Stress Response – Why Less is More

We live in a world where more is better.  The “ Go Hard or Go Home” mentality takes control, and we end up pushing ourselves to the limit…ALL THE TIME.  We treat each day like a special event, and we treat each workout like it’s a competition.  Pictures with sexy women get posted all over Facebook with cheesy motivational quotes that make me want to throw up.  All of these images seem to tell us that if you’re not busting your ass day in and day out, then you’re not really trying.  So is this the mentality it takes to get great results?  Do we really have to train like we’re competing for the Olympics on a daily basis to improve our bodies?  I don’t think so.  Actually, I know we don’t.

I’ve been able to help people build bodies they’re proud of, get off medications, drop tons of weight, and blow their biceps up like balloons so they’re pretty to stare at in the mirror.  I’m not trying to say it doesn’t take hard work to get results.  I’m not saying that having discipline isn’t a factor.  Both hard work and discipline are major contributors to achieving your health and fitness goals.  The more elite the status you’re trying to take your body to, the more hard work it’s going to take.  However, if we’re going to train our bodies and push them to the max, we need to understand the stress response and how stress actually affects our bodies.  Stress is inevitable, and the same response will happen whether it’s a good stressor or a bad stressor.

“Eustress” is the term for positive stress within the body.  Working out, falling in love, getting a big fat bonus at Christmas time from work, getting a massage, and taking your first vacation in years are all examples of eustress.  These are all good things and I’m sure if you’re reading this, each example of eustress would be desirable.  Not all stress has to be bad.  Stress can be a good thing.    It is inevitable, so we need to learn how to control it.

“Distress,” on the other hand, is a stress in the body that is negative in nature.  Some examples of distress can be training through an injury and ignoring your body’s warning signs to stop, having a parent pass away, losing a job, having your favorite critter decide to take a week long stroll through town and go missing, and working from sunrise to sunset.  These are all forms of distress and our lives would be much better if we didn’t have to deal with such things.  Eliminating distress from our lives sounds awesome, but it’s an impossible task to achieve.  We’re always going to have some distress whether we like it or not.  Understanding the difference between eustress and distress, and how these two forms of stress affect our bodies, is crucial to achieving world-class performance.

I’m going to reference the book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers when referring to the stress response.  If you’re interested in learning more about stress, how to manage it, and the responses you can expect within your body when stress comes about, I highly recommend this book.  It’s a not the easiest read, but it helps paint the picture on what stress is and how it affects our bodies.  Without going into the science of stress and the responses it produces within the body, I’m going to give a very quick recap and show you how sometimes doing less can elicit better results than doing more.

If you’re sick, should you follow your planned training program?

If you’ve recently experienced a tragic event in your life, is it going to affect your workouts?

What if you plateau?  Is working harder and picking up additional workouts going to help you break through the barrier you’ve been stuck at?

How about the crazy travel schedule you have coming up?  Have you thought about the response you may have from jet lag, time zone changes, altered sleep patterns, etc.?  Is your body going to be able to adapt, recover, and grow from the hard work you’re doing in your training?3D Character with head in hands, sitting on the word Stress

The fact of the matter is that our training load and intensity need to be altered when stresses begin to add up.  If your life is anything like mine, I’m sure you have periods of intensity followed by normalcy.  I may have periods of time throughout the year that my stress loads build up.  For example, I just got done with a buildout at our new gym.  To save some major cash on the build out, we did as much of the work ourselves as we could.  Adding a gym buildout to my normal routine definitely added some stress to my plate.  My nutrition wasn’t as good as normal.  My sleep patterns were altered and I was averaging a couple hours less each night.  I was working from sunrise to sunset on a daily basis.  Simply put, my stress levels throughout that three-month period were much higher than normal.

