10 Questions to Ask Your Trainer

Here’s an excellent read I stumbled upon from the Personal Trainer Development Center.  Written by Jeremey Duvall, a Personal Trainer based in Denver, he enumerates some possible questions that can help you choose the right kind of trainer you can work best with.  Have you found yourself wanting to ask any of the questions or have already asked them yourself? Read on!

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This blog post was inspired by several stories that I’ve heard recently, plus some things that I have seen in commercial gyms over the past year or so. Before you hop in and hire a trainer, realize that you should be interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Why you might ask? Because hiring a personal trainer is a huge step for many people:

  1. You’re admitting that you need help. Whether you want to admit it or not, you need a trainer potentially to help you out with exercise form or to provide some extra motivation. If there’s one thing we as humans aren’t good at, it’s asking for help.
  2. You’re trusting someone else with your health. While they don’t have free reign, your personal trainer programs exercises that he/she thinks are appropriate. Hopefully they work, but more than that, you hope they don’t leave you in worse shape than you’re currently in.
  3. It costs money! If you don’t live in a world where you bathe in expendable income, that means you’re foregoing something else to have a personal trainer.
  4. You share personal details with your trainer. Unless you spend an hour talking about your favorite TV shows, you probably shared some intimate details that you would hope would stay private and not be the gossip of the break room.

So hiring a personal trainer is a big deal, and it isn’t just as simple as walking up to a guy dressed in black and filling out some forms. You want to make sure the fit is right. It’s similar to selecting a doctor. You wouldn’t go to a cardiologist to help you out with foot pain. Similarly, if you have a sense of humor, visiting Dr. Stone Cold probably isn’t going to be the most enjoyable experience, and you probably won’t come back as often as you should. Selecting a trainer is very similar. You should interview them about their expertise, personality, etc. You want to find an expert in whatever you need help with (weight loss, foot pain, etc). You can’t do that without asking questions. So, I’ve compiled the top 10 questions I would ask someone before forking over money and my health complete with the types of answers you should expect and why.

  1. What is your background in personal training/fitness? You would expect that they would have at least a couple of years of experience working with clients. Also, this should give you an inside look at their certification, experience with different types of clients, and their own personal interests. If you’re a weight loss client, but their expertise is training football players for the combine, you may want to go with someone else. Not that they couldn’t do it, but they might not be the best fit (unless you’re an ex-football player). For certification, I would look it up after your initial meeting. You’ll typically hear ACE, NASM, NSCA, ACSM, or some variation or combination. Look it up and make sure it’s nationally accredited!
  2. If I were to ask your current clients, what would they have to say about you? You’re looking to get an idea of their personality type and the relationship that they have with their clients. If you’re looking for an in-your-face type of trainer, then you better hear words like intense, hardcore, pushes me to my limits, etc. If you’re looking for more of a supportive type of trainer, I’d expect words like positive and encouraging.
  3. What do you do to continually stay current on fitness and training information? If all you hear is “I read magazine articles”, run! Magazine articles are great, and they are important for trainers to read since it’s what their clients are reading. But, they should also be attending conferences, reading journal articles (research based), listening to lectures online from top fitness sources, etc. You want to know that they take their job seriously and are always looking to constantly evolve rather than be complacent with where they are at. 
  4. How long do your clients typically train with you? This is a longevity and value question. Good trainers retain clients because they demonstrate the continued value of their service. Hopefully, you’ll hear two things 1) something about their clients typically seeing notable improvements in 3 months 2) however, they continue to train with me because we set higher goals and attempt more complex exercises. This shows that the trainer is always looking towards setting higher expectations for future goals, but they also are capable of achieving progress in 3 months. While you probably won’t achieve your optimum physique in 3 months, you should see some progress. I wouldn’t worry about the total length of training (6 months, 2 years, etc) because every situation is different (unless you hear something incredibly low like 3 weeks which no trainer in their right mind would admit).
  5. What are your hobbies/interests? Simply put, you want to have something to talk about other than fitness during your training sessions. Hopefully, you have some common interests.
  6. What is your philosophy on fitness? If they don’t mesh with yours (or what you would like yours to be), they probably aren’t for you. For instance, my philosophy is that I believe fitness should be fun and effective, not in terms of being ripped, but being able to enjoy your favorite activities and experience life outside of the gym pain-free. Hence, I wouldn’t be the best choice for someone looking to compete in a figure competition. However, I would be a good choice for someone new to exercise that just wanted to feel better and get started on the right track. Your trainer should have a philosophy (or passion if you prefer to call it that). If they don’t, that’s a red flag for me. Sidebar: If in conversation, you find out that the trainer’s philosophy doesn’t match with yours, they should be able to direct you towards another trainer that is a perfect match. Good trainers know their fellow staff members and aren’t afraid to pass along business for the good of the client.
  7. What is your plan for me? Where do you see my workouts going? After listening to a client talk for a 10-15 minutes about their goals, I have an idea of what I’m going to do with them. In my head, I’m already formulating a plan of how to structure their workouts, what exercises to do, etc. You’re looking for not only a plan, but a plan that’s specific to you. If I said something like “We’re going to focus on a total body workout 2x a week that’s going to burn fat and build muscle.” That’s alright, but it’s pretty general. I’d rather hear, “Tony, with your background in strength training, you’ll benefit the most from starting with total body workouts. They’re going to burn fat and build muscle. Since you also want to get better at running, we’ll incorporate some single leg moves and some targeted cardio to improve your running capacity.” If it was me, I want to hear the personal one.
  8. They should do an assessment. This isn’t really a question, rather something your trainer should do and explain. If you go into your first workout without them seeing you move, it’s probably time to see another trainer. Assessments should be the foundation of your training program. If your trainer has no idea how you move, how would they possibly write a workout for you?
  9. What do you do for your own workouts? Not saying that all personal trainers should have a six pack, but they should be working out consistently. Your trainer should try all exercises on themselves before having you do them. It’s pretty difficult to do that if they aren’t working out themselves.
  10. Shadow your trainer in the gym. Again, this isn’t much of a question, but rather something you should do. Chances are, your trainer is working with clients while you’re at the gym. Take a few moments to watch them interact with clients. Here’s what you’re looking for:
  • Body language- Arms crossed, sitting down on a stability ball while their client does an exercise- not for me
  • Attentiveness- Are they watching TV or watching their client?
  • State of rapport between client and trainer- Do they seem to be enjoying the session?
  • Demeanor (are they calm or rushed)- Good trainers check their baggage at the door and put on a positive demeanor once they hit the gym.
  • Does each client do the exact same workout? This may be difficult to tell, but if you notice every client does the same exercises, the programs might not be as specific to the individual as they should be.

