Think variation and muscle confusion are one in the same?  They’re not.

You cannot “confuse” or “trick” muscles into hypertrophy and strength gains.  When you nestle under the bar there is no hesitancy or confusion on your muscles part about what they must do—which is contract.  And if you’re doing it right, they’re contracting pretty frickin’ hard.


And when you work your muscles to exhaustion and finally call it quits, it’s crystal clear to them what needs to happen next.  They need to adapt.  It’s their evolutionary duty.

Hypertrophy and Strength Adaptations Result from Muscles being subjected to Specific Conditions.

The basic requirements for building muscle and strength are no secret.  Challenge the muscles with relatively heavy loads, use enough volume to sufficiently exhaust mechanical and chemical resources, progressively increase training demands, repeat the process frequently enough to maintain and elicit new gains, but not so frequently that you inhibit recovery.  Bam!  That’s it!

Keeping up with these requirements as you develop more muscle and strength, in and of itself creates variation.  But you and I know that is not the type of variation implied when fitness gurus speak of variation.

No, we’re told to switch things up.  That we shouldn’t keep doing the same thing.

But exactly what does that mean?

Change some Elements—Don’t do an Overhaul

As pointed out, if the goal is muscle hypertrophy and strength gains there are certain conditions your training must meet.  It’s what we refer to as the S.A.I.D. Principlespecific adaptation to imposed demands.  In the same way, if your goal is to run a marathon your training must reflect the best means of improving aerobic output and muscular endurance.

The idea is not to keep your muscles “guessing” (they don’t sit around between workouts wondering what’s coming next) but to give them exactly what they need to get the result you’re looking for.   If the foundation of your training remains intact and in alignment with your objective then varying some of the elements can help enhance results and circumvent plateaus.

The Many Faces of Exercise Variation

The elements we most commonly think of altering are the exercises, rep and set schemes, intensity, rep performance, and the type of workout.  I’ll address each individually.

Exercises – Varying exercises can be anything from performing the same exercise at various angles (i.e. flat chest press, incline press, decline press), performing vastly different exercises for the same muscle group (i.e. leg extensions and sissy squats)  or performing the same exercise using different equipment (i.e. barbell deadlifts vs. trap bar deadlifts or dumbbell curls vs. cable curls).

Those who implement a variety of exercises, cyclically, tend to have more well-rounded physiques with better balance between or within muscle groups.  There is also a reduced risk of overuse injury (barring excessive volume or frequency) resulting from working in the same plane of motion over long periods.

Reps & Set Schemes – Increasing or decreasing your rep range, set length (Time Under Tension) or the number of sets performed is a play on volume.  It’s a means of ensuring that all muscle fiber types (Type I, Type IIa, Type IIb) are subjected to the appropriate workload to maximize development.


It is also the easiest way to alter training demands. When your muscles acclimate to a particular workload an increase in volume is an effective means of challenging them to a higher level of conditioning.  However, this increase in your total demands—which is necessary—will affect recovery ability.

Conversely, lowering your volume by performing fewer sets is effective in providing for more recovery time.  Cycling between high, low, and moderate volume training affords you periods of heavy demands to stimulate gains and periods of lower demands to boost recovery and sensitize you to higher volume training.

Intensity – Just as with reps and sets, increasing your intensity of effort—by training to muscular failure or beyond—can heighten training demands and stimulate muscle hypertrophy and strength increases.  Taken too far for too long it can also stifle recovery by exhausting your CNS which is why it should be implemented judiciously and cycled.

Rep Performance – Changing repetition speed and the execution of your reps (i.e. stutter reps, partials, Zone Training, 21’s, negatives, etc.) is a means of disrupting motor patterns, influencing fiber recruitment, and increasing training demands.

Watch this tutorial on Zone Training for an alternative way of performing your reps and check out the related article: The Pump, Occlusion Training, and How to Enhance Them.

Why would you want to disrupt motor patterns?  After all, you’ve worked so hard to get your form right so you can properly target your muscles and handle the most amount of load safely, right?

