Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sometimes the Basics are All You Need....For Now

Question: Hi John,
I'm 23 years old and traditionally have been a runner. I don't have a lot of muscle mass and would like to begin more training to build more mass and strength. I have been doing mostly circuit workouts with dumbbells in the home. I'm really wondering how often I should work out a week. I've been doing the same circuit basically every other day. I'll do curls, upright row, push press, bent row, tricep press, and squat press from the floor. This is just a routine I learned from an old running coach. I was wondering if this is too much to do every other day. I feel fine in between workouts and tend to recover quickly from least I think. Is this a good plan? I'm planning on adding a bench day when I get my new house. I also throw in a leg heavy workout once a week after the circuit. I've considered adding a day a push up exercise to change things up as I'm also concerned about my muscles only training to these specific exercises. Obviously, I have lots of questions and would appreciate any help you can give. Thanks.
-Travis from Minnesota

Answer: Your routine seems fine to start off with. Every other day is adequate, as long as you give your body a day to rest and recover. The most important thing to consider is load. Make sure you use weights that "challenge" you and you are able to control. Compound movements such as your push press and bent over rows are key to muscle development. Include some other giants like the bench press, squats, deadlifts and chins. If the goal is to add more muscle mass to your frame, than I suggest taking a hard look at your dietary intake. You will need to develop a base caloric intake level based on your body mass. Although this is basic, try out this calorie calculator to figure how many calories you should be ingesting into your body to support your training and goals. Eating wisely will be the most important factor in your program.

Your program is basic, but sometimes the basics are good enough to get you started. I think, in time, your body will adapt to this routine, and mentally, you will become "bored" of it. That is common. In order to beat the monotony of a basic program is to try to vary exercise components, rest periods, rep schemes, workout times, and workout music.

There's alot that I can suggest with a basic program like yours, so I am going to defer to some other guys that have taught me. My advice is to look into more advanced programs possible at your bookstore. Some books that I may suggest to help you out include: Functional Training Companion Guide Manual by JC Santana and Maximum Strength by Eric Cressey. As with any program, consistency is the key.
- John Izzo

Monday, December 28, 2009

Your Fitness Career Advisor

Welcome to the new blog. I have titled it John Izzo's Trainer Advice for one simple reason: to help personal trainers entering the field to make the best decisions to enhance their career and personal growth as a developing professional. Since my first website in 2005, I have received countless emails and inquiries from people looking for more information on how to become a personal trainer. It is my pleasure to share whatever information I can to advise, guide, and explain many of the components that go into becoming a well respected and competent fitness professional. 

Believe it or not, the personal training field is continuously growing and more and more young trainers are becoming lost, confused, or overwhelmed with the amount of information that is available to them. Whether you are a trainer newly certified or chained to your office cubicle looking to try follow your passion of fitness into a career, I have advised many on topics such as business start-up, ethical standards, job hunting, exercise instruction and client interactions.

I encourage you to email me your questions or use  the form at the bottom of this blog to submit your questions. This blog will still feature my daily ramblings and encounters in a day in the life of a personal trainer, but I hope it serves a higher purpose. The purpose to help those searching for fulfillment, direction, and knowledge that will improve their career and professional endeavors.

Thank you for your continuous support in reading this blog. Please update your bookmarks to http://traineradvice/

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays

The blog will be undergoing some major changes in the next couple of weeks. As you can see, the name will change and I am hoping to get it running on a  different platform to accommodate more interaction with my readers. Keep checking back to this blog for updates and a new web address. In the midst of this all, there are the holidays. I want to wish you all a very safe and happy holiday season and hope to continue to accommodate your reading pleasure.

In the meantime, here is a GREAT interview I conducted with Tony Gentilcore of Cressey Performance. Tony is an amazing writer and an even better fitness professional. He is one of a few blogs I read on a daily basis. His writing captures my full attention every time and I learn something new from him every time. Check out our interview here.

Happy Holidays and thank you again for your ongoing support!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blog Name Change

Besides it being Christmas week and the Northeast finally got hit with its first official "blizzard" of 2009, there is a HUGE change happening with this blog. As you can see, being "snowed in" all day Sunday allowed me to sit down and accomplish some projects that I have had sitting on the back burner. The first big change is the name and layout of this blog. I love the name of "A Day in the Life of a Personal Trainer" really exemplified what I was trying to accomplish when I first set out to create a blog. I wanted to share what day to day occurrences I experience as a fitness professional. However, as time went on and 200+ posts later, I realized that my "blog" was not necessarily a daily journal, but a helpful guide for personal trainers and exercise enthusiasts. Always my intent to give out sound advice, I decided to part ways with that great blog title and adapt a new one. From now on, this blog will be known as John Izzo's Trainer Advice.