The excessive stress in my life caused me to change my training program.  If I would have kept the same planned routine I had written out, I’m almost positive I would have regressed that quarter.  However, with the tweaks to my program, I was able to continue working towards my goals throughout that intense period of time.  Understanding the stress response was a major benefit in this situation.  Knowing that outside stressors were wreaking havoc on my nervous system, I decided to change my plan from getting strong and building work capacity to working on technical aspects of my goal.
MOUNTAIN CLIMB I’ve been rock climbing for a little over a year now, so I’m still pretty new to the sport, but I LOVE it!  My goals over    the past year have been centered on improving my climbing abilities and how to take my skills to a new level.  Being  pretty new to the sport, I still have a lot to work on, so I decided to  rework my initial training plan when the outside  stress levels increased dramatically.  If I was following my initial plan, I would have been focusing on strength  development, intensive grip work, and repeated bouts of moderate to high intensity work coupled with moderate to  minimal rest to build my strength/endurance capacity.  My overall relative strength, grip, and endurance have kept  me from accomplishing some routes or taking some unnecessary falls.  If I were to follow my original plan, these  would have been some of the focal points of my training this fall.  However, this type of training is also pretty stressful  on the nervous system.  Like I said, I’m still new at this.  I still have a lot to work on to improve my climbing.  Making  the change from strength and conditioning focus to a technique focus allowed me to limit the overall stress my body  was facing.  Flagging, heel hooks, bumping, and back stepping are some of the moves I’ve toyed around with, but  there is a lot of room for improvement on the technique side.  Changing my focus allowed me to make gains without    ever experiencing any burnout or major fatigue.

A build out doesn’t happen overnight.  Stresses were going to build up and my body was going react accordingly.  Changing my program helped me control things.  What would have happened if I didn’t make a change?  Let’s look at some of the side effects of what stress does to the body and some of the responses you can expect to see from chronic stress.  Here are a few examples:

  • Decreases in Memory
  • Poor Judgment
  • Accelerated Heart Rate
  • Decreased Digestion and Absorption of Nutrients
  • Constriction of blood vessels, primarily in extremities
  • Lack of Sex Drive and Ability to get an Erection
  • Increased Blood Pressure
  • Increased Muscle Tension and Tone

chronic stres

Chronic stress will build  up over time.  Generally, this comes with distress versus eustress.  Eustress still creates the same responses within the body; however, we typically don’t worry and stress over the good things in our lives.  This is usually saved for distress, whether the stress is real or imagined.  Both stresses elicit a cascade of events to happen and certain hormones to be released.  Cortisol levels rise, blood sugar levels are altered, and your body starts to react to the stresses you  put on it.  The stress can be from training, or it may have nothing to do with training at all.  The fact of the matter is stress is stress is stress.

Talk to your clients and athletes about what’s going on in their lives.  Are they going through an intense period of stress right now?  If so, what are you going to do about it?  How are you going to alter their program to ensure they can continue to progress even with the increased stress load?  This is something you need to take into consideration if you want to be the best and provide your clients with the best results possible.

Taking a quote from my good friend and SGT Advisory Board member, Jim Laird, “We’re not strength coaches.  We’re stress management specialists.”  He’s spot on with that one.  Training is a stress, but it’s only one of literally thousands of stresses people are dealing with on a daily basis.  Manage stress.  Manage training.  Get superior results!

If you’re looking for more information on how we use tactics like this to personalize your training programs, check out the Elite Training Mentorship.  We’ve been contributors to this site for two years now.  Along with two years of SGT content, you’ll also have amazing info from Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson, Dave Schmitz a.k.a “the Bandman”, Tyler English, and more.  Get a sneak peek on what goes on in our gyms on a day-to-day basis with Elite Training Mentorship.


elite training

7 Productivity Tips for Trainers

If you’ve been in the fitness industry long enough, you should know it’s not as glamorous as some may think. A lot of my friends and family initially thought the training world was filled w/ jokes, hanging out in your PJ’s, and shooting the sh** w/ your clients all day. Don’t get me wrong; a good chunk of my day is just that. However, if that’s all I did each day, I would have a tough time getting new business, keeping the current clients I have, or having a personal life whatsoever.

I spend the first 4-5 years of my career with terrible hours, little to no-money, and absolutely zero personal life outside of the traveling I did for continued education seminars and events. If you’re looking for longevity in this field, you need to figure out how to make the trainer lifestyle sustainable. Staying productive throughout the day is one of the key factors into making a lifestyle you dream of a reality.

Nobody ever hit massive goals and aspirations by sitting on their butt. The ability to block out distractions, staying productive throughout the day, and narrowing your focus are all key steps in improving what you can or can’t accomplish each day. With that in mind, let me give you my top five productivity tips that have helped me own multiple businesses at the same time and churn a profit in the process.

