Choose Your Trainer Wisely…

Do As I Do And Also As I Say…

I am proud to have mentored a handful of people into fitness training careers. Another friend and former client completed her initial NASM fitness training certification this week.

On her completion she posted the following question on her Facebook page:

“So now that I got my fitness trainer certification, do you think I should get in shape? I mean like for real?

This is actually a serious question. A friend of mine and I are having this ongoing conversation, in which I claim that a trainer is like a coach and needs to know how to teach fitness and how to motivate but doesn’t have to necessarily be an athlete him/her-self. Just look at the coaches of Olympic gymnasts, for example.

My friend disagrees saying that expectations of fitness professionals are different than those of coaches. There’s probably some truth to that. What do you think?”

The thread of answers to her question were more mindful and insightful than I would have expected. To extract the commonalities from the many answers suggests that being in immaculate shape should not be a requirement or even a consideration for her. However, being in reasonable shape should be attempted if not maintained. Below is my own reply:

“I think it’s important to be in reasonable aesthetic shape, and able to perform movements as well as, if not better than your clients.

You don’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to be ripped, jacked, or shredded. You need to be able, and you need to be mindful.

Since you are both able and mindful, end of discussion.”

What Is In Shape…

Of course what lays at the heart of this question is the definition of in shape. I once defined my own belief on what constitutes in shape or fitness as follows:

“Physical Fitness is the sum of average or above average balance, flexibility, strength, stamina, and confidence. If these can be displayed while maintaining a reasonable aesthetic form, all the better.”

I stand with that definition today. Of course the terms average and reasonable aesthetic form are subjective.

What Does A Fitness Trainer Look Like…

I have been associated with dozens of fitness trainers through the years. They have come in all shapes and sizes, and though my place is not to judge, when I have judged other fitness trainers, I have done so exclusively based on 2 criteria; their knowledge, and their ability to communicate that knowledge. That, THAT is what a fitness trainer should look like!

Through my own career, my shapes and sizes have varied. I have been extremely lean at times when preparing for long distance races, bodybuilding, or living with longer bicycle commutes.

I have been bulkier at times when focusing on strength, relaxing my eating standards, or when I have backed off of (but never away) from my own fitness regimen. Despite what I have looked like, my knowledge base and my ability to communicate that knowledge has only increased. There have even been times when you might have looked at me and thought I might need a fitness trainer, and that’s kind of my point.

When the picture below was taken, I was not proud of my aesthetic shape. Nor was I ashamed of it. At the time this picture was taken, I was actually quite strong, as well as posting very good times on my bicycle and with my trail running, despite that the picture might indicate otherwise. In fact, at the time this picture was taken, I was very competitive within my circle of hardcore fitness friends. I was also working a full schedule as a fitness trainer.

When one friend saw this picture, he sent me an email stating,

“My god Roy, get that under control.”

Maybe I will, I thought, maybe not. That picture did not define, in any way, my client’s experiences with me.

Cyclist, trail runner, strength trainer, and professional fitness trainer.  Circa 2011

Cyclist, trail runner, strength trainer, and professional fitness trainer. Circa 2011

Factual Selection…

I have read many times what to seek when selecting a fitness trainer, and I have also been asked this question regularly. Of course what is written by others, and what I believe are often in contrast with one another.

What a trainer looks like should be among the least of one’s considerations when choosing a fitness trainer. I also believe that education, certifications, and continuing education are not the most important factors in the selection process.

Teaching physical fitness; the sum of balance, flexibility, strength, and stamina is not rocket science. Though a basic education and some experience is needed to teach these qualities, it is the ability to communicate them and to effectively demonstrate them which matter most.

Cyclist, trail runner, strength trainer, professional fitness trainer.  Circa last month...

Cyclist, trail runner, strength trainer, professional fitness trainer. Circa last month…

If you are looking for a fitness trainer I will suggest that communication skills and ability to demonstrate proper exercise matter much more than the shape of their arms, the size of their waist, or the titles they have won. Look past the electric tan and the hairstyle. Before selecting a fitness trainer, ask to watch them at work. Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights. Enjoy!

First Step On A New Road…

Hunting For Smells…

We call it, hunting for smells.  It’s the 3-4 times daily ritual of my dog, Stroodle leading me on a walk along the streets and nature trails which run through town.  We go at his whim, at his pace, and are guided exclusively by the scents of the day.  My primary job is to ensure that he safely navigates the intersections he must cross as his nose guides us through town.

More recently we have come to rest briefly at the halfway point, a small grassy park just a block off of Main Avenue. Once there, we lay on the ground together for 20 minutes or so and Stroodle warms his bones in the sun as I find purity and peace by watching the calm of his face as he does this.  This is one of the more grounding and beautiful experiences I have known.  The other day as he lay in warmth, with the sun shining on his face, and with my hand gently stroking his head, I had never seen him so content.  It stirred a few tears from me.

