Fitness is a Skill, and It’s Okay to Suck at It

Ever learned something new?  Of course you have, you’re sitting upright and reading this in English, so already we’re looking at three things I’m assuming you weren’t able to do when you were born.  Too simple?  Okay, do this for me.  Close your eyes and try to remember the first time you did any of the following:

  • rode a bike
  • drove a car
  • learned to play an instrument
  • learned a new language
  • had… relations

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it wasn’t a very glamorous first attempt.  Seriously, don’t lie, or I’ll ask your parents/driver’s ed teacher/guitar instructor/Spanish teacher/high school girlriend for the truth.

But honestly, did any of us have that high of expectations?  I have three kids.  I’ve already watched two of them learn how to ride a bike and have seen plenty of scraped knees and high-speed tire-to-tire collisions.  In a few years I’ll master the art of sitting in the passenger’s seat when they learn to drive, wondering at what speed it becomes more life-threatening to tuck and roll out the door than it does to remain in the car.  I might get to see one of my kids angrily drop  his guitar when he keeps messing up his AC/DC solo because he can’t quite get the pentatonic scale just yet.  Maybe I’ll overhear one of them that their llamo es Ethan and “donde esta el bano?”.  And that last one… will never happen because my kids are never moving out of my house and I will chaperone them everywhere they go forever.  Shut up.

Seriously, we spend the better part of our lives learning new skills and failing at them, and you know what?  It’s accepted.  It’s understood.  We don’t have to like it, but it’s a part of life.  We aren’t born with the ability to drive a manual transmission sports car while playing the solo to “Back in Black” and singing the lyrics in Spanish (unless you are, in which case you’re my hero now and forever).

For real, Google?
For real, Google?

Yet when it comes to getting in shape and everything that comes with it, we have an innate fear of sucking.  We quit REALLY EASILY.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever started a diet and quit before the first day was even over because you didn’t realize that a potato wasn’t a vegetable and OH MY GOD I JUST BLEW EVERYTHING OH HEY IS THAT BURGER KING?!  Or we join a gym on January 1, and have stopped going after 3 weeks because I don’t have gunz like Schwarzenneger yet and I can only squat 50 pounds and I AM SORE IN PLACES THAT I THOUGHT WERE ONLY USED FOR BABIES TO COME OUT OF AND I’M A GUY SO WHY DOES IT HURT LIKE THAT?!

Somewhere along the way, as a society we all just sort of decided that this is a thing we’re supposed to be good at.  But it’s not.  Want examples?  Sweet, I’ve got plenty.

Ever wonder why some people do these big transformation competitions come out the other side looking like they were carved from granite, while you did it and came out with hunger pangs and sweat stains in all of your “going out” t-shirts?  It’s probably because the first guy has done this like three times before, he’s been logging his food since Nixon was president and he can tell you exactly how many grams of fiber are in a cup of quinoa off the top of his head, while you’re still trying to figure out if green beans are a vegetable or a legume, and what the hell is a legume, and how do you pronounce it anyway?  Is it le-GOOM or le-GYOO-me?

Trainers and gym rats are also terrible at this when they’re talking to somebody new to the gym.  I remember a few years ago, I was working with a new client who was a very in-demand electrical engineer and we were doing his first training session.  In a single sentence, I asked him to grab a pair of 25lb dumbbells, told him to load 10lbs onto each side of a barbell, and grab hold of a TRX.  After much, MUCH confusion, I saw him try to put a spring collar onto one end of the bar.  First he tried to slide it on, and when it wouldn’t go on, he then tried to pound the collar onto the bar with his palm, before finally giving up with the most dejected expression I may possibly have ever seen on somebody’s face in a gym.  It was at that moment that it dawned on me that I had basically spent the entirety of our time together asking him to do things that he had no idea what they meant, and I never even stopped long enough to teach him first.  Even though I KNEW it was his first day in a gym.  Ever.  I was the living embodiment of what happens when you assume…

I used to make that mistake when helping clients with their nutrition too.  Their first nutrition consultation I was giving them protein goals, talking about their macros, bringing up cycling carbs around their workouts, only to find out two weeks later that they hadn’t made any changes because I never explained to them what protein is and they were too intimidated to ask.

