Blog

Grading Your Glutes

Proper glute activation and hip function has become a big topic of interest for me over the years. Enough to earn some clever nicknames on the gym floor. The call to action on hip function seems to have increased considerably over the years as we have become more and more aware of how vital healthy hips are for any type of training population. Whether it be rehabilitating injuries, relieving/eliminating chronic pain, or overcoming performance barriers a lot can be said for hips that can function and glutes that can effectively fire. Too much for one article. Fortunately it is a subject that has growing validity as there are some great coaches and writers sharing their information and insights into the subject. I now find myself explaining my methods on the gym floor as I have become the resident AssMan in my workplace.
 

I have had the chance to work with good friend and fellow trainer John Rogers over the past few weeks and he was kind enough to let me document some of his workout geared toward his hip function. To give you a brief rundown on John, the guy is no slouch. He is an avid weightlifter and kettlebell enthusiast with some impressive olympic lifts as well as some great squat and deadlift numbers. He is also a former volleyball player who had suffered some ankle injuries in the past and as a result has relied a lot on his quads, hamstrings, and erectors in his big lifts and feels his glutes are being underutilized. Otherwise he moves quite well and moves some weight. Rather than injury prevention, the question to be asked is for a guy who is already well groomed with his lifts and has some impressive strength in his arsenal is what is the potential for progression if he did have full cooperation from the glutes? There are some key points that I do focus on with John and his programming. While he is his own unique case, a lot of these points can be applied to a lot of different training populations in order to get the most out of your back end.

Ankle/Hip Mobility 

There are numerous movements geared toward restoring movement of the ankle and hip. The reason why I like this one is that it covers a lot of ground at one time. You get some great dorsiflexion of the foot which allows for an increased range in the plantar fascia and the calves for the ankle and everything else moving upward. The lateral shift of the hip as well as the slight rotation also brings length to the lateral line of the leg from ankle to hip which is also a big asset. Particularly in this case where there is a history of ankle rolling.

Proper Hip Extension

One of the most common side effects of a lack of hip and ankle mobility that I see is the inability to properly extend the hip. What tends to happen if the mobility and tissue length is not present is the extension of the knee often puts an end to the movement prematurely without the glute being able to do its job at the end point of a lift. Instead the quads and low back are the big movers that get overloaded in the lift. In John's lift, extension of the hip is the primary goal here as the hip is meant to start and finish each repetition. Believe it or not, the weighted hand also plays a huge role in the success of this lift as a tight grip particularly with the smaller digits allow a packed shoulder and extended t-spine. This helps bring the load to the moving glute rather than overloading the QL's in the low back.

External Rotation

This is a big one as internal rotation is extremely common in the 21st century hip and shoulder. In John's case his foot strike can take the blame as the outside of the foot is the main point of contact for him. The wide stance chop works well in his case as it puts that behavior in reverse. In this clip it is the right foot and right hand that are the key points of contact for his movement. The right hip once again starts and finishes the movement and as you can see it is not about the reach, it is about the external rotation and glute activation on the right side that finishes his movement.

Feel It Before You Deal It

While there is some mechanical strategy behind this concept it is the brain and nervous system that is the driving force behind not only this clip but everything mentioned above. While it is a mechanical topic that we are covering it is just as important to address the behavioral patterning behind hip function. The lateral step has become my go to for this idea. While you may not see it what I am doing with John here is using the ground force between his right foot and the box to have him feel what he needs to feel before he executes. In this case the whole foot will be striking but we are looking for enough heel strike to charge up the glute/hamstring and enough mid fot/big toe strike to activate the VMO in order to finish the step. This has a big impact on the outcome of the step because we know that if he is shaky at the finish the VMO and glute are not working in harmony. If he is rock solid, then we are onto something. This concept will be the perfect showcase of the importance of proper movement of the ankle and hip.

The result? John had some sore glutes as well as a squat that felt much more secure by using some lighter resisted well thought out movement targeting the hips and glutes. In his case it may be humbling. In other cases it may be challenging. What can be said for both cases is that it can be a major asset to either type of programming whether it be a novice exerciser or a case of the strong getting stronger.

May 10, 2012
Stillpower>Willpower In The Game Of Fitness

 

It is hard to match the feel good vibes of a real fitness success story. The impact that it has on an individual's physical and emotional state is huge and the feeling is infectious. More often than not, the body of these stories details the effort put into the time in the gym, the dietary and lifestyle sacrifices, and replacing some of life's everyday enjoyments with hard work and extreme discipline. I see, read, and hear about a lot of these stories of willpower, drive, and determination. These type of words can serve as jet fuel for people to take matters into their own hands. However, the more time that I spend trying to understand fitness, the more I have to wonder about how much influence they are meant to have in the big picture of fitness. In my early days of being in the gym I can say that I was one of those people who would be crawling out of my skin with motivation from Rocky Balboa style training montages. To be honest I still get a jolt from them but I cannot say it is the emotional highs of movie clips, commercials, posters, or pep talks that make fitness a part of anyone's long term plans. 