From Peace To Macabre…

As I held one of Stroodle’s legs in my hand, I took note of the musculature.  Not from the perspective of a fitness trainer, but from that of a carnivore.  I was looking at his meat.  Only the night before, I had enjoyed one of those roasted chickens from the grocery store – the ones which smell so good under the heat lamp that I have to buy one almost every day because I can eat one almost every day.  And that’s when I looked at Stroodle differently; I envisioned how some 3rd world refugee or indigenous hominid might view his leg as I have viewed the legs of chickens time and time again.

The rapid fire chain reaction in my mind began immediately.  First, I was upset that I even went there – that I envisioned my dog as someone’s entrée.  I went further by picturing his leg without skin and this disgusted me but I couldn’t stop.  Worldwide, I thought, few animals have avoided being meals to other animals, dogs and humans included.  Suddenly, some words popped into my head and I froze.  They were words I heard spoken several years earlier by the singer, Morrisey while being interviewed on British television…

“If it has a mother” he said, “I won’t eat it.”

That has always made sense to me.  As the parent of a child and as the steward many dogs through my life, I wouldn’t want anyone eating my children – or my dogs.

The Intimate Bond...

The Intimate Bond…

The Eagle, The Snake, And The Rationalization…

I have been down this road several times before. Under the influence of inspiration, and motivated a bubbling morality, I have told the world that I am all done eating animal products of any kind.  The longest I have ever made it was 6 months in 2012-2013.

Though my intentions had always been sound when turning away from animal products, I have applied the brakes to my stance against eating them, and dipped my fork back in the trough, by contemplating a single experience I had years ago…

In 2005 I was paddling a kayak down the Middle Loop river in rural Nebraska on a hot summer afternoon.  As I turned a corner in the gentle current I looked to the shore to see an eagle swoop down, grasp a snake in its talons, rise up 50 feet or so, and thrust the snake into the ground killing it instantly.  The eagle returned to carry the snake away, presumably as takeout for its family.

This became an ongoing reminder to me during my vegan times that animals have been eating animals since there have been animals.  And that is where the rationalization to fight my moral current with this topic has always ended; with the realization that man too is an animal who has been eating animals since man has been man.  And then I saw my dog’s leg as meat and I froze in my thoughts.

The Intimate Bond…

I recently read The Intimate Bond, a book which chronicals man’s relationship with animals since hunter-gatherer times.  Among the many ideals that were exposed to me by this book is that through much of civilization, man has revered and respected the animals he has raised to eat.  Through some of the earlier times, man has paid lesser respects to what we now call household animals; cats & dogs.  It seems now that paradigm is upside-down.  Many of us hold our household pets in higher regard than members of our family.  That, and it’s okay for chickens and cows to be kept in cages, injected with steroids and antibiotics, and subsequently slaughtered only to be dressed up with just the right amount of rosemary and lemon.

Through books like Nonzero, The Better Nature of Our Angels, and The Intimate Bond I can see the trajectory of man’s gentile is getting better over time – slowly, but consistently.  There are many things which were once common place that we no longer find socially or morally acceptable; burning witches, drowning cats, and corporal punishment in schools to name a few.

I can’t help but think that 200 years from now, along with the asinine notion of growing decorative turf lawns in the American west, and sending fossil fuels into the air by the metric ton, that the idea of raising animals to kill them cruelly, and eat them nonchalantly will be something our descendants will find disappointing if not shameful.

Social & Moral Evolution For Some…

Going back to the eagle and the snake.  That eagle has not evolved morally or socially and probably never will.  Eagles 5,000 years from now aren’t any more likely to consider the snake’s feelings than the eagles of today.  The eagle reacts out of instinct and necessity.  I don’t.  I react to options and choices.  For me I’m choosing to follow my heart and my conscience, even if people see me as a fool.

I understand that a skeptic or critic might question my stance on the use of leather, other animal related products, services, and where I might draw the line.  In truth, I have no response to this at the moment.  It’s a duality that I will have to navigate for now, but I will be exploring ways to minimize the use of all animal products until the systems that stewards animals can show me a better side.

I have taken meat and animal products out of my diet before and yes, I have gone back.  On occasion, I have even questioned whether or not plants feel pain and if so, then what to eat.  Looking at my dog’s leg though, and contemplating it as though it were a piece of meat is a place I don’t think I can ever come back from, but I’ll keep you posted.  Be well…  rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Cornershop.  Enjoy…

If You’re So Inclined…

There’s no shortage of data suggesting that walking is among the most useful forms of exercise. I’ll suggest that any form of regular walking is good for physical and cognitive fitness, though some forms of walking are better than others. Essentially though, there is the treadmill or the neighborhood.

