8 Years, 8 Things

Posted June 2, 2017 by kaseemt
Categories: Uncategorized

I am a little late on this one but 8 years ago in May, I got my first training certification and started working as personal trainer. These are 8 random lessons that I have learned over that time.

1. Listen

This is probably the most important thing I have learned. Back in the day, I was fresh off of Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding and every magazine I could get my hands on. Unfortunately, I went in with minimal “real” plans and everything was body part for the sake of body parts. It didn’t matter who the person was or what they were wanting as long as they were feeling like they had a good workout. The one positive I had going was that each time somebody came I began by asking how they were feeling. It let me make some minor adjustments to the plans.

These days, there is a lot more listening and we are still working on ways to improve client/trainer communication in the gym. Everybody gets assessed, we take notes on the performance, notes on adjustments and ask how they are feeling each time they come in.

2. Simplify Nutrition.

Nutrition is scary to most people.

We have socially ingrained fears, constant body judgments (almost exclusively for women), hopes for easy elimination fixes and bounce from “magic” diet to “magic” diet. Precision Nutrition was one of the best things for the gym in terms of coaching. Nutrition is very individual but following basic principles and not shoving massive numbers, schemes and fluctuations to the everyday person wins more often than not. Focus on proteins and fruits and vegetables. Eat some carbs sometimes. Watch portions either by measuring or estimating with your hands. Recognize and work on fears and triggers with food. You don’t earn food with exercise and you don’t restrict for being “Bad”. Finally, realize it is the big picture and rarely the small details that matter in the long haul.

3) Enjoyment.


From kids to adults, we are far too rigid in our definition of exercise. The goals should be to improve performance at all times but it can be done without being glued to a plan and with more than just the big 3 lifts (bench, squat, deadlift), 3 sets of ten and 30 minutes on an elliptical. Training should include some play, some jokes, some enjoyment and levity…its just exercise after all.

One of the trainer’s inside Trilogy recently told us that, “This is the first gym that I have really enjoyed and felt comfortable in”. This is more important than benching a ton, when people enjoy themselves and feel comfortable, they will work harder and keep coming back.

4) Learn Something New.

Expanding your horizons and expanding your physical capabilities is important for your growth in physical culture but also for you development as a person. When you take on a new skill and challenge, you develop some grit and remember what it is like to learn and struggle.

A couple years ago, I picked up jiu-jitsu and I am most certainly a slow learner with it. I get to be coached. I get to be beat (a lot and badly at times). I get to struggle. I get to improve.

It helps me be a better coach and person, I am positive of this.

5) Variety is Important.


Varying the exercises, the bars, the reps, the sets, the speeds, the range of motion – all of these factors can and should be adjusted depending on the person and goal. People will feel better and improve with plenty of sensible variety. Variety also keeps people interested.

6) WODs are Stupid but a Good Challenge at Times are GREAT.

WODs(workout of the day) are lazy programing and don’t put the best interest of the individual at the center. Sensible planning is important for the gym, health and safety but every now and then doing something pretty hard and challenging is important. Pushing yourself is a must in training and finding a safe but at times brutal challenge is good way to see where you stand both mentally and physically.

(I am pretty sure that I stole this one from the legendary Dan John somewhere along the line.)

7) The Basics Work.


Squat, hinge, carry, push, pull and move quickly — training should incorporate all of these. You also don’t need to do much more than these basics: master and progress a squat, a deadlift, the push up, inverted rows and a single arm carry. There will always be a new video of some complicated, insane exercise balanced on a ball on top of a dumbbell in a torrential downpour…it isn’t needed. Squat well and do some pull-ups. Get strong and good with the foundational movements and you will get lean and strong.

8) People First.

“A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.” – Eeyore


Helping people should always be your focus. Pay attention to little details to make somebody learn more, have a better time and make their experience more fun and accepting. Getting into the habit of helping and doing more for others is easy. Small gestures and small details go a long way.




Youth Training and Building a Foundation

Posted May 3, 2012 by kaseemt
Categories: Uncategorized

Youth and teen athletes/general fitness clients are far different than adults and as a result need to be trained differently and many times more conservatively than older athletes and clients.  I have had the luxury of interning with one of the top HS strength coaches in the country in Carlo Alvarez and his staff.  I learned a lot about training younger athletes and high school athletes in a team setting but here are a few more specific things that I have found working one on one with a variety of youth clients ranging from 12-18 yrs old. 

