Tag Archives: Coach development

Postures and Ideals

Digest Version: If you’re going to correct a persons technique, make sure you truly know what it is you’re seeing, and how to address the issue. Don’t bring opinions to a science fight.


Me vs a Drawing: My elbows come closer to my body, my grip is narrower, my feet are turned out slightly, my abs are not nearly as well defined but my lats are far bigger….and I’m browner.

One day in a gym not my own….A guy told me that I shouldn’t bench press (with a barbell) or Deadlift (again, with a barbell), and that there are safer ways to build my chest and legs. Barbell Bench Press and Deadlifts weren’t ideal exercises for me. Mind you, this person was a total stranger. Our only previous interaction was my asking him to spot me for an effort.


SIDENOTE: I’ll agree to the fact that there are safer options than Barbell Bench Presses and that Deadlifts can be done with safer things than barbells.

When I asked “Why?” his response was that the Bench Press and Deadlift both create internal rotation of the shoulders…and left it at that. I could understand it if my technique was poor and I had no control of the load, but this wasn’t the case.  Proper technique takes care of that issue pretty well.

Mental notes formed within seconds…        

F7-21 Lim IR_PS Capsule

Internal Shoulder Rotation test.

I have no major history of shoulder injuries and don’t present pain in any given shoulder range. He never asked.

There is a slight structural difference between my left and right shoulder. Although it could stand improvement, my internal shoulder rotation is actually within normal ranges. He never asked or checked.

I typically only Deadlift once per week, and bench twice per week tops. Unless preparing for competition, I may only train maximum effort level 1-2x per month. I also use the ShouldeRok and Indian clubs daily along with a few lift specific mobility drills to keep my shoulders healthy. I don’t just Bench Press and Deadlift. He didn’t ask anything about my current training, he didn’t even ask if he could observe some repeated efforts just to see if it was a case “one off rep” or an actual lift issue.

I’m a competitive powerlifter in the Drug-Free Masters Raw Division. As such, I compete in the Bench Press and may compete in Deadlift as well. For me, Benching and Deadlifting are sport-specific to what I do. He didn’t ask me about my training history, training status or goals.

I left out the fact that the legs are only part of what the Deadlift builds. For all I know he does some squatty type of Deadlift. I bypassed all of those bullets and went straight for the heart.

“Why should internal shoulder rotation be avoided so heavily when it is a naturally occurring action, couldn’t internal rotation be managed during the set up and execution of the lift?” He couldn’t provide an answer.


The guys brain in action after my single question.  I could only imagine how it would have went down had I unloaded on him.

In his head, he had an idealized set of postures and ideal angles. That what he saw for a single repetition and zero knowledge of the person lifting the load was “wrong” and something else was “right”, but he couldn’t explain why he believed them to be wrong.

I can’t back this up, but I have the suspicion the guy may have been a trainer.  I don’t know, I didn’t ask.


Going off the possibility of my suspicion, according to a number of trainer textbooks there seems to be an assumption that there is an idealized posture, with ideal angles of body alignments and that they are identical for everyone. While it is certainly possible to lift something incorrectly, at least according to the intent of the exercise, I believe a few fundamental assumptions are flawed,and aim to challenge that belief.


Despite not having any moving parts, the Kettlebell is quite possibly the most technically butchered piece of equipment in a gym based on the intent of the exercise.

Absolute positions such as “this is wrong” and “this is right “ may only serve to reveal a lack of insight into evaluation and understanding.  I think every discussion regarding ideal body type, posture or alignment has to be prefaced with the question “ideal for what, and for whom?” and “ideal compared to what standard?”

Having an insight into the variety found in a given movement, and being able to transfer observations to another persons needs is key. In short,being able to adapt an exercise to an individual, and knowing the “why” behind the exercise.

Four things that I believe can somewhat be agreed upon…
There isn’t an ideal body type, there are simply human shaped people.
Although there will always be exceptions, certain activities often favor certain body types. This is why we typically don’t see Sumo sized Figure skaters.
The human body is amazingly adaptable. Look how many people lost their asses simply by sitting in comfy chairs all the time.
The human body will adapt to the external requirements it encounters. Adaptation does not need to be forced.

In high-level athletics an Olympic weightlifter has completely different physiological and kinesiological needs compared to a same weight/age/gender Olympic marathon runner. Within those two sports, specific lifters and runners have different requirements compared to other competitors.

In gymnastics, you will see different body types according to the event the athlete is strongest in. For example, Mens Rings specialists, Pommel Horse specialists and Floor specialists all appear slightly different. This doesn’t mean they cannot compete in all the events, just that they are superior in one of them.

Physiques, and postures will accordingly change in response to the demands placed upon it, Different leverage (arm,leg and torso length proportions) will change how an exercise is experienced or viewed. There is an idealized set of angles and ranges per person, and it may not look like the textbooks drawing.


On Movement Skills (Part 6)

The quality, condition, or fact of being exact and accurate.

In practical application this is putting quality before quantity. It requires physical and mental discipline and ideally a coach with the patience to say “again” endlessly and always having an eye on the small details that lead to performance improvement.

I do not expect a beginner to be perfect in one session. Everyone starts somewhere and learning curves vary greatly from person to person, or even technique to technique. Each training practice we seek to improve on the last practice. Once a gross motor pattern is established we continually hone those techniques.

It’s my opinion that too many people simply want to get through a workout, believing that they are getting something from the workout. This method does not lend itself to precision.

A person will get something as the initial changes occur internally,and over time externally as well as precise form is not a requirement for muscle growth. However this is not the safest path and you will eventually pay the penalties for this.  My advice to lifters over age 40 is “You are only as good as you next session.”

