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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The New Blog Is Here

Finally, after weeks of work the new blog is up and running.

View it here --->

Navigation has been improved and a new "Members Only" section has been added. Read my posts, browse my articles and download some free stuff!

And don't worry, my old content will still be on this website. So keep linking and keep sharing.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The problem with positive thinking (according to Seth Godin)

Via Seth's Blog:

All the evidence I've seen shows that positive thinking and confidence improves performance. In anything.

Give someone an easy math problem, watch them get it right and then they'll do better on the ensuing standardized test than someone who just failed a difficult practice test.

No, positive thinking doesn't allow you to do anything, but it's been shown over and over again that it improves performance over negative thinking.

Key question then: why do smart people engage in negative thinking? Are they actually stupid?

The reason, I think, is that negative thinking feels good. In its own way, we believe that negative thinking works. Negative thinking feels realistic, or soothes our pain, or eases our embarrassment. Negative thinking protects us and lowers expectations.

In many ways, negative thinking is a lot more fun than positive thinking. So we do it.

If positive thinking was easy, we'd do it all the time. Compounding this difficulty is our belief that the easy thing (negative thinking) is actually appropriate, it actually works for us. The data is irrelevant. We're the exception, so we say.

Positive thinking is hard. Worth it, though.

Seth's right when he says positive thinking works. Seth is also right when he says positive thinking is hard.

You WILL succeed! You WILL reach your goals!

Even I fall into a spiral of negative thinking, so I'm taking Seth's words to heart: Thinking negative emotions is easy. Staying positive is more productive.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

New Blog Comming Soon

Hi guys,

I'm redesigning the blog using a different platform, so there will be less content posted here than usual. Have no fear: you can still find me on Twitter and Facebook.


The Importance of Failure, part 1

Update: A version of this two-part blog post can be seen on Google Knol at I invite you to review the article and suggest revisions.

Failure is defined by Wikipedia as, "the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective. It may be viewed as the opposite of success." By identifying why and how we fail, we can reduce the possibility of the same failure re-occurring in the future. In part 1 of this post, I look at the reasons behind failure and our initial response to it.

Why We Fail
I would like to talk about failure in the present-tense, in terms of a specific trial period. During the pre-trial period, we prepare for the attempt; during the post-trial period we look at the effect the pre-trial preparations had on our measured variables. The trial period itself is when we attempt to meet or exceed a pre-determined standard to test our theory. The trial might be as short as a single repetition or as long as a macrocycle or an over-all program.

In the gym we fail because, (1) Something—a value—in our control was not appropriate for the desired outcome, (2) a value outside our control entered or left the system before we could adapt accordingly, or (3) a combination of 1 and 2 happened during the same trial period.

Values outside our control are difficult to anticipate. Values inside our control are much easier to monitor and maintain. The more values in our control, the less opportunity there is for an unexpected outcome to our trial. We use the pre-trial period to modify, adjust and augment the values in our control to produce the best results we can when the trial begins. A solid training and nutrition program, for example, is designed to produce the best results it can before the deadline for the goal. For athletes, the goal is a winning season; for powerlifters, it's more weight on the bar at competition; for you, it might be a slim and sexy body by summer. It's what you do during the training sessions (the pre-trial) that influences how you look on your first day at the beach (the trial).

What Happens When We Fail
For some reason, you failed. You did not meet the objective and now you must deal with the consequences of your failure. Most likely, you will have an emotional response to the event. These emotions are normal and necessary. Anger, sadness, surprise, guilt, rage, relief, whatever—they are your feelings and you are allowed to feel them. You are also allowed to express them in an appropriate manner. Emotion is all part of the post-trial period, and we must allow our emotions to carry us into productive action.

Oftentimes, we replay the event in our head looking for an explanation of the failure. This is a wonderful process and can be of great value—but only if we stay objective during our review. Emotion, while necessary, can also cloud judgment and should not be carried into the subsequent stages of the post-trial period. Feel your feelings, then move on.

An objective after-action review can lead to great insights. Ask yourself, "What was out of my control?" Things outside our control must be recognized and accounted for. Write them down. After writing them down, ask yourself if there is any way to prepare for those things in the future. If there was bad weather, can you get a weather report before the next event? If you wore new shoes, will they be broken-in before next time? Once you've compiled a list of items outside your control that can be compensated for, discard whatever remains. There is nothing you can do about them and you should not waist time trying to fix them.

Next ask yourself, "What was in my control?" and write those items down as well. Which items were truly ineffective? Which items were ineffective because they were not taken seriously? Did you stick to your diet? Attend every training session? Use appropriate resistance? Separating the ineffective from the incomplete will help establish the over-all quality of the pre-trial period. Sometimes we're lazy and let a good program go bad. Other times, the program is bad to begin with and there is nothing we can do. It is important to understand which type of program we are dealing with before we can make improvements to its design.


In part 2, I discuss methods to prevent and overcome failure. Stay tuned.

Original post published Jan 10, 2009

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


This is a repost of my monthly Client Newsletter. They are usually longer and more detailed, but I felt this particular topic needed few words.

Dear friends,

I have a story for you. There are many versions, so I cannot claim it as original. Nonetheless, its message is still important.

While walking on the beach, a wise man noticed a small girl methodically picking up starfish and tossing them into the surf.

The man paused for a moment then asked, "Why are you throwing these starfish?"

"It's high tide," the girl replied. "If I leave them on the beach, the sun will soon dry them and they will die. I am throwing them into the ocean so they can live."

The wise man scoffed and informed the girl that there are miles and miles of beach and tens of thousands of starfish and she can't possibly believe that what she's doing will make a difference.

At this, the young girl bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it into the ocean. She said, "It made a difference to that one!"

