Why Personal Trainers are a Scam

Just recently, I passed my Personal Training Certification exam with the National Council on Strength and Fitness. Everyone should be aware that while many big-box gyms require their trainers to have some form of certification to work there, you do not need any sort of certification in order to be a Personal Trainer. Anyone with any background can do it.

That aside, I’m here to tell you that the personal training business model is a scam. Now, not all personal trainers adopt the model I am going to talk about, but it’s important that you know the business of most trainers out there in order for you to make an informed decision about your health.

Now there’s really only one thing you need to keep in mind when it comes to knowing the risks of falling into the trap:

Trainers Need You Coming Back in order to Make Money

Think about how trainers make money. You come to them with specific goals in mind, but do you know if your trainer is doing everything they can to help you reach them?

Personal Trainers need you to keep coming back to them in order for them to continue making money. So there’s a chance that your progress and best interests are actually being held back or drawn out due to the fact that your trainer wants you to continue to come back to them.

So what are the telltale signs of the Personal Trainer scam?

The most important thing you should be wary of when assessing your Personal Trainer and determining if you are falling into the trap is if you find yourself always confused at the end of every workout.

 Are you ending each session thinking “What the heck did I just do?”

This is one of the most common tactics Personal Trainers use to create a reliance on coming back to them.

Personal Trainers will have you come in for an hour, instruct you on a list of 12-15 exercises that are different every time you come in.

You may be getting in shape, but you’re reliant on the Trainer’s “knowledge” in order to feel like you had a successful workout.

This tactic ensures that you continue coming back to your trainer, because while you are learning how to do very specific movements and exercises, your trainer isn’t actually teaching you about how your body works, moves, and behaves in order for you to truly progress.

Why? Because if this is done, you’ll be able to apply the skills and knowledge you’ve acquired on your own and you will no longer need a trainer!

Conclusion:

Not all personal trainers are bad, obviously there is a spectrum. And sometimes, people are willing to use a trainer solely for the motivational factor alone. Some people need another person to tell them what to do for them to ever do it. And that’s a great reason to use one.

But if you are feeling like you don’t really understand the value in your trainer, you’re not quite satisfied with your results, or are feeling a little too reliant on your Personal Trainer, keep these signs in mind to make sure you’re making the most of your time in the gym and your money.

My Philosophy is Evolving

It’s been a while since I’ve done a “What I’m Doing in the Gym” post, and that’s mainly because I’ve been all over the place when it comes to my training lately. But now that I’m finally back in a good groove, I’ve got a plan of attack that will help me reach and exceed the numbers I was lifting quite a few months ago, but this plan will also help me do so in a way that’s healthier, safer, and more impressive.

What I mean by this is that when I was on my old powerlifting program, I was increasing my strength like crazy. I was hitting numbers I never thought I would hit. 405 deadlift, 320 squat, 240 bench. I was extremely excited that, at 160lbs, I was able to hit those numbers. While they aren’t extremely impressive for any competing powerlifter, 4 plates, 3 plates, and 2 plates was something I’ve always wanted to accomplish, and I did it relatively quickly.

But after I hit those numbers and tried to continue to make quick and frequent PRs, I hit a major plateau, and I ended up loosing my mental game and also started pushing my body too hard. I felt weaker because I wasn’t making jumps as fast as I had been, and I was brittle because I would try to over-lift and my ego got the best of my body.

After recent months of lackluster training which has had noticeable affects on my overall strength, I’ve finally been able to get back into a routine. But my head is also in a much better place than it was before in regards to my training.

Before, I was ego-lifting. Trying to force personal records because I wanted to see the number go up and impress myself and others around me. But once I got to that place, I realized, my strength was of very little quality.

This was because I wasn’t focused on building a foundation first, I was focused on getting right to building the house.

Now I’m not a bodybuilder, so a house isn’t referring to my body, but my strength and my numbers.

This time, I am taking the time to recognize what’s most important. The core. The roots. The foundation.

How am I doing this?

By slowing down.

I am no longer concerned about getting strong quick and lifting the amounts I was before as fast as possible. I know I’ll get there. But when I get there I’m going to be able to continue growing stronger because I will have built a foundation that is strong in all areas. Not just in the core lifts (squat, bench, deadlift), but in dynamic motion, power, and agility.

I am going to be relying on my weight-belt much less as well, in fact, I won’t be using one until I can lift a total of 900lbs between my squat, bench and deadlift. Using a belt was central to my squat and deadlift, but it prevented me from building that strong core foundation that is so extremely important for real, quality strength.

