Why We Do HIIT Workouts at the Studio


      Have you ever noticed when things become a buzz topic, people find themselves using terms without truly understanding what they’re talking about? I feel that’s currently happening with high intensity interval training or HIIT. Part of why I write is to simplify many of the fitness topics that either overwhelm or confuse many people. Today’s blog post is my attempt to de-mystify HIIT training. If I start to lose you, please hang in there, and hopefully it will make sense at the end. 

     To understand how we got here, you have to go back to the origin of cardiovascular training. Dr. Kenneth Cooper, founder of the Cooper institute in Dallas, coined the term aerobics in the late sixties. The scientific definition of aerobic work means in the presence of oxygen. In reference to exercise, it refers to those exercises which demand “large quantities of oxygen for prolonged periods and ultimately force the body to improve those responsible for the delivery of oxygen to the muscles,” as stated by Dr. Cooper. There are many benefits in training the body aerobically, or cardiovascularly. One of the main advantages is the ability of the body to improve its heart endurance. As time progresses with training, the heart muscle becomes stronger and more efficient in pumping blood to the working muscles. This is where steady state training became popular.

     This is where I may get “a little in the weeds”, but I’ll do my best to keep it simple. When you begin an activity, the initial energy (up to 10 seconds) is provided by ATP/PCr (adenosine triphosphate phosphocreatine). This energy is stored in a cell and doesn’t require oxygen to burn (imagine 3-5 jumps as high as you can). If you continue to exercise for longer than 10 seconds, up to 90 seconds, your body will start to use the glycolytic energy system. This is when it will start to use stored muscle glycogen as fuel. This takes longer to do for the body and isn’t readily available (think of kettlebell swings for 1 minute). If you continue to exercise for longer than 90 seconds, your body will start to use the oxidative phosphorylative pathway. This fuel takes the longest for the body to deliver and is why intensity levels will start to drop off. Have you ever heard the term “you can’t sprint a marathon”? It’s in this process that the body will start to convert stored fat as a fuel source. That’s why the goal in the past was to see how long you can go. The longer you go, the more fat you could potentially burn, was the mindset. The confusing part is how much fat is converted. This process is very complex for the body and the body converts fat at a slow rate. The amount of fat used has widely been overstated. 

     Let’s fast forward 30 years to 1996 when Japanese scientist, Dr. Izumi Tabata, completed this now legendary study on high intensity interval training or HIIT. Tabata and his colleagues conducted a study that compared moderate-intensity continuous training (walking on a treadmill) at 70% of maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) for 60 minutes, with HIIT conducted at 170% of VO2max. The HIIT workout consisted of eight, 20-second all-out exercise bouts, followed by 10 seconds of rest for a total of 4 minutes of exercise. These bouts were performed on an exercise bike. So to keep this simple, picture one group walking at a brisk pace on a treadmill for an hour, and another group performing these all-out 20 second sprints with a 10 second rest interval on a bike for 4 minutes. The study found that HIIT improved aerobic capacity to a similar degree as moderate-intensity continuous training, but also resulted in a 28% increase in anaerobic capacity. Those findings led to the development of a wide variety of HIIT programs. The HIIT group experienced better improvement cardiovascular and yielded a greater lose in fat (4 minutes compared to 60 minutes). Hence, the phenomenon of HIIT training began. 

     HIIT produced a bigger decrease in fat mass in less time. It was later determined that this was due to EPOC, or Excess post oxygen consumption. This has frequently been referred to as “the afterburn”. 

      As stated in Wikipedia:   “In recovery, oxygen (EPOC) is used in the processes that restore the body to a resting state and adapt it to the exercise just performed. These include: hormone balancing, replenishment of fuel stores, cellular repair, innervation and anabolism. Post-exercise oxygen consumption replenishes the phosphagen system. New ATP is synthesized and some of this ATP donates phosphate groups to creatine until ATP and creatine levels are back to resting state levels again. Another use of EPOC is to fuel the body’s increased metabolism from the increase in body temperature which occurs during exercise.” 

“EPOC is accompanied by an elevated consumption of fuel. In response to exercise, fat stores are broken down and free fatty acids (FFA) are released into the blood stream. In recovery, the direct oxidation of free fatty acids as fuel and the energy consuming re-conversion of FFAs back into fat stores both take place.”

