Did You Get Your Workout on Pinterest?

  I want to touch on one of the most important aspects of working with a trainer. It rarely gets discussed and most gyms are happy that prospective members don’t ask about it. It’s exercise program design. There should be some type of plan with your workout. It doesn’t have to be ultra detailed or intricate, but nonetheless, it should exist. Here’s an analogy I frequently use. Do you get in your car and just drive, or do you have a destination? There are multiple ways to get to a location, but you should have some type of route planned. This leads me to why we do an assessment on everyone that starts a program at the studio, whether private or in a small group. An assessment allows us to know our starting point. Think about when you use Google Maps; the 1st question you must answer is ‘Where are you starting from?”

     The holidays are here and during this time I will typically have family and friends share their current exercise routines with me. After they explain their workout, the 1st question I ask usually is, “Do you like it?” Sometimes I’m asked my opinion and I’ll usually answer that question with a question. “Is it working?” This is where I sometimes get funny looks. If your workout claims to make you stronger, “Are you getting stronger?” If it promised to help drop body-fat, “Are you leaner?” That’s not a trick question. To be fair, it is possible to be on a program to lose body-fat and not lose a pound for 3 months. I’ve seen this before, even under the guidance of a good program.

     When you create a program for someone, there should always be a reason for everything you do. If you can’t explain why you’re doing it, you shouldn’t be doing it. When I mentor young trainers, I always tell them that because it makes you sweat or it’s hard are NOT appropriate answers. It’s a shame, but those criteria are largely what many people look for. I once had a woman tell me that I should crank the heat at the studio above 85 degrees because people will sweat and that’s good. This came from a smart person. 


It just shows me the misconceptions that exist out there with exercise. I’m going to explain how you put together a solid program for fat loss & strength.

     I always start with an assessment because I need to see if someone can squat, lunge, hinge (think deadlift), lift their arm overhead, stand on a single leg (walking) and brace their trunk (plank) without pain. Pain is a red flag and can notify us if we need to address something before we proceed into a workout program. If pain doesn’t exist, that’s good. I’m also looking to see the quality of the movement. Before you challenge someone with an exercise you have to make sure they can accomplish that movement pattern. If they can’t perform a lunge, they may need a couple months of lunges performed with assistance, before we progress to bodyweight lunges and eventually add load to that exercise. We may need to substitute an exercise for lunges entirely. During this building phase, I will also limit their reps. You want to avoid going to failure during this period, because your objective is for them to perform reps with perfect form before you progress to that next level. This process is for all exercises. Move well, show me perfect reps, and then we can push intensity. That may sound like common sense, but that’s not where many people start. As a coach I have to explain to people that we must build a solid foundation first. I love kettlebell swings, but if you can’t perform a toe touch, you have no business trying a kettlebell swing. It does take trust on behalf of the member, but hopefully as a coach you have explained this process, so they are aware and have realistic expectations. Once you have good movement patterns, it’s all about load and intensity. To create strength, you must use a load that is a stimulant. Your body is a great machine and builds based upon the adaptation process. I have a quote on a poster in one of the studio bathrooms. It reads “If you do what you have always done, you will get the results you have always gotten”. Simply put, to get stronger, you must lift more. More could be 3 lbs., or it could be 30 lbs. 

     After you dial in the appropriate load, you need to address heart rate intensity. I have always used heart rate monitors in my studio because it allows us to be precise. No guess work. Sweating is not the way to determine if a set of an exercise was performed at the appropriate level. I tell people I can sometimes start a light sweat during my warm-up. If I can manipulate the correct heart rate level while pushing a sled, I can guarantee that I’ll get the benefit of a metabolic effect, which is ideal for burning fat. 

     The sad part of the story is that as a society, many of us have gravitated toward Edu-tainment. In the era of YouTube and Facebook, people like to do exercises that look cool. The internet provides an unlimited ability and access for learning, but we want to be entertained also in the process. The right fit isn’t always a top priority for some. Sometimes the best exercises look very boring. Don’t confuse boring for not being challenged. Loaded carries are an awesome full body exercise. They are great for the core and help elevate the heart rate to increase work capacity. Watching someone walk carrying a heavy sandbag may not translate to 100,000 views or likes on YouTube. Standing on a stability ball will. That’s the entertainment part. 

     When creating your next exercise program, ask yourself if you have a starting point. We all start from different points. Do you address movement quality? You don’t want to get injured by compensating. Does it make you stronger? There isn’t a single population that strength is a detriment. Finally, do you push the intensity if your goal is fat loss? How do you know? Answer these questions and you should come out with a well rounded, well-structured program. 

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

See you at the studio.

Don’t Forget About Who You Train

   This Saturday I will be hosting the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s (NSCA) Nevada state clinic at the studio. We have 8 speakers (including myself) scheduled to present 50-minute presentations on various strength and conditioning topics. Training the glutes, programing specific to mixed martial arts, and how stem cell therapy has influenced the fitness industry are a few of the hot topics that will be discussed. These events provide professionals in the fitness community the opportunity to maintain their certified professional status, acquire continuing education credits and remain current in the industry. Coaches typically leave events like this inspired, motivated and ready to apply some of the concepts on Monday. There in lies the problem. 

     Gray Cook is an internationally recognized physical therapist and one of the leading minds in the strength & conditioning field. He is one of the co-founders of the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) which has become the gold standard assessment tool used by fitness professionals. Similar to having your blood pressure, temperature, and weight checked when seeing your physician, the screen allows a trainer to see how well someone moves before designing an exercise program for them. Gray recently did a talk for the employees of Google that was revolutionary. It was ground breaking because he was in front of a room of non-trainers and fitness practitioners. This audience didn’t possess an in-depth understanding of exercise. He couldn’t take many of the assumptions he usually can when presenting. He was forced to speak in simple terms to convey his point of how diagnosing someone’s movement quality is important when creating an exercise program. I watched the presentation online because I feel there’s a lot I can learn from the way he discussed his subject matter.

     A big problem in the fitness industry is after a trainer attends an event, they return to their clientele on Monday and proceed to “throw up” everything they learned over the weekend in a single session. I’ve attended events where legends of the fitness arena such as Pavel Tsatsouline, Charles Poliquin and Gray are featured. One of the key points that gets lost in translation is that these presenters are in front of an audience highly motivated to hear what they have to say as they listen, sitting on the edge of their seats. The speakers come from a high level of credibility, and nothing they say is questioned. For a trainer this is the equivalent to seeing Steve Jobs launch a new product at a Mac event years ago.

     The average trainer needs to understand that when they are speaking to Mary the school teacher on Monday they will have to first earn her trust, and then understand that she has a limited knowledge of exercise. They will need to take the necessary time to help Mary feel safe and comfortable. In her eyes, you’re not a superstar, just someone who may be able to help her. The trainer shouldn’t be offended when Mary ask, “Why am I doing this?” Mary is outcome goal oriented. She wants to lose 20lbs. and look attractive to her husband. The kettlebell swing may be apart of the process to get her there. As a trainer you should direct her towards embracing the process. Coming to you 3 days a week is the process. Pushing a weighted sled along the turf is part of the process. The key is to not lose Mary along the way. Keep her focused, provide emotional support when needed, and create a program catered to her needs. No matter how eloquent you put it, she could care less about hearing the benefits of shoulder stability while performing the Turkish Get up. She has a dress in her closet she wants to fit into.

     So, my message to my fellow trainers out there is to continue to learn and grow. Listen and read literature from the leaders in our field and then remember who is standing in front of you on Monday morning. 

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