Tag Archives: weight loss

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.


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


Redefining Progress


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

Blank Chalkboard-horizontal

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.”


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


Postures and Ideals

Digest Version: If you’re going to correct a persons technique, make sure you truly know what it is you’re seeing, and how to address the issue. Don’t bring opinions to a science fight.


Me vs a Drawing: My elbows come closer to my body, my grip is narrower, my feet are turned out slightly, my abs are not nearly as well defined but my lats are far bigger….and I’m browner.

One day in a gym not my own….A guy told me that I shouldn’t bench press (with a barbell) or Deadlift (again, with a barbell), and that there are safer ways to build my chest and legs. Barbell Bench Press and Deadlifts weren’t ideal exercises for me. Mind you, this person was a total stranger. Our only previous interaction was my asking him to spot me for an effort.


SIDENOTE: I’ll agree to the fact that there are safer options than Barbell Bench Presses and that Deadlifts can be done with safer things than barbells.

When I asked “Why?” his response was that the Bench Press and Deadlift both create internal rotation of the shoulders…and left it at that. I could understand it if my technique was poor and I had no control of the load, but this wasn’t the case.  Proper technique takes care of that issue pretty well.

Mental notes formed within seconds…        

F7-21 Lim IR_PS Capsule

Internal Shoulder Rotation test.

I have no major history of shoulder injuries and don’t present pain in any given shoulder range. He never asked.

There is a slight structural difference between my left and right shoulder. Although it could stand improvement, my internal shoulder rotation is actually within normal ranges. He never asked or checked.

I typically only Deadlift once per week, and bench twice per week tops. Unless preparing for competition, I may only train maximum effort level 1-2x per month. I also use the ShouldeRok and Indian clubs daily along with a few lift specific mobility drills to keep my shoulders healthy. I don’t just Bench Press and Deadlift. He didn’t ask anything about my current training, he didn’t even ask if he could observe some repeated efforts just to see if it was a case “one off rep” or an actual lift issue.

I’m a competitive powerlifter in the Drug-Free Masters Raw Division. As such, I compete in the Bench Press and may compete in Deadlift as well. For me, Benching and Deadlifting are sport-specific to what I do. He didn’t ask me about my training history, training status or goals.

I left out the fact that the legs are only part of what the Deadlift builds. For all I know he does some squatty type of Deadlift. I bypassed all of those bullets and went straight for the heart.

“Why should internal shoulder rotation be avoided so heavily when it is a naturally occurring action, couldn’t internal rotation be managed during the set up and execution of the lift?” He couldn’t provide an answer.


The guys brain in action after my single question.  I could only imagine how it would have went down had I unloaded on him.

In his head, he had an idealized set of postures and ideal angles. That what he saw for a single repetition and zero knowledge of the person lifting the load was “wrong” and something else was “right”, but he couldn’t explain why he believed them to be wrong.

I can’t back this up, but I have the suspicion the guy may have been a trainer.  I don’t know, I didn’t ask.


Going off the possibility of my suspicion, according to a number of trainer textbooks there seems to be an assumption that there is an idealized posture, with ideal angles of body alignments and that they are identical for everyone. While it is certainly possible to lift something incorrectly, at least according to the intent of the exercise, I believe a few fundamental assumptions are flawed,and aim to challenge that belief.


Despite not having any moving parts, the Kettlebell is quite possibly the most technically butchered piece of equipment in a gym based on the intent of the exercise.

Absolute positions such as “this is wrong” and “this is right “ may only serve to reveal a lack of insight into evaluation and understanding.  I think every discussion regarding ideal body type, posture or alignment has to be prefaced with the question “ideal for what, and for whom?” and “ideal compared to what standard?”

Having an insight into the variety found in a given movement, and being able to transfer observations to another persons needs is key. In short,being able to adapt an exercise to an individual, and knowing the “why” behind the exercise.

Four things that I believe can somewhat be agreed upon…
There isn’t an ideal body type, there are simply human shaped people.
Although there will always be exceptions, certain activities often favor certain body types. This is why we typically don’t see Sumo sized Figure skaters.
The human body is amazingly adaptable. Look how many people lost their asses simply by sitting in comfy chairs all the time.
The human body will adapt to the external requirements it encounters. Adaptation does not need to be forced.

In high-level athletics an Olympic weightlifter has completely different physiological and kinesiological needs compared to a same weight/age/gender Olympic marathon runner. Within those two sports, specific lifters and runners have different requirements compared to other competitors.

