Tag Archives: Las Vegas Personal Trainer

Disordered Eating

“Your ideal body weight is the range where you feel healthy and fit, have no signs of an eating disorder to maintain that weight, and have healthy functioning immune and reproductive systems.”   Dr. Carol Otis

I am not a Registered Dietician, nor do I hold myself out as an expert in nutrition science, biochemistry or food psychology.  That said, I am not without some knowledge on the subjects and happen to know a few people that are very sharp in those areas. I subscribe to the idea of eating like an adult, and enjoying a variety of foods.

Each state in the United States has its own set of nutrition laws(1) and personal trainer certifications draw professional lines when it comes to dietary advice and prescription. The prescription of supplements is generally outside of a personal trainers scope of practice. This of course does not mean there are not trainers profiting, or recommending them.

 

“It is the responsibility of the personal trainer to educate clients about the risks of disordered eating and to avoid promoting risky weight loss behaviors or setting unrealistic goals.”  NSCA Essentials of Personal Training, 2nd Ed.

There are short, and longterm medical and psychological implications associated with disordered eating, which includes anorexia and bulimia nervosa, in addition to fad dieting,highly restrictive diets (I.E. the Grapefruit diet) or more extreme dietary approaches.

“You who are so good with words, and at keeping things vague…”                     Diamonds and Rust, Joan Baez

As a trainer, you were hired under the presumption that you were educated and professionally competent.  Whether it be the truth or not, your words still matter, at least to an uneducated population. An inappropriate comment, questionable supplement advice/prescription or unrealistic goals or before and after photos(2) can serve as a trigger for someone already susceptible to disordered eating.

Nearly 100% of all disordered eating cases I’ve come across over the decades involved the use of questionable supplements.

When friends or acquaintances present me the supplements they are being told to purchase, I immediately check labels for a few things; Is this a single ingredient or multi-ingredient formulation? If multi-ingredient, is anything marked as “proprietary”?,  If multi-ingredient (with or without a proprietary formulation), how many ingredients contain stimulant, diuretic or laxative properties?  Lastly, “What does this formulation contain that has evidence of being effective for the users intended purpose, and what is the strength of the evidence?”

Remember, I stated that I’m DON’T consider myself an expert in these matters.  Las Vegas odds suggest there is a 50% chance that I know more about the product than the person selling it to you.

1. http://www.nutritionadvocacy.org/laws-state

2.http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/06/17/fitness-trainer-fakes-fitspo-photo_n_7602304.html

Borderline Heretic

As years pass, my opinions on some things change.  I may even change certain ways I train or coach, and make no apologies for implementing these changes when new information comes to light that would benefit my athletes.

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Generally, changes have been brought in to improve efficiency, effectiveness, scalability or safety.  Sometimes changes were required based on where training was being held, or whom I was dealing with.  Although progress may need to be redefined, the mission remains the same.

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A frog in a well only sees the world from the perspective provided by a small hole.

Sometime ago a trainer told me all they needed in this occupation was “a standardized programming model and an anatomy textbook.” He was proud of the fact that he never received instruction in specialized equipment.

In my opinion, that is placing significant limitations on oneself, potentially robs clients of benefits gained from the proper use of specialized equipment, while increasing potential risks.

Minimally, the trainer has decided to remain at entry level, and the frog in the well.

A longtime client on extended travel recently told me that based on her observations at six different gyms good trainers are uncommon.  She went so far as to say “I am so glad I am not a client of these trainers”   I wasn’t her first trainer (I was her fourth), so she has a decent comparison group.

Heresy: It is cases like these that make me think that trainer certifications are overrated.

Entry level certification largely means a person passed a written exam.  Among other topics the exams generally cover anatomy and physiology and exercise technique.  The depth varies per agency and some tests are easily passable.  Even the harder exams don’t automatically mean a person can apply, or even recall fundamental material from the course. They may not have the slightest idea of how to adjust exercises for an individual, and may never have even trained themselves.