  1. Fail to Plan – Plan to Fail

I use this saying all the time when it comes to clients and their piss poor efforts at eating a clean diet, showing up for a workout, and making excuses for why they’re not achieving their goals. Planning out your calendar, laying out your pre-determined obstacles, and creating structure in your day, week, month, and year is step number one in hitting goals and staying productive.

After you’ve taken the time to reflect on some good, SMART goals, planning a timeline for their success and determining the necessary actions that are needed to accomplish said task/goal is vital. Without this step, you’d simply be winging it day-by-day in hopes that you’re moving closer to your goal. Do you think most fortune 500 companies got to their level of success by sitting back and hoping each day moved them closer to their goals. I highly doubt it.

I’m sure they did something similar to me. Each night, before I go to bed, I start to review and fill my calendar for the next day. Each and every day, I’m sure about 20 percent of your actions lead to 80 percent of the outcomes. Pareto’s law, also known as the 80/20 rule, helps me identify what HAS to be done versus what NEEDS to be done. Each and every task does not have the same importance or value. As you begin to fill your calendar, start to think about Pareto’s law and start weighing the importance of each task on the never-ending to-do list. Take care of the tasks that lead to the greatest impact first. Don’t fiddle around with cleaning out your inbox, doing a mindless task, or knocking off something that only leads to that 20 percent.

Prioritize! Each day I start with at least two tasks I’d like to complete for the end of the day. With proper planning and spending 5-10 minutes the night before, you’ll be able to accomplish the MAJOR tasks on your list and have each day moving you closer to your goal versus staying put…or even worse…moving further away from the desired outcome.

  1. Eliminate Distractions – “Blackout Mode”

In this day in age, it’s pretty tough to block out all the distractions in the world. We are constantly bombarded w/ stimulus that pulls our attention from what we’re doing. Texts, emails, television, and other advances in technology have made a high amount of stimulus the norm. It WILL be the norm for you as well, unless you do something about it.

Years ago, I decided to take off all notifications on my phone, minus texts. No more Facebook updates chiming in, no more emails making my phone buzz or ding constantly, no more notifications were allowed to interrupt my focus. This was an awesome sense of relief. After a few days, I finally started to feel the freedom of not being a slave to the phone or other constant stimulus blocking my focus.

This is what I call “blackout mode.” When I go into blackout mode, I turn my phone on airplane mode to block out all phone distractions. I lock myself in my office and block out as many distractions as possible. When I’m completing the important tasks for the day that are moving me closer to my goal, I typically want to reduce the amount of stimulus that enters my senses. I want to be laser focused. Something as simple as putting in some headphones, locking yourself in an office or visiting a coffee shop to change scenery, putting your phone on airplane mode, and turning on some quiet music that helps block out all other noises and distraction can drastically increase your overall quality and output of the work you’re doing. Give it a shot, ignore as many distractions as possible, and take your productivity to a whole new level.

  1. Eliminate > Automate > Delegate

This one I got from Tim Ferriss and the Four Hour Workweek. I love the concepts of this book. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. The ideas of this book are to eliminate useless, monotonous work, that will surely slow you down, steal your attention, and let you forget what life is all about. Life is all about people, relationships, and experiences. Tim does a great job of freeing your mind from traditional thinking about career and life.

In order to completely take control of your life, you’re probably going to have to get some of the tasks you do regularly eliminated from your life permanently. If you’re just starting out, this may not be an option from day one; however, if you don’t lose sight, you evaluate the importance of each task, you create simple systems to get those tasks done, and you hire a team of competent people around you, you too can achieve a lifestyle many will be envious of.

Goal number one is to eliminate all wasted efforts or tasks that pull your focus, chew your time, but only produce a portion of your overall results. Going back to the 80/20 rule, try to eliminate tasks that chew up time and energy, but only drive 20 percent of revenue, time, or effort. Test it out. Find a task that can potentially be eliminated. More often than not, the changes will make no effect on your overall production or results. After you eliminate what’s possible, the next step would be to automate as much as possible. Try to find online services that can automate tasks. I currently use autoresponders for immediate response to someone that shows interest, I’ve set up Google Ads before to help market for me while I sleep, I use EFT to collect all of the payments from my clients to automate billpay, and I also do several other things that enhance productivity, but are completely automatic after the initial set up. Finally, delegation is the last step of creating ultimate freedom without sacrificing results. If you find the right people to do the things you don’t like to do, things that aren’t necessarily in your wheelhouse, or things that you just can’t keep up with, you’ll take your productivity to an all new high.

