Tag Archives: Fitness

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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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The Bosu Blog

I’ve made a lot of comments in the past on Bosu’s and figured it would be a good week to devote a blog to it.  I might possibly put aside opinions that I’m a Bosu Bigot.

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“The more incompetent the trainer, the weirder the exercises.”                                        Charles Poliquin

BOTTOM LINE UP FRONT: I’ve said it before and I will say it again; I don’t hate the Bosu, it is the silly stuff trainers have their clients do with them that I hate. As with any tool (Bosu,TRX,Kettlebell,Barbell et al) we cannot argue which tools have, or do not have merit until we know who the client is, where they are starting from and what achievement we are trying to unlock.

While not totally without its use, I consider the BOSU (in too many cases) to be ineffective,overused/misused and based on risk vs reward potentially dangerous. There are certainly more effective or efficient ways of training, but it CAN be a tool worth adding into a clients program…generally for a relatively short term and not often in the very beginning of training.

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A Short Bosu History
The BOSU Ball (AKA BOSU Balance Trainer): Was developed in 1999 and is a 14lb inflatable hemisphere with a rigid base. BOSU is short for “Both sides Up, or Both sides utilized.” The BOSU falls under the continuum of Unstable Surface Training (UST) which includes Inflatable discs and Balls, Balance Pads and Beams,Wobble Boards and similar devices that offer various degrees of balance challenge.

WHAT RESEARCH ON UST HAS SHOWN SO FAR….
The BOSU/UST has proven useful for:
Upper Body Prehab/Post Rehab
Upper Body Deloading periods (Strength Trainees)
Ankle injury rehabilitation
Some abdominal exercises

It has been claimed to be useful for….
Active Aging populations/Fall Prevention
Youth Training
Sport Performance
Recovery from Breast Cancer

It has not been proven useful for….
Strength/Power Training (Increasing Absolute Strength or Rate of Force Production) or
conferring any balance benefits to stable surfaces in healthy populations.

Balance training and Strength training are separate things, It is my opinion that strength training can improve balance, but balance training only modestly might improve strength.

Two of my programming guidelines
1-Stable before Unstable.
2-Simple before Sophisticated.

Neither exercise here benefits greatly from the addition of the Bosu.  The Bosu does however make them complicated to perform and increases risk factors.  My personal opinion here is the addition of the Bosu alters the exercise biomechanics in a potentially unfavorable way, and minimally makes each exercise difficult to perform consistently. 

What is often seen is trainers going straight to the Bosu in a well-meaning, but misguided attempt to improve a clients balance. It’s also entirely possible the trainer had no plan in place and saw the Bosu as an “easy time killer.”  In either situation, what possibly hasn’t been considered is that balance is a skill, and skill must be progressed.

In the case of UST, one could progress from standing on objects with greater relative stability first, then moving onto objects with decreased stability as skill improves.

Long before Mr. Miyagi and Daniel-san took a trip to the beach…
When I was 12yrs old I was very involved in Karate and competed frequently. I had just learned a new Kata (a pre-arranged form) which involved numerous movements that pivoted, contracted and high kicked from single legged positions.

Despite my young age I was fully aware that my instructor was keen on making sure students KNEW and OWNED their techniques. What I didn’t know was that my instructor never put me through anything that he knew I wasn’t prepared to do. He made sure that I was progressed to a point where the movement was a possibility for me.

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No, I didn’t grow hair or magically change my race.  The gentleman shows great form here.  From this position  a head height side kick and 180 degree turns must be performed. It’s an advanced form typically taught above Black Belt level.

“It is one thing to be quite strong, and quite another thing to display it.”
                   Louie Simmons

Athletically speaking I was able to apply the same movements under live sparring conditions (I had, and greatly enjoyed kicking people in the head.) This meant I had the technical skill, flexibility,mobility, timing and distancing down. I had difficulty in competently controlling the moves from a static posture.