Would entry-level personal training certifications matter more if they were harder to obtain? I believe a combination of academics (Were you tested on your knowledge?), performance (Do you even lift?) and coaching/teaching ability (Can you teach someone unlike you?) should be required.

Many trainers tend to forget that Personal Trainer Certifications are a fairly new thing.  We also lose sight of the fact that many people on the gym floor watch what we do very carefully. That can be a good or bad thing.

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While the Overhead Squat Assessment uses a dowel or PVC pipe, the above image is similar to the position the screen wants you to obtain. The Overhead squat happens to be one of the more difficult bilateral squat variations, but is necessary for Olympic lifting. 

Heresy: I’ve removed the Overhead Squat Assessment (a prominent part of both the NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist and the Functional Movement Screen) for several reasons.

1) Outside of those previously well trained in the Olympic lifts, most people cannot do it very well.

2) Those with Olympic Weightlifting training do not perform the Overhead Squat like the screen demands.

3) It’s not a natural movement, and certainly not natural for beginners or the sedentary. Many people have issues simply figuring out Squat from Sit and from Hinge to Bend Over. Like training, the screen should meet you where you are.

4) Load exposes you.  You could have a perfectly fine looking Overhead Squat with a PVC pipe in your hands, and fold into human origami when load is imposed.

Heresy: I’ve also reduced mobility work down to just a few minutes (if needed), and rarely use the foam roller.

Further, I’ve removed the term Dysfunction from my Coaching vocabulary except as applied to lifting performance. I never liked the context the word was often used and don’t believe its within my professional scope of practice to call something a dysfunction, when it could be a variation of normal, or something else entirely.
1) If you’re new to exercise, we focus on what you can do, instead of me nitpicking at all the things you can’t do.
2) If you are experienced in training, we look for makes you better and inches you closer to your goal. My job as a Strength Coach involves making the good, better.
3) Can things be cued to achieve the desired movement? Do I necessarily need to regress?
4) If it’s beyond that, or involves pain then the Dr they go.  This doesn’t mean training has completely stopped as I can often work other parts of the body.

 

 

 

I before E

I recently did a guest spot at a different local gym. It was totally unlike mine and I believe a change of scenery can sometimes be a good thing for me.  Other than needing to figure out where everything was located and abiding by the gyms rules (no chalk, no bare feet and no bags on the floor), I can still say I had a good training session.

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This is also why I typically prefer smaller gyms to bigger ones.  I once had a momentarily embarrassing situation at an upscale gym when I got lost in mens restroom on what must have been naked senior citizen day.

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My ideal scenario.

That said, my best work both as a lifter and coach have been in gyms that fall more towards the serious lifter side of things.  This includes not only the equipment and general gym vibe, but also the clientele and other trainers I might be working around. I actively scan for gym D-Bags and keep my distance.

SIDENOTE: For now at least, I’m the last man left standing at my current gym.  No other trainer could sustain a clientele.

Many people might consider my gym intimidating, perhaps dated and lacking certain “essentials.”

We don’t offer child care, We don’t offer trendy group exercise classes, We don’t have spa facilities, or even a shower, We don’t have TV screens on every piece of cardio equipment and We don’t have a small army of U̶s̶e̶d̶ ̶c̶a̶r̶ ̶s̶a̶l̶e̶s̶m̶e̶n̶ Personal Trainers.

We don’t even have a Bosu…which is not a negative in this guys world.

I’m not in the gym for these things, but I don’t have any issue with those that are. In truth, available child care and group exercise options alone have probably helped more people than I can count.

I’m there to get better and to help make others better. I’m something of a training minimalist by nature and don’t need very much equipment to get the job done. My workout one day consisted of a single kettle bell, the floor and a horizontal bar. There were other days where all I needed was the floor and a wall. Equipment didn’t matter much, and environment could have been anywhere.

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A large wall looms over the deadlifting platforms. It lists the names of people who have lifted hundreds of pounds over bodyweight just for a place on it. That wall is filled with Intent, and this was the environment where it happened.

