Monday, March 25, 2013

Common Rowing Mistake: Overusing Your Lats

It is good to see that coaches and trainees are now coming to understand the importance of rowing to keep the shoulder healthy.  However, to reap the benefits of rowing you must be performing it correctly.  A while back I posted about a common mistake during rowing, anterior humeral glide, and it is still the biggest mistakes I see people make.  If you have not seen my video, you can check it out below.

Today, I would like to discuss another common mistake during rowing - overusing your lat, teres major, and posterior cuff muscles.  Almost every client I work with that has some experience with rowing is very "balled up" in their posterior cuff area and a large reason for this is poor rowing mechanics.  So watch the video below to determine if you are making this mistake.

Tips to improve:

-Try keeping your elbows a little wider (this will help take out the lats somewhat).

-Keep your shoulder somewhat elevated.  Not everyone needs to try and depress their shoulder blade while rowing.

-Think of leading with the head of the humerus.  A lot of people use the cue "lead with your elbow", but this often leads to overusing the lat because you don't actually move the scapula.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments.  


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Art Of Coaching: Less Cueing, More Praising?

This is my first post on this site in over a year.  I had moved my content to my other site,, and wanted to start writing more for women and beginner trainees - I focus on the basics that I believe will allow them to make positive change in their bodies and lives.  I cover nutrition, behavior change, exercise, body image issues, etc.

However, since I am still working on the floor as a coach six days a week, I have a lot of things I want to share with other trainers/coaches and more advanced trainees.

Therefore, this is going to be my outlet for that content.  I hope you enjoy!

I have made many mistakes as a coach, but one that I want to discuss today is the mistake of making my clients believe they need to move perfectly and strive for symmetry.

Yes, this is a great goal to shoot for, but if your clients believe they need to strive for perfection then they will often be afraid to add weight or increase their intensity for fear of doing it incorrectly.

Sometimes, especially for beginners, an extra load can challenge them enough to build stability so that when he or she goes back to a lighter load they will be able to handle it much better.

Now there is obviously a fine line to this.  I think you always need to ask yourself:  What is this person's injury history?  What are his or her goal(s)?  How good is the technique?  What is their rating of perceived exertion?

I think many times a client just needs to be told "It looks good.  You are doing great."

An example of this are clients that have been or are in pain.  These individuals tend to overthink when performing an exercise and constantly seek feedback on their form.

Many times the best answer for these people is, "It looks good.  Here is one thing I would think about for the next set..."

If it looks terrible, then you obviously need to cue them or stop them, but if the movement looks decent (8 out of 10 on technique) I usually tell them good job and possibly give them one cue to think about for the next set.

People with pain need to feel confident in their movement.  They often do not trust their body and are constantly thinking, "Does this hurt, does this hurt, does this hurt?"  They are waiting for pain to happen.  Your job is to get them out of their heads and get them moving more comfortably.

Maybe this will mess up their motor program slightly because they are practicing it in a non-ideal way, but if they are not going to get hurt then maybe that is what they need to hear that day.

Here is another example:  If a client comes to you after a very stressful day or week then making them feel like they are doing something wrong is not the best thing for them.  Yes, our number one job as coaches and trainers is to keep them injury free, but if they are not performing the movement in a way that will hurt them then maybe we should give just try to make them feel better.

They will remember moments like these.  "Last time I went to the gym after a bad day I felt _____."

How do your clients feel after they leave from a session with you?  This is an important question to ask.

Consistency is the number one thing that will help a client see results and making him or her feel good can be an important component of this.

One of the things that Charlie Weingroff says is that you need to put your clients in a position to succeed.  I like this idea.  When you program for someone take this into consideration.

You may have in mind a really fancy exercise that will target all of their asymmetries and dysfunctions, but how will they feel performing it?  Will they feel successful?

I realize that a big part of our job as coaches it to educate our clients on why they are doing a certain exercise, but sometimes this still does not work.  Clients want to feel like they are accomplishing something.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  I have been reading more and more into change psychology, and I believe our programming and coaching should sometimes change to our clients' needs and mindset for a particular day.

A lot of trainers and coaches are now talking about perfect movement and how to go about achieving this, but at the end of the day, we still need to give our clients a challenging workout that they feel successful with and feel like they have accomplished something.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Moved To

I have officially moved my writing and content to Zach Moore Fitness.  Please help me spread the word of the new site.  Thanks!

Friday, March 2, 2012

My Interview With Rick Kaselj of Exercises For Injuries

Just wanted to let all of my readers know of an interview I did with Rick Kaselj of Exercises for Injuries.  He just posted it and it is available HERE.

In the interview, Rick and I discuss my battles with knee pain.  I have had two knee surgeries on the same knee due to a condition called osteochondritis.  Unfortunately, these surgeries did very little to improve the problem.  However, today I pretty much have zero problems with my knee, and in the interview I discuss the steps I took to get my knee better after the failed surgeries.   