Remember,I was 12 and I hadn’t yet visited my first gym. All weight training up to this point was some basic bodyweight, rock lifting,Sears Dumbbells and pig iron (an unknown, and uneven amount of weight fashioned into a crude barbell)

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One Saturday I was watching Kung-Fu theater of TV (Loved that show!) and there was a Kung Fu master making his student practice his balance on various challenging but stable objects throughout the movie. As the student improved the masters balancing challenges increased.

I was inspired.

When the movie ended to the backyard I went and began practicing balancing on whatever surfaces would hold my weight. I started with cinder blocks and progressed to smooth rocks, stumps, rails of various widths and even along the top of a wall. Within a short time I got the point where I could walk along edges of rather thin rails,stand on one foot performing very similar motions to my Kata.  Mind you, as soon as balance work was done for the session I was re-trying the movements again, being as exact as I could while standing on the floor and training local leg muscles with some ankle weights.

Two weeks later I had no problems with balance in the Kata, and even used it in competition as a primary or secondary choice. I didn’t become much faster, stronger or  gain flexibility, but I did improve my ability to stand and execute complex movements on one leg. That was my entire need at the time and my amateur hour training transferred to a very specific need.

FAST FORWARD to 2017….                                                                                                                 Training done on unstable objects isn’t useful for developing the type of balance, proprioception or strength that’s generally useful in sports, unless the sport itself is also performed on unstable surfaces. Even then, it has its limitations.

What my amateur-hour efforts did was demonstrate the SAID principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) and Transfer of Training to Sport.

SAID Principle: This principle basically states that the body will best improve and adapt by a closely related and specific mechanisms. The body does far better at focusing on a type of training for one goal in mind rather than multiple types with every goal in mind.

Transfer of Training to Sport: (Also known as the Transfer Principle) means training in practice conditions that best prepare athletes for sport competition. This involves matching training activities to energy demands (strength,endurance) of a sport but also developing the techniques and skills to produce the best outcomes.

Q&A                                                                                                                                                              “What about the Bosu as a core training device?”
For those thinking that BOSU training activates the “core” in standing exercises, observe an untrained person struggling to balance on one. You’ll see the legs and feet straining, not the core muscles. That said, there are abdominal exercises performed sitting on the BOSU that seem to activate the muscles quite well and the risk of injury of injury is very low.

“What about this Risk vs.Reward?”
Accidents have happened when trainers have caused serious injuries by putting clients on the BOSU with flat side up. You could be held responsible if an injury happened on your watch because there is a very faint warning on the ball stating they don’t recommend using the device flat side up.

If I thought of that, don’t you think a sharp lawyer would have thought of it too?

“But it improves balance right?, haven’t you heard of proprioception?”
Actually I have heard of proprioception. Proprioception is the sensory information that provides a sense of position of self and movement. Your bodies position in space is perceived at the conscious level to do complex motor activity, and at the unconscious level to set posture during sitting, standing and simple gait activities.

Center of gravity isn’t something that can be trained. It’s a concept used in physics, not a physical things. Balance and proprioception can be trained though, but they should be trained in a manner that’s useful. Which means that it’s the individual, or perhaps an object lifted that is the unstable object, rather than the surface they’re standing on.

As stated previously UST can be effective n the context of physiotherapy. It’s either being used for rehabilitation, or to address issues that have developed due to aging and there is research and anecdotal evidence supporting this use. This doesn’t mean that unstable surface training can be extrapolated as being beneficial to healthy individuals.

If the client has a lower limb injury their proprioception might be off a bit. In this case UST serves a purpose, but not straight to the BOSU (too difficult), and not something I would need to do for very long either. The goal would be to return them to a functional baseline and improve performance as they are not commonly standing on wobbly surfaces throughout the day.Based on available evidence there is no transfer of training between UST to real world stable surface applications.

So yes, it will improve your balance and righting reflexes …on unstable things.

From Science and Practice of Strength Training (2nd Ed. Zatsiorsky,Kraemer) “Strength is a MAJOR component of balance and you’ll get much stronger via stable surfaces as compared with unstable. Neuromuscular control can be improved with stable surface training.