The lift set-up for example is something that many trainees and trainers take for granted. The number of times I’ve seen trainers put clients through an exercise with little to no instruction or even correction of the broad strokes amazes me.

In the barbell and kettlebell lifts a persons safety, competence and performance begins with the set-up. Foot placement, bar placement, handle position,learning what muscles to activate in which sequence,breathing pattern and body placement relative the load all come into play along with numerous other details.

In the case of the basic barbell deadlift I can come up with 12 points before the bar even leaves the floor.

Some set up details change according to the type of deadlift (Deficit,Sumo,Trap Bar,Axle etc) the tool (barbell,Sandbag,Kettlebell) or the users anthropometric proportions. The coach needs to be intimately familiar with each according to the needs of the client. As I’ve stated in previous blogs, if you change the angle,grip or tool you change the lift and you change the exercise experience. That change isn’t necessarily good for the person experiencing it.

An alteration in hip height creates a deadlift that beats up the lower back (hips too high) or creates a strange squat/hinge hybrid (hips too low.)

An alteration of hand or foot width positioning increases or decreases the vertical distance path.

Placement of the bar relative the lifters center of mass alters the lifts efficiency.

Engagement or non-engagement of the triceps and Lats completely change the exercise.

The rules of proper set-ups and working towards precision in a movement are not solely for barbell or kettlebell movements. Both machines and bodyweight exercises have user defined proper set-ups as well.

This is a detractor of some machines as many lack an adequate amount of adjustments and in some case are poorly engineered with resistance curves not in line with the exercises strength curve. There can be significant differences within a companies line of a single piece of equipment,much less manufacturer to manufacturer. The fixed path can be either a benefit or a detractor depending on the desired outcome.

A converstation I’ve had with clients holding multiple gym memberships is that with machines, unless they are using the same model they will need to re-dial a set as 50lbs on one brands chest press could feel very different than another brand chest press.

As much as I like them this is also an issue with some bodyweight exercises as getting two consecutive repetitions consistent with each other can be very difficult.

I instill a sense of precision in my students and athletes by first demonstrating the movement about to be taught.  This means anything I teach I must be both physically and academically schooled, that I have utilized the tool enough to have developed a level of physical empathy and know what a person is going through when they perform the exercise.  A common cue from me is that we are doing single reps, and we will do X number of them.  Focus only on the single rep.

When possible I relate the exercise to previously learned material and demonstrate the areas that are “same but different.”  In some cases I will break the technique into manageable chunks, such as in the Turkish Get Up or the Bench Press.

Form,precision and volume are placed before intensity. A few mistakes along the way are not always a bad thing.  Depending on the exercise, I will show how a proper vs improper exercise feels, just enough to demonstrate and not enough to demolish. On the more demanding exercises I use myself as the example as I have better control and a greater amount of strength.

I’ve always enjoyed seeing a person enjoy the feeling of a precise movement after having performed an untold number of improper movements.


Paper Waivers (AKA Chris on Intellectual Bullies)

I’ve seen ugliness from trainers on both sides of the fence. From the side of the “Bro’s” and from the highly degreed types and those with a lengthy string of letters after their name.

As someone that’s been on both sides, I think I can offer fair view of things from the perspective of an educated Bro.

I’m not out to mock those who purse college or any form of education. College represents the opportunity for a person to begin exploring the world and figuring out who they are in it. Not everyone is afforded this opportunity in life.

Training is not jut about the diploma, certification or credential you attained but what you took away from the experience and how well you can apply what you’ve learned.

Too many times I’ve seen “Certified Trainers” and Exericise Physiology or Exercise Science graduates without a clue of what they should be doing.

Yet those same people are quick to look down on those they consider to be “lesser” trainers ( those that earned CPT from other groups, the uncertified trainers or the certified non-degree holders.)

I am the last person to mock or talk down someone that is working hard to bettering themselves. That said, If you’re using that diploma or certification to mock other people, then I have big issues with your behavior.

To the intellectual bullies I say the following; NOBODY has a monopoly on training,exercise or nutrition science and your insights, while not entirely without value, are not as unique as you might think.

Be kind to those that come to you for help, appreciate the fact they asked in the first place. The world is big and I can assure you that if you can’t enlighten people without being an absolute pompous ass there are numerous others who can, and do a better job of it.

There are gyms across the planet that border on dungeon like conditions filled with members passionate about their iron sports and train to be the best the version of themselves.

That demands a degree of respect and an admiration to live with that intense level of purpose and drive.

The fun and light beach Bootcamp you run with all the bodyweight circuits won’t survive here.

Its likely you wouldn’t either.

Can your MS/BS/CPT help a person improve the lap set up and transition into the log press, add to her long cycle or fix issues in the bench presses mid range two weeks before competition? How about knowing when chains and bands should be brought in, when a de-load or hypertrophy phase is required or how to train using unconventional methods and equipment?

Do you even know how perform any these lifts?

It’s my opinion that whether or not you’re degreed/certified does not mean you are necessarily qualified.

Further, don’t ONLY be degreed/certified, but rather DO what requires getting done in order to qualify as a trainer to others,as opposed to only possessing knowledge.

Honestly, if it boiled down to hiring a trainer who was either well-read and book smart only, or the guy with no formal education with decades of experience and a history of client success I’m going with the latter 100% of the time.

I happen to be certified with multiple credentials along with a degree and have been a trainer pre-dating the formation of one of my certifying bodies. I was an international level athlete and have nearly three decades of experience and perhaps of greatest value learned from making tons mistakes not covered in college or featured on page 123 of the CPT books.

I knock no one whose heart and intentions are sincere,that walk the walk,talk the talk and chalk the chalk.

The difference between the great trainers and merely passable comes down not to some piece of paper but to a single muscle.

That muscle is the Heart.