Currently, I’m at about 275, 225, and 335 respectively, totaling 835lbs. These next 65 pounds are going to be tough to get back, but I will get back.

To stop myself from ranting on, I will end with this:

In all aspects of life, we take shortcuts to achieve our goals quicker. But in almost every case where this is done, we would be much better off taking our time where we can, investing in yourself and the process, which will lead us to achieving our goals and more in a way that’s healthier, smarter, and more fulfilling because we know that we did things the right way, and our hard work and dedication in the life long journey of becoming the strongest, healthiest, and happiest we can, be has paid off. 

Ebbs & Flows of Training: Why It’s All Okay

For the last 5 or so months I really fell off my training game. Work picked up and was forcing me to stay later, and up until I moved recently, I was spending a long time commuting every day. All of these different aspects of my life (among others) were having a negative impact on my training. I was going to the gym fewer days a week than what I consider optimal, and I really had no consistent groove so I didn’t progress in my training at all. My numbers were staying the same, and I wasn’t following any particular program for a majority of those 5 months, which made skipping the gym even easier since I didn’t have anything to really follow.

Since, for the past few weeks or so, I’ve been back on my game and have had a much more consistent schedule, and I am on a new routine to help break plateaus to hit numbers I’ve only dreamt of.

But with this change came a lot of reflecting over the past few months, and for a while I had gotten very down on myself for the situation I was in, but more recently my perspective has shifted, and allowed me to see it in a whole new way.

When my training was off, I knew it. I knew it so much that it was actually causing a lot of stress. I had less time to go to the gym, and my days were so busy and long that when I did go, I often didn’t have the energy I really needed to have a worthwhile session. I would get mad at myself for not getting stronger and consistently breaking new PRs in the gym, and it would cause me to get down on myself.

But after looking back on it now, it is very clear to me that that period of time where my training was off was an incredibly important time to have, and I learned a great lesson from it.

We’re never going to be able to do all of the things that we want to, all of the time. Especially as it relates to the gym, there’s always going to be periods where we aren’t going as often as we should, which causes our progress to slow, if not halt. But what’s extremely important for us all to recognize is that this time is not wasted. We shouldn’t get upset or frustrated with ourselves when our routines get out of whack. This discomfort and uneasiness is a learning experience in itself. It teaches us patience, it forces us to slow down, relax, and take it easy.

Busy times force us to shift priorities and make sacrifices. But these busy times don’t often last our entire lives, and it is that recognition that allows us to make peace with your current state as it will pass in time and allow us to get back to our old routines where we will make more progress and be stronger because of our time away.

Going through periods of little training can refuel the fire to come back with loads of potential energy waiting to be converted – they shouldn’t cause stress, frustration, and sadness.

It is so important to appreciate the ebbs and flows of training because it forces us to soak in the present moment – to be okay with exactly who we are, where we are, and what we’re doing – not worrying about losing our strength or missing out on a training session.

The gym will always be there, progress is always waiting to be had and achieved. When life gets hectic and busy and makes seeing friends, family, and yourself more difficult, those things must be taken into consideration first and you should dedicate the time you do have to them. Without those people surrounding you and supporting you, whatever you do in the gym and in life will be that much harder because you will be on your own, with not a single helping hand to reach out to you.

So your progress is set back a little from a few months of busyness and under-training. But if it was always that easy to keep up with every aspect of your life inside and out of the gym, there would be no joy in the challenge, journey, and achievement of becoming the strongest, healthiest, and happiest person you can be. 

 

A Review of The Conjugate System

For anyone who is an intermediate to advanced lifter and wants to get the strongest they can get, I couldn’t praise the Conjugate System enough. In fact I urge you to try it out for yourself. I’ve been on this program for 7 weeks and my strength gains have been the best I’ve ever seen. I’ve been able to break plateaus like never before, and I feel the strongest I have ever felt.

The Conjugate System is a powerlifting program designed to get you as strong as you can at the 3 core lifts: Squat, Bench, and Deadlift. It’s main focus is weak-point training, which basically tells you to pick the movements that you are worst at and focus on developing those in an effort to grow your overall strength and strength potential.

I do a modified version of the Conjugate System – the real program calls for 4 to 5 days of lifting a week. No cardio. No nonsense. I like to work in some cardio on my own program as well as some back and bicep accessory work since you are not training your upper back and biceps really at all on this program.

The Conjugate System: Basic Programming

There are 2 different lifting “types” with this system. The first, is Maximum Effort training and the second is Dynamic Effort training.