The equation: Stability=strength+neuromuscular control.

Improved balance is a byproduct which can be done with stable surface training.

Which begs the question, how was balance trained before 1999? (or before Chris reenacted Kung Fu theater in his neighborhood) Off the top of my head…Balance Beams,Unilateral Exercises,Split Stance Exercises,Yoga (especially for a beginner) and walking (which requires a lot of balance.)

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The Suitcase carry is a legit exercise that challenges balance. In this case, it seems it would make single leg balancing slightly easier despite being on the Bosu.  I’m not doubting the guys ability to recover from a loss of posture while holding a load, but I can’t say the same for a post-rehab client, nor would I risk it.  I believe greater benefit would be to ditch the Bosu and walk around with the load on stable surfaces.

Carrying, Squatting, Lifting or Pressing a load with only one hand, or with one hand and the opposite foot lifted on a stable surface certainly challenges ones balance and can confer more benefits. It’s also easily quantified and repeatable. I’m decently athletic and I don’t think any two Bosu based movements I would do would be very alike.

The standard squat certainly is balance challenge, and it could be regressed enough that it is achievable by nearly all client populations.  Not just the ones that work for Cirque De Soleil.

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The Why and The WTF.

An advantage to going to the gym five days a week is the ability to observe others.  More often than not its the trainers, specifically it’s how they are training their clients that momentarily diverts my attention.

I consider myself pretty good at blocking things out and simply concentrating on the work at hand. That said, there are things once seen that cannot be unseen. THis is where the mental note taking begins, starting with the word “Why”, and sometimes…

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To gym goers everywhere: Just because you saw a trainer doing something doesn’t automatically make what they’re doing right. Even if it is right, it doesn’t automatically make it right for you.

Training is client defined and client refined. There is no real standard to how a techniqe can be performed and still be “right.”  I’m ok with people performing exercises differently. Just because something appears different doesn’t automatically make it wrong. Right or Wrong depends on the “Why” and “Why are you doing this?”

Is there a legitimate reason behind the technical alteration, or is it different simply to be different? Sometimes it’s the former, unfortunately it is often the latter and wrong is wrong. 

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A local area trainer. I’ve got nothing here. 

OK I got a few things, Starting with “WTF is this person thinking?”  The lady on the bottom is performing what appears to be either a skull crush exercise (a legitimate Tricep exercise) or possibly a barbell pull-over exercise (a legitimate Lat exercise.) I’m not removing the possibility that it was some other exercise, such as a barbell V-up, which given the full situation would make even less sense.

Why are her feet are on a ball?  Both ladies are one loss of posture away from having a very bad day and unstable feet on either presumed exercise add nothing of value.

Why is her head raised?   Actually she has no choice given how she is positioned on the bench, but all this does is (a) potentially strain the neck and (b) reduce the Skull Crush range of motion.

If its a Pullover, why would you want to significantly raise the hips in this exercise?

Why the hell is another lady pinning her down with a resistance band using her near max weight?. Is it to get the lifter to raise her hips and contract her glutes and abs?  I assure you that you can contract both your glutes and abs without needing someone stand on you.

“The Jackstand and the Jackwagon Trainer” a real life case study. Not too many months ago I witnessed a trainer having her client perform barbell deadlifts while the bar remained in the barbell jack stand.

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A barbell jackstand is used to raise a barbell off the floor to make exchanging loads easier.  Note the slight angle and barrier created. The distance from the floor to the bottom of a standard Olympic bumper plate when hoisted is around 2in/5cm. 

I can understand the reasons why elevating a deadlift start position could be needed. I perform them myself and have prescribed them as a regression, a post-rehab exercise or as a special exercise to address weakness in the lifters performance.