     I utilize the HIIT protocol in our studio for our Torch & DVRT workouts. We slightly modify the heart rate targets because we want to emphasize strength exercises which require some skill. Our new workout, Metabolic Disruption, is more of a true Tabata workout using less skill type movements which will allow more all out effort, without risk of injury. 

     That’s what the research tells us. Hopefully this was able to clarify what a HIIT workout is, how your body responds to them, and why they are beneficial.


     I have been recently reading and researching articles about mindfulness. Mindfulness and meditation have experienced a recent surge in popularity. Part of this phenomenon is that we live in an instant access, always on the move MTV era. We have information readily available to us, via our smart phones & tablets, 24 hours a day. We are always plugged in, hence we become distracted by what just happened two minutes ago. One of the things I enjoy is that when I’m training someone they have no choice but to concentrate on what they’re doing. The workouts in my studio aren’t centered on sitting on a machine where you can have a conversation on your phone while you exercise. You have to be in the moment. Squatting while bear-hugging a sandbag or pushing a sled along the turf eliminates that dilemma. To help people get to that flow state, where they feel present and connected, they need to enjoy what they’re doing. Part of why people tune out is because they don’t like what they’re doing. 

     Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who just complains, glass half empty type of person, and you find yourself mentally fading away from the conversation. I know personally, when at the movies, if I’m not engaged in the first 15-20 minutes, chalk up my $20 bucks for admission as a rental fee for taking an hour nap in the theatre recliner. What really brought this to my attention was when I recently had a conversation with a client of mine. I asked him “How many people do you think enjoy what they do for a living?” He responded, “less than 10%.” My instant reaction is that he’s way off. No way! Google, Siri here I come. After a little investigation I was able to discover that he wasn’t too far off. Based upon a Gallup poll taken in 2013 and later printed in Forbes magazine, only 13% of workers feel engaged by their jobs. “Engaged by their jobs” means they feel a sense of passion for their work, a deep connection to their employer and they spend their days driving innovation and moving their company forward.

      The vast majority, some 63%, are “not engaged,” meaning they are unhappy but not drastically so. In short, they’re checked out. They sleepwalk through their days, putting little energy into their work.

A full 24% are what Gallup calls “actively disengaged,” meaning they pretty much hate their jobs. They act out and undermine what their coworkers accomplish. Wow. 

     This is exactly what has happened with exercise for so many people. Many hate or are disengaged with exercise because they don’t like it. I blame my industry on poor marketing that has led people to believe that if you don’t look like a fitness model you should give up. I’ve written before about the poor representation of the fitness industry in the media. We all know that mantra, “No pain, No gain”. 

3-myth-about-no-pain-no-gain 2

     Outside of the youth with blessed metabolisms and those with gifted genetics (you know the ones who don’t exercise and look great) I understand why people check out emotionally. Just like the job they hate. People work because they need money to survive in our society. They exercise because research has proven all of the positive health benefits. What if you found a workout you enjoyed just like finding a job you’re passionate about? Wouldn’t that be special? Can’t exercise be fun?  Can you be challenged and have fun at the same time? I know you can, because I see it every day. 

     One of the jobs as a coach is to know when you have to push people. More important is to know how much to push. A push can mean motivating someone to hold a plank an extra 7 seconds, completing a 30 second set. That may not sound like much, but it’s huge when they could only hold it for 15 seconds prior. The key is to push an extra 5-10% routinely. Too frequently you hear of people going from a 10 second hold for 3 sets to 5 sets of 45 seconds. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume their form may have been compromised. I compare it to being exposed to the sun. Exposing yourself to 10 minutes of sunshine can give you a slight tan and a healthy dose of Vitamin D, 2 hours can produce a bad burn. Some people experience adrenal fatigue because they have been misinformed. They believe every workout has to be “all out”. I have a sign I post in the studio about every 5 weeks. It’s green and reads “Throttle Back”. I use the week to back off intensity with everyone to avoid burn-out. It’s a great time to work on mobility drills or introduce a new exercise which will require some extra coaching time which will provide more rest. 

     The bottom line is find a place where you enjoy your workouts and the people around you. I guarantee it will make a big difference. Learn to be in the moment by enjoying what you do. If you don’t believe me, just ask my members. 

See you at the studio.

