What is Online Training?

WHAT IS ONLINE FITNESS TRAINING

It’s a relatively new way to do personal training. In fact, I still encounter many people who have no idea what it is. That’s cool, I’m here to explain.

Normally when you work with a trainer, you and s/he meet up and go through your workout. The trainer helps you with the programming (which exercises, how many repetitions, how many sets, how much weight, etc.). Hopefully the trainer explains how to properly do each exercise and why it will help you reach your goals. It’s nice having someone in person with you to guide you through the process.

An online trainer provides all of that, only I’m not physically there with you when you’re working out. I work with clients via email to figure out what their goals are and what kind of programming will help them get the best results. There’s a continual exchange back and forth as we adjust the workouts based on their progress. The clients still get the guidance, support and motivation to hit their goals.

If you’re totally new to fitness, in all honesty, online training may not be best for you. At the beginning stages it’s imperative that you learn to lift with proper form, and having someone there to observe and correct in person is more appropriate.

If you already know your way around the gym then it may be a solid option. I like to have my clients send me some video from their workouts, especially early on. If you have a smartphone, you have a video recorder and you can send me the footage. This way we can ensure the form is on point and make occasional tweaks as needed.

A huge upside is that it leaves the client free to workout according to his or her schedule. The best time for the client to do the training may not sync with the availability of an in-person trainer. This is ideal for someone who works odd hours, for example. Or if a client travels a bunch, this way they can easily stay on top of their workouts.

Another benefit is that some online trainers offer nutrition plans as well. You want to make sure that he or she is properly qualified though. A specific nutrition plan is very different than more general diet guidelines. A specific plan is more detailed, telling you exactly which foods to eat, how much and when. For that, you definitely want to be confident the person knows what they’re talking about. A good trainer can help you with guidelines, such as approximately how many calories are appropriate for you and targets for the amounts of protein, carbs, and fat to eat.

Online training isn’t inherently better or worse than in-person training. It’s just a cool option that works better for some clients. It’s more interactive than ordering a program off a website or following one from a book. And it’s more independent than in-person training.

Here’s an example of how the entire process might work.

The client reaches out and I respond. We discuss several things via email or skype to figure out if it’s a good fit. A particular trainer may not be a good fit for a particular client. And a particular client might not be a good fit for a particular trainer. The relationship aspect is still fundamental for helping the client achieve their goals. Online or in-person, it’s still paramount in order for the client to get the most out of it.

A good online trainer will want to know about the prospective client’s current lifestyle, goals, training experience, and general health, to start. We’ll go over other pertinent information such as injury history or orthopedic surgeries.

From there it’s important that we’re both clear about expectations. The last thing you’d want is to have confusion about this. You want to know what you’re getting from me and what you’ll need to do to hold up your end. This clears up a lot of confusion for everyone.

If you’re a good fit, I will work with you to design a program that’s tailored specifically to you. It needs to be based around where you are currently relative to where you want to be. It takes into account things like how many days per week you can train and what equipment you have access to. Importantly, it’s not just a dictatorship, it’s an exchange. A good trainer will factor in the exercises that are most enjoyable to you.

Once you begin the training, there will be communication on a predetermined basis. It will vary based on client need. Maybe you check in via email after each training session. Or maybe it’s once a week’s worth of training is completed. There’s feedback based on what’s going on both in and out of the gym. It’s a way to provide accountability and support, which is one of the main reasons people fail to achieve their fitness goals.

We’ll adjust your training along the way to ensure continued progress towards the best outcome. Ideally, after the length of the agreement the client is in better shape and is more knowledgeable about the process of getting and staying fit and healthy.

Online training is a great option for some people. You’re not dependent on just who happens to work at your local gym. Maybe the trainer at your gym is great. Maybe not. But if she or he moves that affects your training. With online training, geography isn’t a limiting factor that way. In fact, it means you can work with a trainer thousands of miles away from you.

This is a general overview of how online training works. If you go with this option, please make sure you’re totally comfortable with the trainer you choose. They should be knowledgeable, experienced, eager to help you reach your goals, and available.