The reason is, sometimes the adaption you get is not the one you want.  We want to develop our muscles, we want them to get stronger—but not all of the increases in strength you see in the gym is the result of increased muscular development. The more practiced and technically sound you are at certain lifts the less energy and resources you will use to perform them.

If the end game is to thoroughly fatigue your muscles and give them cause for further development then performing exercises in a manner they are unaccustomed to can present a new set of demands to adapt to.

Research on repetition speed has shown that faster repetition may hold a slight advantage over slow reps in increasing strength but there is no statistical difference in the effect on muscle hypertrophy. However both fast and slow reps have several advantages and disadvantages.  Watch this video for a breakdown of each.

Type of Workout – Different workouts lend themselves to different adaptations, this much is obvious.  A trainee who performs several different modes of exercise or engages in various styles of training may have greater overall fitness than someone focused on only one mode with one objective.  But they won’t necessarily excel or achieve their ideal level of development in any one area unless by genetic chance.

And this is where must be intentional about using blatantly different styles of exercise for variation versus altering the elements like mentioned previously.  If you can accept the potential for regression in certain aspects of your development by abandoning one type of training or exercise for another then by all means, go for it.

The Final Word

I understand what the “muscle confusion” guys are getting at. The need for exercise variation is overwhelmingly valid.  It just bugs the hell out of me—as well as every other sensible fitness instructor—when we have to explain to a neophyte that muscle confusion is nothing more than marketing bullshit.

Thanks for reading this far!  If you found this information useful please share it. 

The Truth about Missed Workouts and Detraining on Muscle & Strength Gains

He felt panic stricken.  What was he going to do?  He spent at least seven hours a week, every week for the last eleven months working to increase is bench and add more muscle.  At nineteen years old he was at his peak (so he thought) and this upcoming week was about to squash all the work he’d put in.  The same thing happened to him last year during the same week so you thought he would have learned by now.

It was June and he was home from college for the summer.  As a lacrosse player, he loved the sport but loved training more.  The hours spent in the gym smashing personal bests gave him more satisfaction than scoring goals.

That’s what made this week so hard.  There would not be a single minute for him to spend in the gym.  The lacrosse camp he was a coach and counselor at for this one week each June was massive—thousands of kids.  And with so many kids running around on and off the field there was not a spare minute in the day.

Not being able to train ate way at him every day.

He was excited when day six finally arrived.  Time to go home!

He walked in the door said a quick hello to his parents and within minutes he was back out the door, in the car, and heading to the gym.

Gym time

He got under the bench for his first couple of warm-up sets.

“Whoa, that felt easy” he thought to himself.

And then he moved onto his working set.  With one-eighty-five on the bar he was expecting to push out his usual six reps.  But after he completed eight it hit him that the week off didn’t hurt him one bit.

Not the type to put two and two together he just thought how “lucky” he was to have not lost any strength.  Never mind that he just bested his last four bench press workouts.

What can I say, I’m a slow learner.  :-)

People get neurotic about their training.

Missed workout

We all agree, a healthy commitment to exercise and nutrition is great.  But when a commitment turns into an obsession—usually in the case of body dysmorphic disorders—it’s never a pretty sight.  I would not go so far to say I suffered from a disorder (I always maintained some sensibility about how I looked) mine was more of a compulsion.

I worked hard, earned my gains and yearned for more.  I would guess you and I are probably similar that way.  It’s very normal to be concerned that too much time away from the gym will result in regression.


Is all the unrest we feel about time away from the gym warranted?

If we rely on the empirical evidence the answer is, no.

If rely on the research, the answer is still, no.

Research published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology in 2013 (Ogasawara R1, Yasuda T, Ishii N, Abe T.) [1] compared the effects of a periodic resistance training (PTR) program with those of a continuous resistance training (CTR) program on muscle size and function.

The CTR group trained continuously over a 24-week period, whereas the PTR group performed three cycles of 6-week training (or retraining), with 3-week detraining periods between training cycles. After an initial 6 weeks of training, increases in cross-sectional area (CSA) of the triceps brachii and pectoralis major muscles and maximum isometric voluntary contraction of the elbow extensors and 1-RM were similar between the two groups.


In the CTR group, muscle CSA and strength gradually increased during the initial 6 weeks of training. However, the rate of increase in muscle CSA and 1-RM decreased gradually after that.