This is not an all-inclusive list, but rather some more important concepts that I think should be addressed prior to gearing up and hitting the bench press. What did I miss? What questions would you ask before hiring a trainer?


7 Reasons Why Training Debates are a waste; and the Fitness industry will stay divided.

Here’s a blog post I copied from Coach Nick Tumminello’s website that I think is applicable to any other industry. Coach Nick is one of the “Good Guys” I follow in the industry and has deep respect for. You can view the original article here http://nicktumminello.com/2012/04/psychological-reasons-why-coaches-will-never-stop-arguing-trainin-debates-are-a-waste-of-time-and-the-fitness-industry-will-never-be-united/. Happy reading!

7 Psychological Reasons Why Experts will always argue; Training Debates are a waste ; and the Fitness industry will stay divided.

I often get asked why I don’t express my feelings about what other coaches are doing/saying,or why I no longer get involved in training debates with other coaches or on the fitness forums? My answer is always the same: “Because I now have a better understanding of human psychology.”  I then follow that answer with this advice, “if you’re asking me this because you’re hoping for someone to actually “win” one of these training arguments so you can finally have an answer. Or, you’re thinking that any of these highly debated training topics will soon reach a generally agreed upon consensus – get ready to die as a very confused and frustrated trainer… because those training arguments aren’t even about training to begin with. That’s why no one ever seems to change their mind even when their views are eroded by science. These debates aren’t about information, they’re about the mind games we’ve all played on ourselves and we don’t even know it.”

Turning A Negative into a Positive!

I know all this is sounding awfully negative. And, negativity just ain’t my style. But, this post isn’t about my usual innovative, solutions-based hybrid training concepts. Instead, it’s about  7 Psychological facts, which are an unavoidable part of human nature that, although negative in nature, we all must accept and work to better understand.

That said, the positive outcome is that becoming aware of and learning to embrace these factors has really helped me to better understand myself, my clients, my fellow colleques; and helped to to better maximize my time and mental energy in a more productive manner.And, I know they’ll do the same for you too. That is, if you’re willing to first embrace and address them within yourself before everyone else.

You’re about to discover why one of my favorite old punk-rock bands: The Descendents, were right on (back in the early 90s) with what they say in the beginning of their classic punk song Cool To Be You - “I don’t believe in unity. It’s just one more abandoned dream. Once the people get together it’s easy to see. It’s just a matter of time before they come after me.”

 Why Arguments About Training have Little to Do With Training

Think about it! Have you ever seen a forum of facebook debate about training where one coach said “you know what, you’re right and I’m wrong – I’ll do it your way from now on.” Usually if something like that is said, its more likely said in a passive aggressive style because one person simply got sick of arguing.

Have you also noticed that in these debates people assume a great deal, often filling in the blanks and putting words in each other’s mouths? Or, coaches often seem to take the same rebuttal stance regardless of the challenging information that gets posed to them? Better yet, have you seen how trainers often take it personally and get all defensive when you simply show them scientific evidence that may have found results, which challenge they’re views, as if you just trash-talked their mother. I could go on, but you get the point!

The fact is, in theses coaches vs. coaches debates, both parties can present logical, rational and even scientifically backed evidence in favor of their thought process. Yet, often times, all involved end up calling the other “stupid” or accuse one another of using “flawed logic” and seem to end up personally not liking one another simply because they have different professional outlooks. How can this be?

How can so many passionate and motivated fitness professionals who all incorporate both science and common sense,  and who all have success still remain so separated and at opposite sides of the track?

These 7 Psychological Facts will explain why these on-going intra-industry issues have little (if anything) to with how we train. Instead, they have to do with how wethink.