  1. Chunking or Batching Related Tasks Together

This one should really go with #3. This is really the final step in my process with getting sh** done. A few times a year, I’ll start to list out the activities I’ve been doing on a regular basis. After I get a good laundry list of tasks that are my responsibility, I do an audit. Can I eliminate this task with minimal repercussions? Can I use technology to help me put this task on automation? Can I use someone in my network to get this done to open up more time? Can someone else do this job much quicker, and probably better (web design, accounting, product fulfillment, etc…)? If you answer yes to any of these questions, it’s time to start game planning.

First, follow the step above and get as much of the things off your plate as possible without moving you away from the end goal. After you’ve done that, you should be left with a list of responsibilities you still need to do on a regular basis. I use this list and start batching or chunking similar tasks together. Being a major focus within a couple businesses and managing multiple people, my time and effectiveness is vital to the team and overall success we’re going to have. When I’m in my planning mode (#1), I batch computer tasks with other computer tasks. I batch emails, writing, video editing, uploading blogs, and all computer tasks together. It’s a lot easier to move from writing to emails than it is to move from writing to teaching an intern something about a dysfunctional straight leg raise. I chunk and batch my gym activities. I devote a couple days specifically for one business versus the other. I chunk my time together to help improve productivity. This works like a charm if you apply it.

  1. Monitor Progress Constantly

Are you moving closer to your goal? Or further away? You should do an evaluation of your time on a regular basis. Whatever task you’re doing, you should ask yourself, “Is this moving me closer to my goal?” If the answer is no, stop immediately, re-focus, and get moving on a task that will. Time is the only thing we have in life, so we need to embrace it. Use your time wisely and put more efforts into what’s working versus spinning your wheels and wasting time on efforts that produce minimal results. If it doesn’t fall within that top 20% find a way to ditch it. Use that time to focus on improving the 20% instead of trying to do it all. You won’t know this until you evaluate.

Run a report on your big spending clients. Take care of them. Do the things necessary to find more people just like that. Don’t waste your time on the things that chew up your time, create stress and hassle, but don’t produce much towards to end result. Eliminating those things and doubling your efforts on what’s working is a sure fire way to enhance productivity.

  1. Stay Current w/ Technology

I’m going to keep this one short. Technology is advancing on a daily basis. We live in a world where computers are outdated within weeks or months and technology advances happen at lighting speed. This is awesome if you’re willing to stay up to date. I have technology sync my calendars to eliminate time on scheduling and messing around w/ my calendar. I have filters in my email that help sort important email and batch things together to help make sorting a breeze. I use Evernote to take notes, snap pictures for later reference, create to-do lists, and a bunch of other tasks. I call it my elephant brain (their logo is an elephant head :) It syncs with my phone and computer automatically, so if I’m on the road 500 miles away from home, I can take notes and get things done without having to worry about the accessibility of the info. It’s all automatic. Technology is great. Stay current or you’ll soon fall behind and reduce the output you can do without losing your sanity.

  1. Exercise Regularly!

Since my audience here is coaches, therapists, and trainers, this one should be a no-brainer. Exercise is important. Sure, it takes time out of your day and sometimes feels like you’re killing your output to squeeze in a workout. This is definitely the wrong mentality. Getting in a workout and taking care of yourself will actually improve your overall output. After exercise, you’ll be able to think more clearly, you’ll have more energy to get things done, and you’ll reap the rewards for the minimal time spent on taking care of your body. Don’t be like a client that sits back and makes excuses about being too busy to workout. Make it a priority, even during periods of intensity and pressure. You’ll get more done, you’ll feel much better, and you’ll be practicing what you preach instead of being a big, fat hypocrite.

If you want to master your schedule and get the most out of your time, you’re going to need systems. Don’t re-create the wheel. Take a system that’s been done before and learn to replicate it to re-produce the results in your favor. That’s working smarter versus working harder.

Depending on where you’re at currently, group training may be the best way to master your time. You’ll be able to reach more people in less time. If you use a system like Smart Group Training, you’ll be able to take a done-for-you system and plug and play it in your own training business. Check out Group Training University for more help. We helped co-create this product, and if you follow the systems in the product, you’ll be managing your time well and improving your profit for each hour worked. Check it out!




Progress Tracking and Goal Setting in Group Fitness Training

I’m proud of the way we train our groups.