I have lived much of my adult life in small towns surrounded by beauty of varying sorts. That these places have been as hilly as they are beautiful makes them great for outdoor walking – if only I found value in outdoor walking as a form of exercise. I don’t. Though I do take several short outdoor walks with my dog each day, as a form of physical fitness, I find much more value in the treadmill. When I tell people this, I’m more often met with eye rolls and disagreements than sincere interest.

Kinesis & Energy: Moving muscles burns calories. Muscle traveled greater distances equals more calories burned. By distance, in the case of walking, I’m referring to the height the stride. A more vertical walking stride (walking uphill) uses more muscle through a more complete range of motion than a horizontal stride (walking on a flat surface).

Women carry approximately 65% of their muscle below the hips, about 55% for men. When one walks uphill or up a steep incline, male or female, they will be lifting more than 25% of their bodyweight through a fairly complete range of motion before placing it back down.

Since a stride on a flat surface is more horizontal and less vertical, it is inherently done at a faster speed than walking uphill. The impact of the foot on a flat surface is actually greater and creates more stress on the ankles, knees, and low-back when done at a faster speed.

Walking uphill or on a steep incline, a person is not able to walk nearly as fast as on a flat. The slower speed minimizes the opportunity for repetitive motion disorders which are often caused by fast, momentum driven movements. Additionally, the angle of that incline actually diffuses the impact of the foot, and subsequently the ankles, the knees, hips, and the low-back.

Note how much higher the lead foot is. The leg must be raised and placed back down...

Note how much higher the lead foot is. The leg must be raised and placed back down…

Translation: Because of its slower speed and more vertical stride, walking uphill or up a steep incline is actually a much lower impact activity than walking on a flat or downhill surface, and is also more cardio intensive. I’ll suggest though, that walking on a treadmill at a steep grade should be done without holding onto the handle. Holding on allows the individual to lean buck, diffusing the incline.

Note how low the lead foot is. Less muscle required to move it, and is aided by momentum of a faster speed...

Note how low the lead foot is. Less muscle required to move it, and is aided by momentum of a faster speed…

Recommendation: If you’re going to walk outside, and do so as a means of cardio, calorie burning or conditioning, I’ll suggest attacking the uphill sections. However, go easy and slow down on the downhill and flat sections since they have a greater impact on your body, the knees in particular. Whether you choose to walk on a treadmill or outdoors in the neighborhood, stand tall – shoulders directly over hips as much as possible, and be a heel striker with your lead foot, this will minimize stress on the knees.

This kind of walk might not burn too many calories, but it's a daily investment in my soul...

This kind of walk might not burn too many calories, but it’s a daily investment in my soul…

Walking outdoors is a great activity. Again, I do this several times per day. Being in nature and moving is a cognitive therapy which is almost unequalled. As a form of calorie burning or conditioning, I’ll suggest treadmill walking at a steep grade will serve you better. Be well… rc

Fitness trainer, Roy Cohen is available for online consulting and training.  Click here to learn more.


Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Chris Cornell.   Enjoy!

A Failed Conversion…

I was approached by a man at a local coffee shop the other day. He and I had met briefly once fore. A conversation ensued between us. The man, knowing I am a fitness professional, asked if I was familiar with a nationally known multimedia fitness enterprise. The program in question is scientifically based and assures, if applied properly, an outcome of increased muscles mass and decreased body fat with just 15 minute workouts. The program calls for high intensity workouts, supported with a high fat, moderate protein and lower carbohydrate diet. I played dumb and told him I had never heard of it. I sensed immediately that I lost points in his mind for my ignorance.

As he explained the program to me, he suggested recruiting me and my facility as a resource where he could test and apply it. As we discussed this, it was clear that he had an intelligent grasp of the physiology and nutrition. I explained to him my own value-set when it comes to exercise, strength training in particular, and eating. I said nothing to debunk the science of the program he was advocating. I well understand the efficiency of high intensity training. I simply used more science, some logic and a smidge of experience to support my stance the high intensity training, despite the science behind it, might not be the best option for many most.


Still, he kept suggesting that I look at the website, the book, and the science behind this enterprise. He felt it might change my values and subscribe me to something better than what I am already teaching. He felt this high intensity program might also open a new world for me, for my clients, and for my business, and he was willing to be my guinea pig.

In truth, I am familiar with the program he was discussing, and I believe the science behind it is solid. Variations of high intensity training have been applied to many fitness enterprises over the past 15 years or so. I have practiced variations of them and taught some as well. Despite this, I have never bought completely into exclusively high intensity programs.

I gently let him know that my own fitness ideals are sum of many years of training, studying and practicing my craft, and that I wasn’t going to let go of those values regardless of the science behind what he was suggesting. It was clear that he saw me as a narrow minded buffoon who probably just takes people’s money in exchange for letting them go through the motions as I stare at my cell phone all day long. We exchanged business cards with what I’ll suggest was a mutual assurance that they will never see the light of day again.