In general, young trainees tend to need help with:

General Stability

There is a general lack of stability with a lot of my younger clients.  This is a picture of one of my clients; he is a 13 yr old lacrosse player.  When we first started this was what a push-up looked like:


As you can see in the first picture he is about as stable as the last move in Jenga.   We worked on a lot of push up holds, plank variations and loaded carries.  Within about 3 weeks of training and dominating farmer’s walks and suitcase carries his push-ups looked like this:


(Editors note: Sorry for the quality/angles of the photos. I am no Anne Geddes.)

Glute Activation

A lot of the youths struggle to activate their glutes during glute bridges.  In order to increase activation, have them do glute bridges with a band around their knees, creating some tension and forcing them to actively pull the band apart.  This increases their glute activation and makes the exercise more effective. 

In order to further glute development and make bulletproof hamstrings, I progress them on the glute-ham from their first week with me.  We begin with low back extensions and then progress up to the glute ham raise.  To enhance glute strength and stability, I begin their workouts with 2 sets of low back extensions on the glute ham with a concentrated hold at the top of the movement.  This has helped them learn to activate and utilize their glutes much more effectively.

Valgus Collapse

The increased glute activation and glute med strength helps with the knee stabilization.  As the glute and glute med strength improves their knees will begin to track much better. 

The primary lower body exercises I begin with youth clients are goblet squats, split squats and SL eccentric squats to a box.  The goblet squat really ingrains the their squat technique while the split squats develop a lot more lower body stability.  These are the primary beginning exercises and all of my trainees have progressed at varying rates. 

Utilize tempo variations with the lifts on occasion.  At their age and training ability, tempo use will help but isn’t completely necessary to use yet, as all of these moves will give them enough of a stimulus to correct issues and progress to more lifts first.  As they advance in their abilities and competency tempos should be used to a greater extent for added variation, strength development and efficacy. 


Kids run and jump all the time but they also tend to land pretty stiff when they are using them in training.  There isn’t a need to have younger trainees doing massive amounts of plyometrics.  Their power and strength is going to be developing plenty with proper programming, sports performance and strength increases.  As long as you allow some exercises to be performed explosively their power will continue to develop at this stage.

Instead of crushing the kids with plyometrics every workout, have them focus on landings first.  These landings from vertical jumps, jumping to a box and bounding will still overload significantly but teaching them how to land properly early and often will help protect them for a long time.  Teach them to land like “ninjas” so they hit the ground or box softly and safely.  While these jumps are plyometrics, these exercises are low-level plyometrics and aren’t used in a high volume with my youth clients.  Using just 2-4 sets of a 2-5 reps, each workout, will be good to help them learn the mechanics of jumping and more importantly landing.


Focusing on the basics is vital with young trainees.  Build up a strong foundation of stability and strength using basic exercises.  Make them great at the basics before you advance them.  Their bodies, performance and future will thank you greatly.

Tis the Season

Posted April 19, 2012 by kaseemt
Categories: Uncategorized

When training to lose body fat, your training program will probably need a bit of an overhaul.  At one of the gyms I work at, 90% of the people follow the same weekly structure in a workout – chest/triceps, back/biceps, leg extensions, arms, arms and if they have time on Saturday a little more arms.  They then follow this up by an endless amount of time on the elliptical, bike or treadmill.  Here are a few quick tips to overhaul your program and start changing your body composition.

Really lift!

Far too often I see people doing the same routine day in and day out – the same weight, reps and order.  As Jim Wendler would say, just get strong and the rest will fall into place.  Don’t be afraid to get strong, you won’t get “bulky”.  Develop some strength in a few core lifts and use big lifts like the squat, and deadlift.  (Side note: That big metal contraption in the corner, surprisingly it is designed for squats not just bicep curls so use it well and really take advantage of it.)  Focus on getting stronger and moving a more challenging weight.  This will cause a greater hormonal response, require you to recruit more muscles and put your body in a much more conducive environment to burn fat.  Go heavy (Please remember this is a relative term, don’t kill yourself trying to keep up with somebody else.) on some big movements like your squats, lunges, pull-ups and deadlifts.

Switch up the routine entirely: ditch the body part splits and start training your full body.  You will need to adjust your exercises a bit but this change will allow you to focus on the big compound movements that will really give you the response you and your body wants.

Weight training should be your primary emphasis during a fat-loss phase.  You burn the majority of your calories while you are just walking around, at work or out on the weekends.  In order to make this more efficient we need to put a little bit of muscle mass on you.  This raises your resting metabolic rate so that you burn more calories all the time.

Stop distance running to lose fat!

