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10 Things your Personal Trainer Should tell you but Probably Won`t

I am a personal trainer and as a personal trainer I like to train people. It’s good for their health. And it’s good for my mortgage. I love the fact that I am involved in a business with which I can affect a persons life for the better! It is my passion.

I have issues that center around the fact that the entire health industry is more interested in making money then affecting health.  This industry has been built upon various assumptions that recently have been challenged and leaves most health care practitioners having to redefine their place as teachers. The Canada food guide, backwards approach to calorie intake, misunderstanding of the effects of exercise and poor implementation thereof are just a few examples of a lost industry.

But there is some new knowledge. Studies and approaches that may hold the key to unlocking everyones ability to improve. It is a revolution in diet and exercise. The standard classical approach of more movement and less eating, while still taught by certifying bodies, has become antiquated. Many of the principles held by personal trainers, such as stability ball or board work, core stabilisation and aerobic training for fat loss just don’t work. They never have. However, now new research and thought processes are coming around. We now have a better idea about muscle activation in exercise. There is great new research into energy systems and just what is happening in a muscular contraction.

There is always going to be disagreement as to the best way to implement this new knowledge. There is always going to be people who hang on to the past. The wheels of progress turn slowly. What is cutting edge research today, often will not find it’s way into gyms and training studios for five or more years.

Here’s some stuff I’m learning about now. I find it fairly awesome.


1- Fat loss is 90% diet, stress reduction and detoxification

I’ll state this in the spirit of truth and at the risk of talking myself out of a sale: You don’t have to work out to lose fat and be healthy. Working out helps(I’ll get into why in #2), but far more important to stop eating the foods and absorbing the chemicals that contribute to the problem. Far more important still to reduce the stress.

Consider that it takes the average joe 20 minutes of fast running to burn the equivalent calories in one choclate chip cookie. Now ask yourself, “when’s the last time I ate just one chocolat chip cookie?” If you’re like me, the answer is …. never. The idea that one can purge onesself of indulgences while in the gym has long been looked down upon. However when one considers just how hard it is to burn off one cheat meal, one begins to develop and appreciation for just how wrong our calories in, calories out model has become.

If one can be resonably sure that maximal fat oxidation(the point at which one burns the most fat during aerobic exercise) happens between 60 and 80% of maximal heart rate,(source) and one is able to stay in this zone for 30 minutes and burn say 275 calories, AND NOT THEN EAT MORE THAT DAY, then congrats you’ve acheived caloric defiecit. Now keep in mind that so called experts say that there is the equivalent of 3500 calories in a pound of stored fat. So one would presumably have to run for 30 minutesn at 80%HR max for 13 days to burn off a pound of adipose tissue.

Now understand that prolonged aerobic activity reduces anabolic hormones like testosterone(source) and growth hormone.

” The impact of chronic exercise training on the EIGR remains equivocal. Recent evidence suggests that endurance training results in decreased resting hGH and a blunted EIGR, which may be linked to an increased tissue sensitivity to hGH.”(source)

Aerobic activity also increases cortisol levels and oxidative stress.


“…the present findings give credence to the hypothesis suggesting a linkage between the low resting testosterone found in endurance-trained runners and stress hormones, with respect to cortisol.”(source)

Also it reduces myofibril hypertrophy, and has been proven to increase appetite. So just how good can aerobic activity be for fat loss? The answer: Not very.

So whats the answer? Run faster for an hour? Two?

Everyone knows the treadmill guys or girls. The ones who are diligently at the gym running like mad for an hour a day. Some of these people are able to also change their diets and keep it up for a few weeks and affect change. However many, most, aren’t. In fact I’d go as far as to say that most people who adapt this form of training do not change at much at all. Look around and tell me if you agree.

So Why work out at all?

2- We work out to increase muscle and alter our hormonal reaction to food, not to burn calories.


We are not fat because we eat too much, we eat too much because we are fat. There are various hormonal processes in the body that regulate appetite and metabolism. These hormonal processes must be addressed. One cannot simply operate these hormones on fewer calories (devoid of the proper nutrients) and more exercise and expect lasting change. The hormones must first be addressed. This is the reason 85% of diets result in greater weight gain.

The calories in calories out model is based upon the first law of thermodynamics. The first law of thermodynamics states that in a closed system, if growth is to happen it must take in more energy. And this is true enough. However there are many other factors that contribute to fat gain.

Hormones such as insulin, cortisol, ghrelin and leptin and estrogen work together to with many others to make your fat metabolically active. Sometimes reducing calorie intake can have a positive effect on these hormones. At least temporarily. However, usually it backfires.

By strength training, we increase the amount of myofibrils within a muscle system. More myofibrils mean insulin receptor sites in the body. This makes you more insulin sensitive. Remember insulin is the storage hormone. Being sensitive to insulin is good. It means you need less to get the same job done. Less insulin, less fat storage.

Training boosts testosterone levels which helps to reduce cortisol levels. Reducing stress is vital to creating an anabolic environment.


3- Calories in for calories out is over.




“saying an obese person is fat because he/she takes in more calories then they burned is like saying a restaurant is crowded because more people came in then left.”

Gary Taubes


The notion that one can simply eat less and move more and acheive optimal body composition is antiquated and faulse. The body is a complex thing.