Maximum Effort days are ones where you work up to a 1 or 2 rep max on a variation of one of the core lifts. So, you’re not squatting, deadlifting, and benching all regular style every week here. Instead, one week you’re doing a sumo deadlift, the next conventional, the next from a deficit, and so on. You’ll revisit the standard squat, deadlift, or bench every 5-ish weeks to test out your strength gains.

Dynamic Effort days are ones where you really focus on developing your form and working on your weak points that are affecting your core lifts. You aren’t lifting extremely heavy, instead, your working on form and maintaining structural integrity.

The splits are as follows:

Monday: Maximum Effort Lower

  1. Deadlift/Squat Variation (Alternates every week)
    • Work up to 1 to 2 rep max (may take up to 8 sets)
  2. 80% of Above Max
    • 3 sets of 5 OR 5 sets of 3 depending on fatigue
  3. Lower Body Accessory Lift 1 (Weak-point training)
    • 3×8 or 4×6
  4. Lower Body Accessory Lift 2 (Weak-point training)
    • 3×8 or 4×6

Wednesday: Maximum Effort Upper

  1. Bench Press Variation (Change variation every week)
    • Work up to a 1 to 2 rep max (may take up to 6-8 sets)
  2. 80% of Above Max
    • 3 sets of 5 OR 5 sets of 3 depending on fatigue
  3. Upper Body Accessory Lift 1 (Weak-point training)
    • 3×8 or 4×6
  4. Upper Body Accessory Lift 2 (Weak-point training)
    • 3×8 or 4×6

Thursday: Dynamic Effort Lower

  1. Deadlift Variation
    • 4×6
  2. Squat Variation
    • 4×6
  3. Lower Body Accessory Lift 1 (Weak-point)
    • 3×8 or 4×6
  4. Lower Body Accessory Lift 2 (Weak-point)
    • 3×8 or 4×6
  5. Lower Body Accessory Lift 3 (Weak-point)
    • 3×8 or 4×6

Friday/Saturday: Dynamic Effort Upper

  1. Shoulder Press
    • 5×5
  2. Dumbbell Bench Press
    • 5×5
  3. Shoulder Accessory Lift 1 (Weak-point)
    • 3×8 or 4×6
  4. Upper Body Accessory Lift 2 (Weak-point)
    • 3×8 or 4×6
  5. Upper Body Accessory Lift 3 (Weak-point)
    • 3×8 or 4×6

(Sunday: Back/Bicep Volume training)

I absolutely love this style of training. It forces you to get stronger at what you’re not good at, and overall it gets you squatting, deadlifting, and benching more and increases your strength. Something that is very important to note here, is that you MUST continually work on your mobility and flexibility while you’re on this program. You’re lifting heavy all week, and this can really take a toll on your body if you aren’t stretching. Additionally, you must take a week off (or train with very light weight) every 4 weeks while being on this program to prevent overtraining and injury.

So what are the PROS?

  • Increases your strength on the Squat, Bench, and Deadlift dramatically
  • The workouts change literally every week because you will be changing the squat, deadlift, and bench variations as well as the accessory lifts you choose so it’s fun and never the same
  • Heavy lifting and working 1 rep maxes every week improves your nervous energy response
  • Overall strength will skyrocket because of the frequency of training the core lifts

What are the CONS?

  • The real program doesn’t call for cardio, which I like to keep in my routine once a week
  • This program is very hard on your body and you need to be very careful not to overtrain or hurt yourself
  • It requires a deep understanding of every move and technique – definitely not for beginners

I plan on posting a more in-depth training and program soon that you can use and adapt for yourself to start training conjugate and becoming the strongest you can be!

 

 

The Importance of Good Form

There are a lot of things that can go wrong and that you can do wrong in the gym. The most serious and dangerous thing you can do wrong in the gym, however, is bad form. Before you can even add one pound of weight to an exercise, you must have a deep understanding of proper form before you attempt any workout.

Here are 2 biggest reasons why you shouldn’t be allowed in the gym unless you have been trained by someone who knows what they’re doing.


1. Bad Form Causes Injury

This is the number 1 reason why you need to know proper form before getting in the gym. Lifting anything, and even simple things like running, can cause life-long injury if you don’t have proper form. And if you aren’t getting injured, you better believe you’re creating muscular imbalances that will eventually lead to injury and an unhealthy body. You’ll be doing more harm than good to your body. You may think you’re doing it right, but unless you have done extensive research and/or have had someone coach you, chances are, you probably aren’t. Or at least not perfectly. Which leads into my next point.

