A Personal Trainer's Guide To Time And Space
Time and space.
Not often directly engaged in a lot of Personal Training conversation. Yet time and space carry a lot of weight in personal training and success lies in the respect you pay to them.
Because time ultimately tells whether or not one truly cares about their space. How someone conducts themselves in their space can tell a lot about what they're doing (or not doing) with their time.
And at the end of the day the Personal Training field is meant to be an ongoing dedication to not wasting people's time and not just taking up space.
If that can't happen perhaps it is time for a new space.
Time and space are modes in which we think and not conditions in which we live
Three R's For The World We Li(ft) In
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Three R's.
Simple but impactful instruction when meaning is applied to them.
A reminder to be efficient with our resources and that progress isn't ensured by what we have in our possession.
Instruction and a message of respect for the world we live in. Meaningful messaging for managing instruction in this world we lift in.
Instruction is required for a healthy training environment. No question.
Where the question may lie however is how do we handle instruction with so much of it in our possession?
Perhaps the messaging of Three R's provides a way to deal with abundance in the world we lift in. A place where our decisions today can leave a lasting footprint on our tomorrow.
A message that one of today's better instructions is to bring significant personal meaning to simple, impactful instructions.
There have been Three R's that have become a mainstay in my decision making. Three words worth remembering, referencing and refining along the way.
This world can be complicated. A world where decisions today have a lasting effect on what we're dealing with tomorrow. A world that provides instruction for decision making but a world that requires meaning for making decisions right for you.
Your world, we're just li(ft)ing in it.
-JAMar 27, 2015
I Have Some Questions (And I'm Running Low On Answers)
Being in the fitness industry, there is an expetation of answering relevant questions. But answers come easy these days and more often it becomes a case of questioning answers.
Specific questions to specific answers yes.
But for me, the answer worth questioning is this. Answers are everywhere and not going anywhere. How does one handle that?
Well informed but can it be translated to intelligence?
Is easy information raising hands? Or raising noses?
Can walking away from the complexities of asking questions for the simplicity of acquiring answers pave a way forward? Or can it confuse activity with accomplishment?
Can an individual meaning of effective diet and exercise be found by overindulging in a diet of answers and under-exercising an ability to question?
I hope that questions some answers.
-JAFeb 27, 2015
Ride To Your Rhythm
Have a hero who remains unheralded?
One or multiple figures in our lives who spare the public spotlight despite huge personal significance in shaping who you are, what you do, and tying it all together?
Rhythm has been on my mind a lot when it comes to its influence in my world and to me its influence on exercise is humbling despite its lack of a hero's welcome.
Much like music, the rhythm section of exercise often remains at the back of the band. Behind the scenes compared to the leading roles of exercise selection and dose despite taking on the indispensable role of tying it all together.
Seeing and feeling establishment of rhythm in movement can be a MAJOR deal breaker when it comes to decision making in the gym.
Decisions on how and how much when it comes to loading movement. How far and for how many when it comes to executing it.
Vital decisions with respect to risk management and not biting off more than you can chew. Vital decisions with respect to return on investment and not biting off more than you need to.
Enough fuel to want to roll the red carpet for rhythm and its impact on the direction, drive and individuality required to remain on top of training.
To Establish Rhythm Is To Acquire Skill
No matter where you may be it is vitally important to be able to push thoughtfully to keep you progressive while keeping you in one piece.
Whether you are entry level looking to find your stroke or at a point of diminishing returns duking with dialed up expectations, steps backward for steps forward will remain.
Time in the gym is beyond a push to overcome. It's a skill to be mastered. Rhythm found in movement where previously unfound will always be an indicator of progress whether moving weight or moving competently.
Rhythm Is Seductive
Funny how getting better gets better when we notice we're getting better.
Progress lies in a lot of places when pursuing the big picture and rhythm has a way of showcasing it. In a game where adherence is half the battle, this is a showcase much too important to simply shake off. Establishing rhythm can be the saving grace for a lot of exercise programs and can be put into place quite simply. Test comfort, stay true to control.
Rhythm can take a goal worth working for and make it a game worth playing.