I believe that training Intent comes before training Environment. Could I have a solid workout at a regular commercial gym? Yes, I can have anywhere, but that is because I carry intent with me wherever I may roam.  I also believe environment has its effect on people and that a type of selection pressure is at play. The environment, in a sense, helps shape and focus ones intent, which we often equate to being a purely internal thing.

Intent is key.  Why are you there in the first place?  The gym could be any version of “the best gym for you” (an ideal environment), but without intent you could find yourself wasting your time.

 

Firestarters

Questions I ask myself at 3 a.m, or one that you can ask yourself…

“Can you provide a verifiable list of four personal trainers/strength coaches whose lives you have positively influenced? Someone from whom you’ve ignited a fire?”

If the answer is “Yes, I have their numbers/contact information on my phone” (or some other form of contact) then I would say you’ve moved beyond being a fitness professional, and now join the ranks of fitness influencers.  Whether or not you agree with me, you are no longer just a “Normal Trainer” and you are influencing the next generation of fitness professionals. This carries a set of responsibilities.

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While it may seem that being a “Normal Trainer” is a good thing, I ask that you reconsider the term “Normal”, or at least consider the fact that “Abnormal” isn’t necessarily a negative and that “Normal” in the fitness profession isn’t always a positive.

Would you rather be the trainer that improves year by year, or the one that remains in exactly the same spot year after year? The latter is fairly normal.

My eye-opener towards re-defining normal came from working in a commercial gym and later as a private coach.  What passed for “Normal” among the majority of my co-workers or competitors was something I knew I could be better than, and falling to that level would be unacceptable. My clients and athletes deserve the best from me, and I hope to influence newer trainers to be the coach I wish I HAD.

 

O.P.P

Friend: “Bro, is that your training log?”

Me: “Yeah”

Friend: “Can I see your workouts, I need some training ideas.”

Translation: Somebody wants free stuff.

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Had I let my friend look through my training log without offering any explanations one of several things could have happened:  (1) He would have copied things down perfectly, and not gained the results he was seeking.  (2) He would have modified what he saw, and may or may not have gotten the results he was seeking. (3) He would have injured himself by picking a program well beyond his ability or (4) He would have come away thinking he was reading the entries of a madman.  

Fact: What I do at any given time could be someones warm up or a trip to the hospital for another.

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I suppose I should be slightly flattered that a person would be interested in the programming I’m running on myself. This request however turned into a rather lengthy conversation on O.P,P. (other peoples programs). (Just like most of the times when I’m asked to tweak someones technique.)

Basically, I showed that my programming changes to reflect the goal(s) at the time, and that each features things unique to my needs.  For example, I had a weak spot off my chest in the Bench Press.  My programming during that period was designed to improve my strength in that range, and the %’s were based on a competition maximum ( the heaviest I’ve lifted in a contest.) Furthermore, all the accessory exercises were designed to bring up muscle groups that were comparatively lagging and help drive the bench press off the chest.

This was a program designed for a singular person (me), with my relative strengths and weaknesses, my injury history, physical leverages, personality and tolerances.

My friend has no competition history, completely different leverages and technical skill and a totally different injury history.  His weak spot is currently opposite mine, and would benefit from a different approach.

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Out of personal curiosity I randomly picked four pages out of my log just to see what could have happened.  I can favorably wager my friend would have injured himself if he attempted to copy some of my work.  The “Hyde sections” intensity levels are beyond his ability to recover, and while the “Jekyll sections” generally feature things he can do, they are not ideal for his needs and still feature things he cannot physically perform or recover from.

What about the workouts you find in the popular fitness magazines and online?

I’ll start by saying that they’re not all bad. I’ll further state that even in generic programming some authors know what they’re doing far more than others. Your odds of randomly landing on a program that is perfect for you and your goals based on your current physical standing is astronomically low

Believe me when I say I’ve seen some really bad stuff online and in print, and this is coming from a guy that has sat through the Fantastic Four Re-boot (at least I didn’t pay for it.)