Enough with the Hype Already

     “I had a plan, before I got punched in the face.” That’s a famous quote from Mike Tyson after he was knocked out for the 1st time. Funny, but it brings up a valid point. How many times have you had the perfect plan, to find out later that it had a few flaws? Making mistakes is part of the building process. Three years ago, I started training people in small groups featuring a specific workout. I named it the Torch Workout. It’s a high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout using exercises that improve mobility, strength and power. I used the research from Dr. Tabata & Dr. Martin Gibala. We still successfully feature this workout today at the studio. 

     When I opened the studio 2 years ago, I knew I would need an additional workout to compliment Torch that would have slightly different goals. Hence, TRX Flow was created. This is an interval workout, with an emphasis on mobility and specifically, core strength. After making a few tweaks, this workout has grown in popularity. 

     Everything hasn’t gone perfect along the way. We tried offering Yoga & TRX Yoga. Neither were a big hit with the members. Not using the poor response from those workouts as a setback, but more as feedback from what people wanted, we came out with Dynamic Variable Resistance Training or DVRT. This has been a big hit. I started to see that, like a restaurant, you can’t offer only one dish, you have to have a few options. I’m going to stay true to our core value of expert coaching offered in a small group or private setting catered to the needs of each individual. You wouldn’t find Chow Mein in an Italian restaurant. I did experience that my members enjoyed some variety. It was listening to my members, or scratching their itch, that Metabolic Disruption has been created. 

     I’ve been writing and talking about this workout for months now. It’s taken me a lot of planning. I had questions to answer on layout, format and efficiency. I also wanted to stay true to my core values. So what is Metabolic Disruption?

     It’s a 40 minute heart pounding fat-burning workout. Similar to our other workouts, the warm-up will be included in that time frame. Once properly warmed-up the workout will begin. The clock timer will be set to 12 ½ minutes. Participants will be spread out between 5-6 exercises. The clock will start and not stop until it reaches 0. The goal is to work as hard as possible at the exercise until  a heart-rate of either 85% (Orange) or 95% (Red) of your maximum heart rate. The coach will determine the appropriate level for each member, based on their current fitness level. Once this level is reached, it must be  maintained for 10 seconds. Then recovery times begin. Rest until the required heart rate is reached, lower by 20%. Someone working at 85% max heart rate will rest until they drop to 65% (Blue) and 75% (Green) for someone working at the higher 95% level. Then proceed to the next movement and repeat the process. There will be minimum rest time during the 12 ½ minutes. The goal is not to pace, but to go to the maximum level. Think sprint, not jog. Once the clock hits 0, members will have 2 ½ minutes to get water & rest before the cycle repeats again. Yes, another 12 ½ minutes. Intense!

     The beauty of this workout is that each person’s heart rate determines their intensity level & recovery period. Some people will get through the circuit 4 times, while some may complete 2 times. Also, the type of exercise will be low skill level. This is to promote an all out effort. Metabolic Disruption will feature exercises such as the ropes, sleds and our new Ski Ergs.


    Many of the members are happy with their improvements in mobility & strength. Many have gotten leaner. What I did hear is the need for something to compliment our other workouts with a pure cardiovascular drive. Here you go, folks. The new schedule will be available soon & will be effective the week of October 16th. We will have this workout on the schedule in 5 slots in the early morning, a new afternoon time, and evening times, as well.

 So stay tuned and I’ll see you at the studio. 


Interested in Being a Guinea Pig

     I’m currently designing a new HIIT (High intensity interval training) workout that we’re going to feature at the studio. The name of the workout is Metabolic Disruption. It will be rolled out this October. The name is self-descriptive. The goal of this workout is to ramp up your metabolism by completing multi-joint, compound movement exercises at specific heart rate levels for a set duration. The exercises are self-limiting. Internationally recognized, physical therapist Gray Cook recently wrote a great article about what self-limiting exercises are & their importance in health & fitness. 

   Here’s a brief excerpt taken from the article. “Self-limiting exercise demands mindfulness and an awareness of movement, alignment, balance and control. In self-limiting exercise, a person cannot just pop on the headphones and walk or run on the treadmill, fingering the playlist or watching the news on a well-placed monitor. Self-limiting exercise demands engagement.” 
I wanted to add a workout that will be challenging, beneficial for fat loss, and safe. It came out of necessity. We currently have workouts for fat loss & strength, core, and mobility. Strength and mobility are the main cogs in our current roster of workouts, but I wanted to add something equivalent to running or using a rowing machine. I didn’t want the impact of running, and something easier to learn than rowing. This workout will fit the bill. There will be a small level of trial and error, but that’s with anything new.