Those situations might sound funny to some of you, and they might strike a huge chord with others, depending on which side of the fence you sit on.  If you’re a fitness enthusiast, you probably assume that everybody knows exactly what you’re talking about, because you’re so deep in the Matrix that you forgot what it was like to be new.  If you’re new, you’re so used to your fit friends talking to you in a way that you can’t understand, but they make it sound so effortless that you feel like an idiot if you have to ask them, “what… what’s a kettlebell exactly?”

A nightmare, apparently.
A nightmare, apparently.

This is a call to those of us in the fitness world to do a better job of making our world a little less intimidating to those entering it for the first time.  I know if I took a guitar lesson for the first time and the instructor said, “okay, I want you to do a run in an A pentatonic scale and I want you to make sure your vibrato is nice and clean, and maybe give me a pinch harmonic or two to really drive it home”, I may have ended up in the corner chewing on my guitar and weeping.  Yet that’s basically what I did to the client I mentioned without realizing it.  Ever since, I’ve embraced the concept of teaching the basics and never presuming.  More of us should do the same.

And if you’re brand new at this and feel overwhelmed by everything that you feel like you’re supposed to know but don’t, know this: when I was 8 years old I drove my Huffy straight into a pine tree at what felt like 30 miles an hour.  Eventually I figured it out.  So will you.  Let me know if you need some help.



Single Leg Glute & Hamstring Triset

Most leg workouts, if they happen at all, put a lot of focus on the muscles of the quads with movements like squats, leg presses, and leg extensions, but the hamstrings and glutes are an afterthought, maybe getting a few sets of leg curls at the end of a workout.

This circuit turns everything on its head, putting all of the stress on the glutes and hamstrings and removing the lower back from being a significant factor by keeping the stress on one leg at a time.

Friends or Foes?

Today is January 13th, which means for many of you, we're now 13 days into the annual undertaking that is the New Year's Resolution.  You know, those things you commit to at the end of a bit of a (sometimes alcohol-induced) retrospective sometime in late December where you're going to make it happen this year, goddamn it.


Sometimes they work.  Unfortunately, many times, they don't.  The list of reasons why can be long and unique… too long to list here.  And that's not the point of this article anyway, so let's go ahead and skip straight to the one I have in mind:


Well, that seems like a bit of a cop-out, isn't it?  After all, it hardly seems fair to pin our own personal failures on other people, right?  I mean, I resolved at the beginning of the year to find a sweet red cape and some blue Spandex and live my life fighting supervillains, but yet here I am, writing this in sweatpants and without any sort of adverse reactions to glowing green rocks.  THANKS, OBAMA!

It's true that often we'll fail at goals simply because we pick bad goals and have no vision of how to actually acheive them.  But what about the ones with a plan?  The ones that seem acheivable if you can stick to your guns?  Losing weight, building your retirement, making a career change, changing existing relationships… these are valiant, often life-changing goals that have a personal level of payoff if they're acheived.  

And many times, we get off to a great start.  


"Hey, go me – I've been to the gym almost every morning this week!"

"I set my bank account to automatically move 10% of my disposable income every paycheck to go into my retirement fund!  This'll be great!"

"I'm finally ready to get out of my comfort zone and start applying for jobs in a new career!  I've already finished updating my resume!"


And we'll soldier on.  Even when things get tough, we put our heads down and do our best to stay the course.  And then it happens.


"You're going to the gym AGAIN?  You've already been there three times this week! Why are you so obsessed with going?"

"What do you mean you don't have the money to go out on weekends with us anymore?  You're just going to ditch us for no reason?  Come on, I know how much money you make!"

"You really want to do THAT for a living?  You know that's a huge risk, right?  Just give it a year, you'll end up back living in your parents' basement.  Your job right now is easy, I totally wouldn't leave if I were you."


