Category Archives: Training Philosophy

A Response to the Internet Expert

Recently, I saw a Facebook thread that was criticizing a popular strength coach for his methods. I happen to know this strength coach and appreciate his insight. This particular coach’s methods and opinions have been shaped by two solid decades of strength coaching and personal training experience. A cursory investigation of the individual that was the most vocal in his attacks revealed that he’d been lifting weights for just a couple of years and had zero experience in working with other individuals. I don’t like getting involved in social media debates as I feel that my time is better served elsewhere, so I stayed out of it. I was hoping that my colleague stepped in to defend himself, especially considering the fact that he was tagged in the thread, but he laid low. Here’s what I wanted him to say:

“Maybe you’re right. Maybe I’m just some old, washed-up coach with antiquated methods.

Maybe everyone should ignore me and just do things your way.

But you know what? Maybe, just maybe, you’re way off base in your criticism.

You see, these methods that you attack are based on watching over a million reps of squats, deadlifts, chin ups, and bench press. They were carefully crafted and molded while working with several thousand athletes over many years in the weight room.

Maybe the mere fact that you’re so confident shows just how unprepared and unqualified you are to be making such comments.

I watch a dozen of your types emerge every week on the internet. Oh, the folly of youth.

Could it be that you’re just another cocksure youngster who feels entitled to judge every coach’s methods because he read the latest month of T-Nation articles and collected his first year of beginner gains as a lifter?

Could it be that you mistakenly thought that circle-jerking on Internet strength training forums replaced decades of experience gleaned from waking up at 4 a.m. and spending the bulk of your waking hours in the gym working with real people?

Could it be that you’re just wandering the earth, umbilical cord in hand, looking for some place to plug in?

Your arguments are as flimsy as the Bosu ball you squat on, because your knowledge comes from parroting other coaches instead of hands-on experience. When Rippetoe’s latest article disagrees with John’s previous article, and when Pavel’s latest work contradicts Wendler, you fall apart and are left shivering in your Vibrams.

What’s that you say – adaptive reconstruction versus supercompensation? Don’t worry, I read Supertraining too. In fact, I read it when you were just a child. But while you’re busy sifting through your copy looking for passages to plagiarize, I’m using mine as a 1-board press to build my athletes’ bench press strength. I’m wondering if you even have an original thought to share.

You haven’t put in the work, son.

You never had to train 20+ high school athletes all by yourself with limited or no equipment.

You never had to start off as an intern or lowly assistant, kiss the head coach’s ass, work your way into the inner-circle, and climb your way up the greasy rungs in order to one day be the head honcho and make meaningful changes.

You never took a losing team and helped turn them into winners, nor did you ever help make a team bigger, stronger, faster, and more powerful without injuring any players along the way.

You never had to convince a team of collegiate football players, each of whom could probably whoop your ass, to follow your lead.

You never had to work with the female soccer player with a severe glute imbalance, therefore you never figured out any solutions for improving her lateral shifting when she squats.

You never trained the grappler who roundbacked every time he bent over, and so you never had to come up with unique ways to enforce the hip hinge.

You never worked with the volleyball player with a nasty case of valgus collapse, so you never created any fixes for preventing medial knee displacement while squatting.

You never had to work with youth or elderly athletes.

You never worked with outliers with extreme anthropometries, so you’re not equipped to deal with the athlete who is forced to SLDL every pull or squat morning every squat.

You never worked with the 7 foot tall NBA player with persistent low back pain or the NHL player with a sports hernia.

You never worked with the MLB pitcher and experimented with different methods to try to improve pitching speed, therefore you don’t have the slightest clue as to what best transfers to what.

You never worked with the bikini competitor whose glutes weren’t responding to traditional squats and deadlifts, so you never had to get crafty with your glute training methods.

You’ve never spoken to the veteran athlete about his favorite go-to exercises in order to earn his buy-in, nor have you listened to feedback from thousands of clients pertaining to various exercises.

You never had to work with the support staff to try to get a handle on a particular athlete’s unique injury, pain, or discomfort.

You never had to pull a MacGuyver and rig up some equipment on the fly in order to allow your client to perform a certain exercise variation.