Hard work becomes easy work.
Ride To YOUR Rhythm
The other hero hiding in the shadows of this discussion.
Spend enough time thoughtfully running the gauntlet of exercise selection, dose and frequency you begin to understand some things about your process. Mastering what has worked based on goals, limitations, mechanics as well as sheer enjoyment begin to take a bigger precedent in achieving rhythm.
The need for more makes way for making the most of what you have and while the search for right answers continues, the answers you've acquired may not be as wrong as you think.
Learning curves remain but if you're learning as you are going, the hope is your body and what you know about it call some shots.
So find your rhythm, ride to your rhythm, make strides in your rhythm, take pride in your rhythm and reap the heroics of rhythm in return.
-JAJan 5, 2015
To The Walls
When you really think about it, we share an odd relationship with walls.
Walls protect us from the elements yet they deprive us of the view.
Walls are a profound and sometimes unfriendly reminder of colonial interests yet they are a place to hang something as globally appreciated as art.
The walls you around you may feel like home yet the same walls may feel like they are closing in on you.
Wherever you may stand with walls they are here to stay. They have been around for a long time and whether for good or not so good intention I am happy to wager they won't be going anywhere anytime soon.
So let's discuss the good.
One such positive being in training, where walls treat me very well. They have become a vital tool due to their ability for me to position, assess, regress and progress a number of movements for a number of reasons.
Here is why:
For me it is the self adjusting resistance versatility that seals the deal. With some of my clients the wall may be a staple in entry level resistance training.
For others it may be movement prep or movement pairing where your ability to control resistance can both move you as well as torch you up if you want it to.
Ankle Mobilization/Loading of the Foot
There are a number of ways the foot and ankle can be tackled in training but the downward force of a planted foot paired with the horizontal force of hands on a wall has become a big ally in my programming. It provides a self adjustable load to get the ankle into dorsiflexion as well as a very effective amount of load on the arch, as well as the thigh and hip when the leg is properly extended. A great pre-requisite to single leg resistance work.
Hip Flexion/Extension Drills
From top to bottom it gives you a chance to load the body. In this case the forward and downward force from your hands allows the ribcage, trunk and mid back to load. Pair it with the push from the planted foot and you get a real feel for hip extension which carries over very well for flexion of the moving hip.
Another great pre-requisite to single leg resistance work. Particularly the step up.
I have a soft spot for the hinge and will use any dirty trick in the book to find the most teachable version of it for each person I work with. Once again the ability to load the hip and trunk through downward force application is a winner for me. Positioning can be left to your own devices based on the pattern that you are seeking.
Mid Back/Trunk Work
Another common occurrence in my world is finding ways to redirect tension to the right places in the upper half. To give the head, neck and low back a breather and groove the feeling of abdominal expansion and thoracic extension.
In this case the wall gives me an ideal position to brace the body without it becoming excessively rigid. This allows more attention geared toward breathing, bracing, loading the mid back and finding the ideal range of motion to wire it all together.
To The Walls
Fitness has its walls.
Fundamentals in movement, nutrition and lifestyle that have served the test of time and continue to prove themselves worthy yet there is a mainstream attraction in breaking down these walls. While questioning the norms is never a bad thing, a lot more success can be found in learning why these walls continue to stand.
A friendly reminder to let the fundamentals challenge you to the fullest before you do the same to the fundamentals.
-JAJul 30, 2014
Arm Day. Isolation Shmisolation
What was once lost is found again.
There is a spot in my heart for arm days. The curl being the go to move in case of an encounter with stray dumbbells as a kid. When flexing and extending the elbow with cables and weights in my gym infancy was all I knew. In the very early days it was all that mattered. Eventually this turned into bodybuilding where after multiple lactate flavored leg workouts per week an arm day felt like a paid vacation.
But for a while I had kept my distance. The quest of how do I get gains evolved into the quest of how do I do this for a living?
Being in the gym went from aesthetics to apprenticeship. Learn and feel as much as I can and figure out where it all ties into the way I go about my business now that my business is no longer just about me.
The crucial point and common practice that came out and resonated with me? Make movement and make muscle.
