How to Improve Stride Length and Gait Patterns with Simple Exercises

The vast majority of the people that come in to our gym for the first time can barely touch their toes or even simply raise their leg off the ground without compensating.  This is a pretty big deal, if you ask me.  Think about it…An Active Straight Leg Raise, as shown in the picture below, is simply a normal gait pattern of walking, only done on the ground.  Putting someone on the ground eliminates the need for stability since we gain that extra stability or support from the floor. If  you can’t do it on the floor, you’re probably not going to be able to do it while you’re on your feet.


A normal straight leg raise should be done actively to somewhere around 70°,  or passively to somewhere around 80°.  If someone starts compensating before that, you can rest assured they’re going to have a limited gait pattern and have a tough time separating reciprocal hip flexion/extension.  Improving stride length is not only a way to make athletes faster and more efficient, it’s also a way to help every individual stay healthy and pain free.  We need to be able to flex and extend our hips in an alternating pattern without compensation, so I want to show you a couple of simple ways you can start improving gait pattern and stride length with minimal equipment.  These are very simple, but extremely effective, so if you’re working on improving your straight leg raise, enhancing your stride length, or making your gait pattern fluid and efficient, give these exercises a shot.





These are just three examples I’ve pulled from our B3 bundle.  With this bundle, we’ve incorporated simple exercises that require minimal equipment and produce a MAJOR bang for your buck.  If you’re strapped for cash and can’t buy a gym full of fancy equipment, you can still get amazing results by incorporating some of the exercises from our B3 bundle.  We’ll help improve your movement, get you strong, and provide you with some workouts that you can do using nothing more than your own body weight, a resistance band, and a kettlebell.  It doesn’t take a ton of equipment to design a killer program, so check it out if you’d like to see more.  It’s on sale this week (November 3-6, 2015), so grab your copy by Friday and save $50.



FMS Systems Case Study

After reading Steve’s latest article, I felt compelled to elaborate a little more and to show you guys what we’re currently working on to improve our results. I’m going to explain a current client we have, what issues came up, and our solutions to addressing what we found.

The article I’m referring to is on the Functional Movement SYSTEMS. The FMS is more than just a movement screen. Their entire organization is based around creating “Standard Operating Procedures” designed to improve movement, both in terms of communication and practical application. They’ve done an amazing job at creating IF/THEN scenarios, creating flow charts telling you where to go, and creating solutions based upon individual findings.

There are countless variables that come into play when you’re working with a human being, but the Functional Movement Systems have helped narrow down the process and give you WAY more information to work with. A skilled fitness professional, strength coach, or therapist is always going to get more out of the system. However, since we’ve got systems in place, our younger and more experienced coaches can now replicate what the skilled professional is doing…to a certain extent. Essentially, using these systems will help narrow the gap between the best-of-the-best. We’re still learning a ton on a daily basis, and using these systems within our business has proven to be our most valuable asset. Teaching these systems to our trainers has allowed us to get amazing results without having to do all the work ourselves. Let me show you an example of how we used the Functional Movement SYSTEM (combination of FMS and Y Balance) to work with one of our clients recently.

Here’s a quick recap of what’s going on with Toni. One of our clients, Toni, recently complained of mild, acute back pain. Occasionally her low back would hurt after a long day on her feet, lack of activity, and sometimes from her workout. She really couldn’t pinpoint anything that was directly related to her low back pain, so our first action step is to set up a movement screen to see what’s going on. This not only allows us to look at her movement patterns, but it’s also a great session to set aside some time to talk to her about what’s going on in her life and get lifestyle issues that may be relating to the pain. Win/Win. So that’s what we did…we set up the initial session and started screening.

Here is what her screen looked like:


FMS Case Study

After taking Toni through the initial FMS, we found her only red light or dysfunctional pattern to be the push up. She’s had this issue for awhile now, but she also used to have a rotary stability dysfunction but recently cleared the pattern. After taking her through the screen, I still wasn’t convinced she had adequate stability. We already found out that her Trunk Stability Push Up was dysfunctional, but I wanted to find out more. So, I decided to run a couple quick breakouts and a Y-Balance Test with her. I am definitely no expert with the Y-Balance Test yet, but I’m getting some interesting information and seeing a ton of value.

As Steve said in his previous article, The Functional Movement Screen has a bias towards mobility. Stability is addressed, but mobility and basic motor control are the main drivers behind the screen. Adding the Y-Balance Test to the equation allows the Functional Movement Systems to exploit both areas…Mobility with the FMS and stability with the Y-Balance Test. In my short experience with the Y-Balance Test, I can see a ton of value moving forward.

The Y-Balance Test allows us to narrow down stability or motor control issues to a specific quadrant or quadrants. Just like the Functional Movement Screen, there are certain criteria that must be met. If you find a dysfunction, simply mark it and move on. After doing the test with Toni, we found two specific quadrants to be of concern. Her upper left quadrant and her lower left quadrant. Basically, her left side didn’t function like the right. There was a pretty obvious asymmetry, and the Y-Balance Test exploited that.



Now that we have results from both the FMS and Y-Balance Test, it’s time to start to use that information for her programming. Here is the selection we gave her for correctives:

Lower Rolling (left side only) – This was one of the breakout screens we did prior to the Y-Balance Test. We found an asymmetry here on both upper and lower rolls to the left. The Y-Balance Test confirmed the rolling breakout.