Our actions effect everyone and everything around us. Even the most insignificant behavior can have a huge impact and I ask you to be mindful of the ripples you create throughout your day. Even better, I challenge you to commit yourself fully to a task of seemingly insignificant importance and I bet you'll still make a difference for even one person.

If reading this blog is not enough and you would like to receive my monthly newsletter as well, please contact me and let me know.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Book Review: Periodization of Strength

I just finished reading Periodization of Strength by Tudor Bompa and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in a deeper understanding of periodization and sports-specific training. It's a quick read and is broken down into three section for easy consumption. Sections 2 and 3 cover how to set up each phase of the training cycle and what to do during each of those phases. Bompa's text is supplemented generously with tables and graphics to help economize the info down to the essentials.

If you've ever wondered exactly how much weight you should use to gain strength and how long you should rest to train muscular endurance, this book is worth your time.

UPDATE: In the video I mention something called "strength-power." What I am really referring to is "power endurance," the ability to perform power-based movements over an extend period of time. This, according to Bompa, is a separate skill from strength or power alone.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Large Men Lifting Heavy Loads

In honor of me moving to a new apartment this weekend, let us watch these inspiration clips of heavy lifting in action. Enjoy.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Build Yourself A Sandbag For Free

I wanted a sandbag. So I went to the beach and made one.

First, I collected all the essential gear:

  • 2 old gym bags
  • 4 contractor bags
  • Packing tape

After collecting the gear, I went to the beach.

I wanted the final sandbag to be adjustable so I could use it with my clients. So instead of just one large sack full of sand, I created two smaller sacks out of doubled-up contractor bags. These smaller sacks can be added or subtracted from the main gym bag as needed. After taping the sacks closed, they look like this:

Individually, each gym bag is old and flimsy so I decided it was safer to place one inside the other, with the sand sacks in the middle:

The final product is a nifty little piece of equipment.

Because of the size of the gym bags, the final weight of the sandbag is about 40 lbs. This is too light for me to do serious strength training so I would like to create another sandbag closer to the 100 lbs mark.

I also think I put too much sand into the sacks, so everything is a lot stiffer than I would have liked. Always remember that 3/4-full is a good ballpark when filling a sandbag. The floppiness of the bag is what gives the equipment its trademark characteristics.

For a first attempt at home-made equipment, I'm very proud of this project. I already know how to improve my design for next time. I truly believe the upgrade is going to be awesome!

Monday, June 15, 2009

6 Ways To Be More Awesome

My boss and I had a short conversation not too long ago about appearance and perception: What kind of trainer do I appear to be? And how do potential clients perceive me when I'm on the floor training myself and others?

Today I want to focus on how appearance and perception lead to success in the fitness industry. Below is a follow-up article to my post on how to become the best at anything. In it I will lay out the steps I feel are needed to become an awesome personal trainer. These steps have counterparts in any field so don't be afraid to apply them to your situation, whatever that job may be.

Step 1: Accept Your Path
First understand that there there is no wrong way to become a personal trainer. A degree in exercise science may shorten the learning curve, but it is no substitute for on-the-job experience. Your background is what makes you unique from the other trainers at your gym. Your personal story can help color how you are perceived by potential clients and can help established a possible niche market for your services.

Step 2: Certify

Certification from a nationally recognized organization (like the ACSM or the NSCA) means you understand the basics of proper program design, human physiology and client relations. Certification from a well-respected organization tells potential employees that you are serious about being a fitness professional and will not endanger your clients or the facility. If your industry doesn't have a certification, ask yourself, "What credentials do the most respected individuals in my field have?" and attempt to obtain similar credentials.

Step 3: Refine Your Technique
Certification is important, but it must always be considered the minimum standard of competence for any profession. Once you certify, you must keep learning new skills and improving old ones. Most fitness credentials require you to re-certify every few years by providing proof of continuing education, so you really have no excuse not to learn something novel and applicable for your clients.

By learning new things, you also refine your methodology as a fitness professional. What populations do you enjoy working with? What techniques get you the best results? Do you work better one-on-one or in small groups? Blend your new-found knowledge with your existing experience and background and see where it takes you. New certifications and specializations help clarify to clients what they can expect while working with you.

Step 4: Put You First
Your physical appearance and how potential clients perceive you are very important. If you claim to be a speed specialist, how fast do you run a 40 yard dash? If you're a nutrition expert, how often do you eat healthy foods? Leading by example is any easy way to build trust. Seeing is believing, and nothing can turn a potential client into an actual client faster than your own proof-positive results.

Step 5: Expand Your Network
Business doesn't happen in a vacuum. Get out of your gym and meet new people!

Attending conferences and workshops is a great way to meet others in your field. It's also a great way to make new friends and establish professional contacts. Find mentors and ask questions of those that know more than you. Never hesitate to refer your clients to other professionals for special services. The deeper your working relationship, the easier it will be for your colleagues to refer their clients to you when the need arises.

Step 6: Expand Your Product Line
The more trust and confidence you can instill in your clients and in the communities you serve, the easier it will be to sell these people new products and services later on. Write an e-book and distribute it on your website. Create a clinic and invite all your past clients to attend. Contact newspapers in your neighborhood and offer your services as a consultant on future articles.

If you appear knowledgeable and confident, your clients will perceive you as trustworthy and worthy of their time and money. The more you deliver on your promises of firmer bodies and smaller waistlines (or heavier lifts and faster lap times, as the case may be) the more your market will turn to you for expert advice. The secrete is delivering on your promises.

Don't let your clients down. They'll thank you time and time again.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

You Need Brass Balls

I've been reading about sales and marketing. And like in any business, fitness professionals must know how to sell their services effectively.

Personal Trainers must identify prospects, ascertain their problem and offer a solution; understand and abate any hesitations they may have; and then finally close the deal. Most importantly, this new client must perceive benefit from this relationship or it will quickly dissolve, so the training program better work in a timely fashion.

