Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What Bob Ross Can Teach You About Coaching Clients

When I was young, I loved watching Bob Ross paint on the PBS channel. If you were like me, after a hot summer day of playing Wiffle Ball and riding your BMX bike around the neighborhood, you loved coming home to some snacks and sit back and watch the man paint. I can remember being mesmerized by his creation of majestic mountains and rivers; listening to his soft, subtle voice chanting "lots of happy trees". I was totally fixated on that canvas. I loved watching it being transformed from a mere nothingness of white into a titillating picture of natural beauty and talent.

The art of coaching is exactly what it art. Each client is an empty canvas. During a new client consultation, that is the trainer's opportunity to strip the current canvas of its previous layers of wrongful tactics, misinformation, and failed attempts. Each layer stripped uncovers a satisfactory attempt at reaching for a goal, but should also reveal why the client lost sight of achieving it. Of course, this is done with great rapport and open-ended discussion. Once, the trainer gathers the information needed-- the paint thinner is thrown onto the canvas and we are ready for a brand new white space to paint. Yes, its a true art and good coaches know how to detail their canvas each and every time they are in a session.

When you watch an artist paint a canvas, you will note that they already have some "sort of" image created in their mind. Sometimes vague, this image can change with each stroke of the brush. If you watch closely, the artist always has his full attention on the canvas, and with each stroke; makes adjustments or modifications to blend the layers together so they work. Any painter that tells you they paint exactly what they see in their head is full of it. Painting is an's a feeling or an expression. It is exactly the moment you are in the moment.

Coaching clients is the same thing. Its an art form. You are in the moment as you are creating the moment. Many trainers tend to lose sight of the emotional connection that takes place between themselves and the client within this act of transformation. When training a client, you are involved in something that will drastically affect one of you. If you play your cards right and design the right program with exceptional coaching, your client will transform and you will be rewarded with a great sense of worth.

But many of today's trainers don't get lost in this transformation. They simply spout out orders, jot down reps and sets, and check their clocks. The disconnect is evident and you know it. Many trainers look bored and soon, sessions become awkward and downright fake. Maybe I am talking about you? Maybe I am referring to someone you may know? Chances are, we know what its like.

The art of coaching calls for a level of vulnerability from the client (of course); but also from the trainer. Emotions should run high during sessions--especially during physical feats. Each client brings a level of vulnerability to the session. As each session brings more comfort, the level of vulnerability becomes increased. Your client becomes your blank white canvas!

Each session becomes a stroke to the canvas. It is an opportunity to design your landscape. Your client represents your picture. The trainer should have an image created of where he would like the client to be. For example--closer to the goal each session. Each passing session, the strokes on the canvas begin to form a shape. They begin to develop into a landscape. The transformation becomes more and more evident as more time passes and more comfort is reached. The sessions become fun, challenging, and over-flowing with self-discovery. Who's self discovery? BOTH.

I have been in the field for 14 years. The reason I have stayed in this field for so long is because I view each client as my personal white canvas. Each session is my opportunity to get them closer to their goal while keeping it fun, supportive, and introspective. Each client gives me the opportunity to discover something about myself. The more challenging the client,  the more drive and determination I have to see to it that this canvas gets completed. Connect yourself with each session on an emotional level. Stop making it your job or your mission--make it about the art.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Show and Go

Just a quick blog post today on Eric Cressey's re-release of his Show and Go strength program. If you haven't already checked it should. I met Eric last month at a seminar and his presentation was phenomenal. Show and Go is a terrific program for anyone looking for direction in their training.

The program is totally download-able and you can begin it TODAY! For this week, Eric is re-launching it at 50% off (until Friday). That is a pretty good deal if you ask me. He has also throw in a bunch of bonus products this time around. Check it out HERE.

Below is a quick video testimonial I did on the product, because I only endorse stuff I truly believe in (which only makes about 5% of the stuff out there:)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Interview with Josh Henkin - Sandbag Expert

Nowadays, there are so many tools we can use to train our bodies: playground equipment, tires, ropes, rings, and even our own bodies. A few years ago, you'd be hard pressed to find an ordinary bag of sand to be useful in any type of conditioning or fat loss training--but strength coach, Josh Henkin found a way. Josh took what he knew about conditioning and building strength; and applied those concepts to sandbag use. Among the many benefits derived from sandbag training (grip strengthening, rotatory training, and conditioning), Josh proved that the sandbag can be an effective tool---a tool that is versatile, inexpensive, and valuable in a group or individual setting. It was my pleasure to get Josh aside to answer some questions about his philosophy and incorporation of sandbag training with his clients and athletes.

JOHN: Josh, before we get into sandbags, can you tell me and my readers how you got started in strength coaching/fitness?

Josh: My journey into the industry actually started back in my early teens. I was a basketball fanatic, often spending six to eight hours a day at the basketball courts. One summer though I landed on a crack in the cement and completely tore all the ligaments in my right ankle.

The injury to my ankle was so bad that the doctors did not think I was going to be able to walk right again, never mind actually play basketball. My older brother started getting me into the weight room because I was unable to do anything else physical. Fortunately he also introduced me to a friend who happened to be the assistant strength coach for the Chicago White Sox, Tim Lang.

So, I had a large advantage as my introduction to Strength & Conditioning was through a well educated coach that saved me many of the common mistakes that many beginning in fitness make.

