Category Archives: coaching

Le Code de la Force: The Strength Code

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Georges Hébert’s “Code de la Force” book was published in France by Vuibert in 1914.

In its foreword, the author wrote:

The purpose of this book is to define the question of physical strength, by precisely defining the elements that comprise it and to give it a practical means of measuring it.

Because of the lack of works where notions relative to strength are codified [at the time of his writing], errors and preconceived notions of all kinds were plentiful on this topic. Thus, many people believe that large biceps constitute a criteria for strength; others solely consider strong individuals that are capable of lifting heavy weights; others finally habitually apply the qualifier of “solid bloke” to anyone tall and big. However, it so happens many times that the individual with large biceps shows inferiority when it comes to running or simply quickly climbing a slightly steep hill, that the weight lifter is unable to jump over any obstacle, that the solid bloke cannot follow an individual of ordinary ability in a long walk, a hike, a hunting game etc. 

He later writes:

On the other hand, no method concretely defines the outcome of physical education or training, meaning the goals to achieve. The result is trainees and coaches having no clue what to do. One not only trains without ardor or enjoyment when training without a goal, but one wastes time inevitably by repeating certain exercises without benefit. This is why I believed indispensable the need to establish exactly what the “training load” of the trained or educated individual ought to be.

One of my favorite parts of this foreword is that Hébert recognizes the need for experimentation, course correction and adjustment, his work being far from definitive. Philosophically speaking, isn’t it the first step to acknowledge what one’s limitations are in order to improve upon them?

The Natural Method: How Hébert Programs Training

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Most training programs are designed with short-term goals, like infamous 90-day programs to get “insanely” ripped. Then what? I find that outside of hypertrophy goals (muscle gain) or people focused on strength training goals like power lifting, there isn’t much consistency or “longevity” built into training programs. Indeed, the most popular training goal is weight loss, and it tends to be patchwork of high intensity drills. Yes, they get you moving, sweating, burning, but most of the time, people wind up too sore to move, beat down, tired, quit too soon or worse, revert to their original “shape” because 90 days isn’t long enough to bring your body to a permanent “good shape” if the “bad shape” was established over a period of years, if not decades.

And for those who exercise diligently and still do not improve, be it at least skill set, abilities or esthetics/looks, you may want to revisit your path to your goal, or troubleshoot life outside the workout itself.

I routinely have noticed that martial arts practitioners tend to do best at learning, being disciplined and moving, and that’s because they are part of a system, regardless of the style chosen. You work on a drill, movement or exercise for a while before moving on to the next, after not necessarily having mastery over it, but a clearer understanding. Example: if you work on the pull-up, practice hanging and only retracting your shoulder blades daily for a week (scapular retraction). The following week, work with a band to assist you in going full range of motion. The week after, work on negatives (lowering yourself unassisted and with control). And yet another week after, try partial pull-ups unassisted, and so on.

Outside of movement fundamentals to prepare and prime the body for training, through warm-up, mobility and corrective exercise (which also develops as fundamental, basic educational exercises), the “meat” of a training session according to Hébert is broken up into several categories. If you hit ONE skill/drill/exercise per category, and you do that for a week, you get to progress gradually. Then, the following week, you either add a new one or continue an exercise (add if easy, repeat if more challenging). So, week 2 would have you either recap all the previous week’s exercises PLUS add one, or add one only in some categories on top of the previous, and repeat some of the previous week’s.

The difference between that and those “get ripped quick” schemes (which only rip you off your money) is that you don’t do too much too soon. It’s a more realistic, gradual and long term approach, where you feel satisfaction from knowing you’re doing things better, and keeps the boredom away. Kinda like Christmas (where you get all your gifts at once and are on overload) versus Hanukkah, where you get one daily for 8 days. I’m not Jewish, by the way, but I think getting something daily is a good way to appreciate things.

So, here’s a teaser of the upcoming programming book and example of how to design the weekly plan:

1 skill per week per category for 12-16 weeks, which gives you a full workout, all-around athleticism, and proper skill development. 
Fighting: cross punch.
Lifting: two-handed shoulder press.
Throwing: single-arm light object swing throw.
– rope: using hands and feet.
– bar: pull-up.
Photo from The Natural Method: Fundamental Exercises (Book 2) translate by Philippe Til
– obstacle (beam, scaffold, etc.): straight arm support to seated position.
– Jumping: high and/or broad jump, no momentum.
– Sprint: 30 meters, try to improve the time daily.
2nd week: (same order of categories)
– add front kick.
– jerk
– extension throw
– repeat last week’s (harder one, so needs more time)
– etc, etc…


YEARLY PROGRAMMING according to the Natural Method

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A general program can be established monthly, quarterly or annually.
It is simpler to establish it annually, by choosing an academic (school) year, which allows a practical spreading of the training, which aligns itself perfectly with the conditions and requirements of social life.