You never took the time to experiment with the hundreds of exercise variations, not in your own training, and not in the training of others.

You never created your own list of progressions and regressions or exercise categorization scheme.

You never tossed and turned in bed trying to take your mind off of your team’s strength & conditioning challenges.

You never even learned the scientific method in order to control variables so you could learn any true effects of an implementation.

You haven’t the slightest clue how laden the broscience you speak is with confirmation bias, cherry-picking, and logical fallacies.

You never won any championships, set any records, furthered your education, received any certifications, or presented at any conferences, so you haven’t earned the respect and admiration of your peers.

You never made friends with the true movers and shakers in the industry, and so you never got to pick their brains to glean their insight.

Ask any good strength coach. It’s not about creating the strongest athlete possible; it’s about creating the best athlete possible. This requires a combination of mobility, stability, strength, and power in multiple directions. Achieving this blend is going to require a bit more than what you propose.

There are some things that just can’t be learned by reading Starting Strength from cover to cover or receiving a weekend FMS certification.

You haven’t earned the ability to properly critique my work. Maybe, just maybe, you could learn a thing or two from me punk.

GBU

Why I Lift, and Why You Should Too

Lifting weights is good for you. You don’t need me to tell you that, it’s common sense. Most people intuitively understand that sedentarism is not a good idea, and that exercise (especially resistance training) will do their bodies a lot of good. Below, I’ve compiled 30 great reasons why you should adhere to an exercise regimen. Each of these reasons has at least one published paper supporting the claim. Aerobic and resistance exercise can help:

  1. Maintain functional ability
  2. Prevent osteoporosis
  3. Prevent sarcopenia
  4. Increase insulin sensitivity and decrease insulin resistance
  5. Increase metabolic rate
  6. Improve glucose metabolism
  7. Decrease systolic and diastolic blood pressure and arterial stiffness
  8. Decrease body fat and central adiposity
  9. Improve gastrointestinal transit time
  10. Reduce the risk of diabetes
  11. Reduce the risk of heart disease
  12. Reduce the risk of cancer
  13. Reduce the risk of falls, fractures and disabilities
  14. Decrease cardiovascular demands of exercise
  15. Decrease triglyceride, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels
  16. Increase HDL cholesterol levels
  17. Increase muscle and connective tissue strength and hypertrophy
  18. Increase mobility and flexibility
  19. Increase joint stability
  20. Improve balance and coordination
  21. Improve posture
  22. Increase brain/cognitive function
  23. Increase confidence, self-esteem, and happiness
  24. Combat depression and anxiety
  25. Combat metabolic syndrome
  26. Combat frailty syndrome
  27. Improve function in people with cancer, dementia, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, post-stroke disability, lupus, asthma, diabetes, ADHD, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, autism, bipolar disorder, COPD, epilepsy, low back pain, neck pain, chronic headache, and erectile dysfunction
  28. Increase strength, power, speed, and endurance
  29. Prevent ACL, hamstring strain, lumbar, ankle sprain, and shoulder injuries
  30. Improve quality of life
exercising happiness

See? Exercising makes you happy!

It took me many hours of researching to compile this list, and this list provides compelling reasons why everyone should exercise. But let’s not kid ourselves. Though we all like being healthier and fitter, many of us primarily train for physique purposes. In fact, the primary reason why women exercise is for weight control (87.5% of women), and the primary reason why men exercise is for muscular definition (84.7% of men).

We all have different reasons for exercising. My reasons are going to differ from your reasons. But I’m just going to be honest here and list my top 6 reasons for lifting. I’m well aware that most of these reasons are vain and selfish in nature, but considering the health benefits of exercise, there are far worse evils.