 

For the truly dedicated out there I am sure that you often have to answer and sometimes defend your reasoning behind your loyalty to fitness, clean eating, the hours in the gym, and the early to bed early to rise mentality. On the surface it may look like a labor of discipline, drive, and willpower. This may have been more valid in the early stages of their journey. However it is quite rare for me to interact with a true fitness faithful who has to drag themselves into the gym, forcefully eat well, oblige to getting to bed/rise early, or look at their workouts as a test of will. 

 

I am currently reading an incredible book written by sports psychologist Garrett Kramer titled Stillpower: The Inner Source Of Athletic Excellence. His mentality is that while success in sport requires commitment to your craft, the mentality of slugging it out can take away from true potential in athletics. Fitness to me is no different. Whether it be for my own interests, or the way that I instruct it fitness is something that cannot be forced. It is meant to be a process of bringing awarenessclarity, and enjoyment to the subject. I too spend a lot of time answering questions and sometimes defending my personal and professional commitment to fitness. There are plenty of answers to the questions commonly asked regarding fitness success but for the sake of simplicity, I have to look at the bold terms above. I understand the importance of health and fitness, I understand I have a lot to learn about the subject, most importantly I like it. I am sure the same can be said for any fitness faithfuls reading this post. This way of thinking has brought a lot of change to the way that I conduct myself as a coach as the ride of each individual that I work with has garnered more of my attention in order to reach the expected outcome. 

 

True Change Isn't Willful. It's So Fluent And Intuitive That We Don't Even Realize It Happened

              -Garrett Kramer

 

One of my first adjustments was re-thinking expectations. I can say that starting out as a trainer that there was a certain expectation when it came to discipline. In order to be successful you had to completely change the way you live in order to complement your programming. I have come to learn better and understand that while people want to get better it may not necessarily mean putting the same expectations on them that I would put on myself. When looking at the time and effort it requires to understand my own fitness pursuits, it would be completely selfish to expect the same efforts overnight. Rather than carrying the title of a measure of accountability, I believe that I good fitness coach is meant to be a measure of reason. It is my job to provide as much awareness as I can and let people make their own decisions based on their new found awareness rather than being the guy who makes their clients do burpees because they had a few beers the night before a session.

 

When it comes to goal setting, I think that it is great to have goals in mind but it is not something that is meant to manifest you. If there is anything that I have learned about fitness goals it is that they are great to have but they are often achieved before you have even realized you have achieved them. The ability to put your effort into enjoying the process rather than expecting something out of  it will provide a greater assistance to your goals than goal setting itself.

 

Enjoyment is often the biggest conversation piece that I encounter. I have a hard time believing someone when they say that they do not get enjoyment out of exercise. Movement is something that is hard wired in all of us. To get enjoyment out of it I believe that it is something that needs to be prescribed differently for everyone both physically and emotionally. It goes well beyond exercise prescription. It can mean adjustments in the environment as a whole whether it be spending more time listening, responding to feedback, changing your demeanor, or spending time making fun of yourself. The list can be long. For someone who does not enjoy muscle soreness, there is a good chance that I will not be putting them through a workout that would force them to get scraped out of bed the next morning. What may be a sense of discomfort from the beginning may turn into a sense of accomplishment further down the road. However, they have to understand and enjoy what they are doing in order to get to that benchmark in their exercise. I believe that everyone has what it takes to enjoy getting their hands dirty with exercise and turn it from a tedious task to effortless fun. It just requires a bit of fine tuning.

 

For those of you who admire and aspire to the efforts put into fitness success, keep in mind that for those who are successful their efforts are not forced. It is an effort that not only comes from discipline, but a straight line accumulation of knowledge, awareness, and appreciation of what their decision making can have on their performance. While willpower may have sparked this behavior, it is the concept of Stillpower and its application to fitness that actually gets someone to where exactly they want to be.

May 6, 2012
What Is Fit?

 

Everyone has their own general ideas of what being fit is. For some it may be the ability to complete a marathon. For others it may mean hitting a heavy clean and jerk or stepping on stage at 2% body fat. We are exposed to numerous ideas and opinions on what being fit should look like. Whether it be running, bodybuilding, strength training, racquet sports, or this proclaimed sport of fitness concept that has evolved. They all posses certain characteristics that can be classified as essential weapons in your fitness arsenal.
 

  • Strength                
  • Speed                 
  • Agility                   
  • Power                   
  • Endurance
  • Mobility
  • Stability 
  • Flexibility
  • Muscular
  • Lean

These are all valid characteristics of fitness. Depending on your methods, you may encounter some more than others and of course the more of these that you are able to harness, the greater the justice you serve when titling yourself as fit.

