Stop fighting, start helping

Ali V Frasier.

Rumble in the jungle

Anyone V The New York Yankees.

Cross fit V Traditional strength training

Naudi Aguilar V Bret Contreras?

There have been some classic fights and rivalries through the ages. No matter the sport, the fans would be hanging on every play or every punch.  No matter if you had a stake in the outcome or not, you’d be on the edge of your seat.

Because let’s face it, you want to see them beat the crap out of each other. I know I do.

Crap 2

In the universe of health and fitness, this is no different, as evidenced by internet punch on a little while ago between Naudi Aguilar and Bret Contreras. You can catch up with the name calling right here.

On the web, this debate got pretty heated with a ton of trainers pulling up their ring side seats and rubbing their hands with glee in anticipation of a battle royal.

Me? I was just extremely disappointed.

In the US where 80% of the population doesn’t get the recommended amount of exercise and more than one in three adults are considered obese, my questions is, how does this behavior help anyone?

That’s easy, it doesn’t.

Healthy debate and constructive criticism are fine — I’m not arguing that. We see that on our social media feeds all the time, right?

But when the fighting turns into two teenaged girls pulling each other’s hair out, nobody wins.

Do you remember what your parents said when you fought with your brother or sister?

Did it go a little something like…

“I don’t care who started it.”

“I don’t care who’s right or wrong, just shut up and go to your rooms.”

Or my personal all-time favorite “One more word and you’re grounded.”

It hasn’t been that long since your parents told you off, correct?

Hey, I’m not going to be the one to send these guys to their rooms because let’s face it, Naudi and Bret are cut from two different pieces of cloth. Everything about how they approach strength training is different.

Bret has a more traditional strength training perspective based on science and research while Naudi has more a left field or “holistic” approach to health and fitness.

No matter which side of the fence you are on (don’t worry Brett I’ve got your back), they’ll never, ever agree with one another.

What fitness professionals really need to be fighting for is getting those 80 % of the population off their lazy butts and moving and not getting involved in those nitpicky debates on social media.

I hope that fitness professionals who care about their craft agree that when it comes to exercise and movement, there are a many different ways to get results.

Rather than criticizing and getting into pissing matches and trying to one up each other, more fitness professionals should take a page from the guys over at Original Strength.

Their motto is all movement is “good, better and best.” The only bad movement is no movement at all.

Now, I think that is something we can all agree on

Instead of fighting like children on the right way to do a squat or hating on long distance cardio use the sandwich technique of praise, criticism and praise.

People are more receptive to criticism when you start with praise instead of calling them clueless idiots. So rather than wasting your energy criticizing, start helping.

Because nobody likes a know -it-all.

When all else fails and you have nothing complimentary to say, remember what your mother told you

“If you haven’t anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”





(Mind the)Gap Training

While I was travelling around on the Underground train in London in 1998, a time when I was young, carefree and had hair, that moronic voice would repeatedly come over the loud speaker.

“Mind the gap. Please mind the gap.” This almost drove me to the point of insanity while I was riding the train. After all, it was only a very small gap between the platform and the train. Still, it would just take one idiot and well…… let’s not go there.

At times we again (especially guys) need to be reminded of the obvious over and over, like a wife nagging the husband to take out the trash after the act of jamming it down in the can isn’t working anymore.


It can be the same with training. The fundamental human movements that need be performed in the gym never change. Without nagging, they are

  • Squat
  • Push
  • Pull
  • Hinge
  • Carries
  • Ground work

Whether you’ve been lifting for a while or you’re just getting started, it’s very easy to get side tracked, especially with all those specialization programs on the internet promising bigger arms, legs, shoulders and sexy and sleek inner thighs in just minutes a day.

Okay, I made the last one up.  Or did I?


Even the great coaches admit to getting sidetracked. Take 2 minutes to listen to Dan John as he tells you about what he didn’t do for 10 years – and how it totally changed his body when he did.

(Note– Most of what’s coming next comes from Dan John’s Can You Go? If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.)

At times we may have gaps in our training because chasing certain exercise goals is fun and challenging. For instance my current goal is to deadlift twice my bodyweight which means certain other things in my training are ignored, like squats. J

On the flipside, you may be starting your weightlifting journey and just need to know where to get started.