And then your sense of confidence starts to shake a little.  Maybe they're right!  Who the hell am I to think I can do this anyway?  And little by little, you start making concessions.  You skip a morning workout so you can go out with your co-workers, just so they'll shut up and stop bugging you about it.  You go on a "boys' weekend" to Vegas and lose half your savings at the casino.  You stop applying for entry-level jobs in a new field because what if I fail?  Why even try?  It's too late for me anyway now, I'm almost 40 years old!

Why do we let ourselves be controlled by the opinions of those around us?  What happened to the gung-ho attitude we had on January 1?  WHY DO WE EVEN CARE WHAT THE PEOPLE AROUND US THINK?


There is a sad truth involved, and it is this: a lot of people don't like to see those around them get better.  Because it makes them see all of the things that they could be doing differently, and they don't want to do it.  It scares them.  Because change is scary.  And when you start comparing yourself with the people around you and see that you're starting to lag behind a little bit, it's easy to get down on yourself.  It's a little bit of human nature.  Admit it, you've done it.  So have I.  We all have.  Ever been the last of your siblings to be in a relationship at a family gathering at your grandmother's house?  Or the last of your circle of friends to have a baby?  Or have you ever been around a few people who have all recently made advances in their careers, only to respond "oh, I'm still doing the same thing I was before" when the conversation turns to you?

It's uncomfortable as hell, isn't it?

But what some people realize, whether it be consciously or unconsciously, is that it's easier to bring other people down to your level than it is to raise yourself up.  You see it a lot in the media when you hear about some celebrity who seems like they have it all, but suddenly their life has taken a huge downward turn.  And some people cheer for it a little.  Why? Because it makes them feel better about themselves.

And if you set a goal, I'm sorry to say the odds are pretty good you're going to experience this first-hand.  I have already had a good dozen of our clients ask me, "so what do I say to people when they start asking me why I won't drink with them?  Or why I'm eating out of containers instead of going out to lunch?  Don't you get a bit sick of it after a while?"  

Yes, it sucks.  There is no easy answer.  I have found it valuable to only share with those who are closest to you, who have a bit of a "need to know" position in your life.  Especially when everything is still so fresh and you haven't built up your confidence levels yet.  Keep people in the dark if you need to.  Answer only to you.  Don't let someone else guilt you into giving up – it's your life, not theirs.

Find people with similar aspirations.  Do you know somebody in your life who's already gone through a big change?  Talk to them about it.  What were their struggles? How did they get through the hardest parts?  Did those around them ever make them feel guilty for it?  They might be willing to help support you during your own personal change. I have found that those who share the same experience would love nothing more than to help you get through it.  Trainers, support group leaders, AA sponsors, Big Brothers and Sisters… somewhere there will be somebody who will want to help.  Find them and use them if you can.

And if you ever find yourself on the other side of the conversation?  Be supportive.  Don't tear people down.  Don't question their goals just because you don't understand.  And if you don't have anything good to say? Maybe consider shutting your mouth.


Meal Preparation: The Key to Sustained Success

This is an excerpt from the 2016 edition of the All Strength Training Ultimate Challenge Body Transformation Guide, but I liked it so much after I wrote it that I couldn’t help sharing it with you all.

Your nutrition matters. While it is by far the least glamorous part of creating physical change, it is crucial. No matter how hard you train, or how much cardio you do, you cannot compensate for a lack of consistency and accuracy with what you put into your body. You can’t out-train a bad diet, as the Instagram-meme crowd might say.

And you’ll buy into the idea, too. You may have already had a conversation with yourself that goes a little something like this:
“Okay, starting tomorrow, I’m going to go all in with my eating. I want to speed up my progress, so I’m going to eat fewer carbs, eat healthier snacks, have something with more protein for breakfast, and be more picky with my dinner plans.” You’re excited (and maybe a little scared), you have every intention of kicking your fat’s ass, tomorrow. Let’s do this.

Then what follows might look like this the next day:

7am – open the refrigerator. Realize that all you have ready to eat now is a jar of hamburger pickles from a cookout you did last summer and two leftover waffles from brunch the weekend before.