 

However, when pursuing fitness there are a number of dark horse characteristics that come with the experience. They may not present themselves in the way of a max lift, a fast run time, or a jaw dropping physique. They are characteristics based on good judgement and big picture thinking that will not only help you tackle the checklist above but keep you getting after it for a long time to come. I have the pleasure of working with and learning from people who have been working out for a long time and I consider most of them as people being very fit in their own right. With all of this time spent in the trenches fitness has become a way of life and their pursuit to fitness is a continuous graceful pursuit. They have learned their lessons along the way and will continue to learn them and while physically it is quite impressive it is the savvy that they have acquired that fuels the pursuit and keeps it running. 

 

Open Minded? Of Course. The Man Took Ballet Lessons!

 

Specificity

 

The ability to take some time and establish what exactly it is that YOU need out of your fitness programming. It is easy to follow a copy and pasted online workout or follow a workout of the day but I can assure you they didn't have you in mind when it was posted. Becoming fit requires you to identify your specific needs and wants and build around that. What are YOU looking to accomplish? Get strong? Get Lean? Get Fast? Improve Movement? Just as important is an understanding of what YOU are looking to eliminate. Is there pain or chronic injury that you would like to reduce or eliminate? Is there stress in your current state that you want out of your life? The ability to dig deep into yourself and truly understand what it is that you are looking to get out of your programming and build around your specific needs is vital. While following an internet training split may give you some short term gratification, I have seen it happen often enough now to know that it is not the way to approach your own bottom line for the long term.

 

Intelligence

 

Training intelligence in my mind is the ability to know what your body can handle on any given day and to work around that. This means identifying what you are working with before you get after your workout. If the stars are aligned and you are feeling great then you know it is time to get after it. However, if you are run down or dealing with some aches and pains on any given day it is the ability to make the necessary adjustments to your workout to get through it smoothly. Anyone that I consider fit usually has a story of their mind writing cheques that their body cannot cash. Myself included. If you can limit these experiences by training intelligently you will set yourself up well for a successful path to fitness. 

 

Consistency

 

Having a plan in place is one thing, but patterning the habit of training until it becomes a part of your behavior. Establishing training intelligence will allow you be physically consistent. It seems as if it is a lot of other external factors that effect consistency. Lack of time, lack of equipment, lack of 

a facility often become barriers. While the scenario may not always be perfect, something is always better than nothing. Acquiring consistency can teach you a lot about working with what you have.

Time limitations? Better make it quick and dirty. Lack of a facility? Take a look at what you can do in the environment you have. Lack of equipment? Bodyweight exercise is a beautiful thing. Whatever obstacles may surface, keep in mind that while your workout may not be perfect, the ability to adapt and maintain consistency will go a long way in keeping you focused on your bottom line.

 

Longevity

 

The most important in my eyes and arguably the most overlooked. Is your plan going to set you up for long term sustainable success. One of my biggest admirations as well as one of my biggest beefs with fitness is the level of dedication associated with numerous aspects of fitness. This type of marriage to any particular component of fitness definitely has its place. If you are competitive you do what you need to do. However if you are looking to be fit and stay fit is what you are currently doing setting you up for long term success? I see a lot of situations of runners being in chronic pain; who continue to run. Squash players armed with ankle braces, knee braces, and therapy tape before a match. Hardcore Yogis with low back pain. Chronic muscle building with massive movement limitations. Lets not forget the crew following the protocol of extremely technical lifts, extremely metabolic demanding workouts while trying to limit their time of completion. It all looks sexy on newsprint, television, and the internet and I cannot argue that it gets people motivated, it does have its place. However, lets not forget that sustainable fitness goes well beyond staying true to one path.

 

Everyone is entitled to their opinions on what fit is and it is safe to say that everyone to a certain extent is correct with them. It is all good. Whatever your definition of fitness may be, the idea of taking the initiative and incorporating activity into your life is one of the best decisions that you can possibly make. I can say that I have been one of those people who has veered off to one direction of fitness and be narrow minded toward others. One of the best things that I could have done for my own personal fitness is abandon that narrow mindedness and take what I can out of each aspect of fitness and make it my own for both myself and the people that I work with. Adopting that mindset has done a lot not only with the physical characteristics that define fitness but the mental savvy that keeps it going for years to come.

Apr 29, 2012
Factoring Feedback

Feedback comes in many forms. For anyone in the gym it is the aspect that defines success or failure. For me, it is the foundation of my job security. If the feedback is good, then things are running smoothly. If it isn't then I know that I need to make some changes otherwise I am in trouble. More often than not, feedback is often received after the fact. However, I have been looking at feedback in a much different light lately. Rather than sticking to the plan and hoping for positive feedback after a workout, it is the feedback that I receive prior to getting after it that has a growing influence on my programming. Of course, ther`e is a plan in place specific to goals however, it is the ability to read and understand certain feedback that makes the final decisions on the movements, intensity, load, and volume of a workout. While having a plan in place is great, it is the ability to listen, communicate, observe, and program in ink rather than stone that helps ensure long term positive feedback after the fact. Whether you are dishing out a workout or putting yourself through one, these are some subtle feedback clues that have influenced my decision making and ultimately have kept me employed over the years.

