I work with future personal trainers. Which means they know nothing, have zero experience, and they’ve been exposed to internet famous fitness pros who look great but actually suck at training.

They’ll often ask my opinion about certain exercises they’ve done in the past or ones they’ve seen at the gym.  Sometimes it’s exercises that I think should never be done like bosu ball squats. But most of the time they’re asking about exercises that are targeting a specific area like abs, glutes, and the upper back. All things they’ve heard are important.

It’s taken me a while to figure out a good answer because these exercises are not technically “bad”, they just don’t make it on my top list to pick from.

Are you putting something like a Russian Twist into someone’s training program and deprioritizing things like squats, deadlifts, upper body pushing or pulling? What are you trying to accomplish with that exercise? Are there other activities that would give you what you’re trying to achieve and them some?

My programing (the strength training component) is only composed of three things. These three things are big priorities.

1) Lower body bilateral and unilateral lifts: Squats, deadlifts, split squats, step ups…etc

2) Upper body Pushing and Pulling: Horizontal and Vertical

3) Accessory/Core: Activities that most likely have a breathing component to it that drive things like rib cage retraction, trunk rotation, hip rotation, anti-extension, anti-lateral flexion…etc

1 and 2 help my clients build muscle, gets them stronger, loads their system, improves their fitness, and most importantly, makes them anti-fragile.

3 allows my clients to do 1 and 2 without having many setbacks due to movement limitations, pain, or injuries.

Realistically speaking, clients will only train twice a week. So that gives you about 6-8 exercises per program. That’s not a lot. The 6-8 exercises should be ones that give you your biggest bang for your buck. There’s no room for fluff. Every single exercise should have a good reason to be on there.

When adding an exercise to a program, ask yourself: what do I need to deprioritize to put this exercise in my client’s program?

Like the Russian Twist. Does it take the place of any of your client’s main lifts? Then I’m not interested.

Then ask yourself what are you trying to achieve with the Russian Twist? Abs? because I have other activities like Low Bear that also target abs….AND helps with rib cage retraction, drives air into the posterior thorax, gives the shoulder blades a rib cage to glide on, opens the ISA, helps shut off an overactive low back, opens the pelvic outlet, makes walking effortless, helps restore ROM in the extremities, and most importantly it carries over to other things that I’m trying to achieve on the training floor.

And that’s why I wouldn’t do the Russian Twist. When students ask about these kind of exercises, I feel bad that I keep saying I wouldn’t do them. But as you can see, for me to use something in a client’s program, the exercise really needs to deliver. It needs to give me more than the ones I’m currently using.

That’s the kind of training I like to provide to my clients and honestly, it’s the kind of training I want the students to develop.

It’s rare for students to come in with great mentors. These students usually have only been exposed to big box trainers that have personal training as a part time job while they’re waiting for their real job to begin, and the famous internet trainers. What a horrible influence. The quality of training is just not the same. They haven’t been introduced to people like Mike Robertson, Pat Davidson, Justin Moore, and Michelle Boland.

and I feel like it’s my job to help bias them towards my bubble of the industry. Even though they probably feel like I’m forcing it on them, but that’s neither here nor there.

The world desperately needs better coaches.  

So to help guide them in a better direction, I went on my facebook and asked my circle in the industry where they would send brand new personal trainers who wanted to learn about programming.

Key word: BRAND NEW.

Because let’s be honest, if I send a brand new trainer to Pat Davidson’s seminar, It will ALL go over their head. The terminology, anatomy, coaching, implementation….everything. It takes experience to be able to do what Pat is teaching. Which is why I love him but I can’t expect a brand new personal trainer to implement what he is doing with his programming.

I want resources/mentors that have made things simple and digestible. A philosophy that will make them biased to progressive strength training. Resources that will guide them in the right direction so one day they can read Pat and Michelle’s work and they’ll be able to take it in.

I’m with brand new personal trainers 5 days a week. I see the look on their faces when I start talking about hip adduction with an acetabulum moving on a fixed femur. I notice the inability to subconsciously know what to do when the client is not doing things correctly.

I see the lack of experience 5 days a week.

I’ve had to look back and figure out how I got to where I am at now. That way I can appropriately progress them through without overwhelming them, but at the same time letting them learn from all of my personal mistakes and experience. I don’t want them wasting their time doing lateral band walks to “target glutes” as part of a triset when they could be deadlifting.

With my efforts to set them up for success, I’m doing exactly what two people on facebook said


100% agree with what Elsbeth and Kris said there. Learning how to train themselves and then mastering their coaching skills should be two big priorities for newbies. When a trainer lacks experience they only have their own body that has gone through it, which is a huge advantage because you can actually demo the activities that you’re trying to get your clients to perform. Have you ever seen a trainer who can’t squat trying to get a client to squat? I have. It’s not pretty.

You can have the best programming in the world but if you can’t demo or coach someone into a simple squat or hinge, the programming will never work.

Multiple people brought up Mike Robertson which I was pretty happy about. Mike makes everything digestible. He is my #1 blog for new trainers. It’s how I got started in this industry and I was in the same place these students are at now. His product Physical Preparation is the perfect product for beginners! If it were up to me, all the students would go through it. .

A couple people mentioned Pavel and Dan John. I’ve never seen their work so I have nothing good or bad to say about them. I do plan on checking them out for the students though!

If YOU have an resources for new trainers leave it in the comments below!


Until next time 🙂


  1. Katie St. Clair July 27, 2018 at 12:07 AM

    Another great article! I wish I would have had someone guiding me when I first started with general population 18 years ago. I worked for AXIS and Evolution trainers in Mt. View CA, eventually and they had exceptional education based on people like Stuart McGill and Paul Check. Of course this was 15 years ago but still a great foundation. I somehow always come back to their basics of squats, deadlifts, pushes, pulls and “core stability” exercises and that has served me well as a basis of thought for programming.

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