9:30am – you’re starving, so on the way to work you stop by Starbucks and get a latte and a breakfast sandwich. Spend a solid three minutes before you order standing at the pastry case, undressing that chocolate scone with your eyes and drooling so much the guy standing next to you is taking a picture and posting it on Facebook. It already has 50 likes by the time you snap out of it and decide to get a sandwich instead.

9:33am – eat your breakfast sandwich while thinking about that chocolate scone from earlier. You wonder to yourself, how many times would I have to run up that goddamn hill to burn that thing off?

11:00am – you’re hungry again. Still two more hours until lunch. Okay, I need something healthy from the vending machine. They have that new refrigerated vending machine now! Perfect!

11:04am – you notice that there’s one yogurt parfait left in the vending machine. That’ll work!

11:05am – the yogurt parfait expired 10 days ago. Those aren’t blueberries in it, that’s just the color of the yogurt now.

11:06am – Oh my God, someone please call a priest, my GI tract needs an exorcism.

1:01pm – Sure, I would love to go to Olive Garden with you! I forgot to bring my lunch. I’ll just get a salad, I’m watching my diet.

1:15pm – Two words: Unlimited. Breadsticks.

3:30pm – you know you should probably eat something, but you’re terrified to go within 50 feet of the vending machine without a crucifix.

5:00pm – you politely try not to strangle your boss as he informs you that he needs that report done tonight. Don’t worry, he says, he’s definitely going to order in for everybody. He’ll put the order in before he leaves in 10 minutes while you prepare to be stuck there all night.

9:47pm – you’re super proud of yourself, because you didn’t eat any of the pizza your boss ordered in, because you really want to stick to the plan.

9:48pm – you open your fridge to realize that you had your dinner ready in a glass dish, you just need to put it in the oven for an hour first before it’s ready.

9:49pm – Seriously, that’s the bottom of the popcorn bag ALREADY?

9:51pm – screw this, I’m going to bed. I’m too tired to wait an hour for dinner, I’ll have to make it tomorrow.

7:00am – open the fridge again. Goddamn pickles.

This type of scenario, as over the top as it may sound, isn’t that far removed from the truth for many of the clients that come to us with their daily struggles. Every day starts with the best intentions, but intentions can quickly be swept away when we rely on everything to go our way at meal time.

I should be able to get up a few minutes early to cook breakfast, it shouldn’t take that long.

I’ll just head across the street right at lunch time so I can grab something good and have time to eat before the afternoon meeting.

I can just figure out dinner when I get home.


But how many times are you too tired to get up, so you hit the snooze alarm and use up all the time you’d allotted toward your breakfast? How many times have you had to have a “working lunch” because something urgent came up at work, so you never got to leave to walk across the street? Have you ever come home ready to make dinner, only to realize that the recipe you wanted to use required a bunch of things you didn’t have in your kitchen?

Intention is a wonderful thing, and extremely important for success. But intention without preparation? It leaves you at the mercy of everything going your way, and you lose the ability to control your own successes.

Overhead Press

Optimizing Shoulder Training


Many people want well-developed shoulders, but few know how to train them appropriately. Whether you’re male or female, developing the complete deltoid aids in creating an aesthetic, tapered torso, especially when combined with a low-enough bodyfat to make the waist look proportionately tiny in relation to the shoulder girdle.

As  relatively slow-twitch muscle group, the shoulders require a relatively high amount of volume.  And due to their placement on the torso, it is very easy to let other muscle groups, such as the triceps, traps, and upper back muscles, rob the shoulders of any stimulation during training.  Not only must your programming skills be up to par, but so should your execution.

Let’s look at some of the most common mistakes people make in the gym and what we can do to fix them.

#1 – Poor Execution

The deltoid is made up of three heads (anterior, lateral and posterior) and is responsible for abducting the humerus (moving the arm away from the body) as well as flexing the shoulder (as in an overhead press).  The posterior or rear delts also are one of the main movers in reaching extension while the upper arm is abducted (as in a rear lateral raise).