In my world this means a lot of different things for a lot of different people. For some of the people I work with this has meant bringing some good old fashioned arm training into the mix.
Welcome back old friend.
Arm training takes its flack and I get some of it. Hell I have definitely deserved to be on the receiving end of it at times.
But getting a chance to learn it, feel it and teach it with an ever growing lens I have to say that it is good stuff. When done well I see a great carry over to bigger movements.
A great pre requisite to more complex upper body movements for some. A great complement to more complex upper body movements for others. A pump to be had by all.
In coming up with an answer to what arm training is and what it isn't I have taken sides with this answer. It is whatever you want it to be and a lot of that answer boils down to who is behind the wheel of it. Not just who is watching the race.
Close Grip Pushup Variations
Benefits: Hip/Mid back mobilization, upper body deceleration, trunk control, pump deluxe.
No matter the individual I enjoy getting people getting to the ground with grace. A big part of my decision making on how that goes about is rhythm. In this case, seek out a pushup variation where rhythm can be kept within your ideal volume ranges. In the case of building arms, my volume recommendation would be just shy of no longer looking pretty.
Moving Rope Pressdown
Benefits: Mid back mobilization, trunk stabilization, hinge practice, heavy pump
No matter the exercise, anytime I can get someone loading their trunk in a hinged position I consider it a victory. Add to it the ability to control and load the mid back, as well as get the posterior shoulder involved and work gets done. Honorable mention to the searing pump that comes with getting the posterior shoulder involved in contracting the triceps.
Benefits: Trunk and ribcage control, mid back/serratus activation, t-shirt splitter
A front runner for the more than meets the eye award. For anyone feeling postural limitations with their heavier lifts, strict curls get my approval. The upright positioning, the bracing and extension that is necessary to get the most bang for your buck and a lifting load that allows you to maintain it makes it a keeper for me.
Single Arm Cable Curl
Benefits: Lateral hip/trunk stability, shoulder rotation, ribcage control, freakin' peakin'
Someone taking a set of cables to blast out some cable curls. A secret enemy to a number of trainers when equipment is not easy to come by. To that I say know your enemy.
In this case a former enemy has become a vital ally. Set yourself in a single arm situation of the cable curl and you'll understand why. Top to bottom this will charge you up due to the horizontal tension. One giant standing isometric hold paired from the ribcage down paired with some rotation of the shoulder. Bonus points for the unselfishness of using just one handle.
Join The Party
Training is a funny thing. No doubt there are absolutes involved with it but the pursuit of absolute certainly has some wiggle room. There are goals in mind and considerations to work around in a lot of training environments and that sometimes takes its share of compromise, creativity and the use of any dirty trick in the book to get a desired result.
If there are things that need to be worked around in your upper body work, maybe arm training can facilitate that. If there are strength/hypertrophy limitations in the t-spine region, maybe arm training can help you out.
If it is a skin tearing set of arms you are seeking, then pump away ladies and gentlemen.
I am on your side.
-JAJul 11, 2014
Strike Up The Band
Tough not to admire a good band.
A good band has that innate ability to explore and integrate different concepts, practice them and put it all together into a smooth sounding performance. A good band isn't measured by the instruments they use but the sound that they can make with what they have.
Like a good band, the weight room can have all of the instruments in the world but your ability to use them will decide whether you are making music or just making noise.
Some instruments are more self explanatory than others. Some may be simple in their appearance yet much more complex in their application. A little more thought, exploration, practice and application may be required for such instruments. What cannot be denied however is their ability to make some very sweet music.
I've had a long lasting love for one such instrument as of late. One that can make a big sound out of a small concept. One that just so happens to be...well.... the band.
A big part of my training world exists where patterning precedes pressing and where pain reduction precedes personal records. Even on my own or working with folks who are ready to get after it, long gone are the days of warming up with 135 until it feels light enough to start stacking.
For that reason the band has become a simple instrument that can handle numerous complexities. For some, the band may suit exercise pairing, others it may be exercise preparation. Depending on how you use it, the band can be straight up exercise.