Thanks for reading. Hope this helps. Any questions, just hit me up jquinn.fitness@gmail.com

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How to Get Your First Pull-Up

You want to be able to do pull-ups or chin-ups but you can’t do any just yet. That’s no problem. It’s an impressive feat of upper body strength. Maybe you’ve thought it would never be possible for you. Follow the steps below and you’ll be able to get your first one pretty soon.

The most obvious difference between the pull-up and the chin-up is the placement of your hands. With pull-ups, you use an overhand grip, meaning your palms are wrapped around the bar facing away from you. For chin-ups, you grab the bar with your palms facing you. This makes for some differences in which muscles are worked, but they’re minor. For most people, chin-ups will be somewhat easier. Either exercise is a great way to improve your back strength and develop a great looking back.

Real quick, let’s make a deal: For the rest of this I’m going to use “pull-ups” and you’re going to agree that it means “pull-ups or chin-ups”, even though we know they’re not exactly the same. Deal? Deal.

LatThis is a diagram of your lats (latissimus dorsi). The large fan-shaped muscle ranges from your armpit to your lower back. Its purpose is to move your upper arm down, back, and towards your side. It’s the primary muscle involved when you do pull-ups. The exercise does basically works all the muscles in your back. It also trains your biceps (the muscles on the front of your upper arm), forearms, and grip strength.

Now that we’ve got that covered, we can really get to business. In order to make it happen, you’re going to have to develop a good strength-to-bodyweight ratio. This may mean you have to lose some fat. The leaner you are, the easier pull-ups will be. If you’re not as lean as you’d like, you obviously can still work to get stronger. You don’t have to wait to begin this progression.

You can build pulling strength by doing lat pulldowns and using the assisted pull-up machine but in order to get better at pull-ups, you’re going to have to do pull-ups.

Doing negatives are a great way to make this happen. A negative is when you actively resist the force of the weight as it extends your muscle. That sounds fairly technical. A more common sense way of thinking about it is: fighting gravity as it pulls the weight back down.

Visualize picking a weight up with your hand and bending your elbow to bring the weight towards your shoulder. Now imagine lowering it as slowly as possible. That last part is the negative. You’re going to do that with pull-ups.

If you can jump up and grab a pull-up bar so that you’re holding it tight and your chin is just over the bar, that’s probably best. You’re already in the top position for doing a pull-up.

If you’re not there yet, no sweat. Find something stable to stand on that will allow you to maneuver yourself into the top position. Really make sure it’s stable for safety’s sake. You can also use your workout partner, if you have one, to give you a boost up to the top position.

From there, you extend your arms as slowly as you can to lower yourself to the dead hang position. Really fight the gravity pulling you down. You know you’re doing it correctly when you feel your lats working. You’ll likely feel the stretch in your upper arms also. Once you’re fully extended, let go of the bar and gently drop down to the ground. Then repeat. The first few times you do this you probably won’t be able to resist too long. That’s okay. Just keep working.

Start really easy and just do a couple negatives. You’ll likely experience some soreness the day or two following. That’s okay. As you do the exercise more frequently your body will adapt and you’ll get less and less sore.

I suggest you do this at the beginning of your workouts when you’re nice and fresh. You want to focus on slowing down your descent more over time. Doing just a few high quality reps is better than doing several reps of lesser quality.

Soon you’ll feel more confident and comfortable with the movement. This should happen over a few weeks. Then you’re ready for the next step.

For this you’ll jump up to the bar, same as before. Only instead of slowly lowering yourself down, you’re going to hold yourself up in that top position as long as you can.

There are essentially three ways you can contract a muscle. 1) Contract it: This is what you probably think of when someone tells you to “flex”. You shorten the muscle, as in when you flex your biceps, you shorten it to move your elbow joint to bring your forearm to your shoulder. 2) You resist as you extend it, as in the case of the negative. 3) Isometrically hold it. This is where you’re working the muscle but it’s not actively lengthening or shortening. Picture trying to shove a wall. As hard as you push, it’s not going anywhere. Even though your arms aren’t moving either, you’ll still feel the muscles working.