1. Ad Hominem

According to David McRaney, author of You Are Not So Smart, “It’s a misconception that if you don’t trust someone, you should ignore their claims. The Truth is: What people say and why they say it should be judged separately.”  - “This knowledge is is based on the Ad Hominem fallacy. It comes into play when you judge people based on who they are, not what they have to say.” – “An Ad Hominem attack occurs when you criticize the person rather then their claims. It happens when, in the midst of a heated discussion, someone points a finger and say “You’re stupid!.” 

McRaney adds, “You see it in politics all the time. if you can’t taint the character of a person, it’s easy to taint whatever he’s bringing to the table.”

Fitness Industry Example of an Ad Hominem: My great friends Bret Contreras and Brad Schoenfeld recently wrote a research review paper called To Crunch or Not to Crunch, which most have probably read by now.

Brad and Bret did not actually conduct any of the studies they provided in their paper. All they did in their paper was review the related scientific evidence and provide simple recommendations based on the science. But, those who felt the paper refuted their personal beliefs & biases fought back by taking personal pot-shots at Bret and Brad themselves… while basically ignoring the actual scientific evidence they provided.

When all you do is look at the people who simply put the information in one place for us to read, instead of looking at the information itself, it insults the researchers who actually didperform the studies. And, it directly undermines the scientific information gained from theses studies.

Heck, after the paper came out all you heard was Contreras vs. McGill. It wasn’t about information, it was about people. Then of course coaches said, I’ll go with McGill because Bret is younger and less experienced. That my friends is a glaring example of an Ad Hominem fallacy.

Judge the information for only what it is: INFORMATION… NOT the person or people providing it!

 2.  Illusory superiority

The generally used definition of Illusory superiority is a cognitive bias that causes people to overestimate their positive qualities and abilities and to underestimate their negative qualities, relative to others.

You may have heard the qoute, “The average person thinks they aren’t.” Well, the science proves that to be true!

In a survey done at the University of Nebraska, 68% of the faculty rated themselves in the top 25% for teaching ability.(1)

In a another similar survey done at Stanford University, 87% of MBA students rated their academic performance as above the median. (2)

Paul C. Price, author of the paper Are You as Good a Teacher as You Think?, did a great job of describing  why teachers and coaches should understand Illusory superiority: ”Unfortunately, the most appropriate reaction—concern—is also the least likely, because people’s tendency to think of themselves as better than average extends to their ability to avoid such biases; “Sure other people overestimate their traits and abilities, but I would never do that.” See the problem? Concern is appropriate, however, because there is a great deal of evidence from social-cognitive psychology that pretty much anyone who isn’t clinically depressed systematically overestimates his or her own traits and abilities in a wide variety of domains. Furthermore, the nature of  teaching makes it especially prone to such overestimation for reasons that I describe in this paper. A second reason that we, as teachers, should be concerned by this result is that recognizing our shortcomings is a prerequisite for improvement and, perhaps surprisingly, can be tremendously motivating.”

Fitness Industry Example of Illusionary Superiority: We all know that controversy gets attention. Well, there are two reasons one would create controversy: to get attention, or to provide new information that shows us we may need to change.

You’ll find the same coaches who accuse other trainers of creating controversy simply to get attention, are the very same ones who’ve created controversy themselves. That’s because they obviously believe that THEY caused a stir because they were smart enough to realize something everyone else had yet to uncover and they simply wanted to enlighten the rest of us. But, to them anyone else who challenges current beliefs has devious intentions because they’re not smart enough to find something the rest of us have yet to see. That is a great example of Illusionary superiority.

Note: The next 2 Psychological Factors on my list below are actually the two (out of 5) main mechanisms proposed by Alicke and Govorun (2005) (3), in attempt to explain why illusory superiority (which they refer to as the better-than-average effect) occurs. (The info for #3 & 4 has been taken directly from this Wikipedia page.)

3.  Selective recruitment

This is the idea that when making a comparison with a peer an individual will select their own strengths and the other’s weaknesses in order that they appear better on the whole. 

Perloff and Fetzer (1986) suggested that when comparing themselves to an average peer on a particular ability or characteristic an individual would choose a comparison target (the peer being compared) that scored less well on that ability or characteristic, in order that the individual would appear to be better than average. 

However these results are not completely reliable and could be affected by the fact that individuals like their close friends more than an “average peer” and may as a result rate their friend as being higher than average, therefore the friend would not be an objective comparison target.(4) 

Fitness Industry Example of Selective recruitment: There are some many different training styles and systems in our industry. All of which have their strengths and weaknesses. Yet, many of the zealot members of these systems argue why THIER way is best and why their fellow members of the group “get it”, while others don’t. They like to bring to light the strengths of their system while focusing on the limitations of other’s systems.

4.  Egocentrism

This is the idea that an individual places greater importance and significance on their own abilities, characteristics and behaviors than those of others. Egocentrism is therefore a less overtly self-serving bias.

According to egocentrism, individuals will overestimate themselves in relation to others because they believe that they have an advantage that others do not have, as an individual considering their own performance and another’s performance will consider their performance to be better, even when they are in fact equal. Kruger (1999) (5)

Fitness Industry Example of egocentrism: Have you ever met a yoga instructor who has told you that you DON’T need yoga. How about a powerlifter who said that you were already strong enough. Or, a corrective specialist that told you that your posture was fine and that you had zero muscle imbalances or asymmetries? Or course not! That’s egocentrism at work!