Upper Rolling (left side only)


Stability Ball Rockback w/ Arm Lift (raise right arm only)




Half Turkish Get-Up (bell in right hand)

The only other thing I’d like to note with Toni was how it affected her program. You can see the correctives we did with her, but her programming was also affected slightly as well. Since she’s a group client, we went through the group program we’re currently in and made some minor changes. I had her eliminate most, if not all, bilateral work and started to exploit that asymmetry with her program. For example, one of the programmed exercises was a progression of Goblet Squats or KB Front Squat, a bilateral squatting exercise. All I did with her was switch it from doing the KB Goblet or Front Squat to an Offset Front Squat, doing more on that left side we found to be dysfunctional.

All in all, I think that was a solid hour spent with one of our clients. I was able to find a major asymmetry, dial in her corrective strategy, and make minor changes to her program to help her improve. I’ll re-screen her within a few weeks and see what happens.

That’s the kind of SYSTEM I’m talking about. The Functional Movement Systems have helped us dial in our programming and getting better results with our clients. We’ve taken what works for us in our gym, created a system around it, and made a process easy to follow with our coaches and trainers. Smart Group Training: The System will help you learn how to use a system like this within your gym. If you want more information and want help dialing in your programming like that, check out SGT: The System today!


P.S. – SGT: The System just launched this week and is currently on sale. Pick up a copy before midnight Friday, August 14th and you’ll be able to save $100.


FMS – The S Stands for Systems

FMS is More Than a Screen

I recently attended the Perform Better Summit, and once again it was great. After each seminar or workshop I always try to think of the one biggest takeaway that I got from that particular event. After this summit I was most excited about how the FMS team is starting to talk more about the system.

I think we all the know the FMS as the Functional Movement Screen, but what most people don’t realize is that the FMS screen is part of a bigger FMS. Functional Movement Systems.

The FMS screen is just one part of a bigger system including the SFMA, Y Balance Test, and FCS. Let me quickly explain each one of these integral parts of the system.

Functional Movement Screen (FMS) – The FMS is the foundation screen in which the rest of the system was created. The FMS is your pre participation screen to see what your clients should and shouldn’t be doing. For the most part, the FMS should be done with people who are NOT in pain going into the screen. The goal of the FMS is to find any painful or dysfunctional movement patterns in order to make sure you don’t make things worse with a fitness or training program. There are different breakout screens for each of the movements in the FMS if you want to dig deeper into finding out how to quickly fix a compensatory pattern. The FMS is not a tool used to diagnose pain. That is what the SFMA is for.

Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA) – The SFMA is an assessment system used by clinicians to dig deeper when client are in pain. When a trainer finds pain on the FMS it is great to have someone on the same page to talk with to be able to effectively help your clients. The FMS and SFMA compliment each other well as part of a bigger system. When a client has a SFMA clinician and an FMS trainer you can bet they are in good hands.

Y Balance Test (YBT) – I originally learned about the Y Balance Test quite a few years ago, but never really dug too deep into using it. Honestly, I said that I don’t want to use something that required another kit. That was a stubborn way to think, because the Y Balance is definitely worth the price of the kit. The biggest knock on the FMS is that it’s not comprehensive enough. Most people who say that don’t fully understand the screen, but in some ways those people are correct. Gray said over the weekend to think of the FMS as more of the mobility test and the YBT as more of the stability test. After doing just a few Y Balance Tests in the last week, I can already tell this information is the missing link for those few people who score satisfactory on the screen, but you can tell still need work. There’s not much more I can say about it at this time because I’m still a rookie, but you can bet I’ll be mastering the YBT in the near future.

Fundamental Capacity Screen (FCS) – The newest addition to the system as a whole is the FCS. This is more of your performance testing when needed. Once your clients are pain free, have cleared the FMS, and have acceptable Y Balance Scores, the FCS screen comes into play. This is honestly brand new stuff, and the company is still setting the standards, but I think this is a great compliment to the system. With the addition of the FCS, you have a screening and placement system from people that are broken down and in pain with the SFMA, all the way up to high performers with the FCS.

Those are quick explanations that really don’t do the entire system much justice. I highly recommend checking out and look into taking a course to get certified. That way you can start using a system with your practice, because things start to become clearer and easier the better the systems you use.




– Steve Long


PS – If you are thinking of becoming FMS Certified and want to do the online study course we have a great deal for you. Due to our great relationship with FMS we have secured a 10% discount for you on the FMS HSC. Just use coupon code SGT10 at checkout for the special SGT discount.

Here is a link to the FMS Home Study Course

Putting the PERSONAL in Group Personal Training

Justin Yule, owner of Chanhassen Fitness Revolution and Smart Group Training Advisory Board Member, gives us an insight to their client management system and how they personalize the experience for each member, and literally walks us through the process.  Justin was one of the first people using the Smart Group Training system and he’s been one of the driving forces to help push the system along.  He’s taken our system, made it unique to his own business, and he’s had tremendous success because of it.


Watch the video below to see how Justin’s using Smart Group Training within his gym.  He’s definitely done a good job of making group training an individualized experience.  We’re proud to have Justin on our Advisory Board and he truly embodies our motto: “Putting the PERSONAL in Group Personal Training.”  Hopefully Justin can help give you a pointer or two on personalizing the group training experience.

Breaking Out the Rotary Stability Screen

With our next breakout we are moving on the Stability Pod with the Rotary Stability Screen. I’ve definitely seen this screen scored incorrectly quite a bit, so even if you are not new to the FMS I highly recommend clicking the link below to watch a quick video on performing and scoring the Rotary Stability Screen.

Smart Group Training – Rotary Stability Performing and Scoring the FMS

So why do we use the rotary stability screen anyway? Why should you care if your client can do a bird dog over a board?

The rotary stability screen is the first of two screens in the FMS that check core function. We use the rotary stability screen to check “inner core” or “soft core” function and we use the trunk stability push up to check “outer core” or “hard core” function. The inner core is more of the reflexive core that requires subconscious timing and is the core that is rarely specifically trained in the gym. You can’t train your inner core with sit-ups, crunches, or planks. It needs to be reflexive and subtle.