What this basically means is that the shoulder’s job is to move the arm away from the body in just about all movement patterns.  While this might seem obvious, one of the biggest technical flaws I see in people performing shoulder movements are that they begin to focus on simply lifting the weight as high as possible, rather than on getting the weight as far away from the deltoid and shoulder joint as possible.

How can we correct this?  In single joint movements such as raises in various directions, the goal should be to think about extension of the weight, rather than elevation.  For example, when performing a lateral raise, the goal is not to simply lift the weight up to a certain height (such as in line with the shoulders), but rather to think about trying to reach the weights as far out to the side as possible so that the distance between the weight and the delt being trained is as great as possible.

In other words, I will typically cue a client to think about reaching the dumbbells toward opposite walls, rather than focusing on elevating the dumbbells to shoulder height.

In addition, rotating the humerus internally or externally can alter which portion of the deltoid is preferentially recruited.  Essentially, out of the three major heads of the deltoid, whichever one sits highest during the exercise being performed will be the one that gets stimulated the most.

An example of this would be someone performing a lateral raise with their upper arm externally rotated (elbow pointing toward the floor, thumbs up in the air).  Even though the lateral raise is conventionally a side delt exercise, this position sits the anterior delt substantially higher than the lateral delt, which means it will experience the biggest pull from gravity and will then get the most work.

For visual demonstrations, watch this video:

#2 – Poor Programming

Once you have the execution side of things down, you’re already at a point where your odds of improving your shoulder development have gone up significantly.  The next step in the puzzle is how to put it together into your weekly training program.

Although there are certain lifters who have achieved phenomenal shoulder development with nothing but overhead pressing variations and little isolation work, for the vast majority of clients that we see, direct work should be a bigger focus.  Overhead presses such as military presses, push presses and dumbbell presses need to be included for their sheer bang for your buck value as well as their effect on strengthening the connective tissue surrounding the shoulder, but a variety of raises and other more direct work should be included as presses alone have to share the stress with the triceps, traps and to a degree even the upper chest.

What this means for a lot of people is an incredible amount of volume.  Supersets, giant sets, drop sets, rest pause techniques – these things all allow for a much greater amount of volume without turning your workout into a 2-hour marathon.  Weekly frequency can also often be increased to two, potentially even three workouts per week, although that may mean that you have to reduce volume on muscles that rely on the shoulders as secondary movers (such as chest presses of any kind as well as most upper back exercises).  Don’t worry – your chest won’t shrivel up because you spent a few weeks using more flyes and less bench presses.

My personal favorite technique for the shoulders is the giant set – at least 3 exercises (if not more) all performed in rapid succession for the same muscle groups.

What I have found to be most effective is to place overhead presses near the end of a giant set, once the various heads of the deltoids have begun to fatigue, so that the triceps and traps (or even the more commonly overdeveloped anterior head of the delt) don’t fatigue first.  It might look something like this:

A1) Isolation exercise for the posterior delt
A2) Isolation or compound exercise with a great amount of posterior and/or lateral head recruitment
A3) Overhead press variation

One of my favorite tri-sets is the following:

A1) Gironda lateral swings – blending abduction on one arm in a conventional lateral raise, with a little bit of abduction and transverse extension on the other arm to hit both the lateral and posterior heads

A2) Wide grip upright row – unlike a conventional, close-grip upright row, a wider grip allows for a wider elbow position and a slightly reduced potential for range of motion, increasing stress on the lateral delts and reducing the involvement of the traps (if performed correctly, obviously.

A3) Wide grip standing military press – the wide grip forces more abduction as well as significantly more external rotation of the shoulder, reducing the contribution from the anterior delt.  If flexibility is ideal, this could even be performed behind-the-heck to increase posterior delt recruitment.  The weight also ends up being significantly lighter when placed at the end instead of the beginning of the circuit, reducing joint stress and limiting weak links in the triceps and traps.

See it in action here:

You’ll soon find that by working these adjustments into your program, your shoulders will experience growth that they haven’t seen in quite a while.  Just make sure you take a shower beforehand or get a good hat, because you may not be able to get your arm to your head for a few days.