1. Attract More Physically Attractive Partners

Being fit doesn’t give you an excuse to be a jerk or to not practice chivalry. However, it will get your foot in the door with a greater number of attractive people. Sure, we’ve all seen plenty of mismatched couples in terms of physical attractiveness. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and many people gravitate toward partners that make them laugh, feel good about themselves, or inspire them in one way or another. On the other hand, some people will prefer a wealthy mate that will spoil them with gifts and a life of luxury. But make no mistake about it, when most people describe their ideal mate, the individual they describe is physically fit and attractive. If you would like to date someone with a rockin’ body and bangin’ booty, you should probably look the part yourself. Princess Leias rarely want to be with Jabba the Hutts. Plus, getting fit takes much less time than getting filthy rich.

jabba

In the real world, Leia doesn’t fantasize about Jabba

If and when you get your chance with a high caliber individual, you’ll need to demonstrate good attributes if you want the person to stick around. There are hundreds of these characteristics, and they include sense of humor, confidence, personal hygiene, attire and style, charisma, integrity, humility, intelligence, competence, optimism, attentiveness, generosity, sexuality and romance, class, tact, ability to have fun, willingness to compromise, assertiveness, dependability, kindness, passion and compassion, courtesy, calmness, affection, ability to lead, work ethic, drive and ambition, daringness, loyalty and trustworthiness, supportiveness, openness, thoughtfulness, special talents, unique mannerisms, scent, and success. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you’re fit, you’ll get a free pass to be lousy in every other area of life.

I’m now engaged to my fiancee Diana, so I’m no longer on the prowl, but that doesn’t diminish my fuel to train like a beast. I want to look good for her and give her more reasons to want to sleep with me.

2. Have More Confidence

Being confident is vital for success. It will help you in relationships and in your career. Confidence is linked to higher income, and it’s a desirable characteristic in potential mates. Speaking from personal experience, having muscles and being strong improves my confidence so I can be a more effective personal trainer and public speaker. During the times in my life when I wasn’t quite as fit and was storing more bodyfat, I didn’t feel confident meeting women or exploring new opportunities.

3. Detract Bullies

I despise bullies. I got picked on quite frequently throughout grade school and even high school, which never sat well with me. I’ve never picked a fight in my entire life for no particular reason other than to dominate another person, and it’s never occurred to me that I could push someone around just because I’m bigger or stronger than them. But this isn’t how bullies operate. They’re in constant search for someone they can manipulate and overshadow. Being muscular, strong, and confident is a good repellent for bullies. They’re more likely to pursue someone else than mess with someone who might be able to whoop their butts if they push things too far. Being confident will also help you better deal with bullies, since you’ll be less likely to give a crap what scummy people think about or do to you.

4. Increased Caloric Intake

I have a confession to make. At around midnight, I turn into a serious food creep. I find myself pacing up and down the kitchen, stalking the cupboards and refrigerator. If I didn’t lift weights, I’d probably look like Jabba the Hutt. I have a voracious appetite, and I have an affinity for particular foods. I probably eat around 5 cheeseburgers per week. I love my cereal. I eat tons of macadamia nuts, yogurt, dried cherries, and dark chocolate. Having extra muscle mass and training intensively allow for markedly greater caloric intake while still being able to look good. I have a lot of wiggle room with my food selection since I regularly consume around 4,000 calories per day. Having a high metabolism makes dieting down much easier when seeking to lean out. And knowing that a big meal is going to be used for replenishment, repair, and fuel for upcoming workouts rather than fat accumulation is very comforting.

5. Look and Feel Athletic

I haven’t played sports in a long time. I’m sure I can’t dunk anymore and I’m probably pretty slow and uncoordinated on the field. But I sure don’t feel that way. I can bust out a heavy full squat and deadlift with perfect form. My hips, shoulders, knees, and back feel healthy. My strength is solid. If need-be, I can carry heavy things from one place to the next. If I prioritized my athleticism for two months by incorporating plyos, sprints, agility drills, and skill work, I could dramatically improve since I’ve always kept a large base of strength. This knowledge sits well with me, as I don’t like feeling like I’m over the hill. When I’m out and about, people often ask me what sport I play, which is good for the ego. I don’t quite perform like an athlete, but lifting weights helps me look and feel like one.