I have been down this road with people many times. I am a very science minded person. When somebody approaches me about high intensity training I can tell at a glance whether they are sincere, if they understand how demanding that type of training can be, if they are capable of it, and if they truly understand the bleakness of the associated nutritional component. If they are, I absolutely know how to apply those principals for maximum results, and I have a track record of success stories which demonstrate my competence.

However, even proven science has to fit an individual’s body and lifestyle to be effective in the long-term – it has to work within the scope of a person’s life. I don’t care how sound the science is, many genres of high intensity training aren’t agreeable when superimposed over a less than fit body or a less than fit lifestyle. My firsthand experience has seen high intensity training push more people away from an exercise lifestyle than toward one. For many people, high intensity exercise isn’t fun, isn’t sustainable and won’t be the foundation of the lifestyle change they actually need.

I know there are exceptions to this; that’s where before and after pictures come from. However, for every before and after picture posted on a magazine or website, I’ll suggest there are tens of thousands of people who feel they gave money away in exchange for doubt, frustration, and perhaps even some humiliation – for buying into something they could not sustain or that never made sense to them to begin with.


All of this I can let go of because I have faced it many times, so I wasn’t disappointed that the man I spoke with had no interest and was unwilling to learn more about my own more moderate approach to fitness. What will remain with me though, in the foreground of my conscience, is that the man who approached me is an evangelical minister. Essentially he wanted to hire me away from my own faith that I might subscribe to his. When it became clear that I was unwilling to make that leap, he spoke to me as though I were a lost soul. And so it goes… rc


Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens with I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from The London Souls. Enjoy!

The Goal Of Absence…

The Ghost Goals…

A 450 lb. deadlift.

A sub 7-minute mile.

A complete marathon.

A bodybuilding competition.

Swim 50 meters underwater on a single breath.

A reverse 1 ½ half dive with a full twist in the layout position from a 3-meter springboard.

These are some of the athletic feats which have fallen into the goals category at some point in my life.  I am glad that I was able to do all of these at some point in my life, even if I can’t do any of them today.  Though I am not training or preparing for a specific athletic competition or endeavor these days, I still workout consistently and with one goal above all others.

Med Head…

When my father died of complications from Parkinson’s disease over two years ago he was taking 19 medications on a regular basis – NINETEEN MEDICATIONS.  To be fair, some of those medications were useful in staving off the symptoms of his Parkinson’s, and served to enhance his quality of life.  Others though, were prescribed to offset the unwanted effects of his primary medications.

At the time he passed my father also had a neurologist, a cardiologist, a nephrologist, a urologist, a general practitioner, and I believe one or two other physicians whom he saw on a regular basis.  I won’t suggest whether or not any of them had a personal interest in my father’s wellbeing or whether he was just a number or a daily appointment each of them.  For the last two years of his life, my father saw some combination of these physicians weekly.

I do know this; each of those physicians prescribed at least one medication to help my father deal with his Parkinson’s and its related effects as they manifested within each of those physician’s specialty.  Or, they prescribed medications to help offset the unwanted effects of medications which were prescribed by the other physicians.  I call this the cascade of fragility; the more medications my father was on, the more fragile he became over time.

What my father's medicine cabinet might have looked like...

What my father’s medicine cabinet might have looked like…

Being close to the situation I can say definitively that these physicians did not talk to one another, and that often one medication prescribed would conflict with one of the others.  Though it might have been his GP’s job to manage this process, it seems he was not that effective with this responsibility.

How many doctors talk to each other...

How many doctors talk to each other…

Because my father was on so many medications at one time, it’s hard to say whether any of them were truly beneficial or counterproductive.  In his mind though, they were simply his best chance to win each day.

Goal Revision…

The oldest client I have worked with was 92.  Though he relocated to the desert several years ago, at the time we parted ways he was on no medications, none.  My oldest client today is 90, and she takes only one medication regularly and it is benign.

There is plenty of data correlating regular exercise with a lesser need for medications as we age, despite what ailments, diseases, and symptoms we encounter.  Regular exercise is a medication in itself.  We know the benefits of regular exercise are vast, yet they go widely underappreciated, under used by a majority people, and under prescribed by physicians.   Statistically speaking, most Americans get little or no deliberate exercise.

What I hope my medicine cabinet looks like when I'm 90...

What I hope my medicine cabinet looks like when I’m 90…

While I train weekly for strength, balance, flexibility, endurance, and even to look good, as I get older those are not my primary goals.  My longest term goal is that when I do die, all that can be found in my medicine cabinet are razors, cotton swabs, and Crest For Kids – stuff tastes just like bubble gum.  Be well…  rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from The GO. Enjoy!

The End Of A Meaningful Streak…

Field Marshall…

Thirteen years ago a tall man with a square jaw and well-groomed gray hair burst into the gym where I trained my clients. He threw his wallet and keys on the counter and loudly exclaimed,

“I want to hire the oldest male trainer you have, and with the broadest shoulders.”