In gymnastics, you will see different body types according to the event the athlete is strongest in. For example, Mens Rings specialists, Pommel Horse specialists and Floor specialists all appear slightly different. This doesn’t mean they cannot compete in all the events, just that they are superior in one of them.

Physiques, and postures will accordingly change in response to the demands placed upon it, Different leverage (arm,leg and torso length proportions) will change how an exercise is experienced or viewed. There is an idealized set of angles and ranges per person, and it may not look like the textbooks drawing.

Diet and Exercise while traveling

A challenge faced by working adults is the occasional, or frequent need to travel. This can affect a persons consistency with their diet and exercise plans and cause some mental havoc.  I’ll be the first to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.

I reached out to my professional colleagues to see what advice they are providing their frequent flier clients with the following questions;

“What are your best healthy eating habits or tips for the frequent traveler?”

“Do you have any additional advice for clients on weight loss or weight management diets?”

“I went on vacation and brought back 5lbs of unwanted weight, what can I do?”

“Will a five day trip seriously affect the progress I’ve made in the gym?” (I.E loss of strength,mobility or cardio endurance)

Let’s meet your Fitness Professionals….

ANDY FRISCH is the owner of http://www.FreshEvolutionFitness.com, a growing community where he maintains an active blog and video database. He helps members to engineer their weight loss and improve their health and happiness.

Andy has also worked as a trainer with Sports Village Fitness in Lebanon,TN USA since 2011. Andy’s lengthy list of credentials include Precision Nutrition Level 1 (finishing up Level 2) Coaching, Corrective Exercise, Weight Loss Specialist, and several other specialization courses from National Academy of Sports Medicine and National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA)

He is an expert in the fields of nutritional coaching and lifestyle design. He sees living a healthy and happy life from the macro perspective, while understanding how to adjust the micro level for clients to achieve their goals.

Andy’s Advice…
When it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle while traveling often, a few familiar key factors come to mind. I’ve used these ideas successfully with a handful of type-A executives who are on hectic schedules. The biggest thing to consider is how to prepare best for the individual.

For example, some clients know they’ll be going out to eat, so they Google healthy restaurants within the area they’ll be staying. This allows them to know where they’ll be able to go without having to take time to decide when blood sugar is low and will power may be non-existent.

Also, asking restaurants or hotels if they offer low-glycemic, diabetic, or simply a healthy options menu can be a life-saver. Many establishments have them, though they often don’t advertise the fact.

Other clients may not have time or care to go out to eat, so they need to prepare foods that travel well. This can usually include items like different raw, unsalted nuts or dried fruits for energy (depending on their dietary habits), as well as healthy types of jerky or even protein powders prepacked into ziploc baggies.

If you’re in a pinch and don’t feel comfortable hitting an unfamiliar restaurant, find a local grocery store. You’ll be able to make healthier choices that you’re more familiar with, provided your hotel room has a mini-fridge and a microwave, if needed.

In addition, the closer you can keep your travel lifestyle to match your home healthy lifestyle, the better off you’ll be. Sneaking in even 15 minutes of a quick workout can help rev up energy levels and prepare you for big meetings or presentations. I’ve even had clients who had me design a 10 minute, bodyweight workout they could do in their hotel room before a convention each morning.

Remember, your body likes a routine. While breaking it on occasion is critical to growth, being in a high stress situation, like traveling for work, is often a good time for keeping things comfortable and familiar. If you work out at home, try to work out on the road. Dial back the intensity according to your schedule, but stay active.

If you stick to these, you should be able to keep from adding any unwanted weight. However, if a few additional pounds happen to sneak onto your carry-on and you don’t notice them until you’re home in front of the mirror, it’s important not to panic.

If you’ve been doing the right things prior to leaving to lose weight, go back to those things to lose it back. The biggest mistake someone can make is to freak out about a few extra pounds, completely change up their exercise and nutrition, and get out of the healthy habits they’ve created. Stay the course, have faith, and get right back into the fight. Those pounds will disappear.

Often times, clients worry about going on vacation or business trips. They think the time away from the gym will derail all their progress. In fact, the opposite is often the case. I spend time with my clients to make sure they enjoy their vacations or trips without abandoning all their healthy habits. Sure, we alter them, but we don’t disown them.

This works wonders, as most clients return to hop on the scale and see that the break actually helped them lose a few extra pounds. They’ll also notice feeling refreshed, renewed and reinvigorated. Even my clients who “misbehave” the worst, hitting the bar and having whatever desserts they want, will only come back with 3-5 extra pounds. They don’t panic, they realize the importance of getting right back into the ring, and within a 1-3 weeks those additional pounds are sent packing.