Holiday Body Composition Rescue Strategies


As we’re currently in the swing of the holiday season, with a little over a week until Christmas day as of the time of this writing, I wanted to share a few of the strategies I have been recommending to clients as they begin their travels and their preparation for what to do when confronted with a seemingly limitless number of high sugar, high fat treats and desserts, whether it be at the office, at social gatherings, or at family dinners.

Strategy #1: Re-Allocating Your Food Intake

While how you spread out your food intake can have an impact in the long run on your body composition, at the end of the day, your total intake is going to have the largest contribution.  So, the simple act of shifting the majority of your intake into “high pressure” situations can make a huge difference.

For example, let’s say I’m a 40-year-old male who is eating about 2,200 calories per day to lose fat.  All I need to do is ensure that I try to stay as close to that number as possible so that, even though it may not be optimal for fat loss, it won’t encourage any significant amount of fat gain.  Again, using some hypothetical numbers, let’s say that I usually split my intake up over 4 meals relatively evenly, which would break out to about 550 calories per meal (2,200/4 = 550).  Instead of continuing on my normal pace and then adding a bunch of holiday food, I want to simply replace my normal food choices with whatever I want.

So in this case, let’s say I’m meeting my family for a late lunch at my parents’ house and plan on staying until late evening.  My plan for the day might look something like this:

Meal 1 – Breakfast

4oz ground turkey burger patty

1 hardboiled egg

2 cups sauteed peppers

Calories = 200

Meal 2 – Mid-Morning Snack

1 scoop whey protein

12oz almond milk

1 large whole cucumber, chopped

Calories = 150

What I’ve done is still make sure that I’m giving myself adequate nutrition (protein, vegetables) without a huge calorie impact.  In fact, at only about 350 calories before lunch, I’ve left myself a pretty solid amount of wiggle room for the later meals.

I should note that it’s not incredibly important to track the calorie intake at these meals specifically, although you definitely can.  Just understand that the goal here is to keep your body fed with the bare essentials and prevent any significant hunger from accumulating.  No extra fats (cooking oils, nuts, avocados, high-fat meats) or sugary or starchy carb sources (fruits, sweet potatoes, rice, etc) at the early meals since there will be plenty coming later in the day.

So now I’m left with around 1,900 calories to do with as I want the rest of the day.  While 1,900 is definitely a lot of food, it goes by pretty quick with processed and refined foods, so you’ll still want to take a few steps to help regulate your intake later in the day.  Here is what I would suggest:

Meal 3 – Late Lunch

For your first plate, split it 50/50 with the leanest protein you can find (fortunately, things like turkey and ham are pretty easy to come by at holiday parties) and whatever green vegetables you can find (salads without a ton of dressing, green beans, whatever is available).  Finish that, and then drink a big glass of water – around 16-20 ounces.

Then, for your second plate, eat (and drink) whatever you like.  By getting the protein and greens out of the way first, you know that you’ve done a few things:

  1. You made sure you fulfilled your basic nutrient needs for the meal
  2. You took in food that digests more slowly to help keep blood sugar reasonably stable compared to if you hadn’t
  3. You filled up on dense foods so there’s less room overall for the high-sugar, high-fat stuff

You can simply repeat those same steps at your next meal if you so choose, or you can simply switch back to a regular meal composition based on personal preference and how much you ate at Meal 3.

Strategy #2: Feast & Fast

This particular strategy works very well either on its own, or paired with the above steps from strategy #1.

The concept is pretty straightforward – all you are going to do is fast for approximately 14-16 hours after your last meal before eating again.  So if you eat your last meal around 8pm on Thursday night, you wouldn’t eat again until 10am-12pm on Friday.

Why is it valuable to fast?  There are a few reasons.

  1. You just ate A TON OF FOOD.  Your body needs time to digest and to cope with the excess.  Eating before your body has had a chance to work its magic with all those fatty acids and glucose just increases the odds of some of it being stored as fat.
  2. You’re re-allocating some of your calories.  By pulling back on overall intake on Friday, you can again limit or even prevent fat gain.

