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Some Of My Awesome Clients

22 Feb

Here is an old video of a few of my clients getting after it. I totally forgot I had filmed some of this stuff! I like this video because it shows the mix of athletes I may work with on any given day at MBSC.

A 14 year old chin-ups with 55 lbs, some AARP card holders fight off aging and some of my 6 adult group push their training to the limit before the work day begins. Enjoy !


7 Guidelines For Training Adult Clients

1 Aug

Along with coaching high school and college-aged athletes I also train a number of middle-aged adult clients. In fact, almost half of the hours I spend training people throughout the course of any week is spent training clients who are 40+! So, if I must toot my own horn for a second I think I’ve gotten pretty dam good at training the aging weekend warriors, stay at home house-wives, overweight oldies and every aging adult in between. I feel very confident programming for this demographic and believe I have some great insight when it comes to restoring function and improving long-term quality of life in adult clients. The truth is the rules I follow are not that different from when training young athletic populations. Here are some of the guidelines I follow.

1). Leave No Stone Unturned  in Assessment

This should be a general rule of thumb when it comes to all clients but I find my assessment sheet becomes more cluttered with writing when it comes to my adult “athletes”. Years of wear and tear lead to a number of injuries and pathologies that often go unnoticed or written off as simply a result of “old age.” The fact is nobody should be in pain and everybody’s dysfunction can be resolved either by me or a more skilled clinician.

It seems like every adult client that I get makes me play my least favorite game entitled “Find My Pain and Dysfunction”

It goes like this….The health and injury history form comes back glowing. No history of pain or injury in sight. I say “Wow, no aches, pains or injuries ever!?!? Write down anything you can think of big or small I have to know!” They answer “No, I’m healthy and ready to go!”. Common sense tells me this is next to impossible and  in my head I think “We’ll here we go again…”

More often than not only  about 10 minutes into an assessment I find out about that shoulder injury from high school hockey when you got buried into the boards. To which they often say “Yeah it’s not a big deal, I just can’t lift my arm over my head, I’ve just got a lot of miles”  Either that or it is the chronic low back pain that they didn’t think was worth mentioning. This is why assessment is so important. To them “It’s just old age” to you it’s pain and dysfunction that needs to be dealt with.

Here is what I do

  • Watch: How do they walk, move, sit, stand etc.. Are they rubbing their shoulder or low back as you go through the movements?
  • FMS: This should be the standard of movement for all humans. Follow the formula and stick to principles and it will lead you to your corrections. Remember if there is pain here the score is 0. Refer to a medical professional or go to the SFMA if you are qualified.
  • Table Assessments: Go here to help confirm your findings in the former. Check things like hip mobility, ankle mobility, hip strength, shoulder ROM. This can be a great way to clarify some of things you may already think that you are seeing through the screen.
  • Have an “Assessment Workout”: After my aforementioned assessments I put all my new clients through a standard “assessment workout.” This works out great as I usually have 30 minutes left  after my initial assessments are done. I use this as an opportunity take another look at all of the major patterns assuming I don’t see a red light somewhere in the FMS. Furthermore, I can see how move through a linear movement warm-up and can get a general idea of their overall fitness level by watching their general fatigue. Now, I can see the clients general coordination and get a glimpse of their conditioning levels in addition to their movement limitations.

Now we know their limitations and where we need to lay some groundwork before we start really training certain patterns. You can see your red, green and yellow lights. Program your corrective work where it’s needed  and start training everything else. If nothing else remember these two things “If it hurts, don’t do it.” and “Pain = Referral”

Just Do It.

2).Full-Out Assault on Soft Tissue Quality

By far the number one need for all adult trainees that I see is improved soft-tissue quality. Everybody that comes in seems to be jacked up somewhere. We do self-myofascial release and mobility work and stretching of some variety everyday. All my clients are familiar with the the roller, lacrosse ball, and tiger tail whether they like it or not. This does not mean dig in every inch of the body. It means tack and dig with purpose. Teach your clients what their problem areas are, how to attack them and why it is important.