Just by chance I happened to be the oldest male trainer in the facility, with the broadest shoulders, and also happened to be at standing there. A business relationship was born. He told me what he wanted from me as a trainer, and how soon he wanted it. His name was Marshall, a Fallbrook local who ran several international businesses. He explained he spent a great deal of time bouncing between Europe, Asia and South America and didn’t workout too often on the road. When he was home in Fallbrook, he continued, he wanted to workout every day.

In the beginning Marshall took more to me than me to him. I don’t do abrupt personalities well. Also, I wasn’t accustomed to being told what to do or how to do it by my clients. This was Marshall’s style though, and probably and what made him successful as a businessman.

Cardio Party…

Despite being 10 years my senior, Marshall was almost as fit as me from the start. He hired me, I would quickly learn, not for my knowledge, experience or advice, but for the appointment. Traveling 2-3 continents per month, and with many business related arms constantly reaching for him, he knew the only way he would make it to the gym regularly would be to pay a lot of money to someone to meet him there.

Marshall always showed up on time, allowed me to push, never complained, and we had similar values in life. I was helping raise a preadolescent girl at the time we met, and he had 2 who had just finished college. Over time, he became an excellent role model for me as both a father and as a businessman.

After several months of working with Marshall my schedule got increasingly busy. Since he and I were equally matched in our physicality I began to jump in with him during his workouts. This was convenient for me, and reassuring for him. From the start we were very competitive with one another.

Every Friday we would have challenge day. This was simply he and I picking 6 strength machines, 3 each, putting the pin at the bottom of the stack and seeing who could do the most reps with the entire stack. We were so evenly matched that if he won one week, I would usually win the next. Though Marshall was a good partner for strength workouts, he was an excellent partner for cardio. When he was in town, we would do daily lunch time cardio sessions together for the next 7 or 8 years.

On a challenge day with Marshall...

Warming up before a challenge day with Marshall…

The Pact…

Early on Marshall and I made a pact with our cardio workouts. We agreed that once we began a cardio session, we would not stop until it was completed — regardless of how hard we pushed. Come rain, shine, or torn meniscus in process, we fulfilled our commitment to each other for years – never stopping during a cardio session regardless of how badly one of us wanted to quit.

Marshall once fell of the StepMill with a hurt knee. Without missing a beat, he climbed back on and completed the 45 minute session – primarily on one leg. I gave him credit for not stopping since he kept one hand on the StepMill during the fall.

24 Hour Fitness Oceanside, CA. Where high intensity lunch meetings took place for years...

24 Hour Fitness Oceanside, CA. Where high intensity lunch meetings took place for years…

All Things Must Pass…

Marshall and I parted ways when I relocated my studio too far for us to be able to meet for lunch cardio. Sadly we lost touch shortly thereafter. The partnership might have dissolved, but the pact to never quit a cardio session regardless of how hard it might get, has lived on with me for years. In all this time, regardless of how hard I have pushed or how badly I have wanted to stop, I never quit a cardio session early or to even take a break.

Early this morning on my high-stepping elliptical machine I just wasn’t feelin’ it. Understand that my cardio is always hard. On a scale of 1-5, I always shoot for a 4, never settle for a 3, and often reach a 5. Most days my ending heartrate is 160 bpm or so.

Some days are better than others. Today was one of those others. Burning legs. Higher than average heartrate. An otherwise occupied mind, and on the heels of a poor night’s sleep, I  wanted to stop almost from the first stride. Twenty-five minutes into a 40 minute session I simply stepped off the machine. I’m still not sure why.

I walked to the window which looks out over Main Street and saw the sign for Pedro’s Tacos – a place where Marshall and I had eaten many post-workout carne asada burritos together. Seconds later I was back on the machine completing my 40 minute session. Even though I finished the session, for the first time in over a decade, I violated what I have long considered a sacred bond.

The one that got the better of me...

The one that got the better of me…

Best post-workout nutrition in Fallbrook...

Best post-workout nutrition in Fallbrook…

I really don’t know why I chose to step off the machine. Age…? Changing priorities…? The good sense to finally respect and listen to my body…? I don’t know. Tomorrow I will start another streak of uninterrupted cardio sessions, not knowing if it will last years, months or only weeks. I will assume though, that Marshall is out there somewhere, still fulfilling his part of a pact we made so many years ago. Be well… rc

Veteran trainer, Roy Cohen, is available for online consulting and workout planning.  Click here to learn more…


Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from The Exponents.  Enjoy!

The Exercise Graveyard – Graveyard…

Quit All Strength Movements – Before It’s Too Late!

I had a couple of back to back cancellations last week. Rather than clean the studio, get my own workout in, or do a little networking in town, I went to Google and YouTube to explore lists of the top exercises which experts suggest people should never do. I know these exist because my clients occasionally forward them to me. These are lists that have been published online by fitness trainers and those in the know who feel they should have the final say in your workout.

