Tag Archives: Dragon Door HKC Las Vegas

The 20% Challenge

“I’ve come to believe that there is an 80/20 reality to things. 1-2 out of every 10 trainers are skilled to well skilled. These are the “thinking persons trainers” and compared against their peers they can often seem over-qualified. Another 1-2 out of 10 can reach that level with mentorship,education,time and personal dedication. Some reach this level faster than others and age is not an indicator.”      “80/20”  June 2016 (1)

I ticked some people off following the 80/20 blog and its eventual follow-up. What I never addressed were the challenges faced by the 20%, and the 10-20% of trainers that are actively working towards professional growth.

Personally, I owe some thanks to the 80%. If it weren’t for them I might not be where I am today, and they remind me why I continually drive to improve myself. I want to crack that 20% range someday, and I can say I’m closer this year than I was last year.

FACT: NO TRAINER started off automatically in the 20%, this includes those with degrees and the CSCS or any other fancy combination of letters after their name.(2)  The 20% worked hard to improve themselves to get to that point, and for the dedicated it is a never-ending process. It would be arrogant of me to assume that I’m in the 20%,but every year I get better than before.  Furthermore, I recognize areas which I consider myself in the 80%, and thankfully have the benefit of knowing whom to consult or refer out when needed.

The 20% can face the challenge of being surrounded by people whom they cannot professionally relate.  The fact they perform similar functions and cannot communicate on the basics and scientific principles of training can be mentally draining.

In some cases, the 20% trainer may be viewed negatively simply because they do things differently from the majority.  If the majority of trainers are having clients perform random circuits and exercises with little attention to form, and the minority are prescribing client-defined exercises with suitable levels of progression then the latter might appear to be the oddballs.

Interestingly, when the minority are viewed positively it seems that little managerial effort is given towards retaining them, or at least leveraging their positive qualities to improve the majority.

For some of the 20%, it can be demotivating to pursue costly, academically demanding or physically challenging continuing education courses when your co-workers are looking for the paths of least cost/least resistance…and they still sit on their thumbs until the last minute to complete even those small requirements! (3)

what-youve-just-said-is-one-of-the-most-insanely-19798259TRUTH TIME:  It can be hard to listen to some trainers talk or try rationalizing things, and even harder to watch some of them with their clients. At one point I tried telling myself to not let it effect me, but I’ve since changed my opinion and don’t want to ever become numb to what amounts to malpractice.

(1) https://mytrainerchris.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/8020/

(2) Will likely generate more hate mail.

(3) Or worse, they think attending YouTube University is the same as actually attending a live course and being tested on the material by a subject matter expert.

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Snob Trainers

From Merriam-Webster                                                                                                                   Snob.  a : one who tends to rebuff, avoid, or ignore those regarded as inferior
b : one who has an offensive air of superiority in matters of knowledge or taste.

From the Book of Bro                                                                                                                             Snob: An A̶$̶$̶h̶o̶l̶e̶ that often seems to fall short of their self-proclaimed skills and abilities. Generally not seen training with heavy weights. (1)

Over the course of the last six weeks I’ve ran into two snobbish trainers. I’ve run into people like this in past, but never with this frequency.

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(L) Snob (R) Me. Personally, I view academic/trainer snobs as a type of bully.  People that I happen to love chin checking by putting them into situations where I know they are disadvantaged…just like they do to others.

ExPhys Trainer asked me what degree I held.  Mind you, I wasn’t applying for a job and the entire conversation started off as basic small talk.  I detected an odd from him when I told him that my degree is in Communications.  He responded with “My degree is in Exercise Physiology, don’t you see having a non-Exercise related degree as a occupational handicap?”

Short Answer: No.

After saying no, I asked when he graduated, which according to him was 2003.  I asked what happened since then, why didn’t he go for his Master’s. He said the financial burden of an additional 18-24 month of schooling deterred him.  Once again I’ll take his word for it.  I nearly asked “So what really happened, did you fail to get into medical school?”

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Then I asked if he ever planned on adding any weight to his bar.  My first warm-up weight was heavier than his current loading.

FACT: My education didn’t end in 2003.

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I honestly hoped that ExPhys Trainer would be up for some Bench Pressing.

