Tag Archives: Fitness Industry

Five Years Later

Over the past fives there has been some significant changes, while other things have remained relatively intact. I’ve changed my mind on a number of things and make no apologies.

I still prefer free-weights over machine training, however I am not as opposed to machines as I once was and they serve a purpose beyond aesthetic development.

It’s been my observation that many trainers cannot teach the proper execution of the basic barbell lifts, or even machines for that matter.  This is indicative of a problem in the certification process.  The value of courses with live components that test ones ability to perform and coach lifts cannot be emphasized enough.  Simply passing a written exam is not enough, not matter how academically challenging.

Bodyweight training has always been present, and over the past two years has increased in my programming.

I still don’t train people on unstable objects, but would if there was a direct need. Trainers that are quick to put people on unstable surfaces often have a very hard time telling me their “why?” behind the exercise.

My client base has completely changed completely, and many of the clients I had five years ago are still with me. For that, I am a blessed man.  In addition to my in-person training, I have several international clients as well as deployed military personnel.  At present, all my clients are younger than me.

Five years ago greater than 70% of my clients were older than me and nearly 100% had notable physical issues.  Although it partly contributed to minor professional burnout, part of me misses working with that population, and I still believe they are under-served.  I’ve found that I do best when my client types are relatively balanced. Being something of an extrovert by nature, I thrive with stimulation.

Due to a highly packed schedule it was previously difficult to find time to train myself.  Now I have more than enough time to accomplish both, as I intentionally limit the number of clients I see in a single day.  I’ve personally found it best to separate my training from days I train others.  Both ends suffer when I combine them, and I refuse to be one of the idiot trainers that get in their own workout during the clients paid time.

While not a present issue, If licensure for Personal Trainers were to become law, then there is a good chance that I would leave the profession both as a coach and an educator.  Would I still attend courses and keep my reading habits? I’m sure I would.  It would just suck that there would be nobody to share it with.

I have found myself moving in the opposite direction of my initial certification body.  This feeling has continued to grow stronger over the years and I don’t see things changing anytime soon.

In terms of the majority of commercial gyms, I am convinced that I am unhireable. Not so much due to my education or certifications but rather due to a combination of my age and the 100% likelihood of me speaking my mind….and the fact that I’ve been told I can be intimidating  during interviews.

My advice to first and second year trainers, if you are offered upon hire the position of assistant fitness manager/assistant personal training sales manager I ask that consider NOT taking the offer.  Did you go through the process of getting certified in the first place to sell personal training packages, or actually train people?

Professionally, I have become less tolerant of under-performers. This could be a result of age,unrealistic expectations or previous bad experiences.  I will gladly help someone trying to elevate themselves, and I continue to do so at my own financial expense. You wouldn’t believe how many books have never been returned, and even some equipment loans have failed to come back.    










“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.

(1) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4680708/Man-sues-Snap-Fitness-personal-trainer-injury.html

(2) http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/180858.php



Force Majeure

Force Majeure: An event or effect that cannot be reasonably anticipated or controlled — compare Act of God.

Unfortunately, accidents in training can happen. In the best case scenario nobody was hurt and things continue normally. In the worst case scenarios there may never be another session.  As fitness professionals we must remember that while engaged in the science and art of our profession only one thing is important and demands our full attention, the person(s) in front of us at the time.


From Hagakure, The Book of the Samurai.  It’s those small things that people trip over and creates issues that could possibly been avoided in the first place

I’ve had a machines cable snap on me and adjustable benches lose positioning under loaded movement. I’ve sat in chairs that were wobbly and seen treadmills suddenly stop moving.  While these sorts of things are not predictable, as coaches and trainers we can take measures to reduce the likelihood of accidents happening.

I have a natural affinity to hardcore chalk and iron gyms. A person would think I wouldn’t care what sort of gear I use so long as it is heavy and gets the job done. Fact is I care about my clients safety and experience. Every trainer will likely say that, but their actions don’t always match their words.


Case in point, the handle pictured above costs around $30 USD to replace. Thanks to having an internet connection I can have one at my doorstep in two days.  The gym owner/personal trainer that owns this handle was seeking input on what tape holds up longer than a few months and plenty of trainers were eager to provide input.  Aside from the biomechanical and sanitary considerations, what sort of image does having broke ass equipment laying around send to clients?

What are the odds the handles taping would be (and remain) identical in diameter?  If the diameter differs the grip pattern and muscle activations differ. Each side of the kinetic chain would be challenged differently.

SIDEBAR: Yes, I have bought equipment for my clients if I felt the gyms option was inferior. I take pride in my work and that extends to the tools that my clients use.