EMMA SKELTON currently based at Proehlific Park in Greensboro, NC. http://proehlificpark.com/about-our-personal-fitness-center/. A sports and fitness center like no other, spanning 84,000 sq ft and owned and operated by ex-NFL wide receiver Ricky Proehl. Originally designed to provide coaching and sporting opportunities for children, it now offers something for all ages.

Emma is a Certified Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, Fitness Nutritionist and Weight Loss Specialist through NASM and can be reached through her Facebook Page The Healthy Life. Among Emma’s current clientele are a number of frequent flyers, including her husband who travels 2 weeks out of 5 across the United States and abroad.

She primarily works with the older populations and will soon be launching a Seniors class to go alongside the higher intensity classes she also teaches.

Emma’s Advice…                                                                                              CHOOSE HOTELS WITH FREE FACILITIES IF POSSIBLE. Even at its most basic, a hotel gym will offer some sort of workout opportunity – use them!!

INVEST IN SOME RESISTANCE BANDS. These items are completely lightweight and portable and are very inexpensive. Even if you are a ‘hand-luggage only’ these will not take up any room. You can easily get a full body workout from these items and is an easy fix to keep you active even in the confines of a small hotel room. If you wanted to crank it up a notch, buy a TRX suspension kit. Again relatively small & light to pack and gives you a powerful, all over body cardio/strength workout if used correctly.

LITTLE & OFTEN. Don’t think whilst you are away you need to cram in your usual 1-2hr workouts. Even 20 – 30 minutes is better than nothing and if you are working hard enough, this is a good time to get your heart rate up and burn some serious fat! Its often hard to find time whilst traveling, especially if you are on someone else timeframe at a conference or such but just by getting up 30 minutes earlier you are guaranteed to get it done and feel better for the rest of your day!

BODYWEIGHT WORKOUTS WORK! Plan a 20 minutes high-intensity workout before you leave. I always offer my clients a few Tabata style workouts that are easy to complete whilst they travel. With a 5 minutes warm up to begin and a 5 minutes cool down at the end, 20 minutes of hard work is all you need to kick start your day. I suggest they download the ‘GYMBOSS’ app and set it a 20 second on, 10 second off intervals x8 with a 1 minute rest in between each ‘round’. That way you are getting a variety of exercises to elevate boredom and getting a kick-ass workout in at the same time! This is a short, sharp workout that requires nothing more than a pair of sneakers, their own bodyweight and some banging music helps too!!

MAKE GOOD FOOD CHOICES. This is always possibly the biggest challenge for most people. A delicious buffet cart, long, fun boozy lunches and tempting continental breakfasts all are hard to resist. I always ask my clients to remind themselves why they are doing this before eating and succumbing to temptations…. always have a little pep talk with yourself before making any bad food decisions. Just being mindful as to what your goals are and how hard you’ve worked thus far, are often all people need to stay focused. Make the best choices you possibly can… grilled proteins, no sauces (or at the very least ask for sauces to be on the side), no heavy carbs and lots and lots of green salads/veggies. Fill up on veggies is a good tip that people always seem to remember. Finally alcohol…. IF YOU HAVE TO indulge, again make good choices – try and avoid heavy beers, calorific wines and alcoholic sodas and cocktails. Chose clear liquors such as vodka and gin and pair them with diet tonics or seltzer waters flavoured with fruits such as lemons or limes. This change will cut your calorie content by half and still leaves you feeling like you have had a good night out!

“FAIL TO PREPARE, PREPARE TO FAIL” This is my go to mantra for all my clients… if you are not planning ahead you are going to fail. I suggest to all my travelers (and people who work in busy jobs too) buy a good shaker/blender cup and take it with you wherever you go. You can buy individual protein powder sachets (which avoids any awkward questions at customs!) and are a quick and easy way to keep on track and on top of your snacks and protein intakes. Quest do a good selection of flavors in individual packs. Other ‘quick fixes’ I suggest include Protein Bars (but they have to be the good quality kind, BPI do a good one as well as Pro-Bar which are delicious but are slightly denser with carbs content). My husband also packs Ostrim bars and Turkey Jerky too for a quick protein pick me up. Finally, this is so important and even more so if you are flying regularly – HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE. Water needs to be your best friend, your body will thank you for it!