The Handshake

While it is a polite gesture, it has also become one of my biggest assessment tools. The strength of a handshake tells me a lot about confidence, but it also tells me a lot about what an individual is ready for. If it is a solid handshake, I often look at it as a clue that this person is good to go. If it is noticeably weaker I could look at a number of things. Stress, fatigue, illness, physical or emotional limitations can all be factors that could bring changes to the agenda. This is something that I frequently observe with the people that I work with as well as myself in order to make the right decisions when it comes to workout time.

The Recap

The simple questions such as "How was your day?", "How are you feeling?" often become programming decision makers. While it may take a little more communication than just these two questions, it is the ability to ask these important questions, listen carefully to the answers, and make the right decisions based on these answers that can ensure feeling better walking out of the gym than walking in. I may have a plan to test someone's max deadlift, or work capacity and they walk in and tell me about their sleep deprived, high stress, malnourished day in the boardroom I know that I need to make some changes to cater to that.
 

Not Exactly How It Is Meant To Go

Posture

I think it's a trainer thing but posture watching to me is as common as people watching. It is something that is drilled into my head and it has become another assessment asset. Of course it can tell you about what is tight and weak, but that is not entirely what I am after when it comes to assessing posture. More importantly, posture has become the number one indicator for me when it comes to the line of communication that an individual has with their brain and their body. For the people that I have worked with for extended periods of time, varying posture plays a big role in my decision making. If someone is hunched over more than usual, this may mean extended warming up and movement preparation and of course a workout that an individual can comprehend and apply gracefully.

The Workout Itself

What I have learned over the years is that variables may present themselves at any given time within a workout. The pursuit of feedback occurs throughout the workout as well and changes may follow. It could be anything from changing the movement, to changing the environment. Whatever needs to be done to have a movement flowing purely and pain free.

One of the most valuable lessons that I have learned over the years is that not every workout is going to be the dream workout. If we had the ability to sleep perfectly, eat flawlessly, and carry zero physical and emotional baggage it may be a different story. But life happens. We all have a lot on our plate and sometimes it can affect what goes down in the gym. Rather than looking at it as a write off, look at it as an opportunity to use proper judgement with your workouts. Listen to your body, feel better walking out than you did walking in and get yourself ready to rip when the time is
right. For you trainers who may be reading this, one of the most valuable lines that I have heard over the years goes as this "Design Your Programs Around Your Clients, Not Your Clients Around Your Program''. If you can grasp this concept and apply it the positive feedback will take care of itself.

I also want to let everyone know that as of today, I have an updated website worth visiting. The ChangeLink page is ready to go and we have it packed with a growing inventory of free video, articles, as well as insights into wellness from myself, Josh Stryde, and Martyn Evans. Have a look as it will be worth your while and of course a big thanks to Wendy Ellacott for all of your help!

 

www.thechangelink.com

Apr 25, 2012
Digging Into The Deadlift

A lot of people have their go to move in the gym. For some it could be variations of the squat, for others it may be a clean or snatch. Personally, I feel as if the deadlift is the one big lift that has done me no wrong. Each of the big lifts are and will always be gold in resistance training programs and the level of ability while executing them can serve as vital benchmarks in your overall performance. And while the squat is still my favorite assessment tool, various volumes, vectors, and loads of the deadlift have become my go to movement for a number of reasons.

1. Lumbar-Thoracic Extension

Posture to me is the definitive test of someone's ability to coordinate their body and more often than not, this is something that is compromised during the 23 hours a day that you are not in the gym. The consideration that can be put into postural improvement when using appropriate deadlift patterns has been a huge assistance. Not only in stacking up the deadlift itself, but making the most of the low, mid, and upper back during squatting, pressing, and pulling.

2. The Use Of The Feet And Hands Together

I have become a big fan of being mindful of the feet and hands while lifting and the deadlift has become the poster child of this. When prepping someone for a deadlift I have adopted the cue of bending the barbell by driving the thumb forward and pushing the bottom part of the hand back into the bar. This allows for appropriate retraction and rotation of the shoulder to make the most of your posture for the lift. Coordinating this with applying force to the ground with the foot finishes this by turning on the hamstrings, glutes, as well as activating and extending the low back. You will know your position is set when you essentially have everything in your posterior chain roasted before the bar even leaves the ground. In the video below you will be able to see what I mean.