I know that we do a great job of getting health history, workout history, goals, FMS, designing a program, and implementing workouts that have amazing exercise selection and beautiful form. The screening and training process is spot on.


There is a part of our large group training that keeps me up at night. I don’t think there is a day that goes by that I don’t think about ways to easily improve the thing that certain people need the most from a personal trainer, accountability.

Obviously, the biggest issue with group fitness training is that with more people working with a fitness pro, each client gets less personal attention during the training session. With private personal training, I can use time during the training session to ask my client questions, educate him or her, talk about nutrition, etc. With a group of more than 3 or 4 it gets harder, and even harder with groups of 20.

I know that working with a fitness pro should be more than just great workouts. I know people need things like:

  • Progress Tracking
  • Regular Goal Setting
  • Education
  • Accountability
  • Coaching

CFR Progress Tracker Sheet

I know that since it’s impossible to easily do this when your client load gets high you need to have great systems to make sure you can keep up with all of your clients needs. Honestly, we have some pretty great systems at Complete Fitness Results. Currently, and in the past, we have done things like:

Members Only Websites – We have had sites that have off day workouts, educational materials, recipes and more. We got away from it when we started focusing more on facebook groups, but this is something I want to revisit.

Educational Workshops – We still do these, but not as much as we should. This is a great way to educate many clients at once and have a chance to talk shop before and after.

Check in Calls – We suck at this, period. It’s tough with 300 clients, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be done. You just more voicemails than anything, and sometimes calling people can be very inconvenient for them.

Off Day Workouts – You have to make sure people are taken care of with a plan when they aren’t in you gym.

Client Events – BBQ’s, Trivia Night, Pumpkin Workouts, Tasting Events, etc. This is a great way to spend some time with your clients without being in “coach mode”.

Blog Posts and Handouts – I feel this is a necessity to make sure you are educating your clients. Write blogs and have a newsletter, and print those out and hand the out after workouts.

Goal Board – This idea didn’t really work for us. We made a big board with people names and told them daily to write their goal on it before or after class. About 10% of our clients actually did it. They don’t have goals. This is the problem!

Challenge of the Week – This is something we would ask our clients to do outside of the gym in order to learn or experience something new that could possibly help them grow.

Education Lessons in Class – You’re not just a coach you are a teacher. Use the time when teaching a class to do more than just yell “good job!”, and tell some stories that have a point.


Our Current Solution

Although we still do quite a few of the things I mentioned above, I know we need to do more. Here are some thing we are recently added in the last few months.

Results + Program – What really pisses me off is racking my brain trying do all of this extra stuff for people that don’t even give a shit. That is why I’m going to start charging people a small fee of $50 per month to join our Results+ program. If you are in the program we know that you want more attention, if you aren’t, it means that you at the gym for great workouts only. I don’t know if this will be a profit center, but it do know that it will allow us to do a better job with the people that need it, and at least be able to identify who want a check in call or who will be annoyed by it. This program includes:

  • One Monthly Small Group Nutrition and Accountability Session
  • One Monthly Check in Call or Email
  • Unlimited Email Support with a Wellness Coach
  • Access to our Online Results+ Support Group
  • Weekly Nutrition Lesson via Email
  • A Little Extra Attention from our Training Team

This program starts in a few weeks. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Leader Board – This is for our competitive people or people that don’t have aesthetic goals. Personally, I’ve wanted to do this for years, and I’m so glad that we finally have one!

CFR Leader Board

Daily Recall – Just having our clients fill out a recall sheet has been huge. We are now starting to get in the habit of having our semi private clients fill out a recall sheet before each workout. That way we at least have a glimpse of what they are eating, how much water they are drinking, and how much sleep they are getting. It also makes them stop and think, which sometimes can be the only time they actually think about what they have been doing.

Progress Tracking – A lot of the same things that are on our leader board we track in our client’s files. We pick 3-5 indicators to use to track clients to make sure we know they are progressing. We make sure we do progress checking at least monthly. This includes body comp and FMS, all the way to performance tests like vertical jump and 20 yard dash.


I know this is decent system, but I still feel that people will fall through the cracks. I know people will always fall through the cracks at times, but those are the clients that keep me up at night. Not the assholes that complain about everything, but the people that need more help than we have time to give. I know I could help, but there is just too many people.

