Monthly Archives: July 2017


I was recently sent a survey regarding the personal training industry.  I thought it would be fun to share some of the questions…

Do you have a personal training/CrossFit or any other fitness certificate?  Yes. 11 at present and I am currently studying and physically preparing for future courses*  I can reasonably state that my current educational resume’ will change greatly over the next 18 months as my needs have grown in both sophistication and depth.

Do you hire personal trainers/coaches? I formerly did, and occasionally I am asked to review applicant resume’s as a disinterested third party.


If so, which fitness certificates if any, do you require? This depends on the gym and its client demographics. Minimums: Current CPR/AED with a live component (not a 100% online course) and whichever certification the gym accepted.  The trainers specific credentialing agency isn’t that important to me as the certificate is only as good as the person who bears it.

Although I place better odds on the more well-known certifications than those considered fly-by-night or overly-easy to pass, the certificate alone (or lack thereof) DOES NOT MEAN the trainer is necessarily better or worse.

I have a personal bias towards certifications that are notably difficult to attain and include a proof of coaching requirement. Standard CPT certifications do not require any proof of ability other than passing a test and CPR/AED qualification.

FACT: Google “Personal Training Certification” and see how many possible results you get. I would like to see a reduction in the sheer number of personal training certifications that are out there, however I also see the value in having price points available to all

Do you think personal trainers should be licensed?  I used to, and it may one day happen.  I personally am against it as it could limit my ability to serve my athletes.  Further, I don’t believe it will weed-out the trainers that are liabilities, at least initially. It might weed out those that are not certified, but not all not all certified ones are good.

Every town has its share of bad doctors and lawyers, and its entirely possible some of  the limitations placed upon me will be made by people without any formal background in training.

I’m in a position where I can choose not to work. If I deemed that licensure was too expensive of a proposition, as it would naturally raise the costs of things, and possibly place too many limitations on what I could offer then I would leave the occupation.  I can’t possibly be the only well-educated and highly experienced near 30 year veteran holding this opinion.

That said, I think it should become harder to become, and remain a personal trainer.  The barrier to entry is low to nonexistent.  I’ve actually had people state that the practical portion of my interviews were “too tough.” The fact is, the practical was based on the material common to the standard personal training certification manual.


Do you think personal trainers should be held accountable when they breach duty of care?  Yes.  “First, do no harm” should be our mantra.  There have been notable lawsuits involving personal trainer negligence and it never ends well for the trainer.

Personally, I believe if the athlete/client/student gets hurt in training, outside of the unforeseeable freak accidents, its the trainers fault.   As trainers, we will never 100% eliminate or prevent all injuries, but we can take measures to reduce them.

FACT: I talk the talk on this one.  When teaching exercises, including benches, I typically “stress test” the equipment before the athlete touches it. I’d rather an accident happen to me than the athlete.

How can the general public, who have never worked out before, protect themselves against bad trainers?  (1) Don’t base your judgement on the # of followers the trainer has on social media. Fact is, some trainers still don’t have any major form of social media and are “word of mouth” hires.  (2) Realize that if you’re paying $10 USD a month for gym membership your odds of landing an exceptional trainer are on the low side. (3) If the trainer will willingly introduce you to his/her other clients, ideally those with similar needs to your own, it is a positive.**  (4) If the first session has very little exercise (possibly none) a screen, health history interview and talking about your goals, then this is a positive thing.  If the first session resulted in you lying in a puddle of your sweat then it isn’t.  (5) The trainer should be able to provide proof of their certifications/related degree and CPR/AED qualification. Ask to see the liability insurance of Independent trainers (those not directly employed by the gym), the industry standard is $1 million USD. (6) It helps to be observant. Before hiring a trainer, watch how they actually train other people.  (7) Some established trainers network themselves with Physical Therapists, Chiropractors and Sports Medicine Specialists.  (8) If the trainer is attempting to sell you supplements and is NOT an Registered Dietician I would proceed with extreme caution.  Minimally, they are exceeding their scope of practice and professional ethics and potentially exposing you to something hazardous to your health. (9) If the trainer DOES NOT take you on as a client, it isn’t necessarily a negative as you may have needs beyond their skills,education and experience.  Ideally, they have a trainer they can refer you to.  Personally I wish more trainers would do that, and I have a 100+ trainer network just for these purposes.

