Sunday, May 30, 2010

If I Let You Use The Equipment, You'll Realize You Don't Need Me

 I came across this interesting article 10 Things Your Personal Trainer Won't Tell You.

Most of the points talks about the business side and interpersonal relationship of the personal training business. Some of these are indeed true of not-so-ethical trainers.

However, what caught my interest the most was this:
5. "If I let you use the equipment, you'll realize you don't need me."
Does your trainer steer you away from the abs machine, making you do crunches with a medicine ball instead? Trainers are sometimes told not to spend too much time teaching clients how to use the big equipment for fear that once they get comfortable, they'll want to go it alone. That's why trainers might emphasize coordination exercises and rely on smaller props like stability balls, resistance tubing or bands, and balance tools, the three types of gear most frequently used by trainers. This type of "functional training" helps prep clients for popular recreational activities like tennis and skiing, as well as basic movements like bending down during household chores. But larger equipment also has its benefits; it can bring speedy results in strength-building and help keep weight off.
"The best trainers serve clients by helping them become independent exercisers," Cotton says. He suggests asking prospective trainers how they'll help you get there. A spokesperson for the National Exercise Trainers Association says it encourages trainers to prove to clients there's more to working out than using big machines, in part because of the benefits of functional training.
Though i agree with the conclusion to help people "become independent exercisers", but the heading and reasoning given in para 1 is really disturbing.

Overall i find this article is missing the point of the real nature of exercise instruction. A gross misunderstanding on the nature of motor learning.

The article seems to suggest that:

1) You can do machines or functional movements in exclusion of the other.

I won't go through all that debate of machines vs free weights.

The article seems to suggest that functional training is not needed. Of course the use of the specific functional training equipment is not needed. I mean before people invented these equipment, people are already functional. But the idea of functional training needs to be there. Do you mean you don't train to improve your functions? What are you training for then?

The article compares the benefits of functional training against the benefits of machine training as strength-building and weight loss. Well, this is comparing apples to oranges.

Does that mean that functional training cannot give you strength and weight loss? The functional training exercises cited by the article, namely coordination exercises (only), without a strength and/or conditioning component of course can't give you strength and weight loss. You get what you train for.

I believe the author is not informed of CST's concept of motor sophistication, whereby you can and do strength & conditioning with complex movement. If you are the author of the article, i urge you to check out CST.

I won't go further into what sophistication is as i have mentioned it many times.

2) And that a personal trainer is not needed to give instructions on any of their use and assumes that the client CAN and KNOWS what to do if he be "let" to use them on his own.

Whether the equipment in question is machines or functional training equipment is not the point. The point is clients need to be taught the proper way to exercise. Exercising, or general human movement in the larger context, is not something that anybody can do properly, due to the largely sedentary nature of modern urban life. People have just forgotten how to move properly. This is evidenced by the sheer number of sedentary related conditions and injuries.

Every activity is an integration of breathing, structure and movement. Within each, there are more points to cover than what the average personal trainer care to know. Most of these are not even taught in the typical personal trainer school.

Do you really think clients know what to do? I doubt so.

Note that we are not trying to make things seem more complicated that what things already are. But there are really deeper levels to what the average personal trainer education teaches. And these are important for real lasting fitness, health and performance.


A personal trainer is there to guide clients on exercises (and more). He is not a dispensable person. Just like there are professionals in all other disciplines, we are professionals when it comes to exercise and fitness.

Can you repair your own car without a mechanic or engineer, with proper training, tools and experience? Even if you can, can you do a better job than a professional?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

TACFIT Mass Assault Review

The Beginning

I was introduced into physical culture when i was in my teens. Starting with involvement my high school gymnastics team. I was a slow learner, maybe amongst the slowest in the team. The strength & conditioning given by the seniors in the team was too hard for me to keep up and it followed no proper system.

At some point in time i made the decision to take up bodybuilding to improve my sport. Naive you can say, but i had no other access to proper training literature or know of any at that time.

It was 1994-95.

So i made friends with dumbbells and barbells and proper body mechanics for the classic weight training lifts like the deadlift, squat and others.

