Monthly Archives: January 2018

The Training of You.

As much as I personally love to Bench Press, not everyone I coach does it, at least with a barbell.)  For those that I do teach the Bench Press, I divide them into two broad categories: (1) Competitive lifters and (2) Non-Competitive lifters.  This creates new rules and expectations.  Then there is the matter of how I teach it. People learn differently, and I want to use the method(s) best suited to the individual in front of me.

Not everyone I teach Deadlifts a barbell off the floor, although all hinge to some degree or another.

Not everyone will have a Barbell placed on their back, or put one overhead.

Certain criterion have to be met before I decide if any exercise is a good idea or not. This is an on-going process, and one of the reasons why every session,exercise and repetition serves as an assessment.

“A.I Mulchin’s (1978) analysis of body dimensions revealed the great disparity between a lifter’s maximum and minimum anthropometric indices in all weight classes.  Within the confine of one weight class, one can find athletes of unequal height and and in another, athletes who are of the same height, but have difference leg,arm and torso lengths, width of shoulders and bodyweight.

…..  The data shows that the taller the weightlifter of any body type, the greater relative length of the torso and the shorter relative length of the extremities.  With respect to this, athletes who are of different body structure have different technique parameters in the different periods of the classic exercises.”  

Managing the Training of Weightlifts, N.P. Laputin and V.G. Oleshko

Digest version: Not everyone lifts the same. The technique may appear quite similar, but there will always be individual differences in each person, even among the highly skilled. Not only that, but not everyone responds to the same exercise the same way. I believe that athletes of higher skill are more consistent, and better compensators.


Personal Trainers. Please contact me it you’re going to tell me that all your clients exercises are performed exactly the same way. I would love to know how you accomplish this feat.

A quick glance at these hips indicates that the previous owners squatted differently.  This doesn’t include the other involved parts of a squat.  Femur length for example, plays a big role in a squats external view.  What are the odds of getting clients with identical joint structures?

Not only that, but if such marked external individual differences were noted among top Russian athletes in a given sport and weight class, how can I believe there would not be such differences in non-athletes?

FACT: You cannot make the assumption that high performers, or even people that “look fit” (whatever that means) are showing up with high performing joint structures.


Two ladies of the same height (and likely same weight class) Left Lady: Longer Torso, Shorter Femurs.  Right Lady: Shorter Torso, Longer Femurs.  Do you think some of their exercises will differ in appearance?  (Credit: Bret Contreras)

I propose that dedicated personal trainers take an objective-driven way of thinking instead of memorizing the broad strokes of an exercise.

I believe that a systems based approach, where you view the external along with considering the internal actions of a given movement on a individual basis to be a better way of looking at things and how you pursue exercise selections and progressions.

We tend to focus on the external factors, and we can very good it as it can be easier to measure.  I’m not taking away from its importance, but our job as fitness professionals is to bring up the external and internal capabilities of the athlete.




DOMS, or Actually Dying?

Askhole. A person who constantly asks for your advice, yet ALWAYS does the complete opposite of what you told them to do. (Source: Urban Dictionary)

We all know at least one Askhole, and they are exceptionally common in my profession.

A guy I know recently took up weight training. Although he is completely new to training, he refuses to hire a trainer (even for a consult) and is getting all his training advice online.  I stopped giving him any help due to his being a complete askhole.

Not long ago I received this message: “Bro, how can I tell if my pectoral is torn?” To say that this triggered some alarms would be an understatement.

While I’m supportive of people getting in the gym and trying things on their own. I also recommend obtaining the assistance of professionals when needed. I have more than 100 professional contacts just for this sort of situation. My recent adventures with this gentleman indicates the first scenario isn’t going in a good direction, and that the second scenario needs to happen.

After an examination by his Dr, my suspicion proved true.  He experienced a strong case of Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and it was nearly a week (1) before he could painlessly put his own shirt on.

He’s lucky, things could have been much worse.(2)

After some interrogation, I found that this wasn’t his first experience with severe DOMS. On DAY ONE he performed an uncounted number of curl variations (basically all the curls) and couldn’t straighten his arms for several days afterward (basically he turned himself into a T-Rex.)

Remember, this is a person that hasn’t adapted to training. He also happens to be nearly the same age as myself and sits on the other end of the fitness continuum.


I know these types of images are supposed to be “motivational”, but I honestly question the sanity of any trainer posting this sort of material.

Some amount of discomfort in training can be expected,especially with beginners. That said, there is a point of diminishing returns. Being ungodly sore after exercise is not some badge of honor or proof that a workout was good. If anything, it indicates the workout was beyond your capacity and tolerances. It would be like laying out in the sun until blisters appear and calling it a “good tan.”

Excessive DOMS interferes with recovery, which is actually where the benefits of your training occur.  Pre-supposing you can make it back to the gym, your session performance could be lowered due to the soreness on more than one level.

Excessive soreness can also affect the training of seemingly unrelated body parts.  For example, the gentleman’s massively sore chest prevented his ability to put a barbell on his back for squats, get in and out of the leg press or curl dumbbells. Even the Elliptical was out of the question.

Recommendations: Start sensibly. Every Gym God started with an empty bar and built themselves up over time.  For the older guys getting back in the gym, my mantra “I’m only as good as my next workout” applies.  Your actions can decide if that workout takes place this week or after months of physical therapy.


(1) A perspective on training and recovery balance from a Masters Class competitive lifter. My training is divided over four days, two days are designated as a type of maximum effort, where I work towards the heaviest lift I can control that day.  The other two days are set at lower percentages (between 70-85% of my maximum.)  I rarely train to failure, and if I do I keep it to 1-2 exercises that involve small muscle groups, usually this type of work is done at 20-30% of what I’m capable.