Happy clients lead to good referrals and more prospects!

I'm very good at writing programs, but not so good at closing the deal (or maintaining the new account for that matter). I know my service is good, but how do I convince my clients and prospect of that?

And like Alec Baldwin says in the clip above, I will need to find my brass balls and become better at marketing my services and selling my product. But I don't need to do it alone, I welcome your tips and suggestions. Please leave comments below.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Client Testimonials #3

Charlie Danis, 19 (May 2009, Chicago):
I am proud to say that Derek Peruo is my personal trainer. When I came to DePaul, I made it a goal of mine to stay physically fit. I did not want to gain the “freshman 15” and wanted to gain muscle as well. I always look forward to working out with Derek. I get so much out of my workout because he is right there motivating me and teaching me proper technique. I always go 100% because Derek inspires me to put forth my best. It also helps that Derek is a guy who you can talk to and he has a friendly demeanor which makes working out with him that much more enjoyable. I could not be happier with Derek being my personal trainer.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Who Needs Equipment?

A bar and a wall. That's plenty!

Rowing on the dip bar is especially cool. Via Straight to the Bar.

Monday, May 25, 2009

How To Increase Your Strength - Instantly!

In this clip, Andy Bolton warms up for his world record deadlift attempt. Notice that every rep he performs is at a very fast velocity. The bar almost flies out of his hands on that first rep!

Don't be fooled by those super-slow training philosophies. The only way to increase your strength is to train maximally (+90% 1RM) and at high velocity.

If you're worried about "momentum," don't be. Very heavy loads will never move fast enough for you to loose control of the weight. Merely thinking about moving the bar fast is all you need to produce a training effect, even if in reality the bar takes quite a while to complete the repetition. If your not moving your training loads fast, making this small mental adjustment will instantly give you more power and will let you lift more.

When your muscles grow, so does your strength. So train heavy and train fast!



Hatfield DL, et al. The impact of velocity of movement on performance factors in resistance exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2006 Nov;20(4):760-6.

Rana SR, et al. Comparison of early phase adaptations for traditional strength and endurance, and low velocity resistance training programs in college-aged women. J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Jan;22(1):119-27.

Bompa, T. (1993). Periodizaion of Strength: The New Wave In Strength Training. Toronto: Veritas Publishing Inc.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

First Look: Captains of Crush Gripper #T

My Captains of Crush #T gripper arrived in the mail today. Out of the box you get the gripper, instructions, a CoC card and an optional Ironmind cataloge.

Since incorporating the gripper into my regular routine I have seen a lot of improvement accross the board on all my major lifts! I suspect I will need to purchase the CoC #1 very soon.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Fix Your Body with a Foam Roller: The Basics

My first ever guest post on Straight to the Bar! I teach you the fundamental foam rolling techniques you need to start doing right now to get bigger and stronger. Enjoy.

Fix Your Body with a Foam Roller: The Basics

Thanks, Scott, for inviting me to write the article. I am honored by the opportunity.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Did you call her yet…?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Getting Serious About Grip Strength

My grip sucks. There, I said it.

To combat this problem I have instituted grip training days into my weekly routine. My new grip program is performed on the same day as my neck and core training. Thank you Jedd Johnson for the inspiration.

General Warmup = 10 min

Ball Toss
= 3kg x 12
Ball Toss w/ Spin = 3kg x 8

Vertical Lever to the Nose = 9# x10 x8 x4 x4 x4 + negatives to failure
Horizontal Lever to the Front = 9# x10 x8 x4 x4 x4 + negatives to failure

1-Finger Lift
= 55# x1 x1 x1 x1

General Warmup = 10 min

Ball Toss = 3kg x 12
Ball Toss w/ Spin = 3kg x 8

Hammer Twist = 9# x10 x8 x4 x4 x4 + negatives to failure
Hammer Rotations = 9# x10 x8 x4 x4 x4 + negatives to failure

1-Finger Lift = 55# x1 x1 x1 x1

I feel this program is incomplete and I would like to add plate pinching and gripper work (preferably Captains of Crush).

My girlfriend enjoys rock climbing so I've been training on the rock wall at my gym once a week in addition to the program above. I find the rock wall not only great for grip, but also a great full body conditioning workout.

If you have suggestions for improving my grip routine, please leave a comment below.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

What Hurts More: Rugby or American Football?

I'm a big fan of Rugby and would love to get more involved with the sport—both as a player and as a strength coach. That's why I find this clip from Sports Science so great!

After watching this clip, it becomes very clear why the strength and conditioning programs for these sports are so important. These players absorb incredibly high impact forces during a game and if their bodies are deconditioned or unable to withstand these forces, injury is bound to happen.

Before watching this clip I didn't think much about the psychological effects wearing padding has on a player. Because Quentin Jammer feels protected by his equipment, he doesn't hesitate or hold back during a tackle, which in turn allows him to produce serious, bone-breaking force.

This "pyschological protection" is very important, even when playing recreational sports. Much like having a spotter in the gym, safety equipment can help you achieve bigger, faster and more challenging personal records than you might be able to do in an unprotected state.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Trouble Finishing Books? Read Them In The Morning

If you're like me, you find it difficult to complete books you've started. I have every intention of reading the book at some point during my day, but I just never seem to get around to it.

Instead of letting the book get brushed aside by events of your day, try reading first thing in the morning. It doesn't need to be much—perhaps only a few pages. But those pages add up very quickly and soon enough, you'll complete the book and can move on to a new one.

This is how I read The 4-Hour Work Week and I completed it within two weeks.

Monday, April 20, 2009

6 Vids You Need To Watch

Triple Extension Using Resistance Band

No access to a Jammer? Atlas stones too heavy? Snatch technique driving you crazy? Grab a Jump Stretch band and get your triple extension training done in no time.