What I can’t understand is “why” the trainer didn’t place the bar on blocks (the gym has several of various heights) or do it off a pin setting in a rack.  Either answer would have been better. Trying to Deadlift from the jack completely alters the lift…and not in a good way.

img_8001The Conventional Stance Deadlift set-up.  Note the following: The lifters hand position relative to their shin  and foot, the shoulder relative to the arm/hand position and the hip and spine relationship.  Hip position is determined by the lifters structure.  In my case (relatively short arms and long femurs) my hip position is closest to #1. A different body requires some adjustments to find their optimum start point.  Elevating the barbell  creates changes in the involved joint angles and moving the barbell forward changes the balance and further changes joint angles. Illustration Credit: Starting Strength 3rd Ed.

Although the jack does elevate the bar,reducing the vertical pull distance, it also becomes a barrier and creates additional inches of forward space. During the execution of the Deadlift the lifter pulls the bar upwards, while also pulling the bar towards themselves to maintain the load over their center of gravity and pull in the shortest path of travel of possible. The barrier prevents the lifter from centering (or nearly centering) the bar under over the middle of their feet. The jack also becomes a hazard in the event a lift needs to be aborted (aka drop the damn bar.)

By attempting to lift from the Jack the lifter places a disproportionate load on their lower back. Their shoulders being so far behind the bar prevent their lats from being in the maximum angle of efficiency. What this creates is a situation where the lifters arms are not aligned with the scapula and weakened Lat muscles are working from an unusual angle.

My guess answer to the WTF question: The trainer was being lazy, doesn’t know the basic mechanics of the Deadlift, or both.

Leaks and Tweaks

The lions share of my clients training revolve around three tools; Bodyweight, Kettlebell and the Barbell. Bodyweight allows for equipment free training. Kettlebell can limit things to a single tool and the Barbell allows for progressive loading across a great range.  The principles of training apply regardless of the tool used and each presents certain advantages and limitations.

That said, I will use whatever tool is necessary or best suited for a particular client and their needs.

I am currently training my basic barbell lifts (Back Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift and Military Press) with specific targets for each. The last month has seen gains in all lifts, but more importantly new insights into each technique. As well as I thought I knew them, I still have much to learn…at least when applied to myself.

An  “energy leak” is a term I picked up from StrongFirst and roughly translates as a place on your body where energy is being needlessly lost during a lift. Poor elbow positioning for example,compromises each of the compound lifts and could potentially lead to injury due to compensations or risky joint angles. Minimally, a leak increases the inefficiency of a given movement and treads the line between safe and unsafe.

SIDEBAR: Based purely on conversations in the gym it seems elbow issues are on the rise.  Barring past injury, poor technique can often be attributed.

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This is why we Deadlift.

In some circles the Deadlift is considered the easiest compound movement to teach and is the lift capable of handling the greatest loads. It is learned before the Kettlebell swing is introduced, required learning for the Olympic lifts, a staple in Strongman training and a fundamental human movement pattern.

My goal is to perform 3 repetitions at twice my heaviest bodyweight (AKA Fat Chris) which would be a 360lb/164kg Deadlift. This is presently the lift which I am plugging leaks and tweaking my program to address my needs. Twice bodyweight doesn’t mean I’m strong, it just means I’m not weak.

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Iron Addicts Las Vegas Wall of Power requires a male to deadlift at least 300lbs/136kg over bodyweight just to get on the board. 300lbs by itself is more than many humans will ever lift.

As of today, (7.3.16) I am 87.5% of the way to my Deadlift goal. At 90% my leaks could change as load changes things. I could potentially reach my target in spite of my leaks, but I consider the long-game and the potential for injury. Further, I wouldn’t progress a client until these leaks were addressed.

Tweaking a program could be required when dealing with leaks.  In some cases a total program re-write may have to occur, it depends on the size and relative complexity of the leak.