24hrs after my training I do either small workouts (something I can do in 30min or so) or a form of active or passive recovery (mobility work,massage,ligament/tendon training etc)

It’s rare for me to be anything beyond mildly sore. I like leaving like the gym with a win and knowing I had another 5-10lbs or extra reps left in me.  On the platform I like knowing I gave it all I had that day.

The above is not what a beginners training looks like.

(2) On the severe end of things, Rhabdomyolysis is a condition in which damaged skeletal muscle tissue breaks down rapidly. Breakdown products of damaged muscle cells are released into the bloodstream. Some of these, such as the protein myoglobin, are harmful to the kidneys and may lead to kidney failure. (Source: PubMed)

Although Rhabdomyolysis requires a medical diagnosis, if you’re peeing something the color of Coca Cola it would be best to get to the ER.



The Way of the Bookcase.


“Once you understand the way broadly, you can see it in all things.”  

Miyamoto Musashi, Book of Rings (1643)

For years I’ve kept my textbooks on the floor along a wall.  Last week I decided it was time for a change and purchased a nice iron bookcase.  I soon realized my collection fit too perfectly, there is no room left for even a slender book.

The next day I returned to the store and ordered a second bookcase. There are simply too many things I don’t know, and every book,course,seminar,training session and conversation with colleagues continues to prove this to me.

I believe every trainer should form their own training philosophy. I further believe that trainers should base things in science and the fundamental principles of training.  One must continually educate themselves in both matters, gaining an understanding of one helps make the other easier to understand.

I was reading a local personal trainers bio recently (because I do stuff like that) and came across this line;  “His philosophy is to never do the same workout twice, so you can continue to confuse the body.”

I found this comment interesting. Interesting enough to pull some textbooks from my bookcase and do a little reading.

I’m not sure what “continue to confuse the body” means, but I speculate he isn’t talking about the biological law of accommodation. Perhaps he loads a barbell for back squats, gets the client under the bar, has them prepare to un-rack it and then run over to the seated chest press machine to fool the body into thinking it was legs day and build some massive chesticles.

While I believe that straying from the days plan can be called for, doing random things for the sake of randomness suggests that things are not being managed and that the individual is not getting better at any one thing.

I know the body responds to the demands placed upon it. I know that the nervous system can be easily fooled, but it gets smart pretty quick. I know that biomechanical efficiency makes a given exercise at a given resistance easier to perform, and that biomechanical inefficiency could result in injury.

“I think everything works for about six weeks.”

Dan John

With beginner clients, I believe they require beginner programs. I look for the hardest things they can do well, and with control. They tend require less stimulus as all stimulus is new to them. Their programs are typically fairly linear in nature, which means they take time to develop skill in a given movement pattern before progressing to a more sophisticated version.

More advanced and qualified athletes can benefit from variety in their training, and in the case of extroverts it could be the preferred approach.  The better the athlete, the better they are at compensating for things.  This means I can have greater flexibility in their programming as their bodies have been adapted to training in various ranges and directions.  It still doesn’t mean that I change their training every session.



Succesful Personal Trainers

“Don’t nobody know nothing? What up with this?”   Nino Brown, New Jack City

I recently read a question on a personal trainers board that despite a 6k membership has gone unanswered.

“What are the common characteristics of successful fitness professionals?”

I contacted the original poster asking them if I could use the question for this weeks blog.  My question was not verbally acknowledged, but I did get one of these…


Despite a love of comics, I prefer words over pics.

There are a ton of potential answers to the question. How is success being defined? I ask because some people will read past “characteristic” and focus on “successful.”

Characteristic. A feature or quality belonging typically to a person, place, or thing and serving to identify it.

Can success be tied to an annual income? Is it having a good work/life balance? Is it having a sustained business model? Is it based on the results consistently obtained in clients? Is it daily happiness in ones work?  Is it the number of social media followers one has? Is it not looking like a DYEL?  Is it simply remaining employed for greater than the average drop-off points?

People have used all of these to validate success, and I’m certain there are plenty of other measuring sticks. I’ve met trainers that meet nearly all the above, yet are actually poor trainers. I also know some exceptional trainers that only meet a few of the above criterion.


Below are some of the common characteristics of the best trainers I know based purely on my opinion.

They are largely humble about their accomplishments. They don’t speak down to those with less prestigious educational pedigrees, less enviable physiques, smaller social circles or lower income.


They enjoy teaching,but will not suffer fools gladly.

They are scholar-warriors. They continually advance their knowledge and abilities both in depth and breadth. They consistently study and can separate sources of information. They question what they read.

They have no problems saying “I don’t know” (or admit having limited knowledge on a subject) but often know someone that does. They can admit when they were wrong on a subject.

They are comfortable holding conflicting thoughts in their head. They are open to hearing/reading material that opposes their line of thinking, not just the material that supports their way of seeing things.


“To give a person an opinion one must first judge well whether that person is of the disposition to receive it or not”  The Hagakure.

They know their opinion will not be shared by all, no matter how well articulated or the strength of supporting evidence. We live in a world with a Flat Earth society and trainers that have only read one book.

They let principles guide their practice, not fads.

They realize it’s not the tool, but what you do with the tool that counts.

They can explain complex things simply.  They do not talk like they swallowed a Latin dictionary, unless they need to.

They don’t get their clients hurt.

They don’t bring anecdotes to a science fight.  If they DO bring anecdotes, they state such and do not attempt to pass it off as facts.