Your Ultimate Fitness Goals Require the Best First Step
It's been nearly three years since I first started my own website, built it out, and began writing content for it. A lot of good has come from this site, but like any product - It's time to reinvent. In addition to updating the site with a better interface and layout, I'll also be upgrading the photos, features, and publishing far more video content in addition to these blogs. In terms of added features:
- A forum to engage topics
- Weekly video content/Q&A sessions/Podcasts
-Improved online training ramp, support fold, and front end beauty
-A minimum of 3 blog/video/article entries a week
I'm also going to begin writing more things outside of the realm of fitness, because as a writer I feel it is important to touch on everything possible. I'm not going to avoid topics just because they may be a bit more intense, or might upset some people. At the end of the day - this is my site, and I'm going to write what I want.
Building the body you've always wanted is a normal pursuit. Counting your repetitions and calories, measuring your weights on the bar and the scale, and contemplating what could get you there faster is normal.
Everyday thousands of people embark on a quest to move closer towards their end goal - physical dominance. Now, what is dominant differs just as the people who seek to dominate differ. Some want to lift all the weights, others want to look stunning naked, and some just want to feel better and look a little better.
No matter what your goals are though your pathway to excellence is very similar. Believe it or not, elite physical conditioning doesn't rely on the craziest plan from outside of the box, and it doesn't require you to overthink every detail. It just requires a sound plan that is based upon the fundamentals of human movement, metabolism, and adaptation.
I utilize a very specific strategy with my clients as I develop their programs and train them towards their goals. There is an "order of operations" that I observe to ensure that I'm never leading them to injury and helping them move towards their ideal fitness.
The strategy is as follows:
Improve Movement and Metabolic Quality
Achieve Basic Fitness
Refine towards Goals
The idea behind this type of training path is to never get ahead of the client's capabilities. Never putting the carts before the horses. By understanding that more can be gained from addressing the quality of a person's movement and the quality of their internal environment - you give them the strongest first step possible - even if it is a bit slower than they'd love.
Far too often, a personal trainer is so focused on delivering the weight loss, muscle gain, or performance growth to their client that they overlook the basic fundamentals of human physiology. Part of this failure lies on the shoulders of the trainer - as their skill sets aren't refined enough, nor their knowledge deep enough, to understand that a better body takes more work than just "fitness". They'll never let you know though..
I used to be that trainer too. Eager to deliver the results my clients desired, I often overlooked mobility or metabolic issues that were staring me straight in my face. It took time, 8 years to be exact, to push that way of thinking out of the picture and develop a system that has provided results that last. Now, I ensure every client can move well before they move for fitness or for specifics. I also ensure that my client's metabolism is ready to change their body. Shock is never the goal.
Today's blog examines the first step - Improving Movement and Improving Metabolic Quality
Improving Movement -
This emphasis is based predominantly on the thoughts and lessons by Gray Cook, creator of the Functional Movement Screen, and guru of all that is human movement. He is on record as saying we should, "move well, then move often". This point fits well on a power-point as he intended, but also fits perfectly for any clients program.
No matter how much "fitness" your client wants or needs it's imperative that you improve their quality of movement first. As Gray has pointed out on numerous occasions, you can't lead a client to their best life if they are still dealing with injuries, mobility issues, and stability problems.
A client that moves well will actually move more often - on their own - without you standing there telling them to do so. The fact stands that there are 168 hours in any given week, and even if your client works with you seven days a week, they'll still have 161 hours to mess it all up with poor posture, bad habits, and a lack of movement.
So, you start from the ground up and improve the mobility of their ankles, the stability of their knees, the mobility of their hips, and so on until you've opened up degrees of freedom that they were unsure that they had in the first place. You mobilize their thoracic spine and stabilize their shoulders and lumbar spine.
Whether you utilize the FMS or another screen - it is critical to see what type of movement your client presents when you meet them. Bench pressing someone who has very little shoulder mobility will lead to problems at some point, which will derail their training and damage their chance at achieving their fitness goals. Rushing someone to deadlift when they haven't even mastered a hinge is a sure-fire way to get them hurt, or at the very least, hate your training methods.
Someone didn't teach drizzy
You need to address the corrective approach by increasing their mobility and stability at the appropriate joints, activate underutilized muscles, and help remove negative tension via self-myofascial release techniques. This can all be accomplished in about ten minutes; not a moment more.