Several of my athletes are State and National level lifters or fighters. A lifting accident  could be hospital-level serious given the loads these people work with.  That said, even light weights are not underestimated and the same level of attention is given to my non-athlete clients.  I pre-inspect equipment prior use, including “stress testing”benches,bands and TRX units and run machines through loaded reps usually above the clients ability simply to make sure things are working properly.  I even run my fingers along the grip surfaces to feel for flaws that could cut into hands.

If something feels sketchy, it probably is sketchy and I’d rather the equipment fail on me than a client.

Words of wisdom from people far smarter than myself.
“First, do no harm” Hippocrates

“If an athlete gets hurt in training, it’s your fault.” Coach Dan John, Strength Coach and Master RKC

“Training should not lead to injury.” Coach Mike Boyle, Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning

“Accept responsibility for what you do” Coach Vern Gambetta, Gambetta Sports Training Systems

“Any “trainer” can make you tired and sore. Not every “coach” can make you a better athlete and person.” Coach Martin Rooney, Training for Warriors

In my opinion too many trainers never learned this, or somehow believe the words don’t apply to them.  Demand better.

Time Travel II (2017-1985)

I had a lot fun writing the blog Time Travel (1985-2017) I decided to write part II.  Today I go back in time to my early years in the land of Bro’s,Aerobic Thongs,Short Shorts and no Bosu’s.


     A trip back to 1985 would be a trip in more than once sense.

Muscle and Fitness was one of the major sources of information.
For better or worse, its sales eclipsed many other magazines of the era.


A first generation pull-over machine.  I have to admit I rather miss this unit.

I would realize how Machine focused things were back then, even in gyms with well equipped free-weight sections. I would further recall how BIG some of those machines were even by todays standard.


Nautilus is still in business.

SIDENOTE: I’m not a heavy machine user in most of my programming. That said, there are a few items from 1985 I would love to bring back.

For cardio (lol) there were largely only two choices: The treadmill or the bike. The elliptical,recumbent bike and steppers hadn’t come out yet and the arm and floor bikes were still in the Physical Therapy worlds. Today there are a multitude of options including my favorite “lift the weight faster.”


The Aerobics boom had started thanks largely to the movie “Perfect.” In turn, this brought us the widely popular but short lived aerobics workout thong.

SIDENOTE: Aerobics history would repeat itself in 2013 when a young lady asked me to scare away a notorious slow blinking window fogger from staring at the ladies butts in Zumba Class. This event may have been the origin story of the Belligerent Bro.


Thanks to Rocky IV, interest in minimalist training began a slow comeback, and it didn’t require one to move to Russia to gain the benefits.


Long before Original Strength, Ground Force Method,Ido Portal or Training for Warriors featured crawling methods, Rocky IV was putting in work.


Men’s gym shorts were pretty darn short. It only took one bad 1985 gym experience for me to realize the importance of selecting spotters based on both competence AND the wearing of track pants or longer shorts to spot me during Bench Presses.

A lot equipment I currently use would be nowhere to be found: The Concept II Rower,
Assault/Airdyne Bikes, Kettlebells,Indian Clubs,Maces,Safety Squat Bars,Buffalo/Duffalo Bars,Earthquake Bars,Reverse Hyper machines,TRX,Prowlers,Plyo Boxes,Speed Ropes and resistance bands were either considered outdated relics or hadn’t been invented or improved upon yet.


Neither had the Bosu Ball, but I don’t give a crap about that.  Really, where does the laughs end and tears begin with this gem?


I would LOVE to have the Planet Fitness Lunk Alarm pulled on me…. but I’ve been refused entry when attempting to get a day pass.  Yes, I was carrying a gallon jug,wearing a tank top and do tend to grunt during lifts.

It would be another seven years before the seeds of what would become Planet Fitness sprouted, and another few more years before the monthly bagel and pizza days became frequent comedy material.  Matter of fact, I believe my entry was refused on a Pizza day.

There were very few NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists or Certified Personal Trainers, making the odds of finding one very difficult.


The Idea Foundation had formed in 1985, later changing its name to the American Council on Exercise…which I feel was a good idea as the former sounds really nerdy.


It would another 2 years before NASM was formed, and despite being founded in the mid-50’s, it would be another 20 years before an ACSM CPT would show up…


I still own the 3rd Editions of ACSM and ACE’s texts as well as NASM’s 4th and NSCA’s 2nd CPT and 3rd CSCS books.  It’s not considered hoarding when it comes to books.


Because crash weight gains sound like a great idea.