Now, why can’t you just cut your calories for the day by, say, 500, and eat your normal meals?  You could do that.  The problem is that, especially after coming off of a high-calorie day, your appetite might be up a little bit.  Cutting 100-200 calories out of each meal might leave you feeling unsatisfied at the end of each meal, leading to a higher likelihood of giving in to additional temptation and binging on more than you need.  By fasting, you still get to enjoy a few pretty decently-sized meals and get the feeling of fullness, which can be a huge mental key in controlling your urges for more treats.

Strategy #3: Burn As Much As Possible

The premise here is pretty simple – if calories in are going to go up, you need to make sure that calories out are increasing as well.

The idea is simple – before you go crazy at the dinner table, sneak off for 15-20 minutes and get some work done.  You can do sprints, you can go for a run, if your gym happens to be open you can head out for a good workout before heading to your family gathering, whatever works.  You don’t have to do it literally right before you eat – not everybody feels comfortable sneaking off to the guest room at Grandma’s house and grinding out a few bodyweight Tabata circuits.  Just do it whenever possible.

No equipment?  No problem.  I have a few of my clients doing this:

Bodyweight Circuit
20 reverse lunges
10 pushups
20 bodyweight squats
60 second front plank

Keep rest as limited as possible.  Repeat for 15-20 minutes.

Hell, I even have a few guys doing 100 pushups before every meal.  Not only do you burn extra calories, but how many guys are satisfied with their chest development anyway?  Two birds, people.  TWO.  BIRDS.

As you can see, there is plenty that you can do to keep fat gain at bay.  It just takes a little planning, and you’ll be able to avoid having to burn off an extra 10 pounds that you gained over the holiday season.  Whether you end up ultimately losing some extra fat, or even just maintaining your current composition, ultimately that’s much better than developing a belly that’ll rival Santa’s.

3 Keys to Overcoming Roadblocks

_MG_9364 cropped

Doing a photo shoot has always been one of those things that I thought was for “other people”. I always had excuse after excuse of why I could never do one – I will never have the right body, I completely lack the confidence, and what if I get bloated the day before! I never set out to do a shoot, it just kind of . . . happened.

#1: It sounds cliché, but don’t give up

After having my third child in February 2013, I remember driving home from the gym hyperventilating between tears. I felt chunky, fat, weak, and all of the other self-sabotaging emotions. I couldn’t even visualize being fit again, let alone seeing my abs. For the next several months, I took it a day at a time. Some days I would feel strong and in control of my food. Other days I would put away a half gallon of ice cream and brownies while feeling like an utter failure. I made a resolution – Have more good days than bad. I wasn’t telling myself it was OK to screw up, but I WAS telling myself not to feel guilty when I did. I was being real. I knew that if I started having more good days than bad, the body I wanted would follow. At that point, my goal wasn’t about a number on a scale or a percent of body fat, it was about not giving up. I did not see a photo shoot as the light at the end of the tunnel, but persistence made it happen. Focus on an action, not a result – you can control the action.

#2: Partner with the Right Coach for YOU

I have had three coaches in the past 18 months. Although all of them were great, credentialed, and produce results, I had to find the one that was the perfect fit . . . for ME. By the third coach, I had found a coach that I could partner with, could ask anything, tell him anything, could be honest and feel no reason to hide anything. I trust him. He has never shamed me or made me feel guilty when I mess up. I respect him, and because of that, I push myself harder in the gym, eat more mindfully, and definitely have more good days than bad. He holds me accountable, and I want to be able to tell him “I killed that workout”.

The value of having an honest relationship with my coach is immeasurable. At one point, I had told him that I had been feeling run down and weak. This feeling persisted for quite a while. He listened and had me de-load my training for a week. He didn’t shame me, he told me I NEEDED to and required me to have a week in the gym where I just had fun. He listened to me and listened to my body. Because of our partnership and full disclosure relationship, he knew I was being 100% honest which allowed him to do his job – take care of me and my body.