My hope with the drills below is to show what I have really come to appreciate with the band. A sweet in between when it comes to striking the hands and loading shoulders. Enough tension to produce force paired with enough elasticity to put it in the right places.
In other words, many ways to make music depending on how you strike up the band.
Upright Row, External Rotation, Overhead Reach
While I am not all that partial to the traditional upright row, the light resistance paired with the ability to pull apart makes this variation a lot more comfortable. The rotation and the overhead sequencing with the band resistance I have really taken a liking to as prep for any overhead work. Or this is the overhead work.
When it comes to loading the shoulder with pulling, the use of the hands reminds top of mind with me no matter the weapon of choice. Once again when looking to load the mid back, the pulling apart motion paired with the ability to externally rotate the shoulder by way of using the hands provides some answers to what should be thrown in the mix with various horizontal pulls. Some great prep work for any horizontal pushes paired with a crash course in pulling.
Reaching, Hinging, Squatting
My biggest case for the band is it's ability to approach resisted movement from a skill acquisition standpoint. If it is time for a breather from the heavy stuff, if you're on the road, or if resistance training is a relatively new concept for you the band is a cost effective, portable and extremely versatile tool you can keep in the mix no matter where you are training or where you may be in your training.
A visibly simple instrument with endless movement complexities. A device that can make the light stuff feel heavy which carries over quite well to the heavy stuff feeling lighter.
-JAJun 27, 2014
Supplements. Knowledge Is Power
Let me start by saying that I do take supplements for various reasons whether it be managing health, managing sleep, or managing muscle.
My outlook on supplements however has certainly experienced a lot of changes over time as the my understanding of the supplement industry continues to grow. An outlook that has grown from impulse purchases to investigative processes.
While I feel supplements have helped me, the supplement industry has provided an even larger service in helping me spend my money.
When looking at the present and projected growth of the supplement industry I have a feeling I may not be the only one.
For that reason my most reliable piece of advice related to supplement use does not come in the form of result but in a reminder. A reminder that we are consumers within a system that relies on us continuing to do just that.
That being said, as consumers we are the ones with the power. And in most cases, knowledge is power.
We now have the ability to research a car top to bottom before receiving the song and dance from the dealer. We can scour through travel websites to get the sometimes biased, sometimes unbiased and often animated customer feedback prior to booking.
Thankfully, the supplement industry has found an unbiased savior in examine.com.
An independent organization dedicated to providing unbiased information related to nutrition and supplementation by going through the vast amounts of research and expressing their findings in a format very friendly to a mainstream audience.
Not to sell you supplements but create a higher level of knowledge toward products that you are not only purchasing but ingesting.
They knocked it out of the park with their Supplement Goals Reference Guide.
However they have decided to out do themselves again by launching their Supplement Stack Guides for anyone seeking out greater validity in the supplements specific to personal preference.
The stack guides cover sixteen topics.
If supplementation is a part of your day to day I cannot say enough good things about what these guys have to offer. Add to it the amount of unreal free content they have available on their blog.
If I had to provide a universal answer to supplement related questions, "do your homework'' seems to be an answer I just can't shy away from. Fortunately there are people like the folks at Examine to make that a lot easier for you.
-JAJun 25, 2014
Stop Foam Rolling and Start Using Your Foam Roller
I really do appreciate what the foam roller can do.
My introduction to it knocked my socks off. After being pedal to the metal in the weight room for a number of years with range of motion standards consisting of putting a fork or glass to my lips I was absolutely amazed by how good it felt to mobilize tissue.
Familiarizing myself with the foam roller, it soon become a key part of my exercise prescription as well as my sessions with clients.
I do have a confession to make however.
Looking back on it all I can say that it was more than likely an over prescription on my behalf. Not necessarily a mistake made since it was still extremely helpful but as the training lens grows over time the thought evolves to where it ties into the big picture. In my situation where most of my body of work is tied getting people moving well, it is in my best interest to get down to the brass tacks.
Especially when time is of the essence.
Foam rolling most definitely has its place and is still something I use in session when the need is there to use it. The way I now go about it is instruction on using it so that it can be done at home or pre/post session.