RENAE BOHALL ROCHON is a Certified Nutritionist and personal trainer with Four Directions Integrative Wellness located in Tempe,AZ. http://www.fdiw.org

Renae’s lifelong lover of fitness and twenty year professional dancer which included performing, teaching, and choreographing,led to her next passion of introducing exercise and wellness to people around her.  Renae has helped countless clients get into fitness for the first time in their lives, return to fitness after taking a break for various reasons including injuries, personal setbacks or complexities of living in a busy world. This has created the need to think outside the box to support her clients reach their goals. She strongly believes if you really want something, you will find a way.

Renae’s advice…
Have a plan! When you have a plan you will be more successful staying on track because you will be controlling your environment as opposed to letting your environment control you.  Pack nuts, protein bars, protein powder, beef jerky or fruit to keep you satiated. This keeps you from being a slave to the vending machine or binge eating when food is available. Stay hydrated.  Many travelers limit water consumption due to long flights, or seminars.  This can make you confuse hunger for thirst.  Choose flat water instead of soda or carbonation which can cause a build up of air and can irritate the stomach and intestinal lining.  Check out the menu at a restaurant before you get there, and plan what you will order.  This eliminates the temptation that can cause you to sabotage your healthy lifestyle.

Improvise. When there is no hotel gym that is no excuse to skip the workouts.  You can do pushups, planks, squats, dips, lunges, and burpees in a small space.  Travel with a jump rope!  It takes up little space, doesn’t weigh anything, and you can increase your heart rate within 30 seconds.  When you don’t have a choice about what is being served you do the best you can.  Skip the bread and butter, peel off breading, skip dessert, and curb alcohol consumption.  Focus on the things that are in your control.

Relax! Most likely the weight you gained with be principally water weight due to consuming more sodium and carbs than you usually have at home.  Get back to your normal eating and exercise regimen and your body should return to its pre vacation status in a few days.

You will not likely lose many of your gains. People tend to be more active on vacation than they realize. They are often walking more while at the beach, shopping, or sightseeing.  In general, research has shown that one or two weeks of inactivity won’t affect your overall fitness level. It usually takes a month to see significant decreases in strength and endurance unless you are an elite athlete. That being said, taking off 1-2 weeks can compromise your momentum.  If you have struggled with creating and maintaining consistency with your workouts, taking a break will challenge your commitment to restart.  If you have health goals, are rehabbing from an injury, have been seeing results, sleep better when you exercise, or have high performance aspirations then do not take a break.  Become solution oriented and keep moving forward.  There are plenty of difficult obstacles in life, don’t allow yourself to be one of them.

Fit Shaming

Fit Shaming is something relatively new to me. The first time it happened I was also accused of being a fat shamer. Neither of which is a good thing.

Based on one persons opinion, I’m a vain bastard who’s  entire life revolves around that the gym. That I’m incapable of relating to any other subject and only socially acceptable within a gym, or with others just like me.

They never met me.
They don’t know me personally or professionally.
They know zero about my background beyond that which is publicly available…if they even bothered looking into it.

Therefore, I don’t concern myself with their opinions.

That said, Fit Shaming interested me enough to look into it.  My immediate thoughts were that it amounts to simple jealousy.

Having paid attention to things over the last month I realized both fit shaming is more common than I knew. Although I think some things may have been taken out of context, the effect these words can have on a person is serious nonetheless.

An obese lady posting photos of her healthy meals and occasional mini-videos of her training efforts during her weight loss journey.  She gets flack on her form (which in my opinion truthfully isn’t bad) and received some very mean comments. Thankfully those supporting her seem far more common. Some are on weight loss journeys of their own and are ahead or well-behind this lady. Their relative standing and starting weight means far less to me than their intent and drive to succeed.

A 30 something year old mom of two training for a physique competition. This means she will eventually be getting on stage in front of others wearing a bikini only slightly bigger than a thong cut. She gets called vain…and that she’ll look like a dude. Interestingly this is coming from other women of similar age.

Being honest, the lady already looks really good. She displays the confidence to sport a bikini now and has a vision of being on a stage with other ladies of varying ages as her “I made it here” moment.  It is honestly a relatively short moment on stage and the training getting there bears no resemblance to the actual event. She’s driven by that image, and thankfully other bodybuilders have been helpful with physique and posing needs.

A 40’s male Deadlifting his current maximum 135lbs. He is training for a 2x Bodyweight Deadlift goal. I can only estimate he presently weighs well over 200lbs, which doesn’t make for a light Deadlift goal by most standards and a long training process.

300lbs by itself is more than many men will ever pick up in their lifetime. 