In the PTR group, increase in muscle CSA and strength during the first 3-week detraining/6-week retraining cycle were similar to that in the CTR group during the corresponding period. However, increase in muscle CSA and strength during the second 3-week detraining/6-week retraining cycle were significantly higher in the PTR group than in the CTR group.


Thus, overall improvements in muscle CSA and strength were similar between the groups. The results indicate that 3-week detraining/6-week retraining cycles result in muscle hypertrophy similar to that occurring with continuous resistance training after 24 weeks.

Another study from 2000; Neuromuscular adaptation during prolonged strength training, detraining and re-strength-training in middle-aged and elderly people (Häkkinen K1, Alen M, Kallinen M, Newton RU, Kraemer WJ) [2] provides further evidence that 3 weeks of not training will have an inconsequential impact on muscular size and strength.

According to the researchers findings:  Short-term detraining (3 weeks) led to only minor changes, while prolonged detraining (24 weeks) resulted in muscle atrophy and decreased voluntary strength…

Barring injury or some traumatic event anyone moderately committed to maintaining their fitness is unlikely to miss 24 straight weeks of training.

More is to be gained, not lost, from detraining.

Most encouraging about this study and confirmed by others [3,4] is that there is no inhibition of muscular or strength adaptations upon returning to training.  But all of us life-long lifters already recognized this, we call it “Muscle Memory.”

In fact in many instances results upon re-training after a week or two of detraining exceeded previous bests.  This was my experience at nineteen after returning from a [forced] week off from training.  And the scenario has played out hundreds of other times with personal training clients who—fearful that the past 4 months of progress would be wiped away by their upcoming two week vacation—would come back stronger and sometimes looking better.

We shouldn’t be surprise when we consider the effect continuous training can have on the Central Nervous System (CNS) and General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS), as well as how it can blunt anabolic signaling.  Taking a week or more off can help all of our physiological systems fully recover and desensitize us to training.  All of which are necessary for long-term gains.

Periodization has shown us the way.

As someone who is focused primarily on muscle hypertrophy and building functional strength, and not demonstrating strength (as in the case of a powerlifter or O-lifter), I’m not a big fan of Western Periodization.  However, conceptually, it’s spot on.  Especially when you view it through the prism of the GAS.


Periods of exercise stress must be followed by periods of rest so the body can overcompensate for and adapt to the stress.  In the same way Western Periodization breaks up your training into cycles that focus on a particular adaptation, you want to have specified periods of increased or varied training demands accompanied by periods of lesser demands and layoffs.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, almost to the point of sounding like an iPod stuck on repeat—building muscle is metabolically demanding.  Our body will seek out any way, other than building muscle, to increase strength and contend with the demands placed on it through exercise.

That’s why a linear training and recovery model is only beneficial to advanced trainees striving to maintain their gains.

The more our intensity, volume, frequency, method of rep/set performance, exercise selection, etc. remains the same the more sensitized we become to it.   The stubborn nineteen year old couldn’t wrap his thick skull around the idea that time away from the gym is good for gains.


But that’s not to say there are not legitimate concerns about detraining.

The two that most quickly jumps to mind for those aesthetically ambitious is fat accumulation resulting from diminished activity and a loss of muscle fullness.

However these are concerns that can easily be addressed and rectified:

To avoid fat gain requires a simple recalculation in caloric intake.  Accounting for the calories you won’t be burning through exercise while remaining at or below your maintenance levels will impede any potential fat storage. …Simply solution to a simple problem.

Next, loss of muscle fullness is the result of glycogen degradation.  Meaning your muscles are not overcompensating for the glycogen depleted during muscular contractions.  This trend reverses immediately upon returning to training.

If you’re taking a week off from training this change is nearly unnoticeable.  But if you plan to take more than one week off from purposeful training then you might implement one or two very light workouts a week in which you get a moderate pump, deplete some glycogen, but do not disrupt systemic recovery.