The majority of your training time needs to be based on the big three of

  1. Strength
  2. Mobility
  3. Body composition

dan john

There are tons of tests to measure whether you have gaps in the big three, but for the sake of keeping it simple and measurable for the experienced and novice lifters alike, let’s use a couple of Can You Go? Assessments.

After completing these tests, your training gaps will become obvious.

1. Strength

No one goes to the gym thinking “I’m going to get weaker today.” The whole point of picking things up and putting them down is to get stronger. Being stronger makes life easier and so much better.

2 min push up position plank

This one is straight from Stu McGill’s lab to you. Can you hold a plank for 120 seconds? This will challenge your mental and physical capacity.  I usually tell my clients to “go to their happy place” during this test. A sunny beach usually works for most people. J

What does not reaching the 2 minute mark tell you? You’re not strong enough. Think about it, to be able to apply force to gravity (lifting weights), you need to be able to resist gravity (isometrics/eccentric) as well.  If you can’t, you’re building a house on a very shaky foundation.

Farmer’s walk

The Farmer’s walk will challenge your grip, posture and overall conditioning. This sounds like a perfect recipe for getting stronger in my book. Grip and posture are usually taken for granted but play a big role in your gains and in staying away from the physical therapist.

Loading for this test can be tricky. If you’re little deconditioned or new to this exercise, I like 25%-30% of your bodyweight in each hand. If you’re experienced lifter, use the standards from Dan John’s Mass Made Simple.

Bodyweight                                      Load

  • Under 135 pounds-            135 pounds (or 65/70 pound dumbbells)
  • 136-185 pounds-                185 pounds (or 90/95 pound dumbbells)
  • 186-205 pounds-                205 pounds (or 100 pound dumbbells)
  • Over 206 pounds-               225 pounds (or 110 pound dumbbells)

If in doubt, go on the heavier side to really test yourself. If you cannot walk at least 40 yards with your prescribed weight, you definitely need to work of your strength and do more farmer’s walks.


Thisis a much debated subject, but there are a couple of things most fitness professionals do agree on

  • You need sufficient mobility through the hips to squat/deadlift without blowing out your spine
  • If you cannot get your arms above your head and biceps by your ear without extending your low back or sticking out your ribcage, you have no business lifting anything overhead.

Dean Somerset breaks it down beautifully here in the world’s simplest assessment. Can you touch your hands to the floor? Can you raise your arms above your head without any of the assistance described above? If you can, you’re good to go. If you can’t do one or both, you’ve got some work to do.

However, Dan John takes this a step further with a getting down to the floor and back up test. Stop reading now and sit down to the ground and then stand back up without using your hands or knees. Don’t worry I’ll wait.

It sounds simple but there’s a catch. You will subtract a point from 5 each time you use a hand or your knee during this test. For example

Get down  (- 1 for each hand/knee from 5)

Get up       (-1 for each hand/knee from 5)

Total         (Your score, up to 10)

If you get a score of 8 and above, you’ve got nothing to worry about. If you score 7 or below, mobility and strength work will be your best friend.

3. Body composition

The chart below gives you a guide on how lean you should (or could) be.


 This is a great guide; however, for some (particularly those starting out on their weightlifting journey or who don’t have access to body fat testing equipment) there’s an easier way:

Is your waistline half of your height?

Dr. Margaret Ashwell, former director of the British Nutrition Foundation  said that “Keeping your waist circumference to less than half your height can help increase life expectancy for every person in the world.” Nice and simple.

Measure around the narrowest part of your abdominal area (you should already know your height) and with a little math you’ll have an answer. For example, a passing grade would be

  • 72 inches tall with a 36 inch waistlin

A failing grade is

  • 72 inches tall with a 38 inch waistline

Abdominal fat in and around the internal organs spells danger. If your waist line is more than half your height, you need to base you’re training around fat loss with a touch of strength.

Wrapping up

If you passed all these tests, congratulations, you’re perfect. 🙂  If not, minding these training gaps will help you become a stronger and more resilient human being.







Lessons learnt

fitness fail

We’ve seen on our social media feeds success stories about losing weight or moving massive amounts of it. It’s a great way to promote personal training services(or yourself) and to provide social proof. What’s not shown is the hard work and failure it takes get to that point. Well, at least for me.