3. The Hip Hinge

A term growing in popularity but it's importance justifies its rise. The ability to coordinate well oiled movement of the hip is one of your biggest assets in making the most of the big lifts. The ability to coordinate hip hinging is a major priority for me and movements such as Romanian Deadlift variations where the hip starts and finishes the movement have become key movements. In particular for people who looking to eliminate limitations to squatting.

4. Back Line Length and Activation

A common side effect of limitations within the hip is the overuse of the quads and knees to start and finish lifts. The ability to integrate deadlift patterns have become a big tool in restoring range in the back line from heel to shoulder. This new found length and range often turns into greater activation of the back line as factors such as the heel strike, the hip hinge, and mid back extension begin to work together.

5. The Angles

The latest factor that I have come to appreciate is the versatility that the deadlift can provide. Personally, the feeling of a heavy barbell deadlift is like no other but being able to use different variables in resistance and position have added a lot of fresh movement to the workout toolbox.

My Story

I don't exactly take pride in my appreciation of the deadlift but I do want to share it due to its relevance. When I began lifting weights, like a lot of ego driven young lifters I would tend to shy away from the squat rack. I did however enjoy a lot of deadlifting and integrated a lot of them from the very beginning. Squatting began to become a bigger part of the routine but I did have to swallow my ego and learn how to actually squat. As squatting became a bigger and bigger component, the
understanding of the mechanics of it became bigger and bigger. And while I may have been one of those half assed squatters in the early weightroom days, I grew to enjoy and understand squatting and I attribute a lot of that to the pre requisites that the deadlift did provide me.

Apr 22, 2012
27 Things I have Learned

Not quite sure where the time has gone but it is my 27th birthday today. It is kind of funny when you are a kid and you look at adulthood as the point in life where you have it all figured out and have all the answers. I was certainly wrong in that assumption as I still have a lot of questions when it comes to life. However it has been a lot of fun looking for the answers and may the pursuit go on. I have learned a few lessons along the way. Definitely more than 27 but when it came to being selective these were the ones that jumped out at me when it comes to the topics that I am often immersed in.

1. Numerical Age Is A Horrible Way Of Classifying Human Potential.

    Certainly age does have some limitations but by no means is it as significant as we give it
    recognition for. It is amazing what the mind and body can do at any age whether it be the
    strength of a 60 year old or the creative brilliance of a 6 year old.

2. Nutrition Is Everything

    If you can figure out your nutrition you can figure out a lot about yourself.

3. Movement Matters

    Life is a move it or lose it game. If you want to live to the fullest exercise paired with
    nutrition will be the answer. Really a lot simpler than we sometimes make it.

4. Invest In Your Brain And Your Body

   You have complete control on the return and no economic downturns and shady banking
   practices can take it all away from you.

5. Don't Let School Get In The Way Of Your Education

    Learning goes well beyond the textbook. It requires you to get your hands dirty as well.

6. Your Personality Is A Product Of Your Experience

    What you take in is what defines your character.

7. 27 Seems To Be A Good Age

    I talked with a lot of people about being 27 and it seems as if it was a great year for a lot of
    them. I am fortunate enough to get off to a good start as I am writing this in Las Vegas,
    one of my favorite cities to visit with my mom and dad. Two of my favorite people. I am sure 
    this will be contributing to number six as well.

8. Surround Yourself With Successful People

   I am sure it is not the first time you heard it but wow this one is important.

9. Education Is Key

    It does not stop. Keep reading, keep learning, keep applying, repeat.

10. Medicine And Health Are Two Completely Different Categories

      I look at this as one of the most common mistakes made. Medicine certainly has its place
      but you are in control when it comes to your health.

11. I Work With Some Cool People

      To the people that I work with daily as well as the people that I train. This post is a result of
      your presence. Thanks a lot! You know who you are.

12. Eras Are Changing

      I took this one from Thomas Myers' lectures I attended in Rhode Island. We are no longer in
      an age of industry and labor. The electronic era is here. This means we are moving less and
      less. For people experiencing this here is a lifesaving tip. Be aware of this and do as much as
      you can to do something about it. Trainers, be mindful of this in your programming because
      what may have been effective a few years back may not be as applicable as it used to be.

13. Relative Strength Is The Boss

      This could be debated but to me pursuing relative strength is the ultimate tool to chase any goal.
      It is a beautiful combination of making the most of what you have when it comes to body
      awareness, movement quality, stability, strength, and making the most of what you have. Not
      to mention if someone aspires to squat 200% of their bodyweight, weight loss becomes a much
      bigger priority.