He gets told to stop living in the past, that his form sucks (There sure are a lot of internet lifting judges out there), that at a present 135b maximum 400lbs is a dream and that he’ll hurt his back. Other lifters older and younger, male and female,bigger and smaller give him lifting tips to help him out.

The common themes I’ve observed is this:  The strong support the strong, the weak hate the strong.  

To those being Fit Shamed:
You’ll always have people taking their shots. They just can’t pull the trigger themselves.

Their bravery is internet based, and they can’t be you. Deep down inside their sorry-asses know it.

Tomorrow you will be slightly closer to your goal than you are today. Where will your shamers be? Behind a computer looking for things to b!tch about that’s where.

To the Fit Shamers:
I leave you with a quote from a legendary strength coach.

“Are those who critique prepared to train beside men (MTC: and women) like these for even a year and see what they go through?

Then, and only then would someone appreciate the work and sacrifice that these lifters make.”
Louie Simmons, Westside Barbell

The Sledgehammer Approach

I have no issues with hard training sessions. Hard sessions have their place and are not without value. Personally I find some of the well-regarded ACSM and NASM recommendations to be overly cautious in approach. The lure of hard training attracts some people and some trainers are a better fit to lead it than others.  Hard can be conducted smartly, or can be hard simply to be hard.

That said, the definition of “hard training” is subject to personal interpretation and hard is not synonymous with good.


What I consider “hard” might be less than someones warm up, or my warm-up could possibly be beyond the capacity of another person. Methodology counts as well, saying that all training is equally legitimate simply because all can be hard work is like saying aspirin and arsenic are equally good for you because they both come in pill form and can be easily swallowed.

The details matter.

The minimum details that one should concern themselves:
Who is the client?
Where are they starting from?
What is the goal?

The answers leads to the fourth question, What is the safest (most appropriate) and most efficient path to get this client from where they are,to where they want to be?


I feel deep disdain when I read posts by trainers proudly stating they “trashed a client” or “left them in a pool of sweat trembling”  As if that somehow suggests the session was particularly great and helpful in the longterm.

These comments are not always coming from CrossFit, Power Lifting, Hardstyle Kettlebell, Basic Barbell or Strongman coaches even though these types of training can be incredibly demanding. Fact is people from all sorts of starting points get into these methods and training can be conducted safely under the eyes and brains of a smart coach.

These comments are not coming from coaches preparing people for demanding tests, occupations or sports such Special Operations or Tactical program selection or training athletes in combat and collision sports. It is in this coaches interest to keep the client healthy as one bad session could spell the end towards a goal.

No, these are statements made by garden variety Group Exercise Instructors and Personal Trainers. These people are supposed to be helping deconditioned and medically cleared people get in better shape through group or individualized programs.

It takes zero skill to use exercise as a sledgehammer on another human being, especially if fatigue is the sessions defining goal. What is being improved is the clients ability to endure getting trashed and lay in sweat.IMG_6795

Going back to the fourth question “use a Sledgehammer” is rarely if ever the correct response. Making something harder is relatively easy, Making something better is another thing entirely.

Group Fitness falls under three general types.
The class is pre-set to a specific routine. Everyone does the same work,although volume and technique will differ according to fitness level. Instructor quality will vary, but the material is essentially the same.

The class is pre-set, however scaling (regressing,progressing or substituting exercises) is allowed and directed as required based on the participants skill level.

The groupex leader forms their own program. This can range from well-planned to made up on the spot. The same range found in Personal Training but applied to a group of people simultaneously.

Personal Training varies considerably more but going off the extremes of things…
Each program and exercise is individually client defined. It is tracked and adjusted as required in order to reach a specific adaptation or goal. A partial or total session rewrite could occur depending on the client on a given day or even mid-session.

One program for all clients that day (aka Cookie Cutter workouts)  or worse, one program from every client regardless of variables or goals. No tracking of data.

“But my clients ARE losing weight!”

I believe you, they probably are and will continue  as long as they are consistent…until they adapt to taking physical beatings. Meanwhile, their joints, which were possibly already compromised are only getting worse along with a host of other possible issues.

I’ve seen firsthand how the sledgehammer line of thinking can create a twisted game of trainer one upsmanship. Training is after all being also something of a competitive and image driven business.

This results in the client paying the physical price, and the trainer, if not sued for their actions render themselves irrelevant within a few years.  Really, who wants to be known as the trainer that “trashes people and leaves them laying in a pool of sweat” being their only quality?