My coach has always had my best interest at heart and isn’t afraid to tell me “no”. I sent him a picture of my ideal look and he did not respond with “Sure, let’s do it!” He responded with a challenge, “Take a step back. All of that is wonderful and very good, but needs to be done from a place of self growth, and self love. Not out of a place of pure dissatisfaction and not loving yourself” and a bit of brutal honesty “If I’m being very honest, her body fat percentage is likely messing with her cycle (non-existent). You can maintain NOT FAR off of that. In my opinion, she’s a bit TOO lean to be walking around like that all the time. Some people are genetic freaks – but she’s not one of them haha.”
See – best interest at heart. Conversations like these let you know you have a good coach.


#3: Understanding Needs vs. Wants

It takes time to get to know your body, to understand hunger versus stress, understand muscular fatigue versus emotional exhaustion. It takes time to know when it is OK to have a “cheat” meal and when it is not. It takes practice listening to your body. The ultimate goal is to learn to understand what your body needs versus what you want. As my coach did, he told me to take a de-load week because my body NEEDED it, not because I was bitching and moaning and asked for it.

How do you know when you grasped need versus want? The guilt is removed. If you justify having a donut, but know deep down you shouldn’t, there will be a tinge of guilt attached. Conversely, if you take a day off from the gym because you know yourself well enough to know that your body is zonked and needs a break – there won’t be guilt because you are educated enough to recognize the signs your body is giving off. This understanding goes hand in hand with having a good partnership with a coach. Until you understand your bodies feedback, a good coach can help you interpret what you are feeling.

Deciphering your bodies needs versus wants takes time – but once you grasp it, you will be unstoppable.


I never set out to do a photo shoot, but taking things one step at a time allowed me to get photo ready without crash dieting or over-stressing about it. Give yourself realistic action-based goals, find a coach that you trust, and get real with yourself.

For more about my background and struggles, stayed tuned for more updates.

Are You the Person I’m Looking For?

This went out to all of our newsletter subscribers and clients a few days ago, and now I’m opening it up to all of our social media readers. I am writing this because I have something special to share. If you’re reading this, I think it COULD apply to you. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but I would rather let you make that decision instead of me, as I have been wrong more than once. As some of you may or may not know, I recently began competing in Physique competitions (which I have been thoroughly enjoying, by the way). But this isn’t about me. 52544-zach-trowbridge-11_final It IS about the fact that I am looking for TWO people with similar interests. I am looking to take two people to the stage within the next 12 months. Why? Because it isn’t enough for me to do it myself – if I can’t reproduce the results then it doesn’t really help me continue to grow even more as a coach. So, who am I looking for? I am looking for one client to work with one on one with me personally, as a private client, 4 days per week, for an hour at a time. This person, male or female, should be highly motivated to get into more than just good shape – they need to want something more. It doesn’t matter to me if you’re already a client at All Strength Training or not – it’s open to anybody! I am also looking for one person to work with remotely. This person probably won’t live close enough to train with me one on one, but you’ll get the next best thing. Customized nutrition, programming, and weekly Skype consult, and more. Now, the good part. I am not going into this with a particular set cost in mind. I would rather have the right people who will do what’s needed, rather than just those with the most disposable income. So I’m not putting a price tag on it yet – if you’re the person for the job, we can work that out later. 12 week transformation So what do I get out of it? 1. Promotion. Yes, I will use you to promote our services. On our website, through social media, in print, etc. Consider it a trade for offering this at well below what I would typically charge. 2. Data. You’re a beta tester for all of my nutrition, training, and supplementation protocols. So we will keep lots of records together, you and I. Workouts, pictures, measurements, consistently and regularly. How Do You Apply? Reply to this e-mail or send an e-mail to me personally at In about 500 words (a few paragraphs), describe what you want from me. How you want to look, what competition you would like to do, who you would like to look like, and tell me why I should pick you. Please, also specify if you want to be considered for one on one or remote training. Lastly, tell me what inspires you. People, places, activities, anything. I want to know what drives you to be a better person and motivates you to get out of bed each day. If you read this and think this isn’t for you, I understand. Not everyone wants or needs to go to the level I’m asking for this project. I would ask, however, that if you know someone who fits the bill, that you share this with them so that they might have the opportunity to be considered. Until Next Time, Zach Trowbridge