14. Lifting Weights Is Cool. Very Cool.

      I don't know how to explain it but there is something so natural about lifting. The feeling is
      surreal and the lessons you learn are limitless. Want to read a beautiful article on the topic?
      Read The Iron by Henry Rollins.
      The Iron: Henry Rollins

15. Exercise Methodologies Are Tools In The Fitness Tool Box

      I used to rip on a lot of different methodologies. Crossfit you were at the top of the list my
      friend. While I don't practice it or put the people that I work with through it I can see where it
      has it's place. Another colleague of mine and great trainer Chris Hodgins said something that
      stuck with me. Functional training is training that is meant to provide you with the outcome that
      you are looking for. If you are looking for cannonball shoulders, bodybuilding would be
      functional. If you are looking to destroy yourself as fast as possible, Crossfit may be your best
      option. What is the point of ripping them apart if they are ultimately getting people off of the
      couch and away from the potato chips and sodas. This brings me to my next point.

16. Having An Open Mind Is Essential If You Want To Make It In Fitness

     There are fewer wrong answers in exercise than we sometimes think. A deadlift can mean a
     lot more than feet hip width apart and a tall posture for example. We have limitless vectors
     of movement so it would be an injustice to look at a deadlift as just that. If you have an
     open mind, you can find some gems in exercise where you never would have expected to find
     them.

17. Be Wary Of ''Experts''

     There are a lot of bright people out there but the brightest ones will admit they still don't have all
     the answers. If you are dealing with a self proclaimed "expert" or "guru", chances are they won't
     admit they don't have all the answers and gave up on finding them a while back.

18. Feedback Is Important

      I touched on this in my Power Of Practical post but this to me is one of the best training tools
      out there. Rep schemes, set schemes, and rest intervals to me follow a system, but ultimately
      it is the feedback of the person that I am working with that makes the final decisions. When is
      it time to stop a rest period? When they are ready to bring everything they have to the next set.

19. Skill And Talent Are Very Different

      While there is a lot of skill that can be acquired in my line of work, talent seems to be the one
      that is far more elusive but at the same time far more important. You can know everything
      there is to know, but if you do not have the ability to coach it you may be in trouble. Which
      brings me to...

20. Coaching Exercise Is As Much Of An Art As It Is Science

      Number 19 pretty much explains it.

21. Creativity Is Key

      It was a big year of creativity for me over the past year and I am hooked. The writing over
      the past year, working on The ChangeLink, as well as the Move Improve App brought a lot
      of it out of myself, Josh, and Marty. It taught me not to hide ideas but to showcase them and
      I now look at creativity much differently. It is vital.

22. Do What You Love

      This will get the creative juices flowing. For some it may be a roll of the dice but it will pay
      off in more ways than just the bank account.

23. Just Because It Is Legislated Does Not Mean It Is Right

      Why isn't processed sugar locked up and hidden like a pack of Marlboros?

24. Less Is More

      Back to the topic of exercise. The biggest training successes that I have experienced all had
      one thing in common. It was a pretty fundamental path to get there they are. It was nothing
      electrifying. It was quality fundamental movement, clean eating, and assessing and fine tuning
      lifestyle choices. More life saving advice.

25. Enjoy The Ride

     I think we often put too much expectations on ourselves to get results and get them fast. The
     ride to results is meant to be a straight line enjoyable ride. Adopt that mentality and you have
     your expectations crushed before you even realize it.

26. Read

     I was never much a reader in school and I think it was purely because I didn't have a choice in
     the material. I am glad I overcame that because the information that you can absorb is mind
     blowing.

 27. Look Forward To Your Forward Years

      I am not sure why aging has the stigma it does but I am having a blast getting older and look
      forward to another year of accumulating knowledge, having new experiences, and learning
      more lessons. I have a lot of goals that I want to accomplish and I know that they wont happen
      if I hit the rewind button. Bring on the years baby.

That's it. I am sure there are a lot of other lessons that deserve some honorable mention but they will have to wait for another year.  It was fun looking back on the last 27 years but time to put these lessons into place and make 27 as good as I want it to be. Starting with breakfast in The Bellagio. I'll take that.
 

Apr 13, 2012
The Power Of Practical

 

I took a bit of an unconventional route to becoming a fitness professional. When I was seventeen I was asked that strange question that you are asked when getting ready to finish high school. "What are your career aspirations?'' At the time I had been working out for a few years and was active playing basketball and football and had told my guidance councilor that I would really like to get involved in physical education. I had two red flags thrown at me that day as I was told that my physics, chemistry, and math marks would not get me into any Kinesiology program. I asked about being a trainer and that was quickly snuffed because where I grew up personal training was unheard of. University put me through a much different path as I took a much different direction and finished with a degree in Political Science with the intention of law school or policing when it was all said and done. It wasn't what I wanted to do but it was what I felt like I needed to do to make a good living. The problem was that being in the gym was still my big passion so in my final year I decided to take a general personal training certification with the hopes of putting it into use. I spent some time working in a family run gym in my home town and was eventually recruited to where I am today. It was this position where I realized just how much I had to learn. This turned into a lot of learning as I went, a lot of reading, taking in as much continuing education that my time and budget could handle. The lessons that I have learned? When it comes to working your craft the learning never stops. More importantly, what you absorb in textbooks, lectures, and video is meant to be a platform for inspiration. It is not a blueprint for your practice but a sketch that you are meant to interpret and draw your own version of.