I learned quickly in my little study of a place I had scarcely heard of previously; the exercise graveyard. The exercise graveyard is the place where fitness trainers and experts cast off exercises which they find inefficient, useless, or are dangerous. Apparently the exercise graveyard is larger and more populated than I had previously known. So large in fact, that it’s apparently home to most known strength exercises.

After a couple hours of exploring lists of these inefficient, useless, and dangerous exercises, I came to realize that strength training, by the collective thinking of the trainers who have published these lists, is an unnecessary indulgence which offers little benefit and comes with abundant risk.


Below is a cumulative list of some of the exercises which these trainers feel belong in the exercise graveyard:

  • Squats
  • Leg Extensions
  • Incline Bench Presses
  • Decline Bench Presses
  • Flat Bench Presses
  • Overhead Presses
  • Low-Back Extensions
  • Deadlifts
  • Stiff Legged Deadlifts
  • Leg Presses
  • Leg Curls
  • Upright Rows
  • Bent Over Rows
  • Barbell Curls
  • Bench Curls
  • Standing Calf Raises
  • Pull-Ups
  • Lat-Pulldowns
  • Anything done seated
  • Anything done behind the neck
  • All machines
  • All free weights
  • All isolation exercises
  • Jumping
  • All types of crunches

I found these and many others scattered between the various lists which I searched. And that’s where the idea of an exercise graveyard breaks down for me – completely.

I understand why those experts argue against doing any of these exercises. If I chose to, I could use science and logic to support arguments against any of these movements. I could also use science and logic to argue in favor of any of these exercises – and that’s kind of my point with this little rant.

While it is true that there are some exercises which carry more risk, some that are less efficient, and some that should be avoided relative to a person’s goals and abilities, which exercises a person includes in their strength training routine should be a lesser factor than how those exercises are applied and performed.

So as friends and family members forward you lists of exercises which belong in the exercise graveyard, please take them with a grain of salt. Invest your intelligence in how you approach and apply your strength exercises, not in which ones to avoid.

I’ll go on the record as stating I am in favor of any exercise done intelligently, in proper form, and within reasonable bounds. I’ll state just as clearly that I am against choosing exercises blindly, performing them haphazardly, and doing them too heavy, too often, not often enough, or just because someone else says you should.  It’s time to place the exercise graveyard in a grave of its own. Be well… rc

veteran trainer, roy cohen is available for online consulting and workout planning.  click here to learn more.


Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Flemish entertaining legend, Bobbejaan Schoepen. Enjoy!

Dad, M*A*S*H, Beavis and Butthead…

My father passed away on May 11, 2013. Though I did have a chance to offer him a proper goodbye in person weeks before he passed, when he died there was no service, no ceremony, nor did I even visit his marker at the veteran’s cemetery in Las Vegas where he is interned. To this day, I still have not paid those respects.

I did though, during the months he was on hospice, write a eulogy for him because we knew death was certain. However, with no service any kind, I never had a chance to share a series of great memories with my dad. The remainder of this essay is a part of what was to be his eulogy…


When I was in high school I struggled early on. Before I even turned 16 I released myself on my own recognizance. Not long after dropping out, my parents divorced. I spent time with each of them, but eventually I moved out as a self-emancipated minor. I shared an apartment with an older friend who had also dropped out. As you might imagine, 2 high school dropouts trying to make it on their own did not fare too well too long.

My first apartment; the tenement on Fairfax...

My first apartment; the tenement on Fairfax…

At the age of 16 I knocked unannounced on my father’s apartment door on a May afternoon. Groveling, staring at my feet, and with my tail between my legs, I asked if I could live with him.

“Yes” he said, and immediately gave me 3 stipulations, “You can live here, and I won’t charge you rent, but this what I need from you…”

My dad's apartment; a big upgrade...

My dad’s apartment; a big upgrade…

  1. I had to be employed.
  2. I had to be in by 9pm on weeknights, and 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
  3. Every night at 10pm we would watch M*A*S*H together. It was his favorite program.

I agreed and lived out those terms. I was already working at a Nautilus Fitness center, rarely stayed out late, and I have always loved M*A*S*H, so this was an easy ransom.

Living with my dad at that time was a good settling in period for me. Though he occasionally traveled, we shared some quality moments during that time. I think this when my father and I began to trust one another on adult terms, and form what he would later call “the bond”.

TV's best show - ever...

TV’s best show – ever…

Fast forward 13 years. My father was now taking fundraising campaigns on a yearly basis. He would take an assignment, say the Montana Historical Society, spend one year conducting a fundraising campaign, and then seamlessly move on to the next one. During this period he spent time in Montana, Kansas, Georgia, and Alabama.

As for me, I was no longer the 16 year old high school dropout. I had a wife, a new baby, and was employed as a scheduling analyst for America West Airlines in Phoenix. After our baby was born, my wife took her to Denver to live, and I flew from Phoenix to Denver on my days off to be with them. Monday through Friday though, I lived alone in Phoenix – in a 3 bedroom house.