So what do we do when someone scores a 1 on the Rotary Stability Screen on the FMS? What are we looking for? How should we break it out?

One thing to keep in mind when someone scores a 1 on the Rotary Stability is the FMS Hierarchy. It is important to note that if someone has a 1 on the Active Straight Leg Raise or the Shoulder Mobility screens, you are in the wrong place trying to work on the Rotary Stability screen. We want to get the mobility issues off of the table before working on this pattern so make sure that is the case before proceeding. So technically, the first two breakouts for the Rotary Stability screen are the Active Straight Leg Raise and the Shoulder Mobility screen on the FMS. The only mobility issues that should affect the Rotary Stability screen are:

The ability to extend the hip: This is covered in ASLR

The ability to flex the shoulder: This is covered in SM

The ability to touch the elbow to the knee: This should be covered if you have 2’s on both the ASLR and SM. If they have the mobility to pass the ASLR and they have the mobility to pass the SM but can’t touch the knee to the elbow in quadruped its most likely not a mobility issue, chances are it’s a stability issue, and we would be in the perfect place to start correcting the core. Sometimes it’s possible that the stomach is too large to touch the knee to the elbow as well, but this should be very rare.

So we should be in a place at this point where mobility is not an issue and we are deciding how to correct the Rotary Stability dysfunction. From here I will look at a few things


Supine Breathing

Crocodile Breathing

Quadruped Breathing

Depending if the breathing needs work I will give them breathing exercises in the position that they are struggling with. You can see examples of those breathing corrections below in the breathing track.

From there I will look at their rolling patterns. I want to look at all four rolls to see what they can and can’t do and in the also determine which roll needs the most work.


Lower Rolling

Upper Rolling


So here’s how it all works. If they can’t breath they go to the breathing track. If they can’t roll we go to the rolling track, and if they can roll perfectly in all patterns they go to the quadruped track.


Breathing Track

Supine Breathing

Crocodile Breathing

Quadruped Breathing


Rolling Track

Lower Rolling

Upper Rolling


Quadruped Track

Bubblegum Farts (Stability Ball Rockback)

Bird Dog Arms

Bird Dog Legs

Bird Dog

Bird Dog Hold


Once we get the pattern corrected and have symmetrical 2’s on the Rotary Stability Screen you want to incorporate that stability in some functional patterns such as:


One Leg Elevated Push Up (one leg elevated, one leg on floor)

½ Kneeling Chops and Lifts

Offset Deadlifts, Squats, and Carries

This is the strategy I use to dig deeper into Rotary Stability 1’s and get people’s cores working in synergy with their extremities. I hope this gives you a better understanding of the Rotary Stability Screen and what to do when someone has dysfunction in that pattern.

Hard and Soft: A New Way at Looking at the FMS

If you’ve been following Smart Group Training for any time whatsoever, I’m sure you already know we’re all about the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) and the results it can deliver in your training programs.  We use it on a daily basis at our gym and we’ve had a TON of success by using this screening tool.  Honestly, without the screen, I’m not even sure where I’d begin with developing an individualized program anymore.  I hate being reliant on a tool, but the FMS is one tool I don’t mind hanging my hat on.

There are several reasons why I love the FMS, and the improved communication is towards the top of that list.  If I’m trying to discuss a training program with another professional, using the FMS’s scoring criteria drastically helps create an understanding of what’s going on with an individual.  If we’re talking and you’re able to tell me a client of yours has a 1/1 on the Active Straight Leg Raise and has another pair of 1’s on the Rotary Stability screen, I’m going to have a much better idea of what’s going on with that person. For those of you unfamiliar with the scoring criteria of the FMS, it’s pretty simple.  All the movements are scored somewhere between a zero through a three.

0 = Pain with the movement

1 = Major Limitations and Dysfunction with the Movement Pattern

2 = Acceptable Movement Pattern.  Performed w/ some compensation.

3 = Perfect Movement Pattern.  Zero compensations present.

Understanding the scoring criteria is the first thing you need to do when it comes to the FMS.  I’m not here to go over what’s a one, two, or three with this article.  We have that covered in our Performing and Scoring the FMS section on our blog.  You can find out how to score the FMS here. However, I do want to discuss the clients that score a one on any given movement pattern.

Since my return from the Perform Better Functional Training Summit in Chicago this last June, I see at the people scoring 1’s on the screen in a whole new way.  Charlie Weingroff, a huge believer in the FMS, helped paint a picture in my head that makes perfect sense.  During his presentation, he talked about something he called hard and soft.  If someone scores a one on the movement screen, he wants to know if the score is hard or soft.

Hard or Soft?  What the hell does that even mean?

Let me explain by giving an example.

John and Jane are new clients coming in to work with you.  You performed the FMS and found that both of these individuals have a pair of one’s on the Active Straight Leg Raise.  Sweet.  You found the weakest link…now what?

If you’re using the FMS and having great success, I’m sure you’re well aware that there are breakout screens/assessments that can help identify why the dysfunction is there in the first place. After performing these breakouts, you can usually find out if the dysfunction is a true mobility issue, or if the problem lies in stability or motor control.

Let’s get back to John and Jane.

John got a pair of 1’s on his straight leg raise.  After doing the breakouts, we found out that mobility was his issue.  He had a dysfunctional straight leg raise, so we had him try to touch his toes while standing…he couldn’t.  He then could not touch his toes while sitting on the floor.  It looked identical to the standing toe touch.  Finally, we checked his passive straight leg raise by doing a simple “hamstring stretch” only to find out that passive versus active were identical as well.