I have a confession to make: I still believe in static stretching. Now I know it won’t work in all situations. A lot of people are “locked long” and all the stretching in the world won’t loosen them up. That being said I have a lot of adults who are simply tight. I’ve seen remarkable improvement in hip mobility with a little bit of soft tissue work combined with contract/relax and static stretching. If you know that they are tight and short somewhere then stretch them. See if it helps. If it doesn’t go back to the drawing board. Once again, the FMS should give you the guidelines to figure this out.

In addition to all of this, make sure your clients hydrated. We know hydration improves soft-tissue quality. Keeping proper hydration will ensure that their tissues don’t more matted and nasty than they already are.

It can't hurt to do...well it might hurt a little bit.

3). Explosives and Plyometrics The Right Way

We’ve all heard the research before. As we age beyond our twenties we begin to lose our ability to produce force at an alarming rate. More specifically we see a loss in reactivity as well as the ability to create explosive power. So is it in our best interest in try to promote reactiveness and explosiveness in our aging clients right?!? Well yes, but with the right implements.

We have to think think about “explosiveness and reactivity” in relative terms. What is a plyometric for a 50 year old adult? It might just be a ladder drill  not a continuous 45* bound or depth drop to hurdle jump. You get what I’m saying? They don’t need bounding all over they simply need to be moving reactively and stabilizing their landing as much as THEIR body allows.

As far as building explosive power goes I’m all for KB swings for adult clients who clear the assessments but they probably don’t need to doing olympic lifts. If their patterns don’t clear have them use the shuttle jump or jump squat. My clients do medicine ball throws everyday combined with one of the aforementioned implements. These can lead to a great training effect with far less chance of injury.

I think plyometric and explosive work is necessary for adult personal training clients. We should be training adults to be powerful and reactive so long as we choose the correct means. It comes down to what is explosive in relative terms not absolute terms.

4). Build/Maintain Muscle Mass and Joint Mobility

Everyone knows that as we age we fight the battle against atrophy. As we head north of thirty and beyond it is my belief that we should literally be in a fight to the death to maintain our lean body mass. In addition to muscle atrophy we also tend to see a loss of joint mobility in our joints in which need them most (Big Toe/Ankle/Hip/T-Spine). Our western lifestyle combined with the natural biology of aging makes for double whammy of sorts when it comes to our body breaking down. Failing to battle these two elements will leave us high and dry, making daily function a severe challenge.

Well how do we fight it…??

Enter Dan John, Legend.

The need to battle this loss of function in aging populations was something grealty reinforced to me by Dan John when he came to speak at MBSC for our winter seminar. Dan stressed that the battle against aging is won by increasing lean body mass combined with increasing mobility in the proper places.

Dan brought attention to Janda’s Upper and Lower Crossed Syndromes, as it should be a basis for training everybody.

In summary, we have “tonic” muscles that are generally prone to tightness and shortness and are in need of flexibility and mobility in their associated joint as well as “phasic” muscles that are often weak and inhibited and need activation, strength and hypertrophy to provide stability. Lets take a look at  some of the list.


  • Rhomboids
  • Lower Trapezius
  • Gluteus Maximus, Medius, Minimus (Dan said the best sign of virtility is a muscular butt!)
  • Deep Neck Flexors


  • Pectoralis Major/Minor
  • Upper Trapezius
  • Rectus Femoris
  • Quadratus Luborum

This is not all of them but you get the point. Stretch what needs to be stretched and get more mobile. Strengthen what needs to be strengthened and build some lean body mass. Increased mobility means more functional range of motion during daily life an probably less pain. Increased LBM usually means faster metabolism, less body fat and improved visual appearance. Ask yourself, “What middle aged person doesn’t need all of these things?”

Would you rather look like this....

or like this???