I also talk a little about the mindset I had while I was injured - not giving up on a solution to my knee problems after the doctors told me I should not run or jump anymore.    

Hope you enjoy it!

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Knowledge Bombs From Charlie Weingroff's "How To Make A Monster" Seminar

Charlie Weingroff came to IFAST this past weekend to give his presentation titled, "How to Make a Monster".  To say that I took away a few things would be an understatement.  I also left his talk more motivated than ever to turn my clients into beasts!

Charlie did not present on "do this, do that", but gave guidelines and "rules" to help make intelligent decisions regarding your clients' movement, programming, and overall preparation.  My brain hurt after his talk, and I am still thinking all of it over.  So, I wanted to share some of things I took away.

1) You need a standard of movement to check against.  That way you can determine if you or your clients are improving.  This can involve an assessment, a series of movements, or whatever you have found that works.  

2) The goal is to spend as little time as possible with corrective exercise.  If things are not improving, then you may want to change your approach. 

3) Sometimes foam rolling and going home is the right thing if it makes the person feel better.

4) Aerobic training is beneficial!  I was so glad to hear Charlie say this because I am sick of people constantly putting it down.  It is great for recovery purposes and may be good for people in pain because it improves oxygen and blood flow, which I had not considered.

5) If you are very stressed, then you may want to stay away from anaerobic training, which will only further stress the body.

6) Your program should be perfect for that client on that day.  How are you ensuring this is the case?

7) To determine readiness track biomarkers.  The best ones use heart rate variability, but you could also use a vertical jump, a grip strength test, or a tap test.  Also, ask your clients about their readiness and motivation, and make changes to the program as needed.

8) Manage preparation through training.  Change preparation through programming.  Peak preparation through definable tasks (the more narrow the goal, the better).

9) Every muscle can act as a stabilizer or a mobilizer depending on joint position, fixed points, and motor control.

10) Balance of mobilizers and stabilizers acting at a joint is optimal joint centration.

11) Loss of centration will occur when phasic (mobilizers) muscles are forced to stabilize.

12) Non-optimal joint centration can lead to stress in the body, but this can work in the other direction as well.  Stress in the body can lead to a lack of joint centration.  This is another reason that managing stress and moving well is so important - you really cannot do one without the other.

13) Charlie defines stability as control in the presence of change.  Passive stability, which too many people rely on, comes from joint capsules and ligaments.  Functional stability, on the other hand, depends on optimal motor control and the ideal timing of tonic and phasic muscles' contractions.

14) Put your clients in a position to succeed.  Consider positions (supine, prone, quadruped, kneeling, standing), static vs. dynamic, unloaded vs. loaded, assistance vs. no assistance.  Find the one that leads to optimal joint centration

15) Bracing should be an option but only used when needed and should ideally be reactive.  Relying on bracing all the time creates a high-threshold stabilization pattern, which is okay for heavy lifts but should not be required for remedial tasks.  Look at great athletes - they have the ability to relax in movement and then instantly explode.

16) Protective responses, which are engrained motor patterns (look at babies), are red lines to the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS).  What Charlie means by this is that certain positions and movements are a drain on the nervous system because they signal fear or alarm.  For example, what does a person, or baby, do when they are frightened?  They throw their head back and arch their lower back, which is exactly the same thing most people do when squatting and deadlifting.   

17) A good diaphragmatic breath involves circumferential abdominal and rib expansion along with the belly button descending down and forward.  It is not just pushing your belly out.

18) Can you take a good diaphragmatic breath with a heavy bar in your hands or on your back?  If not, then you may want to decrease the weight and learn to create that intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) with a lighter weight.  This will make you stronger in the long run.

19) Ideal breathing may not occur with poor nutrition because of gut tensibility.  For the diaphragm to descend, the gut needs to be tensible.

20) Crawling is an awesome exercise!  Use it in your warm-up or load it up for your strength training or conditioning.  

21) To correct movement dysfunction, the first goal is to help the person feel wrong - become aware of the dysfunction (conscious dysfunction).  Once they can feel what is wrong, they can then feel what is right (conscious function).  Lastly, you want the right movement to become automatic (subconscious function), which will take repetition and awareness at first.

22) Roundedness of joints is important.  There should be minimal hallowing at areas such as the abs, shoulders, and hips.  If you have hallowing in these areas it means that your mobilizers are working extra hard to stabilize.  You need to find a position that allows you to train the area without hallowing.  For me, I had some crazy glute hallowing with basically any movement that trained my glutes (glute bridges, single leg RDL, etc.), but once I began crawling it disappeared.  I am now going to be crawling in my workouts at some point to work on my hip stabilizers. 