Another example is that coaches often down other (younger) coaches of whom have less experience than they do. Interestingly, 5yr coaches say 2-3yr coaches don’t have enough experience. The 10yr veterans say the 5yr coaches aren’t experienced enough. The 20yr coaches say…

It always seems to be the # of years experience YOU have is the “optimal #” of experience. And, isn’t it funny that when someone has been in the game for a very longtime, much longer than us, we just call them a “dinosaur” who’s stuck doing things the “old” way.

5. Humans are Tribal oriented!

Just look at politics and you’ll see glaringly obvious example of how us humans are tribal oriented creatures. Put simply, we like to bond with like-minded folks. And, we like to make fun of the people (in other tribes) who don’t think like us.

The fitness training world is just like the political world. In that, we have the Kettlebell party (and various divisions of that), the Pilates Party, the Yoga Party, the Strength Party (and various division of that like bodybuilding, powerlifting, strongman), the corrective exercise (aka., wanna be PTs), the functional 3D training party, and so on.

Within these parties we have moderates and we also have the extremists, who’ve pledged their allegiance to their chosen style or system.

Now, we all know nothing ever gets agreed upon in politics. Although we all have the same goals, which is  to solve problems, the politics of fitness seem to prevent us from agreeing on the appropriate solutions.

Plus, it doesn’t help that the extremists continually cultivate a gang-like environment, and always seem ready to wage war to “prove” their way is “the right way”.

6. Conforming to the Norm

Studies shows that many of us will deny our own senses just to conform with others. (the below is taken directly from this post from PSYBlog)

“We all know that humans are natural born conformers – we copy each other’s dress sense, ways of talking and attitudes, often without a second thought. But exactly how far does this conformity go? Do you think it is possible you would deny unambiguous information from your own senses just to conform with other people?

Have a look at the figure below. Compare the line on the left with the three lines on the right: A, B & C. Which of these three lines is the same length as the lonesome line on the left?

Asch Lines

It’s obviously C. And yet in a classic psychology experiment conducted in the 1950s, 76% of people denied their own senses at least once, choosing either A or B. (6)

The results were fascinating, and not at all what you’d expect:

  • 50% of people gave the same wrong answer as the others on more than half of the trials.
  • Only 25% of participants refused to be swayed by the majority’s blatantly false judgement on all of the 12 trials.
  • 5% always conformed with the majority incorrect opinion (we all know people like that, right?!)
  • Over all the trials the average conformity rate was 33%.

Intrigued as to why participants had gone along with the majority. They were interviewed after the experiment. Their answers are probably very familiar to all of us:

  • All felt anxious, feared disapproval from others and became self-conscious.
  • Most explained they saw the lines differently to the group but then felt the group was correct.
  • Some said they went along with the group to avoid standing out, although they knew the group was wrong.
  • A small number of people actually said they saw the lines in the same way as the group.
Fitness Industry Example of conformity: I’ve often heard trainers who challenge the group-think being called “contrarians.” (I’m one of them) Interestingly enough, that’s actually a compliment to a non-comformist type, as the alternative to an individual of that mind set is to be a spineless conformist who acts like a shadow and changes their position every time someone else does.

7. Confirmation Bias

“Confirmation bias refers to a type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one’s beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one’s beliefs. For example, if you believe that during a full moon there is an increase in admissions to the emergency room where you work, you will take notice of admissions during a full moon, but be inattentive to the moon when admissions occur during other nights of the month. A tendency to do this over time unjustifiably strengthens your belief in the relationship between the full moon and accidents and other lunar effects.” (taken directly from this post at Skepdic.com)

Another great explanation for Confirmation Bias comes form Paul Ingram, who’s website I really enjoy reading – “Confirmation bias explains a lot about human nature. Most people know it best as “selective hearing” or “selective memory” — hearing and remembering only what you want to hear. Confirmation bias is a whole lot more: a dazzling array of devious and largely unconscious mental tactics and thinking glitches that lead people to confirm their beliefs and pet theories. We not only tend to ignore, deny and overlook anything that contradicts our point of view, but we also invariably notice, inflate and or even fabricate anything that supports it. Confirmation bias is one of the main reasons that The Truth is so slippery, and both amateurs and experts alike are prone to significant thinking errors. There are people who strive to eliminate confirmation bias from their thinking — the best scientists and journalists, for instance — but it’s really difficult. Everyone has confirmation bias: it’s just how minds (don’t) work!”

Lessons & Take away for Fitness Pros

 - The above Psychological factors make us ALL a little full of BS ;-) Yes, even YOU, ME, and your favorite leaders, experts, gurus, teachers, etc.

- When coming to judgements and conclusions, first look inward at yourself and ask yourself WHY you came to this conclusion. Ask yourself what are the counter arguments? And, ask yourself HOW you came to this conclusion? Is it based on emotion, science, following a leader…

- We all have strong beliefs in our training philosophies, which is great because it shows we’re passionate. But, we can’t fool ourselves into believing that we’ve put more thought into what we do than anyone else has, whether they agree with us or disagree.