Protein supplements tasted like t̶o̶t̶a̶l̶ ̶c̶r̶a̶p̶ chalk,but it was the secret sauce to how Bro’s got their gains. Creatine Monohydrate was not to make a significant appearance for another 7 years (1992 Olympics) and Amino Acid supplements were literally zoo sized pills.

1985 was a different world, and I’m very happy to have been part of it.

Time Travel (1985-2017)

(R) Steve Rogers(Captain America): The uniform? Aren’t the stars and stripes a little… old-fashioned?
Agent Phil Coulson: With everything that’s happening, the things that are about to come to light, people might just need a little old-fashioned.

I’ve made some negative comments in the past regarding commercial trainers.Trust me when I say there will be more in the future and that I am sticking with my 1-2 out of every 10 being good opinion. The fact is I happen to personally know several young trainers (5yrs or less experience) who show so much promise, and I have such big hopes for them. Today’s blog (after a one week hiatus) was inspired over a thought I had the the other day.

Is it really that bad?…or am I just being a mean old b̶a̶s̶t̶a̶r̶d̶ goat?  Perhaps I’m behind the times, and not willing or able to adapt, or perhaps I hold some attachment to the way things used to be, and am old fashioned.


The look on my face while observing stupid trainers do stupid stuff.

Personal Training is actually a fairly new industry. I’ve been part of it before my credentialing agencies were formed which means….gasp and swoon… at one time I was one of those uncertified trainers.


Over the decades I’ve bore witness to so many things within the United States and abroad. If I were to time travel 1985 me to the modern day, would I be pleasantly surprised by what I saw?

Would I necessarily think things are that bad?

I would say things heavily depends on the gym, but in many ways the trainers of today could be considered better than those of the mid to late eighties.

Education has become so commonly available that it’s accessible within a few clicks. Numerous educators have gained international renown. Unfortunately not all information is reputable and it can be a challenge to separate fact from fiction. This hasn’t changed.

Equipment quality and designs have improved. There has been plenty of items that have come and gone that may initially have seemed like a great idea, only to fail when it came to actually doing anything for you…just like the eighties.

Programming and training special populations has expanded greatly. We have benefitted from lessons passed down from Olympic Coaches, Eastern Bloc training methodology and Physical Therapists.

CrossFit came along and changed the industry like nothing before it. Personally I see more positives than negatives with this.

On the negative side, a number of the lesser quality things have also managed to remain nearly intact.

Pin setters are still taking clients though a mindless cycle of machines. While machine circuit training isn’t the worst thing one could do (and for some people it’s one of the better options) it shouldn’t be the Alpha and Omega of all training. The upside is pin-setters are less frequently seen than compared to the Nautilus heyday.


Pin Setter:  A pejorative term given to a person employed by a commercial gym that simply changes the weights pin setting on every machine the client is put through.  

BroScience is still being spouted. The funniest being when someone manages to get their BroScience wrong or cross breeds different BroScience topics.  Some of the driving ideas behind BroScience have been validated, others debunked and others partially proven true…but not for the reasons why the Bro’s initially thought.

If there’s any doubt that BroScience doesn’t exist, look no further than a well-known fitness Guru who claims that women shouldn’t lift weights over 3lbs/1.4kg as it will make them bulky.

SIDENOTE: Ask a natural bodybuilder male  (someone who intentionally trains to gain muscle) how hard it is to gain 3lbs/1.4kg of muscle.  Then subtract the loads he typically uses, his training intensity and frequency and nearly all of his testosterone.

Dinky weights won’t put on appreciable mass, and even relatively heavy ones won’t create bulky females.  They may be the starting point for a total beginner and all that an elderly or post-rehab can tolerate, but a healthy adult needs progressive overload.

Although not the best comparison, consider the physiques of the light-middle weight Powerlifter/Olympic Lifter and Crossfit female athletes.  They all lift heavy things and yet none are bulky.  At the non-Olympic level there have been plenty of ladies with less than exceptional athletic genetics that gained impressive physiques as well.

Becoming a trainer actually became somewhat easier. You don’t even necessarily need to know how to exercise. Trust me when I say I’ve seen this first hand.

In the eighties you had to be one of three things:

Somebody that looked like they knew what they were doing. This was usually the Bodybuilders, Powerlifters or the biggest/strongest/fittest people in the gym.

Somebody with a competitive background that proved they could do something.

Somebody that might not look the part or formerly was the part, but PRODUCED people who did.  These were the thinking trainers of their day.

I originally fell somewhere between the first two categories. Neither of which means you can actually train someone else but it doesn’t mean you cannot either.  I later fell forward into the third category after making a lot of early mistakes…and that was before I sat for a CPT exam.  I still consider myself a student and was surprised there was no practical evaluation of my skills needed to be a trainer.


