The Canadian Journey to Smarter Group Training and the “Better Jar”

Johnny Fukumoto

A guest post by Johnny Fukumoto

In the quest for “better” group fitness training (meaning to us: safer, smarter, more effective and fun), our ‘fit family’ as we like to call them has kept an open mind over the past few years as we’ve thrust upon them many new concepts, that at times have gone against the grain.

Around 4 years ago, we taught people how to foam roll and it has become a staple at our gym that now carries with it, a sense of necessity in terms of preparing the body’s tissue for work or recovery. And people loved it! (in a love-hate sort of way that many of you will understand).

3 years ago, we started really digging into proper progressions (and more importantly in my opinion, regressions) for our group program so that every participant had a movement level that was appropriate for them. None of this, “Ok, everyone do 100 burpees with tuck jumps and pushups and then 100 squats…” kind of thing where the only guarantee is that someone would eventually get hurt. I actually became friends with Steve at a small event that was dedicated to this philosophy.  At this time, he was really digging into the stuff that the SGT guys are known for today.

Closer to 2 years ago, I flew to Calgary from Winnipeg (I’m up in Canada, eh?) to get FMS Level 1 and 2 certification and now we’ve used the FMS as our standard protocol for each of our group clients to gauge the best starting place in terms of training. We try our best to get each group client at least 4 screens per year (We wish it was more but we’re working on it!). We also give them at least 1 corrective exercise to focus on before training, at home, and we’ve even begun sprinkling it directly into the workouts for certain people to guarantee better progress on our watch.

That brings us to the present.  We are now handing out “Red Light” bracelets to help our clients become aware of where they should be starting in terms of the current training program.  It also helps our coaches be more in tune with our clients at directing them very quickly in a quick paced group environment. It is a definite challenge (just like the other phases of our “SGT” journey above) but we know it’ll be worth it.


A quick tip: don’t be afraid to start with a few bracelets at first and then phase them all in later. We initially went with the white bracelet (shoulder mobility – SM), yellow bracelet (active straight leg raise – ASLR), and red bracelet (trunk stability pushup – TSPU). We are trying our best to explain that “you don’t suck because you have to wear a bracelet” and at times, it is hard to convince people of this truth. But just like you don’t let a new person walk into a dojo and join the black belts for sparring, we can’t in good conscience let people choose a movement pattern just because they ‘feel like it’ or ‘they’ve done it before’.

One thing I thought of that would add a form of celebration, recognition, and even motivation for the SGT bracelet system, was bringing in a giant glass jar that contains ALL the bands that people have given back after being cleared from pain or mobility issues etc. We call it the “Better Jar” and it sits on a desk for all to see. We went back through all of our FMS screens over the past year and gave people bands they would have gotten to put in the jar. In the first 2 days, we put in about 50! And those were just white, yellow, and red!

Sometimes you have to get creative and we hope to continue to have growth in this area. It’s a fantastic way to celebrate a measurable outcome that is not about “WEIGHT”.

Let’s celebrate better movement and less pain! Who’s with me?

Johnny Fukumoto is the owner and head coach at Fukumoto Fitness in Winnipeg, Canada.  They specialize in group personal training and help transform people into the best version of themselves with the city’s number 1 group training program and fitness family.  He currently competes at a high level in obstacle racing and uses the “smart” approach to ensure he can keep it up!