The person (insert famous bodybuilder/fitness model/celebrity) demonstrating the workout may never have done it at all. Even if they did do it, and even if it happened to work for them doesn’t mean it will work for you.

Consider the audience and goal for which the program was written. In some magazine cases, the programs were written for bodybuilders by other bodybuilders, or powerlifters for other powerlifters.  Not for the sedentary 46 year old office worker that wants to lose his love handles and reduce his man-boobs.

You’ll also find generic collections of exercises put together without thought or nuance which follows a number of bootcamp and GroupEx models.  The workouts may be perfect for 1-2 out of every 10 people, and sub-optimal or possibly dangerous for the rest.

FACT: If the article features small dumbbell curls while standing on a BOSU ball then you’ve picked up the wrong magazine or are on the wrong website. The model may look great, but I doubt they got their physique from that exercise, or that it even contributed to a degree, they did however get better at juggling.  

90%

The first training programs I ever wrote was when I was 15yrs old working as an assistant Karate teacher in exchange for free monthly tuition.  I wrote drills and particular exercises to be included in the class and in some cases had people doing bodyweight exercises I’d found in Martial Art books (yes, I still own a decent sized of collection of Martial Art books as well.)

My assignment was to help improve competitors performance in fighting and forms divisions at state, regional and national level competition.  This meant carefully watching them in practice and competition, including in fresh and fatigued states against various opponents (bigger/smaller, aggressive,defensive,countering/opportunistic types, those that favored kicking/punching etc) and in performance multiple forms.

Although I didn’t know it, or at least couldn’t express it, training was athlete defined.  Whatever I did had to translate to improved and measurable athletic performance.

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I couldn’t simply tell the Head Teacher that students were “getting better.”  He needed proof, and competition is the proving ground. In hindsight, I’m positive he knew how things were progressing all along, but as far as 15 year old me was concerned,it was either medals around necks or my body hitting the floor.

Despite my relatively young age I already had 10 years training experience and 5 years competitive history up the international level. I didn’t know I was being put in a developmental position and didn’t recognize the fact that I was the only instructor below the age of 20 until it was pointed out to me. I honestly didn’t want to let the team down, and put my heart into things.

I held my position as an assistant up until I left for the military.

Two years after joining the military I was assigned as a motivator to help others get in better shape.  With advancement in rank this later progressed to a command level position and helping people reach tactical levels of fitness, including preparation for highly demanding and selective programs such as Crash and Salvage, Fire Fighting and Special Operations Candidate testing. I was also fortunate to be employed as a part time Karate instructor during my off-hours and continued training competitors, and interestingly enough became a person that taught the instructors class.  The highlights being an instructor while living in Hawaii and Japan.

All that experience pre-dated my becoming a Personal Trainer.

In 2012 the game changed. I retired from the military and no longer trained exclusively competitive athletes, instructors and alpha-personality youngsters. I now had people coming from zero fitness levels, people with orthopedic/medical issues and some that just wanted to move around and get sweaty.

Everything up to 2012 had a purpose, and we didn’t do things just to them.  I still stand by that no matter who walks in the door, and I always have the ability to say “No” to a client.

SIDENOTE:  For trainers just entering the field, recognize when the time to say “No” is needed.  Too many trainers are afraid to refer out.  Referring out doesn’t make you a bad trainer, if anything it makes you a better professional.

Over the course of the next few months I would over-analyze program design. In my mind it had to be 100% on-point. To create otherwise would be a failure on my part.  It was as if I was designing tactical warfare plans or preparing athletes for International level competition.

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Life became easier when I accepted a few things.    

Being able to accept 90%.  “Passes Muster” is what we are looking for. To reach 90% I believe the following must happen;  Having the ability to explain, and prove where the client was and they presently stand.  Being able to state in simple words why things are being done the way they are and having a logical and realistic plan in place per the individuals current ability.

Especially if you can explain,prove and defend those actions to a coach far smarter and experienced than yourself. 

