


The fitness world is a much bigger place than the contents of any three books and no singular textbook is perfect. No singular certification has all the answers and no trainer knows it all.


One of two book stacks I own.  The other stack is composed of my top 30 reference texts and I also own a considerable amount of E-books and some DVD’s as well.  Had I never given away books to others, I imagine the stack would be nearly double this size. I’m told its not considering hoarding as long as it involves books.


Questions I ask myself at 3 a.m, or one that you can ask yourself…

“Can you provide a verifiable list of four personal trainers/strength coaches whose lives you have positively influenced? Someone from whom you’ve ignited a fire?”

If the answer is “Yes, I have their numbers/contact information on my phone” (or some other form of contact) then I would say you’ve moved beyond being a fitness professional, and now join the ranks of fitness influencers.  Whether or not you agree with me, you are no longer just a “Normal Trainer” and you are influencing the next generation of fitness professionals. This carries a set of responsibilities.


While it may seem that being a “Normal Trainer” is a good thing, I ask that you reconsider the term “Normal”, or at least consider the fact that “Abnormal” isn’t necessarily a negative and that “Normal” in the fitness profession isn’t always a positive.

Would you rather be the trainer that improves year by year, or the one that remains in exactly the same spot year after year? The latter is fairly normal.

My eye-opener towards re-defining normal came from working in a commercial gym and later as a private coach.  What passed for “Normal” among the majority of my co-workers or competitors was something I knew I could be better than, and falling to that level would be unacceptable. My clients and athletes deserve the best from me, and I hope to influence newer trainers to be the coach I wish I HAD.



Friend: “Bro, is that your training log?”

Me: “Yeah”

Friend: “Can I see your workouts, I need some training ideas.”

Translation: Somebody wants free stuff.


Had I let my friend look through my training log without offering any explanations one of several things could have happened:  (1) He would have copied things down perfectly, and not gained the results he was seeking.  (2) He would have modified what he saw, and may or may not have gotten the results he was seeking. (3) He would have injured himself by picking a program well beyond his ability or (4) He would have come away thinking he was reading the entries of a madman.  

Fact: What I do at any given time could be someones warm up or a trip to the hospital for another.



I suppose I should be slightly flattered that a person would be interested in the programming I’m running on myself. This request however turned into a rather lengthy conversation on O.P,P. (other peoples programs). (Just like most of the times when I’m asked to tweak someones technique.)

Basically, I showed that my programming changes to reflect the goal(s) at the time, and that each features things unique to my needs.  For example, I had a weak spot off my chest in the Bench Press.  My programming during that period was designed to improve my strength in that range, and the %’s were based on a competition maximum ( the heaviest I’ve lifted in a contest.) Furthermore, all the accessory exercises were designed to bring up muscle groups that were comparatively lagging and help drive the bench press off the chest.

This was a program designed for a singular person (me), with my relative strengths and weaknesses, my injury history, physical leverages, personality and tolerances.

My friend has no competition history, completely different leverages and technical skill and a totally different injury history.  His weak spot is currently opposite mine, and would benefit from a different approach.


Out of personal curiosity I randomly picked four pages out of my log just to see what could have happened.  I can favorably wager my friend would have injured himself if he attempted to copy some of my work.  The “Hyde sections” intensity levels are beyond his ability to recover, and while the “Jekyll sections” generally feature things he can do, they are not ideal for his needs and still feature things he cannot physically perform or recover from.

What about the workouts you find in the popular fitness magazines and online?

I’ll start by saying that they’re not all bad. I’ll further state that even in generic programming some authors know what they’re doing far more than others. Your odds of randomly landing on a program that is perfect for you and your goals based on your current physical standing is astronomically low

Believe me when I say I’ve seen some really bad stuff online and in print, and this is coming from a guy that has sat through the Fantastic Four Re-boot (at least I didn’t pay for it.)

The person (insert famous bodybuilder/fitness model/celebrity) demonstrating the workout may never have done it at all. Even if they did do it, and even if it happened to work for them doesn’t mean it will work for you.

Consider the audience and goal for which the program was written. In some magazine cases, the programs were written for bodybuilders by other bodybuilders, or powerlifters for other powerlifters.  Not for the sedentary 46 year old office worker that wants to lose his love handles and reduce his man-boobs.

You’ll also find generic collections of exercises put together without thought or nuance which follows a number of bootcamp and GroupEx models.  The workouts may be perfect for 1-2 out of every 10 people, and sub-optimal or possibly dangerous for the rest.

FACT: If the article features small dumbbell curls while standing on a BOSU ball then you’ve picked up the wrong magazine or are on the wrong website. The model may look great, but I doubt they got their physique from that exercise, or that it even contributed to a degree, they did however get better at juggling.