6. Combat Middle-Aged Syndrome

Even though I’m surrounded by people who are much more ripped and much stronger than me, I’m very proud of my strength and of the way I look. The picture below was taken last week, and I didn’t dehydrate myself or pump up before the picture, nor has the picture been edited in any way. Sure, I could stand to lean out more, but this physique was built with lousy genetics, virtually no cardio, no strict dieting, no performance enhancing drugs, and just progressive strength training 4-5 days per week (around 6 hours of lifting per week). In less than 2 years, I’m going to be 40 years of age. This old man isn’t going down without a fight. I intend on being a badass 50 year old, a badass 60 year old, and a badass 70 year old. 

BC copy

6’4″, 245 lbs, 18% bodyfat, 38 years old

 Conclusion

Now you know why I lift weights, but you will have your own reasons for adhering to an exercise routine. In general, people exercise for health-related purposes, functional purposes, and/or aesthetics purposes. What’s great about exercise is that if you train primarily for one purpose, you’ll automatically get the benefits of the other two areas. For example, if you train because you want a better physique, you’ll experience the positive side effects of achieving better health parameters and increased functional performance. If you train primarily for improved health, you’ll wind up with a better physique and a stronger, more capable body. If you train primarily for function, the end result will also entail looking better and possessing improved physiology. Many people take their health and fitness for granted and they don’t appreciate it until it’s too late. If you are currently sedentary, don’t wait to embark upon a progressive exercise regimen, start today and experience all of the positive side effects that accompany it!

You Should Definitely Avoid this Movement

If there’s one movement that I absolutely loathe, it’s the “movement” that attempts to convince readers to avoid certain exercises altogether. I’ve gone to great lengths in past articles to explain how unique lifters are in terms of anatomy and goals. I’ve filmed videos showing people how to gauge how deep they should go in a squat. I’ve written endless articles on exercise variations. I’ve discussed the biomechanical ramifications and pros and cons of certain exercises. And I’ve advised people on how to train around pain or injury. One thing I have never done is written an article telling lifters to never do a particular exercise (well, I wrote an article to mock these types of articles, which I’ll post below, but it was entirely sarcastic).

Deadlift

Recently, this article went viral on Facebook:

5 moves you should avoid at the gym

It advised lifters to avoid deep squats, deadlifts, overhead press, bench press to the chest, and going heavy on any exercise. This created quite the controversy, but this is nothing new. A quick search on Google for exercises you should avoid yielded the following results:

7 “Classic” Exercises You Should Avoid

5 Exercises You Should Never Do

6 Exercise Machines You Should Do Without

Five Body-Weight Exercises You Should Never Do

5 Exercises to Avoid

5 EXERCISES TO AVOID

11 Exercises You Should Never Do

Train Better: 10 Exercise Machines to Avoid

10 Exercise Machines You Must Avoid

Five Exercises You Should Stop Doing… Forever!

10 Gym Exercises to Avoid

5 Most Overrated Exercises You Can Stop Doing

5 Popular Exercises You Should AVOID!

7 terrible exercises you should avoid

The list goes on and on and on and on and on.

Most of these articles are written by well-intentioned people. Perhaps these individuals experienced an injury with one of these exercises, or perhaps they don’t feel them working the muscles thoroughly. My problem with these articles is that they’re often subjective, and they fail to acknowledge the principle of individual differences. Since our anatomy and goals differ, we are naturally going to gravitate more toward some exercises and away from others. Since we’re all different, the exercises we employ will be unique compared to those of the next lifter.

If we listened to all of these articles, there would be no squatting, deadlifting, hip thrusting, bench pressing, military pressing, Olympic lifting, leg extensions, leg curls, leg press, bent over rows, barbell curls, upright rows, behind neck presses and pulldowns, hanging leg raises, pec deck, smith machine exercises, hip abductor/adductor machine exercises, bench dips, jump rope, plyos, crunches, sit ups, elliptical machine, side bends, back extensions, dips, stiff leg deadlift, heavy lifting, seated ab twist machine, shoulder press machine, machine calf raises, shrugs, twisting sit ups, running, box jumps, kipping pull-ups, and ballistic stretching.