Eventually I did come back from the injury and my new found strength from training helped me immensely in my performance. I fell in love with both the training and the results. So much so that I actually attended my first Strength & Conditioning seminar when I was 16, it was a NASM program in fact.

I knew this would become my eventual career path and could not help but try to study and learn from everyone and everything I came across in the next 17 years.

JOHN: In my opinion, in our industry your name is synonymous with sandbags. Can you tell me how and why you chose sandbags to be your forte?

Josh: Believe or not, I didn’t sit in my training studio thinking about what I could develop to catch the interest of the industry :) In fact, my introduction to the world of sandbag training was a very selfish one.

My sophomore year of playing basketball at a Division I program, I re-injured a bad back injury that led me to being retired by the program. That didn’t mean my low back pain was gone. I was in such horrible pain 24 hours a day that I pretty much lived off pain killers. I was in physical therapy several hours a day and even went that stopped my pain was not much different.

I was motivated to find a solution so I attended and researched every corrective exercise program you could imagine. I spent thousands of dollars on these programs as well as hours upon hours attending and studying. In the end? I still couldn’t raise my right leg very far without immense trembling occurring because of the low back injury.

More frustrated than ever, I remember being convinced to check out the work of a gentleman named Pavel Tsatsouline. At first I was very cautious, but learning

Pavel’s program and more importantly his techniques, I remember it was the first time my back was showing some signs of stability and strength.

I was so intrigued by these “unorthodox” methods of training that I researched everything I could find that was recommended by Pavel and things that appeared to be similar. A book written by Brooks Kubik called Dinosaur Training really intrigued me. Even though it would appear not to be appropriate for someone with a major back injury, I was really interested in both this style of training I wasn’t familiar with as well as his discussions of using odd objects such as kegs and sandbags to train stabilizer strength.

The simplest implement for me to get my hands onto was making a homemade sandbag. I knew immediately that this form of training was unique as it was nothing like lifting a barbell, dumbbell, or even a kettlebell. It was awkward, moving, and definitely “non-cooperative”. More importantly I found so many of the lifts challenged by body in ways that no other tool had. The biggest difference was what I felt through my midsection, upper back, and shoulders. I knew that this was something that I needed to investigate further and find a way to implement with my clients.

Using such methods eventually allowed me to compete in Olympic weightlifting as well as Strongman. I have to emphasize though,, never was this training meant as a means to be “hardcore” or “ bad ass”, rather I was always striving to improve my quality of life.

JOHN: Can you tell me which exercise is the toughest to transfer over from barbell to sandbag? And what cues do you have to emphasize on when teaching a new athlete this particular exercise from barbell to sandbag?

Josh: To most people’s surprise there are few exercises that we try to transfer from barbell training to sandbag training. The biggest reason is that the implements are significantly different and offer certain advantages and disadvantages for specific movements.

For example, the barbell is great for deadlifting and bench pressing and the sandbag is less effective for such movements. However, sandbags are far more appropriate for shouldering, various squats, rotational movements, get-ups, etc.

The two drills that I would say are similar are the clean and press as well as the bent-over row. The clean and press is a lot more different than the barbell for several reasons.

1. When the lifter tries to clean the sandbag the weight actually sinks away from the rather than being lifted in a uniform manner like a barbell. This means acceleration is required to a higher level to bring the weight up to the appropriate height because the sandbag has a lower center of mass relative to the gripping point.

2. Because the sandbag’s weight and shape can transform while it moves it can be equally difficult to receive the weight, this means a more precise pull from the lifter.

3. Once cleaned into the right position pressing the sandbag can be quite an adventure. Correct “rooting” and pressing posture is critical to maintain balance of the sandbag in both getting the weight overhead as well as stabilizing it in the overhead position.

The bent-over row can be different for some different reasons. This is primarily due to the grip that the lifter takes on the sandbag. Gripping onto the sandbag or end flaps makes grip strength generally a weak link and becomes evident the deficiency many lifters posses in grip strength. If the lifter grabs onto the handles they will find that the weight falls away from them similar to the clean making a familiar weight seem much heavier.

JOHN: What is the biggest mistake people make when they perform with a sandbag?

Josh: The biggest mistake people make with a sandbag is they try to make it into another implement. I always tell people what makes us unique is not the fact that we are using sandbags; it is more that I have created a systematized method for implementing sandbags as their own entity. Don’t make a sandbag into a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell. Understanding the unique benefits of sandbags opens up a whole new world of training.

Sandbags provide so many options that it is a shame when people limit them to the scope of lifting that they are familiar with. For example, our Ultimate Sandbag has eight different holding options, this means that there are eight possibilities for every standard strength movement how we can manipulate resistance. This is more than barbells, dumbbells, or even kettlebells. I often have to remind coaches it is “progressive resistance” not necessarily load that causes improvements. Resistance can be manipulated by speed, leverage, or range of motion.
The rotational training we promote with our sandbags also is highly unique. This is the biggest problem for most lifters as they have poor movement skills and getting them out of the standard lifting postures they are often weak and immobile. The purpose of our sandbag training is not to make elite sandbag lifters, but to improve fitness and movement. [END]

Monday, October 17, 2011

I Am Surrounded By Weakness

This is a post that has little to do with exercise or personal training...sort of. This post is just a general rant on the things I am seeing in society. Although, the title contains the word "weakness", I am not talking about a lack of physical strength. No, this is more about a lack of mental strength, toughness, or will. Some of you reading this, may really enjoy what I have to say and some of you may feel that I am being insensitive. With  that in mind, remember this....I don't know you and I don't know anything about you.