From a training standpoint, the year is broken up into three periods of 4 months each:
1) A preparatory period (October, November, December, January) having for main goals:
a. The general development of the body.
b. The gradual training of the organism to produce an increasing amount of work.
c. The detailed study or the perfecting of the execution of various exercises (skill development).

2) An intermediary period (February, March, April, May) having as main goals:
a. Seeking out more difficult training conditions than during the preparatory period.
b. Attempting more difficult exercises.
c. Acquisition of practical results and achievement of respectable performance.

3) A final period (June, July, August, September) with main goals being:
a. Practical application of acquired qualities of the two preceding periods.
b. More specific development of agility and virile qualities through games and sports of all kinds.
c. Study and special practice of swimming exercises during the warm season.

Are you a good client?

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Or, more broadly speaking, are you a good student, disciple, pupil or any variation of the term? For someone who is only concerned with making a living out of providing a service, a good client can be summed up as someone who pays and stays. For someone truly invested in the work of others, clients results which leads to progress in all other areas of fitness and life, I believe that being a good student oneself leads to being a better coach. The relationship continues beyond the fiduciary aspect of the training.

I always like to stress that I provide clients with a service, but I am not at their service. This has nothing to do with power, rather commitment and accountability. I like to think of it in the following terms: my clients borrow my knowledge, catch a glimpse of the “members only” club, for an hour or so. That still doesn’t answer the question, however, just makes me look mean (but it’s for your own good. I set standards and expectations from clients and myself very high).
To paraphrase something I heard recently at a workshop for fighters, the defensive tactics teacher said the following at the beginning of the workshop: “a good student is like a dog; even when sleeping, ears are always up, alert and listening. A good student is like a hawk; always scanning, watching, observing and quickly grabbing what it’s after. A good student is like a stork; waiting patiently, sometimes on one leg, sometimes on the other, until it finds what it’s looking for. A good student should also be hungry, to avoid desire” (interpret the last one however you wish).

These two attributes are necessary and intrinsic aspects of learning and progressing. One may choose to get a book, DVD or watch a Youtube video. Inevitably, unless you record yourself on video, play it back and correct your form assuming you actually do that and possess the skills to rectify and understand what you did wrong, you will miss something, create an imbalance, miss an important point. That falls under the category of experience, which is essentially doing and you will NOT achieve your goals without it. Knowledge, however, you have to acquire from someone else, in person, directly because that person, that coach/trainer/teacher can find, tweak and improve what it is you need to accomplish, regardless of what it is you are learning.

I’d like to think that I’ve always been a good student. Attentive, disciplined, hard working. I constantly seek knowledge and am humble to recognize what I do not know. Sometimes, the humility comes from an ego-crushing injury, where you find yourself unable to perform at the level you targeted. This in turn becomes an opportunity to fine-tune your work.

I’ve been a martial arts veteran of 24 years in a variety of styles and hold 2 black belts. Yet, I recently learned of ways to refine my kicks, punches. I acquired the knowledge from 2 very learned people, and gained the experience by practicing. Some techniques did little, others did a whole lot! Not because some were better than other, but simply because I am an individual with my individual abilities and weaknesses. Recognizing that is what makes the work of a coach personal, in your training, in your relationship with your trainer and that cannot be acquired in a book or magazine.

Effective Communication

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“Humpty dumpty sat on a wall…”, skip to “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again”.

First, those must be some awesome and dexterous horses, trying to piece together a busted egg-shell.

Second, the road to success is paved with good intentions, but the map may be off, or the directions, or you can find construction on the road which forces a detour.

As always, I draw these conclusions from both training and non-training experiences. Today’s entry comes from both based on yesterday with family in town and clients having specific needs. Too much to tell in a blog, too little time, so I’ll cut to the chase.

I can be anal, specific, detail oriented even if I appear flexible. I’m flexible with the approach, and if I can get you from A to B, how I get there doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get there. And each step is clearly defined, every factor taken into consideration.

A change of plan, condition, mood, medication, shoes, meal or any other variable can single-handedly offset your course, like a snowball rolling down the hill, or dominoes. If you’re dealing with someone who is invested in you, trust them with empowering them with that knowledge. Being a professional means you know how to adapt and be discreet, factor in and deliver a better approach for the given situation.

Sometimes, people just wanna work out…

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We don’t always know what’s best for everyone.

A great pitfall for a trainer is to confuse what clients want and what clients need. When you’re just fresh off your cert’, ACE, NASM, ACSM, AFAA or any other nationally recognized brand, and your level of experience is low (in terms of paid client hours worked), it takes little more to a training session than just direct traffic from big body parts to smaller ones, tell folks “do your cardio”, all following a basic bodybuilding routine, whether the clients wants to gain mass, lose fat or “tone up”. I mean really, it’s all a variation of the same song and dance.

