Archives For January 2014

Why don’t people come to the gym? I know, we as trainers know, that perhaps the biggest reason potential gym goers do not start is that they are scared. Scared of failure perhaps, but more so scared of embarrassment.

I see it all the time, people come in to our Fitwall gym, see our clients exercising doing things like pull-ups, speed skaters, pushups, crawling, etc and the onlooker immediately says “oh that’s too hard for me”.

Bullshit… what I think internally, because I don’t understand the intimidation factor with exercise. But perhaps, I think I know exactly what it feels like….my fiance loves to dance, I however do not. Partially it is because I’ve never actually had any fun dancing without some liquid encouragement, but mostly it is because I don’t wanna make an ass of my self on accident. So I don’t dance. If I substitute workout for dance, I understand exactly what’s going on-only it has much more serious implications on health and self confidence.

Our Fitwall workouts are quite athletic in nature, and people are scared that they will look goofy/silly/uncoordinated/etc, so we try to coddle and nurture and encourage as much as humanly possible without actually having a cry together feel better session during the workout-because the most important thing for someone to feel when starting a new program is safe and successful. Nobody gets their form ‘perfect’ right away, and I don’t think that matters as much as the scare mongering training crowd makes it seem to matter. Nobody gets real results in 2 weeks, despite all the 2 week drop 10lb silliness out there. We make sure to let our clients know that because we have 2 coaches in each group session, they will be safe and they will improve every time they come in.

Take a looksy at this article where brain activity is markedly different between normal body sized people and overweight/obese people. Basically, the gym looks like a fun or good idea to normal/fit people and looks like a scary or waste of time to a fat person. So it is up to us, to be a safe haven or at least as not scary as possible to help them come in to our gyms where we are doing “better” exercise than what they will get at Planet Fitness.  Now, while I think that planet fitness is largely a bullshit excuse for a gym that encourages non impactful training principles and basically is just a predator that wants to grab millions of people at $10/month who actually will never go but will never cancel their $10/month charge and doesn’t actually care at all about the people it is marketing to, they do have a very effective and pretty funny marketing campaign. (each of those words is a link to a really funny video). Seriously, planet fitness is fine if that gets someone working out, and I have lots of posts and every workshop I say “do whatever you enjoy, because that is the only thing you will consistently do long term.”

I personally believe that many many people have no interest in putting forth actual effort in their attempts to lose weight/get fitter. I see lots of people emerge from pilates and yoga studios with zero sweat on them. When they try one of my workouts it is hard by comparison. I believe that many people don’t want to do hard because 1. they are scared if they actually try they may still actually fail 2. they have been lied to that easy can get things done. The $10/month crowd or 1x/week crowd or don’t want to sweat crowd is NOT serious about making changes in their life, generally speaking.

The gym as a scapegoat? My perhaps cynical view is that some people just want to blame their workout. I’ve seen people who sign up for a membership who go 4 times in a month and complain they aren’t getting results. I see people who go 10 times a month but party every weekend and drink wine every night and have bagels and cereal every day (despite attempted food interventions) who complain they aren’t getting results. People often times just want to say that their exercise of choice didn’t work, and take zero ownership for why their own lifestyle choices is what is actually not working. I believe this plays a large role in why many people bounce from method to method-because they get to say “i tried everything”….except not eating like an asshole and getting some sleep! There are lots of success stories that end with “i decided to make a change, and committed to xyz” none say “ i decided to go to the gym a few times each month”. Here is how one of my first time client meetings went last year, and is definitely not the beginning of a success story…

Me “what’s your main goal?”

her “fat loss”

me while looking at self diet report “are you willing to give up Dr. Pepper and reese’s pieces?”

her “no.”

me “then your main goal is dr. pepper and reese’s pieces, not fat loss. I will get you stronger, and fitter, maybe leaner, but I guarantee nothing in terms of fat loss based on your diet”

I can tell you with confidence, she would’ve blamed me for her inability to lose fat if I didn’t say that….because she was blaming her previous trainer. We can be scapegoats. She wasn’t scared of failure, she wanted something to blame for failure other than herself.

furtherly meandering in a hard to follow blog…perhaps another way to decrease the gym intimidation is to focus on making it fun. I talked about it here. And the best example in the USA has gotta be Mark Fisher Fitness.  Make it more fun, it becomes less scary, you get more people, then they do good exercise, and they get better! oh ya

So who’s to blame? The gym staff or the potential clients? Nobody is to blame…some people just don’t want to be different than how they are. For every person who wants to have fun, and make changes, come see me and most coaches out there who really do want to make differences in peoples’ lives.

So what do you think? How do you get more people to come into your gym? How do you break down walls?

*If anyone misconstrues this as fat shaming, calm down. Fat is not meant to be a negative term here, it is a descriptor. also, I apologize how this got jumbled, my 30 minutes of edits somehow got lost, and my frustration with that made me decide to just post it up or else I’d risk going another 6months without a blog post.

I like to think of myself as a realist, and not an idealist. In my reality, not everyone can, and certainly not everyone should, squat ass to grass while exercising. 

I bolded exercising because my argument here is dependent on one caveat, which is this:


EXAMPLE: The lunge as an exercise vs the lunge as a movement.