Fast Forward a Few Years

Gone through many muscle mags and training literature from various sources. The exercises seem to revolve around the same few. The orthodox ones would recommend programs based on the big three of squat, deadlift and bench. Bodybuilders would add isolation movements like curls and extensions etc. The unorthodox (i mean pumpers, sculptors, toners et al.) would recommend mainly isolation movements with light color coded dumbbells and stability training on various unstable surfaces.

Then there was the functional training boom in the early 2000s with kettlebells, Crossfit etc. Learned of many "functional exercises" from the rehab world. A lot of which are being misused by "core stability" gurus to substitute for real heavy weight training. Still yet there are some coaches who showed me the place of these exercises in a proper SnC program.

But nobody, yes nobody, ever told me that there are other innovative ways to train with the dumbbell, until TACFIT Mass Assault (TFMA).
TACFIT Mass Assault requires only two dumbbells

TFMA contains new twists (literally) to traditional linear movements with the dumbbells plus other new movements you have never seen before.

This is not your typical squat, bench, deadlift program. Not even military press. There are six movements in the program designed to move your body in the 6 degrees of freedom.

Where conventional programs tell you to add weight and keep the movements the same, TFMA tells you to keep the weight the same, and increase the motor complexity of your movements. After reaching a certain level of difficulty, start over with a slightly heavier weight.

Why does this appeal to me? Simple because i am bored with the classic lifts of the hardcore weight training scene. Furthermore i am not the muscle type. I am a skinny ectomorph who thrive on bodyweight exercise and ballistic lifts and suck at grinding heavy weights.

Why You Should Buy This Program

1) You do not have to make investment in new equipment. Just one or two dumbbells will do. If you already train in a globogym, you don't need to migrate to a "hardcore" gym. You do not need very heavy dumbbells for this program, in fact, get ready to downgrade a couple of kilos lighter when you start.

2) You want to train for mass gain? A lot of people do. But a lot do not know the protocol to use i.e. reps, sets, exercises. This is a mass gain program. No more guessing. Just follow the program to the letter.

3) As what you would expect from CST, this is another program that gives you a sneak peak into CST's rabbit hole. Joint mobility warm up and cooldown are also included in the program to ensure your progress. I won't go any further on this point. The quality is top notch, just like all other CST  products.

4) You would get show and go muscle. While classic weight training movements are designed for the weight room. TACFIT is designed for the tactical responder. Only movements that enhance a tactical operator's movement skills are included. There is no need to make yourself muscle bound.

5) Lastly it was free. Where can you get such a quality product for free? I would pay the full price of a DVD to get it but it was made available for free. What more can you ask for. It was bundled with another product from another coach but if you don't like that product you don't have to use it. It was cheap anyway.

- Edit -

6) There are two complete programs (with warm ups and cool downs) included as bonuses: Drift and Accelerator. One uses bodyweight only, the other is optimized for medicine ball. These bonuses are BIG. These bonuses extend the lifespan of the full package to 4 months or more of solid muscle building program. Each bonus alone can cost the full price of the original Mass Assault.

Click on this pic to purchase TACFIT Mass Assault:

2nd Review of TACFIT Commando

So i have just completed Recruit Mission 1.

However i was not content just doing bodyweight only. Hence i added some extra weight onto my bodyweight to make the exercises harder and more realistic. In the military, we all dreaded walking with our combat gear on, even if it is just Skeletal Battle Order (boots + vest  + helmet). Just a few kilos of additional weight makes moving that much more difficult than in PT attire. I am determined to make myself feel comfortable moving with combat load.

So this is what i did:
Cycle 1: PT attire
Cycle 2: PT attire
Cycle 3: PT attire
Cycle 4: Boots
Cycle 5: Boots
Cycle 6: Boots + (vest with 4kg of water)
Cycle 7: Boots + (vest with 4kg of water) + hat*

*At first i wanted to use my helmet for Cycle 7 but my chin strap is the old version which is not the most secure, so i'll give it a miss this time. Would get the new chin strap next time and do with the helmet.

Cycle 1-3

Easy and simple. Light as per usual. Nothing to report, really.

Cycle 4-5

Immediate jump in difficulty. Number of reps per exercise immediately reduced by 1-2.