I was a little insecure about my background in the very beginning until I heard a line from JC Santana stating don't let school get in the way of your education. While I don't want to rib on the idea of post secondary education I do believe that there is a lot more to career development than the piece of paper that you hashed out thousands for. Looking back on it I am actually fortunate walk out with the degree that I did. I did not walk away with a lot of textbook knowledge on human anatomy, biology, or kinetics. What I did receive was a lot of education on communication, problem solving, creativity, and art. I now know exactly how important possessing these skills really are in order to be successful as a trainer. It taught me to put feedback, listening, and thinking on the fly ahead of the stopwatch and the concrete programming.

The path that I took also taught me the importance of following your passion. I could have very easily stepped into something that I may not have truly enjoyed based on the advice that I was given back in high school. Although my path was approached differently, I could not be happier with where it is today and where I want to take it. Life is short so you may as well enjoy the ride.
 

Apr 12, 2012
A Question of Strength

Strength training is often the most praised or the most ridiculed method of training in the facility that I am in. For the ones for it, it is an absolute essential for any goals looking to be hit whether it is fat loss, muscle building, or even from the corrective standpoint. For those against it and I interact with a lot of them, it is barbaric and we are going to pay for it in the long run. I often catch myself explaining a lot of the training that apply both on myself and the people that I work with and a lot of it is defending myself then the reps begin to drop and the weight goes up. Why not put it on paper.
 

First off, one of the big topics that I defend with lifting for strength training is that it will make an individual big and dysfunctional. In reality, strength training to me is not the ability of packing as much muscle as humanly possible. It is about becoming as efficient as humanly possible in your own skin.While muscular development plays a role in the establishment of strength, it is terms such as mobility, stability, and neuromuscular coordination that will be the backbone of developing strength. Not so much constructing a physique that forces you to walk through a narrow hallway sideways. Some of the strongest people I know do not look the part by any means and they are also some of the most versatile people that I have encountered.

Danger Danger

Is strength training dangerous? It certainly can be. Especially if it is applied poorly. However I would not put it on any scale of danger compared to not training for strength. I also believe that the term strength training gets taken out of context. For the people that I work with there are all kinds of methods of strength training. For some it is to work up to a personal best squat or deadlift. For others it may be in order to restore posture, activate muscles that have been dormant, or restore bone density. This requires a stress on muscles, bones, and connective tissue in order for them to respond and get stronger. Strength training? Absolutely. Danger? I bet they will tell you otherwise.

Too Young Too Old?

When I was twelve we had a Coast Guard Academy where I used to spend a lot of time  playing basketball or swimming. They also had a weight room and I remember being extremely disappointed because they would not let me in until I was sixteen. While at twelve I probably would have killed myself in there, the main reason was that weight training at the time was horrible for the growth of youth. It is refreshing knowing that this mindset is beginning to shift and strength training is becoming part of youth training once again. The idea of a thirteen year old girl blowing an ACL on the soccer pitch used to be unheard of. Now it is an epidemic and it is usually a result of strength imbalances and a lack of mobility, stability, and neuromuscular coordination. If growth development in youth is a concern, I would be a little more worried about the stranglehold that spending hours in a computer or chair or on a couch can put on growth. Too old? I have an uncle who is a family doctor dealing with a lot of aging patients. His approach? Move it or lose it. Developing and maintaining strength in the older population has too many benefits to list so I will keep it simple. Take the effects that aging has on physical performance and strength training can backtrack the majority of them. In the gym, it is not so much of the physical transformation, but the rediscovered feeling of youth that occurs in the older population that I train.

Why I Like It

Lifting heavy is my favorite part of exercise. To me it is almost a yoga like feeling as it gives you the chance to think and feel your body at work. It gives me a chance to feel the influence that striking my feet into the floor has on the rest of my body. I love the way that it has me thinking about moving my hips, engaging my posture, using my torso, breathing, and how it makes me coordinate all of these aspects and have them work in harmony to finish a lift. I have seen a lot of benefit from this when it comes to my overall coordination, function, and for some of the non believers, my movement and metabolic conditioning.

To me, strength training can and should be a part of anyone's programming in whatever capacity is required and when it is applied and applied accordingly the benefits will stomp all over the liabilities.

Apr 4, 2012
Fitness Revelations From The Blues Joint

We all seek out our places of inspiration where we can eliminate the noise of the week and just let our minds wander. I was able to visit one of my escapes this past weekend and take in some live blues in a local joint. Music has always been a big part of my life as I came from a musical upbringing. Although exercise has become my number one expression of art, music is something that I definitely appreciate and draw a lot of inspiration from. Live music is also one of those things that just seems to get my wheels turning and this past weekend was an example of that. I have always believed that music and fitness have a lot in common when it comes to its creation and expression and I find myself  comparing the two more and more often as my appreciation for the two continue to develop.