WXYZ Trainer: “If you’re not certified by WXYX, then you lack credibility as a trainer.” (2)

I had no response for this, nor do I think one would have even been heard.  In this persons mind, there is only a singular certification body that has anything to offer.  I find this interesting as the references within the companies primary textbook come from two other well-known credential granting agencies.  

The WXYZ Trainer stated the three certifications he presently holds, and being fair I feel the companies texts do a good job of connecting with each other.  That said, it could be argued that Mr. WXYZ has only read one book. (3)

The WXYZ agency does seem to produce the most certified trainers and is favored by some employers. In my opinion, it is the trainer that makes the certification, not the other way around.  Trainers that are good are good because of their continued efforts in learning and improving, the exact after their name matter little.  Further, no singular course or text is ever perfect.

Would I hire a WXYZ certified trainer? Sure, if they can pass both a practical and coaching skills test and don’t come off as a Snob.

(1) Snobs will be armed with a multitude of reasons why they are not seen around heavy weights.  The classics include “Squats are bad for the knees”, “Deadlifts are bad for your back”  “Weight training is over-rated” and “I used to Bench 315 in High School.”

Higher level Snobs will be able to recite singular lines from (possibly outdated) singular websites or studies that provide confirmation bias. My favorite is when they misinterpret what was actually stated, or state something that has been scientifically proven as false.

(2) “WXYZ” is my way of not naming-names.  The actual certification is one of the most well-known within the fitness industry and isn’t a bad certifcation, but not nearly as good as many people like to think either.  It comes down to whether or not you can apply the material and know when to look elsewhere for answers.

(3) Have a box…Know whats inside the box….Make a bigger box…Know whats outside the box….If needed,know when to burn the box.

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.

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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.

 

 

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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

 

Sabbatical

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I’ve been on sabbatical for a little while now, but haven’t dropped off the grid.

I parted ways with Iron Addicts Gym Las Vegas due to a disagreement regarding our business relationship.  I worked as an independent contractor for the gym, which meant I paid a monthly fee to rent space in the gym and was responsible for obtaining and retaining my own clientele along with maintaining personal liability insurance.  I was not an employee or paid by the gym in any way.

I believe the gym owners were wrong by insisting that I wear the gyms shirt whenever I trained my clients. I would not be allowed to wear personal branded shirts or any other suitable shirt.  Mind you, I had been renting space in the gym for more than two years, and this rule came out of the blue.  The gym is not a franchise operation and is Iron Addicts in name only.

This unforeseeable situation represented not only a contractual issue, but also a slippery slope. Would I be told to change the branding on my business card? What about any social media platforms that I have? How about having to perform janitorial duties on messes that I, or a athlete of mine didn’t create?

The decision to leave was both difficult and easy, and not without some follow-on pains. It was made easy by the fact that I don’t NEED to work for a living.  Fact is, I never did.

Since then, I have remained unemployed as a private strength coach.  Some of that time I believe was due to feeling down about things, but I fully accept the consequences of my decision to stand up for myself, and have put my time to very good use. I still study daily, and have two live courses already lined up. Daily study has been a habit for so long that I can’t see myself changing.

My sabbatical has allowed me to become nearly a full-time student and opened up greater time to train myself. My training log proves I’ve gotten stronger, having to give away shirts proves I gained size and I would like to think I’ve gained an I.Q. point or two from the studying. I still consult for a number of individuals,including other trainers and administrate a small international online network of health and fitness professionals.

I honestly believe I will come out of this sabbatical a better coach than I am now, and I can’t stand the thought of 2018 me being no better than 2017 me.

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Watching YouTube isn’t the same as Education.  I don’t believe there is any controversy to this opinion.  In fairness, I can say the same applies to blog sites such as this.

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There are trainers out there that consider YouTube a go-to resource.  Why do I have the feeling they view Wikipedia in the same light?

Yes, there are some YouTube sites putting out exceptional material that can either serve as an adjunct, or possibly clarify a topic through visual examples. The trick is managing to land on a page that is putting out quality information.  Overall I find YouTube to be handy and have picked up some gems over the years.