Didn't feel much added resistance when walking in boots, but doing complex movements like the Sit Thru Knee was much harder. Not only did the boots restricts the feet and ankle mobility, but they also add extra mass at the end of the limbs, much like a weighted club.

Cycle 6-7

Another immediate jump in difficulty and reduction in reps by 1-2.

The Vest is the killer. With 4kg of water sloshing around, stability requirement for each exercise is increased. For the first time in my life, Sit Thru Knee and Tripod Overhead gave me significant fatigue in the arms and legs, especially arms.

Push Ups were a different animal with the Vest compared to without. With loaded magazine pockets at the side of the waist, i can't pinch my ribs with my elbows as effectively as before.

If you are planning to wear a vest in your training like me, please wear a long sleeved shirt. I learned it the hard way when i had abrasions on my arms from rubbing the elbows against the Vest.


I now have a better appreciation of the difficulty of moving with combat load. I wonder why they did not train us like this when we were in the military. PT was always in PT attire. No wonder we felt so sluggish in combat load as we have never trained with it.

Looking forward to my next reservist with renewed interest.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Why Do You Need to Lower the Heart Rate?

I was asked this question in a FlowfitⓇ class i conducted recently at a local organization.

Now, let's just assume that you are just an average trainee who exercise regularly but are not hardcore (which most people are). And you know that the goal in (fat loss) exercise is to increase the heart rate. So it would seem counterintuitive to try to lower the heart rate between rounds through Recovery Breathing and the techniques associated with it.

Why decrease the heart rate between rounds when the goal of each round is to raise the heart rate as much as you can?

Actually the goal of each round is not exactly to raise the heart rate as much as you can, but to do as much work as you can;
i) with as high skill as you can and
ii) with as little distress as possible.

Let's compare two people, doing the same task, say walking at 6km/h for 10 minutes. At the end of the task, person A has a heart rate of 80 bpm, person B has a heart rate of 90 bpm. Which person is "fitter"?

Assuming both start at the same heart rate, the answer is obviously A.

Take note that fine motor skills degrade as heart rate raises. At Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) the degradation of skills can be so severe that you would not be able to access any of your trained skills at all.

Let's say you are involved in a particular sport (or a fight), because of the adrenaline released, your heart rate increases. If the heart rate raises so high that you can't access your skills, then you are dead. I have never been in a real fight before, but those of you who have can attest to this.

The person who can keep his heart rate lower while maintaining the accessibility to his skills is a better athlete.

So now there are two goals you are training for:
1) To keep heart rate as low as possible while maintaining a high rate of work.
2) To maintain the accessibility of your skills while your heart rate is high.

For goal 1), this is done by conditioning, to improve work capacity. Many systems out there excel in this.  As your body gets accustomed to increasing work capacity, there is less distress every time you go through the same work output.

Say you did a Moderate Intensity workout today. You do a High Intensity workout tomorrow, you should be able to do more work tomorrow than today.

For goal 2), this is done by increasing the motor complexity (called sophistication in CST), while maintaining a high Effort (RPE) level.

So instead of just increasing work capacity for the same movements over and over, we seek to increase the motor complexity while maintaining the same work capacity.

Anybody maintain a high Effort level, pedalling wildly on a stationary cycle is an example.

But not everybody can maintain high skills in a high Effort level, like pedalling wildly on a racing bike, being chased by a pack of guard dogs, weaving through rush hour traffic, on a road full of pot holes.

Numerically speaking, Technique (RPT) decreases as Effort (RPE) and Discomfort (RPD) increases.

That is why when you are practicing* a certain movement, it feels easy until you start to do reps. At some work output level, your technique would degrade and the movement would feel difficult.

How to improve your ability to perform complex movements in a high stress situation? The general rule is to only increase the sophistication in when you maintain:
i) Technique at 8 or higher,
ii) Discomfort at 3 or below,
iii) Effort drops to 6 and below.
These three criteria must be met before increasing the sophistication in your training**.

How to increase sophistication? That's a topic that i would cover next time. For now, just compare the different levels in FlowfitⓇ to have an idea.

Stay tuned.

*Practice is defined as technique work aimed to increase proficiency of certain skills.
**Training is defined as strength & conditioning work to increase strength, endurance, cardiovascular endurance or any combination of these.