Dad. Way out west...

Dad. Way out west…

One day the phone rang. My father who had back-to-back campaigns organized for 4 straight years had come up dry, and had just sold his New Jersey home. I have no doubt that he was staring at his shoes as his softer than normal, tuck tail between legs voice asked if he could move in with me until he got another campaign. Without missing a beat…

“Yes” I said, “and I won’t charge you rent, but this is what I need from you…”

I went on to explain that I knew he was working on getting another campaign, but I requested that he be in by 9pm on weeknights and 11pm on Friday and Saturday, and that every night at 10pm he and I watch a show together like we did at his apartment in Denver in 1979.  I could hear tears in his voice as he began to thank me.

That’s when I explained that the show we would be watching was called Beavis and Butthead.

“I’ll pay rent” he said “I’ll pay rent!”

That may be the only time he ever called me a son of a bitch. We both chuckled. He would live with me for nearly 3 months, eventually moving to Las Vegas to get a jumpstart on retirement. He only watched Beavis and Butthead with me a few times. Sometimes parents just don’t understand…

Not quite dad's cup of meat...

Not quite dad’s cup of meat…

The time we spent together at my home in Phoenix was the best. We dined out nearly every night on his dime. He had the place to himself on weekends while I was in Denver, and we continued, if not perfected “the bond”.


The day after my father passed in May of 2013 I was on a plane to Athens – to be a father. I had promised my daughter who was living and studying in Greece at the time that I would meet her there and I wasn’t about to cancel that trip. When I had to choose between daughter and father, I chose daughter. I have no doubt my father would have approved.

There was no service for my father. His body was cremated, and nobody came to pray. It was a Curtis Lowe moment that needs to be corrected. I’ll be traveling to Las Vegas early next month to finally visit my father’s marker where I will sit from sunrise to sunset watching episodes of M*A*S*H on my laptop in his honor, and with his name above me – carved in stone. Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Lynyrd Skynyrd. Enjoy…

The Value Of Slow…

I got a question recently from a fellow trainer about why I use exclusively slow repetition speed with my clients as well as my own workouts, and why I don’t include some explosive training and higher repetition speed. She supported her question with some scientific data about the benefits of explosive training. I thought some people might find my perspective interesting if not useful even if they disagree, so here is my reply to my friend’s question:

“This is where I differ from most trainers and strength coaches I know.   I don’t put science at the top of my learning pyramid.  I put logic and common sense there, and science in the middle.  There are many scientifically proven reasons why faster and explosive repetitions can benefit an athlete.  As previously discussed though, the injury/benefit ratio increases whenever momentum enters an exercise.  This increases because in most instances the load is greater, and due to the faster speed combined with a heavier load proper form cannot be adhered to as well – period.


I have to decide who among my students are legitimate athletes.  It turns out that there are very few. For the middle aged man wanting to improve his body, I am of the opinion that all the changes he is looking for can be had with slower, more controlled repetitions, thus minimizing risk/benefit ratio and putting him in a better position to reach his goals.  Same thing with the mom who wants to tone up and take off her baby weight, as well as the obese and morbidly obese students.


When it comes to student athletes at the high school and middle school level, their bodies are still developing and an injury in the weight room might have severe long-term consequences.  Also worthy of consideration is that the habits they learn in the weight room as teens will likely stay with them for life. This is a huge issue with me.  High school sports coaches and even some PE teachers are more often poor strength coaches, but often looked to as supremely knowledgeable.

This leaves a small group who could really benefit from fast and explosive strength training; high level competitive athletes.  Can it benefit them and enhance muscle growth as well as performance…?  Absolutely!  However, I read a study last year that a majority of minor injuries in the NFL take place in the weight room; pulled hamstrings, torn biceps, torn pectorals, low-back strain, neck issues, etc.  This goes back to the risk/benefit ratio.  For men or women to whom thousands if not millions of dollars are at stake for every performance, the benefits of explosive training certainly outweighs the risks, and most would-be injuries can be dealt with and recovered from.

That’s pretty much where it ends with me.  On a personal level, I have run long races, biked far distances, lifted very heavy weights, stood on a posing platform, and conquered dozens of physical obstacles with this body – despite that I have done no explosive training and that my repetition speed in the weight room has been slow and fully controlled since1986 or so.

Lastly, what gets missed in fast or explosive repetitions is, for me, what holds the greatest value in strength training; the intimacy which takes place between the mind and the body when weights are lifted more slowly and through a complete range of motion. This is a connection that is on par with many forms of yoga, and in my opinion is just as spiritual.


I’m a science minded person, but no scientist, and no institution is without some level of agenda, as I have my own.  My agenda is safety combined with results.”