This is what we would call a hard 1 on the Active Straight Leg Raise.  If you’re a hard 1 on the screen, this simply means there is something going on in the body that is preventing full range of motion or inhibiting the movement pattern.  It could be one, or a combination, of multiple factors leading to the mobility issue like: soft tissue restrictions, trigger points, scar tissue, bony restrictions, and structure of your joint capsules.  Some of these things can be changed, while others are never going to change without surgery.    The important thing to know is that there is something going on in the body that’s limiting the pattern.    When you get a hard 1 as a trainer, a good physical therapist or chiropractor can be your greatest friend.


Now let’s look at Jane.

Remember, Jane also scored a pair of 1’s on the Active Straight Leg Raise.  Being that both her and John had the same weakest link, we did the same breakouts we did w/ John.  However, the results were different…

John wasn’t able to touch his toes, standing or seated.  Jane, on the other hand, could.  She was able to touch her toes both standing and seated.  When we checked John’s straight leg raise passively, it was the same as his active straight leg raise.  When we checked Jane’s, it was substantially different.  She was able to go another 20-30 degrees passively.

After doing these simple breakouts, we were able to find out that Jane is what we classify a soft 1 on the Active Straight Leg Raise.  She’s still a 1 on the screen, but her training and corrective strategies are going to be different than John’s.  If we’re working with John, we’re going to need to address the tissue restrictions and joint limitations before training.  Maybe we can’t change something.  Maybe John has a spike in his leg that he has to get surgery on (true story).  Cool.  We just need to know this because now we can program around that.   If we’re working with Jane, we may take a different approach.  With Jane, she has the freedom of her joints and body to move in the way we’re looking for.  She just doesn’t have the stability or motor control to translate that into good movement.

We’re in the process of building out a section on the blog that covers these breakouts in depth.  You can check out the breakouts and determine if someone is a hard 1 or a soft 1 on the screen.  Understanding this truly helps separate yourself from the rest of the pack and will dramatically help improve your results.

Check out the one we did on the Active Straight Leg Raise here.

Hope this helps!  It’s been pure gold for me!

Best Kettlebells for Group Fitness Training

I’ve often said my most prized material possessions are the computer I’m typing on right now and my collection of kettlebells. I love kettlebells. I have kettlebells in my gym, basement, sunroom, and living room. At one time during my training for the RKC, I actually put a face on kettlebell and carried everywhere I went. It’s name was Ron. I have 3 kettlebell certifications just because I liked spending my weekend around people that loved them as much as me. I met my fiancée because of our shared obsession with kettlebells. I considered getting a tattoo of a kettlebell on my leg. I own over 100 kettlebells in various different sizes from various brands.



Meet Ron, the Face of Kettlebells


My point is that I’m qualified to talk about kettlebells, lol.

Today I want to talk about the best kettlebells I’ve seen for the money and why they are extra neat for group training. These bells are by for the best I’ve laid my hands on and are half the price of the other great brand.

Check these out….

That's a beautiful pair!

That’s a beautiful pair!


These new Perform Better Kettlebells are awesome, and here is why:

Texture: Some bells are rough so they tear up your hands, and if they are smooth they end up chipping. These bells are smooth and don’t chip so will last forever.

Size: They are the perfect size for fitness and strength training. The handle is a great fit for anyone yet still a great grip challenge.

No more rubber piece: I didn’t like that piece of rubber that was on the old PB bells. I don’t like the screw in the bottom that would sometimes come lose. We have rubber flooring so this was more of a hassle than a benefit.

Color Coded: This is one of the best parts!! I just bought a bunch of different color electrical tape to wrap around the handles of my kettlebells so clients could more easily identify the in hurry in group training, but this looks so much better and is more permanent and professional. As you can see each logo is a different color that represents the weight of the bell. As you know I’m really into color-coding systems. (Think bracelets and posters)

Sexy: These bells just look and feel awesome. Or maybe I’m just a little weird?

They may not have skull faces, cut outs, or any other fancy pants add ons, but in my opinion I like a clean, functional, intelligent, classic kettlebell and the Perform Better Kettlebells are the definition of all of that.

Check them out here:

Perform Better First Place Kettlebells


– Steve Long


Sitting is the New Smoking

Mobility issues are very common in the world today. We live in a world where most people sit WAY too much. Sitting in a flexed, rounded position for hours upon end can wreck havoc upon your body. I remember listening to Gray Cook, co-creator of the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), tell a story years ago. In this story, he had a guy that goes by the name of  “Mr. Turtle.” You see…Mr. Turtle is the guy that wakes up in the morning and goes to the dining room, sits down for a nice breakfast and starts his day off by sitting in a rounded and flexed position. From there, he gets in his car to go to work and sits for another 20-30 minutes during his commute. After he arrives at work, he then goes to his office, sits at his desk, and starts to get to work. Mr. Turtle stays there answering emails, making calls, and getting his work done until he decides to take a lunch break. He sits at lunch. He then comes back to work to sit for the remainder of his workday. Mr. Turtle sits for his commute to his local gym, sits on the exercise machines, goes home for dinner only to continue sitting, and finally makes his way to the living room to relax by sitting on the couch and watching his favorite TV programs.
Turtle at a Desk

Mr. Turtle is a typical American, so I’m sure this story can relate to many of you out there. The vast majority of the people reading this article are not going to be like my friend Mr. Turtle, but there are probably a handful of people like him in your life. Mr. Turtle’s lifestyle is going to wreck havoc upon his body with all the sitting he’s doing. More often than not, Mr. Turtle is also going to have a lot of mobility restrictions limiting him from achieving full range of motion in many of his joints. The lifestyle of sitting tends to lead to a lot of dysfunction, so if we want to help our friends like Mr. Turtle, we’re going to have to address some issues.