There are many factors to consider when dealing with fat storage. Some of these factors are more important than others. Some have a far more profound effect on fat storage and the ability to burn fat than simple calorie restriction. Here are just a few that I’ve learned about:

a- There are factors that influence Insulin and factors that regulate metabolic rate, for instance. If you produce too much insulin or you`ve reduced your metabolic rate you will be storing fat, Regardless of how few calories you eat, or how many you burn in a workout. Your body will find a way to keep that adipose tissue.


b- Turns out, fat is metabolically active. Your adipose tissue(beer belly/cellulite etc etc etc) is an endocrine gland! It’s not just doing nothing(self reported for use of double negative).

c- There is a hormone that is released by adipose tissue called leptin. Leptin communicates with the brain to tell it to boost metabolism when fat is present. If Leptins job is to tell the brain that we have fat, why do we still have fat? Well, we  turn this leptin mechanism off when we reduce our calories(diet) or when we eat high fructose corn syrup and other sugars. It’s a throwback to when we needed our fat stores for periods of famine.

It doesn’t matter how much cardio you do if the brain can’t recognize leptin. The brain will not let you lose any fat.

d- Grehlin is the appetite hormone. when you eat certain foods such as processed foods with high fructose corn syrup and other sugars,  less grehlin is produced. You still store the fat of the sugar you’ve eaten, but there is no feeling of satiaty. Then you eat more.

Fructose causes more fat storage and less appetite suppression.

e- There’s also something called the 8% rule. This rule states that when you reduce your calories for a prolonged period of time, you will wind up gaining that weight back plus an additional 8%. The reason is because reducing calories also results in a reduction in basal metabolic rate.

“… the majority of the studies point to a reduction in short-term resting metabolic rates that is greater than can be explained by the loss of body mass or fat-free mass over the same time period. Unfortunately, there has been very little work done over the last few years regarding the duration of this phenomenon.”( source )

As far as my personal results are concerned, the calories in calories out model has worked in the past. But it only works in the short-term and it doesn’t work for everyone. It doesn’t work all the time. AND AS MUCH AS 85% OF THE TIME IT RESULTS IN GREATER WEIGHT GAIN! (source)

4-Stability balls rocker boards and thera balls are making you weaker



I keep waiting for Thera-ball and bosu ball based strength training to die. But it won’t. It is a knarley beast. Unstable surfaces have their time and place. It is important to work balance while rehabing and injury for instance.

Please understand  doing exercise on a ball reduces the force you can send into the ground. Less force into the ground equals less adaptive response.One may think that the increase in balance adds to joint stability and injury prevention. However balance is a funnny thing. One does not seem to lose it the way one loses strength. It takes far more time. Therefor, once you have it, you can build on it with very little effort. Doing single arm lateral raises on a theraball looks neat, but it’s not. Unless you are rehabilitating injury or attempting to get your balance to a normal level, these exercises are not as useful as compound multi jont exercises.

5- Spinal flexion exercises damage your disks.

Most stomach crunches, hanging leg raises, curl ups side bends or back extenstions reduce the strength of your disks.

The anulus is the hard outter shell of the softer inside of the disk. This becomes compressed with each repetition. It can break and leak. These breaks or leaks are called bulges, protrusions, hernias or extrusions. These are probably not fun. There’s lots of great “ab” exercises out there that are far more effective than crunches. Off the top of my head, try the dumbell front raise. If you really want to have rock hard abs, get a qualified instructor to teach you the overhead barbell squat. Dr Stwart Mcgill, proffesor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo recommends the Bird Dog and Stir the pot exercises. For instruction on how to accomplish these, why not consult your freindly neibourhood trainer, moi 😉

6-“Feeling the burn” does not make you stronger or leaner.

It amazes me that people still judge the efficacy of thier workouts by how much “burn” they feel.

“Hurts so good” or ” No pain no gain” are misleading lines overheard in gyms worldwide.

Remember, we’re talking about ‘optimal’ strength here. When you increase your strength you increase your building hormones and decrease your fat storage hormones. Feeling the burn may have it’s place for the endurance athlete or bodybuilder, but if you are trying to lose fat and build strength, long sets that produce a burning feeling are not  your best bet. Here’s why:

“Feeling a burn” is an indication that you are no longer producing energy from the right energy system. Lactic acid has begun to build up and this is a tremendouse source of energy for endurance. You may be effectivly working endurance, however the key here is optimal strength. At the burning stage, you have gone past the place where maximal strength gains happen. Far better to load the muscle with heavy weight, and perform fewer reps stopping before the burn sets in.

7- Sub Maximal training prepares you for maximal training and supra-maximal training

building progressions towards a day of competitiion or a day of maximal load. do not try to lift maximally every day.


8- Nothing is specific but the sport.( I may have to delete this one so other trainers don’t see this)

This is just my opinion:

Athletes are born not made.  The elite athlete will succeed in spite of horrific training protocols. You cannot duplicate competition environments in the gym. Exercises should be built around supporting the kind of explosive movements atletes will see in competition, but trying to replicate won’t happen.

9- Functional training just means “relevant to life”

“Functional training”: It’s a garbage pale term that could mean anything. What is “functional” for you? walking with groceries? loading a baby seat into the car? Walking up stairs? Is walking on a treadmill ‘functional training’? Have I asked enough about this word?

10-aerobic/endurance training can make you fatter

increase oxidative stress which increases cortisol and suppresses testosterone. make sure your rest intervals are right and your nutrition supreme.



author: ryanbooth