You will be working your entire upper body in this isometrical hold pull-up. Eventually you’ll fatigue, your arms will start to extend and you’ll end up in the dead hang position. Rest a minute or two and repeat the hold a couple more times. As you keep working this, you’ll notice you’ll be able to hang longer and longer, a sign of improved strength.

Then you’re ready to try doing a pull-up from the dead hang position.

Reach up to grab the bar with your arms fully extended. Raise yourself towards the bar in a smooth motion. Keeping your whole body tight will help this. Brace your abs, flex your butt and legs. Try not to kick or swing or otherwise use momentum. Thinking of the motion more like bringing your elbows towards your sides, than raising your chin over the bar might help you engage your lats. Once you reach the top part of the pull-up your chin will be above the bar. Lower yourself under control to the dead hang starting position.

Congratulations! You did it! Can you do 2?

I know you will soon enough. I’ll wrap this with a couple tips:

  • If you find yourself craning your neck to reach over the bar, focus on bringing your collar bone towards the bar instead of getting your chin above the bar.
  • Don’t shrug your shoulders towards your ears. There’s a tendency to want to shrug both at the top and at the bottom of the exercise. Keep your shoulder blades down.

As you get more confident doing pull-ups, you can try different variations. Besides an underhand or overhand grip, there’s a neutral grip. That’s when your palms are facing each other. It’s more comfortable for some people. If you have access to rings, you can definitely use them for your pull-ups. Rings offer more of a challenge in terms of stability. But their ability to rotate will help you find your body’s naturally efficient groove to do pull-ups.

These are all vertical pulling movements, meaning you’re moving up and down. For your best progress, you definitely want to include some horizontal pulling lifts, such as inverted rows or dumbbell rows in your workouts also.

Hope this helps! Any questions, leave ‘em below. Thanks for reading.

Calluses?

Solutions if lifting weights is giving you rough callused hands.

If you’re like me, you see the calluses on your hands as circumstantial evidence that you spend a fair amount of time in the gym, lifting heavy stuff.

What? You’re not like me? Okay cool. I’m the weird one. If you want to workout and avoid developing calluses, keep reading.

If you workout, at some point you’ll most likely develop calluses on your hands. They come from your skin’s reaction to the friction from holding the weights. Your skin tries to protect itself by growing thicker, tougher skin. It’s good for inside the gym, but maybe less so outside the gym. Even in the gym, you run a risk that you could tear open the callus. Not the most pleasant visual, I realize, but it does happen.

Here are a few ways you can prevent them from happening to you:

Wear lifting gloves. You know, the leather ones with the fingers cut off. Having a layer between your skin and the weights will help. The downside is some people feel it interferes some with the ability to grip the weights. If you use lifting gloves, remember to wash them.

Use lifting chalk. Rubbing some lifting chalk on your hands helps by drying your skin a bit. When you lift, you sweat. Yes, even your hands. You feel the weight slipping so you grip tighter, which increases the friction, which leads to calluses. Applying some chalk dries the sweat, making it easier to grip the weight. But if you use too much, it actually adds to the amount of friction. And it can make a mess, which can be inconvenient.

Use a pumice stone. About once a week, you can use it to sand down the parts of your skin where the callus is beginning to build. Do this when your skin is still a bit moist after you shower. You don’t have to go overboard and rub the flesh raw, of course. Use moisturizer after.

You can also use lifting grips. They’re like a combination of wrist wraps and a little hook. Maybe you’ve seen people use them to do pull-ups at your gym. They’re pretty reasonably priced. They’re not as restrictive as lifting gloves. A downside is they work far better for some lifts than others. They might not offer too much help on pressing lifts.

Similarly, you can buy kinesiology tape (it’s sometimes referred to as goat tape) and apply it to your hands. It’s a barrier between your skin and the bar that won’t restrict your motion. The downside here is it may not be the most cost effective option.

Finally, you can use a looser grip on the weight. I don’t especially recommend this because, while it may be easier on your hands, it might be harder on your toes if you drop the weight. If you use this method, please be careful.