The only fails I want to see is those tragic exercise ones on YouTube.

When I first started as a personal trainer in a big box gym, I thought I knew everything but in reality I knew nothing. Even after getting certified, I didn’t know how to instruct a client to deadlift or squat.  Looking back, I’m surprised I didn’t hurt more clients.  Thank God for liability insurance. J

Johnathan Goodman and The PTDC came at the perfect time for me and another 200.000 trainers. Through their blog articles, videos and being able to connect with other coaches, I’ve been able to turn my passion into a career and my mistakes have been minimized.

However, before the inception of The PTDC I screwed up a lot.  I lost clients, couldn’t get clients, didn’t follow up with prospects and my exercise programming sucked.  I pretty much learnt the hard way.

Is there an easy way to learn anything?

If I could time travel back in time and had a do over, there would be a few things I would do differently, some of which are listed below. While I’m there, the new me is telling the old me that curling and grunting in the squat rack is unacceptable. Now, I know better. J

(Note– The names have been changed to protect the innocent)

  1. Teaching the basics

My very first client, Sam was a high flying banker and a marathon runner. Her cardiovascular fitness was excellent and she was in great shape. Sam was looking to get stronger to reduce her running times. But she was also very impatient and wanted it all yesterday.

During one of our sessions, I programmed in a barbell stiff legged deadlift. However, I never taught her the hip hinge and her hip mobility (which I never tested, oops) wasn’t great. The end result was a back strain that put her out of action for two weeks. This put her behind in her marathon preparations and also lightened my pay packet.

What I should have done differently-I should’ve regressed the exercise and instructed the proper mechanics of the hip hinge. When you’re faced with a similar situation you should emphasize the value of the basics and building a stable training foundation.  This will save you a lot of heartache.

  1. Trying to razzle-dazzle


 The majority of your training should be spent squatting, pressing, pulling, hinging and carrying something heavy. These exercises have the greatest carryover in and out of the gym. Programming in the correct variations for each client is the tricky part. That’s why we get paid the big bucks.:)

Tim, in his early 50’s, high powered attorney with your typical desk jockey posture. He was looking to shed a few pounds so he could look better naked and stay injury free. However, he had the shoulder mobility of a tin man.

But that didn’t stop me from programming a dumbbell squat to press into one of our sessions. Tim ended up with a very sore set of shoulders and had to take time off training because of my mistake.

What I should have done differently– Combination exercises are a great way to burn fat and build muscle but they should be reserved for more experienced exercisers. Now I make sure clients have adequate strength, mobility and co-ordination before programming in advanced moves.

  1. Not walking a mile in my clients shoes

Trainers love the gym environment. We love to exercise, get after it and push the limits. However, a lot of people (in my experience) don’t quite share the same enthusiasm. They find the gym an intimating place and feel they’re being judged by other gym goers.

Combined with the unrealistic messages/images portrayed in the mainstream media about what it means to be ‘fit and healthy’ gym goers often get the wrong idea of what it takes to get in shape. And to confuse matter further, what’s good or bad for us changes on a regular basis.

Most fitness professionals can tune out this bullshit (because we know better) but some other people cannot. They can get sucked into trying stupid stuff, buying expensive supplements and thinking lifting anything heavier than a pink dumbbell will turn you into the hulk. Shame on you Tracey Anderson.

Please tune out all the BS and stick with what works for you.

  1. Not watching other coaches’ coach sooner

 Back when I thought I knew everything, I pretty much ignored what every other coach was doing. However, this all changed when I went to a Pat Rigsby  organized event in Frisco, Texas a few years ago. It was there I first met natural bodybuilding/trainer extraordinaire Tyler English.

Tyler proceeded to kick the butt of 70 fitness professionals with a metabolic workout that only Satan himself could’ve come up with. He did this with great energy, enthusiasm and presence.  He worked the room like a pro, encouraging every individual to get the best out of themselves.

This made quite an impression and changed the way I coaching for the better.  Watching great people in their wheel house is something that everybody should do on a regular basis and something I regret not doing sooner.

Wrapping up

 Trainers make mistakes. After all, we are only human. But when mistakes are made, this can lead to injury, a loss of income and reputation. But by constantly putting yourself in learning situations and expanding your comfort zone, these can be minimized.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill