Category Archives: Personal Trainer Education

3 Things I’ve Learned From Todd Durkin


Over the past 3 years I’ve been lucky enough to become good friends with Todd Durkin. If you don’t know who Todd is you can check his site out here; But if I were to describe Todd in only a couple of words, it would be life transformer. He’s been one of the main reasons that both my life and career have grown exponentially in such a short time. And although I’ve learned a ton from TD, I want to share my biggest 3 lessons from him.

Lesson #1: Give Everything You’ve Got. And then some.

If you know TD, then I know you’ve heard him say this dozens of times. But I believe that sometimes it’s easy for us to let words go in one ear and out the other without really taking them in.

Instead of just doing a good job or what people expect from you, over deliver every time you interact with them. The world is made up of millions of people who settle for average, but this isn’t what makes you truly great. For me, I’m always asking myself, could I have done more or what would Todd have done in that situation.

Now I can’t think of any better way to show you what I mean about “and then some” than to tell you about the first time I met TD. On a trip back to see my family for Christmas, my partner Kristy and I decided to spend a few days in San Diego before we hit the snow. We had scheduled to do a PT session at Fitness Quest 10 (Todd’s gym) with one of his trainers, Brett Klika , who actually won the IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year award last year, but that’s a whole other story.

We had seen Todd in his office working away, but didn’t have the chance to actually meet him, but he was busy so we didn’t think twice. After our session we were walking out to our car, in the dark, and we heard this voice yell from behind “Hey guys….guys!” We turned around to see a man running towards us, and thought what the hell does this guy want!

To our shock it was Todd. And he had chased us down because he felt bad that he hadn’t had a chance to meet us and to say thank you for coming to Fitness Quest 10 on our vacation. He then proceeded to tell us it was because he was on a business call and that he was still on it so he had to run back inside to finish it. But he told us he wanted to make sure that he had the chance to thank us.

Now how many gym owners would do that? And that’s exactly what “and then some” is. Making the time or effort no matter what.

Lesson #2: Be There for People

This one probably seems like a given and something that everyone does but I would be to say there are differing levels of this. And Todd has shown me what it really means.

Whether it’s taking that extra second to connect with someone at a convention, or reaching out to ask how someone is doing, TD embodies this. He’s an extremely busy man, much busier than anyone I’ve ever known, but if someone needs something he finds the time.

After only knowing Todd for 18 months I was over in San Diego and really wanted to sit down and get some advice and guidance on some things going on in my career. This is also the same time he has all his NFL guys in preparing for training camp, as well as prime conference time. Basically, his busiest time of the year! But guess what? He made time, and not just 5 minutes. He rearranged things so he had 60 minutes to spend with me.

Actually, while I’m writing this I’m waiting on a call from Todd. This morning a very unique opportunity has come up, but I’m not sure how to deal with it, so messaged him to ask for his advice. Instead of just telling what he thinks, he is going to call me to discuss it and come up with a solution. He’s the type of person who is always there for you.

Lesson #3: How to be World Class in the Fitness Industry

Only because I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with Todd not only in his gym, but at various conventions I’ve been able to watch how he conducts himself. He truly is a one of a kind individual in everything he does.

There are so many small things I’ve picked up from him that I wouldn’t even know where to start. But that’s part of the lesson. It’s all these little things that make you world class. From the way you speak to people to the questions you ask to the words you use to the energy you give. Todd is truly world class in every aspect of his life.

If you know TD then I’m sure that you relate to at least one of these. And if you’ve never met Todd I would highly recommend to go hear him speak or even better check out his 3.5 day mentorship.

And for those of you who have met Todd I would love to hear in the comments section below what Todd has taught you.


Don’t Be Too Pure


After spending a great weekend with Martin Rooney, this was one of a few things that really resonated with me. He brought up the concept of being so pure with what we do as fitness professionals that we lose touch of the actual client. This is something that I can say without doubt that I have been guilty of in the past, and working with a number of other fit pro’s, see it all too often.

So ask yourself the question, are you too pure with what you do with your clients? Now you might be thinking what the heck is he talking about? And all this means is don’t let what you think is the scientifically proven “best” thing for your client get in the way of what might be the best thing for your client on a given day. That may mean that sometimes you might want to pick an exercise for the simple reason that your client loves it. Or completely scrap the periodised program for today, for a bit of an impromptu fun to lift your client’s spirits.

One thing that can often get lost in the world of fitness is the fact that it is part science and part art. And if you’re only looking after one side, you’re doing a disservice to your clients. This is the exact reason why you’ve seen trainers who have lots of clients, yet don’t really know how to coach a squat properly or put together a solid program. But you’ll also see the most technically sound trainer who would be able to tell you, to the degree, how much lumbar flexion every one of their clients has during a squat, struggle to get clients.

It’s because these trainers are only focused on the art or the science of being a trainer. Do you think telling your client not to go to Zumba once a week because she loves it, is really helping her? Last time I checked moving around, getting a sweat up and laughing are all good things. Would that same client benefit from doing a couple of resistance training sessions each week too? Damn right, but if you’re the trainer telling her she can’t do Zumba, you’re probably not going to be able to help her see the benefit of weight training long term.

So don’t be so pure that you remove all the fun from your clients training. If you take a step back and realise without the enjoyment that is associated with exercise, your clients may not stick with their training very long. Because when you think about what we are actually asking our clients to do, we seem crazy. Come in, do a bunch of hard work that’s going to make it hard to lift your hands over your head and wash your hair. Oh, and you might have a hard time getting back up off the toilet.

Train smart, but don’t be so pure and forget exercise is fun.

Clearing Up Shoulder Pain


If you’ve ever had a client with shoulder issues you know how tricky they can be. And, if you’ve suffered any shoulder injuries or pain you know exactly what I’m talking about. But the worse thing of all is that there is so much information out there, with conflicting opinions that it’s hard to figure out who and what to believe.

So with all this information out there I decided to give you some great articles to help you understand the shoulder a bit better. These aren’t the easiest reads around, but I think if you take some time to read and digest them you’ll really take your game to the next level with understanding how the shoulders work.

One thing that I would strongly recommend for you to do with all your clients is to look at these 3 things before you start training them.

1) Clear for acromioclavicular impingement

2) Clear for Sub acromial impingement

3) Check thoracic extension

Obviously you want to know if there is any impingement before you start training a client. If there is, you should be sending them out to get checked by the appropriate health care practitioner. This way they can do an in depth assessment and give you directions on exactly what your client can and cannot do.

Acromioclavicular impingement typically causes pain in your client when they take their arm into abduction, around the top of the movement. The pain is caused when the rotator cuff and bursa get pinched or impinged underneath the acromion, so the simple test is to see if there is any pain when the client takes their arm across their chest.

A simple clearing test for subacromial impingement is to have your client place their hand on their opposite shoulder and imagine they are holding down a $20 bill on it. Now have them lift their elbow towards the ceiling. If they get any pain before they get to at least 120° that’s a positive sign that there may be some impingement.

Checking that your client can extend their thoracic spine is the most common one of the three that trainers check. If your client is unable to extend their thoracic spine and pick up their first rib angle then we should not be asking them to do any overhead lifting. The reason for this is that the head of the humerus won’t sit properly in the glenoid, which will cause wear and tear over time.

So there you have 3 quick and easy clearing tests to do with you clients to determine if there are any underlying issues that need to be further investigated.

If you want to go a bit deeper, here are 8 great articles that will take your knowledge of how the shoulder works to a whole new level.

The Truths About Shoulder Impingement Pt 1 by Eric Cressey

The Truths About Shoulder Impingement Pt 2 by Eric Cressey

All Things Thoracic Spine Pt 1 by Dean Somerset

All Things Thoracic Spine Pt 2 by Dean Somerset

All Things Thoracic Spine Pt 3 by Dean Somerset

So Your Shoulder Hurts……by Tony Gentilcore

Shoulder Packing by Joe Sansalone (via Bret Contreras)

And for the super trainer geeks:

Current Concepts in the Scientific and Clinical Rationale Behind Exercises for Glenohumeral and Scapulothoracic Musculature

Handicapping FILEX 2014


Every year the line up at FILEX gets exponentially better and I know from talking to some of the other presenters that FILEX now rivals any other fitness convention worldwide. And I feel safe in agreeing with this after speaking and attending some of the biggest fitness conventions in the world like IDEA World, CanFitPro, and the Perform Better Summits.

With so many amazing workshops and presenters it’s hard to figure out who to go see in each time slot. So I’m going to give you a breakdown of who I’m going to see, as well as some of the other best options in each time slot. Now this is just my opinion, so I would love to hear who you’re going to see too! (sidenote: I got this idea from Michael Boyle who handicaps the Perform Better Summit each year)

Friday Sessions

Friday Session-1The first time slot of the day (10:30-12pm) is an absolute powerhouse of names with Todd Durkin, Len Kravitz, Evan Osar, Michol Dalcourt and Rodney Corn but for me I’ve gotta start FILEX off right and go with my main man TD in his IMPACT Challenge. I’ve helped Todd with this one at IDEA World last year and it’s awesome! If you’re looking to get your nerd on I’d go with either Evan Osar’s Earn the Right to Run or the ever geeky Dr Len Kravitz’s Stress, Cortisol and Obesity lecture.

Friday Session-2The 1:30-3pm slot could be even harder to pick with Durkin, Osar, Chuck Wolf, Frank Nash, Paul Taylor, Cassidy Phillips and Fraser Quelch all having a session on offer. Paul Taylor is one of the best presenters you’ll ever hear and his Silent Killer lecture will be stellar as always I’m sure! Frank Nash is a social media genius and since I helped convince Frank to come over and speak this is obviously the choice if you want to learn social media. Chuck, Evan and Cassidy’s talk all attract the inner geek and Fraser’s will no doubt be a great hands on session, but I’m going with Todd again. His talk The Road to World Class will no doubt be a game changer. If you know anything about TD you’ll know what he’s created, so that’s where I’ll be.

Friday Session-3At 3pm it will be a toss up between Rodney Corn and Michol Dalcourt. These two are both super smart but since I’m lucky to call Michol a good friend I think I’m going to head over to see Rodney. I met Rodney last year at IDEA World as I was speaking straight after him and caught the end of his talk. Plus anyone who gives their session name a gangsta twist like Change the Game, Not the Player, has got to be good.

Friday Session-4Rolling into the last session of the day, I’ll be heading to see Chuck Wolf’s Shouldering the Load from the Ground Up. But if you haven’t got your workout for the day in you might want to go see Amy Dixon (Kettlebell Body Blast) and my fellow Canadian Fraser Quelch (TRX Advanced Core Training). You could also attend Mark Buckley’s talk on the Sacroilliac Joint if you’re brain has any room left.


saturday Session-1As if Friday wasn’t hard enough to pick, Saturday only gets harder!

It’s always great to get moving first off, unless you’d been a bit too social the night before so I’ll be in The Complete Boot Camp Package session run by Todd Durkin. But if you’re feeling a little less energetic you might want to check out either Evan Osar (The No Stretch Solution to Chronic Tightness), Michol Dalcourt (The Foot and Ankle) or Len Kravitz (The physiology of Fat Loss). But if you choose one of these better make sure you’re awake and ready to pay attention.

saturday Session-2Next up we’ve got Aussie Anthony Spark speaking on how to package your PT products, which I know will be great. You’ve also got a great hands on with Dan McDonogh about bodyweight training and Chuck Wolf speaking on Low Back Considerations. All great choices so I’m not sure and I think it will be a last minute decision between Rodney Corn & Cassidy Phillips talking about Stress Mindset and Soft Tissue Preparation and Ian O’Dwyer’s Isolation vs Integration.

saturday Session-3After lunch you’ve got two great functional fitness talks by Rodney Corn and Chuck Wolf, two great science/research talks with Len Kravitz and Mark McKean or two amazing business talks by Justin Tamsett and Michael Port. I’ll probably be sitting in Rodney’s talk on When eMotion meets motion as I think understanding the emotional side of our clients is one of the future trends of the fitness industry.

saturday Session-4Then as 3pm rolls around I’ll have my first session on training the glutes so of course I’d say that one is a good one! If I weren’t speaking I would probably go watch my buddy Frank Nash speaking on how to systemise your small group training, or another friend, Michael Cunico, and his interesting talk on the 7 habits of highly effective PT’s. There’s also a great hands on session if you work with MMA athletes with Tarek Chouja or you can get your geek on with Michol (Function and Footwear) Tony Boutagy (A Practical Approach to Hypertrophy) or Evan Osar (Strategies for Improving Hip Function).

saturday Session-5I’ll be ending my Saturday the same way I started it, with Todd Durkin! Train the Joes Like the Pro’s is a high energy hands on session perfect before a night of heavy “socializing”. If you’re body is too tired but you brain is still working, check out Len Kravitz Metabolic Conditioning or Wolf’s Training Movements, not Muscles.


Now we come up to the hardest session for attendees to make, Sunday 8am, and it looks like the FILEX crew have added some extra incentive to get up because this time slot is stacked! You’ve got Rodney Corn, Tony Boutagy, Justin Price, Dan McDonogh, Cassidy Phillips and Michol Dalcourt. I’ll probably be sitting in Dan’s talk on avoiding burnout as this topic appeals to me most, but any of these guys would be a great choice for Sunday morning!

Now you’ve had time to recover and grab a bit to eat, you’ve again got a lot of choices at 1pm. Between Fraser, Michol, Wolf, McKean and O’Dwyer it is impossible to make a bad choice here. I’m going with Chuck Wolf’s talk on regressions as this is a topic I think more trainers need to learn about at a deeper level.

And to finish off the conference I will be doing my Bodyweight Bootcamp session and I’ve even got some equipment shipped in from the US just for this session. But I will miss hearing Paul Taylor who has a lecture on at the same time. So if I don’t see you hopefully you’re listening to Paul because I know it will be awesome!

So there you have it, my run down of FILEX 2014. There are a ton of great talks and presenters and you’re in for a great weekend! Make the most of the weekend by talking with and exchanging idea’s with your fellow fit pro’s, because that’s the most valuable thing you’ll get out of the entire weekend. Hopefully my rundown helps you out, but I would love to hear who you’re going to see because like I said at the start, this is only my opinion.

See you in Melbourne!

Twelve Fit Pro’s That Will Make a Splash in 2014


This is not one of those typical lists of “the top fitness professionals” that you may have seen appearing now that it’s the start of another year. There is a mixture of both big names, up and comers, and some sleeper’s (as I like to term them) that encompass this list. It’s my “Dynamic Dozen” fitness professionals who I think will make a splash (all in their own unique ways) in 2014.

Now before I go through everyone I want to make one thing clear, this is by no means in any order so I don’t want to hear any arguments that someone should have been ranked higher!


Todd-DurkinYou won’t find a more humble and integral guy in the fitness industry, which sadly these days is becoming less and less. If you ever get a chance to meet TD it’s an opportunity you should not pass up, as he has a ton of knowledge and insight to pass on. And you’ll leave feeling fired up and ready to take on the world. Not only does Todd train numberous NFL, NBA and MLB players, an awesome facility called Fitness Quest 10, but he also does a ton of speaking both in the fitness and corporate world.

With his release on his Fitness Business Success System at the end of 2013 you can just feel that Todd’s got some big things ahead for 2014. His website is (and be sure to check out the article he just put out on 137 Ways to Make 2014 Your Best Year Yet)


frank-nashFrank is one of the funniest guys in the industry (if not a bit of a nerd). He’s got a great sense of humour, but even better he’s a very switched on trainer and businessman. He’s got a successful gym called Frank Nash Training Systems in Worcester, Massachusetts, and runs Fitness Click which provides social media help for fitness professionals.

But in 2014 I know Frank is not only making a number of presentations around the US, but he’s also going international as one of the featured presenters at Australia’s major fitness convention (FILEX), along with some accompanying workshops down under. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg for him this year. And where else would you find a nerd who has a social media company but on Facebook at


martin-rooneyMartin has been on a crusade against obesity for the last few years and his Training for Warriors program is set for a ground-breaking year in 2014. With workshops and speaking engagements around the world, making sure you see Martin live should be on your to-do list for this year (you can thank me later). Martin absolutely oozes passion and enthusiasm.

There are not many people who can stand up and talk for 3 hours and leave you wanting more, but that’s exactly what you get every time Martin speaks. If the last 2 years is any indication for what he has in store for 2014, then you should closely follow because everything he puts out is world class. Check out to see when and where Martin will be in 2014 (and I HIGHLY recommend checking out his DOJO, it’s money well invested!).


KhaledNow this is a name a lot of you will have never have heard of, but you will. Khaled is the founder of the NorCal Fitness Summit up in the Bay Area of California. Frustrated that there wasn’t any top notch fitness events up his way he did what anyone else would do and just created one! Last year he hosted the inaugural event and is already assembling an amazing line up for his next one this April. Although he’s not announced the presenter’s I know that Dan John is one of the headliners.