5). Locomotion

As far as goals concerning body composition and truly functional core strength I don’t think you get more bang for your buck out of any exercise than you do with carry variations. ( I know this is also Dan John inspired. What can I say he is a legend.)Once we progress to carries from exercises like planks and pressouts I  like to program them as much as possible for a couple reasons.

  1. They provide a great demand in core strength combined with locomotion making them a metabolic challenge in addition to a core exercise.
  2. For the average person back injury comes from picking up, putting things down and carrying things improperly. Carry variations teach you how to do all three of those things correctly if you coach them right. They provide a core demand that these adult athletes can carry over more conciously to daily life.

Along with providing a truly “functional”(there is that dirty words again) core demand these exercises provide full-body engagement during locomotion. So not only do we engage the correct muscles to fire in the right places but we get actual movement at the same time. This is a win-win for gaining muscle mass, burning fat and fighting the upper-lower crossed.  Programming carries CORRECTLY provides for a full body muscle builder, fat burner and posture improver all in one.

6). Single Leg Work

Single leg work is my predominate mechanism for training the lower body in my adult PT clients. The ability to spare the back and train the legs is priceless when working with aging clients since the majority of which have some history of low pack pain.

Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squats, Single Leg Squats, Single Leg Deadlift and Skater Squats are my primary lower body lifts of choice. They allow me to train the posterior and anterior musculature of the lower body effectively with0ut increasing the chance for low back injury.

With that being said I have not totally abandoned bi-lateral lower body strength work with my adult clients. All my clients learn to BW/Goblet Squat properly as well perform the hip hinge in some capacity provided they clear the screen. Those without a history of chronic back pain who show me they have the prerequisite stability and mobility to deadlift, will do so. I think the squat and hip hinge is crucial pattern that needs to be trained if we have the ability to do so.

A middle-aged athlete doing a single leg squat

7). Condition, Condition, Condition

Since the number one goal of all my adult clientele is living longer, healthier lives improvement of cardiovascular health and body composition is paramount. There is not a day that goes by when my adults come into train that we don’t get some form of high-intensity work in through some medium. Here are some of the different apprpoaches I take to conditioning a during the last half of our work out…

Metabolic Circuits for time or reps: 30 on/30 or 10 reps of each or something similar.

  1. Goblet Squat
  2. Farmer Carry
  3. Push-Up
  4. TRX Row
  5. DB Curl and Press

Heavy Partner Sled Pushes:

  • Partner 1- 20 yards down/Partner 2- 20 yards back for 6-10 reps

Airdyne Bike Rides

  • Time Intervals: 15/45, 20/40, 30/30: 6-10x
  • Distance Sprints: .2 miles, .3 miles, .5 miles: For multiple reps
  • Long Distance Rides: 3-5 miles: For best time possible

Nothing strikes more fear into the hearts of my clients..

5 Ways To Get Lean And Keep Your Muscle

14 Jun

It’s the beginning of summer and well it’s the time of the year where many of us are trying to drop our body fat percentage and raise our sex appeal. Unfortunately,  to the average misinformed gym-goer this means hours of long slow cardio on some space age machine at the globo gym.  Not only is this method ineffective but I’m pretty sure it’s only one step from waterboarding as far as torture goes.


The bottom line is that hours of long slow cardio wont get you looking lean and muscular anytime soon. In fact, you’re destroying your lean body mass and turning yourself into a weakling who’s most impressive physical quality will be running in place for 60 minutes. In this post I’m going to give you the TOP 5 NO FAIL tips to lose fat and keep/gain muscle mass. So, while all the cardio nerds are killing themselves on the elliptical and destroying all of their hard-earned muscles you can get after it in the weight room, lose fat, keep muscle and get the girl (or guy). So here we go..

1). Cut the carbs, except for post workout

             There is no way you are going to get lean if you keep a boat load of carbs in your daily diet. If your going to cut all that fat you need to create a deficit so that your body begins tapping into all of that adipose tissue for energy. In addition to this ingestion of sugars cause hormonal reactions that are not favorable to fat loss. I tell all my clients to cut out the carbs everywhere in their diet except for in their post-workout window. In addition to this I tell them to eliminate grains from their diet completely. This tip works wonders. We should be getting our calories primarily from protein and healthy fats at every meal. We need carbs post-workout for recovery but when it comes to losing fat we’ve got to pull them out of the diet everywhere else.