     I recently got into a discussion with a client of mine who does some volunteer work with the Air Force. He was very negative on testing. His thoughts were that money and time are wasted with testing. I partially agreed. Waste can happen with excessive testing. Michael Masterson wrote a best seller, Ready, Aim, Fire. It’s a book that’s written for the entrepreneur and business owner. In starting a business, you have to be ready to try things not knowing if they are going to work. Mark Zuckenberg, of FaceBook, has a famous mantra “move fast and break things”. I’m dealing with people’s bodies at the studio, not a picture of what they ate for lunch, so I may move a little slower than Mark. I do agree though that some people fall into that trap of waiting and not moving forward until everything is perfect. I’ve learned that nothing is ever perfect. I’ve taken the approach to take some calculated risks and to be in a state of constant “tweaking”. 

     When I started small group training 3 years ago I experimented with how large I could go in group size, before I felt a drop in quality of instruction and coaching. I went as large as 8 people in a single workout. After a few months of trying I realized 8 was too large and dropped it down to 6 people. I was able to pull off 8, but knew the amount of energy required wasn’t something I could replicate repeatedly. In the big picture, I also knew I couldn’t expect every trainer I hired to have the skill set to pull it off. 

     Next I played with the work to rest ratio. Initially we used a 1:1 ratio. Complete an exercise for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, then rinse and repeat. After watching heart rate levels drop too drastically we quickly adopted the 2:1 ratio, and once every 5 weeks we use a 3:1 ratio to add a spark. We call that Red week. I’ve played with everything from studio layout to the flow of members between sessions. It’s never perfect, but this constant environment of tweaking allows us to get closer and closer to our masterpiece. Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how it turns out. 

     I’ll see you at the studio.

It Was So Good, I Stopped Doing It

     Two conferences down and one to go. This past weekend, I attended the International Dance & Exercise Association (IDEA) World Conference. This was an easy one for me, it was in my hometown of Las Vegas. It was the 2nd week in a row that I’ve attended a fitness related conference. I have a personal connection with IDEA, because it was the first conference I attended, over 20 years ago. Throughout the years, I personally feel they have gravitated more towards the appeal of the “Big box” gyms and group fitness, but nonetheless, I like to stay current with all the trends in the fitness industry. There wasn’t anything new or revolutionary discussed in the lecture halls or on the trade show floor. 

     Twelve years ago, when TRX debuted at this show, it was revolutionary. No one had heard of suspension training before. Now they’ve become a main staple in the fitness world, with many people knocking them off and putting their spin on suspension training. Five years ago I came across sandbag training. It has since become a huge part of our programming at the studio and 2 of my coaches along with myself are certified sandbag instructors. I frequently credit Josh Henkin, creator of the DVRT system, with being very innovative in how he uses sandbags to improve the quality of movement and strength. New training modalities are rare and I frequently find myself going back to basic exercises for steady improvements.

     In this era of “what’s the newest thing”, we all have a tendency to get caught up in the new shiny toy. One of the reasons I review the workouts at the studio on a weekly basis is because it allows me to question myself. Are these the best programs for my members? Can I justify everything that we’re doing? Is there a better way? I will also go back to old workouts. This is when I find the “old gems” of exercises. An old gem is a great movement/exercise that generates results and has been proven to work. Like everyone else, I sometimes get distracted and move on to other exercises. If it works, why did I stop using it? I think many people look to exercise for entertainment. They get bored. Here’s an example. One of the objectives at the studio is to improve everyone’s upper back mobility. The area of the upper spine is called the thoracic spine or T-spine, as it’s frequently referred to. In the best case scenario, you want a stable & strong core, and a mobile T-spine. To see 3 exercises that can improve upper back mobility, watch the video below.