That’s why I am genuinely asking for your help. For my clients and the clients of everyone reading this post. Smart Group Training is more than Jared and I telling people that we are smart and cool. It’s about finding what works in group training better than what we were doing before and sharing it with everyone possible in order to make the group fitness training industry better. To help make people better. To help make the world just a little bit better.

So please share! What are you doing to help bridge the gap between private personal training and group personal training in the world of goal setting, progress tracking and accountability. Lets do this together! What works for you? Please share below.

My personal favorite idea will get a free SGT product of your choice, AND the feeling of helping make the industry better. And that will help me sleep at night.


– Steve Long CPT, FMS, TPI

Self Limiting Exercise

A few years ago, I heard about a concept of using self-limiting exercise while training clients.  Gray Cook was at the Chicago Perform Better Functional Training Summit delivering an amazing experience to hundreds of fitness professionals and therapists.  His talk was not solely about self-limiting exercise, but the concept of using self-limiting exercise within my programming has been prevalent ever since that presentation, so let me explain why…and how.

For those of you unaware of what “self-limiting exercises” are, let me explain in my own words.  A self-limiting exercise is an activity or exercise done that promotes good posture, strength, control, needs minimal coaching, AND is blatantly obvious when you do it wrong.  On many of these activities, the exercise itself falls apart completely if posture, balance, control, or function is lost.

Jump rope is one such activity.  Think about it, when you lose posture and get all schnarffy while skipping rope, you’re going to trip it up on your feet and be forced to re-start.  When you re-start, you generally set up with good posture, regain mental focus, and do the necessary things needed to get more skips on the next try.  Jumping rope is one of the best examples of self-limiting exercises.  It really helps paint the picture of what activities should be classified as self-limiting and what should not.

One of the biggest reasons why I use self-limiting exercise is the fact that there is minimal coaching needed to perform these exercises.  I’m a big fan of choosing exercises that need minimal coaching and allow the body to react to the stimulus in a positive way that promotes good posture, balance, control, and function.  If you have to over-coach a certain move, you should probably ask yourself if there’s a different exercise selection that will benefit the client more.  With many self-limiting exercises, the exercise itself will be the teacher.  Call me lazy, but I think that’s neat.  Less coaching, the client figures things out on their own, and the end result is better posture and function…winner, winner, chicken parm dinner.

That’s a big reason on WHY I like self-limiting exercise.  Now let’s talk about how to add self-limiting exercise into your programming.  Here are three good examples of how I personally use self-limiting exercise in my programming on a regular basis.


1.     The Dysfunctional Client – If you’ve been training or coaching for more than a week, you probably have a good idea of what I’m talking about when I say “the dysfunctional client”.  This is the client that has very poor movement patterns, maybe some non-medical related pain, and just flat out has issues.  Giving this individual a typical strength and conditioning routine is just not acceptable.

Modifications have to be made. snarf

Foundational work needs to be done.

This client needs to be doing primarily floor-based exercise and building the foundation from the ground up.

So, how do you give this client a good workout?

In this situation, I would be spending about 80-90% of my time on foundational work.  I’d be hitting soft tissue, joint mobilization, re-patterning movement patterns, teaching basic forms of stability, and other basic stuff to rebuild this person’s base.  That’s truly what this client needs, but I also like to give them what they want as well.  Adding a 5-10 minute “finisher” to their session will give them the feeling that they were destroyed in the gym.  Using self-limiting exercise is a great way to accomplish this task without compromising the work you just did.

Be sure to check your basic movement screens throughout though.  I will check basic movement patterns, like the Active Straight Leg Raise, before, during, and after the workout.  As long as the movement pattern didn’t get worse after choosing those self-limiting exercises, I’m pretty confident I just made them better, and gave them a little butt whoopin’ in the process.


2.     The Athlete Coming In on a Red Day – So what do I mean by a “Red Day?”  If you’re familiar with HRV, or heart rate variability, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  If you’re unfamiliar with HRV training though, a “Red Day” is basically a day your nervous system is shot.  There are many factors that can play into this like lack of sleep, boozing the night before a session, the onset of overtraining, and countless other variables to list here.

red light

The nervous system is tricky to monitor, but if you’re not using HRV, this would be one of those days you go to the gym and you just don’t have it.  You’re mind is right and you’re at the gym ready to train, but once you get going, you just don’t have your normal intensity.