Khaled is one of my sleepers, but he’s a hustler and really wants to help improve the fitness industry so keep a look out for what he’s up to. And if you’re looking for a great event in April go to

Chad Wesley Smith

Chad-Wesley-SmithIf you’ve not heard of the Juggernaut Training System then you better go check out what Chad Wesley Smith has been quickly putting together for the past few years. You’ll be hard pressed to find better information on getting strong (I mean really strong) than on their site

The team of people Chad has assemble are top notch and are the type of people that when they open their mouths you should be quiet and listen. And by the look of it 2014 will be the tipping point for Chad and the Juggernaut team.

Vito La Fata

VitoHere’s another name you may not be familiar with, but Vito has been masterminding and attending high end workshops with some of the biggest names in Internet Marketing (Jeff Walker, Brendon Burchard, Dan Kennedy, and Frank Kern) and has been the “behind the scenes” guy of a couple of industry leaders program launches.

After speaking with him at the end of the year, I know he’s got some big things planned for 2014. So whether you actually know he’s behind it, Vito is going to make some major splashes in the industry this year. Go and check him out at his site

Rob King

rob-kingRob is another one of my sleepers on this list. He is a relentless worker who’s established both an online business and two booming physical businesses in the not so booming province of Newfoundland. And he tends to be at almost EVERY convention, workshop or conference related to fitness. To top this off he is a very modest and quiet guy who is a testament to the fitness industry.

Know I have no idea what Rob has planned for 2014, but I’ve got a feeling whatever it is he ends up doing we’ll finally notice it. I’m excited to see what Rob comes out with, so jump over to his site at

David Dellanave

David-DellanaveHow can you not like a guy so obsessed with deadlifting he wrote an entire book on it? Over the last 12 months David’s name has been showing up more and more all over the Internet, as well as in some major fitness publications which leads me to believe there is a lot more to come in 2014.

David is probably smarter than he gives himself credit for, along with a great sense of humour, which has him poised to make some waves this year. Make sure to check out his stuff on biofeedback at his site

Rick Mayo

rick-mayoRick has quietly gone along building up a reputation as the go to guy when it comes to implementing a training business based on group training. If you’ve ever heard him speak you’d have to agree that you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who packs more information into 90 minutes than he does. He blends the training geek with the business savvy like no one I’ve ever seen.

And he does all this without any ego and little bit of southern charm. If you want to improve your business in 2014 then you NEED to make it to an event where Rick is speaking (check out for some events he’s at). Be sure to check out his other site as well.

Josh Henkin

Josh-HenkinCalling Josh a sleeper for 2014 would almost be an insult. Although he’s very well know for his Ultimate Sandbags and his great educational program Dynamic Variable Resistance Training, he tends to stay under the radar with his laid back, unassuming nature. I’m predicting big things for Josh and his team at Ultimate Sandbags for 2014.

There has been a lot of work and focus put on creating an outstanding course, both the content and the experience, and I think that this will be the year that the DVRT program explodes across the globe. If you haven’t check him out go to or go check out some of the 100’s of video’s Josh has up on his youtube page ( Mark my words, 2014 is the year of the Ultimate Sandbag.

AJ Roberts

AJ-RobertsAJ knows how to use the Internet to dramatically improve your business, in which he made 7 figures in his early 20’s. Having worked with some of the top Internet Marketers on the planet, he knows his shit. He’s also been a world champion powerlifter, so it’s safe to say that when he puts his mind towards something he gets it done.

And AJ has now dedicated himself to the fitness industry this coming year, so I can only imagine the kind of affect he will have on it. That and he’s set his mind on now competing in bodybuilding! It will be an interesting year and I’m very excited to see what AJ has planned. So make sure you check him out over on Facebook where I know he’s at on a daily basis (

Scott Rawcliffe

Scott-HeadShot-smallI know, I know. I’ve included myself on this list but here me out. The reason I did it was because I’ve set some lofty goals for the upcoming year and plan on achieving them. Over the last 12 months I’ve spoke at some of the top conventions in the world, along with talking at a number of private facilities and have set the intention to improve the fitness industry.

I plan on doing this by bringing the fitness community closer together with my upcoming podcast specifically for fitness professionals (Stay Tuned). And by focusing on simplifying everything from business building to Facebook marketing to programming and exercise prescription for fitness professionals. Clearing the muddy waters of fitness for lack of a better term.

So I look forward to helping bring you the best and brightest minds in the fitness world and sharing my journey and everything I’ve learned along the way.

I’d love for you to tell me who you’d like to hear on the podcast or what topics you’d like to see covered. And if you want to be the first to know when the podcast goes live make sure to go over to my Facebook page and LIKE it.