- We must embrace our differences, have the discipline to accept our own weaknesses, and understand that we are only half as smart as we’ve tricked ourselves into believing we are.

- Understand that when we feel someone needs to “learn more” or “use better logic/ common sense”, they’re most likely thinking the exact same thing about us!

- Accept that we’re probably not as special as our moms told us we were.

- Understand that arguing about fitness training and trying to prove why your way is best is probably not the best use of your time and mental energy, unless you like to be frustrated and/or hear yourself talk.

- Rarely will training subjects reach a generally accepted expert consensus. So, waiting for one will keep you lost and confused. To get answers, we must take things into our own hands by searching for our own truth, which invloves using our own better-judgement, common sense and scientific knowledge.

You’ll never be Right!

We all must choose whether we’d rather work to be “effective” or try to be “right.” I choose to be effective! And, understanding the 7 Psychological realities I’ve listed above have empowered me with knowledge to be a more effective learner and teacher. I hope you’re able to use this knowledge to do the same for you!

References

1. Cross, P. (1977). “Not can but will college teachers be improved?”. New Directions for Higher Education 17: 1–15.

2. “It’s Academic.” 2000. Stanford GSB Reporter, April 24, pp.14–5. viaZuckerman, Ezra W.; John T. Jost (2001). “What Makes You Think You’re So Popular? Self Evaluation Maintenance and the Subjective Side of the “Friendship Paradox””Social Psychology Quarterly (American Sociological Association) 64 (3): 207–223. doi:10.2307/3090112.JSTOR 3090112. Retrieved 2009-08-29.

3. Alicke, Mark D.; Olesya Govorun (2005). “The Better-Than-Average Effect”. In Mark D. Alicke, David A. Dunning, Joachim I. Krueger. The Self in Social Judgment. Studies in Self and Identity. Psychology Press. pp. 85–106. ISBN 9781841694184OCLC 58054791.

4. Perloff, L.S.; B.K. Fetzer (1986). “Self-other judgments and perceived vulnerability to victimization”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology(American Psychological Association) 50 (3): 502–510. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.50.3.502

5. Kruger, J. (1999). “Lake Woebegon be gone! The “below-average effect” and the egocentric nature of comparative ability judgments”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 77 (2): 221–232. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.77.2.221PMID 10474208

6. A study of normative and informational social influences upon individual judgment.Deutsch, Morton; Gerard, Harold B. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, Vol 51(3), Nov 1955, 629-636.

Coach Nick Tumminello has built a reputation as the ‘Trainer of trainers” through his workshops at conferences and fitness club around the world. And, for his consulting work with pro/college sports teams and with exercise equipment/ clothing manufactures. He’s the owner of Performance University international, which provides hybrid strength training & conditioning for athletes and educational programs for fitness professionals. Based in South Florida, Nick is a Fort Lauderdale personal trainer who works with a select group of athletes and exercise enthusiasts.

You can check out Coach Nick’s articles, DVDs, seminars schedule, mentorship program and very popular hybrid fitness training blog at http://nicktumminello.com/


Tip #11: Always strive for perfect form

Image courtesy of http://www.crossfit.com

I find that everybody has a sixth sense when you’re consciously looking for flaws. It could be your best friend’s new boyfriend , a new fad or even somebody’s facebook status. In my case since I literally live every single day of my life being at the gym, I see bad form all the time. But how do you know if you’re form’s bad? Well, with the abundance of information because of the internet, its pretty easy to find out. You just have to put in the time to research. Another way is by consulting a trainer. Just go up to one and you’ll be surprised sometimes how they would really like to help out. A trainer who’s dedicated to what he does won’t mind shelling out a tip or two. Lastly, if you’re doing something new and it doesn’t feel right, there’s a big chance that its wrong. So just drop what you’re doing and progress yourself to it in time.


Getting Ready for Summer

Image courtesy of deconstructingyourself.com

Its 5 months to summer and you’re probably asking yourself…Will I ever be able to wear that swimsuit with confidence? Will I able to walk the stretch of sun and sand without being conscious of whether my gut is jutting out? Well, if you’re being completely honest with yourself and your answer is NO, then I guess its high time you should do something about your training routine, your eating habits or both. To get you back on track as early as now, here are my tips to get you ready for that beach body you’ve been dying to have.

1) Remember the Number 12 – Yes 12 is the magic number. You should be getting at least 12 workouts a month. That’s only 12 hours at the gym. The clock starts as soon as you step inside the gym. 1 hour is enough to change into your gym clothes, warm-up , flirt with your crush, lift weights, sprint on the bike , stretch and check-out.

2) Consult a Professional Fitness Trainer – I used the word professional because there are a lot of shady trainers out there who not only lack experience, but they also bully you into listening to their stupid advice. Seek someone who can provide you a thorough assessment that will not only show you a proper routine but would also help iron-out your muscle imbalances. Muscle imbalances are not to be taken lightly because certain movements will cause your body to compensate thus leading to serious injury. Injuries will set you back weeks..or even worse months and put you farther away from your goal.

