I will tell you about my new love affair! If there’s one awesome thing about the weather turning colder, its that it’s the time of year to cook up some delicious roasts. If done in an oven, this can be tough as you have to set aside time to ensure that your house doesn’t get engulfed by flames. This doesn’t work for most people – myself included – especially mid-week! Sooooooooooooo………..

Enter the slow-cooker!!

A cure for your meal prep woes

This thing has been awesome! In the last week I’ve made both an Angus beef roast and a pork shoulder roast (pulled pork anyone?) I usually throw in the basics: celery, carrots, and onion. Add some spice to the meat, and then throw in a carb – be it potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc. (Nothing fancy for now, the experimentation will come later.) Set for around 8 hours, come home from work, and viola! lunch/dinner for the next 2-3 days.

Just be forewarned, carrying around a huge Tupperware gets comments (and not always the “you’re a bad-ass” comments), but get solace from the fact that you have your meal prep covered while others reach for powerbars or other less satisfying and nutritious fare.

Last note, clean-up can be even easier with these bad-boys:

That’s right, throw all your grub into the liner and after it’s all cooked, remove said grub to the Tupperware. Step 3: Just throw the liner in the trash with some authority! A quick wipe of the slow-cooker if you’re channeling your inner Mr. Clean, and clean up is done – ‘cuz no one wants to scrub at 10 at night nor 6 the next morning. Just callin’ it like it is.


Being that one of my jobs is in a commercial gym, I often see things that make me shake my head. For example, once I witnessed the assisted chinup machine with about half the weight stack loaded up, being used by a member wearing a weight vest….true. story.

Oh yeah, classic Dubya!

Anyways, there are also a number of positive things which fortunately give me more hope in humanity.

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve gotten introduced to and had some brief discussions with a couple of regular members. Here’s the inspirational part: one is 87 and one is 95. The 95 came up to me and we started talking about how they have to update the target heart rate zone charts* to include his age.

Are their workouts perfect? No, but that doesn’t make it any less inspirational to see these guys in the gym regularly at their age. I can only hope I’m still that fit at 95!

Happy Friday everyone! Chris out.

*Don’t get me started




So here’s a quick glimpse into my training right now. With my schedule filling up between the 2 (now 3 jobs), its doesn’t leave much time to train, nor much mental energy after a full day of training (when I wasn’t as busy I was training anywhere around 9-11 at night).


Foam roll, stretch, activation, dynamic warmup, (core training is fitting its way in here for the sole reason that after the complex at the end, I don’t feel like doing sh*t!)


Med Ball throw variation (done solo with no other pairing)

Strength superset: lower than upper (lower tends to be unilateral b/c of my history of back pain, and the upper body right now is 2 days of dumbbell bench and one day low rep chinups)


Metabolic complex: 2-3 times through (Day 1: BB complex, Day 2: Bilateral DB Complex, Day 3: Unilateral DB Complex)

5-6 exercises same weight, no rest:

explosive (hang clean, snatch, or swing)

upper push

lower (bilateral or unilateral depending on day)


upper pull/arms

lower (unilateral)

My total training time is around 45 mins-1 hr per session — basically a “hit em hard, go home” style.

This was one of the newer aspects of programming in Coach Boyle’s Functional Strength Coach 3, and I liked the substance for sure, but the logistics of circuits with personal training clients didn’t sit well with me. Being that I’ve been doing mostly in-home personal training for the past 10 or 11 months, the time required for set up, explanations/demonstrations of each of 10 stations, as well as correcting form on the fly with more than one client usually – this just seemed to be one of those great ideas, but not for my situation.

But I am re-visiting the idea. Here’s why:

Since I picked up the job training at one of the Y’s in the city, I have access to an actual gym, which means space. I don’t have to worry about taking up half a condo gym just for a circuit in this case.

One of my clients also mentioned that they wanted less time warming up so that I could stretch her out at the end (…another post…). The key is I had to find a way to shorten the warm-up while not negatively effecting the quality of it. This is a biggie. As a slight tangent, I know sometimes I do not think enough about redundancy in the warm-up so this was another reminder for me about spending some time re-visiting these.

Here’s another big thing that experience seems to remind me about: I don’t have to follow Coach Boyle’s circuit method only “as is”. Speaking respectfully, he is using something that works for him. He doesn’t know about my situation, so it’s my job as a professional and customer to take the big picture of what he’s saying and make it applicable to my situation. The modification I’ve been thinking and tinkering with have been shorter circuits.

Now I have to just figure out how to do isometric holds the way I would like them do within a given time constraint.

