Archive for core training, exercise programs, exercise research, fitness-related injuries, recommended resources, strength training, What We Love This Week, workout tips

Complete Spinal Health and Core Training

by Meaghan posted March 13, 2013

I think anyone in this industry who knows me also knows I’m a little opinionated when it comes to core training… Research aside (and there’s a lot of it), a simple consideration of kinesiology tells us that certain joints were meant to move – the hips and thoracic spine, for example – while others were meant to NOT move – like the lumbar spine. This simple joint-by-joint analysis should, for the most part, dictate how we train.

Of course, there are always structural abnormalities, postural deviations, conditions, etc. that may warrant a different approach, and this is precisely why assessments are so important. I’ve always admired Tony Gentilcore for constantly acknowledging these things, and I admire him even more now for making his recent core training seminar available:

Together with Dean Somerset, Jeff Cubos and Rick Kaselj, Tony discusses how he assesses his athletes to determine things like whether or not back pain (or the potential for back pain) is flexion- or extension-based, the role of posture and breathing, the importance of hip mobility and glute strength in the prevention and treatment of low back pain, and where foam rolling/massage and core stability fit in. BUT, he does so without losing focus of the goal: PERFORMANCE.

As trainers, we don’t treat pain, and most of our clients don’t want to spend money doing just “corrective exercise.” They want to train. We just have to understand what movements and loading patterns are likely to cause pain and what interventions are likely to help prevent or improve symptoms.

I don’t want to give away too much, so check out this video for a little more about Tony Gentilcore and Spinal Health and Core Training:


If you like what you see so far, the full seminar is available HERE.

Thank You Dr. Jones!

by Meaghan posted February 12, 2013

Wanted to send a big THANK YOU out to Dr. Michael Jones of AAHFRP for flying to NYC this past weekend to conduct the first Medical Exercise Specialist Workshop at FocusNYC!


Fortunately, Nemo the Nor’easter didn’t hit New York as badly as was predicted and Dr. Jones made it in safely from Texas.

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New Rules of Lifting SUPERCHARGED

by Meaghan posted January 20, 2013

About a month ago, Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove released the latest in the NROL series: New Rules of Lifting Supercharged. 


While all of the books in the series have been great, dedicated trainers like Alwyn are constantly evolving in their methodology and producing better results; and with new and better results came the need for another book.

Like the others in the series, the programs in NROL Supercharged are comprised of variations of our six major movement patterns – squat, push, pull, hinge, lunge and single-leg stance – and there are clearly laid out progressions for each. The programs themselves are also progressive:

1. Basic Training I-IV; 

2. Hypertrophy I-III; and

3. Strength and Power I-III

And while a linear progression through each phase is recommended, advanced lifters can jump in at any phase to reach a specific goal faster. Still, sticking to the progression makes sense when we remember rules 15-17:

Rule #15: Every program is a hypertrophy program.

Rule #16: Every program is a strength program.

Rule #17: Every program is a fat-loss program.

That is, when we adhere to the Overload Principle by producing progressively more mechanical tension and damage in our muscles, they will get bigger. A bigger muscle is also a stronger muscle, and a program that forces your body to do things it ordinarily doesn’t do creates metabolic stress – which means we use more energy to adapt to the new demands and burn more fat in the hours and days following each workout.  So all of the workouts really accommodate all of the above goals.

As for the workout structure, the daily template is simple:

1. RAMP (which stands for Range of Motion, Activation and Movement Preparation);

2. Core training (exercises progress from static to dynamic stabilization);

3. Combination and Power Exercises (which increase demands of both the nervous system and metabolism);

4. Strength Training (you’ll see a balance of the six major movement patterns above in each program);

5. Metabolic Training (interval training and complexes); and

6. Recovery (foam rolling and stretching)

With 10 month-long programs and several variations of each exercise in them, you can really take your training in any direction and the opportunities for progress are endless so long as you follow the rules of progression. But if you still aren’t convinced, here are Lou and Alwyn’s reasons to check out their latest in the NROL series:


How To Get Published

by Meaghan posted September 25, 2012

As someone who actually started in this industry as a writer/editor, I can list a host of reasons why being published is beneficial to your career – including but not limited to:

1. You get to reach more people with your message;

2. You get your name out there in the industry;

3. You gain credibility;

4. You supplement your income; and

5. You’re forced to reflect on what you do each day and why, which keeps you in check and constantly growing as a professional.

