Category Archives: training log

Latest peek at photos from the upcoming book

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Because pictures tell a better story.

Many thanks (chronologically based on photography sessions) to Nick Bustos, Patrick Hartsell, Melody Schoenfeld, James Neidlinger, Ron Jones and Jennifer Winkelman for making yourselves available amidst all of your activities and busy lives to be part of this fitness project, shot by Antje Anders.

I also want to thank Throwdown and XFit Brands David Vautrin and Ted Joiner for lending us their facility and equipment!

Here is a sampler of jumping, lifting, throwing, climbing, fighting as well as some fundamental/basic educational exercises from the upcoming book based on Georges Hébert’s training program design.


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WEEKLY PROGRAMMING according to the Natural Method

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Weekly programming consists of 6 daily sessions of roughly an hour, each divided into one or several takes.
The first 5 sessions are identical to the model described in the DAILY PROGRAMMING chapter.
The 6th session is more specifically reserved for long distance runs, games, sports and manual labor of all kinds.

Example of weekly programming:

Monday: hour-long complete session in 2 takes:
1st take: fundamentals.
2nd take: functional training.

Tuesday through Friday: same.

Saturday: Long distance run. Games, sports, manual labor.

Sunday: rest

Paperbacks of The Natural Method are here!

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Since many have been asking, and the intention was always there, the paperback versions of the various sections that comprise Georges Hébert’s Natural Method, from his Practical Guide To Physical Education, are finally available.

You may click on the titles or the covers to be taken directly to Amazon to make your purchase. If you are an international reader, just look for them in your local Amazon pages, by book title or searching for my name, Philippe Til.

Book 1: The Natural Method.

cover book 1

This is the “exposé” of the method, its origins, layout, how to conduct a model session and what it comprises. Also has scorecards, progress tracking sheets and evaluation processes.





Book 2: Fundamental Exercises.


Arm, leg, trunk, supported, suspended, hopping, balance, breathing and equipment assisted exercises to prime the body for function.





Book 3: Functional Exercises.


While the term “functional” is rapidly losing popularity, primarily out of misuse and/or overuse, exercises that involve walking, running, climbing, swimming, throwing, lifting, fighting, jumping are exactly what “functional” should be, or as Hébert would classify them: indispensable utilitarian, meaning you have to be able to do them in order to be strong to be useful, whether it is for yourself, your community or your country.



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.

Take it easy, my friends…

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Words one rarely hears from your average trainer, right? Usually it’s go!go!go! and push!push!push!

And sometimes, that yields diminishing returns. Sh*t, I myself pushed so hard recently, I reach a short term goal successfully at the expense of another goal. One was a professional goal out of necessity, the other a personal one. When you chase 2 goals, sometimes, you’re lucky if you get one. I was lucky I reached the pro goal at least, the necessary one. Both in fitness, btw.

So, I’ve decided to scale everything back. Follow my own program, not one I got from another brilliant and successful coach in my own training community. Not to say you shouldn’t get a program from someone else (I do that daily for others), but as in all programs designed in a book for numbers (as in numbers of readers/buyers) you CANNOT personalize. Sometimes, I like to experiment with other’s work, sometimes I design my own for myself as I do for others. And I find the latter works much, much better for me (not because I am better, but because I have applied the knowledge others instilled in me and chose the best possible aspects of it to my needs and physiology at the present moment, which is the point of education).

Another person’s design may not suit your reality. Life happens, and you may have the discipline to follow through the steps as prescribed, but sometimes, you simply ought not to, because you wind up further away. Yes, I agree sometimes that a bad workout is better than no workout, as another great trainer FB friend of mine and RKC posted in her blog, but (and I pointed that out to a client recently), sometimes you need more rest, more food in you or any variable that your program factors in and life factored out that day. Say you dropped a couple of pounds from lack of sleep and lack of food, whatever the reason (baby schedule off in my case), should you push for an all-out workout that morning, when you’re neurologically weak and it’s your heavy day? Answer #1 can be Yes, you might learn something. I learned once like that that if I dropped a pound or two, didn’t sleep enough, I shouldn’t progress in the session as planned (I log all variables and all screw-ups as well as successes which helps me isolate the missing element). Don’t wanna teach myself and my body a bad habit and break the groove. So answer #2 is No, for me at least and really, sometimes you too.