3 Quick exercises to improve upper back mobility 

     One of the 3 exercises in the video is part of our warm up at the studio. That means every time someone walks in the door, they should be doing this before they begin their workout. Now most of my members will agree that they need to move better. Movement quality is the foundation of my programming. You need to move well first, then you can get stronger. And, if we work at the right intensity, we can burn body-fat. It all starts with movement. After a few months, it’s common for our members to get a little lazy with their warm-up. That’s when we, as coaches, have to reel them in and explain how important these exercises are. They aren’t the most exciting things we do, but they are effective. Like many things with big outcomes, it’s the little things that we do that can add up and make a big change. 
See you at the studio.

47 Years Old and Still in School

 I’m back from a great vacation with the family and ready to get after it in the studio. Mid-June to August is typically the slowest time of the year in the gym business. I use this time to take a vacation, get some extra reading in, and attend workshops, conferences and clinics. Some consider this type of thing a bore. I personally can’t get enough. If you follow my writing, you are aware that I shunned attending conferences my first 5 years of being a trainer. It was due to my own immaturity; I thought I knew it all. Thomas Plummer, nationally recognized fitness consultant, refers to this naïve mindset of the rookie trainer as their “rite of passage”. Everyone goes through it. It was after I listened to strength coach/trainer legend Juan “JC” Carlos Santana speak at an IDEA conference in Maryland, I quickly realized how little I knew. That was in 1996. I’ve been addicted to learning and honing my craft every since and haven’t stopped trying to improve.

   Over the next 6 weeks, I will attend 3 separate conferences. This week the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) host their national show in Las Vegas. This will be a busy week for me, because I also wear the hat of state director for Nevada. One of my direct roles is to organize our annual state clinic. Trainers, doctors, physical therapists and chiropractors use these opportunities to earn continuing education credits. It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy having input in bringing education to our state. The NSCA is celebrating 40 years in existence and they always provide some of the top speakers and research in strength and conditioning.

   Next week, I’ll attend the Personal Trainer conference promoted by the International Dance & Exercise Association (IDEA). I intend on spending my time listening to lectures on running a gym/ studio. One of the fastest growing trends in the fitness world is the small studios. Just take a drive around your town and you can find a personal training, spinning, Pilates, or yoga studio in every shopping center. IDEA observed this growing trend and dedicated an entire weekend of classes and presentations on the business side of fitness. This should be a lot of fun. One of my biggest takeaways from weekends like this are the conversations I have with fellow studio owners in the hallways outside the lecture halls. Nothing is better than exchanging ideas with others who are in the trenches every day, like myself, trying to change people’s lives.

   Finally, in August, I will take my entire training staff to Long Beach, California for the Perform Better Training Summit. This is the mother-ship of all training workshops. They will have 25-30 speakers present over 3 days. I’m friendly with a few employees of the company and know that they receive over 300 applications from people interested in speaking. This is where the “Best of the Best” will be. I’ve listened to Olympic coaches and interacted with the industries elite and most successful trainers at this event. It never lets me down. It’s an extra honor that one of the speakers has asked my team to help with his hands-on demonstration. Josh Henkin is the creator of the Ultimate Sandbag, a tool we use at the studio. I make it a requirement that all of my team members attend and I pay for their entrance. Everyone that works with me knows that I highly value education. The fitness industry is a living thing. I have changed and evolved my philosophy on training and protocols throughout the years. I have accepted that there is always a better way. For the sake of the people I work with everyday, I’m always on the lookout for the best way. My attitude is that if you’re not improving, you’re getting worse.

   I hope you had a great 4th, didn’t eat too many hotdogs and aren’t missing your workouts. Temperatures are breaking records, so stay cool and hydrated.

I’ll see you at the studio.


You Asked Me for the Time, Not How to Build a Watch

   I’m preparing to soon leave for my annual vacation with my son & wife. This time always brings mixed feelings. I just got over the feeling that it’s OK for me to take some time off and that I’ll be a better trainer and studio owner after I return refreshed from my trip. As a business owner, I battle with the emotions that if I’m ever not working, I’m slacking off. I know this is typical behavior of a work-a-holic, which I admit to lean towards, at times. It’s also typical behavior for entrepreneurs. I’m both, so I guess I’m doomed. A few years ago, I realized I struggle with taking time off. I decided to always book my vacations 1 year out and paying for them in full 2 months before the trip. This approach has forced me to take the time off. If I waited 3-4 months out to book the trip like many people, I would never take them. This is like suggesting to one of my studio members, who wants to lose weight, to eat a healthy meal before they go to the 4th of July barbeque. It’s all about creating a strategy for success. 

