Tag Archives: Westside Barbell

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/


The Why and The WTF.

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Student of Science and Art

I consider both science and art to be lifetime studies.  I believe the ability to effectively Coach requires application of both, with some coaches favoring one side slightly more than the other.  I’m approaching my third decade as a coach and still consider myself a student.

Coaching is a Science.
Putting on a shirt that says “Personal Trainer” on the back doesn’t make you a trainer,a coach or much less of a Scientist. Being frank,even possessing a degree in Exercise Science or Physiology doesn’t make you a trainer either. It makes you a person that passed collegiate level coursework in the science behind the subject.

In becoming a coach, the scientist half examines exercises and asks the questions “How does this work? What is the intent of this exercise?  and How can this be applied, and to whom?”


For all the jokes I’ve made about the BOSU ball (and there have been many) I have also stated two points (a) The BOSU is not totally without use and (b) The BOSU didn’t make the decision as to what was being done with it, a human did…and possibly one wearing a shirt that said “Trainer” on the back of it.

ANALYSIS: Taken as individual exercises, standing on the BOSU is a challenge to a persons righting reflexes and can help rehabilitate ankle or knee injuries.  The single arm cable pull is good exercise to train pulling and rotation or anti-rotation qualities.  When combing the two exercises the load is greatly lowered as force cannot be  adequately produced off the unstable surface. It is possible that the load could create a degree of stability on the unstable surface, which would seem to nullify any benefit. Numerous studies (1) have shown training on unstable surfaces does not improve, or limitedly improves performance on stable surfaces. I’m not sure why the guy is shirtless, but I’m going with marketing.

While I believe exercises have varying levels of return on investment, I believe that none are inherently good or bad on their own. The application and person doing the work determines if something is good or bad.

Possessing a knowledge of basic physics,mathematics and anatomy can create the ability to understand an exercise. Not simply the point (a) to (b), but the actions both seen and unseen that occur in a given motion or movement. This level knowledge creates a deeper understanding,and allows the coach to create truly client defined exercises.

By no means am I suggesting you learn how to split the atom, but knowing what force, inertia, momentum and moment arms should be considered essential.

Coaching is an Art.
Put a paintbrush in someone’s hand and they are not automatically an artist.

Given time, a person can develop their individual artistic qualities. For the non-naturally gifted, interacting with,being instructed by and studying the works of people known to be talented is normally a great start. I believe the assembly of numerous Scientist/Artist level coaches can positively impact an individuals motivation to improve themselves.

It could also be overwhelming and lead to a students failure to absorb anything.  I’ve seen this occur firsthand.

Some people will either never develop,or be resistant to it. They will find a comfortable intellectual plateau and remain there, or see themselves as something far more than they actually are.  They may actually be passably good trainers, or they might be good within the pond they swim.

The art of coaching partially resides within ones ability to communicate what needs to be done,how the work is to be performed and when needed, the motivation to do the work. The ability to impart confidence to another person is a talent typically not covered on page 123 of the certified personal trainer books.

The certified personal trainer certification is a fine starting point, but until you understand the foundations of physics and practical anatomy as applied to training you will never see your full potential.

“Potential” is often expressed as a positive. This isn’t always the case,to some coaches “potential” translates to “that which is holding you back” or even “simply a wish,until realized.”

In fairness,being “less than full potential” might still very good and certainly better when subjectively (or objectively) compared to the average trainer.

That said,I offer three points to consider…
(1) Your “less than full potential” may be far less than what you’re actually capable of doing. Are you the type of person that’s okay with settling for less?

(2) Consider your subjective comparison group. 60-80% of the trainers around you likely vary from borderline acceptable to outright dangerous. Fact is there is a high number of substandard trainers within the industry.

Read about it here:  https://mytrainerchris.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/8020/

(3) The subjective top percentile are always looking to stay on top and ahead of things. This is a fact.

The good news is you can always catch up and we live in an age where credible information is literally clicks away. .

The worst thing that could happen would be for good teachers to relieve themselves of trying to teach you. You can blame whomever you want, but when the dust settles you’re the one that lost. That said, even that isn’t completely insurmountable and a person can move forward and upward having learned from the experience.

If one is open to it.
…is able to put their ego aside.
…is able be a student.
…is able to demonstrate growth over time.
…is willing the become both a scientist and artist.


(1) The effects of ten weeks of lower-body unstable surface training on markers of athletic performance.


A message to the Entry Level Trainers

By no means is this blog an attack on you. If anything, this blog entry is one of hope.

I hope you reach your full potential.

I hope you become a better coach than I ever was, or better yet, be the coach I wish I had.

I hope that through your daily actions you represent the best of what we can be in this profession.

I am certified through Westside Barbell along with several other agencies and a large part of what I do is train new trainers. I take great pride in this role, and quite frankly enjoy the hell out of it.  It’s not something that I consider “work.”

In my coaching  and teaching practice I often cross-reference both the ACSM and NSCA texts and READ DAILY on a broad selection of topics central to means and modes in which I deliver training. I have numerous books I’ve re-read at least six-times and have freely given books to other trainers, only to wind up replacing them later on. (Oh how I love you Amazon.)

HISTORY. When I first started out the field of personal training was in its infancy. In fact, my entry into the field predates the formation of my credentialing bodies.

The first goal was actually learning how to coach another person that was noting like me. Training another young male of similar build and goals wasn’t at least on the surface, a very difficult thing.   This goal evolved into being able to apply the scientific principles of exercise, create client defined training programs and developing others into improved versions of themselves.

These are the intents of the coach, at least they are for those that take that title to heart.

Through the years I learned how to take a heart rate and blood pressure readings, how to assess clients through a battery of different testing measures and how to control and monitor load for strength training.

I learned that clients presenting certain medical or orthopedic problems need to be referred out (unless they were medically cleared or referred.)

I learned that the overload principle doesn’t mean injuring clients, and that a given exercise can be manipulated numerous to create a different experience and response.


Over the last several years, I and many of my colleagues have watched our professional calling roll off the road. The production and commonness of substandard, and in some cases outright dangerous non-professionals grows at a rate far faster than qualified coaches.

Although not fully responsible, the agencies that certify personal trainers have contributed to this problem despite otherwise good intentions. Personally I believe we’ve gotten away from too many things that shouldn’t have been left aside.

For the worse, we live in a time where Instagram births a new “fitness guru’s” daily and science is ignored or openly scoffed.
– Literally, anyone can become a trainer. They don’t even need to know how to exercise themselves.
– Those that actually did earn a certification may not stay updated on matters relevant to what they do,or possess certifications that have longed since lapsed.
– Cardiovascular Health and Strength assessments are unseen, despite the fact the typical client isn’t getting younger or thinner.
– Emphasis on the practical application and performance in the fundamental human movement patterns is not instructed by a high-percentage of “trainers”. Some don’t even know how to perform these movements themselves.
– Client entertainment and suffering seem more important than actual fitness.

I keenly read the results of trials involving client injuries involving trainers. In far too many cases trainers have caused serious injuries by making average or older clients attempt exercises that would be difficult for athletic populations. I honestly don’t want to read about anyone I know having to defending themselves in court.

– Take a health history.
Require medical clearance,it will make you look professional.
– Learn how to screen via the methods of one of the credible agencies.
– Assess the clients relative strength and flexibility.
– Don’t be afraid to start with the basics. There is nothing wrong with this.
– Act like a professional and you’ll be treated as one.

I challenge you to bring TRAINING back to being a recognized profession and not simply something where the primary skill involved is counting to ten three times and client exhaustion and soreness are the indicators of “Awesome training.”

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