So how do we go about addressing those issues in a progressive manner?


First, we need to start to address what’s going on in Mr. Turtle’s day-to-day life. As a trainer or therapist, one of the best things we can be doing is taking the bad out of someone’s life versus always trying to add more, even if the additions are positive. You’ll have much more of an impact on his movement and the way he feels if you can find strategies to cut his sitting in half. So, start prying in on your clients and what their typical day looks like. If you’re finding out that you’re working w/ Mr. Turtle, or one of his friends, think about his lifestyle and what you can do to make a positive impact by reducing the amount of time in a flexed, rounded position.  This could be something as simple as having Mr. Turtle stand up every 20 minutes, take a few steps, and then sit back down and get to work.  Small interventions like this can go a LONG way!


After you’ve started to address some of the lifestyle issues that may be holding Mr. Turtle back, you’re going to have to start addressing his programming. You see…Mr. Turtle has been under the impression that since he’s going to the gym and working out on a regular basis, he’s taking care of himself and the limitations he’s finding in his movement will eventually go away. However, after years of trying on his own, he’s starting to realize his tight hamstrings never seem to budge. Mr. Turtle is now seeking out help to address the limitations he can’t get rid of, so where do you begin with his programming?


Mr. Turtle can’t touch his toes. He can barley raise one leg off the ground before he starts to quiver and shake. His shoulder mobility stinks and he can barely touch his back. Needless to say…Mr. Turtle is a mobility nightmare.


So where do you begin?


Should he be squatting and deadlifting?


Should he be running?


Should he be doing a lot of push up’s and overhead pressing?


If you’re familiar with any of our work, or follow the FMS and their belief system, the answer to the above would be NO. Personally, if I were training Mr. Turtle, a heavy chunk of his programming is going to be done on the floor initially, and then we’ll start to move up from there. Here are a few concepts to help build up the foundation and get Mr. Turtle moving well again:


Start from the Ground and Build Up From There

The concept of building a program from the ground up should make sense to a lot of you. When you’re on the floor, you’re in the most stable position possible. Gravity is taken out of the equation and stability is at its highest point when you’re on the floor. There are also fewer joints involved, so the ability to control a movement is much easier on the floor versus standing up. After we’ve started to develop some progress with the exercises on the floor, we can start to transition into a more upright posture; however, we don’t take someone straight from the floor to standing typically. After we’re gaining progress on the floor, we’ll move to the next position, which is quadruped. Being on all four is still a pretty stable position, but now gravity will start to have an effect on posture and body control. Kneeling would be the next position we’d want to train, and then we’d finally move into standing exercises. Start Mr. Turtle on the ground. Build a foundation and develop good body awareness and motor control in each position before you start to progress to the more advanced positions.


Make Sure Breathing is Addressed in Each Position

Breathing is a hot topic in the fitness world nowadays, and it is for good reason…because it works! If you’re trying to progress someone and trying to get them to move better, and more efficiently, breathing has to be addressed. When I’m working with a client, I want them to be able to breathe from their belly versus their neck and shoulders. I want the breath to be initiated from the diaphragm and the air should start to fill their belly. It should also start to fill the obliques and low back as well. Belly breathing is good, but 360° expansion is really what we’re looking for. Air needs to go into the belly, back, and sides to create stability. If we’re not getting 360° expansion, our stability will be compromised and the ability to transfer forces through our core will be diminished. Breathing properly helps improve power, strength, and performance by eliminating potential “energy leaks” by creating a stable platform to perform off of. Simply check the breathing in each position before training. If it’s off, I’d start there before progressing.

I know we’ve shown this video a dozen times before, but it relates to a lot of what we do.  You can find out how we check breathing in each position by watching this In-Service we did at our gym a few years ago.  Even though the video is a few years old, the information is still extremely relevant and I don’t foresee this changing any time soon.  Check it out:


Improve Body Awareness and How to Move Without Compensation

As I’ve previously stated, I want to start the training from the floor and progress from there. How do you know when to progress though? How do you know when to take someone from the floor to quadruped, or to simply progress him or her within that position? This is where body control comes into play. There’s two things I’m always going to look at in each of the positions. First, I want to see if Mr. Turtle can move his hips without having to move his spine. A simple pelvic tilt is all that I want to see. I want to see that there’s control there and we’re teaching how to separate our hips from our spine. Check out the video below for an example of the pelvic tilt from the floor.


Next, I want to ensure Mr. Turtle can move his arms and legs without moving anything else. The arms and legs need to be able to move through a full range of motion without needing to compensate through the spine, ribs, neck, etc…I want there to be control. I want there to be a stable platform to perform off of. If you’re not able to move the arms and legs without compensating somewhere, you’re going to be losing performance and stability will be compromised. The Deadbug is a great example of moving the arms and legs without compensating. Try this out and really dial in the form. If you don’t think it’s challenging at all, you more than likely are compensating somewhere. Follow the progressions starting from the floor and make sure you can move your appendages without compensating through the midsection.


Those are three of the things I’m going to look for when I’m trying to work with someone like Mr. Turtle, or anyone for that matter. I want each one of my clients to have a good platform to perform off of, and I’m only going to achieve that if I build a proper foundation first. If you’re looking for a good resource designed to help build up the movement capacity within your clients, you should check out our resource, Building a Foundation. We take you through these progressions and much, much more within this resource. If you’re able to fine tune your clients and athletes and build them a solid base to work from, mobility and stability problems tend to take care of itself. We’ve had tons of success with this foundational work within our programs, so we decided to share what’s working for us. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed :)

sgt_foundation_total_mockup 450 wide

5 Finishers You Should Try

“Finishers”.  If you’ve been around a bootcamp or functional group training class in the last few years you’ve more than likely heard this term.