The most common Deadlift leaks seen in others in the absence of past injury or structural issues:
The Feet/Ankles: Lack of driving into the ground, deadlifting in running shoes, Lack of mobility.
The Knees: Too much knee bend, essentially squatting the bar up.
The Hips: Too low or too high, mistimed hip drive, bucking the bar up (“Kipping Deadlift”) or essentially stiff legged deadlifting the bar up when this wasn’t the intent.
The Lower Back: Rounded
The Upper Back: Rounded
The Shoulders: Incorrect positioning over the bar, slack in shoulders,re-slacking between repetitions,shrugging the bar up.
The Head/Neck: “Pez Dispensing” the head during the lift.
The Arms: Slack, triceps not engaged,trying to involve them in the lift, re-slacking between reps.
The Wrists/Fingers. Weak grip, Poor grip technique, never switching sides on alternating grips.
Somewhere above the eyebrows: Ego or lack of self-confidence. The weight is too heavy for them or they think it is too heavy for them.”
A number of these leaks stem from poor, or less than optimal initial set-ups. Imagine a Dog a taking a poop and you’ll have a visual for a very poor Deadlift set up.

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Working above the knees rack pulls for some lower back targeting. It’s only a few inches but quickly becomes exhausting work and helps train the grip.

My current leaks
Upper Back too rounded on set up.
Hip drive occurring too soon and I wind up bullying/stiff leg deadlifting the weight up.
I’ve had my leaks confirmed by a veteran powerlifting coach. Review of past video indicates my leaks are consistent.

My programming tweaks
I happen to be starting a new cycle anyhow and the intent this phase is plugging my leaks while developing my other strength skills. I have added T-Spine mobility drills to my training and active recovery days along with Farmers Walks as a finisher to help build the full body strength needed for the Deadlift. Considering the leaks are consistent across loads it suggests that the motor pattern was grooved slightly off in the first place.

Upper Back Rounding: I am working sets of five progressively heavier single reps along with various position rack pulls. The focus is on proper torso position in the start phase and making my opening rep and fifth rep look identical in performance. Video is taken and analyzed for form,velocity,acceleration and force output.

Hip Drive is a matter of timing and volume of perfect practice. This is an advantage of working with single reps. Even non-elite, but highly experienced and capable lifters occasionally mistime lifts, so I’m keeping good company.

I have no problems repeating a load and wont die if I don’t PR something in a particular session. I just need to be better than I was last session and continue inching my way to my goals.

 

The Power of Community

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The power of community in the fitness world has shown up throughout the years, from the days of muscle beach to the jogging craze, from Zumba to CrossFit, from Strongman to StrongFirst. In the modern era CrossFit stands as a popular example of community within a given sport/exercise method. The StrongFirst School of Strength (under Pavel) and Training for Warriors (under Martin Rooney) are also headed in this direction and represent international brother and sisterhoods.

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I recall what trainer and coach forums were like 15-20 years ago and see where many are now.  I have made some great friends through these forums, but take issue with board members who’s only purpose it seems is to antagonize or patronize others while contributing nothing of note to the group.  I missed how things used to be and decided that now was the time to begin building a new community.  I established and serve as administer of an online forum of personal trainers, strength coaches and other health and wellness professionals that currently stretches across the United States and multiple countries abroad including the Philippines,Canada and Australia.

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The power of community has shown itself again.  Professionals are asking questions and getting great responses from other dedicated professionals and not a single online fight has started.  As far as I am concerned I am 70x smarter simply by being around these awesome people.

Weight Loss Clients

I’m presently corresponding with several personal trainers around the world as well as within the United States. The trainers vary in experience between having less than 1 year experience and two with nearly twenty years of experience.

The trainers’ range in age between their early 20’s to the early fifties. Three are coaches in areas which I am not qualified to teach.

All but one has asked me about exercise programming for weight loss.

Before assumptions are made, no it was NOT the CrossFit coach. She too is trying to help a client lose weight and CrossFit and the Paleo diet are her preferred methods. She also happens to be a personal trainer and is used to working with clients outside of the box.

What this international cast of trainers is asking boils down to a few common things;
1. Exercises that work best
2. Getting, and keeping the clients dietary compliance
3. Tips and Tricks I use for body composition clients

Today on MyTrainerChris we have a blog within a blog. (Because I love you guys!)