Top Right: The Instagram Fitness Guru. Bottom Left: Fanboys/Followers/Sheeple. Bottom Center: Someone that follows the Instagram Fitness Guru’s advice and gets hurt in the process.

In Social Media The pendulum swung the other way. It appears that anyone with some good genetics, possible photoshop skills,the ability to give themselves a fancy title and post inspirational memes can be a fitness guru. Just within my local area I know three “National Master Trainers” that meet this criteria, and I wouldn’t trust them to train a dog.

I believe time traveller me would be pleasantly surprised at the amount of information available and diversity of fitness offerings within the reach of most people. I’d be happy to see that there is year around opportunities for trainers to educate themselves and that social media could be helpful in this regard. I’d be happy to know that old school iron and chalk is still practiced and people still train with a purpose.

I’d be happy that Yoga increased in popularity along with growing interest in other older training methods (Calisthenics,Gymnastics,Indian Clubs,Kettlebell et al).

I’d be real happy knowing that I’m still in the gym with a thriving load of athletes, still able to make a difference in peoples lives and still have the desire to grow professionally.

Agent Coulson was right, people might just need a little old-fashioned.

Hiring a Personal Trainer

You’ve decided that 2017 will be the year you get in shape.  You know this will take work and that you would benefit from having a professional guide you along the way.  How does one determine if the Personal Trainer they are hiring is really any good?   There are some landmines in the personal trainer ranks.


Trainers who are not certified,educated or experienced.  Social media status doesn’t equate their actual level of ability, it simply means they were able to gain a following.


Insider Fact: MLM supplement trainers don’t fare well when confronted in open forums or in the presence of trainers actually educated in the nutrition sciences.  Does this mean MLM supplements are poison? Not at all.  It simply means the product is overpriced and typically overhyped for what it is and that in many cases superior over the counter products exist for less cost.

Trainers using personal training as a bridge to get you into various multi-level marketing (MLM) schemes.  Personally I could care less if the trainer likes Shakeology,Spark or any of the other seemingly endless MLM supplements of choice. They shouldn’t be pushing the product off on clients as its minimally a conflict of interest, and typically violates most CPT organizations code of ethics.  Even worse is the MLM Trainer that tries to recruit other Trainers, and by extension their clients (aka “the easy warm leads that I’ve already formed a trusting relationship with.)

Trainers without relevant experience in training clients with your particular needs or age.

Interview your possible future trainer, ask to see the following…
A CPR/AED certification: The legitimate ones required a hands-on component such as through the American Red Cross or American Heart Association. Above all other things this represents lifesaving skills.  Some trainers include Advanced First Aid/Advance Life saving skills.


Their College Degree if they claim one: I would go so far as to check the school if you’ve never heard of it.  Possession of a degree isn’t an entry-level requirement and the majority of certifications do not require one.  Furthermore, there are plenty of people with degrees unrelated to the Health and Exercise sciences working as trainers and coaches.

Training certification: I’ve honestly never been asked to provide a copy of mine.  I believe most people assume every trainer is qualified to do their job.  When viewing a Certified Personal Trainer certification you are looking for one of two dates, the issue date or the expiration date.  CPT certifications are valid from 1-4 years with 2 years being the industry majority.  To maintain their CPT certification a certain number of continuing education hours must be met along with a few administrative needs.  I have run across CPT certifications being presented that expired ten years ago.

This includes any areas of specialization that they claim. If I were to claim that I am a specialist in training clients with Type 2 Diabetes and Post-Partum…what documentation and education do I possess to back that up?

Proof of Liability Insurance (Independent Contractors).  The industry standard minimum is a $1 million USD policy.  Commercial Trainers are typically covered under their employer but can elect to purchase additional insurance.

Nice, but not strictly required would be the ability to speak with any of the trainers current or previous clients.  Ideally ones that had similar needs to your own.

Your initial Consult: You are taking significant risks if they did not conduct an evaluation/assessment of your health history and put through a workout day one. You may really want to get going now, which is cool, but the assessment sets the foundation of where you start.  If for example, you could not touch your toes it would dangerous of me to make you pick-up loads from the floor until you can touch your toes.

What about the Non-Certified, but experienced trainer?  They are out there too, and vary just as widely in quality.  The immediate question would be asking them if the are certified or not, and if not, is it specified in their liability waiver so that the client is informed of this.