Aside from unease about potential aesthetic deviations the only other observed negative effect in some studies (and validated through personal experience) is a short lived decrease in metabolic conditioning.  Upon resuming training subjects/clients fatigued after fewer exercises than is typical or required slightly longer rest between exercises.  In my experience most trainees regain their previous level of conditioning after 1-4 workouts.

One step back and two steps forward.

As much evidence as there is to support detraining it should be understood that it is not a license to fly by the seat of your pants.  These periods must be planned.  They should be built around periods of heavy demands so you can take advantage of heightened anabolic signaling (5) and desensitization to training on the frontend (like when you were a beginner and made rapid gains) and unimpeded recovery on the backend so you can overcompensate and adapt to the demands.

The question is: are you willing to give little in order to get a little more?


1. Ogasawara R1, Yasuda TIshii NAbe T.  Comparison of muscle hypertrophy following 6-month of continuous and periodic strength training. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Apr;113(4):975-85. doi: 10.1007/s00421-012-2511-9. Epub 2012 Oct 6. 

2.  Häkkinen K1, Alen MKallinen MNewton RUKraemer WJNeuromuscular adaptation during prolonged strength training, detraining and re-strength-training in middle-aged and elderly people.  Eur J Appl Physiol. 2000 Sep;83(1):51-62.

3. . Ogasawara R1, Yasuda TSakamaki MOzaki HAbe T.  Effects of periodic and continued resistance training on muscle CSA and
in previously untrained men. Clin Physiol Funct Imaging. 2011 Sep;31(5):399-404. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-097X.2011.01031.x. Epub 2011 May 31

4.  Bruusgaard JCJohansen IBEgner IMRana ZAGundersen KMyonuclei acquired by overload exercise precede hypertrophy and are not lost on detraining.  Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Aug 24;107(34):15111-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0913935107. Epub 2010 Aug 16

5.  Ogasawara R1, Kobayashi KTsutaki ALee KAbe TFujita SNakazato KIshii NmTOR signaling response to resistance exercise is altered by chronic resistance training and detraining in skeletal muscle. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2013 Apr;114(7):934-40. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01161.2012. Epub 2013 Jan 31


Thanks for reading this far.  If you found this information useful please share it.  I’d greatly appreciate it!  :)

Why You Should Train Like a Bodybuilder Even Though You Don’t Want to Look Like One

I’m writing this for you, the mom, dad, man, woman, busy professional, student, and slacker (J/k I know you’re not a slacker. Slackers don’t read my stuff) who seek out the help of personal trainers and to my personal training brethren who routinely have to talk people off the ledge when it comes to training heavy and hard…like a bodybuilder.  The statement: “I don’t want to look like a bodybuilder” drives me crazy.  I understand where it comes from which drives me even crazier than when my wife insists on plucking my eyebrows.  (I don’t care what women say, that shit hurts.  I’d rather sit through 6 hours of tattooing.)

The conversation when a new client comes in—especially the ladies—typically goes like this after I’ve explained our inclination for training heavy and hard relative to their abilities (I’ll skip on all the niceties and small talk):

Client:  But I don’t want look like a bodybuilder.

Me:  You won’t…you can’t.

Client: Yeah but I see those women/guys on the magazines and I don’t to get that.

Me: Let me ask you.  Are you currently taking steroids, testosterone, or growth hormone that you obtained from a black market dealer?

Client: No

Me: Then I think you’re safe.  Genetically speaking 99.6% of people don’t have the genetic aptitude to get huge.  They don’t have the muscle fiber make up, muscle length, or in the case of women, the testosterone levels needed to pack on mass. Just look at all the teenage and twenty-something guys whose testosterone levels are shooting through that are TRYING to look like the guys in the mags never get there without PED’s.

(I point to a picture of me in bodybuilding competition shape)


Client:  That’s you!

Me:  Geez, don’t act so surprised.  Yes, that’s me about 10 pounds lighter than I am right now. 

Client: You’d never know you’re a bodybuilder.

Me:  (Think to myself: “Thanks again for reinforcing my bodybuilding inferiority complex,)  If you walked down the street and ran into one natural bodybuilder or physique competitor after another at best you would say they look like they’re in really good shape and that’s how you want to look.  Nothing freakish or unusual about them, just extremely shredded when it’s time to step on stage. 