I don't know whats changed more in the last 10 years---me or society. I know that in the last 10 years I have really grown into my own and feel like I have more responsibilities and accountability  to my wife, family, and business. But overall, my core values and who I am remain intact. Those core values were instilled in me growing up and being raised by immigrant parents that demonstrated to me that working hard, not complaining, and always finding a way to succeed are going to be valuable to me as I grow older.

I would say I felt a paradigm shift in society after the horrific events of 9/11. We became a society of scared citizens. Not only scared of flying, but afraid to act comfortably and be comfortable in public. Soon after 9/11, technology exploded. Smart phones, lap tops, and high speed internet were becoming more and more common and evident in society.     I grew up with dial-up internet and was pretty patient when I was waiting for a webpage to download. Nowadays, I freak out when a page is taking more than 5 seconds to appear. What happened?

Somehow I feel that society has become impatient, entitled, and spoiled. Each night I watch TV with my wife, I notice every other commercial is one some sort prescription medication; or some info-commercial begging you to buy a ridiculous product that will guarantee you quick and easy results.  Often times, I laugh and cringe at the same time knowing that there are people in our world that will pay hard-earned dollars for these products simply because they do not want to experience the hard, long ways to attaining the same results. One day, I was waiting for my car while it was getting a routine oil change and noticed everyone in the room watching TV. I looked up and saw that they were watching and laughing at an episode of Jerry Springer. I thought to pitiful of society to sit and laugh at others' lives simply to dismiss our own reality?

I have found that the more we avoid dealing with things head on,  the more efficient we become at hiding away, avoiding pain, and lying. Society has become very efficient at disconnecting one's reality with the world.We begin to lie to loved ones and we begin to lie to ourselves.

I teach all my students that we try to accomplish two things when we incorporate exercise into our lives:

1.) Delay Death
2.) Avoid Disease

Its real simple. We want to live long lives with a care free mentality so that it does not disrupt our quality of life. However, our quality of life is filled with synthetic facets that minimize our responsibility, accountability, and courtesy towards others. We have become a society that thwarts responsibility for our actions. We lack a perception for consequence. We'd rather take a pill to decrease pain levels and keep us alert [throughout the day] or caffeinated drinks--simply because we refuse to manage our time better to eat right, take vitamins and exercise.
We make excuses. We have lost accountability with our decisions and actions. I remember seeing two people argue once in an office. One person was denying the fact that a stapler was taken off a desk and not returned. Once the owner of the stapler realized who it was and approached him; that person denied using the stapler and the argument escalated more than it needed to be. Think about it...if the person who took the stapler without asking had simply acknowledged and admitted to using the stapler without returning it--and simply apologized--the argument would not have taken place. Sometimes, simply acknowledging that your actions have negatively impacted someone else is enough to "squash" the situation and prevent it from creating a larger negative situation. 

But, we don't tend to do that.

Society is filled with alot of people that practice D.D.E. What does D.D.E. stand for?
Making Excuses

True weakness is shown when you spend more energy defending yourself in a situation that you are credulously wrong in...wasting energy in a situation that you continuous deny an act...and fulfill that denial with petty excuses. Losers commit this offense and it does nothing to contribute positiveness to society or one's self. I try to stay away from people that project this facade. I always believed that if you hang out with losers--you will end up a loser unconsciously. 

In my opinion, true strength is acknowledging an act that has positively or negatively affected others, and taking the responsibility to reverse or begin the process of making it better.

Society is filled with so many voids. We tend to feel the need to fill voids in our life with things that hurt us [in the long term].  For instance, if we cannot sleep, we take a pill to make us sleep. If we don't have the energy, we take a pill or drug to give us energy. If we do not know how to function in front of others or claim that we are "depressed", we take a drug to help us function better in public. If we cannot take pain, we take a drug to help us cope with the pain. The idea of dealing with pain has become obselete with the prevalence of prescription drug companies.I believe that experiencing and coping with pain [both emotional and physical to some degree] is a necessity of life.

These voids have overtaken our sense of who we are. We identify ourselves by our weakness. I hear it all the time from the mouths of prospective clients. They identify themselves with a weakness.They come to me and paint a picture of themselves as being victimized by disease, hereditary conditions, poor family relations,  and lousy childhoods. They have accepted defeat and have concluded that they have no control over the direction of their life. They have expressed their content with being weak. And this complacency is the very reason why they remain weak.

I implore you... if life has gotten you down or has gotten you down for a long is the time to get up and make a change in your life.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fascia Function: Building a Tough Trunk

Bodybuilding is here to stay. Let’s face it…as long as there is a desire to get strong, grow bigger or look good, bodybuilding will remain an invariable foundation in the world of physique improvement. With numerous training systems available (bodybuilding, power-lifting, functional training, Olympic lifting, endurance training, bodyweight training, etc) to accommodate different ability levels and different outcomes, there is also one constant that remains in the shadows of all gym corners waiting to veer its ugly head. It’s called injury and it can put a screeching halt to any program a lifter follows. Now, this is not another pre-habilitative program article or a movement prep program to follow prior to a workout. The information I am going to share with you is pertinent to gaining size and getting strong by blending in different movements into your current exercise routine.