As the name suggests, it is a final piece of programming to finish off the training session but I’m sure many clients (especially those not a part of an SGT experience) think it’s to finish them off as well!

In our gym, we typically cap off a training session with a 4-6 minute finisher (give or take) to give a final focus or energy to the group.  Oftentimes, we’ll employ bodyweight techniques, partner options, and metabolic protocols for some fitness ‘dessert’ to complement the strength focus we tend to have in the ‘main course’ of the session.

If you’re an SGT practitioner, here are a 5 challenges you may face:

-programming exercises that flow well

-programming quality pregressions and progressions

-modifications ready for someone who has a special consideration

-running out of space or equipment

-being creative so all finishers don’t look the same


Below I’ve written out “5 SGT Approved Finishers” for you to consider to use, adapt, or to stir up your brain juices for ideas that better suit your exact model.  I am making the assumption that you use the FMS and SGT models or that you are in the process of doing so.  I’ve also included 3 reasons I like the setup of each finisher.  Take note, just because its smart doesn’t mean it has to bore you to death!

Note: the first number represents work time, the second represents rest transition time.


  1. “Cardio-Core Supersets”

10/3 alternating between exercises for up to 6 rounds each.

Stn Red Light Pre Exercise Pro
1 March on Spot High Knees March Sprint on Spot Travel Side to Side in Sprint
2 Elevated Hands Front Plank or Pushup Hold Pushup Hold Front Plank 1-Leg Front Plank

*no equipment needed

*compounding effect from getting up and down

*can do anywhere

Note: Side Plank option is also fantastic!


  1. “I Go, You Go” Partner

25/5 alternating between partners for up to 6 rounds each.

Stn Red Light Pre Exercise Pro
1 Hands Elevated BurpeeVariation BurpeeFeet Walk Out BurpeeFeet Hop Out +PushupVariation

*unlimited variations to meet people where they’re at

*can get clients engaged with one another i.e. cheers and high 5s!

*can watch form and make corrections more easily (as only ½ clients are going at a time)

Note: if there’s a leftover client, make a group of 3


  1. “Bodyweight Flow”

30s back-to-back with 30s rest after 4th exercise completed

Perform 2-3 Rounds

Stn Red Light Pre Exercise Pro
1 March on Spot High Knees March Sprint On Spot Lateral Movement
2 Pushup Hold Elevated Hands Mountain Climber Mountain Climber Cross Body Mountain Climber
3 Glute Bridge Bodyweight Skier Swing Bodyweight Skier Swing KB Swing
4 Elevated Hands/Step outVariation BurpeeFeet Walk Out BurpeeFeet Hop Out 1-Arm Variation

*the red light options are very doable for beginner yet the advanced options are very challenging for a more capable client

*little to no equipment needed

*its fun!


Note: for those who want to KB swing in exercise 3:

-advise them to make weight selection based on an elevated heart rate

-take a few calm breaths and set properly before first ‘hike’

i.e. don’t just ‘grip it and rip it’ 1s after mountain climbers


  1. “Leg Burner”

20s back-to-back with 30s-60s rest after 4th exercise completed

Perform 2-3 Rounds

Stn Red Light Pre Exercise Pro
1 March on Spot High Knees March Split SquatLeft Leg Bowler Squat Left Leg
2 Pushup Hold Elevated Hands Mountain Climber Split Squat Right Leg Bowler Squat Right Leg
3 TRX Handle Assist To Box or Bench Bodyweight Squat Slow Eccentric
4 Hover Over Box or Bench with Assist TRX Handle ‘Assist’ Bodyweight SquatIsometric Hold Prisoner Arm Position

*great if you’ve had heavy upper body or grip intensive training session

*no equipment or large space requirement needed

*it gets noisy near the end (during isometric) which really helps the energy!

Note: You may have clients reluctant to use assistance. Take charge and guide them to proper variation for best range of motion and postural position for where they need, not necessarily what they want


  1. “Tabat-ish”

20/10 alternating between exercises for up to 8 rounds each.

Stn Red Light Pre Exercise Pro
1 Pushup Hold/Elevated Hands Pushup Hold Front Plank Front Plank to Pushup Hold +Pushup at Top and/or 1-Leg Option
2 Bodyweight Skier Swing Skater Step Skater Lunge Skater Jump

*compounding effect from getting up and down

*creating awareness in frontal plane

*again no equipment required!


Note: Skater type movements are not easy for most clients so make sure you personally have the movement and cues nailed down

Well, I hope you found some of these ideas useful and have a clearer picture of how you can make your finishers a little bit smarter for your group training clients.

Feel free to add your own spin on these whether changing the movements, equipment, time protocols etc. You know your clients best. We like to use these because they are simple, safe, and smart and we’ll continue to evolve our model as we continue to learn more.

To all the SGT brothers and sisters out there, this blurb on finishers is finished. Better together!

Johnny Fukumoto – SGT Advisory Board Member


The Power of Meditation, Floating, & the Parasympathetic Nervous System

I’ve always been a “balls to the wall” kind of guy. “High energy, fast paced, intense, and relentless” are some of the terms I’ve heard regularly throughout my life. AWESOME! I love the fact that my energy and enthusiasm are apparent to the people I choose to be around. I’d much rather be the life of the party, the little fireball that dominates the room, and the person that never seems to have a bad day versus being the slow, boring, careless bro who can kill the energy in a room. Merf! That’s right…I said Merf. It’s a totally made up word, but just sounds like it fits, doesn’t it?