Here’s Your Content Packed Guide to Exercise Regressions and Progressions just for reading this post

3 Simple Tips for the Deadlift


At a recent in service I was giving for a local PT Studio I came to the realisation that sometimes what I think is common knowledge for personal trainers is NOT. Now before you think that I am about to get all high and mighty I will be the first to admit that there are many people out there that are much smarter than me. But one thing that I continuously hear when I’m speaking to other trainers is that I make things easy to understand.

Now I’m not sure if that’s because it’s an actual gift that I was given, or if I’m just not smart enough to make it anything other than simple. Either way I’ll take it as a compliment and try to give you some quick, simply fixes for improving your clients deadlift.

Tip #1
Figure out which style suits your client.

Over the years I’ve learned that one style does not fit all when it comes to deadlifting. Some of your clients will have no problem doing conventional deadlifts yet struggle with sumo deadlifts, while others will be the exact opposite.

Baring that your client isn’t going to be competing in powerlifting I think there is a simple way to chose the best style for your client to use. It’s the one that they don’t look awkward doing. It’s as simple as that.

If your client struggles to get in the right starting position or can’t keep an arch in their lower back with one of these variations, give them the one that looks natural. I could go into all the reasons why, but you don’t have time to listen to my ramblings (I’m impressed that you’ve actually got this far in my article).

Get your client to try a couple conventional deadlifts and a couple of sumo’s. Whichever one looks more natural is their new style.

Tip #2
Create Tension

The biggest reason I see people in the gym fail at deadlifts (because of course my clients would never do this) is their inability or lack of knowledge, to create as much tension in the body before the lift.

(speaking of deadlift fail….I just couldn’t leave this video out)

You may be wondering what I mean by this and it’s pretty simple.

1) Squeeze the bar hard

2) Try to bend the bar (causing tightness in the lats)

3) Get as much tension in the hamstrings without rounding your low back

These are the three main keys that I believe will help you clients in their deadlift. As the weight gets heavier, it’s these energy leaks or lack of tightness, which will cause their form to go to crap. If you can teach them to create as much tightness in their lats and hamstrings as possible you’ll probably start to see much better form without having to say anything else to them.

Tip #3
Focus on the Horizontal

You’ll be amazed at how many people think of the deadlift as a vertical pull, but in reality if you think of it as more of a horizontal hip drive, you’ll be amazed at the ease of a once heavy weight.

An analogy first used by Mark Rippetoe was thinking of your hips as a bow and arrow. And this kind of ties in to Tip #2. If you build the tension in the hamstrings by pushing your hips back, it’s like pulling back on the bow. The further back you pull the bow (create tension in the hamstrings) the more force it will exert once you let you (drive your hips).

Try this the next time you deadlift. Create the tension in the hamstrings, and then instead of thinking of pulling the bar off the floor, instead think of driving the hips forward.

If the lift doesn’t feel a lot lighter, you’re doing something wrong.

So those are my three quick tips for helping improve your client’s deadlifting. Hopefully this helps you with your clients, but like always make sure you try these things out first so that you can better coach your clients. If you’ve got some quick tips that you like to use I’d love to hear them below.

The Power of Regression


Do you have a regression and progression for every exercise that you do with your clients? If you want to distinguish yourself from all the other trainers in our field and have a successful business, the ability to make an exercise easier or harder is one key skill you need to have!

With the future of the fitness industry moving towards more group training, whether it be 2-4 people training together with their own individual program or large metabolic ass kicking’s and bootcamps, you better make sure your programming is tight. And this means knowing how to regress or progress every exercise in that program

We’ve all Trained Bob Before

So here’s the situation. Bob, one of your normal Tuesday 6am clients, comes in and you’ve got the perfect program all ready for him. But during the warm up he tells you that his backs been bugging him since Friday. Oh oh…… Still think doing those deadlifts and bent over rows is going to be a good idea? Hopefully you know what you’re going to regress these to. Even worse, imagine if Bob doesn’t tell you during the warm up, he tells you during his first set. Now the pressure’s on to come up with an alternative and quick!

Now I’m not saying this to sound all high and mighty, I’m telling you because I’ve been in that situation before. And had to um and ah while I tried to think of what exercise I should give instead. It was thru the stress of that moment that I realized I better know how to change things based on a well thought out process, as opposed to just going with the first thing I could think of in the pressure of the moment. But it could have been even worse had I been training numerous clients at the same time! And that’s what I see far too often in gyms today.