3) Cut down your workout time – I know I mentioned earlier that you should be spending at least an hour at the gym. But when you’re at the gym,  try optimizing your time by following a plan. Supersets, Tri-sets, Complexes…these are workout formats that are not only efficient , but excellent calorie burners as well. Out with the old, in with the new. That split program you’ve been following for years may not be working for you after all. Not only that, its also eating into your already busy schedule.

4) Plyometrics – Plyometrics is a form training that involves a lot of jumping and quick changes of direction. With proper guidance, plyometric training is fun and excellent for calorie burning. However, one has to have a very solid strength training background before starting a plyometric program. Its still best to consult a professional trainer for proper guidelines to start one.

5) Do Sports – Of course I wouldn’t leave sport out of the picture. Be it soccer, basketball, running, badminton, rowing etc..nothing beats the calorie burn of sports. The camaraderie and social component of sport also makes fat-loss more fun and dynamic!

6) Change Your Eating Habits – I’m pretty sure this is what everyone dreads. Face it folks, food is fuel. Very much like the kind of fuel you put into your car. You use Unleaded Fuel for your car to make it run properly right? Think of the same analogy for your body. If you want to perform , feel better about yourself and look sexy, change your eating habits. Try cutting down on sweets or salty food and your body will respond like crazy. Good crazy that is.

They say it takes 30 days for a  new behavior to become habit. You get to accomplish that within the next few weeks, I swear its going to be a great year ahead for you.

Have a great week everyone.


New Year, New Start, New Life

Photo courtesy of Wondrouspics.com

Happy New Year Everyone! 2011 is was a great year for me and I hope it was awesome for everybody else. I always find myself excited whenever the new year sets in. There’s just something about the new year that makes me feel refreshed and get all pumped of for what’s to come.

Do you have a new year’s health resolution? I don’t call mine a new year’s resolution but a reinforcement of my previous year’s goals. What I find that really helps in helping me stick to my goals is to write them down. So if you would like to see yours fulfilled in front of your eyes, its best that you grab a pen and paper and start writing down your fitness goals.

So here we go people! 2012! It’s time to hit the track, the floor , the gym, or whatever it is that’ll make you move cause its time to get better!

- Edsel


10 reasons you’re not making progress at the gym

Next year is my 10th year as a personal trainer. I started as a personal trainer way back in 2002 at Fitness First where I initially applied as a motivator. You know what a motivator is? Not exactly someone who sits beside you and screams at you to go for one more rep but just a fancy name for a guy who picks up weights and putting them back in place.

Well, let’s just say I got lucky and the Fitness Manager ( Jay Blancaflor to be exact ) hired me. A few other training jobs followed after that and the rest they say is… history.

Over the course of those years, I’ve been experimenting with my own body and been successful at helping others as well. Well, not all are lucky enough or patient enough to reap the results and so today, I’ve decided to list a few things that deter people from reaching their fitness goals.

1) You’re not following a training plan – Isn’t life all about beginning and ending? If you’ve seen the Lion King you know that the circle of life is. Same thing with training. You start out and you end. If you start overweight, you don’t want to end overweight. Nuff said.

2) You procrastinate..a lot – I know I know the gym’s not going anywhere. But how about you? Don’t you want to fit in your wedding dress? Or look good at the beach? Stop delaying. You wear Nike products right? JUST DO IT.

3) You don’t eat after training – You’re trying to lose weight so you figure after doing an hour of cardio and burning 1,000 kcal, you’re not going to eat. After all, you’re trying to lose weight right? Why eat? Makes sense right? Well, you’re wrong. During a bout of exercise your body actually gets damaged so the correct way of addressing this is by eating. Starving your body will never work as it will find ways to survive. How? By storing more fat!

4) You don’t increase the weight you lift – If you’re reading this, chances are you probably are educated. You start at nursery and then finish University after X number of years. That means you followed a steady progression from basic to complex. Same thing with training. More reps don’t mean more burnt fat. It only means the same addition/subtraction, ABC, nursery rhymes and nap time. Don’t get stuck with lifting the same weight and expecting results. Nursery’s done. You’re an adult and its time to move the weight up.

5) You don’t plan out your meals – Do you know that restaurants recycle their cooking oil when preparing food? Why? They wanna keep costs low, prolong the life cycle of their business and make a profit. They don’t give a damn if what they’re serving is healthy or not. Do you recycle cooking oil? I bet you don’t. So take charge, prepare and plan your meals ahead. That way you’re assured that only the best ingredients to your food.

6) You doing too much cardio – I’m a big fan of cardio..only if done in moderate amounts. As we get older our metabolism slows down and that’s due to loss of muscle. Too much cardio eats up muscle and is counterproductive to what you probably want ( Look sexy right?). So hit the weight room more than you should and start building muscle!

7) You don’t have enough social support – Getting fitter or losing weight is more fun with friends. Be it playing a team sport like basketball or joining a running group will not only foster camaraderie but can promote healthy competition as well. Who knows? You can also meet your soulmate in your badminton group. Bwahahahaha.

8) You socialize too much - The gym is a great place to meet people. But always keep in mind the whole reason you’re there. That is to train right? So train. Stop yapping and get on with it.