Now, back to the topic of controlling the wild and crazy Type A’s of the world. If you’re anything like me, and you too have been classified as fast paced, high energy, and relentless, you better understand how to control this, or you’re going to be a nervous wreck. You’ll eventually experience adrenal fatigue; you’ll be irrational at times; you’ll have a short temper; your mental clarity will become foggier. Basically, if you don’t start to control the highs and lows, the yin and yang, you’ll wreak havoc on your body, specifically your nervous system. Hopefully, by the end of this thing, you’ll have a much better understanding of what the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are, and more importantly, you’ll have learned some techniques on how to create balance and harmony between the two.

Before we dive into the techniques to control the nervous system, let’s get a clear understanding of the two and how they differ. They’re pretty much the complete polar opposites of each other. If one is hot than the other is cold. If one is morning, the other is night. Check out the table below. This table will help highlight some of the differences between the two.

fight or flight

Looking at the table above, it’s pretty easy to see which nervous system dominates while we’re training. The sympathetic side, hence the nickname, the “fight or flight” nervous system is the driving force behind getting a killer workout in. Thinking about the polar opposites, it’s like trying to workout after a 90-minute massage, or smashing some weights after slamming a Redline in about 10 seconds flat. It’s not rocket science here…I’m pretty sure the person slamming the Redline prior to their workout will have a little better training session, and this is due to which nervous system is dominant at the time.

Training either nervous system will cost some energy and produce a certain amount of stress. Getting that 90 minute massage will still produce a stress response within the system, as will going for a run, hitting the weight room, or simply going for a walk. I don’t want to explain this in too much detail, but simply put…everything we do costs us some energy and produces a stress response.



Stress is stress, and there’s a price to pay for every activity we do.

The first time I heard about the currency analogy and relating stress loads to my bank account, it finally made sense. I want to briefly talk about it here, and if you’d like more info on this analogy, James Cerbie has a nice article on Eric Cressey’s blog that explains this well. If you read this article later, it will help drive home the point here. You can find that by clicking here.

Relating stress to your bank account can really help drive home this message. Think about your bank account. Have you ever incurred an overdraft fee? Many of us have, at one point in our lives. When this happened, you spent more money than you had in your account. In order to get things back in good standing, you had to add some more money into the delinquent account.

Stress and the human body are kind of the same way. You have only a certain capacity of stress that your body can handle before your account goes into the negative and is in bad standing. Your training intensity, volume, frequency, and other factors will play into your overall account tremendously. If you’re hitting it hard, you’re going to need some extra sleep and recovery time.

The training intensity, volume, and load is money out.

The rest and recovery is money in.

You’ve got to monitor stress if you want to have the best success. Having a terrible day at work can create the exact same stress response as an intense lifting session, so start thinking about all of the stresses going on with your clients, and ensure their bank account isn’t going into the negative. If it does, they’ll incur the penalties and this will start to have a negative impact on their health and performance. Again, I just wanted to briefly describe it here, and recommend checking out Cressey’s blog later to help elaborate on this very important topic.

Now that we understand that every result has a price, or a currency it’s going to cost us, it’s important to address some of the factors that contribute to the specific training adaptations we’re working for. If our bank account only has so much it can give, getting a clear picture of where our money, or energy is going is step number one. This is where we develop the plan, or the processes that we’ll be using to achieve the adaptation we’re looking for. Here are some of the factors that will drastically affect the money going in or going out:

FITT Principle:
• Frequency – How many days a week are you going to train? I usually try to keep this number the same. I may adjust what we do based on a number of variables on a given day, but the frequency is steady remains pretty constant.
• Intensity – How hard are you going to train on a given day, week, month, or training block? Using a tool like HRV can really help you dial in the appropriate level, so if you don’t know much about HRV, I suggest looking into it. The three HRV tools I have personal experience with are: Omegawave, Bioforce HRV, and Ithlete.
• Time – How long are your training sessions going to be? How long will each block of training be? When will you add de-load weeks? These are a few of the factors that I think about when designing a program. Don’t forget that high volumes can drastically affect the body’s bank account, so plan time accordingly.
• Type – I like to think of this as the specificity portion of training. What specific goals do you have? Do you want to slam-dunk a basketball? Run a faster 40? How about deadlift 500 lbs.? Each one of these programs would have a different type of training, and each program will also affect the energy stores differently.

Nutrition: This one isn’t rocket science. I’m not going to get into any specific nutrition information here, but what you put in your mouth plays a major role on your ability to adapt and achieve positive changes from your hard work and efforts. Eat like shit; get shitty results. Putting processed foods and other poor quality choices in your diet and you’ll pull money from that account. Fuel your body with things like grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, quality eggs, fruits, and veggies, and you’ll add money to your account. If you’re not getting the results you want, be sure to address this category and don’t neglect it. Let’s not try and fool ourselves thinking we can out-train a poor diet.

Sleep – This is one of the best, and most important things you can focus on to ensure you’re always working to improve the energy stores in your body and build up the bank account. Getting the right number of hours each night is a good start. If you’re not getting 7-8 hours each night, I’d recommend changing your schedule around as much as possible to make it a reality. Poor, inconsistent sleep patterns will lead to poor, inconsistent results. Be sure to address sleep, rest, and relaxation when your training load goes up. If you’re training more, your body will need to rest more. Here’s an article I wrote a while back with some tips you can use to help improve this area of your life so you can get better results. You can check it out here.

Stresses of Life – This category is absolutely IMPOSSIBLE to explain in full detail, so let me get things started so you can reflect on your life and the stresses you face on a daily basis. My daily stresses are going to be different than yours, and yours will be different from the next person’s. We all have outside stresses going on in our life. Some of them are positive, and some of them are negative. Life will happen…and it will generally happen in the snap of a finger. Outside stresses are a constant. They’re not going anywhere. Unless you have some sort of protective bubble to live in, the stresses of daily life will begin to stack up. Using a tool like HRV (heart rate variability) will help show you how these stresses affect your ability to recover and adapt to your training. Since we can’t live in a protective bubble, free from stress, we better learn how to manage it properly and adapt the other stresses in our life accordingly.