You'll notice that as your client begins moving better, they'll be more able to work hard during sessions, and more eager to do their homework on the days that they aren't with you. They'll figure out movement patterns faster and even start showing signs of mastery.
It's not as though you'll be pretending to be a physical therapist. In fact, that's well beyond your scope unless you are one. Rather, you'll be increasing the chances your client will achieve their ultimate goals because you took the time to address their needs.
There are plenty of ways to create the muscular and metabolic effect necessary to cause change during a session that you can still program. Whether it be machines, properly regressed exercises, or just keeping them moving for an entire session - you have tools in your box that you can pull on. Just ensure your client is ready to reach for the sky by addressing their needs first.
A client who moves better will move more often. It's just that simple.
Quality of the Metabolism
We've established that many trainers (and trainees) rush into doing advanced exercises way too soon based upon the movement capabilities of the person of interest. However, the oversight doesn't end there. A similar mistake often happens in terms of the metabolic demands of training and the function of food for the body.
Far too often people run, all puns intended, towards the HIIT formats, the boot camps, and the long, exhausting runs. They take an inactive body and immediately begin placing high level demands upon as though it was some primal beast just hibernating until the right time. Moreover, people will typically lessen their caloric intake, modify their carbohydrate loads, and go extended periods of time without consuming calories, especially prior to workouts.
All of these adjustments seem like they are going to be the perfect recipe for success. Deprive the body of calories and work out like a crazy person - surely you'll get lean quickly and start taking a more hardened shape.
Except you don't.
Looking beyond the psychological implications of such radical changes (which aren't to be scoffed at) - the physiological being is not going to do well. The various hormones in the body will not react the way the way one would hope, and more often than not, the individual will lose weight only to plateau and revert back to, or worse than, their original weight.
That's not good.
When you deprive the body of much needed fuel and radically ramp up the energy demands from exercise the body will begin to evacuate thousands of years of evolution in favor of it's basal instinct - Survival.
The hormone leptin tells the body to release body fat for use as energy due to a surplus of fat, and general calories, in the body. Yet, severe disruption of eating and exercise habits leads to the bottoming out of this hormone, and a consequential spike in ghrelin, a hormone responsible for hungry.
So, people end up being tired, hungry, and sore.
A great coach understands that the exercise should be a gradual introduction to advanced movement, while the dietary strategies should be focused on increasing the nutrient intake PRIOR to decreasing calories.
Some great strategies to ensure a better first step are:
1. Focus on clients need to increase vegetable intake before worrying about limited grains, starches, snacks, and even fruits. As they increase their vegetable intake - they'll often decrease the intake of these other foods. Aim to increase them by 2 servings of vegetables every two weeks until you get them to 8 to 10 servings per day.
2. Focus on increasing water intake instead of taking away the sodas and teas (at first). Often times people won't crave simple sugars nearly as intensely when they are hydrated. Drinking water will also prevent using a sugary beverage as a thirst quencher.
3. Increase protein in the major meals first, and then worry about shakes and bars. It's more important to establish healthy eating habits than it is to achieve a particular "number".
1. Focus on the compound movements and technique refinement. Don't race to increase the heart rate and create a dramatic thermogenic effect. Nothing beats a slow, steady race (The turtle, anyone?)
2. Emphasize building muscles in the posterior chain and improving posture before anything else. By increasing mass in the major movers (lats, glutes, hamstrings) - you'll increase their BMR. When you improve their posture - you'll help them actually burn more calories by increasing their breathing space...which impacts oxygen intake and fat burning.
3. Intensity should be managed throughout the entire session, emphasize quality movement in all planes instead of reckless patterns just to get repetitions done. Moreover, emphasize keeping them in motion by balancing high intensity exercises with lower ones, or even corrective moves.
4. Frequency trumps Intensity. Get them moving more often instead of trashing them and forcing them to rest.
Each of the aforementioned strategies will ensure that your clients are capable of making real change over time. The last thing we want to is to take the wrong first step. No injuries, no metabolic dysfunction, no psychological blow back - just results.
As we progress forward we'll establish what it means to build basic fitness. We'll explore the ways you'll adapt your programming to refine your client towards a specific goal. Moreover, we'll continue to improve the process that we take on new clients.