To be very clear, none of these statements are meant to be blanket statements.
1) Feeling ‘’dead’’ after your workouts isn’t the sign of a good workout, and it will not make you better. This is especially true if you are strength training. If anything, training this way will compromise the integrity of your form during your workouts, and you will be much less likely to be able to train consistently. Consistency trumps intensity.
2) Focus on what you can do, not what you cannot do. Work at enhancing your strengths, while chipping away at your weaknesses or limitations. This is especially true when you are recovering from an injury.
3) In most cases, when you are injured, being told to ‘’not do anything’’ (advice that is irresponsibly and frequently doled out by many doctors) is terrible advice, and will prevent you from recovering at a faster rate. Again, focus on movements you CAN do, and be mindful of your injury.
4) Nobody is perfectly symmetrical, so forcing people to adopt symmetrical stances often doesn’t make sense, and can be very counterproductive. Do what works and feels the best for YOU.
5) As a coach, when it comes to your own training, treat/program yourself the way you would your clients. Listen to your own advice, and don’t be stubborn. This is especially true if you are dealing with an injury. I got these awesome words of wisdom from Leigh Peele.
6) It doesn’t matter whether you are squatting with an empty barbell, or are going for a one rep max, your form should look the same, and you need to be equally mentally and physically alert.
7) When you are deadlifting from the ground, without rushing your set-up, the quicker you can execute your set-up, the less energy you will expend. Many people waste valuable and needless energy while setting up, and this takes away from their lift.
8) When it comes to deadlifting (and many other lifts), setting up is a key component of the exercise, and is a skill that needs to be mastered.
9) When you are performing pull-ups, the shorter the distance your body has to travel to the bar, the easier it will be to perform your first rep ever, or many reps.
10) Still talking pull-ups and bar path. A longer and inefficient arc to the bar often results from swinging and pulling deadweight. Addressing pull-up specific technique, body positioning, controlled mobility in the shoulders and shoulder blades, and generating tension in the lumbo-pelvic region helps rectify this. Maybe I’m biased, but I think the pull-up program I’ve created addresses all of the above, and a lot more. Check out The Ultimate Pull-Up Program.
11) Breathing is about so much more than getting oxygen into your body. Without getting into a lot of detail, some of the benefits of proper breathing include:
- Increasing parasympathetic nervous system activity. This is important as countless people have extremely overactive sympathetic nervous systems, and are constantly in ‘’fight or flight’’ mode.
- Enhancing lumbo-pelvic stability. Breathing, bracing, and body positioning all play an instrumental role in your lumbo-pelvic stability. This is important when you are strength training, playing sports (including running), or are even performing everyday movements.
- Improving your mobility. Believe it or not, proper breathing can improve your mobility. Tony Gentilcore showed this firsthand in The Complete Shoulder And Hip Blueprint when he had a guy with terrible overhead mobility spend a few minutes working on proper breathing. Tony did a test and retest, and after a small amount of proper breathing his overhead mobility was notably better. Dean Somerset should also be mentioned as he covered breathing in this awesome program.
12) When you are performing rowing variations, your shoulder blades are supposed to move. Many people pin their shoulder blades, particularly when they are extending their arms. This prevents the muscles in the mid to upper back from working to their full potential, and can place additional stress on the elbows.
13) Very few exercises are ‘’too easy’’ if you are performing them properly. In fact, in many instances, if you are performing an exercise correctly, it will feel significantly tougher, and this is a good thing.
14) When it comes to coaching/programming workouts, there is a definite art to giving someone what they want, while making it exactly what they need.
15) Eating kale doesn’t make you a ‘’good’’ person, and eating ice cream doesn’t make you a ‘’bad’’ person. It would be extremely refreshing and helpful if some people stopped placing a moral value on food. I’m just using these two foods as an example, and you could insert any food into this statement.
16) Let me continue, judging people based on their food choices, being sanctimonious, and/or pushing your food choices/preferred way of eating on people is not cool. Do what makes you happy, and let everybody else do the same.
17) While the name is ''deadlift,'' it is actually more of a pressing movement. You should be using your lower body and glutes to press the weight away from the floor. Many people make the mistake of lifting the bar with their back and/or arms. In order to perform the exercise safely and effectively, focus on pressing with your legs and glutes, not lifting with your back and arms.
18) In order to do what I just described, proper technique, body positioning, breathing, bracing, and generating the requisite levels of tension and stability, are imperative.
19) Any time you bend over, even if it’s to do something as pedestrian as tying up your shoes, picking up a bag, or throwing a bowling ball, use proper form. Proper hinging, breathing, bracing/tension, and body positioning are vital. Many people disregard basic form while performing daily movements, and this is often when they sustain injuries.
20) If performing barbell hip thrusts or glute bridges is something you don’t enjoy doing, or if they do not make your body feel good (many people cannot generate enough lumbo-pelvic stability/tension to perform these safely and effectively so they often compensate by hyperextending their lower back instead of using their posterior chain muscles), there are countless other awesome exercises that will help you strengthen and develop your backside. While heavy barbell hip thrusts and glute bridges are popular on social media, particularly Instagram, they are not the holy grail of glute training, and there are so many other fantastic options.
21) When you are coaching, less is often more. Bombarding people with too many cues can lead to overthinking, and often causes people to forget key details. Focus on the main points, and coach/correct only as needed.
22) When it comes to performing exercises with band resistance, less (as in tension) is often more beneficial. Don't overdo the tension.
23) Health is wealth. Be proactive with your health, and never take it (or even the ability to perform basic movements) for granted.