It’s Imperative to Your Business

Not only should we have a plan or system of regressing all our exercises so that we are not reinforcing poor movement patterns or potentially injuring our clients, but we should also know how we can progress exercises for variety of clients we have. Because with these clients it’s not a case of poor movement patterns or injury, it’s a case of losing them as a paying member. If I’m paying you to train and it’s not challenging me then I’m not going to stick around too long. The worse thing about this client is they’ll just leave and you’ll probably never know why they stopped training with you.

The Crossfit Conundrum

What’s the biggest criticism that we in the fitness industry make or hear about Crossfit? It’s unsafe or too many people get hurt. And now I agree with this (to a certain degree) the reason for this all comes down to one thing. Not having smart regressions and progressions. Now let me make myself clear, I’m not cutting down Crossfit, because there are other bad trainers out there, but with Crossfit we are able to tar them all with the same brush. So just like the rest of the industry, there are good ones and bad ones out there. And the great Crossfit boxes out there are the one’s that have their programming down, but the ones that just throw the same exercises at all their members without altering them based on the individual’s capabilities are the ones that we hear about. So this is a prime example of the need to know your regressions and progressions!

They’ll Think I Don’t Know

There is nothing wrong to have a list of all your progressions and regressions in your pocket or on a clipboard you carry around the gym. I’ve heard way too many trainers tell me they don’t want to do that because they think their clients will think they don’t know what they are doing if they pull out a list from their pocket. My response is “Are you kidding me!? Your client is thinking, my trainer is so prepared he had already marked down what they want me to do next.” You will stand out to your client, because you’re not just winging it like so many other trainers out there do.

We Are Professionals

So don’t use this as an excuse to be less prepared than you should be. Our clients pay us a lot of money for the service we provide and I like to consider our profession to be filled with professionals. So if we want to be looked at as professionals we need to start acting like it. And it’s ok if you don’t have a list because I’ve put together a 7 level regression/progression list together for the 5 major movement patterns (push, pull, hinge, squat, lunge) to help you get started. You can download it below and then print it off and start using it today.

Cueing Is Key


What We Say MATTERS!

If you think that just yelling out a bunch of different cues in really helping your clients, then you are in for a rude awakening. If you really want to get the most from your clients and have them finally master the exercises you prescribe then this post is a must read for you.

Have you ever had a client that it seems no matter what you say, they just can’t seem to get it. Come on, you know who I’m talking about, but for this post let’s just call him “Pat”. Every week Pat comes in, and every week it seems like Pat’s never done a push up in his life.

His hips are too high…

He bobs his head up and down likes he’s (well I’ll just let that one be)…

When he gets tired he let’s his hips sag…

ARGHHHH!!! Pat……have you not heard a word I’ve said over the last 4 weeks! is what you want to say. But maybe it’s not Pat’s fault. Maybe it’s the cues you’ve been using? Or maybe we just need to understand how one simple tweak can make all the difference in the world.

Categories of Cues

There are basically two categories of cues; Internal Focus Cues and External Focus Cues. And boy oh boy do they make a difference in making your job easier as a coach!

Let’s start by defining what each one is.

Internal Focus is when the primary focus is on the body, for example the muscles, and the associated movement process, like extend you hips.

External Focus is when the primary focus is on the movement outcome, like jump high, and the associated affect on the environment, such as push off the ground.

And out of these 2; giving a cue with an external focus will win every single time!

Is Having an External Focus Really Better?

The reason why using an external focus when cueing will always out perform an internal focus is that we are telling our client how we want them to interact with the environment. They no longer have to think about what to do, they are just going to react. And isn’t that what we want our clients to do, especially if you are working with athletes, whether it’s professionals or our weekend warriors. If our client has to think about how they are going to cut to the right to avoid the defender on the soccer pitch, do you really think he is going to do it in a timely manner?

And let’s be serious, when we tell our clients to extend their hips, how many of them actually know what that means? We all know what that means, but when has our client ever thought “oh I better make sure to extend my hips when I jump over that rail”?

It Feels Good….yeah!

Now I may have dated myself a bit, but if you know who Tony Toni Tone is, you’ll get it. If you don’t you have no idea what you’re missing. Anyways, back to cueing! When you use an external focus you are talking to people in a manner that makes sense. You are talking with words that bring up a picture or a feeling, not turning on their brain to think about what they need to do.