Bodybuilding is an illusion.  Exceptionally low body fat levels and bright lights shining down on the body help muscles stand out and appear more pronounced.  Once the shirt and pants go back on they look like “normal” people (but we know even natural competitors are anything but normal).  Even the biggest and baddest natural competitors look like they could be your exceptionally fit co-worker or friend. 


The purpose of Bodybuilding

While people might not want to look like bodybuilders, training like one—from the standpoint of heavy loads and high intensity—is what results in the toned (I freakin’ hate that buzz word), and fit look they are aiming for and developing greater functional strength (dammit that’s two buzz words in one sentence, I’m going to have to take a shower after I’m done writing this).  So long as exercises are performed under controlled conditions with exceptional execution, minimizing ballistic movements, then training like a bodybuilder will do more to prevent injuries than cause them.  (If you want increase your chance of injury from lifting just do some of that silly shit people do on the Bosu and fit ball.)  The increased strength, muscular endurance and muscle development you achieve through “bodybuilding” will have a greater impact on more aspects of health and fitness than any other form of exercise.

In a nutshell, bodybuilding is all about improving your quality of life.  And besides if you’re not actively trying to “build” your “body” what the heck are you exercising for?

Different Way to Approach #Exercise

There’s literally hundreds of exercise methods, and every one of em’ has its own “spin”. Which one is right for you depends on your ability to answer the question, “What’s your outcome?”.

I believe in implementing various training methods to achieve specific results but anything put into practice is done with a single strategy in mind.  Check it out in this video I made for you.  (6 minute view)

The Indisputable Principles of Exercise and How the Experts Screw Them Up

I have nothing against “fitness experts.”  In fact I regularly seek out, read, listen to, and pick the brains of people (not in a Walking Dead sort of way) that I consider to be experts in various areas of exercise because in quiet moments of self-reflection I realize that I don’t know it all.  Hard to believe I know.  I like hearing different points of view, especially the diametrically opposing ones.  As Stephen Covey put it in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “seek to understand.”  If I’m able to understand their point of view then I’ll either glean new insight and apply it to what I do, ooooooooor I’ll bang my head against a wall thirty-two times as a preventative measure to ensure the information doesn’t settle into my brain.

Arguing Over Exercise Principles

It’s really simple.  Every workout program ever designed has these four principles present; intensity (as in effort, not a percentage of 1RM), volume (some number of sets), load (any resistance being used or % of 1RM) and frequency (scheduled occurrence).  The way some experts talk about these principles individually you would think that one holds the key to success and the others should sit back and remain silent.  And it comes from both sides of the aisle, as well as the front and back of the room.

Experts dedicate an inordinate amount of time to the study and practice of what they do which is what makes them experts in a particular area.  But it can also blind them from everything else going on around them.

The HIT experts bang on the volume guys for wimping out on their sets as soon as discomfort sets in lieu of performing more sets.  The Volume Guys laugh at the HITters for spending more time talking about training than they do actually training.  Both point to studies done by people on their side of the aisle to substantiate their position.  Each misses the valid aspects of what the other does.  All agree that Crossfit is completely nuts.  And anyone professionally involved in fitness who is over the age of 70 can prove that none of this new shit is actually new, they were doing it in the 50’s.

Where the Fitness Experts Blow It

How the principles listed above are arranged—the measure of each ingredient—is determined by three other components; S.A.I.D. (specific adaptations to imposed demands), diminishing returns, and the mother of them all, the sole determinant of why or why not a program is suitable, individualism.  For any fitness expert to make blanket statements about theirs being a superior approach is naive and arrogant. It assumes that intensity, volume, load, and frequency exist in a vacuum and are uninfluenced by S.A.I.D., diminishing returns, and individualism, as well as other external factors.  They fail to recognize that the only superior approach is the one that’s most appropriate at that particular time for that particular individual because of his/her particular circumstance.

Exercise Principle Pimps

Most fitness experts mean well.  I sincerely believe that.  But well-meaning doesn’t excuse you from pimping out certain exercise principles to push YOUR preferred way of training.  We all have a “home base.”  But it doesn’t mean you cannot and should not explore things outside of that circle if it could mean better results for you or those you provide professional services to.