In fact, if you were to follow Ryan Lingenfeiser from www.RDLFitness.com, you wouldn’t be allowed to do hardly anything, since he has articles advising his readers to:

  1. Avoid the Hip Thrust

    Ryan

    Ryan Lingenfeiser: King of Avoiding Exercises

  2. Avoid Kettlebells
  3. Avoid Overhead press
  4. Avoid Ab wheel rollouts
  5. Avoid Olympic lifts
  6. Avoid Lunges
  7. Avoid Assistance exercises
  8. Avoid Turkish get ups
  9. Avoid Thick bar training
  10. Avoid Rest-ice-compression-elevation
  11. Avoid Leg curls
  12. Avoid Leg extensions
  13. Avoid Cardio machines
  14. Avoid Cardio rest days
  15. Avoid Support gear
  16. Avoid Focusing on the stabilizers
  17. Avoid Resistance bands
  18. Avoid Advanced training techniques
  19. Avoid Wide stances or grips
  20. Avoid Functional training
  21. Avoid Peak contractions
  22. Avoid Suspension training
  23. Avoid Pullovers
  24. Avoid Powerlifting for general training
  25. Avoid Grip training
  26. Avoid Kipping pull-ups
  27. Avoid Periodization
  28. Avoid Cycling
  29. Avoid Yoga
  30. Avoid Rest, ice, compression, and elevation
  31. Avoid the Jefferson lift
  32. Avoid the Floor press
  33. Avoid Lifting too fast

Now, I’m sure you agree with some of these, but I’m also sure that there are exercises that you like that you found mentioned. And that’s the point! We are all unique.

Several years ago, I wrote this article:

The New Rules of Strength Training

Please click on the link, I promise you’ll get a chuckle out of it. In the article, I sought to “out-do” all of these articles by being very over-the-top and outlandish. I sarcastically advised lifters to avoid upright rows, behind the neck lifts, squats, deadlifts, bench presses, military presses, back extensions, reverse hypers, glute ham raises, single leg lifts, hip thrusts, dips, push-ups, seated rows, chin-ups, leg press, bent over rows, dynamic core exercises, strongman exercises, single joint exercises, Olympic lifts and jump squats, and core stability exercises.

If you made it half-way through the article, you’d likely be thinking that I’m off my rocker. But then I clarified things by saying the following:

If you know enough about anatomy, physiology, and strength training, you could make a case for why every exercise in the book should be avoided. Conversely, you could also make a case for why every exercise in the book should be performed.

Without further ado, here are President Contreras’ actual new rules to strength training:

• An exercise is judged by how it is supposed to be performed, not by how the jacktards screw it up.

• If you think lifting weights is dangerous, try being weak. Being weak is dangerous.

• There are no contraindicated exercises, just contraindicated individuals. Learn how your body works and master its mechanics.

• If you can’t perform an exercise properly, don’t do it. If an exercise consistently causes pain, don’t do it. If an exercise consistently injures you, don’t do it.

• Earn the right to perform an exercise. Correct any dysfunction and become qualified with bodyweight before loading up a movement pattern.

• There exists a risk-reward continuum and some exercises are safer than others. It’s up to you to determine where you draw the line. Don’t bitch about your lack of progress or poor joint health as you lie in the bed you made for yourself.

• Exercises performed poorly are dangerous, while exercises performed well are beneficial. If you use shitty form, you’ll hurt yourself. It’s only a matter of time.

• If you display optimal levels of joint mobility, stability, and motor control, you’ll distribute forces much better and be able to tolerate more volume, intensity, and frequency.

• Structural balance is critical. You must strengthen joints in opposing manners to ensure that posture isn’t altered. If your posture erodes due to strength training, it means that you’re a shitty program designer.

• Body tissues adjust to become stronger to resist loading. The body is a living organism that adapts to imposed demands.

• Your training will be based on your needs, your goals, and your liking. Different goals require different training methods. The loftier your goals, the more risk entailed.

• There are two types of stress: eustress and distress. Keep yourself in eustress and you’ll be okay.

• If you believe an exercise will hurt you, it probably will.

• Injuries in the weight room have more to do with poor form and poor programming than the exercise itself. Exercises are tools. You are the carpenter. A good carpenter never blames his tools.

• Rather than drift along with popular trends, it’s more fruitful to learn how the body works, which will allow you to understand the pros and cons of every exercise and make educated decisions in your programming.