Generally speaking calluses aren’t a big deal, but they do happen. Now you know what to do to try to prevent them, and how to deal with them.

Thanks for reading!

Nuance Training

This is about embracing nuance. The subtle “it depends” responses when it comes to training. When we first start out, things are pretty simple. You go to the gym, do your 3 sets of 10 repetitions for each exercise 3 days a week and come back stronger each time. Progress is easy.

As you get stronger and fitter, by definition you need more volume to stimulate your muscles further. Unfortunately, you can’t just keep adding volume indefinitely. And your muscle and strength don’t keep increasing in a linear way. You’re also more experienced than when you started. In order to keep developing, you’ll need to become more nuanced both in your understanding and in your training.

Embrace it. It’s a sign of more complex thinking. Kids exist in a binary, right or wrong world because they have no experience. You can’t have judgment before you have experience. Teaching them to separate things into two groups simplifies life for them as they start to learn. Yes and no, good and bad, always and never absolutism helps build a framework. But eventually we learn other groups like “maybe”, “sometimes”, and “it depends”.

The same is true for fitness. As you become more experienced you find the rules are more of a framework than absolute truth. When you start out, it’s all about big compound lifts (or at least it should be). Your workouts center around squats, deadlifts, and bench. Probably you’ve been told you have to lift x reps and y sets with z time to rest.

In time, you might figure out that your body responds better to different parameters. Your workouts become more customized to you, which is exactly how they should be. At first it’s good to learn the “rules” and stick to programs as they’re drawn up. That’s a great way to make progress and build a solid foundation of strength and fitness. It’s important to learn the fundamentals well. And you don’t ever want to stray too far from them. But as your training progresses, your knowledge and experience expand also.

So understand that as your understanding and experience grow, so does the grey area between black and white. There’s no singular path to fitness. Once you’ve got the fundamentals, it’s good to be a bit flexible with the tactics you use.

In time your goals may evolve (I certainly hope so). Your life will change. Your body changes as you get older. The truth is, you’re always chasing a moving target. I think it’s a good thing. It keeps things interesting.

What to Do If You’re a Little Dinged Up?

The most important thing I can tell you is: if an exercise hurts you, stop.

If you train with weights long enough, at some point you will experience an injury. Hopefully it’s not a bad one that keeps you away from the gym for a prolonged time. If that’s you right now, please heed your doctor’s advice and get all the way healed before you come back. The gym’s not going anywhere and it doesn’t make sense to risk injuring yourself further.

You may never suffer an injury like that though. More than likely you’ll have something that nags at you or maybe sidelines you for a week or two.

The most important thing I can tell you is: if an exercise hurts you, stop.

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I don’t mean it’s difficult or you’re feeling soreness. If you feel pain, then stop. Training shouldn’t hurt. The saying “no pain no gain” is (for lack of a better term) dumb.

I used to believe it years ago. As a result, now I have to basically avoid some lifts. The good news is there is no single exercise that is absolutely necessary for you to do. “Nuh uh,” you say. “What about squats?” Or deadlifts? Or bench press?

There are workarounds. The truth is, not every exercise will suit you. Some of them you’ll like. Others you’ll love. There will be those you don’t really love but like what they do for you. You’ll probably hate one or two. And then there are going to be some that just don’t feel right.

For me, that was barbell rows. I’d read they were necessary for a strong back. I tried them for a few months and I did get stronger. I also messed up my left biceps/elbow. Not to the point where I needed a medical intervention. But definitely enough that I stopped doing them.

In a few weeks I felt better. Back to 100%. And you know what I did? Yup, I went back to doing the rows. Guess what happened? My arm started hurting again. This time it was worse. Still not badly enough for me to need a doctor. But now it affected me when I did pull-ups.

To paraphrase a famous quote mangler: fool me twice… we won’t get fooled again.

I don’t do rows any more. It’s been a couple years now. [Stares wistfully into the distance]

I learned a few things. Don’t be so hard-headed. Not every exercise is for everyone. If something doesn’t work for you, find another way.

