RVSC Client Handbook
I started creating a client handbook about a year ago and it’s been a long, slow process. Between coaching clients at the gym, continuing education, and typing weekly blog posts, the handbook has really fallen off the radar. In the last few weeks, I have been making a concerted effort to work on it, and finish it. My motivation for this project is to provide my clients with a thorough explanation of my coaching philosophy. There are times when new training clients question my program design and exercise selection because my system is often totally different from the way they have trained in the past. I envision this handbook to be an ever changing document that is updated from year to year, as I continue to learn new exercises and coaching techniques. As Bruce Lee once said, “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.” Here are some of my musings on the topics I cover in the handbook.
- I prefer practical and functional training over muscle isolation and machine training. If you have read my blog posts before, I am sure this comes as no mystery. I am not totally against muscle isolation and it may be necessary in some cases (injury rehab), but you involve so many more muscles when you train movement, and you can even improve your mobility. Probably the most notoriously isolated muscle region is the core. The core muscles are engaged when we train movements, and is it really necessary to spend a whole session training abs? I think that training time can be better spent, but that is just my opinion.
- There appear to be quite a few trainers who don’t use any kind of fitness assessment. This seems a bit careless to me and it hampers the quality of the designed program. I want to measure a few vital signs, see how a person moves, and get a clear picture of their current strength and conditioning levels. How can you call it a personalized program if you don’t do any testing? It’s about figuring out where to start a person, what exercises will provide the most benefit, and what exercises to avoid at the moment.
- Power training is important, but it does have it’s risks. It can help reduce decline as we age and maintain mobility. If you have pain or injuries, it’s definitely not the kind of training you want to jump into. However, most people could benefit by moving an object, or themselves, quickly!
- There are many ways to structure a workout program, but I prefer supersets, unless someone is training for maximal strength or power. Pairing two exercises together that use different muscle groups is great for saving time in the weight room, and it can provide an element of conditioning if you keep the rest breaks to a minimum. Just remember to include all the fundamental movements, squat, hip hinge, push, pull, and rotate. Utilize supersets and include the fundamental movements, and you have the makings of a good strength program.
- I have slightly revised my opinion on core training after watching Nick Tumminello’s Core training: Facts, Fallacies, and Top Techniques. I think it’s okay to do some isolation exercises for the core, but if you have had back problems in the past, stick to core stability training (planks, dead-bugs, cable core exercises). However, It slips my mind where I heard this recently, maybe from Dan John or Charlie Weingroff, but how many times a day do we really need to do a spinal flexion movement like a crunch or sit-up? Once when we get up in the morning, maybe a couple more times if we nap, or get up at night. Realistically, we probably don’t need to spend an hour hammering away on those crunches. And I will mention it again, I am not a fan of dedicating whole sessions to just the core. I’m probably not the right trainer for you if want to do that, but you can probably find ones who do have full programs dedicated to that.
- Conditioning is an important piece of the fitness puzzle. You probably won’t reach your goals if you only rely on strength training, and skip the cardio. It’s also important for your health. Just remember, you don’t have to run. I know it’s most people’s “go to” exercise for cardio, but there are many other options. Although, I think everyone should be able to run a mile or two unless they are injured or have a health condition. I consider running an advanced exercise and people new to fitness should consider getting stronger before jumping full blast into running. One of my runner friends said in reply to my blog post about how you don’t have to run to lose weight, “but it sure does help.” No doubt, it is a good form of exercise for burning calories. For conditioning, you can bike, paddle, row, swim, hike, run, practice martial arts, dance, play a sport, perform agility drills, lift weights specifically for conditioning, and practice sport specific drills. There is a lot to choose from.
- To maximize improvements from your training, take recovery seriously. Get sleep, do some deep breathing, and get some body work done.
- Nutrition is a touchy subject. I like what I read in Fat Loss Happens On Mondays by Josh Hillis and Dan John. Food preparation and planning for the week is important. Food journals can be an excellent tool. Look at your weight, body fat percentage, and measurements as indicators that you’re either on the right track towards your goals, or you’re not. Don’t beat yourself up. After looking at a lot of research, I still lean towards a low carb nutrition approach. I will leave you with this anecdote, which I know is not good science. I know of a person who had severe chest pain and upon examination at the hospital, found out that two blood vessels were 99 percent blocked and they needed stents inserted. Their triglycerides and LDL levels were astronomical, at 4,000 and 500 respectively. HDL (the good stuff) was immeasurable. They ate a diet extremely high in sugar. After consulting with their physician, they were told that they needed to be on a Statin which could reduce their cholesterol 20 to 30 percent, and they should try a Mediterranean diet, which could reduce their cholesterol another 10 percent. They decided to go with a high fat/low carbohydrate diet (100 carbs a day), and after one month, their triglycerides were 150 and their LDL 130, and HDL was at least measurable, but still not great, at 27. Remember, they were put on a Statin, but that reduction was amazing. I would have to believe that the nutrition changes played a big part in it, but once again, I am making assumptions, and that is bad science. I just found it interesting.
Anyways, I look forward to wrapping up the handbook soon and getting it out to my clients. I think it’s best to make it clear why I choose to coach people the way I do. At the very least, I want to maximize the value that I provide my clients for their time and money. This is the culmination of an 11 year journey in the fitness industry, and I am looking forward to all the things I will learn in the future.