A typical bodybuilding routine is consisted of a mix n’ match of body parts with a strewn of isolated movements to induce hypertrophy and in some cases, fat loss. Because of the nature of bodybuilding’s split routines and isolated movements, the likelihood of injury is always possible. Most lifters depend on multiple sets and high volumes to elicit the response they desire, but most never engage in, what I call “tightening the corset”. This expression is used to simply reinforce the underlying muscles and fascia to act together while still being able to perform isolated movements.

Fascia is an uninterrupted, three-dimensional web of tissue that extends from head to toe, from front to back, from interior to exterior. It is responsible for maintaining structural integrity; for providing support and protection; and acts as a shock absorber. Fascia is comprised of soft tissue that surrounds muscles, bones, organs, nerves, blood vessels, and other structures. It functions as the body's first line of defense against pathogenic agents and infections. After injury, it is the fascia that creates an environment for tissue repair. [1]

Fascia is a highly adaptable tissue. Due to its elastic property, superficial fascia can stretch to accommodate the addition of adipose tissue that accompanies weight gain. The superficial fascia can also slowly revert back to its original level of tension after weight loss. Deep fascia can contract. What happens during the fight-or-flight response is an example of rapid fascial contraction. In response to a real or imagined threat to the organism, the body responds with a temporary increase in the stiffness of the fascia. Bolstered with tensioned fascia, people are able to perform extraordinary feats of strength and speed under emergency conditions. [2]

Deep fascia also has the ability to relax, however some tension is needed in order to maintain proper function of structures—much like ligaments around a joint. One of the largest areas of fascia is located at the trunk.

Self-myofascial release on the lower back is not a recommended thing when you have little to no muscle mass in that area. However, some experienced lifters and bodybuilders will have very well-developed erector spinae muscle group and can tolerate foam rolling the area. However, we can devise other ways to increase blood flow around the thorocolumbar fascia by using a massage stick.
With a massage stick, roll up and down the length of the lower back to where the glutes attach. Apply considerable pressure to the area by flexing the trunk forward and laterally. Avoid rolling over the bony structure of the spine if you lack muscle mass in that area.

Side-Lying Trunk Rotation Stretch
Some short duration static stretching is beneficial for increasing the cross-sectional area of the oblique muscles that encompass the trunk.

Lie on your side with upper leg bent. Turning at the trunk, press your arms in a semi-push up position with shoulders square. At the same time, make sure to keep your hips pressed into the floor and keep both upper arms parallel with the floor. Hold each position for about 3-5 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times on each side.

Contra-lateral Cable Squats
This exercise is typically used in the physical therapy realm of training, however it is great for “stiffening” the trunk and training the external obliques, erector spinae, and latissimus dorsi as agonist muscle controlling the recoil effect of rotation [5].

Stand to the side of a cable column with a pulley set low or level just below the knee. Grasp the handle and cross your upper arm with the cable. There should be some tension on the cable, so don’t be afraid to add some weight. Also, make sure you stand about 8-10 inches away from the column. Descend as you would into a squat. The idea is to not let the cable pull your torso in the direction of its tension. This is the anti-rotation that we seek for core stability.

Barbell Landmine
No fancy equipment here. Just stick a barbell into a corner of the gym and add weight. Unlike the resisted contra-lateral cable squat where the corset of trunk muscles must stay isometrically contracted to avoid torsion, the landmine offers an isotonic effect for the obliques, pelvis, lats, and leg muscles. This exercise displaces an anterior load laterally and demands the aforementioned muscle group (mainly obliques) to resist the contra-lateral rotation. If done correctly, the hips should not move and the lumbar region should remain stable—with little to no emphasis on the arms. 

To execute, begin with holding the fat end of a barbell (Olympic preferred) and the other end hitched into a corner or fixed object that will not restrict the bar from moving during the exercise, but will anchor the end. With a simple grip (left on top of right or vice-versa), maintain the chest erect and abs braced. Position your feet shoulder width apart and slightly externally rotate the hips (and feet) outwards. This will stabilize the pelvis much easier. Then shift the barbell (you can add weight to the top end) from left to right. The movement should end when you have one arm crossed over your chest. Initiate the return and pause at the center before shifting the bar in the other direction.

In the video clip, notice the lumbar spine never moves and the hips and shoulders remain square. It may be an environment for arm-work, but the experienced lifter should be able to integrate proper trunk stiffening during this exercise—especially the lower the bar comes (to each side). This is the anti-rotation we seek for trunk stability.

Slideboard Prone Jackknifes
We didn’t forget about the rectus abdominals as our anterior trunk ally. Using the slideboard for ab work not only intensifies the movement, but it allows the anterior chain to work together to stabilize and decelerate at the point the body reaches a lengthened lever position. A similar action to the ab wheel, the prone jackknife also creates an autogenic stretch for the thorocolumbar region—the antagonistic of the rectus abdominal sheath fascia. The more explosive the movement, the more muscle action needed from the upper extremities, which makes this, exercise a great unifying piece for the upper and lower body segments.

To execute, position yourself with knees and torso over a slideboard. Keep the hands off the slideboard and placed in a push-up position. When ready, lift the hips high and keep the shoulder girdle stiff. Slide the feet down and powerfully, retract back so that the hips flex and the buttocks rise high. It is very easy to lose the stiffness in the trunk when the feet slide down, so make sure to keep the abs braced and not let the hips over extend.

