Articles of the Week


Every Sunday Free Form Academy posts a list of the best articles that will help make you a better trainer. The articles are grouped into 4 categories: Exercise, Business, Motivational Psychology, and Nutrition. The links will be opened in a new window.


12 Ways to Know if You Should Include and Exercise in a Strength Training Program by Eric Cressey

3 Training Methods Athletes Screw Up by Nick Tumminello

6 Ways to Develop Your Grip Strength For Better Results by Karen Smith


Drink This, Not That! by TC Luoma

The Metabolic Killers: How to Restart a Stalled Metabolism by Jade Teta

How to Use Cortisol to Your Advantage: Nutrition Tips to Gain the Most Strength and Muscle by Poliquin Group Editorial Staff


The Behavioral Economics Diet: The Science of Killing a Bad Habit by Nir Eyal

When It Comes to Lifestyle Change, Timing Matters by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff

Why Dieters Fail? by Shahram Heshmat, Ph.D.


3 Simple (Not Easy) Steps to Grow Your Fitness Business by Ryan Ketchum

10 Business Networking Mistakes Even Top Fitness and Coaching Entrepreneurs Make by John Spencer Ellis

The 5 Biggest Facebook Advertising Mistakes by Jordan Bornstein

What We Can Learn From Vegans: Identity-based Motivation

Raw Vegan by Jovan J, licensed through Creative Commons
Raw Vegan by Jovan J, licensed through Creative Commons

“I only eat meat on special occasions.”

“I ate well all day, so I thought I could treat myself with a burger.”

“They were serving pork tacos at the staff party, so I HAD to eat it.”

Would you hear a vegan say any of those things? Now contrast those statements with what you might hear a client say:

“I only eat cake on special occasions.”

“I ate well all day, so I thought I could treat myself with some ice cream.”

“They were serving cookies at the staff party, so I HAD to eat it.”

Why is it so easy for one group of people to remain so steadfast in their choices, but so difficult for everyone else? It is common to hear of people who choose to become vegan or vegetarian and have no issues with making the change the very next day. On the other hand, it seems to be a constant battle for most clients to stay on track with their eating habits.

How to make a change stick

The biggest difference between the two is the adoption of a firm identity. Research by Daphna Oyserman shows that identity-based motivation plays a large role in implementing healthy behavioiurs. Once a new identity is established, decisions become easy because the identity provides you with a built-in framework from which to follow. An identity comes with a set of values and beliefs. All decisions are guided by whether they align with the values and beliefs that you identify with.

When someone chooses to become a vegan, the most important rule to follow is not to consume animal products. This makes it easy to say, “No,” when the opportunity to eat animal products presents itself. As a vegan, you simply don’t eat meat because you believe that it is wrong. There are no exceptions, no excuses, and no grey areas.

You can see the same philosophy unfold in those who are successful with weight loss. They make the commitment and adopt the new identity of someone who is taking charge of their overall health. It is not a struggle to exercise more. It is easy to resist an extra portion of dinner.

When you choose a new identity, you no longer have to make a choice for certain behaviours. You do it because that is what someone you identify as does.

As a vegan, you do not have eggs for breakfast. As a health-conscious individual, you do not eat desert after dinner every night.

How to change a client’s identity

When trying something as drastic as changing someone’s identity, values, and beliefs, you have to make it fun. Make a game of it. Tell your clients to think about their ideal self; the person they aspire to be. Then tell them to pretend to be that person for an entire week. All of their decisions are made based on what their ideal person would do.

A funny thing happens when you force yourself to act differently. You realize that the change is not so bad after all. It becomes more natural the more you act as the new you. Soon enough, it doesn’t become acting anymore. It is just you.

This is essentially what instilling new habits is. A conscious choice to behave differently. However, because some people have struggled for so long, making a different choice becomes more and more difficult. It’s much easier to throw yourself a pity party and dwell on the negative. A sense of helplessness sets in and the thought that change will never happen becomes impossible to escape.

This is why thinking of yourself as already changed and starting from the end is helpful. Pretending to be someone else is temporary. And temporary isn’t as scary. Pretending can also be fun. They can let go of their insecurities and try something new without judgement.

Starting from the end also removes the barriers that people believe come with a long journey. They don’t think they have the time to change. They think things are so bad now all of the changes that need to happen is just too much. Imagining themselves as their ideal self gets rid of the work in the middle. Starting is always the hardest part. Thinking of themselves as already changed is just a way to motivate them to make that first step.

When people continually fail to succeed on a goal, they lose the confidence in their ability to change. They don’t feel as though they can make the right choices. Giving your clients an option to think with a new point of view can inspire them to look at their problems differently. It acts as a built-in role model.

Many Christians carry the phrase, “What would Jesus do?” as a reminder of how to make the right choices. Telling your clients to adopt a new identity essentially gets them to ask themselves, “What would the new me do?” before any decisions. This simple question could be all it takes to get clients to consistently behave in a manner that supports their goals.

So, tell clients to act like a vegan. Tell them to be firm in their identity to live a healthier life. Don’t choose to change. Just choose change.

Exercise You Should Know: Cable Chest Press

Cable Chest Press

Why use the cable chest press?