MyTrainerChris on Body Composition clients – The Broad (B), Medium (M) and Fine (F) strokes.

“The BMF method” explained. BMF is my layered view and approach when working with body composition clients.

(B) Client Screening. Based on personal correspondence and experience I know that there is a wide difference in the screening methods used by personal trainers. Some trainers simply rely on whatever screening form the gym the hands them, some are quite in-depth and others don’t even know how to screen.

There are many different screens out there, but the two most widespread versions are the Medical Screening and the Lifestyle Questionnaire

Although I’ve developed and simplified my screening methods over the years, I’ve always gone into designing the screens with the idea that the client should be able to pass it and to design for what needs to be done for the clients long term benefit.

My current screen includes performance and functional movement components so that I can observe how the client moves, their strengths and weaknesses, to see what type of motivation connects best with them and if we are a good client-trainer fit.

(B) Is the client a current athlete/aging athlete? Yes or No
Former athletes do not count if they are far removed from their competitive years. What they accomplished 10-20 years ago doesn’t count as much as what they’ve been up to since.

I believe that athletes/aging athletes have a slightly different type of mental toughness and response to physical training than non-athletes. I’ve seen this first hand even among longtime former athletes as well, not so much in their performance abilities but in how they view and respond to training.

If the answer is no, they are considered “everyone else.”

Just because the client is considered “everyone else” does not mean that as the trainer you cannot tap their inner-athlete. A lot of people have one, they just don’t know it. In some cases it was your unknown inner-athlete that led you to becoming a trainer in the first place.

The remainder of this blog is focused on the “everyone else” category clients.

(B) Take the clients’ waist measurement at the widest part. I know that some anthropometric standards require measuring x amount above or below the belly button and this is fine so long as you get the “biggest” measurement as well.

(M) Multiply the clients’ waistline x2. If that number is more than they are in height then the client is a body comp client regardless of their stated goal.

For example, I am 68 inches (172 cm) tall and my last recorded waist measurement was 30.5 inches (77 cm.) My doubled waistline equals 61 in / 154 cm so I am well within waist-to-height ratio. If my waist measured 35 inches (89 cm) I would be slightly above. With a waistline over x2 my height, weight loss/body composition is the actual need, even though I want to build my pecs and biceps to look good at the pool parties.

Can you as the trainer help put slabs of beef on my chest and pump my pythons while still cleaning up my diet? Sure! But remember, I wasn’t that far off away from my goal. If my x2 waistline was considerably more than my height then THAT is the priority,

(F) Think multi-cultural. Western/African/Latin male waistlines over 40 inches (101 cm) and females over 35 inches (89 cm), Asian male waistlines over 35 inches (89 cm) and females over 32 inches (81 cm) are cause for concern. These clients may, or may not have other health co-morbidities. The initial goal is to get the waistline measurement down. Remember, we are thinking long-term client success here.

Current Body Weight

(B) Clients that weigh more than 300 lbs (136 kg) have biological statistics and risk factors different from their lighter peers. Clients over 400 lbs (181 kg) may not fit in all exercise machines or could exceed the safe weight limit on cardio equipment.

(M) Non-Athlete Clients over 300lbs/136 kg = Referrals.

(F) My ideal referral list would looks like this:
A Medical Doctor (General Health, blood panel review and clearance)
A Dentist (Highly obese people often seem to have poor teeth, which might explain why they don’t eat too many crunchy vegetables since that would hurt their teeth while soft carbs do not.)
An Eye Doctor (Can check for early signs of Diabetes.)

My minimum-minimum is the approval of a medical doctor for physical training.

Trivia note: India is ahead of the game on T2D as they have Dr.’s that specialize in Diabetes. I personally don’t know how bad T2D is in India, but they’re not playing around. Hopefully the world catches up with them.

Diet and Mental Toughness
(B) Weight loss isn’t a fight, it’s a battle. Battles are won by initially overwhelming the opponent then sustaining actions to maintain the victory.