A couple more things I may need to look at:

  • A Gymboss or Workout Muse-type time management system – I hate that I always lose track of time because I’m too busy being a coach to my clients. Its surely my fault for not getting one of these systems sooner.
  • I should really look at getting a flipcam.  I’d enjoy making video posts more while also being able to show what I do versus just writing about it. Bret Contreras’s blog post today reminded me of this.

Lately more and more people have been chiming on training breathing — which is great! As a young trainer, I really enjoy and value all the differing perspectives on this topic as it helps me sift through the information and get an idea of what the experts are doing with it. That said, it is an area I want to read more about myself to better understand why it is becoming an area of focus for trainers.

My favourite point I’ve heard so far is Charlie Weingroff’s stance on training reflexive stability of the core. Though it wasn’t specifically about breathing, he made a wonderful distinction between corrective exercise for the core and conditioning the core.

This painted a very clear picture for me — along with the all-to-common “its so common sense, how didn’t I think of that?!”

Let me state that prior to hearing this, I was very skeptical about the practical application of the proper breathing information. I was not keen on using 5 minutes of my time to have a client lay on their back and breathe…just breathe. I also just felt that something like that is out of my scope — I thought that breaking it down this much was for a rehab professional.

But Charlie’s thoughts were perfectly succinct. I realized I had been training core stability with a high threshold strategy — which excludes the element of timing which is so central to spinal stability. I realized this wasn’t necessarily right nor wrong, just that depending on the client’s level of “fitness” and the exercise, I had to train more than just a single stabilizing strategy. Then the realization that training breathing while training a simple core demand hit me. So simple.

This includes things like planks, side planks, anti-rotation presses, chops, lifts, etc. When we get to the big stuff like bench pressing, split squats or any other “conditioning” exercise, that is where the high threshold strategy stuff has gone — basically the whole bracing approach. I’ll admit though that even this is very grey (gray?) to me as over-bracing isn’t optimal either.

A couple things I want to pass on today:

I’ve been reading Eric’s stuff ever since I caught the “personal training”/”info junkie” bug about half way through my personal training course at the YMCA in 2006. Because of his knowledge and having achieved so much at a young age, I’ve always viewed him as a mentor in that respect.

Anyways last week, Eric let the cat of the bag on his new product (Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better) which will be released on September 21st. Yesterday he released the first video clip from his product. Its 7 minutes of info most everyone could use prior to a squatting session. There are also some variations I haven’t seen of the drills, so it got my mind working too – my clients always enjoy me talking like this….

Without further ado, check it out HERE!!

Also, take a look at this blog post from Tony Gentilcore who coincidentally enough, is one of the other big dogs at Cressey Performance. He discussed the difference in swing technique – a “hip snap” swing vs. a “squat” swing.

In all honesty, this was a mistake I was making with it until I returned from Providence, and since then I’ve had to re-visit the pattern with my clients to clean it up. It has also lead to some adjustment in my progressions and how I train a proper hip hinge pattern, which to me is a big positive. Also, one of my clients mentioned this last night, so I think it bears repeating – For the guys out there, do NOT be afraid of hitting your “special area” with the dumbbell! Think more of the wrist being drawn down to that area.

That’s it for today! Check out those links and Tony’s special blend of information and entertainment on his blog!

Closed chain leg curls have been largely seen as an advancement from the machine based open chain version (lying, seating, standing). The reason being that in activities of daily living and/or athletic performance, the hamstrings concurrently perform both knee flexion and hip extension. The machines on the other hand only train the knee flexion component (although an argument could be made for the standing version, but I don’t think it’s a superior option in any sense).

So equipment pieces like stability balls and Valslides have become popular to train this movement.

I think Valslides and slideboards are the gold standard for the performance of this exercise based on the demand they place on the involved tissues, but not everyone has access to them.

Stability balls just by keeping the body higher in the air are often easier yet also more practical for the majority of gym goers – especially in commercial type settings. But even with a simple stability ball, modifications often have to be made to those just getting into functional training (and away from the bodybuilding-inspired approaches).

We can do eccentrics just like with the Valslides and slideboard. Just get the hips up, and slowly roll the ball out for 5 seconds, then drop the hips to the floor and bring the ball back to the butt. If this is too tough try 3 seconds…or just do hip extensions on the ball. Better yet in this case, master hip extensions off the ball first.

Doing the whole movement with the hips low is essentially demonstrates a lack of hip extension strength, and thus the effectiveness of the exercise is lost. Often these regressions just aren’t common sense and/or they are assumed to be “too easy/sissy”, but your body will always tell you where your current level of functional fitness is, and its our job to pay attention to it rather than dismiss it in denial.

Anyways, I write this because there was a young woman at the gym performing these who needed to begin with a modified variation of the stability ball version. It was extremely refreshing to see someone utilize smart training methods in that setting, and she had a great attitude when I offered up the tip. Maybe there is some hope after all.