9) You don’t read – Nothing beats education in helping people get to their fitness goals. Going overboard by jumping on the latest fad in fitness is still better than just sitting on your couch and scratching your b*lls. The more informed you are, the more armed you are in your battle against fat. You know your body more than anybody else so better be informed. Right Christopher Lao?

10) You’re lazy – Nothing beats the evil that is called LAZINESS. This has no cure. I don’t know what kind of life event can get you out of this malady but the doctor that has the cure for this disease hasn’t been born yet. If you think you have this condition, I don’t know. Try to seek out the Dalai Lama or Deepak Chopra to help you get out of this rut.

My take away message is this. If you want to make progress, take charge. Nobody else can bring you to the promised land but yourself.


Tip #10 – Don’t train through an injury

Image courtesy of bodybuilding.com

I know this sounds like common sense but I see a lot of people at the gym training through an injury. Don’t get mistaken by my words. We could train AROUND  an injury, but not the injured part itself. I see guys complaining about shoulder pain but then  their buddies would still urge them to work in. In all honesty, I think this is really stupid because you can’t hold your friend accountable for it. Especially if it gets worse. Injuries cause by pushing are the worst as guys really like displaying their strength on the bench press and shoulder press. So heed my words. If it hurts, don’t train the injured body part. Have it checked by the doctor, do your own research and fire your buddy.


Breaking Personal Records

Either for our own personal satisfaction or bragging rights, I believe we can always benefit from taking note of our personal best. Not only does it show that we still have what it takes to perform,but it can also shock our body into growth. There’s are a myriad ways to do this but the simplest way is to standardize your own procedure. Be it a one rep max with a bench press or a 4 rep personal best with a squat, the important thing is to set a goal and take small steps towards it.


Tip #9: Vary your rep range

I still find it baffling to this day that people like working within the 12-15 rep range. I assume its because this information has been passed on from lifters of old that more reps would provide muscle definition and less reps will make you big. Well, believe me…this isn’t true. Why not do yourself a favor this weekend and work within the lower end of the spectrum. Try working within the 6 to 8 rep range because not only will it allow you to lift more weight, but it will also provide you that pumped feeling that will carry on for the rest of the weekend.


Having Muscle Imbalances Suck

Photo courtesy of befitandstrong.com

We all have a dominant side. I for one am right handed. But since I love playing basketball and wanted to get better, I worked hard at training my left arm to handle the basketball as well. I believe this should be the mind-set when it comes to strength training. If you look around the gym , you’ll notice people having their own favorites. For the guys its the chest press and for the women …its the inner and outer thigh machine.

To tell you honestly, having favorites only create muscle imbalances. This is not good because muscle imbalances cause our body to compensate in its own way and is detrimental to proper muscle growth. What’s even worse is that it could lead to back problems, knee problems and shoulder problems. Remember, training should be individualized because we are all unique. When was the last time you evaluated your program or have someone evaluate your program? Maybe its high time for you to do some more research or consult an expert in this field to come up with a program most appropriate for you.


Tip #8: Consider Supplementation

Supplements have been around for ages. With their sheer size it gives the consumer the impression that it can make you big. On the other hand, supplements are really nothing but providers of what we lack. You think you need calcium? Take calcium supplements. Need to burn more fat? Take fat burners. But really, the only thing I would really recommend is the intake of protein supplements as I believe we always lack this compound on a daily basis. Our muscles are made of protein that breakdown whenever we exercise. So naturally, our body will want some protein to repair itself. This is where we either eat a full meal with a lot of  protein after a workout or ingest a protein supplement drink immediately after training. Pros of having a protein supplement after training is its liquid form which is easily absorbed by the body and its convenience. Cons of a protein supplement would be the taste as it doesn’t appeal to everyone. Pros of having a full meal after a workout is its satiety and variety. Cons is the amount of fat and carbs that may come with it. Bottom line is to fill your protein requirement for the day as this determines the amount of fat burning ability you have.


Tip #7:Train your rotator cuff muscles

Photo courtesy of uptodate

Your rotator cuff muscles are the foundation of your shoulders. These small muscles are classified as your synergists or stabilizers that come into play whenever your work any major upper body muscle group. So it goes without saying that these are just as important when constructing a training program. Simply put, if you want to get stronger in the bench press, do rotator cuff work. If you want to be able to perform a chin-up, do rotator cuff work as well. They may not be able to give you the kind of satisfaction or muscle pump you need, but long term they will definitely guarantee you healthy shoulders.


It’s never too late to increase your jumping ability

Yeah I said it. It’s never too late to increase your jumping ability. All you gotta do is to train yourself to jump higher. How ? Let me count the ways.

1) Train with Weights – Incorporating strength training as part of your lower body routine will not just help build muscle and burn fat, it will also develop strength and power . If you find yourself being able to back squat your own body weight, chances are you can jump higher than what you remember.

2) Incorporate Plyometrics in your Routine – Plyometrics refer to exercises that enable muscles to reach maximal force in the shortest possible time. If you don’t think you have the potential to jump higher because you’re old, you’re wrong. You can train your body to react faster. Just gotta use the proper exercises for it.

3) Include Dynamic Stretching – Dynamic stretching is a more functional way of preparing your body for activity. Recent research have shown that static stretching can lead to decreased force production…which translates into a lower jumping ability. Dynamic stretching is the wave of the future.