If you’re in it for the long haul, you start to become more knowledgeable, curious, educated and will invest a lot of time and money, which you recoup with greater results and client retention. And then, it happens…

The aforementioned type of trainer, blissfully following a routine from a fitness mag, certified with just the basics and the knowledge of their own body and Myosplash or CreabombX super supps they ingest, will likely not correct your form, “stack fitness on top of dysfunction” (Gray Cook) and make you feel “hurter”, which in the language of the neophyte means “wow, this really works!”. To me, that one millimeter of imbalance is what makes the tower crumble later down the line. More often than not, I end up being the one to correct some other person’s work. I know tattoo artists don’t finish someone else’s tattoo, but I need to eat and if I can make your life better by moving better, I will.

The trainer who invests into more education, training, research etc, will shine by comparison. It should be apparent at the first session already, with a good assessment of movement, abilities, form etc, as well as a progress map outlined for the client to follow. That type of trainer will justify your investment in the long haul.

Sometimes, trainers who know a lot become almost too rigid in their approach, by going into what Pavel calls “Paralysis by analysis”, wherein too much knowledge stops one from doing work and always be correcting. In other areas, this is a form of perfectionism which also leads to procrastination and lack of progress, like rewriting the first sentence of your Pulitzer prize winning article, thus never completing it.

Sometimes, the client just wants to work out. So, sometimes, you let them. Yeah, you make sure there’s nothing wrong in the execution, allow the muscles to feel the pump, let them enjoy their process. You’re still getting them fitter and better, even if it strays from your adamantium-clad program design. The same goes for music. Sometimes, you need to sit down and listen to a piece, dissect it, appreciate its nuances and theme variations. Sometimes, you just need muzac in the background. Doesn’t make you a bad person. Makes you flexible and human.

The Artistry Of Training

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Everyone of my blood relatives is an artist of sorts and makes a living at it. My father is a musician, my mother paints, as does my grandmother, my younger brother does graphic work and music and my youngest brother directs music videos and is a visual effects director on movies and such. I used to joke around that the only arts I practice are “martial”. While that may be true, not until I starting reading LINCHPIN by Seth Godin did I realize I was a little off on that comment 🙂

Having been recently unceremoniously terminated from a corporate training facility who shall not remain nameless, Gold’s Gym Venice, for the unscrupulous bullshit reason of violation of their terms of employment, where a part-timer like myself is apparently not allowed to make a living in their chosen profession with private “non-Mecca” clients, I realized this was a really good thing (the getting fired thing).
Corporations are built to amass a fortune at the expense of others. If it can be standardized, put in a manual, outsourced, exploited and replaced easily, it will be the way. Gold’s in Venice has a slew of independent trainers that were grandfathered in when the Mecca went corporate, and only a dozen staff trainers. The staff trainers have a huge cut taken out of their pay, which makes them all unhappy and eager to train outside or leave. Such is the business model for corporations: high turnover so you don’t need to give raises or incentives, milk people for as much as possible and get rid of people like me who actually have a business mind and realize they don’t need to be there. With such a model, there is little difference between a mediocre and a great trainer. The great trainer only yields a slightly bigger profit, but if they’re anything like myself, voicing your opinion and knowing what’s out there, outside of the gym, it creates conflict. A mediocre employee by comparison will abide like a beaten dog and if no longer useful, will get terminated.
In my case, if they’d let me march by the beat of my drum, they could have continued to profit. But I would then be dying inside and the flame that fuels my passion for my work would soon extinguish.

Pavel Tsatsouline uses the expression “paralysis by analysis”, whereby people who rely solely on their academic knowledge, test-tube vacuum mentality miss the big “human” picture and become cogs in a mechanism themselves. While I recognize the importance of education, knowledge and experience, the artistry involved in creating and developing a program that’s suitable for the client’s needs and wants is intrinsic to a good trainer. There are many ways to skin a cat. There are many ways to burn fat, put on muscle, sim down, improve time for a race. Not everything is cookie-cutter. Not every disease is treated the same by a doctor. A good doctor recognizes and acknowledges many factors and variables. There is an art to that. Same with the software engineer who will design an interface that’s pleasant and gets the job done. When you become an artist, as Seth Godin often mentions (and I paraphrase), you become indispensable, unique. Sure, a client can find another trainer, but it will not be a trainer like you. Go to Equinox and you can switch trainers any time because they force clients and trainers into a set design. Put it in a manual, abide and comply and voilà. Do yourself a favor: if that’s what you want, save some cash and buy a fitness magazine instead.

I am going to end this blog with a “status update” I posted on Facebook recently, because it sums up what I am talking about:
A great trainer doesn’t just spew knowledge and science and rehash it. It takes a certain artistry to put together, cue and build that is not taught academically. It’s a balance of knowledge, education and unquenchable thirst for self-improvement that relays the passion coaches have for what they do. It IS art.