One-Arm Atlas Stones

I recommend working on two-hand technique before moving on to this single-arm version. Whatever you do, always start light and be cautious of the high stresses lifting an atlas stone will place on your spine.

Bridging Tornado Ball For Advanced Core Training

The guys over at Diesel Crew continue to amaze me. May I one day be as influential in the world of strength and strongman as Smitty and Jedd are. The video was shot during their conditioning circuit and is a little foggy. Just bare with it.

MacGyver's Oil Drums

If you can't afford a heavy-duty power rack, acquiring two large drums (or kegs, for that matter) and get creative!

The Paleo Diet 101

No narration, but it does present a concise argument for the foundations of the Paleo Diet. And you've got to love "I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow" as background music!

Star Trek Meets Medicine

Perhaps one day we will be able to upgrade our organs to better, more efficient "models."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Happy Tax Day!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Group Fitness Sucks

My boss suggested I start attending the group exercises classes offered at our facility as a way of meeting potential clients. This is a great idea for business, true. But the group fitness classes I have attended in the past focused only on muscular endurance or aerobic capacity and neglect completely muscular strength, speed and power.

When I speak of group classes, I am not referring to training sessions designed by a respectable coach as part of a progressive program, but to the sessions offered as part of a membership fee and usually led by an instructor screaming variations of, "Just two more!" into a microphone while loud techno music plays in the background.

These classes do get people to move about, yes, but do they produce results?

For me, the primary result was an acute increase in lactate and DOMS the next day.

And the long-term results…?

These studies suggest that any form of exercise is better than no exercise at all, but I couldn't find any research on the effects of supervised group training on healthy adult populations.

My gut instinct is that there are more efficient and effective methods to train for muscular endurance and aerobic capacity.

Kettlebells for example. Or sprint training.

And what of my professional image! When I train, I train fast and heavy. Do I really want to be associated with the light weights and high reps found in our group fitness class? Are those the clients I want to work with?

I'm slowly discovering that my body is not designed well for endurance activities and that it responds best to fast, heavy loading parameters. This type of loading, and my current methodology as a trainer, does not lend itself well to the format of a group fitness class. For now, I will stay clear of most of the classes we offer.


Reader Poll: How do you incorporate group fitness into your training program?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Movie Review: Bigger, Stronger, Faster

Steroids, as we use the term, are a class of synthetic drugs designed to mimic various hormones found floating around our bodies naturally. Anabolic steroids (the type of steroid we're most interested in here) mimic testosterone and help increase muscle mass and shorten recovery time. For a bodybuilder, strength enthusiast or performance junkie, the effects of taking steroids makes their use highly desirable.

Steroids are also illegal and perhaps immoral.

Christopher Bell's documentary, Bigger, Stronger, Faster, opens with him speaking of his childhood heroes—Hulk Kogan, Rambo, Conan the Barbarian—and then tells of his shock and disappointment to discover that they all achieved their physiques through the use of steroids.

Heroes, Chris says, would never use drugs; only evil villains would cheat like that.

But if everyone is using steroids to gain a competitive edge, is it really cheating? And, more importantly, why are steroids considered cheating when hypobaric chambers, creatine and other supplements considered okay to use?

The film takes a very balanced approach at tackling those questions and I commend Chris Bell for not allowing his personal beliefs to get in the way of the investigation, letting the film glide seamlessly from each pro and con to the next.

The film makes it clear that "performance enhancement" is sought by everyone in every profession. Did you know (for example) that some musicians take β-blockers to stay calm during a performance? Or that many students self-medicate with Adderall to keep up with their school work?

Why are steroids different than Adderall or β-blockers? All three offer the user the upper hand, so why is one more immoral than another? The viewer is left at the end of the film just as ambiguous about steroid use as Chris is, with the only real conclusion being that American culture has created a society where being the best—being #1—is what's most important. And to be the best, we must sacrifice the moral high road.

My knowledge and experience leads me to believe that anabolic steroids are a reliable method of increasing muscle mass and over-all athletic performance. That said, I am also not ready to risk the social and physical side effects of taking those powerful drugs. Like any other sensitive topic, I invite you to draw your own opinion.

Thank you, Chris Bell, for this concise look into the physical, moral and cultural impact steroid use has had on our country. If you are looking for a better understanding of the true effects steroid use has on friends, family and success, I highly recommend you watch this movie.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy April First!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Off Topic: Vibram Five Fingers

Two of my favorite internet personalities, Tim Ferriss and Kevin Rose, teamed up to discuss the benefits of training with Vibram FiveFingers shoes. Props are also made to Injinji socks.

I often recommended that my clients periodically train without shoes. The research I've read suggests training barefoot can improve balance and increases strength in the foot and ankle.

Many clients are reluctant to train without their shoes, either because of personal habits or facility regulations. Vibrams may be the perfect compromise between training in a fully supported athletic shoe and training in no shoe at all. I have not tried this product personally yet, so I encourage you to share your thoughts and insights in the comments section below.

Quick Tip
If nothing else, take off your shoes and massage the soles of your feet with a foam roller. Even better, use a tennis ball (or other round, semi-hard object) on the bottoms of your feet and really work into the plantar fascia and other musculature down there. Massaging your feet in this manner adds maybe 4 minutes to your SMR routine and will be well worth the performance and health benefits.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Continuing Adventures of My Busted Knee

After two weeks of an unscheduled hiatus from my training program (due to starting my new job at Lakeview Athletic Club and re-injuring my knee at rehearsal for Man of La Mancha), I returned this week to my hypertrophy program.