Treasure The Timeless

Sure some new and exciting breakthroughs occur in both music and fitness, but there are certain aspects of both that always remain. I see this on the gym floor all the time as there is always something new to discuss whether it be a program, equipment, or an exciting new exercise. While some of this new information can become a part of my belief system, I know that I can still rely on the same old systems that have been around for years. I can rely on classic strength training, conditioning, and movement quality just like I can listen to The Beatles or The Rolling Stones and still appreciate what they do and know that this will continue moving forward.

Turn Your Inspirations Into Your Own

A big ingredient in the weight room recipe for success is the ability to discover what works for you. There are limitless sources of information and inspiration meant to guide you to fitness success, it is how you can interpret, apply it, and make it your own that will determine your outcome. Bands seek inspiration from all sorts of genres of music. The ones who can integrate them and make it their own are the ones who tend to make it in their craft.

Follow The Set List Not Just The Sheet Music

When I am on the gym floor with someone there is a plan in place and more often than not the plan changes. It could be for a number of reasons but variables do occur and I need to be ready for them. It is reassuring knowing that there is a formal plan in place but if my attention is focused entirely on what is put onto paper and not the needs of the individual in front of me I won't be winning anyone over. A good band knows how to satisfy their audience and it is because they can integrate their plan and tailor it by feeling the needs of their audience.

Music is something that is meant to be enjoyed. I have yet to run into someone who says they dislike it. Not to mention the staggering number of ear buds that accompany the workouts of people in the gym. However it seems as if harnessing the same enjoyment out of exercise is a bit more of a task. Finding enjoyment in exercise takes a similar selection process to music. You need to find and explore different genres, filter out what does it for you and and what doesn't. Stay true to what works and what you enjoy and you will get your satisfaction.

Apr 2, 2012
Prioritizing Movement

Inactivity certainly has its negative side effects on the way that we look and feel. The consequences of inactivity on your health are limitless and body composition often becomes the visual poster child of poor health. While becoming active again is the best remedy to these problems, it does need to be proceeded with caution for a number of reasons. What often gets passed over in my opinion is that people just plain forget how to move.  Depending on the severity and duration of your inactivity I have learned that this takes some serious reprogramming of the brain, the body, and the central nervous system.  Unfortunately restoring movement is not normally a part of the activity agenda. Where problems can occur is that the wear and tear of everyday life can lead to postural issues, repetitive stress on our joints, muscles, and connective tissue, and of course imbalances. We have the ability to correct the dysfunctions associated with inactivity. However it is often overlooked by running on the treadmill, loading the barbell, stacking a machine and getting crushed in a boot camp or group fitness class. I can't say that these are the wrong answer because it will bring a drastic improvement in the way that you look and feel and I am a big believer in that. However, to what expense of the way that you move and the way you think about doing it? The side effect of this can vary. For someone de-conditioned it may mean injury. For anyone just getting off the ground running this can be beyond discouraging. For the more advanced, it may mean some small aches and pains and limitations in your gains. I know that can be a BIG frustration for some.
 

Assess and Correct

These two words can save you a heap of trouble regardless of your fitness level. If fixing movement is a priority, I highly suggest having a trained set of eyes to take a look at the way you are moving. There are numerous movement assessments that will tell your story just by the way you move. The ability to identify what is not functioning and what is over functioning lays the platform for what to do next. This is where correction comes in. Corrective exercise is meant to restore movement by adding mobility, stability, and flexibility but it's biggest asset is its ability to re wire your movement habits.

Posture Perfect

To make this process more generalized, one of the biggest indicators of movement dysfunction is posture. Not only what is tight and weak, but how capable someone is able to coordinate their movement. If someone is completely upright chances are there is a healthy relationship between the brain and body. For someone naturally hunched over, that relationship is not quite as welcoming.

Soft Tissue Work

I am a huge fan of soft tissue work whether it be hands on or foam rolling. To put it simply it relieves tight muscles but the benefits go well beyond just that. We now know that fascia is the dark horse of nervous system communication. When it comes to restoring function, soft tissue work is no longer a luxury, it is now a necessity.

Put Thought Into Action

Inactivity has changed the way I prescribe exercise. It has also changed the way that I coach it. I now know that for someone to lift it has to go well beyond what looks pretty. The ability to think and feel what needs to be used in exercise has taken the reigns over what exercises, how many reps, and how many sets. Form is one thing but it is nothing without function and knowing how function should feel.

There is nothing wrong with high output in exercise but it is certainly something that needs to be earned and not just implemented. The ability to restore healthy movement will keep you moving purely, progressively, and pain free.

Mar 29, 2012