     My vacation will include lots of beach time with my family, reading, and reflection time. When you’re out of the day to day struggles of business, you can take a step back. This allows you to think clearer. I look forward to these times. It was last year that I came to understand one of the things that I do pretty well,  which is taking complicated fitness ideas and training principals and delivering them to the general public. The names “Pavel Tsatsouline”, “Juan Carlos Santana”, and “Dan John” may not mean anything to you, but in the world of strength and conditioning these men are living legends. In 2001, Rolling Stone Magazine named Pavel our country’s “Hot trainer” and pictured him with a kettlebell in his hand. He has been credited for popularizing the kettlebell in the US. Juan Carlos, or “JC” as he’s known in fitness circles, is considered the father of functional training. He has been a huge influence in how I train people and I have adopted many of his training strategies. Dan John is a top writer on strength and conditioning. His blog is legendary for its impact on the fitness world, but he’s probably most famous for creating the Gobblet squat and popularizing the benefits of loaded carries in exercises programs. These are 3 men I follow, that many of you have never heard of before, and unless you are pursuing a career in fitness or strength and conditioning you shouldn’t have to. 

     I feel that it’s my job to read and decipher the information and then present what may be relevant or beneficial for my members. Each one of these gentlemen do a great job of presenting information, but it’s more for the seasoned veteran. Not one of these guys is famous for their compassion for people looking to lose weight or handling the rookie in the gym. It’s similar to Ted Williams, the famous baseball player of the Red Sox, when he became a manager. Many considered his stint as a manager a failure. Known as “the greatest hitter that ever lived”, he would tell his players to just go and hit the ball! Not a lot of compassion and listening to his players. His approach to coaching players was the opposite of Hall of Fame Yankee’s manager, Joe Torre, who was recognized for handling the many personalities in his locker room. Joe was known for getting the most out of each player. He would quickly identify how to deal with each player and give them what they needed. I feel that I do that with each of my members. Most of my members could care less how to hang clean a sandbag or use the TRX suspension system. After I explain how these tools utilize many of the larger muscles of the body, are easy to learn, and will play a role in burning body-fat, they are all in. I have yet to have a person that comes in ask me, do you have sleds I can push? They don’t want to know how to build the watch, they just want to know the time. Dropping body fat and looking leaner is what they want. Next week, I’ll read more about how the body works and peruse new and innovative exercise programs, so I can continue to give my people the correct time at the studio. 

See you at the studio.

Obliques Are the New Glutes

         What does Thomas Ford, Ray Kroc, and Steve Jobs have in common? Amongst many things, they are visionaries. The new buzz term is “disruptors”. CNBC defines them as people who create innovations that change the world. Another way to put it is people who don’t accept the current status quo. They know there is a better way. Ford knew there was a better way to travel. Kroc knew there was a better way to get a meal quickly. Jobs knew there was a better way to get information and music. I don’t think many would argue with me that these three deserve to be on the Mt. Rushmore of iconic visionaries. Creating something that didn’t exist before is very challenging. In my world, the fitness world, new concepts aren’t created every year. What happens, like in many industries, old concepts are recycled frequently. This is why, when a new training modality surfaces, it sends shock waves throughout the industry. 

     Suspension training was revolutionary. Randy Hetrick created the TRX suspension system and fitness hasn’t been the same. The same can be said about what Josh Henkin is currently doing with the Ultimate sandbag using his dynamic variable resistance training system (DVRT). Movement training is the rave now and, as an industry, we’re all learning that we aren’t built like Frankenstein. We can’t train individual muscle groups. Our bodies move in patterns within multiple planes of motion (sagittal, coronal or frontal, and transverse), and we should train on multiple planes. 


    For the record, I am in agreement with this thought process, and follow this protocol at my training studio. I prefer not to try and create something new but to follow forward thinking people who challenge the status quo like the famous names I mentioned in my opening sentence. One of those forward thinking people is Dr. Stuart McGill, or Yoda, as I like to refer to him. This man is, hands down, one of the most informed people on lower back mechanics and he has a heavy influence on the fitness industry. His lab has produced much of the research on lower back disorders and the core. He’s written multiple articles on how to train the core and how the muscles of the core respond to exercise & stress. Many cite him as the reason why the plank has replaced the crunch as the most productive way to train the core. What some lose in the translation of his articles is that it’s not the standard prone plank that he highly recommends, but the side plank as one of the most effective exercises you can perform for your core. 