On Monday, I started the following mini-program to improve mobility and increase muscle strength in my injured knee:

Foam Rolling (head-to-toe) + Thoracic Extensions
Lunges w/ Lateral Resistance on Knee = (12.5# x 15) x 3
Terminal Knee Extensions = (12.5# x 15) x 3

I plan to continue this mini-program for the remainder of the week. Starting next week, I will begin incorporating my original programming into the above routine.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Train Your Neck For Increased Conditioning

Martin Rooney over at Training For Warriors showed us a great neck bridge progression not too long ago:

The above progression is very advanced and not everyone is ready for this kind of cervical stress. So to make the progression more accessible, start on the wall using a stability ball and progress to resistance bands:

Thank you Martin and Will Heffernan for posting your videos to YouTube.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Back On The Rock Wall

Last Thursday I began rock climbing again to test my injured knee. I didn't go very high, but the climb went well. I've lost all the finger strength I built up prior to the injury and there is still pain and swelling if I re-injure myself, but in time all will be well.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Psychological Impact of Physical Training

Via Back To Form Fitness:
The message is clear…I need to start counseling all of my clients now. I need to prepare every one of them for what is to come next. I need to prepare them for the financial burden of buying new, smaller clothing, while preparing them mentally for the new confidence and attitude they will have. They need to be ready for the looks they will get, and for the energy, they will have. These people need to be emotionally set before all of this takes place. I hope I learned my lesson from client “A” and client “B” well. I hope I will be a better trainer and make sure that all of my clients are ready for the world once I am done with them. I hope that it’s not too late to save those two and get them the support they need.

Three years ago I lost a little over 90 pounds in weight and went through a drastic body transformation. Even after changing the way I looked, I remained unsure of myself both socially and emotionally. Only recently has my mind caught up, allowing me to enjoy all the hard work I've done over the last 1,000 days.

As trainers we are so focused on the physical changes in our clients we sometimes forget to assist with the emotional and psychological changes that also must take place. Perhaps Keith Scott wrote his post with a slight sarcastic edge, but I believe his point is valid and should not be neglected.

And, considering how powerful the mind can be in maintaining lifestyle changes, perhaps the Psychology of Fitness should be the first steps we take with new clients: How will the physical changes they undergo effect their long-term well being? Are they prepared for those changes? And how will they react to the possibility of failure?

Monday, March 2, 2009

No Ab Wheel? No Problem!

Via Fight Geek:

The Elephant Walk is a very advanced exercise and will quickly show you weak points in your core, back and legs. If the version demonstrated in the video is too difficult for you, begin in the quadruped position and walk your hands out as far as they will go. Hold this position for time. As your strength increases, increase the distance you walk your hands out. In time, come to standing and begin the process again: walk the hands out a short distance and holding for time. The secret is keeping the core tight, with neutral spine and the arms straight.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Parkour Drills for At-Home Training

Via Straight to the Bar:

Traceurs usually train for speed, endurance and coordination, but the drills presented in the video can add spice and variety to any at-home training program. Use the drills as a warm-up or add resistance and focus more on strength and power.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Read My Meat #2: 9 Articles You Should Be Reading

Important articles (and their micro-summeries) to read and pass on...

Difficult-Difficult, Difficult-Easy (Alwyn Cosgrove)
Learn to differentiate between what is difficult in general and what is difficult for you and watch yourself grow.

Research Review: Could Green Tea Actually Be Bad For YOU? (Precision Nutrition)
Your immune system may not like all that tea you've been drinking, but it all depends on T-cell dominance.

All About Intermittent Fasting (Precision Nutrition)
Lower-Calorie diets are proving their worth, but this style of fasting has yet to be tested thoroughly.

How to eat healthy for less than $5 a day (Gym Junkies)
Watch the video, learn some tips. I know I did.

Increase productivity by learning a lesson the first time (Unclutterer)
Ask yourself: (1) What worked well? (2) What didn't? (3) Why? (4) What can I do about it in the future?

Gravity is just a theory (Seth Godin)
Marketing something people already believe is much simpler than marketing a new idea. Know where your product falls and make smart choices.

The Principle of the Slight Edge (Alwyn Cosgrove)
Knowing just one thing your competition doesn't gives you an advantage. No matter what you do, take away at least one valuable thing.

Things I’ve Learned and Loved in 2008 (Tim Ferriss)
20 more reasons why Tim Ferriss is the man! If you haven't read is book, do so! He's writing an updated edition as we speak, so stay tuned.

Love (and annoying) (Seth Godin)
Few people will love your product or a lot of people will find you less annoying than the other guy. Either is good, but you can't do both.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

7 Tips For An Awesome Mid-Section

Let's get something clear: You already have six-pack abs. In fact, we all have a perfect six-pack. It's just hidden beneath a layer of fat and skin. Only after we eliminate the layer of fat can we see the awesome, (and oh-so-coveted) musculature underneath it.

Not only should your core look good, but it should also work well and support your efforts in the gym. In return for this support, you promise to take your newly remodeled mid-section to the beach where it can view and converse will the other newly remodeled mid-sections. The direction and content of those conversations are between you and your mid-section; I'm not responsible for anything your mid-section might say…

Tip #1: Change Your Diet
Expend more Calories than you consume and the fat will burn off. We all know this and there are countless articles written about it. Some are on this blog. Feel free to search.

Tip #2: Train For Form and Function Will Follow
A well-developed core will do four things:
  1. Provide stability during static and dynamic activities
  2. Provide endurance against various stressors
  3. Provide strength for heavy loading of the trunk
  4. Provide power to move those heavy loads through space
And like any muscular system, your core can be trained through a well-designed, progressive and periodized training program.

Tip #3: Stability First, Than Mobility
Stability of the core is how your body transfers force from one extremity to the other (legs to arms, for example) and is vital to every movement pattern you may do during the day. Everything from lifting shopping bags to pushing a baby stroller will benefit from a stable core.

Core stability is trained through isometrically contracting the abdominal muscles at various angles and intensities for set periods of time against some form of resistance. The most famous core stability exercise is the Plank. There are many versions of this exercise, but most people should start on their elbows and toes, with the rest of the body elevated off the ground. Once you can hold that position for 120 seconds without rest, progress to a more challenging variation.

