Tag Archives: USPA Powerlifting Coach

YouBoob

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Real.

 

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“Look the Part”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Sucker Punch

“Life can change your directions, even when you ain’t planned it
All you can do it handle it, worst thing you can do is panic
Use it to your advantage, avoid insanity manage
To conquer, every obstacle, make impossible possible
Even when winning illogical, losing is still far from optional”

“No Matter What” by T.I, 

Its been barely a week since I posted “Five Years Later”, and I now find myself in a somewhat familiar place.  I no longer have a gym in which to offer my services as I chose to terminate my agreement with the gym over a matter of principles.

I will admit that I’m feeling slightly down about this, but I have a number of options in front of me, and it certainly isn’t the only gym in town. As a matter of fact, a gym just opened up around the corner.  Full retirement is also an option which I have considered.

In the meantime, I have my routines. The single most impacted one is where I can train myself, and even that can be worked around.

Daily routines are an important thing to me.  My morning routine and “daily do’s” has seen some changes over the years but my daily professional reading has been consistent. I am presently reading SuperTraining by Dr. Mel Siff and Dr. Yuri Verkoshansky.  It is a 500+ page encyclopedia  of incredibly dense material steeped in Russian and Eastern European training science.

I’ve found that on average, I can best manage its material in ten-minute chunks in order retain the information.

There are pages with large question marks scribbled in the margins as I need other books to explain this book. Luckily, every now and then I run across topics which I am comparatively more knowledgeable,can absorb the information and apply it in a practical manner.

I’ve been told it takes roughly a year to get through the book during the first read through.  So far that is looking to be a pretty accurate estimate.

It was during one of my ten-minute reading snacks yesterday when I paused my timer (yes, I time things) and asked “If I stopped training people, would any of this (my daily study habit) matter?  I’d have this knowledge, but nobody to share it with or that could benefit from it? Am I simply doing this out of habit?

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Leave no stone unturned. Be able to explain and practically apply each of the methods shown on a athlete defined basis.                                                                                                                                           

Despite the Sucker Punch, I don’t believe the universe wants me to stop doing what I’m doing just yet.  It simply reminded me that standing up for your principles will sometimes mean that you’re going to take some shots in the process.

 

 

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.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ethics and Education

One of my grand goals is to influence future generations of personal trainers.  I wish to make an effort towards improving the standards of service commonly found in our industry.

I want to help produce the trainers that I wish I had. 

I believe education includes the production of trainers that can engage their cortex, that are not afraid to ask questions and are willing to work with other professionals.  I’ve seen far too many trainers that fail to meet these criterion, and a few that challenge the belief that there is no such thing as stupid questions.

The universe recently presented a job opportunity that based on requirements, I could be considered a near-perfect candidate.  I have above the preferred level of education, well above the preferred level of industry experience and a previous work history that includes academic teaching positions and public speaking.  The teaching hour requirements and travel distance were not unreasonable.  I never bothered looking into the pay or benefits.

Teaching personal training students would be a ideal way to influence things. My passion for trying to improve things outweighs what I would get paid to do it.

After further consideration, I may not have been such a near-perfect of a candidate.  Based on my resume’ I could be considered over-qualified for the position.

The problems:  The course is based solely off a singular textbook and designed to get the graduates to pass the exam, which admittedly isn’t the easiest test.  A personal issues of mine is that I don’t fully agree with textbook (none are perfect) and what the courses goals should be aimed towards.

I cannot teach material that I don’t fully support. In my opinion, getting someone to rote memorize material to pass a test versus actually educating someone are two vastly different things. There are apps designed for the former, but they aren’t very handy once you have a live person in front of you.

I want to help produce trainers that are qualified, not just certified.  To do otherwise would only contribute to the problems our industry faces,and my heart wouldn’t be fully into things.

Redefining Progress

CLIENTS STARTING POINT…………………………..CLIENTS GOAL(S)

As trainers, our job is to fill-in the dots between the two points.

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Ideally, we select a balance between the most appropriate choices and the optimum tools.  Risk to Benefit ratios based on the individuals needs are considered, and we live by the golden rule of “First, do no harm.”

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Don’t be that trainer. 

Further, we do not attempt to use methods we have not tested ourselves, or teach lifts we don’t actually know….I don’t care how many times you read page 123 of the CPT book.  Pre-supposing you have a total absence of closely related experience, how well can a trainer understand something without first-hand experience?

If you don’t  fully understand something, you cannot apply it.

If a clients starting point, goal and dots in-between cannot be supported at my skill level (or fall outside my scope of practice) then I refer to someone that I believe can help them. Personally I wish more trainers would do the same.

SIDENOTE: I can understand how a trainer might think that referring a client out might make them feel, or be viewed as less of a professional.  I completely disagree, if anything I believe it makes you look MORE professional, especially if you happen to have a speed dial of local professionals to refer.  This could be a more experienced trainer, a trainer with specialized education or an allied health professional.  If they do their job right, you come off looking good because you were the one that put the client in the right hands, the client wins by getting the help they need and the referral wins with some added business.

 The Dots in-between.  Rarely is training purely a linear effort. Life has a way of changing things on you and it doesn’t happen on a predictable schedule.  While part of me would love for EVERY session to end in Personal Records and more weight on the bar, this won’t always be the case, nor should it be the goal of every session or is the need of every client.  Progress can be defined multiple ways, and its not always “It was heavier than last time”, although that too has its place and is not without merit.

What you do during those dots in-between counts.  If the dot filling trainings defining characteristic is you laying in a pool of sweat, nauseous and unable to move very well over the next few days, then I ask how is progress being defined?  Was the goal you getting your ass kicked less?

N=1 Example: Four weeks ago I started the GMB Integral Strength program as a break from my Powerlifting training.  It’s a 100% bodyweight program and the only loaded movement I’ve perform is daily use of my ShouldeRok.  I knew going into the program that there were certain movements I would do well in, and others quite poorly.  On day 1, I was tasked to record my standing long jump. Although I did passably well, my mechanics and timing in the initial counter-movement was poor, and my landing mechanics were borderline dangerous.

I didn’t bother re-measuring my performance until today.  I spent my training dots working on jump form, breathing pattern, landing mechanics and ankle mobility. I have improved my jump performance by 12%, have better jumping form and reduced my chances of an ankle injury.  My progress during those dots was defined by my ability to improve one small, but important detail at a time, or at least to have my jumps “feel easier.”

I’ve also rediscovered the fun of sprinting 20-50m.  I haven’t been timed or filmed yet, but look forward to the opportunity to do so, and possibly attend a Sprinting course at a later date.

Link to my GMB Testimonial!  https://gmb.io/reviews/#is

 

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.