I'll keep the old blogger URL for a few more days, but eventually (very soon), it will be changed. Please update all your RSS feeds and bookmarks to

Thanks and I hope you will continue to enjoy the content!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

2009 Recap!

2009 has been an incredible year for me. In my personal life, I married a great woman and we have begun our lives together. 2009 had some ups and downs, however, I was preoccupied with plans for my wedding and producing my last DVD product Shatterproof Spine. A bit different than my previous video, Shatterproof Spine hit upon a topic that I feel is a very important in obtaining new clients and retaining old ones. 80% of the American population suffers from some sort of low back pain and discomfort; so why not develop a product that addresses the specific concerns of this debilitating condition? Shatterproof Spine is a lecture and practical using the works of Stuart McGill--renowned low back expert--and applying his findings and research to training.
Over the course of the year I have received tons of great feedback regarding the blog. Most of you have enjoyed the many diverse topics I have posted including:

My training business has seen a rise in production too. I have learned how to attract new clients through effective marketing and closing skills. I have acquired a number of clients with multiple issues that need addressing with corrective exercise programming and proper cueing. As the year went on, so did the learning process. Its funny how much you can continuously learn more about your craft if you know where to look. This year I finished a number of books, including:
Starting Strength (2nd edition)
Never Let Go: A Philosophy of Lifting, Living and Learning
...and I have begun to read Coach Boyle's newest book:
Advances in Functional Training: Training Techniques for Coaches, Personal Trainers and Athletes

I have had the opportunity to interview many strength coaches and fitness professionals that I admire--most of which have had a profound effect on my own training and approach to program design. Some of the coolest interviews I have conducted this year include:
Eric Cressey

In 2009, I also completed another project with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. This new project entails helping young trainers develop the essential business skills to become more profitable and potent in their job hunting endeavors.

I envision 2010 becoming a "break out" year for me. As wedding plans are now over, I can now fully concentrate on my business, training, and continuing education to help further me more and more into this profession that I truly love. I can't wait to share it with all of you! Be on the lookout for more great content in over the next 12 months!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Things I Did Differently in 2009

My training business has been on a steady growth for me the last year and I think it correlates with my growth as a person. The more I learn about training, exercise programing, and the human body, the better I can serve the customers that come to me. My on-line business has also grown the last 12 months, and it is no surprise that most of the on-line relationships I have developed with other professionals have helped to cultivate my unfolding growth.

Personal and professional growth comes with its trials and errors. And I have committed plenty of errors over the years. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes in life, however  it is important to learn from them--if not the first time, definitely the second time. I believe that the obstacles I have run into over the past few years in my business and personal life, were avoided the last 12 months using a combination of introspection, patience, and planning.

Things I Did Differently in 2009 to Help My Training & Online Business

1.) Joining Facebook & Twitter
The biggest and most important step I took to enhancing my business was finally joining online networks: Facebook and Twitter. For a while, I detested online networking and was not willing to give it try. But one day, I decided to try out Facebook and within a month, I was hooked. I loved connecting with old friends from childhood, high-school, and college. Then, one I was able to connect with my took my Facebook experience to a whole 'nother level. Joining these online networking websites allowed me to share a side of me that is important to those that read my work. I am a human that loves what he does, and loves to have fun with loved ones and friends. Facebook and Twitter allowed potential clients to "review" me before they hired me and learn a thing or two about my persona and training style. And that in itself makes it an effective tool. This is by far, the most important thing I have done to increase my business.

2.) Formed respectable relationships with other coaches and fitness professionals
Facebook opened me up to many professionals that I highly respect, and it allowed me to reach out to them for help. With a bit of coaxing, I befriended some fellow coaches that helped me along the way with words of encouragement, advice, and collaboration. In 2009, I have conducted 11 interviews with other professionals. These opportunities have allowed me to learn from, and connect with those that I am professionally fond of. I am profoundly grateful for the help and coaching that these individuals have given me over the past 12 months. My advice to anyone seeking to enhance their business: Develop mutual respected relationships with those that you want to emulate. You can learn alot from those that you look up to.

3.) Concentrated on creating quality content.
I learned that if you are going to run a blog and a website, you should put out quality information. Especially if you are going to spend some time on networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, putting out quality info is paramount. Over the past 2 months, I refined my writing skills. I bookmarked tons of  fitness referencing sites and learned how to cite sources correctly in writings. The key to becoming a good writer is to write alot. Sounds simple? Well,  it's not. Depending on how much you know about a subject; how much time you can dedicate to a certain subject; and what kind of information you can dispel on a certain subject that hasn't already been printed can be a daunting task. That is why I spend alot of my free time on other professionals' blogs. I love reading other people's online work. Reading the work of others is a learning experience culminated with inspiration, motivation, and discovery.

4.) Avoided discussion boards and online forums.
Possibly the smartest thing I could have done in 2009 was avoid online forums. It is true, I used to venture on discussion board and forums numerous times  a day. In between client sessions, on break,  or at home I would try my hardest to provide and contribute my own take on the numerous topics that were discussed centered around fitness and training. But that proved to be a double-edged sword. Forums are a love-hate component of the world wide web. You can gain some decent information shared by other or you can be castrated by a horde of strangers simply for thinking against the grain. Some--not all--forums house negative people that hide behind an anonymous cloak of handles and user IDs that are ready to strike if the majority is threatened. I guess it is no differentl than in life. When you force others to think outside of their comfort zone, they react by using malice or parsimony.