A sample day for me might look like this

  • Meal One: 5 Eggs with Spinach and Salsa + Fish Oil
  • Meal Two: Cottage Cheese + Plain Greek Yogurt + 1 Scoop Sugar Free Pink Lemonade Metamucil + Fish Oil
  • Meal Three: (Pre-Workout): Whey Protein Shake with Water + Creatine
  • Meal Four: (Post-Workout): Whey Prtoein Shake with Almond Milk and Waxy Maize + Creatine
  • Meal Five: Grilled Chicken with Brocolli + Fish Oil
  • Meal Six: Whey Protein Shake + Natural PB + Ice + Fish Oil

Here are my bullets.

  • Protein at every meal.
  • Only eat carbs at post-workout meal.
  • Eat healthy fats. (Fish Oil, Coconut oil, Natural PB)
  • Done.

    Nature didn't intend for us to eat bread anyways..

2). Lift heavy

           When your in the gym don’t waste your time with long slow boring cardio. Get under the bar and lift heavy. Most people don’t associate heavy lifting with weight loss but according to Alwyn Cosgroves Hierarchy of Fat Loss the best way to lose fat after nailing you nutrition is to perform “activities that burn calories, maintain/promote muscle mass and elevate metabolism.” Lifting heavy does all of these things.

When I’m trying to get leaner I choose to stay on 5/3/1 for all of my main lifts and just change my accessory work and conditioning choices and it has worked great. I get my heavy sets out of the way and simply pair up all of my accessory work into circuits and complexes to make the second part of my workout as dense as possible. Doing this allows you to get stronger and get your metabolism up. I get stronger and lose fat now that is a win/win.

3). Perform complexes and strength circuits 

          As I mentioned I will use complexes and circuits as my accessory work to ramp my metabolic intensity a bit after my strength work. You can perform the complexes with anything you want a barbell, kettlebells or dumbbells. I prefer barbell circuits as it lets me move the most amount of weight possible. Some people try to rush these ala crossfit and finish them as fast a possible. This is a mistake. Take the time to perform each rep perfectly to ensure good form and prevent injury. It is not a race. Do the reps perfect, you’ll be gassed and your grip will be smoked.

Maybe the barbell lifts aren’t for you. No problem put together a strength/power circuit of full body exercises that will rev up your metabolism. Check out the videos below for examples of everything.

Barbell Complex

  • Clean x 5
  • Front Squat x 5
  • Push Press x 5
  • Reverse Lunge x 5 ea
  • Deadlift x 5
  • Bent Over Row x 5

KB Complex

Here Neghar Fonooni does an awesome kettlebell complex better than I ever could. This makes for great conditioning if you prefer KB’s to barbells.

Strength/Power/Conditioning Circuit

            Here was a killer conditioning circuit from last summer that had everything. Ropes, Jump Squats, Med Balls, Push-Ups, Bike Sprints and even some ladders. In fact it was so good I’ll probably never do it again. ; )

4). Sprint           

            Run, pedal, pull or push something as fast as you can over a short distance then rest and repeat. I don’t care how you sprint just do it. Why? Well, numerous studies show that sprinting is found to increase growth hormone levels post exercise. This makes for a potent formula for fat loss and muscle growth at the end of your workout. In comparison, spending your time jogging or bouncing around on an elliptical for an hour isn’t only an inefficient use of your time but it isn’t getting you any leaner and is only going to slow your muscle gain.

Who would your rather look like?

I prefer pushing the prowler as follows

Sled + 90 lbs:15 yards sprints: Rest and Repeat

5). If your going to cheat, then you better workout

            I understand no one is perfect when it comes to following a diet. Now and then we’re all going to crack. Well, if your going to fall of the lean eating wagon be sure to at least capitalize on your binge so that you get something out of it.

