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Large Group Training

Getting Your Clients To “Buy In” to the System

One question that we often get asked is “how do you deal with the clients that don’t buy in to the system?”  There are two major things that I feel contribute to us hearing this question.

1)   You haven’t bought in yourself

2)   It’s hard for you to explain in ways that clients “get it”

My goal with this article is to give you a few reasons, explanations, and metaphors that will help you and your clients understand why they can’t ‘smash it” on certain exercises.

It’s Temporary – It’s extremely important that after you screen a client, find dysfunction, and tell them there are certain things that they can’t do, that you let them know this is temporary.  Screening and following the FMS Hierarchy will almost always point you to the right place when it comes to corrective strategy.  If this is the case, which means you screened correctly, and chose an appropriate exercise, your corrective strategy should work very quickly. Most cases the corrective strategy should work in as little as one session to a week. If not, you are most likely in the wrong place or using the wrong strategy. If you are having a hard time correcting a movement on the FMS, you may consider dropping down a level in the hierarchy, or referring to an SFMA clinician.

This Road Block Has Been Holding You Back – You have to give them some hope at this point because telling then it’s temporary isn’t going to get them pumped to train with you. Letting them know that you found something that has been holding them back from getting the results they have been working for is a great way to reassure them that the corrective exercises are a good idea.  Basically, let them know that when they remove the roadblock, they will get better results.


Everyone is familiar with hitting a plateau, and dysfunction is major contributor to plateau. Remove the dysfunction and decrease the plateau effect.  Let them know that if they have been “stuck” then corrective exercise can get them “unstuck”, as long as they don’t do anything that will cause them more harm than good.

ZOA – Are You in the Zone?

Are you in the zone???

Chances are…you’re not.

What exactly do I mean by being in a zone?  I’m talking about a zone of apposition.  “The zone of apposition (ZOA) is the area of the diaphragm encompassing the cylindrical portion (the part of the muscle shaped like a dome/umbrella) which corresponds to the portion directly apposed to the inner aspect of the lower rib cage.” (NAJSPT, 2010).  Basically, the ZOA is developed by closing down the ribs and not allowing them to flare.  When the ribs begin to flare, the ZOA is lost and things begin to go wrong.

From Postural Restoration Institute

We have been working hand and hand with Mike Robertson, and he was the one that first got me engaged to learn about the ZOA and how important rib position is in training.  I was having issues personally and it all stemmed from me losing my ZOA creating a dysfunctional breathing pattern.  I wasn’t using the right muscles to breath.  This created a one issue after another, finally leading me to a chronic case of external shoulder impingement.

I knew how important breathing was at the time…and to be quite honest with you…I just didn’t understand it.  I thought I did, but I wasn’t even close.  To be honest with you…I’m still not even close to understanding it.  However, I’ve learned enough over the past year to be fairly dangerous.  That’s why I want to share this info with you.  I want to help keep things simple so this information will start to make dramatic improvements in your programming and results.

Using the FMS, I learned a lot about crocodile breathing, a basic breathing technique found in yoga.  This was my first experience with “proper” breathing, but it’s not the end all be all by any means.  I was personally working on this form of breathing for months before getting assessed, so to find out that my breathing was the cause of my shoulder impingement was a major let down.  I worked really hard on fixing my breathing, but apparently got nowhere.  Needless to say, I was pretty frustrated with my results.  Breathing was a major part of my training, but I have never heard of this so called Zone Of Apposition.  I only knew breathing from your upper traps was bad and breathing from your belly was good…

Breathing from using your accessory muscles like the upper traps, scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, pec minor, etc…is not effective.  Neither is breathing solely from your belly.  We should be looking to fill up the lungs, so the chest is going to rise.  However, we don’t want to be using these accessory muscles to complete the job.  If we do, we will lose our ZOA for sure.

Since I’m a big fan of the FMS, I’m going to share a recent story that happened to me personally.  This is going to relate to the ZOA and how it can instantaneously change certain aspects of the screen.  During a recent in-service, the importance of the ZOA became blatantly obvious.  We were in the middle of teaching a handful of trainers a little about our Smart Group Training systems.  We started out by screening all of them and finding all of their dysfunctions prior to the hands on portion.  During the hands on section, the focus was to show how effective correctives can be.  Showing the effectiveness of correctives firsthand has proven to make an impact and create a paradigm shift in their thinking. If you’re using corrective exercises regularly, you should know how quick some changes can happen.