To be clear, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do barbell rows. Not by any stretch. This is just an example from my experience. It’s common for some people to have shoulder discomfort doing dips. Does this mean no one should do dips? Of course not. But if you’re one of the people whose shoulders get ticked off by them, find another exercise to work your triceps. Make sense?

Instead of doing barbell rows, I do dumbbell rows. It turns out I really like them and they don’t bother my elbows at all. Pull-ups still don’t feel great, so I don’t do those either. That kind of sucks because I did enjoy them. I replace them with weighted chin-ups and I’m still making progress without pain.

If you’re feeling acute pain when you’re doing a particular exercise, my advice is simple. Stop doing it. Likely reasons are you may have an undiagnosed injury already, your technique is slightly off. It’s not a terrible idea to go get yourself checked out by a medical professional. It also may make sense to have a good trainer look at your form. Or maybe that particular lift isn’t a good fit for you.

No big deal. Just find a different way to target that muscle group.

Hope this helps! Thanks for reading.

4th Quarter

It’s the beginning of October. That means it’s the start of the 4th quarter of 2017. Are you still on track for the goals you set for yourself this year?

If you are, you’re awesome. If you’ve already achieved what you set out to for the year… it’s time to pick bigger goals.

If you’ve fallen off, it’s easy to start thinking about ‘18. I mean, there are only a few weeks until the holidays and you may as well just slack off and enjoy, right?

Nope.

First, there’s still plenty of time left to put in lots of solid work towards your goals. For the sports fans, is there any greater thrill than a late-game comeback win? Who doesn’t love a movie where the hero overcomes the biggest challenge at the end? You are the hero of your story. If you truly want something, go after it. Take actions every day (every day) that put you closer to it. You won’t make giant strides daily. Small steps are still progress.

Second, you know “I’ll wait ‘til next year and then I’ll start” is bs. It’s just procrastination with no benefit. Why would you wait to improve your life? If it’s a good idea to start in January, it’s a good idea to start in October. As in now. Today.

Are you going to look back a year from now and say, I’m so glad I waited until January to get started? Or are you more likely to think you should’ve started earlier?

It doesn’t matter if your goal is to be more fit, drop that fat, build muscle, make a million dollars, write that novel, etc. Waiting is wasting. Go. Do.

You got this! Hope this helps. Thanks for reading. Leave a comment or question below.

So You’re Having a $#!tty Workout

You’re feeling great… until the barbell’s in your hands…

You’re in the gym. Your mind’s right. Your warm-up was good. You’re feeling great. It’s bench day and you’re ready to set some PRs. You sail through your acclimation sets and then… (sad game show sound effect) nothing.

The barbell feels way heavier than expected. You try to push through but it’s just not happening today.

You rack the weight, then rack your brain trying to figure out what happened and why.

Maybe the answer is simple. You didn’t get enough sleep or you’ve got a little cold.

But sometimes, it’s just one of those days. You got no juice. It happens. Most workouts are just pretty good, in the same way that most days at work are just okay. Some training sessions are awesome. And others are just a slog.

What should you do?

Be honest with yourself: maybe you’re just feeling lazy. If you are, c’mon, just fight through that.

When it’s not that, you should do what you can. Accept that you’re not going to set any records today. And that’s okay. Just make up your mind to get through the session. Once it’s over, don’t dwell on it. I know it’s frustrating. One bad workout isn’t going to derail your gains.

Perhaps there are other factors at play. It’s important to have the self-awareness to know they can impact your workout. While the gym can sometimes be a sanctuary from the every day life stress, it’s not an impermeable bubble. We all go through times of intense stress and it’s reasonable to expect it may seep into your time at the gym.

The most important thing is to do the best you can each workout. Sometimes that means hitting PRs. On other occasions it may just mean showing up just to stretch and break a little sweat. It doesn’t mean you messed up or failed. It means there isn’t always an immediate payoff for your efforts. Just keep trying and you’ll reap the benefits.

Thanks for reading. Any questions or comments, leave ’em below.