Foam rolling isn't as big a part of my big picture movement instruction as it used to be, but it certainly doesn't mean the foam roller has been left out of the big picture.
In fact the foam roller has reinvented itself as one of my preferred in session movement preparation tools for an entirely different reason.
Hip Extension, Abdominal Expansion, Thoracic Spine Extension, Rib Cage Control
Using the foam roll to load the body and to throw breathing into the mix has become a go to for me when it comes to achieving abdominal and thoracic control. Add to it being in a position of vertical hip extension it will give you a lot when it comes to lengthening the front side without shredding the low back or hip flexor.
Working with a wide range of clients I have used these drills in a lot of scenarios. For some it may be movement prep, others it may be active recovery and for some of the people I work with it may very well be their first introduction to a deadlift.
Wherever it may fit in the downward force application on the roll has been wildly effective for me when it comes to teaching the role of the anterior chain in a deadlift. One of the biggest feedback pieces I have received is when the lower abdomen can fire before the hip moves, hinging starts to make sense.
The roll also allows for numerous changes in direction whether it is the trajectory of the hand or the position of the feet when it comes to loading various angles of the hinge.
Particularly barbell loaded pushing I have found this to be extremely effective when it comes to putting tension in the right places.
That's How I Roll
Like any other piece of equipment in the gym the foam roll is a tool and like any other tool the key is to know where it fits in the grand scheme of things. Moving and lifting efficiently and pain free makes life substantially easier in the gym and foam rolling certainly helps.
However in order to move well requires you to get skillful at moving and if I had to pick one over the other when it comes to bang for your buck in the weight room, maybe the foam roller can assist you in serving a higher purpose.
-JAJun 20, 2014
Hot Wax And Human Performance
Outlets. We all have them.
An opportunity to gear down from the daily grind and give yourself some undivided attention. What is hopefully a very bright spot of your day to day.
Personally, that outlet for me has become the record player. An almost nightly event of unwinding to a raw sound on a classic device. Better yet a music playing device that does not rob you of your attention span with one thumb swipe to the right.
In fact it has evolved to a form of meditation to me. A deep exploration of the messaging coming my way through beats, riffs, and lyrics and how it may influence my overall thought process and embrace any weird ideas that may surface as a result of it.
Ideas that may take two wildly different subjects in theory only to realize there may be more in common than initially imagined.
In this case, the record player and its ability to influence how you may look at your own performance.
With spinning records comes the risk of skipping records. One poorly calculated step in your encounters with gravity has the potential for party foul.
In physical performance the terms strength, speed, and power are often the key buzz words in the discussion and rightfully so. However we cannot forget the importance of polishing the deceleration skill set within all of this. Eccentric strength, stability and a constant awareness of your relationship with gravity plays a major role in strength, speed, and power development.
Add to it the influence deceleration training has in changing directions, hitting the ground gracefully and ultimately playing its part in keeping you and your vinyl collection out of harm's way.
Funny how some things whether it be music or training serve the test of the time. No matter how much we evolve, there are just certain devices that never seem to disappear. I cannot say that I predicted the resurgence of vinyl in mainstream music. Nor would I have predicted the mainstream resurgence of barbells, kettlebells, and old time lifts in mainstream gyms but here we are.
Both however are tried and tested. They've been around for as long as they have been because they produce a great result. While there will always be evolution in both how we listen as well as how we lift, there are just some things that will always have their place in the process.
Who knows, maybe in another ten years we will all be listening to CD's and you'll see select Hammer Strength machines in CrossFit gyms.
Side A-Side B
My biggest appreciation in vinyl comes in the commitment of listening. Rather than skipping, shuffling, and surfing through a potentially endless resource you have the chance to adhere to and explore one key source that you have ultimately decided upon.
A commitment in training that can also be very tricky due to the fact that we can follow the same fate. Where adherence seems to be the ultimate roadblock in getting where you want to be physically I think we can take a lot from the record player.
You make a decision on a particular selection and your best way to make the most of it is to commit to it and explore it and most importantly ride the course of side A before you can say you made it to side B.
-JAJun 17, 2014