This example I’m going to share relates to the immediate changes that creating a zone and fixing rib position can create.  After making substantial changes in a straight leg raise dysfunction, it was time to move on to shoulder mobility.  The corrective chosen were reachbacks and wall slides.  We wanted to show how developing a little extension and rotation in the thoracic spine can make pretty quick changes.  After getting that extension and rotation, I wanted to help stabilize it with the slides.  I got him into position and had him perform a couple floor slides.  However, I had to stop him after two reps.   His rib position and body alignment were limiting him from performing them well.

I pointed out his rib position to the crowd and planned to move forward.  Since I decided to point out rib position, I figured I’d try to coach him through a couple breaths before moving on.  I got two breaths in and watched his ribs fall down.  I liked what I saw, but definitely didn’t expect to see any changes…Boy was I wrong.  Creating a ZOA rocked his world.  He went from having his hands 14+ inches apart to about 5.  Needless to say, I was blown away.  My mouth literally dropped.  I knew breathing and creating a  ZOA was powerful, but I have never seen such a dramatic change with two floor slides and two breaths.  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t from the floor slides.  It was from creating the ZOA.

Learning about rib position has been huge for me.  Fixing rib position and establishing a ZOA has helped me fix dysfunctional straight leg raises.  It’s helped fix shoulder mobility issues.  It helps fix rotary stability issues.  Basically, creating the ZOA has helped fix a heavy majority of the issues I’ve been seeing.  If you haven’t been looking into breathing that much, it’s worth your time.  There’s way more to breathing than just keeping your ribs down, but that coaching cue has helped dramatically.  Start looking at rib position in your clients.  Changing the rib position and creating a ZOA will help improve your results, guaranteed.

Jared Woolever

Common Mistakes Trainers Make in Group Training Classes

Group training classes are all the rage right now, and if you want to know how to run them safely and effectively, you have come to the right place…the Smart Group Training website!

Steve and Jared are great friends of mine and they asked me to put together a video discussing common mistakes that trainers make when running group training classes.
Check out the video below:

Just to recap, these are the biggest mistakes most trainers make with their group classes:

1. They start off with exercises that are too intense.
When a client comes to you just to look good and feel good, it doesn’t take much to help them reach their goals. They don’t need a “Navy-Seal-Beatdown-Bootcamp,” and even if they did, none of them move well enough to be able to do advanced exercises anyway.

Group Training
Group Training

2. They don’t force clients to master the basics.
Similar to the mistake above, they don’t require that their clients master the basic squat, hinge, push, pull, and lunge patterns before progressing them on to more advanced variations of those exercises.

3. They don’t build a foundation.
Again, I feel like I am repeating myself, but it’s such a big problem! Your clients need a general foundation of movement and conditioning before they can be moved onto something more advanced or intense. A beginner (and everyone is a beginner until they prove otherwise), should never be thrown into a program where they are forced to run or row for miles at a time, or do dozens of pull-ups or push-ups with no foundation of movement or conditioning.

4. They do random exercises with no rhyme or reason to the program.
Many group programs focus on making people tired instead of making them better. There is a reason that programs designed to improve posture and performance use specific exercises performed for specific volumes, with specific loading parameters…because it matters! Teach your clients how to master the movement patterns listen above, and when they master those patterns, load them, and get them strong in those patterns.

5. They don’t have proper progressions and regressions outlined ahead of time.
You will always have clients who need an easier or a more difficult variation of an exercise and they will need it modified on the fly. Have your progressions laid out ahead of time so you’re not scrambling. Or you can use ours! (Our = myself, Mike Robertson, and Molly Galbraith). In our product, Bootcamp In a Box, we lay out the exact progressions we use with our clients, and then give you further instructions on how to progress or regress the exercise using load, volume, density, time under tension, and much more.

If you’re a Coach or a Trainer and you run group classes, consider checking out Bootcamp In a Box, where you can not only get 6 months of done-for-you programming, but you literally get an entire DVD of 80+ exercises with all of our progressions and regressions, exactly how we cue and correct those exercises, and the common mistakes we see with clients when those exercises are performed (so you know what to look for!). You basically get inside our heads and see exactly how we program for our clients.

Not only that, but you get tips from Robb Wolf, author or The Paleo Solution and owner of NorCal Strength and Conditioning, discussing how he gets his clients to implement nutrition and lifestyle changes for optimal results.

We believe that we and the guys at Smart Group Training are “ahead of the curve” when it comes to training groups of clients. So don’t be left in the dust! Get your clients amazing results, fast! And save yourself HOURS worth of precious time that you would normally spend programming. Check it out TODAY!