2. Bad Form Minimizes Strength Potential

If you have bad form, you’re most likely slowing down your growth and strength potential, and performing the movements inefficiently. There’s a reason that there is a technique to lifting. It’s not only to prevent injury, but it is also to maximize the amount of weight you can lift by understanding biomechanics and creating and maximizing efficiencies. Lifting with good form helps you get stronger the right way, quicker.


So in short – lift with good form. If you don’t know what good form is, or even if you think you do, continue to research it or use a personal trainer, and actively pay attention to your form. It is something you must think about, develop, and work on, every time you pick up a weight or step in the gym. You’ll get stronger and minimize injury because of it.

My New Training Program

Just to give some insight into what I’m up to at the gym, below is the program I am following for the next 2 months. I typically change my workout parameters in intervals of 6-8 weeks and I currently just came off of a higher-volume routine during the summer. Now I’m focusing on adding more weight instead of adding more reps. I’m cutting down the volume and focusing on primarily core compound lifts with as much weight as I can while maintaining good form. The goal? To get my body used to lower rep counts again and increase my pound for pound strength and nervous response as much as possible with low volume and heavy weight.


Day 1: Legs & Core

  1. Deep Squats: 2×4 straight into 4×2
    • These two first sets are mainly warm ups for activating my muscles and stabilizers. These first two sets are slow, with a pause at the bottom of the movement. Short rests.
    • Then, I am performing doubles for 4 sets. My rests are about ~2.5 minutes, however for the last set it’s usually lift when ready (LWR)
  2. Dumbbell Step Ups: 4×6 (each leg)
    • Classic DB Step Ups. As heavy as I can go while maintaining good form. Rests ~1.5 – 2 min.
  3. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts: 3×5
    • I use dumbbells here because I tend to get a better extension in my hamstrings. Just a personal preference. Rests ~1.5 – 2 min.
  4. Dumbbell Lunges: 3×5 (each leg)
    • Rests ~1.5 – 2 min.
  5. Leg Raises: 3x As many as possible (AMAP)
    • Short Rests ~45 sec.
  6. Oblique Raises: 2×30 (each side)
    • Short Rests ~45 sec.

Day 2: Chest & Triceps

  1. Bench Press: 2×4 straight into 4×2
    • Same notes as Deep Squats
  2. Dumbbell Decline Fly: 10, 8, 6, 15
    • Follows a 4 set pattern with rep counts above. Rest intervals ~1.5 – 2 min.
  3. Dumbbell Incline Press: 10, 8, 6, 15
    • Follows a 4 set pattern with rep counts above. Rest intervals ~1.5 – 2 min.
  4. Heavy Weighted Dips: 3xAMAP
    • Rest intervals ~1.5 – 2 min
  5. Dumbbell Scull Crushers: 3×6
    • I use dumbbells just as personal preference. As heavy as I can with good form. Rests ~1.5 – 2 min
  6. Tricep Rope Extension: 3×8
    • Rest intervals ~1.5 – 2 min

Day 3: Back & Biceps

  1. Deadlift: 2×4 straight into 4×2
    • Same notes as Deep Squats
  2. Barbell Heavy Ground Rows: 4×6
    • Row from the ground and pull the bar up to your nipple line for proper upper back contraction
    • Rest intervals ~1.5 – 2 min
  3. Dumbbell 1 Arm Rows: 4×6
    • Rest intervals ~1.5 – 2 min
  4. Weighted Pull-Ups: 3xAMAP
    • As heavy as I can while performing a minimum of 6 reps
    • Rest intervals ~1.5 – 2 min
  5. Weighted Chin-Ups: 3xAMAP
    • Same notes as above
  6. Barbell Curls: 3×5
    • Rest intervals ~1.5 – 2 min

Day 4: Shoulders & Core

  1. Barbell Shoulder Press: 2×4 straight into 4×2
    • Same notes as Deep Squats
  2. Dumbbell Arnold Press: 4×6
    • Rest intervals ~1.5 – 2 min
  3. Dumbbell Lateral Raises: 3×5
    • Good form is a MUST here
    • Rest intervals ~1.5 – 2 min
  4. Barbell Shrugs: 3×8
    • Rest intervals ~1.5 – 2 min
  5. Cable Crunch: 3×8
    • Rest intervals ~1 min
  6. Side Cable Pulls (3 Angles): 3×8
    • Rest intervals ~1 min
  7. Medicine Ball V-Ups: 3×15
    • Rest intervals ~1 min
  8. Leg Raises: 3xAMAP
    • Rest intervals ~1 min

Day 5: Cardio

My cardio day will rotate weekly between:

  1. Row/Sprint Medley
  2. 30 minute run @ 70%