5.) Put out more learning products.
I have a host of products (books and DVDs) that concentrate on one thing: making you a better exercise trainer or enthusiast. My goal is to have you walk into the gym or wherever you train and stand apart from the countless fumblers that walk from machine to machine like zombies; or the circus performers that try a "salad" of different exercise methods in one session. I don't create products that promise fat loss...or bigger benches...I'm not that specialized. Frankly,  I can't claim my methods are that effective if I am not there observing every detail and reinforcing specific cues. So, neither should the countless other Internet experts that claim their program exists only to make you leaner or stronger. If it was that easy, I'd have a new product out on the market: The 6-Week Jumping Jack in the Corner Fat Loss Program. I'm joking of course...kinda.

Shatterproof Spine was bred from my experience working with many golfers that described intense low back pain. After countless observation, training, and assessment--I figured it was localized to a mechanical problem with the muscle/tissue quality of that area. Sever problems pertaining to discs were referred out but  the ones I could help were worked on using a bullet-point scheme:
  • Glute activation/strengthing
  • Tissue manipulation & Flexiblity
  • Core strength
Without a doubt, Shatterproof Spine became my best seller. The DVD, along with my entire catalog, are workshops that detail a lecture and practical. So you still have to take notes. But, instead of flying to a location to sit in on a seminar, I record them and ship them out to you. Nothing wrong with traveling to seminars. I encourage you to get out there and invest in yourself. But I found my passion of teaching others and that passion, hopefully transcends into quality.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Exercise Examination: BB Cuban Press

NAME: Cuban Press

LEVEL: Intermediate

PREREQUISITES: Good shoulder health with no apparent pain from impingement, tendonosis, or joint inflammation.

PRECAUTIONS: Risk of impingement is high during the first phase of cuban press (up phase). However, external rotators will be isolated and strengthen with this exercise. Dumbbells may be used, if barbell causes pain within shoulder.

Izzo's Take: I like it...but don't love it. I think it is a great 'warm-up' exercise for the shoulder girdle, however, I don't see many young, eager, testosterone-driven lifters going "light" on this exercise. When plates are added to the bar, essentially it becomes a clean/push press. That is fine, as long as they have progressed the exercise correctly using good form and have no apparent problems. Also, I am not sure about the author's claim that it "will increase your bench press by 30%"...I think proper technique alone will increase your bench by a certain percentage, but this exercise is great for the external rotators of the shoulder (infraspinatus and teres minor). These muscles are typically neglected in bench circles.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Looking at Dowager's Hump

A few weeks ago, I finished a book aptly names "Power Posture", by Lee Parore. It is a very good book that really emphasizes strengthening the body's center base (pelvis to thoracic spine). When you really think about it, having optimal posture is about protecting the spine during movement. The spine serves as the chassis for the human body and we are only as strong, erect, and powerful as the condition of the spine is. That is why most corrective exercise emphasizes on maintaining an optimal posture and strengthening any weak links to ensure that the spine is maintained through physical activity and life.

The book also touched up upon something that I have been seeing my some of my overweight patients--mostly women up-wards in age--that I think most of you have seen.

Dowager's hump is a condition mostly seen in women (however some men can develop it also), that develops during advanced stages of osteoporosis. Exacerbated by poor posture, when one's posture is slouched over (kypohsis) for long periods of time (years) and a weight gain occurs, the spine begins to "bow". Much like the shape of a bow (bow and arrow), gravity continuously pulls the mass forward. If there is a pronounced weight-gain anteriorly (belly fat), the condition of the posture worsens. As the process of kyphosis (slouched over) progresses, slight fractures in the vertebrae may occur. This process is due to aging and the onslaught of osteoporosis. As the condition advances, a "hump" forms at the base of the neck. Sometimes, the hump is made up of fatty tissue or flesh in overweight individuals. This condition was terms "Dowager's"--meaning dignified elderly woman--because it is typically seen in aging females.

As a fitness professional, what can you do to help your clients or friends prevent the unsightly appearance of Dowager's hump?

1.) Practice good posture - it doesn't matter how many corrective exercises for posture you place in an exercise program; if they do not practice optimal posture during the day excessively, your exercises will never win.

2.) Consistency with good posture - building optimal posture is about consistency. Everyday gravity is waging a war on static muscles to "let go" and release; pulling the spine into a "bow". Combating this is very important through awareness in seated positions, walking, and standing for prolonged periods of time.

3.) Work the back - poor posture is a combination of weakness of the posterior muscles and overly strong anterior muscles. Maintain your back muscles--specifically the rhomboids, erectors, low traps, teres minor, infraspinatus, and glutes--strong through corrective exercise designed to target those areas.

4.) Move! - if you are upwards in age and overweight, it is time to lose the excess weight. See a nutritionist and follow a healthy eating plan. Combine that by following a sound exercise program or simply move more! If you are upwards in age, join a class that involves others in a social atmosphere and move!

Hope this helps you to understand what that meaty looking hump is on your overweight client or aunt's neck base is. Read more about Dowager's hump here.