Though no one likes to think in broad terms that’s precisely what the best experts do.  They understand all the principles and how they interrelate, and how they should be adjusted according to an individual’s current physical and mental state. In society we have to abide by many laws not just the ones we prefer.  Exercise is no different.

Reppin’ Like a Moron

Everyone knows that repping out like a wide-eyed Crossfit zombie doing their body jerking pull ups (aka, kipping pull up) is the shortest path to soft tissue destruction currently available at $250 a month.   Honestly, I can easily find a few “made” guys from Long Island who would be more than willing to inflict just as much permanent joint damage at one-tenth the cost.  I get it though.  It’s a sport, right?  And it makes you feel special to “compete” with others who enjoy accelerating the physical age of their body.   It’s not much different from playing most sports.  Except, when you call it exercise.

The purpose of exercise is to strengthen the body, which is why the idiot in the corner of the gym who’s doing the seated version of body jerking pull-ups that he calls lat pulldowns, is missing the point also.  Same too for the chest bouncing bench presser and the other weight swingers.

The reason why this type of piss poor technique lands lifters on the operating slab is rooted in physics.  Remember that guy Newton?  He had some insightful stuff to say that’s applicable here.

The faster you lift a weight or the heavier the weight you’re attempting to lift, the more force your muscles must produce.  More force production is great, except…when it happens abruptly.   The more abruptly muscular force increase—as in the case of jerking, yanking, or popping a weight up—so too does the strain it places on the soft tissues and tendons.   Not for nothing but tearing or muscle or tendon is no badge of honor Meatball.

Lifting the weight is not the only time when potential for injury is high.  When the weight is lowered—or dropped back into the start position as my favorite Facebook Bodybuilding Superstars like to demonstrate—it increases in kinetic energy.  Attempting to slow or stop an object that is increasing its kinetic energy results in those dastardly high forces that can cause tissue damage.   This is why it’s so important to actually lower the weight under control and not simply “let go” during the negative.

Although it won’t impress any of my Facebook Bodybuilding Superstar friends, especially because it’s not a 400 lb. squat or 500 lb deadlift, here’s a quick clip of how I like to do it.

Resolutions Suck…Get the Shit Right this Time

New Year’s Resolutions Suck

If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight or improve your fitness let me save you the heartache and tell you right now, you’re going to fail.  How do I know?  Statistics.  Only 8% of people achieve their new year’s resolution and few of those that achieve it maintain it.  Now if you happen to be a part of the 8% chances are it’s because your resolution is more than a resolution, it’s an absolute must.

For the majority of people a resolution is a “should”.  They should lose weight, they should stop smoking, they should exercise, they should eat healthier, they should eat less.  You never get shit done when it’s a “should” because there is no urgency.  But when it’s a must, you act!

However have there ever been times when you knew you must do something and you still didn’t follow through?  Of course you have.  We’ve all had those moments.  Some of us have them multiple times a day.

The reason why this happens is because we don’t have a compelling enough reason to take action.  If the resulting pain (negative consequence) from inaction is not painful enough to get us moving or, the pleasure (perceived gratification) we get from the end result is not great enough, then we tend not to act or act with enough effort.

Trade in your resolution for a Vision

Forget making a resolution, create a vision.  Your ultimate vision.  To do this you just need to ask yourself some questions:  If you could achieve all your fitness goals what would be the outcome?  How would you look?  How would you feel? What would you think about yourself?  How would others see you?  What could you do?  What type of energy and health would you have?

Without vision, setting goals, taking action, and achieving them is nearly impossible.  But vision alone is still not enough.  In fact there are a lot of people who have vision but still don’t evolve.  They’re called “dreamers.”  And dreamers typically live in their parent’s basement while telling others all that they are going to achieve.  They have the vision but they’re missing the second critical ingredient, purpose.

Purpose Driven

Purpose is what drives us.  It’s the engine that moves us toward our vision while hitting all the milestones along the way that we call goals.  With enough purpose anything can be accomplished.  Have you ever achieved something that initially seemed out of reach but because your reason for achieving it was so compelling you found a way?  How many parents—in the face of hardship—have “found a way” to make sure their children have all that they need?  That level of purpose, of meaning, is what you need to find in order to realize your vision.