In my amateur-Lawyer opinion still opens the trainer up to tremendous liability as competence cannot be proved so easily. The easiest way to do so is by obtaining one of the established certifications. To the Non-Certified (but highly experienced and capable) trainer I sincerely recommend obtaining a certification and insurance.  You are one bad training day away from a lawsuit and bankruptcy.

CF can suck

Preface: I have several CF friends (all being well qualified at what they do) and have detailed my own experience in CF several times. In this weeks blog I pull no punches.

CF can suck.

Actually, it’s not so much CF that sucks, but rather the people running the training that cause things to suck. That said, CF typically gets the blame.  Things I’ve witnessed at various CF locations…

Allowing lifting form that bordered on obscene, if not outright dangerous. If allowed to continue the lifter will eventually pay the price for this horror show.

Trainers with dubious skill and education.  Based on conversations and observations of their actions I sincerely wonder if any certification, even a weekend one…was ever obtained.

Having clients perform exercises they haven’t earned yet. I’ve witnessed trainers do this with movements they couldn’t do very well themselves, or they could do it exceptionally well and forget that not everyone is them.

Training people at an intensity level that leaves them nauseous, or even to the point of passing out.

Trainers seemingly doing nothing beyond watching YouTube videos to “advance their education.”

Sidenote on YouTube: While nothing replaces true experiential learning, there is some quality educational material on YouTube.  The trick is in knowing who, or what to look for and the context of the information.


My suspicion that the workout was made up that day without any thought or reference to (a) The clients needs or (b) What the client has recently done.

The Near one size/One size fits all approach to training doesn’t work optimally when applied to an individual.  In a group of 5-25 people, even a well-designed workout might be perfect for 1-2 people and sub-optimal (or dangerous) for the rest unless appropriate regressions are given per person….and even then there are individual issues.

The “workout  of the day” may even be made up on the fly,and there may be no record of what the client has done in the past for reference. This in my opinion really doesn’t make it programming, much less training. It simply makes it exercise.

Sidenote on the Daily workout: Making adjustments to a session is a reality and one that all coaches should be capable.  You really don’t know what is walking in the front door and your best laid plan could change very quickly. The key is knowing where the person typically is, and which way they need to be going.

Those are some of the things that can make CF suck…or in some opinions its just another day of CrossFit right?

Actually, I was never referring to CrossFit.


You CrossFitters can stop typing the hate mail.

This is all too common in the Commercial Fitness personal training and bootcamps across the world. Everything the non-CrossFit trainers have accused CrossFit guilty of doing has been, and by all accounts still is on-going in the Commercial Fitness world.  There is even a population of trainers with no previous CrossFit education presenting themselves as capable in the method. I shall call this the Non-CrossFit CrossFit trainer.

An observation I’ve made over the years since CrossFit gained popularity is the rise of trainers trying to imitate the CrossFit model.  Less ethical trainers have even had the nerve to call what they do “CrossFit” when in reality it bears no resemblance.  Pre-CrossFit it was called “Circuit Training” and some of the methods used in non-CrossFit CrossFit are simply rebranded versions of such.

Why is this?  It’s speculation on my part, but I would wager the following: (1) CrossFit is a household word, the marketing of which has been exceptional.  (2) It typically gets things done fast and it can be done in groups. This can be very lucrative for the trainer and some people find enjoyment in group training. (3) A lazy or uneducated trainer can exploit some of the flaws in the CrossFit model and literally go day to day without a plan.

Furthering this observation, there is a growing trend of commercial gyms allocating space for “CrossFit like” training, which has to be called Functional training areas due to the fact CrossFit HQ would sue them for unauthorized use of the brand.  The space is being created for a few needs, one of which is lower cost to maintain and the other being something that draws people in the front door. On the flip side of that, walk into a CrossFit box and one thing you’re highly unlikely to see is a bunch of resistance machines.


A local commercial gym put the functional area in the middle of the gym. Names have changed but the gym used to be known for Bodybuilding (Where they got their start and still best known for), to being a garden variety Globo-Gym, to this.  The low cost/high volume/pressure sales/long term contract and and industrial era hiring practice is still in effect.

I don’t agree with everything CrossFit does,and there are a number of things they do that I find counterproductive, but nothing unique to them.  Still, it’s my opinion that the fitness industry owes CrossFit a level of thanks. No other fitness movement has changed the industries landscape the way that is has and Powerlifting, Olympic Lifting, Gymnastics, Rowers and Mobility all gained new visibility thanks to the rub-off effect. My own business improved when I demonstrated the ability to work with ex-CrossFitters, or help current CrossFitters improve a specific fitness domain and entire cottage industries, thought leaders and subject matter experts have gained new followings.