     What I’ve observed at my studio working with clients is how people are very competent when working in the saggittal plane of motion, but once you either change or add an additional plane of motion, such as the frontal or transverse planes, things have a tendency to go sideways rather quickly. A common problem is that people will tend to fatigue a lot quicker in these two latter planes of motion. It was Henkin who joked, “obliques, which are used extensively in the frontal plane, are the new glutes”. 

     It was around 5 years ago that we all learned we needed to work our gluteus maximus or glutes more. Terms like “glute amnesia” become the buzz in conversations at the local Starbucks. I knew it was getting trendy when Tiger Woods stated his inability to fire his glutes as an explanation for his poor play at a major. More deadlifts, Tiger. To get back to training obliques, what I think we need to concentrate on is, not only training the obliques, but our ability to efficiently use them as our overall body starts to fatigue. A drill I like to coach at the studio is to have someone maintain a side plank as they use a battling rope. I observe to see if they can maintain stiffness in their side plank as they breathe hard and start to fatigue from the ropes. To see a demonstration of this exercise, watch this video.

Give that a try and let me know if you think obliques are the new glutes. 

See you at the studio.

The Hardest Workout at the Studio

   It’s the first week of May and summer is right around the corner. My son completing the 4th grade and going on summer break is also 5 weeks away. As far as he’s concerned, it can’t come sooner. Then the trick will be keeping him occupied for the summer. My wife does an amazing job with this. It’s not just about keeping him occupied, it’s more about keeping him challenged. Overcoming daily challenges is so important for us to help with progress. Summer is a great time for him to kick back & recharge, but we don’t want him to completely shut off his ability to handle challenges. The level of the challenges will vary from small to moderate, but nonetheless they need to exist. Overcoming challenges has become a part of training for CEOs. Workshops created by retired decorated military officers & navy seals have grown in popularity. Jocko Willinik, popularized from the Tim Ferriss podcast, has been thrust into the national spotlight for his week long boot-camps for CEOs. His boot-camp is famous for drills in leadership and daily disciplines. 

     Coaching people to do things that they don’t want to do is one of my strengths. I have been fascinated with helping people to overcome obstacles and maximize their potential. I read a lot about tenacity and the benefits of persistence. There is a classic study that gave some children a math problem that couldn’t be solved. They timed the children to see how long they would keep at it before they quit. They have been able to correlate these kid’s successes in school to their ability to persist. The longer the child worked on the problem, the better they performed in school. Angela Duckworth has a famous Ted Talk called Grit: Passion and Perseverance. If you have 6 minutes, you can view the talk below.

Angela Duckworth Ted Talk

Listening about how people overcome challenges was my inspiration for the Torch Challenge we had in the studio last week. In the Challenge you have 15 minutes to complete:

  • As many gobblet squats holding a kettlebell in 2 minutes (28kg kettelbell for men/ 16kg for women)
  • As many overhead presses with an Ultimate Sandbag in 2 minutes (55lbs. bag for men/ 35lbs. bag for women)
  • As many inverted bodyweight rows using the TRX suspension system for 1 minute
  • Push a weighted sled as far as possible in 2 minutes (305lbs for men/ 205lbs for women)

     This event was a huge success. The level of intensity was high and many members performed personal records. There was no charge to participate. It’s open only to members of the studio. We schedule every member for the challenge so that they will have one of my coaches to count their repetitions. The quality of each rep is strictly enforced and every rep is earned. Afterwards, we award a male & female winner. The last 2 female winners admitted training all year with the end-goal of winning the trophy. One of the consistent outcomes by the members is their own amazement at what they can do. A famous strength coach, Dan John, has lectured that you should have some type of assessment to prove that your training program is working. Prior to the Challenge, I trained people without showing them solid proof that what I was doing was making them stronger. People frequently commented that they felt stronger. We saw changes in dress sizes, on the scale, and in the mirror. I wanted more. I wanted to blow their minds on what they could do strength wise after following our training protocol.

     Some people consider perseverance as courage. My goal of the challenge is to show people that under our guidance they have substantially improved. All things said, it was one of the hardest workouts administered in our studio, and everyone involved feels better for completing it. It’s funny how life works. 