The questions you need to be asking yourself are: Why am I doing this?  What will it mean to achieve my vision?  How will it make me feel?  How will it affect my relationship; with my spouse/significant other, my children, my friends…myself?  How will my life be different?  What will happen if I don’t change?  What will my health and quality of look like if I don’t do something now?

Outcome with a deadline

Once you have established your vision and purpose now it’s time to start setting some goals—some outcomes with a deadline.  Work backwards from your vision.  What are all the things you’ll need to achieve to realize your vision?  If it at first it seems overwhelming don’t worry.  The next thing you’re going to do is to take those big outcomes and break them up into little 90 day outcomes (or quarterly goals).  Viewing things from these ninety day increments should make your ultimate goals appear more easily attainable.  If you need to take it a step further and break up your 90 day outcomes into weekly results.

You don’t need (nor want) a resolution, you just need a vision and your purpose for achieving it and you’ll be set up for success. 

Easy Way to Sell Six Figures of Personal Training

When I started my personal training business it was the classic case of “The Technician” going into business for himself (see Michael Gerber’s, The E-Myth).  My skill and ability had been proven time and time again, and clearly I have such a glowing personality that anyone would want to train with me (insert sarcasm).   But the first lesson I learned coming out of the starting gate was that it was up to me to put asses in the leg pressContrary to what I had been told, people don’t just show up because you have a certificate on the wall that says “Personal Trainer” and your own private studio—who knew.

As a business owner you wear nine different hats and carrying out about a hundred different tasks in the beginning—can I get an Amen from my business owner congregation out thereSystems become crucial to the health and longevity of the business.  Especially the systems you put in place to secure new clients.

For the past 6 years I’ve been using one very simple process to sell between $180-220K of personal training services each year and I know other studio owners using this process that are bringing in much more than this.  Here’s how it works.

  1. It all starts with a simple webform on my website to request additional information on the program and an offer for a FREE trial workout (I don’t like consultations because I believe in letting people try before they buy.  Putting them through a workout also helps qualify them as someone who will be a good fit for you.).
  2. Using INFUSIONSOFT I developed an automated email sequence spread over the course of eighteen days.  The initial email gives all the pertinent details of the program, highlighting how it will benefit them, what makes our approach different, what we stand for, and the type of people we are committed to helping (we have no desire to be everything to everyone, we know who our ideal client is and we are speaking to them only).   If you want a copy of the email sequence we send just click here.  Feel free to adapt it to your audience/ideal client and see if it doesn’t result in more people eager to test your services.
  3. The email sequences provide incentives for them to contact us to schedule their trial workout.  If several days pass from when they first contacted us we get a notification to call them and set up the appointment.
  4. If we don’t get them on the phone and they don’t call back they continue to receive email reminders about scheduling their trial workout and they receive some additional incentives.
  5. Once they are scheduled to come in we focus on delivering as much value as we possibly can.
  6. When they come in—just like I’m doing here—we give them all the details of what we do and how we do it.  We want them to know everything they can possibly comprehend about our approach and how it will work for them.
  7. We have about an 80% conversion rate when we get people through the trial workout.  I’d give you the details of our trial workout but it’s pretty much pointless unless you train how we do.  The takeaway is simply this; make it the most informative and productive time they have ever spent in a gym and don’t be afraid that they’re not going to sign up and do what you taught them on their own.
  8. Follow up!  Taking their payment and scheduling the next workout is only the start.  We move them to a “Welcome” sequence in INFUSIONSOFT that will run for the next 90 days, providing them with more encouragement, free gifts, tips, etc.

What makes this process so effective is the amount of detail and time put into each correspondence with the prospective client.  Everything is completely scripted and automated to ensure the quality of experience for each new lead is the same every time.   If you’d like a copy of our INFUSIONSOFT follow up sequence to use for your own fitness business you can get it here.

Leading the Fitness Movement

Who are you?  Are you a personal trainer?  A nutritionist? A fitness instructor? The owner of a fitness business?  A speaker? Consultant?  Writer? Educator?