See when you’ve been eating lean for long periods of time and then hit a “speed bumps” in the form of a cheesebugerfriesperpperonipizzaandciecream etc. etc. then your body will be sent into an anabolic state. Insulin will go up and growth hormone will spike and we have a great opportunity to build some muscle. Now remember anabolic could mean a couple things depending on how we approach the situation.

Diet disaster or an opportunity to pack on muscle?

Scenario 1: We cheat on our diet and then sit on our ass and do nothing. This will result in an anabolic effect around your waistline where we simply gain body fat and reap no benefits as far as muscle growth goes.


Scenario 2: We cheat on our diet then get after it at the gym as soon as possible. Being proactive and moving some iron in the gym allows us to capitalize on our “anabolic window.” Doing this lets us use this as an opportunity for muscle growth and recovery for our body that has been in calorie restriction for an extended period of time. When we trip up on our diet periodically and workout it functions almost as a reset button for out hormonal system that can keep ups moving along steadily to being both muscular and lean. You’ll find that if you capitalize on these periodic slip-they will actually help you build muscle and accelerate your fat loss so long as you stay on track with your diet 99% of the time.


I found this box under Brendon Rearick's bed...

At the end of the day getting lean and having some muscle to show at the end of it all has almost everything to do with nutrition. If you’re living off Ho Ho’s and soda you’ll never get there and frankly exercising won’t make the slightest difference for you. So, step one is to control what your stuffing down your throat. From there it’s not rocket science. Lift to maintain/promote muscle mass and an active metabolism and eat to promote low body fat.

Thanks for reading!


1 Mar

Here’s a quick post on a new core exercise combo that I’ve been playing with. The other day I was doing overhead KB carries and thought “Why am I swinging or pressing it up overhead if I could just do a turkish get-up instead?’

From here this brutal combo was born. This is how it goes. Turkish get-up to standing position, perform an overhead carry 20 yards (or whatever distance  you want) and then finish with the second half of the get-up back to supine.

With a little practice I was able to perform a few sets on both sides with the 32 kg. This was a killer. My entire body was tired and my shoulders were  especially cooked.

Check out the video!!!

Epic Snowed-In Workout at The Strength Coach House

12 Jan

If you live in the Northeast then chances are you just got slammed with a whole bunch of snow just like I did here in Boston. With over two-feet of snow coming all over night it meant for a professional snow day for all of us at MBSC. Sorry, to all my clients but pulling out of my driveway is physically impossible.  So, after actually getting to sleep past 5 AM for the first time in weeks, eating an epic breakfast, and shoveling 2  tons of snow out of the driveway it was time for me and the room mates an in-home workout.

Before watching the video of our in-home workout be informed that I live in a house with 3 other strength and conditioning coaches. Henry Lau, Brendon Rearick and Ana Tocco are all great room mates and coaches and our unique situation allows us to have some great tools on hand for exercise. Tools included being a weight vest, sledgehammer, chains, medicine balls and bands. With that being said you could complete this in-home circuit with out any of the tools using just your body weight.

Here is how it went down

Snow Day Workout:

Complete 4x with no rest

1. Jump Squats x 10

2. Off-Loaded Straight Leg Sit-Ups x 5 each side

3. Overhead Squat x 10

4. Feet Elevated Band Resisted Push-Ups x 10

5. Band Resisted Good Mornings x 10

6. Band Pull-Aparts x 15

7. Wheel Rollouts x 10

8. Chain Loaded RFE x 8 each leg

9. Medicine Ball Wood Chop x 10 each side

10. Chain Curls x 10

If you are snowed in and need some good reading checkout some great posts from my room mates and friends.

Brendon Rearick: Drills for Better Posture and Shoulder Health

Ana Tocco: Strength Coach Roundtable Discussion #3

Marco Sanchez: In-Home Workout

Jaime Rodriguez: 2011 Goals and Training