At the end of the day, how you train is your call. Whether you play it safe or roll the dice, at least you’re not sitting on the couch. Pain and injuries have a way of teaching you proper form and programming, and having a large arsenal of exercises is important to prevent boredom and habituation and spark further adaptation. In short, keep learnin’ and keep liftin’!

Articles advising lifters to avoid exercises will keep resurfacing over the years. Rather than just accepting the authors’ advice at face value, I recommend learning the basics of biomechanics and experimenting with exercise variations prior to making your decision to abstain from a particular exercise.

Heavy-Ass-Kettlebell-Swing2

The Ten Worst Types of Personal Trainers

In any field, you’ll find a large discrepancy between the most talented and competent individuals and the least talented and competent individuals. In the world of personal training, there is no exception. The best and most effective trainers exhibit markedly different characteristics compared to the least effective trainers. Listed below are the ten worst types of personal trainers.

The Progressive Overload at Any Expense Trainer

The progressive overload at any expense trainer might start off on the right path, teaching clients proper form with basic compound movements such as squatting, hip hinging, lunging, bridging, pressing, and pulling. But their expectations are unrealistic and their knowledge of sound technical form is lacking. Clients are expected to bump the weight up 5-10 lbs every single week, regardless of gender, age, or training experience. This is manageable for a while, but it soon backfires on the client. After several months of training, you’ll see this trainer’s clients knee caving during squats, roundbacking their deadlifts, bouncing the bar off the chest during bench press, cheating, relying excessively on momentum, and eventually getting injured, all in the name of moving greater loads. These poor examples of form are usually accompanied by shouting and cheering from the overzealous trainer.

Good trainers know that progress is NEVER linear, and that over the course of a year, strength gains zig-zag. Some weeks lifters see huge gains, other weeks they don’t set any PR’s, and some weeks their strength diminishes (or it’s masked by excessive fatigue). Of course there is some wiggle room for some sloppier sets and repetitions, especially when learning a new exercises or using heavier loading than normal, but not too much as this is a slippery slope. Form and range of motion shouldn’t be allowed to markedly degrade just for the sake of a PR. What then does the client do the following week – degrade even more? This is recipe for disaster.

Who cares if you rounded - you PR'd!

Who cares if you rounded bro – you PR’d!

The No Regressions Trainer

In the no regressions trainer’s world, everyone starts out with a barbell, even if they’re not ready for it. You’ll typically witness this trainer’s clients squatting 95 to 135 lbs (depending on whether the client is female or male) during their very first session, using crummy form and only going down a quarter of the way. Trainers are supposed to be aware of the simplest regressions, which enables them to properly load clients while still allowing for sound form. Bodyweight squats can be done to a high box, push-ups can be done from the knees or the torso can be elevated, deadlifts can be performed with kettlebells or dumbbells or with partial range of motion, it’s perfectly fine to program lat pulldowns before attempting chin ups, and dumbbells can be used for upper body pressing. Over time, the majority of lifters graduate to a barbell, but the barbell isn’t suitable for every new client. Full range bodyweight ground based exercises must be mastered prior to the introduction of load. Once full ROM is achieved, a dumbbell in the goblet position is used, and then a barbell is brought into the mix.

No need to reduce the weight - you're hitting parallel bro!

We definitely don’t need to reduce the weight – you’re hitting parallel like a boss!

The Overly Functional Trainer

The overly functional trainer has good intentions but fails to deliver maximum results. This type of trainer typically has several different “movement” certifications and trains every single client the same way. The clients’ goals are ignored, and the trainer’s perception of “functional training” is based on made up logic that is full of bias. In the end, great exercises are avoided, and the clients don’t always see great results based on their goals. For example, let’s consider a typical female client who comes to a trainer seeking a better physique and better glute development. The overly functional trainer might prescribe only standing exercises and avoid any bridging/thrusting movements. Consider the typical male client who is seeking better pectoral development. The overly functional trainer might avoid bench pressing and stick solely to overhead pressing. Sure, the client will see good increases in fitness and strength, but better results could have been realized if the trainer prescribed non-standing movements such as the two supine movements mentioned (hip thrusts and bench press).