That was my response to my friend. I’m not opposed to high level athletes using faster or explosive repetitions in the weight room. However, for the average liftasaurus or weekend warrior, it’s my opinion that slower, more controlled repetition speed comes with as much benefit as anyone needs, and a lot less risk. Be well… rc

Trainer Roy Cohen is available for online consulting. Learn more by clicking here.


Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I hit the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Wang Chung.  Enjoy!

Words, Images, And An Audience…

The Language Of Technology…

We’re all photographers now, and writers. And we have an audience. Technology has endowed most phone owners with a tool to take worthy photographs. If our photographs aren’t so worthy, there are digital tools available after the fact to help manipulate them into better. We can turn any photo into something completely removed from the reality of the original image, and we can do so in seconds.

Similarly we can do this with words. Word processing gives us ways to better organize and manipulate our thoughts. Write, rewrite, cut, paste, backspace, retool, and in a matter of minutes we can change an original thought into something it wasn’t just 5 minutes before. Don’t like that phrase in that spot…? Snip. Paste. Now it’s over there where it makes more sense.

And best of all for this expanding base of writers and photographers, social media has provided them with the one thing they most desire; an audience.

The audience waits patiently for the next Instagram photo...

The audience waits patiently for the next Instagram photo…

The Language Of The Lens…

I have more than a few friends who are professional photographers – it’s how they pay their bills. I empathize with them in this era when so many people are taking quality, if not world class photographs without much thought or experience. The smart phone has made it so that showing show up the right time is all one needs to do to take a great photo.

I often feel guilty, and sometimes foolish in suggesting that any of my photographs are worthy of a glance by the masses. Despite this, I use them in my blog regularly. When I do, I feel as though I am insulting those for whom photography is not just their craft, but their livelihood.

Exchanging photographs more frequently and via different medium is part of the evolution of how we communicate – it’s a form of language. Today we communicate with images at a rate much higher in proportion to written language than at any time in history. It has been suggested by some that within a few hundred years, images will have largely replaced language as the primary means of communication for our species.

My favorite Jhciacb photo.  Sunset Cliffs, San Diego.  iPhone set to mono...

My favorite Jhciacb photo. Sunset Cliffs, San Diego. iPhone set to mono…

Post Up…

Though writing as a form of communication may ultimately be on the decline, in this age published writers are on the increase. When I began fitness blogging in the early 2000s, I calculated that there we roughly 5,000 fitness blogs already established. Today I will suggest that number might be in the tens of thousands. Here’s the bad news; blogging isn’t just limited to fitness. I have no idea how many active blogs are now online, though I’m sure it’s in the tens of millions.

I can no longer recognize a valid publication or understand what distinguishes one.  If we consider every article or post that is available online to be a valid publication, then there are more active authors today than there were people alive during the middle-ages.

Professional Respect…

I am a professional fitness trainer and an amateur writer. As a professional trainer I am frequently frustrated by the amateur fitness trainers of social media who act as though they are professionals. Professionalism is a position one needs to earn their way into by way of the things that make one a professional; desire, education, failure, failure, failure, more failure, learning from failure, and time spent in position avoiding additional failure. I imagine professional photographers and writers experience similar frustration when they see amateur writers or photographers online behave as though they are worthy higher respect.

What I look like when an online fitness enthusiast chimes in as an expert...

What I look like when an online fitness enthusiast chimes in as an expert…

Starting a blog or posting stunning photographs online does not make one a leader, an expert, or even legitimate presence in those areas, though it may be a good start. Amateurism often does lead to professionalism, but many amateur writers and photographers forget or never understand they are in the minor leagues.


Where Do We Go From Here…?

At what point, I wonder, will we be so saturated with images, words, and advancing technologies in support of the users that the professional photographer or writer no longer exists…? These crafts may become so diluted that they will no longer hold any meaning, and be as taken for granted as air, despite that they will be primary to the existence of all of our descendants.

With images or words, amateur or professional, the way we communicate as a species is changing in an exponential way. If our species does survive for tens of thousands of years more, a few things are likely:

  • We will be more closely tied to graphic imagery as form of language. In relation, our eyes will evolve to be larger and better able to process the imagery.
  • In the manipulation of the technologies to support imagery or language, GUI use will expand and button pushing will be even more primary in the use of these technologies. In relations, our fingers will evolve to be longer and more dexterous.
  • Since technology will have us communicating less or not at all orally, our mouths and ears will evolve to be much smaller.
  • Due to a profound increase in our intelligence over time, our brains will increase in size, and our heads will become top-heavy.
  • With technology taking a much larger role on behalf of our bodies, we will evolve to become a species more slight in stature.


Yes, I believe we are currently on the path to becoming our own alien visitors from the future, and that language, imagery, and the technologies which support them are playing a large part in this evolution.  This all must sound so unlikely, and so amusing – having been read on a fitness blog.  Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I hit the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from the Lime Spiders. Enjoy!!