This would be a perfect day to scrap what you had planned and really focus on a few self-limiting exercises.  If your nervous system is fried, you’re going to have a tough time with some of the exercises I’m going to list below, especially the bottoms up kettlebell work.


On days like this, it’s better to keep the volume and intensity very low for that day.  Adding additional stress on a nervous system that’s already shot isn’t necessarily a good thing.  Take the day to focus on recovery and maybe add a few self-limiting exercises that focus on balance, posture, and control without elevating the heart rate too much.  Bottoms up carries, Armbars, and Turkish Get Up work are fabulous for these days.  You can still train, but now you’ve acknowledged the current stress in the body and will benefit from not crushing it in the gym that day.


3.     General Population – The general population is being referred to as the average client coming in your doors with some dysfunction, but not completely mangled.  With this kind of client, we will program based around goals, current movement capabilities, and other factors that may help us get them from point A to point B in a timely fashion.

There are many, many ways to get creative with self-limiting exercise in the programming with the general population.  Sometimes I’ll keep the self-limiting work to the end as a “finisher.”  Sometimes I’ll add these into a circuit.  Some of them may even be active recovery or low-level work between higher intensity activities.  Get creative with these.  Have fun with it.  After all, it’s an exercise that promotes great characteristics and requires minimal coaching.  Your clients will love them and they’ll add variety into your programming.  Toy around with these exercises yourself and you’ll start to get an idea of where these can be placed in your workout to get some awesome results.

There you have it…three completely different types of clients all using self-limiting exercise.  We use self-limiting exercises pretty much on a daily basis with elderly clients looking to gain more functionality to top-end athletes trying to become great at their sport.  Like I said earlier, check your weakest link movement pattern before, during, and after the program.  As long as the pattern doesn’t get worse, you’re probably making decent selections with your programming.  Keep working and making tweaks until you find the exercises that improve the pattern and that improvement sticks the entire time, from the beginning to end of session.

Here are my top five favorite self-limiting exercises:


High Bar Prowler March – Make sure there is enough weight on the prowler.  If you find the right weight, you pretty much have to do this right.  If you’re posture and alignment are off creating energy leaks, you’ll struggle to push the thing.  Fix the alignment, and you’ll be able to march the thing with good form.  Minimal coaching for maximal results.


Bottoms Up Carries or Turkish Get Up’s – Get a weight that is able to be controlled, but challenging.  If you choose too light of a weight, your grip strength may hide certain defaults going on in the body.  However, if you choose a weight that is challenging, your alignment has to be dialed in, or the bell simply falls.  Keep the bell up and work on developing symmetry within the body.


Low Box Work – Just about everyone can handle doing a little work on a 4-6” low box.  We love adding shuffles, taps, and steps to the low box for conditioning.  This works well for a vast majority of the clients out there, and I rarely see it negatively effect movement efficiency.  This is a great way to get the heart up safely and with minimal impact.  As the client begins to fatigue, they usually just slightly trip up on their feet and coordination goes to sh**.  As with any self-limiting exercise, this would be a great time to catch your breath, regain focus, and only work to your capacity so you can complete the exercise.  Feel free to mix it up with different patterns on the box.  Check out the shuffle below, but get creative and see what you can come up with that will give your clients a workout without compromising movement.


Upper Body Sprinting – I love adding different forms of upper body sprinting.  Taking the legs out of the equation completely takes out the impact of sprinting.  Not everyone is ready for the impact of running or sprinting, so working on form and mechanics are great to do from the half kneel and tall kneel positions.  Upper body sprinting is another great way to add in some conditioning without compromising movement efficiency.


Farmers Carries – Once again, weight is a big deal with this.  If you’re using a weight that doesn’t demand your focus and attention, you’ll be able to fight the weight and perform with compensation.  However, load this carry up and you’ll quickly notice that stacking the joints and fixing alignment makes it much easier.  If you start to fail on this one, usually, you simply just drop the weights.  The only thing I caution here is to be careful with the set up.  If your client has trouble deadlifting or has no business deadlifting yet, make sure to set the weight up on boxes or something else to prevent them from doing a bad lift to get into position to actually carry the weight.

What are some of your favorite self-limiting exercises?  Leave a comment below.  I’d love to add some more to my arsenal :)

Breaking Out the Shoulder Mobility Screen

Recently I started a series on breaking out the screens on the FMS with my post on Breaking Out the Active Straight Leg Raise. If you haven’t seen that post you should check it out here.