What’s more, overly functional trainers will typically be inconsistent with their logic. They’ll tell you that certain non-standing exercises are functional, such as Nordic ham curls, inverted rows, side planks, or push-ups, but then they’ll ridicule other non-standing movements such as hip thrusts and bench press. They often assume that performing a movement in the kneeling or half-kneeling position, with band perturbations, or on an unstable surface automatically makes it more functional, and they typically confuse “newer” with “better.” Good trainers don’t have silly made up rules and their programs are based on helping their clients reach their goals in the safest and most efficient manner possible.

No need for bench press bro, we're building functional pressing strength that you can use in real life.

You don’t ever need to bench press chief. With this functional movement, we’re building real life, usable pressing strength.

The Machines Only Trainer

Let’s face it – it’s very easy to sit a client onto a machine and have them pump away. A trainer doesn’t need an extensive knowledge of biomechanics or exercise form when prescribing solely machine based movements. Therefore, you’ll see them having their clients perform solely machine bench press, machine military press, machine pulldowns, machine rows, machine leg press, machine leg extensions, and machine leg curls. You won’t see any free weight, bodyweight, or resistance band movements being employed, which is why these trainers’ clients don’t typically see great results. Machines definitely have their place in a proper training program depending on the goals of the client. I myself love me some Cybex leg presses, Hammer strength rows, and various other machines. However, there’s a reason why bodybuilders, powerlifters, Olympic lifters, and strongmen alike consistently preach the merits of basic barbell training – it works! Good trainers utilize all forms of resistance in their programs, which allows them to maximize their clients’ results.

Throw in some machine bench press, some leg extensions, and some leg curls, and you got yourself a perfect full body workout bro!

Just add in some machine bench press, leg extensions, and leg curls, and you got yourself a perfect full body workout!

The Pseudoscientific Trainer

You will never, ever hear the pseudoscientific trainer say, “I don’t know.” These types of trainers feel compelled to pretend that they know the answer to every question, and they typically make up their own “science” on the fly. There is so much we don’t know about strength training, biomechanics, and exercise physiology. No trainer in the world knows it all. Beware of the trainers who pretend like they’re experts on all things in strength & conditioning. Good trainers are aware of the limitations and gaps in their knowledge, but they’re not afraid to hit the books and research in order to improve their understanding of a particular topic.

Of course I can answer that question - it's quite simple bro!

Of course I can answer that question – it’s quite simple!

The Puke Or Die Trainer

The puke or die trainer believes that a client doesn’t have a good training session unless he or she pukes or faints during the workout. This type of trainer typically seeks to make the client as sore as possible as well. Puking is unnecessary, fainting is unnecessary, and crippling soreness is overrated. It is true that training is hard – there’s no denying that. But it doesn’t have to be overly grueling. Deloading every month or two is well-advised, some sessions can focus on technique and steer clear of high ratings of perceived exertion, and not every workout needs to involve maxing out or taking sets to failure. Good trainers know that what matters most is good form and consistent strength gains, and that gaining strength over the long run requires healthy joints, adequate energy and recovery, and a positive attitude about the training program.

Puking is evidence that you worked hard enough - no pain no gain bro.

No pain no gain – puking is weakness leaving the body!

The One Way Only Trainer

Think about the first time you learned something new. You were probably overzealous about it and wanted all of your friends and family to jump aboard and learn it too. This is a natural tendency. In the strength training communities, you’ll see this phenomenon all of the time. Powerlifters, Olympic lifters, CrossFitters, Kettlebellers, Yoga practitioners, and Pilate’s practitioners alike will commonly tell you that their form of training is superior across the board, no matter what the goal.

One would think that anyone with a brain could foresee that Yoga probably isn’t the best form of training for maximizing conditioning, considering that it’s performed in place at slow tempos. You would think that Bodybuilders would be consulted or that their training methods would be considered if maximizing hypertrophy was the goal. However, this is not always the case, and Yoga zealots will often tell you that Yoga will get you leaner than anything, and Powerlifting zealots will often tell you that all you ever need is the big three lifts – squat, bench, and deadlifts (and that any other lift is silly and not needed). While this way of thinking is predictable and expected with general lifters, it’s not acceptable for personal trainers. Good trainers value all forms of training and choose the best tools for the job at hand. They borrow methods from every field (including those mentioned in this paragraph) and blend them together for optimal results.

