Archive | December 2015

What is a Trainer Worth?

“You shouldn’t be here.”

These were the exact words spoken to me by a club member when I told him what degree I’d earned and from which university. He went on to say that someone with my qualifications and abilities was wasted minding gym equipment and training housewives. I suppose it was a weird kind of compliment, but it made me think of the way people view trainers, and educators in general.

What is a trainer? What skills and knowledge would a trainer presumably possess? For that matter, how much is a teacher expected to know to do his or her job properly?

The answer is: everything you could possibly imagine necessary. During our Foundations training, we were taught biomechanics, anatomy, exercise physiology, and movement assessment, among many other things. Later workshops taught communication, plyometrics, and myofascial release. We’ve got Red Cross training coming up, as well as equipment-specific modalities.

How is it a waste of intelligence to take on a job that requires learning all this and more?

More important perhaps than the requisite ability is the scale of responsibility that is placed on educators.

Take grade school teachers. They are the people to whom you entrust the intellectual development of your children. You expect them to teach math, science, and language. You also expect them to instill basic values such as honesty, diligence, and self-confidence. In short, a large part of the development of the world’s future is in the hands of someone who is overworked, underpaid, and vastly under-appreciated.

Similarly, a trainer’s responsibilities range from entertaining a doctor’s idle wife to bringing a rehabilitating athlete back to high-level competition. Yes, some trainers simply hang around dingy gyms and give the occasional spot to a bencher. Others are responsible for people’s careers and dreams.

It takes a great deal of skill to successfully fill the role, but also a great deal of courage not to buckle under the pressure.

Yes, there are those in the field who refuse to take the job so seriously. The same can be said about just about every career in existence. Their existence doesn’t diminish those who lead the charge.

So am I wasting my expensive college education in a low-paying rank-and-file position that has me working nine-hour shifts six days a week? It may seem so right now, when we have no clients or classes to handle, but I know from experience that once we start changing lives – making dreams come true – it’ll all make sense.

The point of every life is to contribute positively. This is an excellent way to do it.




5min Row @ progressive pace

5x10s hard / 50s moderate Row

Barbell Complex

3×6 @ 35kg



Bent-over Row

Hang Clean

Front Squat

Push Press

Back Squat

Round Interval

1 round per min for 10min @ 45kg

2x Power Clean

2x Hang Clean

1x Thruster

Deadlift Buildup

3x @ 100kg

2x @ 115kg

1x @ 125/130/135/140/145kg


5 sets / 2min rest

5x Deadlift @ 115kg

10x Split Jump

Calf Work

5×20 Seated Calf Raise @ 90kg

5×15 Single-leg Seated Calf Raise @ 45kg

5×15 Single-leg Rocking Calf Raise @ 10kg

Final Work

10-1x Decline Roll-up @ 10kg

10min Stretch to cool down


Open Your Mind

Amateurs think in absolutes. Pros think options.

One major advantage of having worked in a minimalist gym is that I became very creative with what equipment we had. The TRX suspension trainer was our main gear, and I developed several ways to use it that have to date not appeared in any TRX training course that I am aware of. Weight plates were used for complexes training all three planes of motion, ViPRs were used as barbells, and even foam rollers were brought into play to train unilateral strength.

In short, I became a very good lateral thinking trainer. I can now look at a single piece of equipment – or even something as simple as a door – and come up with multiple ways to train with it. Some credit does go to my degree in Development Studies, where the key skill was thinking on multiple levels and in different directions. We never once said anything like “This is the only way to do it” because we knew that the issue of development has been tackled in multiple ways in multiple areas.

In contrast, a lot of trainers I meet seem to be unable to think laterally unless given exact rules that explain such thinking to them. Yesterday, during our SX-B (suspension training basics) course, several people expressed surprise at the different ways a suspension trainer can be used. It was the same as when I took my Group Suspension Training certification back in 2013: some people asked whether the TRX could be used in the same session as weights, or whether it was meant for stretching. On both of these days, the trainers in charge answered very professionally that there were few limitations on how the equipment could be effectively used so long as it was in the hands of a creative and capable trainer.

The difficulty as I see it, then, is how to develop this creativity. There simply isn’t time enough to master every bit of fitness gear in existence, so taking courses in everything isn’t a plausible option. Furthermore, it isn’t what I did. I would say that one way to do it is focus on a movement-based foundation which can then be expanded as necessary. As long as I know how to push – which muscles are involved, what joints and joint movements are used – I can find different ways to develop strength in that area. Barbells, suspension trainers, and the floor are all possible training aids.

Another issue is the limited way in which people tend to look at certain aspects of fitness. Strength can only be developed with heavy weights. Cardio can only be done with long-distance steady-state runs or bike rides. The focus is on the application rather than the underlying principle. Rap – yesterday’s trainer – demonstrated the difference very well by pointing out to my bodybuilding classmate that if bodyweight training couldn’t develop strength, he should have been able to do handstand push-ups given the weight he could press overhead (Hint: he couldn’t). If one looked at the overload principle of strength rather than the common technique of shifting a heavy barbell, one would see that a high degree could be developed with any tools.

I think that the fitness world is shifting to a more holistic, open approach to training. I do have to give at least some credit to CrossFit for proving how an elite athlete can be developed using multiple modalities, but I believe this multidisciplinary training model has actually been long recognized by the elites of sport. NFL players know the value of heavy weights and sprints. Gymnasts know how to master bodyweight moves alongside heavy carries. Marathoners know how to deadlift heavy as well as run.

What has to be done now is bring this understanding into the mainstream. This is not the job of elite coaches, but of people like me who work at commercial gyms and deal with office workers and weekend warriors. For us to effectively help them reach their vastly different goals through different means, we must step back from our specialties and modalities – strength through iron, weight loss through cardio – and focus on mastering the basic principles that can then be expressed.

This comes back to my earlier question: How do we train the creativity necessary for this?

I don’t have a solid answer except that if you want to be a good trainer, you should never approach a single piece of gear with the belief that it can do exactly one thing. Weights, bars, machines, suspension trainers, medicine balls – these are tools, nothing more. How much use you can get out of it ultimately comes down to you.





30x 4-way JJ


3 rounds

3x Pull-up + 2x per round

5x Pike Push-up + 2x per round

10x Squat + 2x per round


Max alternating 2/4/6/8/10 ladders in 10min

Pike Push-up

Jump Squat

3min rest


Max alternating 1-4 ladders in 8min