This blog features multiple articles on hiring trainers, and light-hearted (but still accurate) ways of finding trainers that suck.

* Even when there are no major courses on the horizon, I’m always studying. Some certifications and specializations have extensive academic, or physically demanding requirements.  Westside Barbell for example requires the reading and familiarity of 19 textbooks, while others courses have performance and proof of coaching ability attached.  Standard Certified Personal Trainer exams can vary between being proctored and timed (NCCA accredited certifications) to online and open book tests. Some are notoriously tough while others are frighteningly easy to pass.

** Newer trainers, or those recently hired may not have the ability of making any introductions as the clientele base is being built.




“The shortage of adequately trained strength specialists in local gyms renders the incorrect use of supplementary resistance training as a real possibility for for serious athletes.”  Supertraining 6th Ed (Expanded)

Translation: There are many trainers out there instructing others in methods that they themselves don’t know.  The downside is that the limitations of these trainers may only be obvious to well-qualified and experienced trainers. Degrees,titles or number of letters following a persons name provides no guarantee of their actual quality.

No trainer started off their career perfectly, nor does any know all there is to know.  The good ones grew over time to become what they are today, and many would openly state they are still students and far from where they hope to ascend. This is the importance of continued education, reading broadly, mentorship,asking questions and the practical application of time under load.

100% of my business is through referral from a current athlete, they were a previous athlete or they come to me on the gym floor, often after by being referred by another gym member. My business relies on several key things; (1) Honesty and Transparency (2) Not getting anyone injured (3) Results.

I spend a significant portion of my income addressing #2 and 3, and I always ask myself “How can this be made better?”

Over the past 48hrs I’ve come across an article on a trainer hospitalizing a man after a singular workout (1) and witnessed a feeding frenzy of MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) Personal Trainers trying to recruit a prospect. The former I have linked below, in the latter case, an individual simply asked if an MLM product was an effective business tool or waste of energy.

Interestingly, not one MLM trainer responded to my counter-post showing that when tested by a third-party, the product fails to live up to anecdotes and sales pitches.

FACT: In the online presence of qualified trainers, the MLM trainers typically get roasted when they try peddling their products.

Can an MLM trainer be good? I suppose they could,after all a non-MLM trainer isn’t always good themselves, but I am suspicious of those that are in the sales and recruiting portion of MLM.  To me it is a violation of professional ethics and breeches the typical trainers scope of practice. Its bad when I know details of their product BETTER than they do.

For example, the last sales pitch I received told me that by drinking their special concoction my body would be in near instant ketosis (2).  I asked “How would I know that?”  I was told I could pee on a special urine strip and it would show my level.

FACT: Don’t bring anecdotes to a science fight.

Science problem:  I could take a big dose of  ALA (Alpha Lipoic Acid) and it would render the same results while my blood panels would remain unchanged.  The urine strip would only show I pee’d out what I drank, as once in ketosis my body would be ketones as fuel, and not peeing them out.

If the trainer is strictly a consumer of the product then I’d have no issue.   That said, I believe it has been historically well-established that those who actually know nutrition and have an ability to interpret actual research tend to avoid from MLM products.  The reasons should be crystal clear.





Fat Man Skwaatts

“Bro, your best looking squats come when you widen your stance…try squatting like a fat guy.”  A Training Partner

Preface: I’m a firm believer that every clients first session with a trainer should be a assessment. I also believe the assessment process is an on-going thing, that every movement serves as an assessment (including the “Hi, How are you today?” question) and that assessments need to be matched to the clients ability.  I continually educate myself in these matters and consider myself to be mindful of the information I am taking in.