It’s ridiculous to say that the knee should never go past the foot when lunging into the the bottom back corner of your closet to find that badass tie with skulls on it; sometimes your knee will go past your foot when moving around in life and THAT IS FINE. It’s different when you load it. If I put additional load, or perform a ton of repetitions, or change the pace at which I perform a movement in order to make it challenging and turn it into exercise, I need to make sure that I put my body in the best bio-mechanical positions in order to produce power safely, for the amount of time I am doing it, in order to keep the exercise safe, as many of the “suboptimal” positions for creating power rely on structural support vs muscular support. (think, a lunge where you have your knee pass your front foot relies more on the back of the ankle and on the knee structure for support relative to a lunge position where your front leg is 90 degrees bent) In exercise, if you continue to go to these suboptimal positions the demand on the structural bits of the body will continue to increase because the muscular contribution will lessen as fatigue sets in. This is why when exercising, form which places less relative load on structure, and more on muscular, is a better option.

Back to the squat…

Squatting as a movement and squatting as an exercise are two different things.

  • Butt wink! Beware the dreaded butt wink…it’s the plague of our generation and many strength coaches would have you believe that you shouldn’t have this happening…EVER. Well, the problem is, it is natural for every person at some depth, and even babies have the butt wink! Seriously, look at all the annoying pictures of “perfect” deep squat babies, and you’ll see most of them in a butt wink. But(t) it’s okay! The spine is made to flex, it’s made to allow for this to happen in movement…it only is a problem if you turn it into an exercise-by loading it, by doing it for lots and lots of reps, or by doing it explosively. Unweighted, and assuming no existing bulges or disc issues, a deep squat can be a goal, and can be improved by some smart mobilizations and more often by just practicing getting stronger at available ranges of motion. However, we need to be realistic and understand that sometimes structural, and not muscular limitations is why the butt wink exists, and because of this we shouldn’t spend ages trying to “fix” something that is just natural anyway. Exercise the squat under load, with reps, and explosively in the available ranges of motion where the muscular system is prioritized over the structural system-this means that many, aka most, will not be squatting ass to grass and that is ok. We can work those ranges in different exercises where the hips are taken out of the equation (single leg, split stances). Please watch this video with Stu McGill discussing anatomical reasoning as to why you shouldn’t squat past the butt wink, and then only apply his advice to exercise which is different than unloaded movement! Also check out this article which also discussing structural differences and how they can be the limiting factor for depth/position and that no matter how many lacrosse balls you own, you aren’t changing the shape of your skeleton. Some people are just not going to ever be able to squat ass to grass with feet close, or hip width, or ever. Those that can, will have a butt wink at some point, and probably are safer and better off not doing it under load
  • Bilateral limitations. I don’t think anyone has ever argued with me, maybe anyone, that if someone lacks the mobility to press a barbell over head in good position, that perhaps they should press a dumbbell or kettlebell so that the shoulder girdle/elbow/back doesn’t get jacked up as a result of compensation. Why can’t we understand that a bilateral squat is asking of the ankles/knees/hips/back the same thing, to move in certain ways while the feet are stuck in a certain position on the floor the same as hands on a barbell in an overhead press. Perhaps the answer isn’t to hammer that screw into the ground with a hammer, perhaps the answer is to grab a freaking screwdriver instead. Aka, take Ben Bruno/Mike Boyle/others’ advice and do more single leg stuff and still get really strong. If you aren’t planning competing in bilateral squatting competitions, doing more and more weight in that position grants you no special powers, doesn’t make you taller, and won’t get you laid. So maybe take the safer route with less limitations and just maybe get more athletic as a result by taking stances which allow you to place more stress on muscles and less on structure.
  • Ankles-most people really need soft tissue work on the lower leg, ankles, and feet, and will likely be able to get a little big lower based on this. However, some, will have that ankle impingement issue and they won’t get that better with voodoo floss, the stick, or anything else. Bone into bone..that shit doesn’t change.

Now…you should want to improve your existing mobility, just understand that you can’t all become gumby. We also probably want to increase our structural (tendon/ligament) capacity to resist injury-and that means challenging it. This is why Andreo Spina, Dewey Nielson, Ido Portal and others talk about and teach that we should explore our movement capacities, our ranges of motion-and how it is a journey not a race. Those structural bits take a long ass time to change, and it’s ongoing—truly “use it or lose it”. An example is in high school my 80 year old coach had us walk on the outside of our ankles every single day to strengthen and familiarize our bodies with that potential in the hopes that it would somewhat prepare us for that possibility. I think that this has merit, Gary Gray is another person who champions this type of approach.  Just be smart about how far you take it! Standing up from crossed legged floor sitting position is a great drill to practice challenging the body, but you probably shouldn’t 1RM that drill! In life you will pick stuff up that is a little too far in front of you and you can’t keep your back perfectly neutral-but let’s not train that possibility just because it’s a possibility.

The body is made to be resilient, but it must be challenged to be that way. This creates the opportunity for some truly stupid attempts at preparing the body to be resilient, so be careful while trying new movements and earning new ranges of motion.

My approach is…

  • Do bodyweight stuff as best as you can and in as many ways as you can
  • aggressively load your available and owned ranges of motion.
  • add specific attacks at improving your limitations with foam roller, lacrosse, scientific stretching etc.
  • Do weighted romanian deadlifts and pull overs (aka the RDL of the upper body) because the loaded eccentrics will probably improve your flexibility more than the yoga class your are doing.
  • Be smart

In summary: don’t think you can get everyone to squat ass to grass, don’t think you suck if you can’t, don’t think that it’s a good idea to load limitations, don’t think that bilateral squatting is an exercise that cures cancer, and above all…exercise is not the same as movement! Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean it should be loaded, repeated, or done explosively.