These exercise and drills can be added into a routine as auxiliary exercises or as movement preparation. They are best combined with vertically loaded exercises or movements that lengthen the body as a long lever arm. For instance:

Contra-lateral Cable Squats
Barbell Landmine
Slideboard Prone Jackknifes
Dead lifts
Split Squats
Step-up Squat
Bench Press Front Squat
Push Press
Standing Military press

Adding these three exercises and the preceding fascia maintenance drills will allow the trunk to remain a strong and functional intersection. Ultimately, it begins with minding the quality of the fascia in the area and understanding the importance of how it can benefit your lifts.


[1] Paoletti, Serge (2006). The Fasciae: Anatomy, Dysfunction & Treatment. Seattle, WA: Eastland Press, 151-161. ISBN 0-939616-53-X.

[2] Paoletti, Serge (2006). The Fasciae: Anatomy, Dysfunction & Treatment. Seattle, WA: Eastland Press, 146-147. ISBN 0-939616-53-X.

[3] Active fascial contractility: Fascia may be able to contract in a smooth muscle-like manner and thereby influence musculoskeletal dynamics. Schleip R, Klingler W, Lehmann-Horn F, Med Hypotheses. 2005;65(2):273-7

[4] The posterior layer of the thoracolumbar fascia. Its function in load transfer from spine to legs. Vleeming A, Pool-Goudzwaard AL, Stoeckart R, van Wingerden JP, Snijders CJ, Spine. 1995 Apr 1;20(7):753-8.

[5] An electromyographic study of unresisted trunk rotation with normal velocity among healthy subjects. Kumar S, Narayan Y, Zedka M., Spine. 1996 Jul 1;21(13):1500-12.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Interview with NASM's Scott Lucett

The last decade has really seen an increase in the rate of individuals entering the personal training profession. The National Academy of Sports Medicine, although one of over 300 certifications available to enthusiasts, seems to stand out. Many believe it is the NASM's assessment-focused curriculum, or its attention to biomechanical detail; others believe it is NASM's OPT model that fits like a glove for almost all client prospects...

Let's just say it is all of those reasons and then some.

I, being a NASM-certified professional, am intrigued with the organization, its courses, and its viewpoint on exercise. Its texts are one of a kind in this industry and the organization itself, is without a doubt, a top notch machine.
I had the chance to shoot Mr. Scott Lucett some questions regarding the NASM and the personal training industry as a whole. Here is what NASM's Director of Education had to say.
JOHN: Scott, can you please tell my readers alittle more about you and your fitness/educational background? How did you get started with the NASM?

Scott: I’ve been in the fitness industry now for 13 years. After graduating from Fresno State with a BS in Exercise Science, I worked as a Personal Trainer for 24 Hour Fitness running Apex programs and doing one-on-one personal training. At the same time I work as a Physical Therapy Aide at a sports therapy clinic. I worked at both 24 Hour and the sports therapy clinic for two years and then worked for the Apex Fitness Group as an Apex Representative, installing the program in clubs across the country. I then became an educator for Apex teaching Apex workshops across the country, primarily for 24 Hour Fitness trainers. After teaching for a year I became the Director of Education for the 24 Hour Fitness division of Apex. Apex had purchased NASM in 1997 making NASM the preferred personal training certification for the organization. As NASM grew, so too did the need for more staff, and in 2001 I left Apex to become an instructor for NASM teaching workshops across the country. I am now the Director of Education for the organization and have since received my MS degree in Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention through California University of Pennsylvania. I also act as adjunct faculty for the University teaching NASM rich courses.

JOHN: NASM has grown in popularity and industry acceptance over the last few years. What do you think has helped NASM grow and why do you think NASM simply stands out amongst other certification organizations?

Scott: NASM provides very unique, cutting edge information that has been exciting for the industry. The programming scheme taught in the certification (the Optimum Performance Training model) helps put together a very easy to use program design model that can be used with any client for any goal. It is scientifically sound and helps trainers understand exactly where to start someone and how to progress them accordingly based upon their physical capabilities and goal. The model provides the answers so a trainer can feel confident in working with any client, whether they are a 65 year old senior or a professional athlete. The certification also teaches trainers the concept of integrated training, which is the utilization of all of the key aspects that needs to be incorporated into one’s training program (flexibility training, cardiorespiratory training, core training, balance training, reactive training, speed, agility and quickness training and integrated resistance training) versus just the traditional cardiorespiratory and resistance training. The combination of a systematic training model and the progressive utilization of all aspects that needs to be included into one’s program creates huge value in the personal trainer certified through NASM.

JOHN: Many organizations are trying to unify the testing process in an effort to regulate the industry. What are your thoughts concerning the regulation of the personal training process and do you think we will ever get anything close to a "license"?

Scott: NASM’s personal training certification is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (or NCCA), a third party accreditation organization that is designed to help ensure the health, welfare, and safety of the public through the accreditation of a variety of certification programs/organizations that assess professional competence. Certification programs that receive NCCA Accreditation demonstrate compliance with the NCCA’s Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs, which were the first standards for professional certification programs developed by the industry. I applaud the industry’s efforts in taking the first step in making some level of regulation in certification. There are a large number of certifications in the industry today and by having the recommend accreditation guidelines in place helps to decipher the more credible organizations from some of the more “fly-by-night” groups. There are some steps being taken in some states for personal training to be regulated by the state (like Physical Therapist or Athletic Training). This would make the process to become a personal trainer take much longer, but will certainly ensure one’s ability to perform the necessary skills and abilities needed to be safe and successful personal trainer. Although it seems that initial steps are being taken down the road of regulation, I feel that formal licensure is pretty far down the road.
JOHN: What do you see changing or evolving in the personal trainer's role in the next 12-16 months?