Here’s a visual representation of the “start” position:

Not like this.

Like this.

Today I had my second stretching session as per the Stretch to Win protocol created by Ann & Chris Frederick.

First, I will say it is very effective for increasing range of motion. Posture and movement both felt better afterwards. Before getting through all 5 lower body modules, my low back was no longer rounding at parallel during a squat, and I was able to perform a much better hip hinge while testing out a 1-leg straight-leg deadlift pattern. I also felt my trigger points along both iliac crests scream like crazy!!

This is definitely an area I’m interested to see where the new knowledge will take us. With an hour of time with my clients, I need to do something to address tissue length, and I am interested to see how effective can we get in a very limited time. What I like about the Stretch to Win system is how it specifies that it is about stretching fascia as opposed to muscles. Many of their other S2W sentiments also echo the suggestions Thom Myers made at the seminar in Providence this past June.

My reservations are with a shotgun approach. How is a shotgun approach considered progressive? I have no doubt that some of it can help , but I would always like to see an assessment before attempting to affect mobility. How else do you know what actually needs stretching?

One particular “screen” during one of the modules is to take the lower back into a flexed position. What reason does this serve in a personal training situation? With everyone’s knowledge of sit-ups, hanging leg raises, etc and their lack of knowledge of core stability, I’m not convinced it NEEDS to be checked. Does going after core stability ever present a concern? I’m doubtful again.

Overall it seems like an effective, but time-consuming protocol. I think the next step will be to take from it what needs to be used to garner the desired result (increased range of motion and therefore, better movement/reduced injury risk), while cutting away any excess which is not helping to achieve the desired result.

Just to finish off, I also dislike the fact that you need another person to administer the stretches; do we need better self-stretches? Can PNF be modified for self-stretching? There also seems to be a lack of thought given to the short vs stiff classification…. (Although perhaps its just covered as a separate workshop/certification…hmmm)

Lots of food for thought, and for the most part it’s tasty.

Same blog, new direction

September 9, 2010

I’ve been mulling this over for the past little while:

Do I start this blog up again, do I get a new one, does it only need a new name, new look, different url, do I need to think more about branding, do I have enough unique information to blog again…

And in thinking up how I was going to start this new direction, I ended up reaming off a reflection type piece similar to what was done before. Ironic no?

Now I may have aspects of the above things as I turn the leaf over on this bad boy, but the main difference is simply providing more thought on how I’m piecing together the training information I’m learning and how things I’m learning are leading to results for my clients.

Maybe this isn’t a huge redirection from some of my past posts, but I’m thinking of it as a new beginning just based on the fact that I’ve let this thing slide for the past year or so. So here’s to an honest effort and a fresh start!

Feeling a little under the weather these last couple days, has helped make me AWOL on the blog, but a week into 2010 means that I should get this bad boy published. Hopefully there will be something on here that isn’t on everyone else’s “things I learned” article. Thanks for reading!

Since the start of 2007, there’s a New Year’s tradition I look forward to: Eric Cressey’s article in the things he learned in the previous year. I’ll include some links if your curious (they’re great reads anyways): 2006, 2007, and 2008. The reason I mention Eric is that he was one of the first guys I read when I found sites like T-Nation and from those articles I got an idea of what a smart person could do in this industry. Until then I just had the same prevailing notion as many about trainers being meatheads, so I was lucky to have found these websites to learn from these guys who broke that mold.

Since he started writing those articles, I always thought “when I am going to learn enough things to fill in a whole article”…how young and naive of me…

But lo and behold 2009 has come and gone, and do I ever have stories to tell!! But first a little tangent. (Patience little grasshopper!)

Every year when I reflect on the past year (at least since I started university), I would realize how much I learned about myself. The same thing happened after the summers of 2007 and 2008 after interning/working at SST between academic years. And after each of these subsequent periods I would feel as though I learned more than in the previous year/summer. The point of this side-thought is that I’m not saying that THIS year!! Not sir, not me! Because the surprising thing to me will be if I ever STOP learning.

With that said, let’s get to the good stuff! (And just so you know, this will include both training based ideas and my self-improvement)…Now we’ll begin:

1. Systems make life easier!

I’m a fan of anything that makes my life easier! I’ve been working on developing a system around my training philosophy as that will make training results much more predictable. As well I will be able to see any changes in results after I make a change to the system, thereby allowing me to analyze whether the “experiment” worked or didn’t. Also in business: I do have the entrepreneurial spirit even though I didn’t take a business course until my second year of university. Since then, reading and listening to people who run successful gyms, I’ve realized they all want to use systems! Its the same as the rationale for a training system — it tells you what works, what doesn’t, and how your changes affected the business. Also systems = organization, which I now see the value of crystal clear!