With this post I’m going to break down something a little more complicated, shoulder mobility.  If there is one movement on the FMS that I get the most questions about the validity it would have to be the shoulder mobility screen. What most people don’t understand is that the shoulder mobility screen is NOT all that you need to know to determine if someone has proper shoulder function.  What is important to know is that when you get a red flag on the shoulder mobility screen you need to dig deeper and this post is how I do it. That being said, there are many ways to assess shoulder function, and honestly if you want to dig deep into shoulder function I would check out some stuff from Eric Cressey and Mike Reinold, but this is a great way to get you started.

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Three Things I Wish I Knew Early in my Training Career

Every once in awhile, I like to write about failures, successes, and other variables that have gotten me to where I am today.  Becoming a great coach doesn’t come easy.  I’ve spent thousands of hours coaching clients, reading books, watching educational videos, traveling the country to see the best gyms and how they operate, and have dedicated my life to being great at what I do.  In this piece, I want to share my top three things that have made me a better coach and have improved my results DRAMATICALLY!

If you’re reading this article, hopefully you’ll get a couple takeaways and improve your own personal skills as a coach, trainer, or therapist.  Each one of the three highlights will require more research to fully understand them, but as I tell each new hire or new intern coming in to work at our facilities, understanding these three things and how to incorporate them into your training will make you better almost instantaneously.  Take these three tips and run with them.  I promise you will not be disappointed with your results.

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Breaking Down the FMS – Active Straight Leg Raise

When you first start using the FMS and the Smart Group Training System a lot of times your not sure which correctives to use to get the best results. We have made that a lot easier by giving you a lot of great ideas in our blogs and products, but we understand that there are a lot of exercises out there, and a lot of different situations that can occur that making picking the perfect corrective exercise a shotgun approach.

Although creating a blog post to make sure you pick the perfect corrective exercise every time is absolutely impossible, there are a few things you can do to make sure to make sure the shotgun approach is more like a sniper riffle.

What a lot of people don’t know about the FMS is that after you find the weakest link in the hierarchy by going through the 7 foundational movements there are ways you can break out that weakest link to get a better idea of what the issue is and how to fix it.

I’ll be covering these breakouts plus a few bonus breakouts of my own that I’ll often use to make sure my corrective exercise selection is as effective as possible in this newest series called Breaking Down the FMS.

Today we start with the Active Straight Leg Raise

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Bad Form Is Better Than a Bad Day

You probably know I’m picky on form. Honestly, one of the things my gym is most known for is our attention to detail and focus on tight form and clean movement. I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “every rep under this roof should be perfect!”

Although I often write and make videos about how to exercise with correct form, today I want to write about a time that it may be ok to have bad form.

Have you ever been running a group training session and you have that client that is just all over the place? Their hinge looks like a toe touch, their squat is a perfect hinge, and their pushup looks like they are doing some sort of snake type dance? I know I have, and I’m positive beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have as well.

I have to mention that this circumstance happens less and less now that I have a system to screen each client and place him or her in an appropriate progression with very little guesswork. However, even with the best screening system on earth you still have people that need more coaching than others. So that brings me to my point.

image courtesy of

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The Difference Between Bootcamps and Group Personal Training – Webinar

Check out this webinar that we did a while back on the difference between bootcamps and group personal training. Even though we shot it two years ago the content is just as strong as ever. Training and programs design can always change, but some philosophies will always remain.

If you are running bootcamps or any type of group exercise program you will want to watch this video. You may love some parts and you may hate some parts, but I think that you will understand it’s true.

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Do You Strip?


If you breathe out of your mouth or have ever struggled with breathing during physical exercise, you will definitely need to listen. And if you have never heard of the importance of conscious breathing while training, this article could make a dramatic improvement in your movement quality and performance.

Breathing has been a hot topic buzz word for the past few years. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on how we should breathe. If you’re anything like me, I don’t care who is right, I just want consistent information that is going to help my clients and me get results the fastest most efficient way possible.

Like every exercise, it’s always super easy to make things harder. But the real genius comes with the regressions. To me there is nothing more regressed than taking in a breath. It’s the first thing we do when we are born and the last thing we do before we die. You will take hundreds of millions of breaths in a lifetime. Are they making you healthier or are they sending you to an early grave? Dun…Dun…Dun!

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