Scott: With the influx of the baby boomer population, trainers will need to be competent in working with seniors. Also seeing that roughly 60% of gym members are females, trainers must also be competent in working with this population which would also include the pre/post natal client. Corrective exercise and dealing with musculoskeletal issues is also crucial (due to sedentary lifestyles). And as always, being very competent in working with weight management clients and becoming more skilled in areas other than exercise (coaching, nutrition) will ensure trainers are more well-rounded to work with clients with weight management goals. Also providing more services other than just one-on-one training will be important. Providing youth programs, small group training and coaching sessions helps the trainer increase their value, offer new ways to generate revenue to the gym or their own business and help to provide new, affordable ways for individuals to get involved in living a healthier lifestyle.

JOHN: The idea of "bracing" the abs versus the "drawing in" maneuver has been confused/challenged/and dissected with the popularity of studies conducted by Stuart McGill. As trainers, are we building a mountain out of an ant hill on this topic? Is it just simply a case of "activating the transverse abdominis (TVA)" that is being over-specified?

Scott: There are two schools of though regarding core stabilization - intrinsic stability (from researchers such as Hodges and Richardson) and global stability (McGill). When it is all said and done, for optimal stability you need both. One is not more important than the other. More often than not, many people have good strength in the outer core musculature, but lack intrinsic stability. So from a progression stand-point, you may need to teach someone how to draw in to develop intrinsic stability, but then teach them to use the intrinsic stabilizers with their global musculature (bracing). This leads to optimal spinal stability.

JOHN: What is your take on trainers stepping into the realm of physical therapy? Trainers are learning to use goniometers, taping methods, and manual therapy...good or bad?....your thoughts?

Scott: I think it depends on what the trainers do. I do not recommend trainers getting involved in manual therapy techniques, such as joint manipulations and the like. These techniques take time to learn (not just through a weekend workshop) and should be dealt with by those who are skilled in the techniques. On the other hand, the use of corrective exercise (through movement assessments, flexibility techniques and strengthening techniques) has been a popular for of training due to all the musculoskeletal issues people are suffering from due to a sedentary lifestyle. These are techniques a PT also does, but I feel are also very important for the trainer to learn how to perform. If a client comes in and has had back pain in the past, the trainer needs to know what may have been a reason for that pain and design a program to make sure the individual doesn't have to go to rehab (more injury prevention in nature). Or, a client may be coming off of rehab and the trainer needs to be able to pick up where the PT left off. Being skilled in performing corrective exercise/therapeutic techniques that are not a form of manual manipulation is definitely warranted by the trainer. As for goniometers, they are simply a measuring device (like a body fat caliper) and with the right training, I think they can be very helpful to determine potential issues that need to be addressed in a corrective exercise program and to make sure the client is going in the right direction. [END]

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My Pectoral Tear - 15 Years Later: What I've Learned (Part 2)

If you missed Part 1 of this blog post, you can check it out here.

The pectoral major muscle is a fan-shaped muscle that insert into the top portion of the humerus. It originates from the clavicle and sternum. As a whole, the pectorals adduct and medially rotate the humerus, as well as drawing the scapula to the front and down. A nice set of pecs really define the male as a active individual--or a weight-lifter, athlete, or alpha male. As men are attracted to women's breasts, females are attracted to a nice strong, thick chest on a male. Well, at least most. 
The chest is one of the body parts that are repeatedly trained in the gym. Like me in my early years, it was a body part that I had to enhance through benching because it served as my calling card that I had put my time in the gym. However, after my injury, I felt that I had no more calling card. If I wasn't able to bench press, what else was there?

As I mentioned earlier that was back in 1996, there were not many incidents on pectoral ruptures in medical literature. Most cases were seen in sports such as tennis, football, rugby, and professions like construction, carpentry, and tree service. However, there has been an abundance in the last 10 years--especially in young body-builders or aspiring weight-lifters. The incidence rate has increased to the point where more and more findings are being recorded and surgeries are performed for those that need upperbody strength to perform in sport or professionally. 

I did not elect to get surgery. At the time, I was fearful of the rehab and simply going under the knife. I was young and wanted to continue lifting. Weeks after my injury I did return to the gym and was able to perform some machine-based chest pressing. Looking back, I can say that I should have examined my workouts and habits a little bit better. Its been 15 years since my injury and I have returned to bench pressing--albeit, wiser and more educated. Most people cannot even distinguish my injury because the area has developed rather evenly--and although I am not as strong as I used to be, I am as strong as I need to be today.

Here are some things that I was guilty of 15 years ago and how I have learned from them:

1.) Over-training with high volume.
At the time, my thought rationale was if I can bench press 275 or 315, I need to continue to do every workout--just to reassure my body that it can be accomplished. This emphasis on high volume constantly put stress on the pectoral tendons and shoulder joint. At the time, it was about getting bigger and stronger. So I accompanied the bench pressing with incline pressing, decline work, cable crossovers, flyes, peck-deck, pull-overs, and tons and tons of other upper body exercises. I included tons of shoulder work: military press, behind the neck presses, upright rows, front raises, lateral raises, and shrugs. Over time, the repetitive stress on these joints caused an enormous imbalance in my anterior musculature versus the rear antagonists which simply tore muscle fibers without letting them heal fully. Back then, stretch marks were "battle scars" and you were proud to wear them.