The Plank

Tip #4: Better Stability Leads to Greater Endurance
As you progress holding the plank for longer and longer periods of time, you are also training for core endurance.

Endurance comes from sub-maximal contraction of the musculature over a long period of time and is useful for preventing muscle fatigue. The contractions are not isometric. Any form of "balance training" may be considered endurance training. By placing the body in an unstable environment, it continuously makes minor corrections and adjustments in relationship to the instability. For example, stand on one leg and pick something off the ground. Notice how your body wiggled slightly as you bent over? Those are the minor corrections I was talking about.

Endurance exercises can be performed bilaterally and unilaterally. I find contralateral movements to be most effective at targeting the core muscles, but all endurance exercises are beneficial. Some examples are the Swiss-ball Pushup, Standing One-Arm Shoulder Press, and Squat and Deadlift variations.

Swiss-ball Pushup

Train at ±60% 1RM in the 12–18 rep range per set.

Tip #5: To Increase Strength, Train Near Maximal Resistance
Core strength is the ability to produce maximal force, which lets you lift heavier and heavier loads. To increase maximal force you must train with heavy resistance. Using medicine balls and weight plates are the simplest ways to add resistance to an exercise. Remember to train in all plans of motion—flexion, extension and rotation. Examples include Swiss-ball Crunch, Russian Twists and Hanging Leg Lifts. Train at ±85% 1RM in the 6–12 rep range per set.

Hanging Leg Lifts

Quick Note: When performing leg lift variations, always train in a full range of motion. Hip flexor activation is greatest from 0°–90°; and abdominal activation is greatest from 90°–180°

Tip #6: Train Power to Increase Force Production
Power is the ability to produce high force output in a short period of time and eventually translates into more strength and speed due to the Force-Velocity Curve. Speed becomes most important when training for core power. Resistance bands and medicine balls are the most useful when training at high speeds. Ball Slams, Tornado Ball and Twist variations are all examples of good Core Power exercises.

Train at ±70% 1RM for 3–5 reps per set. Don't be afraid to lower the resistance if you aren't getting good speed on an exercise. The primary focus is maintaining high velocity, so complete recovery periods between sets is very important.

Tip #7: Don't Train Everything at Once!
Decide which of the four attributes of a healthy core is most beneficial to you right now and begin a program that targets primarily that characteristic. After completing the program, select the next most beneficial attribute and begin a program that targets that characteristic. Cycle through the four attributes in a periodized manner to achieve a healthy, well-balanced core.

Using exercises I've already mentioned in this article, I might design the following example program for myself:

Phase I – Stability (4 weeks)
Week 1
Plank = 60 sec x 1
Week 2
Plank = 80 sec x 1
Week 3
Plank = 100 sec x 1
Week 4
Plank = 120 sec x 1

Phase II – Endurance (4 weeks)
Week 1
Deadlift = 60% 1RM x 12 x 12 x 12 (1–2 min rest between sets)
Plank = 120 sec x 1
Week 2
Deadlift = 60% 1RM x 16 x 16 x 16 (1–2 min rest between sets)
Plank = 120 sec x 1
Week 3
Deadlift = 70% 1RM x 12 x 12 x 12 (1–2 min rest between sets)
Plank = 120 sec x 1
Week 4
Deadlift = 70% 1RM x 16 x 16 x 16 (1–2 min rest between sets)
Plank = 120 sec x 1

Phase III – Strength (4 weeks)
Week 1
Swiss-ball Crunch = 80% 1RM x 6 x 6 x 6 (2–3 min rest between sets)
1-Arm Shoulder Press = 75% 1RM x 14 x 14 x 14 (1–2 min rest between sets)
Week 2
Swiss-ball Crunch = 80% 1RM x 12 x 12 x 12 (2–3 min rest between sets)
1-Arm Shoulder Press = 75% 1RM x 12 x 12 x 12 (1–2 min rest between sets)
Week 3
Swiss-ball Crunch = 85% 1RM x 6 x 6 x 6 (2–3 min rest between sets)
1-Arm Shoulder Press = 75% 1RM x 12 x 12 (1–2 min rest between sets)
Week 4
Swiss-ball Crunch = 85% 1RM x 12 x 12 x 12 (2–3 min rest between sets)
1-Arm Shoulder Press = 75% 1RM x 12 x 12 (1–2 min rest between sets)

Phase IV – Power (4 weeks)
Week 1
Tornado Ball = 70% 1RM x 3 x 3 x 3 (5–6 min rest between sets)
Hanging Leg Lifts = BW x 10 x 10 x 10 (2–3 min rest between sets)
Week 2
Tornado Ball = 70% 1RM x 5 x 5 x 5 (5–6 min rest between sets)
Hanging Leg Lifts = BW x 6 x 6 x 6 (2–3 min rest between sets)
Week 3
Tornado Ball = 75% 1RM x 3 x 3 x 3 (5–6 min rest between sets)
Hanging Leg Lifts = BW x 8 x 8 (2–3 min rest between sets)
Week 4
Tornado Ball = 75% 1RM x 5 x 5 x 5 (5–6 min rest between sets)
Hanging Leg Lifts = BW x 8 x 8 (2–3 min rest between sets)

The above is not a complete program and only serves as an example of how a good program might progress. Please seek the guidance of a qualified fitness professional before beginning any training program. If you would like my assistance designing a program tailored to your specific needs, feel free to contact me.

Do not neglect your core. Implement solid, periodized core training into your program now and start seeing results both inside and outside the gym. Your mid-section will thank you.



Andersson EA, et al. Abdominal and hip flexor muscle activation during various training exercises. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1997;75(2):115-23.