Secondly, I’ve met a number of fat guys that have rather narrow squat stances.


If only 35 out of 870 Orthopedic physical tests performed by Doctors have high clinical utility, what are the odds that the various physical tests performed by the garden variety personal trainers will have a greater level of utility?  

Screening Heresy. Just over two years ago I removed the Overhead Squat Assessment (OHSA) from my assessment toolbox. I’ve come to believe that it is a test that nearly everyone is going to fail, and only a small percentage of all my clients will ever be doing overhead squats.

Athletic people…Middle 98% of all clients…Unathletic/Injured People

I credit Dan John as the influence behind this continuum.  There are essentially two groups of outliers; The athletic types (which I will define as those that actually compete in something) and the unathletic types (down to those who have difficulty, or cannot pass simple screen tests, and can temporarily include the post-rehab athlete.)

I have several friends that are very good lifters, some having set competition records and others with high relative/absolute strength. These individuals can express their athletic abilities in various speed ranges and in complex lifts requiring different mobility/stability/flexibility/strength/speed demands. They are not reflective of the average.

The only ones that could likely “ace” an OHSA are ones with Olympic Lifting backgrounds (Oly or CrossFit) and if performed unloaded, significant Dance,Yoga or Calisthenics experience  Further, even if they aced the OHSA, things change the minute the barbell is loaded.

If the athletic end of the continuum is challenged by this movement, how do you think the other 99% are going to fare?

If the clients goal included learning Olympic Weightlifting, then I would refer them to a trainer that specializes in such, but not before they developed a decent ability to squat and deadlift first.  Loaded movements have a way exposing issues, and if I can correct the pattern to the individual I believe they can enjoy longer and safer training years.


The OHSA is sometimes performed while holding a dowel or PVC pipe.  I regard it as a very unnatural movement and I don’t believe everyones structure can perform it to that exact standard. By imposing it, I am setting some people up to fail.

“But the OHSA breaks down all the muscular imbalances the person has.” I used agreed with that line of thinking at one time too…then I started reading a lot more books, attending a lot of courses and working with broader variety of people, including the bottom and top 1% (People that need assistance to sit and stand and well-qualified athletes.)

I’m not alone in my observation that a good number of trainers don’t know how to coach the squat, and that there are some that believe the OHSA Squat and a Barbell Squat are identical in nature, or don’t realize that no two people squat the same.

How certain are we that what we are seeing is a muscle imbalance, and not a structural issue? Or perhaps the person lacks the kinesthetic awareness to perform a squat with their arms overhead?

Does the person ever sit on a toilet? If yes,That means they can squat to some degree. Their supposed inability to squat can be checked several ways which can help determine if it is a structural issue, a psychological issue (fear of falling on their butt), a motor control issue or a mobility issue. A muscle imbalance is not always my go-to answer.  Matter of fact, I consider muscle imbalances when other things have been ruled out.

The presence of pain in the squat (or any screen for that matter) means they are going to see the Dr to get it checked, even if I can get them to a pain-free range.

Their feet externally rotated or their knees caved in while they tried to squat?  Try widening their stance a little. Notice that by improving their form things magically improved. Most squat variations require a degree of external foot rotation, by limiting the contribution of bodies lateral muscles you increase the odds of knee valgus.


Credit: The Movement Fix.  Due to our unique structures we all squat differently. For example, I squat like a Fat Guy. Does standing partial squats on a Bosu sound like something that would change my structure? No! But I would get better at doing partial squats on a Bosu.

In my opinion, coaching proper movement is the best corrective exercise. A historically sedentary individual is not going to have the physical, technical or kinesthetic awareness to realize all of the non-optimized moments within a given exercise.  This is where the educated and qualified trainers can shine.

Fact: At the veteran level you are more of an educator than a trainer.