23) Joint Position=Rewriting the program
      Breathing=Hitting save

These are just a few of my notes from Charlie's seminar.  If you ever get the chance to go hear him speak, then I would definitely take the opportunity. 

Charlie also has a great DVD, Training=Rehab, Rehab=Training, which is full of more great information on helping you and/or your clients get out of pain and become beasts!  His blog can be found at

Have a great week everyone!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What I Plan To Learn More About In 2012

Last year around this time I wrote a post (I cannot believe I have been blogging for over a year!!) about what I wanted to really focus on/learn about in 2011.  I stated in the post that it is a good idea to choose one or two areas that you want to really dive into and learn about for the year.

I got this advice from Mike Robertson, and I put it into practice last year for the first time and really improved my understanding of physiology and energy systems as well as the anatomy of the spine and its pain and dysfunctions, which were my two areas of focus for 2011.

I have decided to continue on with this process this year.  However, instead of two areas I am going to dive into one fairly broad topic.  I truly believe it will help me become a much better coach.  Plus, I love learning about it.

The topic is behavior change/psychology.

This area of study is fairly new to me, but it is something that I have realized I need more knowledge of the longer I coach people.  I have a post coming out on this topic soon, but basically, when I first started out as a coach I read strictly science-y stuff such as anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, nutrition, etc.  These areas are all very important and have helped me to offer sound nutrition advice, spot and correct movement error, write solid programs, and have helped me gain a good understanding of the training process.

Basically, these topics have given me the answers as to how my clients can reach their goals, but they have not taught me how to get my clients to follow and implement these solutions.  I have realized that I need to not only have the solutions and plan for a client to reach his or her goal but also a way to inspire him or her to follow that plan.

How can I convince her to choose the one in her right hand?

I believe by digging into behavior change and psychology resources I can get better at this.  Below are some books that I plan on tackling this year to learn more about this topic.


Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Cialdini

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely (I actually just finished this one and highly recommend it.  Dan Ariely is also a great speaker and has some good TED talks I would recommend - HERE and HERE)

Motivational Interviewing: Preparing People for Change by William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney (reading this one right now and it is really good)

Thinking Slow and Fast by Daniel Kahneman

The Blackmail Diet by John Bear

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath

The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition by John Berardi and Ryan Andrews (I have read most of this, but it is a great resource to come back to on this topic)

As you can see, I have a lot of reading to do.  Luckily, I am a big nerd so it should not be hard.  :)

So, what are you going to learn more about this year?  

Also, if you have good resources for this area of study please let me know. 

Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Best Post-Workout Meal Ever!

I love Sunday morning training.  Sunday is my only day off from work so I get to go in the gym and lift with my friends with no rush to get done and get ready for work.   I also love Sunday morning training because I usually go home and make my favorite post-workout meal:  sweet potatoes and salmon.   
I know it does not sound very sexy, and once I tell you how to make it, you will probably still think it is not worth it.  But trust me, it is easy to make, tastes great, and is good for you, which makes it totally awesome!  
So without further ado, here is what you will need for the meal:
~1/2c bell peppers (I buy frozen ones from Trader Joe's that are already cut up)
~1/2c onion (diced, sliced, whatever)
~1c spinach (Again, I buy frozen from Trader Joe's, but fresh will also work)
sweet potatoes (as many as you want.  I usually have 2-3 medium)
salmon  (Use as much as you like.  I usually buy a can of salmon from Trader Joe's and use that. It is very good and cheap.  I am not a big fan of canned items, but supposedly Trader Joe's has BPA free cans.  However, if you can get it, fresh is still better.)

This is the salmon I buy
turmeric (no idea how much I use.  This is also optional.  I like to include it because of its many health benefits, but some people may not like the taste)
cinammon (no idea how much I use, but quite a bit)
~1-3 tbsp coconut oil or butter (both are great in this so feel free to mix it up)

apple cider vinegar (just a splash - optional)
And here is how to make it:
1) Saute onions and bell peppers in the coconut oil or butter.  Once they are fairly soft, throw in the spinach and let cook another minute or two.  
2) Once these are cooked, I turn down the heat to medium and throw a little more oil in the pan and add the salmon and pre-baked, cut-up sweet potatoes (I usually cook a bunch of sweet potatoes in the oven at some point during the week and always have them on hand) along with the turmeric and cinnamon.  
3) I mix all of this together and let it cook for another 2-3 min.
4)  Lastly, I throw in some apple cider vinegar for a little extra flavor. 
And that is it.  It sounds simple, and it is, but it tastes great and is good for you. 
You can also adjust the recipe based on your goals.  If you are trying to lose some fat then go easy on the sweet potatoes and oil.  However, if you are looking to gain muscle then pile up on all of it.

Let me know your favorite post-workout meals in the comments below.  I always like trying out new recipes.

Have a great week everyone!