24) When you are working with a coach, whether it’s in person or online, it must be a total team effort. There needs to be respect, attentiveness, accountability, and a full mental and physical effort on both sides.
25) When you are performing any deadlifting variation, during the lowering component, resist the urge to reach down to the ground with your arms. Many people do this as they think reaching with their arms means that they have achieved a greater range of motion. It does not. Instead, this reaching removes much of the stability and tension in the upper body, decreases performance, and can place the back under more stress. Engage your lats, keep your arms rigid, and drive them into your sides. Your arms should never drift ahead of your body, nor should they drop down to the floor.
26) Planks aren’t boring or easy if you are performing them correctly. If you are performing any plank variation correctly, you should not be able to last for very long. 10-15 seconds is a good range.
27) Still talking planks. One trick that is a total game-changer, and one that will dramatically increase the difficulty and effectiveness of your plank, is to pretend that you are trying to pull your elbows down towards your feet. Pretending to drive the elbows down towards the feet reinforces the ever-important rib positioning, increases the effectiveness of the bracing, and dramatically increases the difficulty of the exercise.
28) While many exercises are technically great for the core muscles, in order to perform these exercises safely and effectively, you need to have strong core muscles (and full body stability + controlled mobility) BEFORE you perform these exercises. Squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, push-ups, pull-ups, the list goes on. This is especially true during the higher risk exercises, and when more resistance is being used.
29) Listen to your body, and be somewhat flexible in your programming. If your body needs a day (or a few days off), listen. If your body needs an easier workout, adjust accordingly. As I mentioned above, the key to long term success is consistency. Rigidity usually does not lead to sustainability, or enjoyment.
30) If you want to be able to perform the crazy and advanced ''circus'' calisthenics exercises, you absolutely MUST master the fundamentals first. These are just advanced variations of more basic movements. Learn how to squat, hinge, lunge, push (vertical and horizontal), pull (vertical and horizontal), carry, and develop full body stability and controlled mobility. Don't skip from A to Z. Be meticulous and consistent.
31) When I refer to the core muscles, I’m not solely referring to the muscles of the anterior core, also known as the ‘’abs.’’ I’m talking about all of the muscles in the torso that surround the spine. I also count the glutes as core muscles as they are key contributors to the ever-important lumbo-pelvic stability.
32) Make the most of your periods of rest during your workouts. Adding ‘’active rest exercises’’ after more technically and/or physically demanding exercises allows you to accomplish more in less time, and allows you to address your lesser points. It is important that your ''active rest'' exercises do not take away from your ability to perform your main exercises. While it is also totally ok to do nothing between sets and just rest, you can get much more accomplished by making the most of your periods of rest.
33) If you are a coach, it is your job to coach your clients, not work out with them.
34) If you are a coach, it is your job to coach your clients and make them better, not count reps.
35) Many people struggle to excel at pull-ups as they pull with their arms, rather than initiating the movement with their shoulder blades. If you are performing pull-ups correctly, the muscles in your mid and upper back, not your arms, should be doing most of the work. I prove my point in this video.
36) If adding additional weight causes your range of motion to significantly diminish, check your ego at the door and use a weight that allows you to achieve YOUR full range of motion. To be clear, when I say ‘’your full range of motion,’’ this is a range where you can maintain proper form, mechanics, body positioning, and control. Many people unnecessarily sacrifice depth by using a resistance that is too heavy. Be patient and consistent, and build up your weight consistently.
37) Before you make any exercise tougher, you need to be sure that you are able to perform the most basic variation of the exercise with proper form. Many people add additional weight, reps, speed, or perform more advanced variations, before they have acquired the necessary technique, strength, controlled mobility, and stability (in certain parts of the body) to perform the exercise correctly. This mistake will rob you of achieving your goals, and can make you more susceptible to injury.
38) Your glutes are not ‘’asleep.’’ They need to get stronger.
39) As coaches, our words are extremely powerful tools that can build people up, or can break them down. Using the words dysfunctional, weak, asymmetrical, unstable, fragile, and many others, is extremely counterproductive. In fact, these words are dangerous as they can absolutely make people feel broken, frustrated, and hopeless. As coaches, our job is to empower our clients, and to build them up, not break them down. Words matter, and we must be extremely mindful of what we say, and how we say it.
40) If you get an idea from somebody else, give them credit. Plagiarizing people’s work, or using their ideas without giving them credit, and playing these ideas off as your own, is unacceptable, unprofessional, and unethical. #endofrant
41) I am a huge fan of Stu McGill’s big 3 exercises. These exercises include the bird dog, modified curl-ups, and the side plank.
42) In most cases, you should not have to use lifting straps. If your grip is a limiting factor, work on improving your grip. Do not disregard your grip, and mask it by using straps.
43) Still talking about grip. Gripping is a full body activity, and Stu McGill does a fantastic job explaining this in his book The Gift Of Injury. In order to maximize your grip, your entire body must work as a synchronized unit.
44) When you are performing squats, deadlifts, or other lower body exercises, do not just press through your heels. This can cause you to tip backwards, and also provides you with a much less stable base. Maintain a tripod base (weight on the mid to back of your feet, and keep all toes down, especially the big and baby toes), and focus on pressing through the middle of your feet. While everybody is different so you need to figure out what works and feels best for you, this is usually a good approach to take.
45) Body positivity, something that I think is amazing and extremely important, is SO much more effective, and quite frankly, positive, when it’s actually done in a manner that is inclusive, kind, and empowering. While I understand why some people feel this way, promoting such a good and necessary message, but in a way that is laced with anger, negativity, and exclusiveness, is not the way to go.