If you really believe that training for that marathon in 4 months will get your body the lean look that you want, stroll down to the next race in your town and look at the competitors.  Some will be in shape but chances are, the majority will not fit the body type that most people strive for when it comes spring and summer time.  Running for hours on end will cause you to lose too much quality muscle and will stress the body to a high degree.  This stress along with losing the muscle mass will slow your metabolic rate and reverse the body composition that you are striving for.  If you want to run as your sport, have at it but if you are running to get that sweet, sweet six pack we need to change it up. 

For great article discussing the negative effects go to http://www.charlespoliquin.com and look up “The (Many) Negatives of Aerobic Training”: as always he gives, a very detailed and scientific look into all the negative effects of long duration aerobic training.  Charles Poliquin is pretty much THE Man.

Give yourself a couple days of some steady-state aerobic work.  I wouldn’t go for long but a good 20-30 minutes will do your body good.  The small cortisol release will help to take care of some of the inflammation in your body.  These aerobic sessions will help your body recover and directly train your aerobic system.  Keeping it at a low volume will not flood your body with the negative effects we want to avoid.

Go anaerobic!

Anaerobic is the hip trend in fitness right now, and it is for a good reason.  Focusing on more anaerobic conditioning protocols will lead to a greater decrease in body fat.  A strong sprint session out on a track will not burn as many calories as going out and running 10 miles but those calories burned in addition to all the hormonal benefits of anaerobic work lead to a greater decrease in body fat. 

Why not stick to an anaerobic dominant protocol?!?  It is more time efficient, you lose more body fat, work/maintain muscle more efficient and your aerobic abilities will improve at the same time.

Anaerobic doesn’t have to just revolve around going out and sprinting up stairs and running 40’s.  At the end of most of my clients’ sessions we do an anaerobic finisher.  These can be anything from sprints in the parking lot and sled pushes (more traditional anaerobic work) or “metabolic medleys”.  In these medleys I generally choose a 3-4 exercises and give them timed sets or reps and have them complete it for time.  One example of a metabolic medley I may use with a client would be 15 medicine ball slams, 15 burpees and 20 body weight squats.  We would do these for time and then adjust the rest period based on their completion of the circuit.  I like to keep a good variety in the exercises so that they are able to put forth a high effort with each set and rep.

Eat Better!

This is the “duh” portion of the post so I will just throw in a few broad tips:

Throw away the candy, breads and sodas. 

Eat as much natural food as you can and avoid the processed foods as much as possible. 

Increase your quality protein intake and eat a lot of vegetables. 

If you are crushing burgers and beers every night, the gut will remain the same.


For more information or to contact me, visit http://www.mattkasee.com

Always Improve

Posted March 13, 2012 by kaseemt
Categories: Uncategorized

One of the basic principles of training is progression.  Proper progression is vital for success in any training program.  However it is often neglected in many assets of peoples training.  Whether it is the rise of new extreme and intense training methods where you do the most work possible in every workout or a reliance on repeating the same workouts every day an individual works out.  Neither of these methods will give optimal results nor should they be considered suitable for the average individual.  On one extreme you risk injury in the fatigued state of the intense exercise while on the other extreme you will likely make minimal gains and easily plateau.  Programming should come down to efficiency and smart training.  The goal of the program should be to try to get the desired results in the safest and most efficient manner possible.  When applying some basic rules of progression you should attempt to increase your training incrementally whether it is through increase in reps, weights or both so that your body is constantly being challenged.

An area that is often overlooked but should include progression is in the nutritional aspect of an individuals exercise program.  In the same way that individuals should not go out and attempt a max effort squat day or completely ruin themselves on the first workout you shouldn’t do the same when making adjustments with your food intake.  While the exercise will likely impair you physically for a few days or increase a risk of injury; the abrupt change in dietary habits will likely lead to mental fatigue and the inability to stick with the program.  People have a finite ability to make changes as our will and self-discipline will eventually fade especially when being stressed with a new workout regimen and nutrition plan.

When designing an exercise plan you should strive for constant improvement every workout.  This will come with smart planning and training organization.  When changing dietary habits you should do the same.  As I suggest to my clients you should attempt to make at least 1 positive dietary change every week and keep it in your program.  Within a few weeks you will have improved the diet pretty drastically and it will have all been done with small steps and accomplishing weekly dietary goals.  Always challenge yourself and strive for improvement but do it intelligently and well planned so you can continually make yourself better.

Some Good Stuff Will Come Soon!

Posted March 5, 2012 by kaseemt
Categories: Uncategorized

Just starting my training blog, where I will share my favorite readings from other Strength Coaches and Trainers, my own thoughts and knowledge and training updates of my clients.  Let me know some topics you would like to read about and what I should write about and check out me out at http://www.mattkasee.com as well.