In the meantime, get the book I am referring to here. Easy read, great motivation. I’ll keep you posted of what it inspired me to do, redoubling my fire to expand my passion into other areas and share my knowledge and philosophy!

Another “WOW” factor and “aha” moment from the best!

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Yesterday, I had the immense pleasure and honor to spend 75 minutes stretching with the amazing Pavel Tsatsouline.

I was starting to feel a little tight, my sympathetic system going into overload. Training hard, though never to failure, training smart and marking milestones with bad-ass races or other PR goals achieved succesfully are especially gratifying when you achieve them when you’re not 100%. Who is ever at 100% anyway, right?

The Warrior Diet provided me with tremendous energy and stimulation of the autonomous nervous system and the fight or flight syndrome kicked hormones into full gear to my advantage. But one must come down from that cloud, especially when you lack sleep consistently (cue feeding cries/requests from our beautiful baby boy…).

I had the mobility, the range of motion, but somehow, my muscles felt hard, too hard, always ready. Some people like that look, but yeah, that’s not so good for you ultimately. Enter Pavel and a conversation we had over coffee and he offered for us to meet to address these issues.

So yesterday, we met in the “secret” studio at Gold’s Gym Venice and off we go into stretching land.

OMFG!!! I understood SOO much better some of what I read in his books, and going in-depth into the stretching process, I was able to do things I haven’t done in aeons, like practically fold myself in half, increase my splits and lengthen my spine, calves, hammies by measurable inches!! I felt elated afterwards. Call me sick, but it’s like that feeling you get after some bedroom activities: rested but tired, worked out but energized. There was a definite release and management of my hormones that was much needed. I was sleepy for the rest of the day, and that alone eliminated extra toxins that a clean diet, an infra-red sauna session and a massage (that felt more like a punishment, btw) combined couldn’t release!

What I understood (I knew it, and like anyone, didn’t always apply it):
-Wait out the tension. It may not feel good as you do it, but picture the cross-bridging and the fibers slowly moving and lengthening. Soon enough the pain goes away. Breathe passively, let go and find yourself going deeper into the stretch.
-Settle into the stretch: wiggle your butt, legs, torso, rolling a bit. It buys you a few millimeters and actually loosens you up.
-Visualize pulling your limbs out of their sockets, lengthen your spine “up and over” (your knees for instance), pull your head from its crown.
-Breathe: into the tight area, and exhale out of that area. Seriously! Try it. Sounds weird but works!
-Zip up your muscles, tense them up, hold till it shakes a bit and passively release.
-Do not confuse range of motion with flexibility. They are 2 separate things, even if they work great together!

And the last thing I understood, endorse, practice and wholeheartedly recommend:
-Get a coach!

I am a coach, spend thousands of hours and dollars to learn, apply and pass on what I know and STILL continue to learn and get coached! Why? Because you are not always the best judge of your own abilities and we ALL need accountability! Be humble, save up and hire a coach. If you can’t quite afford, it’s even MORE of a reason because you KNOW you will make sure you apply what you invest. Everything you want is outside of your comfort zone. EVERYTHING!

Primalcon Video

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The link for the video below shows highlights of my instructing fellow “Primal Movers” on the art of natural movement patterns, reverse engineering your drills, all in beautiful, sunny Ventura, CA, this past April, at the inaugural Primalcon, an event organized by Mark Sission from Mark’s Daily Apple. Check out his site for great tips on healthy eating, picking the right supplements and a general sharing of philosophy on being healthy humans 🙂

Philippe at Primalcon

Program your success like a computer

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The brain is the largest organ for perception, and the main one because it also contains the subconscious and the conscious. Change your perception, you can change the way you value something, for instance how you view your fitness progress or how you value investing in a training program with, say ME 🙂

Neurolinguistic programming patterns are nothing new. Advertisers, teachers, hypnotists, motivational speakers, sales people us some form of it to help you perceive value in a product you want, but may object to get out of fear (am I going to get my money’s worth?)

The concept of psycho-cybernetics is clearly illustrated in the video below. Watch it and map out your success. Don’t watch it and you’re faced with the poor choice to stay in the hole and not crawl out, or you can decide to spend 10 minutes of your time for something worthy, rather than a Facebook update, or chain spam email. I’ve even filtered the most important part for you, as this is a 4-part series, which you can choose to watch at your leisure later. This one has got what you need, as do I!

Invest in yourself, your health.

I’m even going to offer you something I’ve never offered before: a MONEY BACK guarantee.
Seriously, folks you have nothing to lose. If you follow my program, you will get results and your investment is backed by a guarantee even the Federal Government cannot offer!

If you landed on this post because of my email newsletter, you understand already quite well what’s at stake.

I hope to hear from you sooner than later!