2. Death of squatting? Welllllll, maybe…

Coach Mike Boyle brought up a great point in his death of squatting video (part of his Functional Strength Coach 3.0 product. I guess I’ve always agreed with a lot of what Mike says because a) he backs up his ideas with good rationales and b) I’ve had back pain and other injuries from training and my baseball days. Anyways, the point being all squats aren’t bad. There’s a difference between bodyweight squats and heavy squats.

3. Think Critically!

This year I started using this skill which I think I started learning in university but wasn’t a regular at applying it in those days. Regardless of what anyone says, they have their own population of clients who naturally aren’t the exact same as mine, so I may like their idea but that doesn’t mean its going to work out for me and my clients. I need to think about my clients and our situation because the good idea may not be feasible at all, or it may be feasible after being changed to suit my clients.

To expand on this further Coach Boyle has a quote in the front of his 2nd ebook that says “Don’t believe everything you read”. Until this year I just took this as a word from the wise, but it didn’t mean anything to me. This summer for whatever reason, something clicked and I began to understand the difference. It has made my continuing education since then much more valuable and much more challenging. Go figure!!

4. Have a training philosophy

Since I became a personal trainer I wondered how long it would take me to do this. Unfortunately I found out that the training philosophy fairy doesn’t hand these out automatically once you get a personal training certification or after a summer or two of interning/working. Finally this year I have really started to see my own philosophy develop as my ability to critically think has improved. Concidence?? I’m going to wager a “probably not”.

5.  I’d coach for free!

Its unfortunate because the way I became even more passionate about coaching was based on some unfortunate events this year. However as a result, I was able to make great strides as a coach and in my interpersonal skills, which meant that my clients have received a higher level of service from me. It was a tough way to learn this lesson, but I don’t think it would’ve happened as quickly any other way.

6. You don’t need much equipment for a good training program

Just like the heading says. A coach with good creativity can get the most out of limited equipment — this is something that unfortunately isn’t taught in personal training certification courses. In my opinion the best two pieces of equipment are dumbbells and space.  One’s training philosophy will dictate the importance of different pieces of equipment as well. The ones at the top of the list would be ones that would serve mutliple needs in the program.

7. Networking

I’m definitely not going to rehash the networking post from December, because it was one of the longer ones I’ve written on this blog. It was that big of a realization for me though; that I had a crappy approach to networking at the start of the year, and my network reflected that. It only took me 3/4 of the year to learn the proper approach to networking, but it could always have been worse.

8. What’s basic to me probably isn’t basic enough

I touched on this with my split squats post which was fueled by my foray into personal training towards the end of the year. I always thought anyone could start with split squats because they are a basic single leg exercise requiring less motor control than single leg squats or deadlifts. What I realized is that about half of my personal training clients couldn’t do a proper one even towards the end of the first phase. So whats more basic than a split squat? Bilateral squats/deadlifts baby! That’s right, for these beginners double-leg exercises will be easier to learn and evoke a strength increase through a full range of motion. Also by the second phase, I will have been able to also start working on flexibility (ie. the hips as most people’s are horrendously tight) sufficiently giving people a much better chance of mastering the exercise more quckly.

9. I’m already using multi-planar training — A Lot!!

This was an Ah-Ha moment after watching Coach Boyle’s FSC 3 dvd’s. I fell into the trap of thinking that multi-planar training meant performing exercises in different planes of motion, for example doing both forward and lateral sideways) lunges. What I realized was that multi-planar training can involve movement in a single plane while counteracting forces in other planes. An example: 1-arm DB Row. Your arm and back muscles are moving the weight in a forward-forward direction, while you core muscles to prevent rotation.

10. My 3 week rule of exercise technique

Good enough form isn’t good enough, plain and simple. That said, I do not give every nuance of proper technique the first session because information overload results, nor do I expect perfect technique right away; learning simply takes time. On the other hand, if perfect form isn’t nailed down after 3 weeks, I’ve got some re-evaluating to do! What cues did I use? Did I use too many cues/not enough? Did I provide a poor visual demonstration? Were any of my cues unclear and/or contradictory? OR back to the split squat idea from above: is there an issue with the exercise progression?

You may be wondering though, “Why 3 weeks?”

Logistics, my dear Watson! I prefer 3 week training phases, so in week 4 I’m either switching to a more advanced progression or to another movement variation.

So there’s the ten, which is by no means an exhaustive list of everything I learned. More so these had the biggest impact on my continuing development as a coach this year. 2010 is a week in already and will continue to prove to be exciting and filled with opportunities. May your 2010 be the same!