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Strength of Evidence Podcast

by Meaghan posted August 27, 2012

If you’re an audio learner like me and prefer to stay up to date on fitness info via podcasts, good news: Bret Contreras of the Strength and Conditioning Research Review and Jonathan Fass of The FitCast have teamed up to bring you the Strength of Evidence Podcast.

Yes, Bret is a strength coach and Jon is a PT; but they both pay pretty close attention to research – and not just to the conclusions, but to the way studies are designed, conducted and controlled, as well as the effects of these things on validity, reliability and real-world application.

What does this mean for listeners? Well, we have very little work to do. We can simply sit back and listen while two smart guys tell us the truth about the hyped-up studies in the media (like that ridiculous egg yolk study…). That’s not to say we shouldn’t think for ourselves, however; but we can rest assured that Bret and Jon have done their homework and educated themselves well on their topic(s) of choice for the podcast.

The introductory episode is up, so check it out HERE!

by Meaghan posted August 13, 2012

If you haven’t yet heard of it, is renowned physical therapist and strength coach Gray Cook‘s new site containing a compilation of presentations from various experts in the movement science field.


Where you used to have to spend significant amounts of money to travel and hear what goes on in great minds like Mike Boyle, Stuart McGill and Charlie Weingroff (and, of course, Gray himself), Cook has made access to many of their presentations cheap and easy. You can now pay as little as $5 for their cutting edge information and listen in the comfort of your own home (or download the audio lectures to your iPod).

Broken down by category and presenter, the site is extremely easy to use. You can pretty much find whatever you’re looking for in a matter of seconds, or spend a few minutes browsing to see what’s available.

Check it out HERE.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

by Meaghan posted May 21, 2012

This post is intended for our soon-to-become trainers at the Focus Personal Training Institute, but it’s equally applicable to anyone involved with teams, or any type of relationship, really.  In “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” Patrick Lencioni does a wonderful job of highlighting the stages through which every relationship must go in order to achieve success – regardless of how that success is defined:


As trainers, we tend to focus on the technical aspects of exercise – because, well, this is what we love. But overlooking the importance of the trainer-client relationship is a big mistake. Fostering our relationships with our clients is equally if not more important when it comes to getting results. According to the book, results will ultimately come after a series of crucial steps:


Step 1: Establishing Trust

Trust forms the foundation of any good relationship, including that between a trainer and a client. But as important as trust is, it’s something that’s hard to gain yet easy to lose. It will take different strategies and different amounts of time to establish trust with different clients, but open and honest communication is usually a common thread. Trainers can’t forget to have regular candid conversations with their clients in order to establish and build trust, and always follow through when they say they’re going to do things. This includes offering support not only during times of success, but also when the road to success gets rocky. When clients fall off track, great trainers get them back on for the sheer reason that those clients trust that they have their best interest in mind when giving advice. On the same token, great trainers never promise what they don’t know they can deliver, as this is the fastest way to break a client’s trust.


Step 2: Working Through Conflict

Times of conflict are inevitable in every relationship, and the trainer-client relationship is no different. But this can actually be a good thing, and may be seen as a sign of trust. When clients are not afraid to question your methods or openly discuss with you the problems that they are facing with their exercise programs, it’s usually because they trust that you will work with them to find a solution rather than taking offense and putting your own ego ahead of their success. Working through conflicts with clients enhances communication, builds trust and ultimately makes the relationship stronger.


Step 3: Making a Commitment

Healthy conflict is necessary for both trainer and client to make a firm commitment to achieving a goal together. If one partner feels that his or her views, opinions or problems have not been considered by the other, he or she is unlikely to really commit to the program. Without full commitment to the program, attainment of the end goal is unlikely. One party (usually the client) typically ends the relationship before it can be achieved, either giving up on the goal or attempting to achieve it alone or with another trainer. Clients won’t always be upfront about why they stop training, but it often boils down to a lack of communication and conflict that prevented true commitment.


Step 4: Accepting Accountability

Without fully buying into and committing to a program, it’s hard for a client to accept accountability for a lack of adherence to it. It’s always easier to blame the program (or the trainer). Similarly, we trainers often blame our clients for lack of commitment and adherence to our programs. But this is a lose-lose situation: No one feels successful because results are not achieved. But if both trainer and client commit to the goal together and hold one another accountable for their respective roles in achieving that goal, results can be achieved. On the same token, if the parties share accountability when things are not going as planned, the two can usually work together to find an alternate road to results.


Step 5: Achievement of Results

Results should always be kept as the focus of training. At the end of the day, the job of a personal trainer is to get his or her clients to see the results that they want, regardless of what their goals may be or what must be done to help them achieve those goals. This is why goals remain essential to what we do as trainers: Our clients’ results are our successes.