Lewis CL, et al. Anterior hip joint force increases with hip extension, decreased gluteal force, or decreased iliopsoas force. J Biomech. 2007;40(16):3725-31. Epub 2007 Aug 17.

Willardson JM. A periodized approach for core training. ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal. 2008;12(1):7–13.

Workman JC, et al. Influence of pelvis position on the activation of abdominal and hip flexor muscles. J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Sep;22(5):1563-9.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How To Become The Best At Anything

Via Seth Godin's Blog:

According to Malcolm Gladwell's new book, Outliers: The Story of Success:
  1. Where you're born and when you're born impact your level of success.
  2. Becoming a superstar takes about 10,000 hours of hard work.
  3. Points #1 and #2 are far more important than magical talent.
I can't change where and when I was born, but I can work hard at becoming a superstar.

I did the math: 10,000 hours equates to about 416 days, or 1.1 years, of non-stop practice. If you practiced for only eight hours a day (the average work-day), it would take you 1,250 days (3.4 years) to reach 10,000 hours. Practice four hours a day and it would be 2,500 days (6.8 years). Practice two hours and you need 5,000 days (13.6 years).

Seth points out that not every niche needs 10,000 hours to accomplish greatness. The more established a market is, Seth says, the harder it becomes to get through "The Dip." If the market is small or novel, The Dip is shallower and requires fewer hours to establish credibility and to be perceived as the best. From Seth's post:
Yo Yo Ma isn't perfect... he's just better than everyone else. He pushed through the Dip that others chose not to. I'm guessing that there are endeavors (like being CEO of a Fortune 500 company or partner at a big law firm) where the rewards are so huge that the number is closer to 20,000 hours or more to get through the Dip.

The Dip that Seth refers to is the period of time when a new project seems hopeless and doomed to failure. The Dip is similar to "Stage 3: Crisis of Meaning" in an entrepreneur's emotional cycle. Get past The Dip and glory abounds!

I agree with Seth's assessment of the 10,000-hour mark. Still, the mark helps put effort into perspective and gives us an objective goal to reference against our progress.

For example, I've been a Certified Personal Trainer for at least two years, working mostly part-time. This means I've acquired roughly 2,080 hours of experience, or 20% of my 10,000 hour goal, toward becoming a superstar.

Now suppose we deconstruct, Tim Ferriss-style, what it takes to become a successful trainer. What are the steps involved? What milestones would I need to achieve before I became an established and sought-after expert in my field? More importantly, what are we defining as "success?"

I leave the answers to those questions for a later post.

Friday, February 6, 2009

See Your Goals. Literally.

Via Straight to the Bar:

Girlwith Noname wants to see her abs, so she put photos of various hot bods on her wall as a constant reminder of what she's trying to achieve.

I think this is a great idea and it may be just what you need to keep yourself in the zone to reach those challenging goals.

I was thinking that it might not be a bad idea to also post progress photos of yourself on your "Visualization Wall." This way you have an objective record of where you've been and how far you've come.

Great stuff Girlwith. Keep it up!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Client Testimonials #2

Patrick Rock, 24 (Jan 2009, Chicago):
Derek was absolutely essential in me being able to stick to that all too common New Years Resolution. I went from couch potato to gym regular and have been faithful for over a year. I was intimidated by the weight room but Derek taught me the basics and how to effectively train. He quickly identified my weaknesses, personalized a routine and made me stronger in ways I didn't expect. He keeps my routine fun and fresh, consistently updating as my abilities grow. Derek has helped me more than just be happy with my body for the first time in my life, I now love the gym and am able to identify my own weaknesses. If you want a trainer dedicated to his clients, Derek's your guy.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Few and The Proud

Via Fight Geek:

There are no guarantees in life, even if you get up at 4:30 in the morning. This does not mean you shouldn't try. It is the attempt that leads to success. Those that try may fail; but those that do not try at all are destined for failure.

Before you back down from a challenge as yourself, "What's the worst that could happen?" Think of the absolute, most horrid scenario you can and imagine it down to the last detail. See yourself in the midst of this gruesome, unspeakable nightmare and live through it to the very end. See yourself emerge from the other side, unbroken and in one piece.

After this short mind-game, that challenge you almost stepped away from doesn't seem so bad.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Client Testimonials #1

Harrison Freund, 18 (Sept 2008, Chicago):
Thank you so much for the work you did with me over the past three weeks at Lincoln Park Fitness Center. It is absolutely amazing what we were able to accomplish in such a short time. I almost did not believe you when you said you could help me add 30 pounds to my bench press weight in less than a month. Aside from being a very knowledgeable and efficient trainer, you were also incredibly personable and friendly. I looked forward to every session we had together because you were able to make me feel motivated and comfortable at the same time. You always cared about my well being, and made sure that none of the routines were too stressful or too difficult. Our work together has helped me to pass my college soccer preseason fitness training, and there is no way that I would have been able to achieve such a goal without you. You helped to add 30 pounds to my bench press, 30 pounds to my military press, and helped me go from only being able to do 5 pull ups in a row to 13 in just 10 sessions! I hope that everything goes well for you this year, and I will make sure to tell everyone I can about the trainer that you are. Thank you so much again.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Knee Rehab Update

I injured my left knee (MCL sprain, I believe) three weeks ago on Dec 23 and have been slowly healing ever since. Training around the injury has been difficult, but I'm now very close to full and pain-free range of motion. The injury put on hold my training program for the powerlifting meet on March 1, and I don't feel confident attempting a max lift so soon after a major injury like this one. Therefore I will not be competing in the upcoming 100% Raw Powerlifting competition this season. I feel like I'm copping-out, but I'd rather be viewed as a wuss than re-injure my knee and possibly do permanent damage.

I am going to hold off doing heaving lifting for a while longer and allow my body to recover completely. In the mean time, I thought I would focus on hypertrophy and physique. It has been years since I've done a bodybuilding-style program and thought it might be time to revisit that style of training.