What I Know Today: My bench press technique was awful. There was no shoulder packing and my elbows were not tucked in. I laid my back flat and flared my elbows out. Why? Because that is what I was taught. The concept of de-loading was non-existent back in those days. De-loading and continuously changing the volume amount is critical to keeping tissue healthy and muscles fully recovered. Today, I change up muscle groups, have light days/heavy days and follow up with more compounded movements to take stress away from muscles that participate in single joint actions. As I have gotten older, my goals have obviously changed. I am able to shorten my workouts and concentrate on my diet and rest. It also helps as I am able to spend time doing things outside of fitness which contribute to my life's fulfillment

2.) Imbalance. With the amount of shoulder work I did with my chest work, I exhibited a terribly protracted shoulder girdle that portrayed me as a walking ape, and also spelled disaster for my upper-body. At the time, I was not overly concerned with my posterior chain muscles.  The amount of "mirror" muscle work always out-weighed and out-did the amount of back exercises in my programs.

What I Know Today: I understand the repercussions of a tight anterior shoulder capsule and how the movement pattern is affected by the condition of the surrounding joint structure. Today, I make it a point to give equal attention to antagonist muscle groups, and concentrate on eccentric actions during lifts. I tend to pay close attention to the rotator cuff and scapular muscles; as well as the core. Remember how I mention3ed I never used to pack my shoulders when benching? Reason being...I didn't know how and didn't know how it was supposed to feel. Now, I include Scap Clock Drills into my programs and all my clients know what the scapular muscles "feel" like.

3.) Fixed Joint Angles. Yes, back then I only used machines. If I wasn't up to bench pressing, then you would find me on a Cybex Chest Press machine or a plate loaded Hammer Strength. The following machines were staples in my upper body workouts: peck-deck, incline or seated chest press, Nautilus pullover, side raise machine, and shoulder press machine. I thought these pieces were god-sends at the gym and for years, I always looked for these dinosaurs whenever I joined a facility. It was obvious that the loading pattern had taken its toll on the joint structure and the pattern overloaded the tendinous fibers.I focused too much on teh pectoral major,  that many of the small key-players were ignored, including the pectoralis minor and serratus.

What I Know Today: I understand that joints must be able to work in the range of motion that is allowed. I understand that injuries cause scar tissue and that will affect range of motion in my muscles and/or that of my clients. Therefore, it is imperative that I utilize movements that allow my joints to move in the strongest plane and make corrections where needed. No need to apply tons of balance boards and other tools, but simple free weights and bodyweight exercises will satisfy this. Today, I include many drills that will work the pec minor and serratus including Standing Band Pulls:

4.) No Stretching and No Mobility Work. Today, mobility work is essential to staying pain free and keeping movements smooth. After a full week of bench pressing, I never stretched the chest or shoulders. My range of motion was limited, and it was impeding on my development--without me even knowing it!

What I Know Today: Injuries develop scar tissue. I know that because my left pectoral is filled with scar tissue. Scar tissue does not carry the same tensile properties that muscle fibers do and therefore is inherently weaker and less pliable. Therefore, mobility work--especially for the shoulder-- is important; and stretching (both static and dynamic) are key to overall tissue quality.Today, all my programs include some sort of mobility work targeting the shoulder joint--including the TRX Shoulder Mobility Drill: 

Today, it is recklessly assumed that we can "prevent" injuries from occurring in athletes and active individuals, but I truly believe (as this is recently), that injuries will occur. Injures occur in top level professional athletes who pay big bucks for great strength coaches to devise great programs, but in the end, we can only hope to REDUCE the risks of injuries and still benefit from lifting strong and hard.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Best Core Product Out Right Now

Mike Robertson just released his newest product, Complete Core Fitness--which is a series of videos that dives into the latest, most up-to-date information on the core. Rather than write some lengthy blog post on this awesome product, I posted a video of my testimonial because the product is that DAMN GOOD! Make sure you check it out!

Check out Complete Core Fitness

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My Pectoral Tear - 15 Years Later: What I've Learned (Part 1)

This blog post has to be broken into 2 parts. Simply because this injury was a defining point in my life. I was only in the game of weight-lifting for a mere 4 years when I suffered a pretty devastating injury that would have made other weight-lifters give up and take up recreational drug use or basket weaving. Not me. I wanted to learn more about my injury, my body, and my muscles. This injury was a turning point for me, as it helped forge my desire to coach others in fitness and to always find a better way to train. Look for Part 2 this week as I explain what I possibly could have done better to avoid this injury and how I am doing now with a 15 year pec tear.

On October 30th, 1996 most of the chatter in the university weight-room was regarding Halloween parties that were going to be held around campus. It was a Thursday and that was a big drinking night, so the plan was to hit the gym, go home eat, shower and hit a bar with friends. This was the usual routine on Thursdays, but because of the next night’s festivities, the gym was particularly packed.

I weight-lifted in 2 gyms while in college. Some nights I lifted in the gym designated for athletic programs and other nights, I trained in the university fitness center. What was the big difference? The gym was mostly occupied by football players, baseball players and school athletes--mostly males. There was alot of testosterone in that place and was always guaranteed that a little Wu-Tang would be playing on the boom box. 

 The gym was filled with blood thirsty athletes. Weights and plates were thrown around; grunting was the norm; and all benching started at 225. This was prison yard weight-lifting. If you looked weak and felt weak, get out.