See you at the studio.



Are We Talking About Practice?

     I recently had a work desk built for Tiffany, our operations manager, at the studio. It was a big deal as it marked a benchmark for the studio. As our operations manager, she handles all of the day-to-day issues outside of actually training such as scheduling of appointments for members, handling walk-ins, tracking inventory of our retail items etc. We’ve been open for 18 months and as we’ve grown the need for someone to handle these necessary tasks has become dire. As an entrepreneur you do your best to handle a lot of the odd & ends initially, but eventually you run out of time in the day. I personally came to a realization that my time was better spent training my coaches on strength and conditioning, working with members privately or in semi-private groups, and writing. It took us 18 months of a little chaos to know exactly how we needed the operations desk to be set up. We needed to have multiple consultations with prospective members. We needed to see where a good location for our retail should be. We had to have a set up that was functional for our needs. We had to go through this process to truly know what would work for us. The outcome is that Tiffany has a very efficient set up that works for both her & the members. After giving it some thought, isn’t that the way to approach almost anything? To initially go without and create a void, so when the opportunity arises you know what you need for certain.
     I look back on my personal training career and recognize that a large part of my job is to convince people to embrace the process of healthy eating and exercise. Squats, kettlebell swings, and TRX rows are the process to get them to where they want to be. Leaner thighs, defined mid-sections and bulging biceps are the outcome. The hours with me at the studio are the necessary process to get them to their outcome. If they aren’t willing to complete that process they will not get their desired outcome. This may sound like common sense, but many people never come to this understanding. I have never had a person come to me looking to be a master kettlebell instructor. I have had woman come to me looking to tone their glutes. I have a saying that the easy part is paying for the training. The hard part is what follows. 

     I had a client years ago who brought in a Men’s Health magazine showing me the cover photo of Gerard Butler after he filmed 300. Computer generated imagery (CGI as it’s commonly referred to) or not, Butler was in top shape for this movie. In the article, he discusses his complete obsession over exercise and eating that he had to do for 3 months in this role. He had to get into impeccable shape for the role and then maintain it during the filming. He trained 3 hours a day. He woke up in the middle of the night to drink protein shakes. They would film all day and train for 3 hours afterwards. He admits that he could only maintain a level of this ultra-intensity for a brief period. So back to my client, he shows me this and says “Let’s go for it”.  I try to explain to him that this is an extremely intense process, also one that is not healthy to maintain for the long term. Against my suggestions, we embark on this journey. 

     During our first workout he stops after a set to discuss his weekend. I tell him to hold that thought because I want to limit his rest time to 15 seconds. He tells me slow down, that we have time. I explain that to get his metabolism ramped up we need to watch his rest time intervals. He didn’t like that our normal chit-chat time got curtailed. 

     Next, I gave him a full-body circuit workout I wanted him to do 2 days a week outside of our 3 day a week workouts. Two weeks in I checked in to see how he was doing on these workouts. “Got busy with some other stuff, couldn’t get them both in.” The end to our experiment came when he took his wife out to breakfast and had a muffin loaded with butter with his meal. A food Nazi I’m not and I have adopted a balanced approach to nutrition that allows treats and rewards from time to time. In order to fulfill what he wanted though buttered muffins weren’t on the menu. I explained that we should keep to our prior program of getting stronger, leaner and improving his mobility at a more relaxed pace. He agreed and we throttled back some of the intensity. To get the extreme outcome he was looking for, he wasn’t willing to embrace the process it required. This was a big lesson to me. When goal setting with members and clients, I need to clearly draft a picture of what is required to get the end result they want. This picture usually includes 3 days a week of intense exercise for 45 minutes to an hour, including a diet rich in colorful vegetables and lean proteins.  I ask them to drink lots of water and together we come up with a strategy to deal with stress. 

     College basketball Hall of Fame Coach, Mike Krzyzewski, frequently discusses that one of his rules to building a championship team is getting them to embrace practice as part of the process. When someone comes to me looking to drop 20-25 pounds over a 3 month period, pushing sleds across turf, swinging ropes and kettlebells become part of the process. My recommendation is to try and enjoy the process. Make that one of your goals and the outcome you desire is sure to happen as a by-product.  I’ll see you at the studio.


J & D Fitness
4180 South Fort Apache Rd,
Las Vegas, NV 89147