Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Joe DeFranco on rotator cuff warmups

Joe DeFranco put up a good video showing both band-resisted (which could also be cable-resisted) and dumbbell/plate rotator cuff warmups for the bench press:

I come from a background where we use those and a warmup by Diesel Crew (shown here by someone else) before anyone does any kind of pressing - bench, dumbbell bench, overhead pressing, angled pressing, etc. The weights seem light at best and dinky at worst, but they're what is needed for the job.

In fact, every client I have has done the 4-way pull aparts at some point, and most do them in their warmup every session, pressing or not. The few that don't get those motions baked into other movements. For me it's a fundamental series of movements worth every second spent working on them.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Purpose of Personal Training

Personal training does not give you results. It gives you the best chance to get results.

I endeavor to provide the following things:


Once you sign up for training sessions, you're accountable to someone else. If you have a scheduled workout, it's on two people's schedules. You can't just skip - generally, if you just skip, you're paying for that session and getting less results and letting someone else down.

Just for that, having someone else there to train with and train for makes you externally accountable. You have a check against skipping. You have a check against failure. And you have someone else there to make you feel like you have something to live up to.


This is answering, "What now?" - what is the next thing you need to do to get your results? If your goals change, how does your training need to train?

That can be as simple as, "again, faster" or "again, heavier." But it can (and often is) more complex than that. "Again, but lighter." "This new movement instead of that." "This approach instead of that." "These movements you hate to do but need instead of that one you like but don't benefit from." Again, the best chance to succeed.


This is making sure you are doing what you intend to do in a safe, effective, and efficient manner. Expertise helps you learn to move well, load properly, and do so in the dose you need.

And that's it - personal training is giving you three tools, in the form of an external coach, that gives you the best chance to succeed. You still have to do the work, and do it with consistency, but you've multiplied your results by getting someone's help. That's the service personal trainers like myself provide.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Single-Leg Squat video

I'm up on Instagram putting a client through an eccentric single leg squat exercise:

This is one I swiped shamelessly from Mike Guadango at Freak Strength. Controlled descent with weight on one leg, standing up with both legs. So you get a relatively heavily loaded eccentric (sitting down) portion of the exercise, with a safe landing if there is any issue with the rep, followed by a light two-legged standup. This worked wonders for own my knee issue, and conversations with Mike about why led me to bring it over from the athletic training environment to the more general health-and-healthy-movement training that I do.

You can generally perform an eccentric movement - lowering a weight - with a heavier load than you can perform a concentric movement. Therefore you can use a little heavier load with this than someone could easily use for standing up on one leg, allowing for a better strength improvement. You also tend to get strength in a slightly large range of motion than the one you use. So I can put a box-and-pads at a height just at the level that someone can perform the exercise and get them stronger there and at a lower height as well. If necessary, I can slowly work up and then remove a pad (or put a smaller one on) and work them up there, until we reach the desired height.

That's not a complete explanation of the whys and hows of the exercise, but it's one of the main reasons I find this exercise so useful for knee issues. I've also found it's useful for clients with large side-to-side leg strength differences. Nothing irons it out like slowly lowering to a box under a load.

Monday, February 6, 2017

When Clients Say Thank You

The other day, one of my clients thanked me for his results.

That's not that uncommon. It's happened a few times.

I used to say, "You're welcome." But honestly, I'm not doing the work.

What I am doing is not nothing - I am providing expertise. Equipment. A safe and productive training environment. A degree of motivation and a lot of accountability.

But I'm not lifting the weights.

I'm not passing on the treats.

I'm not cooking and eating those vegetables and healthy protein sources.

I'm not pushing the Prowler or dragging the sled or sitting deeply into that stretch to clear up your issues.

That's all my clients.

I'm providing direction, but all the work is theirs.

Yet, at the same time, I've thanked my own coach. I know all too well the difference between my results training myself and my results under his watchful eye. As a client it seems like the trainer is the reason you're succeeding. As the trainer, it seems like the client is the reason the client is succeeding.

So for all I do, when someone thanks me for the results, it's hard not to say, "You did it, not me." I'm not being self-effacing. I'm telling the truth. I'd have lifted those weights for you if that would get you results . . . but it's you lifting them that got you what you wanted to get.

It's the client, not me. And that's what's so great about this job.
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