I’ve always been really good at helping people get strong. I’ve helped nearly all of my male training partners over the years deadlift over 405 lbs, and most of them weighed around 180 lbs. Several have deadlifted over 525 lbs. One of my training partners full squatted 525 lbs and deadlifted 585 lbs, although I must admit he was built like an absolute tank (5’7″ and 225 lbs of pure steel). These are normal folks, not powerlifters and not steroid users. They don’t wear briefs or suits, nor do they even wear knee wraps or belts. My personal training clients typically see similar results in a very short amount of time. Within around two to four months I can get most healthy guys deadlifting 405 lbs. And this is with good form too, not rounded-back, hitching deadlifts you see on the internet. When I had my training studio Lifts, I specialized in training women. I trained regular women who were not athletes. At one point I had six different girls who could full squat at least 135 lbs, deadlift at least 185 lbs, and bust out at least 6 chin ups. When I helped train a squad of high school football players, I had two different linemen parallel squatting and deadlifting over 500 lbs (and they were in high school!).
For some, this is not impressive. I venture to guess that many of today’s top trainers produce similar results. For others, it’s shocking. I’ve met tons of personal trainers who simply believe in “conditioning” and are “anti-strength.” For the record, it’s really easy to get people conditioned. Just don’t let them rest much and have them do a bunch of burpees, mountain climbers, interval sprints, sled pushes, hill sprints, or intervals on the Airdyne or row machine. Hand them a kettlebell or a jump rope, or just utilize a method that’s been popular for many decades called “Peripheral Heart Action” Training (which simply means alternating lower body, upper body, and core movements to get blood pumping to different parts of the body). Conditioning is important but it’s not very difficult to obtain. In fact, hand a ten year old kid a stop-watch and a whistle and tell them that they are going to be “trainer” for the day and I bet they could do a pretty good job of getting you “conditioned.” However, getting numerous clients to be considered “strong” is not so easy. It’s as much of an art as it is a science.
For this reason, I believe that it is imperative to have high expectations for your clients. If you’re satisfied with your clients doing lat pulldowns and never being able to do a chin up, guess what? They’ll never be able to do a chin up. If you think that half squatting 135 lbs is impressive for a male client, they’ll never get strong. It is often the trainer’s expectations that limits the client’s strength. Having high expectations is the best thing that you can do for your clients!
How does a trainer acquire “high expectations?” Knowledge, experience, and success. You have to see strong to know strong!
When I saw a video of one of Mike Boyle’s female clients busting out 3 chins ups with a 45 lb plate suspended between her legs, it encouraged me to get my female clients stronger at chin ups!
When I saw one of Nia Shank’s female clients deadlifting 225 lbs for 6 reps like it was cupcakes, it inspired me to get my girls stronger.
When I watch one of Jason Ferrugia’s female clients cranking out 13 chin ups, it reminds me how important it is to “expect” my female clients to be able to chin.
I’ve seen so many strong people train over the years and spotted enough heavy squat or bench press attempts that strength has become second-nature to me. I guarantee you that guys like Dave Tate, Jim Wendler, and Joe DeFranco have higher expectations than 99.99% of trainers out there. Why? Because they’re accustomed to “strong.”
Before I released my video of 405 lb hip thrusts or 495 lb glute bridges people only used bodyweight for glute activation exercises. Now people realize that the glutes and posterior chain are capable of moving much more weight on these movements and that glute activation exercises can be loaded to become glute strengthening exercises.
In this sense, Youtube has been a wonderful tool for “raising the bar” in terms of impressive feats of strength and athleticism.
I’m not in favor of “putting strength onto dysfunction,” as Gray Cook would say. Getting stronger at the expense of good technique causes injuries, halts progress, reinforces crappy motor patterns, and causes prime movers to become stabilizers and vice versa. In other words, allowing bad form is a disservice to your clients.
By knowing proper progressions, keeping strength balanced, ensuring good form on every rep, giving constant feedback, and designing excellent programs, you can get your clients freakishly strong.
Some clients aren’t built to squat. They’ll never be good squatters, but they can become excellent deadlifters. Some won’t be good pressers but they can be great pullers. Give your clients something to go home and brag about to their family! My clients are always aware of their strength levels because I make it important to them. I always laugh when I overhear my female clients talking to each other while using “meat-head” terminology. They say stuff like, “I full squatted 135 for 3 yesterday,” “I’m going for 115 on the bench press today,” “Last week I did 50 non-stop Bulgarian squats,” or “I got ten chin ups last week.”
In our industry, we like to talk about the importance of free weights and bodyweight exercises over machine exercises. I bet that I could see better results with my clients using solely machines than 95% of trainers could by using any exercise they wanted (free weight, bodyweight, or machine). This is due to the fact that I have high expectations, I’m a great motivator, and I design superior programs.
Do your clients a favor and get them strong with good form. It all starts with having high expectations and knowing what “strong” entails.