Tag Archives: Physical Culture

Recent Thoughts (and a new page!)

Todays Blog is a collection of thoughts I’ve had over the week and largely meant as professional recommendations to Personal Trainers. (Although non-trainers may benefit as well!)

Learn about Pain Science.  A lot of people that come to us are in, or have been in pain of some sort.  “No pain,No Gain” and “Rub some dirt in it” Went away a long time ago. If the athlete is stating they are in pain then you cannot simply wave it off.

Every session, and every movement is an assessment, and the assessment starts with “How are you feeling today?”

Try to listen more than you speak,or at least try to keep it 50/50. Client feedback is valuable.


Having some Detective skills comes in hand.

People present their own ranges of motion (ROM.)  Sometimes limited ROM could be as (relatively) simple as a case of confidence or physical competence (weakness), but it could also be a motor control issue, a structural issue,a muscle imbalance or any other number of things.


Biggest waste of $1.25 in my pre-teen life.

The fact is, we cannot see beneath a persons clothing (unless they are sporting some seriously sheer tops and bottoms) much less under the skin and into the joints and muscles.  Understand that there are conditions and situations that NO amount of exercise will change no matter how expertly applied. As trainers and coaches we get to work with what the client/athlete brings us.

Don’t pigeonhole clients based on age,gender or size. I have this thought because I still see it happening with fair frequency.  At one point in history women were told not to lift heavy things or else they’d turn into bearded men, men were told Yoga (and the other stretchy ways of training) was for ladies and long slow distance cardio was the only true path to fitness, especially for the obese. Don’t be one of the un-evolved.

Mobility warm ups have a place.  Normally they do not need to be the entire session.

Use the tools and training methods most suitable for the client, not the ones you love the most.

Do not be afraid to question instructors or textbooks. They can be wrong, and you may have something to teach no matter how esteemed their position.

SIDENOTE: No textbook, even the highly popular ones,are ever perfect.  I follow a decent  number of industry thought leaders and at present, only two have I never found myself disagreeing with on some matter.

After a solid base of knowledge has been established, I suggest not confining yourself to a single source of information on a topic. Personally I like starting with sources that counter my own lines of thinking.


He needs a hug.

Although they may be painful to tackle,unsexy subjects have value.  Part of my current studies involves the Foot and Ankle complex. In the words of Dan John “Embrace the boring.”

Have a “why” behind every exercise listed on your clients program. Understand how exercise effects the human beyond “makes x muscle bigger” or “makes jiggly parts jiggle” and develop physical empathy behind every exercise you prescribe. This means YOU must be physically capable of performing anything YOU assign.  

Isometrics have value with athletes presenting, or not presenting pain.

Know that by altering the grip,tempo or angle of an exercise you alter the exercise itself and the exercise experience. This alters the mind-muscle connection, joint torque forces and learning curve.  In anything, the athlete defines the exercise.

Correct movement, in my opinion is perhaps the best Corrective Exercise. Merely getting someone to move properly (for them) with micro-progressed demands (according to them) can unlock a lot of things.


Some athletes are closet masochists. It is important that you explain to them that crippling levels of soreness, vomiting, mid-session losses of bladder control or ending the session laying in a puddle of their own sweat are not indicators of a productive session. The bad part is that there are trainers out there that believe that they do.

That said, I would rather prudently give the masochist athlete 10% of what they want by ending the session with a smoker routine and 90% of what they need.

Manageable home exercise programs are ones that require little or no equipment. If you gain athlete compliance in this area you can later stack, or substitute homework assignments to address the clients greatest needs.

Volume, Intensity and Sophistication are instructive. Volume precedes Intensity, Simple precedes Sophisticated.  Fear of failing is a reality and going from a sit to stand with competence to quarter depth door knob squat should be viewed as a progression.

The be-all, end-all assignment of rep ranges for any exercise: One, done exceptionally well…followed by another done exceptionally well, then another and so on.

Fitness methods are nearly a religion to some trainers. Base your decisions not on your fitness preferences but on the best available evidence, and know how to think critically. It is very easy to fall in love with your methods and can be hard to see the flaws or gaps within it.

Identify those who’s work you can follow and know to be reputable. In the Internet age fitness gurus pop up every month. Take a wait and see approach on whom you listen to.


(Credit Juggernaut Training Systems)  A bench press with an arched back is common in powerlifting and allows the athlete to lift the greatest load.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard certified trainers say “She’ll blow her back out”…and it is always with smaller female powerlifters….somehow larger females and men in general cannot blow their backs out this way.

Just because something looks different doesn’t automatically make it wrong. Just because something is published doesn’t make it right. Take a wide view of things and think critically.

Select your associations wisely. BroScience that it may be, I believe simply being around better trainers can make you a better trainer…if you’re open to becoming better.
Read and digest the questions they ask and the responses they give. Check out the books they’re reading or the coaches they reference. This applies even if they train in a completely different methodology than your own.

BONUS:  Dragon Door has listed me on their instructors page!  https://www.dragondoor.com/chris_shimana/


On Movement Skills

As my skills and abilities as a coach evolve I find that things simplify over time.  Further, I wind up viewing things through a new set of eyes and compare what is seen,felt and learned to what I previously believed true.  On movement skills, I have broken things down to the following:

Joint Integrity: (Being aware of) How one carries themselves in a position or movement.

Mobility: The ability to move a joint through its full range of motion.

Efficiency: The connection between the brain and the body/tool in performing a given movement.

Progression: Owning a movement, starting with the simple before moving to the sophisticated.

Variety: The ability to apply the movement though various positions or with different instruments in a “same but different” manner.

Precision: The ability to put quality before quantity.

Today I will offer my short thoughts on joint integrity,although all points touch upon each other. I will admit that I am stickler on technique.  I believe much of this stems from a lengthy and sometimes painful upbringing under very strict Karate instructors, having made a ton of mistakes in the gym and a career in the military.  I am not so strict that every client must be perfect day one.  I simply aspire to make them better each set and session. That to me is progression.

Joint integrity has always been a key point of my instruction, even before I knew it. Over the years this has increased since my education in Corrective Exercise, StrongFirst Kettlebell, Breathe! II under Russ Moon and presently through early use of Indian Clubs.

“Squats don’t hurt your knees.  Whatever you are doing there is hurts your knees” Dan John

The Deadlift, The Pull-Up, The Kettlebell Swing and the Squat are all great exercises. They are also totally awful exercises if performed without proper joint integrity and loading. The value of an exercise depends on the person and the manner in which things are being performed.

The other day I witnessed a trainer having a client perform seated machine rear deltoid flies.  The range of motion being performed was well beyond the lateral point which can invite shoulder hyperextension.  No attempts to correct even the broad strokes of the clients form were given. This served as an example of an otherwise fine exercise being made potentially injurious and inefficient by lack of quality coaching and joint integrity.

Not to minimize things, but this was a machine with a pre-determined path of movement targeting a relatively small muscle area.  I can only imagine what happens when a free-weight compound movement is introduced.

The advice and instruction of expert coaching, video feedback of performance and a developed sense of kinesthetic awareness can assist a person in developing joint integrity. For the coach, the act of of properly cueing and aligning the human body into an optimum position based on individual anthropometry and structural limitations in the performance of a given exercise is an art onto itself.

An individuals ability to listen to the messages sent by the body before, during and after a movement is key, this is an advantage of not always relying on mirrors while training as the reflected image gives a distorted representation only to what is visible. The use of the mirror is not without value, but in my opinion lends itself to some exercises more than others.

Be mindful of your movement. If in doubt, seek assistance from experts that can help you. Sometimes very small adjustments in joint integrity completely change things for the better.