If you did you manage to land on a quality YouTube channel, the material covered can often require a level of understanding beyond what the video covers.  For example, I know that a kettle bell swing video from StrongFirst, RKC or StrengthMatters will demonstrate exceptional technique.

As a person that has attended the StrongFirst Kettlebell three and single day courses, along with working with three different SFG instructors, and having attended Dragon Doors HKC certification, I can assure you that there is a reason why half a day is spent covering the swing.  

Personally, I believe its possible to spend more than an entire day on single technique.  It comes down to how much knowledge the instructor can pass on and the level of the class.

Remember, with the possible exception of the StrongFirst single day course, people TRAINED  to be ready for these courses.  Hiring an SFG/RKC/SMK certified coach in advance is a wise idea and well worth the investment.

How well do you really think you’ll understand something when the sum of your education came from watching some YouTube videos? Well enough to apply it to another human? Well enough to pass a testing criteria under the eyes of a coach that actually does knows what they’re doing?

The world is full of  YouBoob trainers. This is a profession that sincerely needs more professionals, and less amateurs.

Be Real.

 

“Look the Part”

Them: “So were you a gymnast, or a sprinter?”                                                                  

Me:  (Hearty Laugh) “Neither, I’m a stiff biff and move at the speed of a tectonic plate”

Truth time, I enjoy the programs offered through GMB (1) and am not the worst sprinter in the world thanks to Training for Warriors level 2.  My stiff biff and tectonic plate comparisons are a bit off and looking like a gymnast or sprinter certainly isn’t the worst look (or more importantly, physical abilities) to have at any age.

In the eyes of a gym goer and a coach that didn’t previously know me, I “looked the part” of a person that was/is one or the other.  While I am not without some skill in teaching bodyweight strength training or improving sprinting form, I don’t consider myself an expert in either.  There are other coaches that fill that need and its good to have them on speed dial. I gladly refer business their way and only ask that they return my texts. (2)

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I didn’t look the part of a Powerlifter, much less a coach that happens to teach the Powerlifts (Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift and their variations)  What were they expecting? The classic big guy with a power gut that gets out of breath eating third lunch?  While there is some truth to the stereotype, it is not representative of all Powerlifters. One visit to Powerlifting meet will prove that fact when you see the lighter weight classes compete.

Mind you, I genuinely liked these people at first meeting, and I can fully understand their perception, especially since I had just dropped off a horizontal bar working on lever holds.

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On one side is what the trainer looks like. On the other is what they are actually capable of doing, and how well they do it. While I believe a balance can be achieved, I favor the side of ability. 

I can reasonably speculate the entire “Looking the part” thing stems from three major sources;  (a) Gym Bro’s that look particularly impressive and won’t take advice from anyone that doesn’t look MORE impressive than they do. (b) Trainers that look a certain way, and believe that no trainer that looks otherwise is qualified to lend an opinion.  (c) The general publics belief that the better the trainer looks, the better they are at training other people.

Speaking on behalf of the Gym Bro’s, I’ve observed a small gradual shift in this line of thinking, and that a percentage of serious Bro’s will seek qualified information regardless of what the source looks like.  They live in a world of results, if a smaller or fatter trainer can get the results they’re seeking, they will listen.

Older trainers can swing either way and be viewed as being either highly knowledgeable or not in touch with modern training science.  As an older trainer myself I will state that wisdom (in training) does not always accompany age.

Possibly BroScience on my behalf, but based on observations I’ve found many of the trainers that overstate the importance of a trainers appearance tend to lack in other areas.  I can’t fault them for playing their strengths, but applying that thinking broadly is illogical.

As a trainer, especially one that deals with the general population, I can understand that overweight or underweight trainers finding themselves at a disadvantage in terms of perceived credibility.  This can be professionally overcome, however it can be an uphill battle.

I believe the worst-case scenario would be a trainer that doesn’t look the part and cannot perform the part either.  Having seen this firsthand, my standing advice in this is if the trainer is serious about this profession, they need to hire a trainer of their own (ideally more than one) and spend a year in the trenches learning the craft.

(1) My testimonial for GMB: https://gmb.io/reviews/#is

(2) Sprinting Education: https://primalspeed.com/events/