I plan on doing an upper-body/lower-body split, training each muscle group twice per week, using light cardio and other Energy System Work to control body fat.

This will be a great experiment. I look forward to the results.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Random Medical News

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Trainer-Client Relations

Via Back-to-Form Fitness:

Keith Scott believes that the Trainer-Client relationship is a two-way street. If you find a good trainer, be a good client, and stick with them for the long-haul. Good trainers are hard to find and if you find one, you'll have to pay for it:
Remember, you get what you pay for. Don’t expect major discounts either. Please remember that trainers are working for a living, just as other professionals are. In addition, most trainers get half or even less than half of what you are actually paying. The other part of that money goes to the “house” or the owner of the gym. If you get a discount, chances are, your trainer is taking home less too. The old notion that buying sessions in bulk should deserve a discount is outdated too. Would you expect to get a discount from your doctor just because you go to him or her a lot?
It's true that my services as a trainer are expensive. But it's also true that I don't take home all of what I charge. I have rental fees, continuing professional education, insurance, equipment costs and any number of other odds-and-ends that must be paid for before I get to bring home my pay. It's safe to assume that a trainer sees about half (that 50%!!) of what the client is being charged. In a large national health club chain, that percent might be even less.

Trainers are Allied Healthcare Professionals. We are not salesman and we should not be used as cleaning staff.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Importance of Failure, part 2

In part 1, I discussed the reasons behind why we fail and what our initial responses to failure are. In part 2, I look at how failure leads to improvement and redesign.

Congratulations! You failed. And after the failure you took an objective after-action review of the event and separated out all the useful information and discarded values outside your control that cannot be adjusted for. Now we must analyze the data and create a plan of action to lead to a desired outcome.

Step 1: Define the Problem
What happened during the trial period? Were you too weak? Too slow? Not enough stamina to complete the test? Was it the equipment?

Use the data and state a clear, specific problem to be worked on. Also, define what the problem should look like by the end of the next pre-trial period. This helps us label our "before" and "after" states for future comparison.

Step 2: Measure the Problem
What are the Problem's capabilities? What is your max bench press? How quickly can you run a mile?

Measure the current state of the problem as you've defined it. This will give you a baseline to gauge improvement against.

Step 3: Attack the Problem
Now that the problem as been clearly defined and its current capability measured, it is time to create a plan to get you from the current state to the desired state. Step 3 is a crucial stage and must be thought out fully. Look at the data: What worked? What didn't? Apply the Pareto Principle and redesign the program around the best ideas from the previous attempt. Discard the rest.

The plan of attack can be thought of as your training program, and should set out the specific sets, reps and distances you will need to perform at every session to get to your goal by the next trial. The program may be as short as a few weeks or as long as a few months. Remember that good training programs are (1) progressive--continuously overloading the body and forcing it to adjust to the new demands, (2) periodized--focusing on one training aspect before moving on to the next, and (3) appropriate--not harming the body or causing serious injury.

If you need help designing a solid training program, seek the guidance of a Certified Personal Trainer or Strength Coach. Email me for a quick consultation.

Step 4: Control the Problem
Closely monitor the problem and make sure it doesn't get worse. Compare your current state in the pre-trial to your original problem (the before) and your desired goal (the after). Are you closer now to your goal than when you began? If not, do not wait to make changes to the program: reevaluate the plan of attack and make modifications. Do you need to use more weight? Run faster? Run longer? Small changes to the program now can help increase the probability of meeting and exceeding your goals at the next trial period.

Step 5: Anticipate, Adapt and Improvise
The more times you cycle through the above process, the easier and faster it becomes. With each problem and plan of action you create, you gather experience and will begin to notice repeating patterns. These patterns allow you to anticipate complications and improvise solutions. For example--if you know the power rack at your gym is always taken after 5pm, you can schedule your training session earlier in the day to guarantee access to the equipment; or you can design a program that doesn't require the power rack to begin with, avoiding the issue altogether.

As long as we review the failure and define a problem to measure, attack and control, we can learn from our failures and collect experiences that will allow us to better predict and avoid re-visiting issues in the future.

Do not fear failure. Embrace it and accept it. Learn from it and grow.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

You vs. Nature

Via Straight to the Bar:

Guest writer Max Shank says the ultimate test of strength is not in the gym, but out in nature:
When you lift real stones, each lift is a battle. You and mother nature and nothing else. There are no handles on a real stone, and there is nothing easy about lifting it off the ground.
Plus, stones are free and available almost anywhere. Just take a trip to your local park or beach or "nature spot" and lift something. It doesn't have to be a big stone, either. Find a stone that's challenging for you and make a goal of lifting it. Once you've reached the goal, find a bigger stone and lift that one. Do this over and over until you run out of stones.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Importance of Water

Drink more water.

Every day, I drink 2-4 liters (70-140 oz) of pure H2O, and I'm always on the look-out for early signs of dehydration:
  • A dry or sticky mouth
  • Headache, dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Sleepiness, tiredness or lack of focus
  • Muscle weakness or fatigue
  • Decreased performance levels
I also use the "pee test" to check fluid levels: When my urine is clear, I know I'm well hydrated; if my urine is yellow, I need to drink more.

Many times, dehydration can confused with hunger. If I feel hungry, I first drink a glass of water. If I still feel hunger a few minutes later, I know my body truly needs nutrients and not just fluids.

Because I drink so much water during the day, I invested in a large water bottle from Platypus. Its soft-shell design means it takes up less space as I empty it.

But any bottle will do: Having water close by means you are more likely to drink, and drink often.

If you're not use to drinking large amounts of water, start slow and allow your body to adjust to the new fluid levels. You'll be surprised at the daily performance boost being well hydrated can offer.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Yea Baby New Year!

2008 is over. Bring on 2009!