You might be one of these thing or all of these things but in a market that has become saturated with health and fitness professionals of all sorts it’s more important than ever to distinguish yourself from everyone else.  Don’t X-out just yet this is not another “Find your USP” article I promise.

I’m not going to preach from a pedestal because I can’t.  I’m right there with you; living in relative obscurity—in the big scheme of things.  A guy just going about his business training and educating people on fitness (and hopefully entertaining them too) through multiple mediums and on multiple levels.  But training and educating is not enough.  At least not enough to get me out of bed at the ass crack of dawn in a positive mental state.

What gets me juiced (not in a needle in the butt kind of way) is seeing myself as a leader in a fitness movement.  One that has the potential to impact millions of lives.  When I think about the fact that only 26% of the population weight trains I’m like, “Shit!…There’s a lot of people out there who need some help finding their way!” and I’m just the overzealous, enthusiastic, encouraging, No BS, weight training aficionado to lead them down the path of kick-ass, result producing, time-effective workouts.

Most of us would agree that, that type of outlook and approach would dramatically affect how we operate day to day.  Being a personal trainer, nutritionist, fitness professional, etc. is great, but being a Fitness Leader has a reverberating impact. The only difference between a fitness professional and Fitness Leader is that leaders do what they do with a bigger vision and purpose in mind. (No greater example of a leader with tremendous vision and purpose exists than the recently deceased Nelson Mandela.)

Don’t just be, don’t just do…lead.  

4 Ways to Overload

Increase the weight, increase your reps (or time under tension) or increase both.  This has been the tried and true means to progressively overload ones muscles in the pursuit of greater strength and size since Cavemen were doing squats using a thick tree branch and boulders tied to the ends.  But as any advanced lifter will tell you, there comes a point where despite the 5, 10, 20+ lbs. increases in strength on a given exercise increases in lean muscle mass does not follow.

So what’s a lowly lifter who desperately wants to squeeze out every last bit of genetic potential to do?

Find new ways of creating overload!  New ways to disrupt homeostasis.  After all, the body is an extremely adaptive organism and if it can blunt muscle development for the reason that it increases metabolic demands then it will.

Here are four ways to break homeostasis’ strangle hold and create an overload environment to drive new muscle growth.

1. Increase Volume

I make this suggestion with hesitation.  The reason why is that most people overuse this variable to the point where their progress is stalled because of an inability to recover.  However for those that follow low to moderate volume training programs, doubling or even tripling the volume of one or many workouts can present new and usual demands.

2. Increase Frequency

As with volume I suggest this with a hint of hesitancy because so many are guilty of taking the “more is better” approach to exercise.  Over the long-run more is not better; this we know through the study of stress physiology (you can’t argue with real science Broscience guy).  However for a short-term increase in demands (1-4 weeks) there’s not a simpler way bombard the muscles than training them more frequently.

3. Change Rep/Exercise Performance

This is one method of increasing demands that doesn’t require you to shuffle around your schedule to account for more time or days in the gym, making it an extremely efficient way to up the demands.  The only limits are those of creativity and the willingness to check your ego at the door.  This is not about how much you can lift or the number of reps performed.  This is about disrupting neural patterns.

In ‘non-Exercise Science Nerd’ terms this means breaking the usual pattern of how your reps/exercises are performed.  This increases the metabolic demands of the exercise because the muscles must work harder to overcome a change in the skill.  Think of how much more difficult, exhausting and disrupting to the muscles it would be (in the short term) if a baseball pitcher who typically throws overhand was told to start throwing sidearm.

4. Do it all!

Let’s face it, if you’ve been training for over a decade and have “been there done that” then your body is very well in tune with nearly everything you throw at it.  Sure you still get tired, fatigued, your muscles get sore, but none of that is nothing new and certainly not enough to persuade the body to add more muscle.  At this stage sometimes the best the best thing you can do is to do it all.  Change things in a massive unexpected way.

Now comes the disclaimer.  This is not how to train all the time…that’s just stupid.  This is a planned part of an intelligently designed training program that allows for proper balance between exercise demands (stress) and recovery for long-term adherence.