Other nights, I trained with my room-mate in the university fitness center. This place housed better looking equipment, more cardiovascular machines, and a nice stereo system. Only a couple of flat benches, but plenty of college females! And this was a huge motivator for many of the male lifters. As most male lifters I hit the chest and biceps almost routinely. It wasn't a big deal for me to perform some flat benching at least 3 times per week. My typical benching went like this:

135 x 10
155 x 10
185 x 8-10
205 x 6-8
225 x 4-6
275 x 2-4
315 x 1-3

As you can see, that is alot of benching. A total of roughly 51 reps. But just like every other testosterone kid at the time, I liked the pump. I liked slamming the bar back onto the racks and getting up off the bench and watching everyone observe from the corners of their eyes. It was customary to try to "punk" or "psyche" people out in a gym--some people do it by wearing tight sleeve busting shirts, others do it by lifting heavy weights. I chose the latter. Again, I wasn't a big guy, but I was strong and I worked hard. While everyone around me was benching their max of 275, I wanted to hit my max of 315.

As I lifted the bar off the racks, the reps were going "as planned". The first rep went up without a hitch and I already planned that I would stop at 4. If the fourth rep was strong, I would go to 6. I never liked odd numbered reps and always (and to this day) finish my sets on even numbered reps. I was working with 275 and making it look easy. I felt strong and could feel some stares on me. Then on the 3 rd repetition, I felt a "POP" at the bottom motion as soon as I began to lift teh bar up. I was using a spotter for this set and he said he heard an audible "popping" noise and reached down to grab the bar. When I heard the pop, I thought I had ripped my shirt or shorts, but suddenly the searing pain was over-bearing. I couldn't lift the bar up. I had 275 pounds stuck in the bottom position--until my spotter practically performed an upright row to get the bar off of me.

I sat up on the bench and my spotter asked me if I was alright. I was rubbing my left armpit area, as it felt like someone had took a bat and swung it into my armpit. I told him I was alright, but he could see in my eyes that I was in pain and looking a bit flushed. As I stood up, I felt light-headed and dizzy. I was helped back down and some university fitness members came over. I attempted to stand up on my own because I was feeling somewhat embarrassed. Remember, the benches are located in the middle of the gym floor and are pretty much under the spotlight. Therefore, I was under the spotlight (especially in front of the girls) and I was feeling a bit defeated and embarrassed.

When approached by the gym personnel, I was asked a few questions and given an ice bag. I placed the ice bag on my left armpit and filled out some paperwork. I was getting alot of stares as I sat in the front office. Some lifters were coming up to me and asking me if I was alright. I thought that was courteous of them, but at the same time, I didn't know what I was dealing with. So after the staff followed the appropriate procedures for a on-site injury, they sent me home. I walked home to my apartment to find all my roommates and friends getting ready to go out. As I expected, I sat home by myself in pain, and constantly checking my arm pit. By this time, swelling had occurred and it was feeling very, very tight. I took a shower to "wash away" all the nervous sweat that had accumulated on my body and applied more ice before going to bed. It was probably the earliest time I went to bed in my whole college career.

The next day I woke up and discovered my entire left arm from the biceps to the armpit had swelled up and had formed a massive contusion. The bruising was colorful and massive. The tightness I felt the night before was even more stiffer and more restricted.

The above photo was taken with a Polaroid camera (they were still big back in the 90s), but it doesn't do the swelling much justice.

My roommate's had convinced me to see the campus physician, which I did later that day. The campus doctor was a great physician because he spent alot of time with me and was very involved with the inspection of my pectoral region. He had presumed that I had a pectoral "strain", but he stressed that I should see an orthopedist. A few days later I went to visit Dr. Richard Diana - a premiere orthopedist (and former NFL Miami Dolphin) in New Haven, Connecticut. He concluded that I had a pectoral tear and that he felt more comfortable if I was examined by a doctor who specialized in pectoral tears. He stated that not too many cases of pectoral tears were recorded in literature (remember this was 1996) and that a specific doctor at Yale Hospital (also in New Haven, CT) had conducted studies and presentations on tears of the pectoralis in New England. That doctor was Dr. Scott Wolf. I visited Dr. Wolf 2 weeks later. By this time, the bruising had begun to subside and my arm was looking more yellowish. The tightening feeling had subsided too. However, I was left with a VERY visible concaving on the axillary line of the chest cavity--basically my armpit.

Upon visiting Dr. Wolf, he had conducted various tests with me that concluded I had a pectoral tear and he desired an MRI to confirm his findings. A week later, I had an MRI and 4 days later, I was back in Dr. Wolf's office. He confirmed I had a ruptured the pectoralis tendon. He knew it was a tear, because the concave along the chest wall was excessively evident to the naked eye. He stated it was a common symptom in previous findings. I knew something "bad" had happened because the pain was overwhelming and the weakness I felt in that arm was pretty evident to me.
Not my MRI film, but this is pretty much what it looked like
Dr. Wolf had explained to me the surgical procedure to repair the torn muscle. It sounded like a pretty evasive procedure to my young 22-year old ears and quite terrifying. He said that I can elect to not have the procedure done and simply modify my exercise program. He warned that I will have a noted weakness in the left side and that I should stay away from activities that will over-stress the right side. He also mentioned that although I can't tear the left side anymore than it already is, I can place the right side (good side) at risk.

Look for Part 2 of this blog post where I explain what I've learned from this injury and exercises I have included into my workout routine to help the site of injury.