If you miss the train, there’ll be another one. If you fall off the train, well, you know what happens…

So, I am resetting, going back to the basics, going light. Call me a wuss if you want. I dare YOU to take it easy and go light and be man/woman enough to own it! Reset your neural pathways and go strong in a little bit again!

Navigating the seas of strength.

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It is by knowledge and experience that I navigate the oft tumultuous seas of fitness.

Defeating physical pain, conquering mental anguish and surmounting performance plateaus, I pilot the only vessel I’ll ever carry from the pre-dawn of my life till the lights go out at dusk.
I seek uncharted biological territories, but heed the warnings of captains before me. I’ve sailed the planet through peaks, valleys and oceans, successfully challenged monsters and battled with wits and brawn at my side. Some beasts I haven’t tamed, others are emblazoned on my crest.
“Be water, my friend”. Sometimes, I resist its currents and fight its tempestuous nature, other times I let it guide me through its channels to where I ought to be.
With the realization that it is sometimes beyond me, survival comes from accepting its beauty. You can depart from any port, circumnavigate the globe and find yourself in the very place you left physically, but have you embraced the journey?
You can Powerlift, Oly lift, body lift.
You can machine press, dumbbell press, barbell press, kettlebell press.
Upright row, seated row, bent-0ver row, renegade row.
Pull-up or pull-down.
Bench press or push press.
Relax to the point of tension.
Slow grind or fast & loose.
Clash with Titans or defeat Goliath, for sometimes, a well aimed little metaphoric pebble can take you down for the count. Even the greatest warrior Achilles had a weakness.
Search your golden fleece, find your golden goose. Your journey awaits you, but you must prepare for it.
Embark with me, join the ranks.
Soon, the Actionaut will leave these banks!

Theory and Practice: a philosophical essay on progress.


I just read a good quote that an RKC comrade uses as his signature: In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

In theory, if you gradually add a couple of pounds every week to your bench press, you should be able to press a thousand pounds over time. In practice, it doesn’t happen…
In theory, trapping an opponent’s right cross, breaking his right elbow and then twisting his right wrist into a half nelson works. In practice, it’s a lot more challenging (or in a real fight, that is, as you can practice the sequence successfully).
Should we throw out theory? Absolutely not. Theory is the foundation of philosophy, be it of the mind or of the body. Experimenting, applying the theory, which stems from a hypothesis, validates the theory, at least until proven wrong.
All things work till they don’t work anymore. The question is, why don’t they work anymore?
If you follow a certain diet and it’s working for you, then you stop losing fat or gaining muscle, whatever your goal, is the theory behind no longer valid? Has your body reached homeostasis?
Is it a matter of entropy? “An object in an unnatural state always returns to its natural state”?
The jury’s still out on this one (by jury, I mean my brain). I believe it is the change in acute variables. You may be following a strict powerlifting routine to bench press, but maybe you’ve changed the time of day for your training (the body actually likes routine, one theory implies, and you need to wave your loads in a micro, meso or macro cycle rather than “shock your muscles”, which confuses them and results in them underperforming). Or you’re sleeping pattern changed. Maybe your diet is not supporting your body’s increased caloric demand.
Unless you can isolate any given factor, or acute variable, as the culprit for your lack of continued progress (or plateau), you cannot claim with certainty that the system you’ve been using no longer works, that the theory is obsolete because it no longer works in practice.
This transitions my thought to another point: too much of your training regimen is left to chance.
Unless you categorically and systematically log your training and your nutritional intake, you are unable to analyze what needs to be modified in your training to break through your plateau. You may very well follow a certain protocol without changing its theoretical approach, because it will yield results in practice, without worrying about periodizing. For instance, I train heavy on Monday, light on Wednesday, moderate on Friday, with a couple of optional “variety” days. The drills are the same on MFW, the weight is the same but the volume differs (less reps, or sets) and I increase the load every 5-6 weeks. However, on any given day, my balance may be off. My stress level makes me less focused or I may be at 100% and perform like a champ. I log everything, every detail, observation, technique modification. I leave nothing to chance.
So, empirical evidence doesn’t disprove a theory. It may very well reinforce it if you are able to identify and isolate any given factor. A mishmash of factors creates confusion and you cannot state with certainty that this or that prevented you from reaching your goal. Address one thing, and one thing only, and see how it affects your training by keeping everything else the same. If that didn’t solve it, address a different variable.
In theory, it should work 🙂