Don't worry bro, I have every single client I train do this exercise.

Don’t worry brah, I have every single client I train do this exercise.

The Insanely Insecure Trainer

The insanely insecure trainer bashes everyone and everything and is threatened by unfamiliarity. A new exercise? It has to be foolish. A new form of training is gaining popularity? It’s got to be absurd. A foreign way of periodizing training sessions? There’s no way it could possibly be effective. A fellow trainer achieving notoriety? This trainer must go down. Good trainers aren’t threatened by trends and they’ll experiment (first on themselves and then with clients) with an exercise or form of training before they form their opinions.

What in the hell are you doing bro - there's no way that silly hip thrusts could lead to any possible improvements whatsoever!

What in the hell are you doing moron – hip thrusts can’t possibly lead to any improvements whatsoever! Just squat.

The Misdiagnosing Trainer

It’s natural to overestimate our knowledge and talents. Therefore, trainers must keep themselves in check by questioning their beliefs and continuing their education. There is one area where trainers must be very cautious, and this area surrounds the diagnosing of pain or injury. Though some trainers possess a thorough understanding of physical therapy concepts and biomechanics pertaining to injury, pain has it’s own science. In particular, it’s important to understand the biopsychosocial model as it pertains to pain. Many trainers only know of the biomechanical-postural-structural model, so they attribute all incidents of pain to things like leg length discrepancies, weak cores, certain muscles not firing properly such as glutes, transversus abdominis, multifidus, lower trapezius, serratus anterior, or vastus medialis obliquus, tight muscles such as psoas, rectus femoris, hamstrings, gastrosoleus, or pec minor, poor posture, spines needing adjustments, and poor breathing patterns. If all one has is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Usually, misdiagnosing trainers don’t understand the complexities of pain or biomechanics and they end up diagnosing every client with breathing dysfunction or whatever other popular dysfunctional pattern they learned about in their recent weekend course. Trainers should leave the diagnosing to the sports doctors and physical therapists and should stick to their expertise, which should be writing well-rounded programs, teaching excellent technical form, prescribing appropriate graded exercise that is adapted to the individual, motivating clients and holding them accountable, educating the clients and pointing them in the right direction for further study, and referring them to experts when necessary. Misdiagnosing can lead to nocebo effects which can do considerable harm by preventing clients from realizing their full potential.

I found the culprit bro! Does your TVA even fire?

I found the culprit! Does your TVA even fire?

In fact, below is a video we made a while back that perfectly exemplifies this type of trainer.

The Pathetically Lazy Trainer

The pathetically lazy trainer loves to sit around. These types of trainers don’t demonstrate form prior to prescribing a movement, they don’t properly explain and demonstrate cues prior to uttering them, they’re complacent with poor form, they don’t count reps or log client workouts into training journals, they don’t get excited, show emotion, motivate, and encourage clients, they don’t personalize programs to the individual – they reuse the same programs on everyone regardless of differences in fitness levels and goals, they don’t consider progressions and periodization strategies to spark continuous gains and prevent boredom and stagnation, they don’t autoregulate the training sessions and make important adjustments on the fly, and quite frankly they don’t care very much about the clients or their results (they just want to get paid). A proper training session requires a significant amount of energy expenditure out of the trainer. Good trainers work hard on all fronts to provide the best service possible for the client.

Hey babe, check out these guns.

Hey babe, check out these guns.

Conclusion

None of us personal trainers are perfect. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve made my fair share of mistakes as a trainer, but I’ve gotten better over the years (hopefully you have too). If you are a personal trainer and you are guilty of committing some of these acts, then step it up. Your clients will see better results and you will increase your clientele and ultimately improve your financial disposition. If you are a lifter seeking the help of a personal trainer, be on the lookout for lousy ones. The results that you achieve with the help of a highly competent trainer will be leaps and bounds ahead of what you’d achieve via an inept trainer.