SIDENOTE:  I’ve recently come to believe two things scare personal trainers.  (1) Being asked to demonstrate techniques under challenging loads in front of others that also know the technique and  (2) Having to explain and defend their programming and exercise choices to other trainers.  Why the fear? If I were to speculate, it is because both can expose weakness.

Everyone is brave and feels competent compared to someone with no experience in the matter.  I can assure you, if you are a coach or trainer, you are a leader.  Since you’re a leader, then EVERYONE is watching what you do, and you never know who is watching.

Every week this point is proved to me. I’m also watched and heavily judged when training with my gym Bro’s, most of whom are state or higher level qualified lifters.

Tips to help reach that 90%….

Know the progressions and regressions per fundamental movement. The basics have stood the test of time for a reason and achieving skill in the basics will only serve as a benefit.

Use the tools that you have available,and know how to use them optimally.  Remember that a saw makes a terrible hammer. (Yes, I know you could use a small axe, but its not as precise as one and somewhat limited with the other.)

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One of these Acromion Types might not like putting loads overhead.

There are positions that individuals can tolerate loading, and positions they can’t. Pick the former.

Reps/Sets/Density and relative intensity. Wield the variables sensibly.

There are infinite number of exercises, but training principles are few. Rather than trying to amass a million first, try mastering the principles first. Once you have a strong grasp of the principles, exercises start becoming easier to learn.  (and yes, YOU STILL NEED TO PUT IN THE WORK LEARNING THEM.)

Opinions and personal philosophies change over time. In the words of Mike Boyle, I make no apologies for changing my opinion in light of new education.

Applied personal practice (AKA DO THE WORK) along with education helps shape you. Oddly, there are trainers that don’t even train themselves, or occasionally hire their own trainer.

No singular textbook is perfect. Read broadly, and don’t be afraid to question things. In my opinion, too many trainers never read.

For a large chunk of the population, programs need not be overly complex. Simple is good, and simple is sustainable.

Lab Coat Talk

“I use a very special exercise technique that:

– incorporates the lateral fascial line with the arm fascial line.
– is highly functional because it not only replicates a common movement everyone does in their daily activities, but also because it involves the lateral oblique subsystem.
– Due to the positioning of the load in this exercise along with the movement pattern involved, the core muscular is forced to activate to create spinal stability through stiffness, and the shoulder is given a small distraction force, which the CNS has to offset by creating joint centration and compression for enhanced shoulder stability.

^ The exercise I just described is a single-arm biceps curl. This ends today’s lesson in how the use of cool industry jargon and sciencey sounding words can be used to “rebrand” basic exercises, add unnecessary complication to simple applications, and therefore make the person who’s communicating in this manner appear to be offering more than they really have provided.”
Nick Tumminello.

I’ve overheard, (and read) similar words from trainers, especially during the rise of the functional training bandwagon and later from Internet Fitness Gurus. Literally, these people sound like they swallowed a Latin Dictionary, a Big Word of the Day calendar and a Physical Therapy student textbook along with committing all the impressive sounding words from the Anatomy Trains text to memory.

The problem? Hardly anyone can understand them. Not your typical client, not a decent percent of trainers (which includes me)and sometimes not even the person making the comment.

Realistically, does a long-winded and overly technical description serve the client/athlete, or yourself?  I would argue, these people are simply trying to sound impressive, and things become interesting when they get called out.

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Never bring anecdotes to a science fight, and don’t assume everyone knows less than you do.

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I’ve manage to catch a few amateur Doctors /Internet Gurus/Local loudmouths off-guard by asking them to simplify their description. It has only been a few since they usually avoid the question entirely or tell me that I’m too limited to understand. They never asked about my background in the subject matter.

At present I have three clients with knowledge of anatomy and physiology. (1) A licensed massage therapist (2) a Military Medic and (3) another Personal Trainer. I also do some advisory work for highly qualified lifters. Even with their education and experience, I typically cue and explain things in the simplest of terms. I’m currently trying to simply instruction even more.  Lab Coat talk is Plan C.