Now that we know some of the factors that contribute to depleting our body’s bank account, it would be wise to discuss some of the things we can be doing proactively to help fill the bank account back up. I’m a big fan of adding these recovery strategies with our clients. Most of our clients are probably very similar. If your clients are stressed out from their work, kids, travel, or countless other variables, try to get them involved in each one of the categories listed below. These categories are designed to help melt the stress away and restore your parasympathetic side of things. They work well for me, and I’m sure if you give them a shot, they’ll work well for you too.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite methods to work on rest and relaxation:

Meditation – I’ve had tremendous success with breaking through plateaus by having people add daily meditation into their routines. Some of our clients, and ourselves, are on the go, all day long, every day of the year. When we’re in constant motion, our sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive. We have text messages dinging at us, honking cars, kids misbehaving, and life is going on around us at 1000 mph. Taking as little as 5 minutes a day to add some quiet time can provide you with outstanding results and will start to let your “fight or flight” nervous system start to calm down a bit. Many people struggle with meditation to start with, so I recommend starting with guided meditation. There are some good apps out there for free that will help with guided mediation. Start there and then progress. Eventually, you’ll be able to meditate almost anywhere, shut off the distractions going on around you, and focus solely on your breath letting your thoughts and cares dissipate for the time being. If sitting still for 5-10 minutes is challenging for you, that’s a pretty good sign that a little meditation in your life wouldn’t be a bad thing :)

Floating – If you’re unaware of what floating is, it’s something I highly recommend looking into. Basically, with floating, you’re laying in the dark, complete silence, while your body is floating on top of water. The pod or float tank you get in is filled with a heavy concentration of Epsom salt water. The salt-water concentration is so dense, it makes the body completely buoyant and floating is effortless. You can just lay back, shut everything down, and go into a deep state of rest and relaxation. Floatation tanks used to be called “sensory deprivation chambers.” This lack of stimulus is the primary benefit of floating. You also get the benefits that the Epsom salt provides, but the main reason I like floating is the fact that there is no light, no sound, no distractions, and no gravity. You can just lay there, completely lifeless, and let all your thoughts just melt away. The water is regulated to stay at your own body temperature, so your body doesn’t even have to regulate it’s own temperature. This is about as close as you can get to absolute nothingness, and it’s glorious.

Massage – Everyone reading this article probably has a good idea on what a massage can do for you. Going in for a regular massage can help keep the rest and digest system keep going strong. Professional massages and luxurious day spas are very popular and pretty mainstream. I have a few massage therapists that I recommend to clients. Referring them to the right professional is critical though. Even though they’re going in for a professional massage, they could be getting a completely different experience. I have a therapist I send clients to for structural integration, trigger point release, and other specifics that will help that individual get better. The type of massage I’m talking about here doesn’t require a bad ass in the field. Sometimes my recommendation is purely from a standpoint of getting that client to chill out and have another human being touch them. Nothing sexual here, but there’s something powerful about relaxing, shutting off the mind, and having the warmth and gentle hands of another human being touch us.

Active Recovery and Cardiac Output Workouts – Working on rest, recovery, and stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system doesn’t always have to come from taking a day off of training. It does, however, mean you’ll need to alter what you’re doing if improving parasympathetic actively is a goal of your session. One of the best things you can do to stimulate the rest and digest system is to go for a walk outside in the natural sunlight. There’s something about getting outside and soaking up all the goodness that Mother Nature has to provide…simply put, it’s just flat out good for you. Foam rolling, mobility work, light sled work, and other various low level, low heart rate, low blood pressure skill work are ideal for training your parasympathetic side. Once again, if you’re using HRV, you’ll eliminate the guesswork. If you’re on a red day, adjust your training accordingly and you’ll always keep progressing.

Hot Tubs or Saunas – Just talking about the benefit of hot tubs makes me miss mine. At my old house, I used to have one of these bad boys. There was nothing like getting into the hot tub on a frosty winter day and just chilling out. My muscle soreness would be reduced dramatically. My mood would be instantly improved. The use of hot tubs and saunas are great for rest and relaxation. I’ve almost been tempted to join the local gym near my house due to the fact that they have a hot tub. I’m surely not going there for their quality weight machines, lines of treadmills, or quality training staff. If I’m almost willing to pull the trigger on getting a local gym membership when I own one, which should tell you how much I like these luxuries.

I know that was a lot to digest, so let me give you a quick breakdown on what we just covered.
1. Most people are stressed out. Their sympathetic side overpowers their parasympathetic side. Mr. Yin kicks Mr. Yang’s ass on the regular.
2. There are a lot of variables that affect our ability to maintain homeostasis, or to keep in balance. The exercise program we’re following; the sleep we’re either getting or missing out on; the quality of the food we’re putting into our bodies on a regular basis; the kids kicking and screaming because they want ice cream. Stress is stress is stress! Did you get that? Stress is stress and we need to be aware of that.
3. If you’re not using HRV, you should. It’s the only way I know of to actually manage stress, training and non-training related.
4. Try out some of the techniques used to stimulate the parasympathetic side of things. This will help recovery, results, and enhance your ability to train tremendously. If you get good at this, you’ll be able to out-train your opponents without killing your body and mind in the process.
5. Keep studying and learning about this stuff. Learning how to create intervention strategies in and away from the gym will help you get better results with your clients…GUARANTEED!