The first 4-6 weeks must focus on “what” and “how much” food is going into the hole located under the clients’ nose.

(B) People usually know what food is healthy and which food is not. When it comes to food, clients often have the habit of telling the trainer what they think we want to hear.

(M) Food Journals and a provided list of healthy foods are key. Keep the clients cultural/religious or medical dietary needs in mind. Medical diets are the responsibility of Doctors and Registered Dietitians, not Personal Trainers.

Do not screw with a medically prescribed diet. If you have input, ask the clients Doctor/Registered Dietician.

(F) The food journal and the 4-6 week dietary commitment helps build the clients mental toughness needed to overcome possibly the most difficult thing to do…to change ones lifestyle.

(F) Good Food is pretty easy to recognize. Typically it only has one ingredient. Presently the trainers I am corresponding with hail from Canada, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and three different U.S. States. If you were to take a look into the pantries and refrigerators of these trainers, or even among athletes in their countries you would probably see many of same foods.

Exercise and Mental Toughness
(B) Everything will work, but nothing works forever. Initial programming should be 4-6 weeks strict dietary control and 4-6 weeks of creating movement patterns (Squats, Pulls, Pushes, Bending and Pressing.) I recommend 3-5 days per week exercise with 1-2 days dedicated to active recovery.

(M) Inefficient movements typically burn the most calories and lead to greater EPOC. Inefficient movements can also have higher odds of injury. The client must be watched carefully at all times.

Inefficient movements include sprinting, barbell complexes, loaded carries, interval training and circuit training divided into large muscle groups. The results of a proper movement screen can help you design your program

Efficient movements could include flat surface walking, low-no impact cardio, slow paced movements, isolation resistance machines for small muscle groups and long slow cardio.  This is better than nothing at all and may be the start point for your client. They need to eventually progress to bigger things.

(F) It is my opinion that continually training to failure leads to more harm than good. Failing to scale in CrossFit, vomiting mid spin class and barbell wrecks because the load was too heavy/lifted too many times is never fun.

Management
(B) Standardize your measurements and track the clients workouts down to the lb/kg lifted and the workout date/times.  Try to standardize the frequency and time you measure your client.

(M) Psychology trumps Physiology. Each week find SOME program variable the client improved upon. To walk away from a workout with some small victory is awesome no matter who you are.

(F) If you’re not measuring and tracking then you’re not managing…you’re just sort of directing and counting.

Taking a big view my BMF method you’ll note the following…

The Medical/Lifestyle Screen drives Referrals (if needed), Referrals drive Diet+Exercise

The Physical Screen drives Referrals (if needed), Referrals drive Exercise.

In either case, the Screen is the foundation.

Diet+Exercise with early heavy emphasis on the dietary half. Both drive mental toughness.

Mental Toughness drives exercise program progressions and diet adherence.

Management ties everything together.

The weight loss client will sooner or later freak out when they look at the scale and see something they don’t like / didn’t expect. While the fact that the scale doesn’t tell the whole story has been blogged at length on MyTrainerChris and around the web it still comes up. Here’s a chart that can hopefully provide some guidance and launching points.

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My personal war against trainer mediocrity.

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Mee-dee-oh-ker

– adjective.

1. Of only ordinary or moderate quality; neither good not bad; barely adequate. Not Satisfactory.

Synonyms: Undistinguished, commonplace, pedestrian.  Antonym: Extraordinary, superior, uncommon.

Mediocre, Mediocrity…..save for the racist and sexist words “Mediocre” is the English word which I absolutely hate the most.  It could be argued that at least the racist words (as words themselves) as harmless and are only harmful based on the context in which they are used.  I would counter-argue that the person offering this point of view is either (a) Saintly or (b)  has never been on the receiving end of a racist or sexist attack.

Mediocre trainers are something that both scare and anger me.

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Mediocre gets no such break from me.

A few lessons in mediocrity have presented themselves in the past 24 hours.  Last night over the course of a few texts with three former athletes of mine each person expressed various levels of dissatisfaction with their current trainers.