If I were to cue you to change directions and told you to “Drive the ground away” how does that make you feel? As opposed to “Drive off your outside foot”. You instantly know what to do when I tell you to drive the ground away, but when I tell you to drive off your outside foot you have to think, which foot is that and what do I do with it. Try it if you don’t believe me.

External Focus Cueing 101

Know that you see that an external focus cues may be a better option let’s talk about a simple 2 step process to start implementing them into your coaching vocabulary.

1) Do a quick inventory of all the most common cues you use. Spend 10-20 minutes at the end of your day, or even 5-10 minutes between clients if you have a break and write them down.

2) Simply tweak all your internal focus cues to external focus cues.

Common traits of an external focused cue:

  • descriptive words
  • paint a picture in your head
  • metaphors
  • analogy’s
  • think of what the movement outcome is
  • what are you doing to/with the environment

One Last Example

Let’s look at the deadlift and apply some external focus onto our cueing. Here is a video of Chad Wesley Smith pulling a massive load. The last thing he should be doing is thinking of what his muscles should be doing.

External focus cues:

  • Punch
  • Accelerate
  • Snap the hips
  • Drive the bar
  • Push the ground

Not engage your glutes……extend your hips……c’mon bro it’s all you! Especially not “it’s all you”!!!

Now take this and go implement it into your business. Although it’s great to know this, if you don’t do anything with what you’ve just learned, the time it took you to read this was an utter waste of time. Sorry for the harsh words, but knowledge means nothing if it’s not implemented.

What They Say


At the recent Perform Better summit in Chicago I attended a great presentation by Martin Rooney. This was my first time seeing Martin live, although I had read a lot of his work over the years. Man does he have a lot of energy and enthusiasm! If you ever get a chance to see Martin, make sure that you do, you won’t regret it.

What he began his lecture with really got me thinking. He told us about the two most powerful words in the English language. They Say. These two little words have a massive influence on many of our decisions. Now I know that may sound a bit silly, but when you think about it, he is true. Take for example how much our opinion on consuming eggs has changed over the years based on what They Say:

Eat eggs; they are a great source of complete protein!

Don’t eat eggs; they are high in fat and fats bad!

Hold on, eat only the egg whites because the yolks are high in cholesterol and cholesterol causes heart disease!

Oh wait, never mind cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease, so you can eat the yolk!

Actually, scrap that. Everyone’s allergic to eggs. Stop eating them again!

But, what did we base our decisions on whether or not we ate eggs? Was it all the research we read (c’mon Mark Young, where were you when we needed you?)? Or was it based on what They Say? If you asked most people how they knew that cholesterol was bad for them the most common answer was “Oh well they say cholesterol causes heart disease.”

What I want to know is who the hell are “They” and why are some many of us blindly following “their” advice? Now, just stop and think about this for a moment. We all know the age old parental advice “Well if all your friends went and jumped off a bridge, would you?” (hopefully that just wasn’t my parents who said that). But, even if you were to jump off a bridge, at least it was a friend you were following. We don’t even know who they heck “They” are, and we are making decisions based on what “They Say”.

So who are “They”? For all we know, it could be him:

In today’s world Google is our #1 source of information, but as we all know there is a lot of misinformation out there. Take the shakeweight……need I say anymore? If we are going to be influenced, at least make sure that the influencer is someone you would actually want to be like. Or at least trust. Do you really think that Big_Gunz_32 from the bodybuilding forum is a trusted source?

Here is a list of some of my trusted sources of information (you may not have heard of them all, but check them out and be your own judge):

Todd Durkin and Martin Rooney – they are super high energy and extremely motivational, as well as having more integrity than anyone I know in the training world. (David Jack is another high energy guy too)

Alwyn Cosgrove, Thomas Plummer & Rick Mayo – this is where I look when I want to know more about the semi private/group training model.

Josh Henkin. Mark Verstegan and Coach Dos – they provide great metabolic training info and have both been innovative in their approaches. I’ve been reading a bit of Ben Bruno’s stuff lately and he definitely thinks outside the traditional box.

Eric Cressey, Nick Tumminello and Bret Contreras – these two know the body inside and out, then back in again. If you want in-depth info, this is where I turn. Bret is a great source for the scientific literature too.

Sean Croxton is a no BS guy when it comes to health and nutrition. He’s not afraid to speak out against conventional wisdom.

Craig Ballantyne – time management and getting stuff done. If you want to be more productive he’s your man!

Feel free to share who you turn to, just promise me you will stop blindly following “They”