That pretty much sums up the message in “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team;” but I still highly recommend reading the book. It’s an easy read and contains a great story to elucidate the message. You can pick it up HERE.

New Rules of Lifting For Life

by Meaghan posted April 30, 2012

Last week saw the release of two great new fitness products: Mike Boyle launched Functional Strength Coach 4.0,  and, of course, The New Rules of Lifting for Life: An All-New Muscle-Building, Fat-Blasting Plan for Men and Women Who Want to Ace Their Midlife Exams by Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove hit the shelves.

I had a hard time choosing which to love first, but I finally landed on New Rules for the simple reason that I think Alwyn promoted Mike’s product even more than his own – and that’s just cool.

These guys just “get it.” They get exercise, and they get the industry. They learn from each other and they share their information. They work together to make everyone in the field better, including themselves. We should all be promoting good information in attempt to raise the bar, regardless of who it comes from.

But anyway… The great thing about all of the New Rules books is that (despite their titles…) they focus on training movement patterns rather than muscles. This latest one takes it one step further: Lou and Alwyn include several levels of these movement patterns. It literally lays out Alwyn’s programs and how he progresses them based on what his clients can do – so readers can choose the appropriate level of exercise for their fitness level. It’s almost like having a personal trainer in that the program can be customized to the reader’s capabilities. While the idea for the book came with the middle-aged crowd in mind, it’s really appropriate for everyone.

What’s also great is the use of what we call “self-limiting exercises,” or exercises that force correct technique. It’s actually harder or impossible to do them incorrectly, so you get immediate feedback and can work out with the comfort of knowing you probably won’t get injured. This is extremely important when not working under the guidance and supervision of a fitness professional, especially for the over-40 crowd – so big props to Alwyn for using self-limiting exercises in this book.

So whether you’re a fitness pro in search of smart programming or simply an exercise lover looking to stay healthy, New Rules of Lifting For Life will make a great addition to your library. Pick it up HERE.

Easy Strength

by Meaghan posted April 8, 2012

When I read Dan John’s first book, Never Let Go, well… I never wanted to let it go. That is, I had a hell of a time putting it down, even when I knew I should – the exception being, of course, when I was just so inspired to go train that I had no other choice. That’s the great thing about Dan: He’s incredibly motivating and a very gifted storyteller.

But what he’s known for in fitness is making complex things seem simple. Interestingly enough, Russian Kettlebell King Pavel Tsatsouline possesses these very same qualities.

So what do you get when Dan and Pavel team up to write a book? 288 pages of awesomeness, that’s what!

Written as a conversation between two like-minded friends with fitness wisdom and passion that are second to none, Easy Strength is a home run. (Can you tell I’m excited that it’s baseball season?!?! Go Red Sox!) And John Du Cane hits the nail on the head as to why:

Despite all their differences in background, culture, experience and proclivities, Pavel and Dan managed to form one of those extremely rare creative partnerships, where two individuals combine to produce a work whose whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

Because Easy Strength is not a Socratic dialog, it’s not a series of arguments, but rather two masters of the craft jamming together. It’s the strength world’s equivalent of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger at their peak writing and composing, say Sticky Fingers—then unleashing it on an unsuspecting but deeply grateful and appreciative world.

Now, let me tell you, when you read the final masterwork that is Easy Strength, don’t be misled by the almost magical smoothness of the Pavel-Dan dialogs. There was agony and there was ecstasy and it took two hard years to get it done. But that’s great art for you.

The result, I proudly present to you: Easy Strength, a book of wisdom for the ages. A book by two “warrior athletes” I deeply admire.

Thank you, gentlemen.

May these two men and their Easy Strength inspire you—as they have so inspired me—to continue your own, never-ending quest for athletic excellence and supreme physical cultivation.


Happy Easter and happy training, and enjoy!

S&C Research Review

by Meaghan posted March 12, 2012

This week, I’m happy to announce that in addition to Alan Aragon’s Research Review, we now have another fantastic resource to help us bridge the gap between the lab and the weight room.

Better known as “The Glute Guy,” leading researcher and strength coach Bret Contreras has launched Strength and Conditioning Research, a 50-page publication summarizing the latest findings in…well, pretty much all things exercise. Great for fitness pros, or anyone looking to get the most out of their training.

Check it out:

These days, I’m finding myself with less and less time to sift through studies and summarize them on here for all of you. And now that the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research comes monthly, I can barely keep up – so I’m especially excited for Bret to be doing the work for me!