One has routinely cancelled, or “forgot” about a clients appointments, another was fired due to making his clients pass out during training and a third trainer seems unable to answer any question the client asks.

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From the Hagakure. The Book of the Samurai.

Trainer #1 cannot seem to manage his appointments.  If this is true, how can I believe that he can take care of the big things (I.E. The athletes safety and well-being, much less their programming and results) when he cannot take care of the little things?  (I.E. “I will see you again on x day at x time.”)  Angry Brown Man Chris offers a darker speculation…trainer #1 cancels on clients he/she doesn’t want to work with, but probably never cancels on either the highly attractive or wealthy clients.   Neither situation is good.

Easily fixed.

Option 1: Re-distribute 50% of his clients to reputable and reliable trainers and see if he can handle the decreased workload, if not, cut further clients until a manageable number that he can service is reached.

Option 2: No trainer is assigned a high number of clients in the beginning until their work ethic has been firmly established.  Increases in responsibility are gradual.

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“Hmmm…. Fun, fun, fun…OHHH!! I’ll make chubby puny human sprint with a sack full of kettlebells until they puke and watch their skin changes into weird colors!”

Trainer #2 caused at least two people to pass out, or nearly pass out during training.  I say at least because that’s what is known but the number could potentially be higher.  I blame the trainer, not the client.  Furthermore, I blame the person that hired the trainer in the first place.

The trainer wasn’t monitoring the client at all and simply smashing a human being.  He pushed a person well-beyond what they were physically capable of performing.  Purely speculation on my part, but I would wager this “trainer” does not hold a CPR/AED/First Aid certification and furthermore has no formal education in how the human body works.  The upside is the gym fired him.  The further downside is someone hired him, and that person still has the ability to hire another person just like that.

Personally I don’t mind pushing a persons limits and see some value in it.  But there is a line that is not to be crossed, much less urinated on and this type of training must be used in appropriate measured doses.

My response to the trainers that love the “Smash Puny Humans” method of training:  “Would you let me train your mother using your same methods?  

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That little bit has devoted its resources to looking at boobs and calculating exact protein intake.  There’s not enough in there to use on thinking about you or your exercise program.  As far as this trainer is concerned…Pfft…plans are for fools!

Trainer #3 is a little more difficult to call, but I worked with the athlete for 6 months and remember the types of questions she liked to ask.  In her case no question was beyond the common material found in the major accredited certified personal trainer programs.  I have read and reviewed the material for ACSM, ACE, ISSA, NASM and NSCA (I have the books for 4 of the 5 of these as well) so I speak with some experience in this matter.

She never asked about training special populations, medical considerations or highly advanced training principles.  She liked to be informed of the “why” just as much as the “how” in any given technique and would often pick up little details while executing her techniques.   According to the athlete she asked why she was performing completely different workouts every single time and 100% on machines.  His answer was something along the lines of “So I can hit your whole body.”

Fact is he didn’t hit the whole body. The last four workouts involved the biceps+mid back on one day and calves abs and shoulders on the second day.   Secondly, which in my opinion is the biggest of the issues is he cannot articulate the reasoning behind his program and state why each exercise is there, or what the program was designed for in the first place. Third, since his program has no means of measurement there is nothing that can be managed.  How does he truly known if she is getting any stronger without any data to support it?

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 “Chris this baby is for YOU!”

I like Dean Martin as a performer, but his Las Vegas drive namesake seriously flipped me the bird this morning.   While driving to my first session of the day at my athletes high-rise I ran 7 minutes late due to a train stopping in the middle of Dean Martin Drive.

I HATE being late to things…anything…and I felt bad even though my lateness was reasonable given the unforeseeable circumstances.  My athlete was quiet understanding and told me not to worry about it.  After all, according to my athlete, his other trainer (yes…his other trainer) has been late or last-minute cancelled on him many times.

I for one cannot accept mediocrity.  I don’t accept it in my profession or from my athletes and as the athlete, you should NEVER accept it from your trainer.