These are just guidelines on how you can increase your jumping ability. Like anything else, a solid training plan and discipline will definitely get you the results you want. But first , you gotta get it our of your head that you’re too old to jump higher.

YOU CAN DO IT!!!!


Tip #6:Stop wearing that weightlifting belt

Photo courtesy of eastside strength and cond.

Wearing a weightlifting belt doesn’t really do you any good unless you plan on participating in a powerlifting meet. Powerlifters use this contraption to stabilize their bodies because  they lift a s**tload of weight. Normal people like us however can do away with this because without it we recruit our stabilizing muscles. This will translate into better coordination and a stronger core long term. So ditch the belt and focus more on your form and properly bracing your core. You’ll thank me later on.


Tip #5: Don’t go full range on the bench press

Photo courtesy of bodybuilding.com

Another shocking revelation for you huh? Well, there is a scientific basis for this tip of mine so let me explain.

Our muscles fibers are comprised by motor units. These motor units are governed by the “all-or-none” principle. What this means is once the group of muscle fibers get the signal to contract, they all respond together. So its either they respond or they don’t. In the case of benching a weight above your chest, the same thing happens.Our chest or “pectoralis” muscle spans a wide attachment line along the sternum where it originates and inserts into your humerus bone ( Your upper arm). When you use lift a barbell, all the muscle fibers that is involved in the movement fire up.

But your next question would probably be…” why not all the way down to your chest since you feel the contraction more right“? Actually, the contraction you feel is a tug on your tendons. Once your elbows go past your body when doing a bench press, you’re already hyperextending your shoulder. Now unless you love your shoulders more than you love your personal record on the bench press, I suggest you stop when your arms are parallel to your body.

So, do you still want to go full range?


Tip #4: Forget about doing bodypart splits

If you’ve been working out for awhile this may come as a shock to you. But hasn’t it shocked you enough that you’ve been splitting your workouts for years now and you still haven’t gotten the results you’ve desired? Well, that’s because your body’s been used to the same motor program for years now that’s why. Another thing is you’re not causing a stimulus strong enough to elicit a sharp hormonal response. And when I say hormonal I mean testosterone, the major hormone for building muscle.

Ladies, don’t be scared as doing full body movements can help you burn more calories. Try it and see the difference!

Here’s my buddy Jamie doing different exercises utilizing full body movements.


PULL it to the limit

Yeah you got it right. That’s what I said. Pull it to the limit. I think there’s too much pushing going on in the weight room. The reason being is because a lot of people still like training their vanity muscles like the chest and shoulders. Its not unusual to see guys hitting their chest with 4 different pressing exercises and then on to doing almost the same number of exercises for their shoulders and only 1 pulling exercise to train their back. I attribute this to the pressure of looking better in front…which is really not a problem. But c’mon, just one exercise for the back?

Our back muscles are just as important as our chest muscles. Actually , it may even be more important to train our back muscles because they dictate our posture and serve as the base from where all our pushing movements stem from. Have you seen guys with really nice looking chest muscles but rounded shoulders? Ugly right? That’s because they do too many chest exercises it keep their chest muscles in a shortened state it eventually pulls their shoulders forward.  But beginners usually start this way as they want to look good first and worry about the science after. But, in the end , science will always win so lets not play catch-up by starting to learn some really basic back exercises.

The Lat Pulldown

The Dumbbell Row


Tip #3: Stop doing crunches

Photo courtesy of Jupiter Images

Wasn’t spot reduction disproved by experts eons ago? Then why the hell are people still doing crunches? To my understanding crunches are being performed to tone the midsection. But what if the midsection is covered with another midsection? Like a layer of fat right? Well, if that’s the case you’ve gotta prioritize. Get rid of that layer of fat first via exercise and healthy food choices then train your midsection. Use that extra 15 mins you devote to crunches towards something else like planks or rollouts… but please, not crunches.


Tip #2: Eat eggs on a regular basis

Forget the debate on whether they’re high in cholesterol or not. Eggs are a great source of  protein and very budget friendly!  But if you’re that worried , just skip the yolk and pack on the whites! Remember, if you’re trying to build muscle you should be getting at least 1 gram of protein per body weight in kilograms. Do you think you’re getting enough protein? Well, have some egg protein then! Make sure you include eggs in your grocery list this weekend! Have a good one folks!


Ever heard of a Dynamic Warm-up?

I discovered Dynamic Warm-ups in 2004 when I picked up the book Core Performance by Mark Verstegen. Through this book I was able to learn that dynamic warm-ups are much more appropriate than stretching before training. As opposed to static stretching that most people do, a dynamic warm-up not only elevates your core body temperature but it also prepares your body for certain movements. For example, instead of lying on the floor and doing 2 sets of hurdler stretches to lengthen your hamstrings for leg curls why don’t you try the inch worm?  The inch worm is an exercise where from a standing position you bend over at the hip, walk yourself out with your hands into a plank and try to inch your way back in without bending at the knee. Can’t picture it? Well, I have attached a dynamic warm-up summary to guide you.

Edwin and Jason. Have you included this in your workouts?


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