The cable chest press is a great chest exercise that also includes a stability component. The extra stability challenge means this exercise has strong carryover into athletic performance. Athletes generally play while standing on two feet and core control is very important for performance. The cable chest press teaches clients to transfer energy from their feet, hips, and torso to generate force through their shoulders and chest.

Improved core control and stability is also beneficial for the general population. The cable chest press is a good way for clients to discover how to connect core stability and upper limb motion and power. If they are unable to stabilize their body, they will end up being pulled back by the cable machine instead of being able to press their hands forward.

This is a great “bang for your buck” exercise to use with clients who want to lose weight. You get a core stability exercise as well as an upper body strength exercise rolled into one. It can easily be inserted into any full body training program focused on compound movements.

Performing this exercise unilaterally (one arm at a time) also adds an anti-rotation component.

Coaching cues

Ensure that the hips and shoulders are square and aligned with each other. A staggered stance is recommend to start as it will provide clients with the greatest amount of stability.

Clients should be reminded to maintain stiffness throughout their entire body in order to be able to generate power in the shoulders.

Watch that the elbow does not go too far past the torso. This will emphasize shoulder stability as it does not allow the head of the humerus to roll forward.

Try the cable chest press on your clients and let us know how it goes in the comments!

Articles of the Week

8433d1_0987768c95714fe9b09dcf25fdd9e0c4.jpg_1024Every Sunday Free Form Academy posts a list of the best articles that will help make you a better trainer. The articles are grouped into 4 categories: Exercise, Business, Motivational Psychology, and Nutrition. The links will be opened in a new window.


3 Reasons Why the Half-kneeling Position Will Improve Your Training by Dr. Quinn Henoch

Beyond Butt Wink: Hip Shape, Injuries, and Individual Ability Part 1 by Dean Somerset

6 Steps to Building the Perfect Workout by Dan Blewett


How Eating Better Can Make You Happier by Kamel Patel

It Won’t Kill You to Grill by Brian St. Pierre

Is Metabolic Damage a Real Thing? by Dr. Brooke Kalanick Larson


5 Steps to Lasting Life Changes and Personal Growth by Shelly Drymon

Behavioral Economics and Health Part 1 by Tayla Miron-Shatz, Ph.D

Master the Habits of Your Life by John Jantsch


Overcoming Perfectionism: How to Take Action, Execute a Plan, and Move Forward In Your Coaching Business by John Spencer Ellis

Personal Trainer Business Plan by Adam Bornstein

Are You Being Strategic? by Rachael Cosgrove

7 Ways to Safely Increase Your Clients’ Workout Intensity

Fitness Classes by Nottingham Trent University, licensed under Creative Commons
Fitness Classes by Nottingham Trent University, licensed under Creative Commons

Over the past few years, more personal trainers have become aware of the importance of movement quality over quantity. This new way of training has led trainers to stress corrective exercise over regular strength training. The problem that has resulted? Clients are not reaching their goals because they are not being pushed hard enough. Thankfully, the solution is simple: just increase their workout intensity.

When working with clients, it is important to remember one thing and one thing only. Your job is to help your clients look and feel better. Yes, movement quality is always important – especially for keeping your clients safe and injury-free. But you should not be afraid of pushing them and making them work hard.

The main issue that is preventing personal trainers from pushing their clients is a fear of hurting their clients. It’s great that you care about your clients’ overall well-being, but hard does not necessarily mean dangerous. With smart programming, safe training and challenging training does not have to be mutually exclusive.

Here are 7 ways to make your clients work hard while keeping them safe.

Decrease rest periods

Program a circuit of at least 4 exercises and alternate them between upper body and lower body exercises. This way, you can improve their cardiovascular work capacity without being affected by muscular fatigue. Encourage your clients to complete every exercise in the circuit before taking a break. Also be sure to record the amount of rest that they get so that you can track their progress. An ability to begin the next set with less rest shows that their ability to recover is improving.

Isometric Holds

Two words: wall sit. So simple, yet so universally hated. Choose a position and hold for the desired length of time. Progressively increase the length of the hold until clients reach 1 min. From there, find ways to make the exercise more difficult rather than opting for more time. You can also incorporate smaller holds into normal sets. For instance, if doing inverted rows, have your clients hold the top position for several seconds before lowering themselves back down.


Work your way up or down a desired number of reps. For instance, begin with 10 pushups, then 9 pushups, then 8, and so on until you reach 1. Alternatively, you can start with 1 rep and work your way up to 10. I like to pair two exercises and get clients to do one in a descending ladder and the other in an ascending ladder. A pairing that I use often is TRX rows and pushups. The client would do 10 rows and 1 pushup, then immediately into 9 rows and 2 pushups until they finish with 1 row and 10 pushups. The idea is to complete the entire set without rest and as quickly as possible. I also like to time these ladder exercises. This way clients can see measurable progress when they are able to complete the same ladder in less time.

Countdown Reps

This technique combines isometric holds with the ladder format. I originally got this idea from Ben Bruno, a personal trainer based out of Los Angeles. With this scheme, you would perform the desired amount of reps of an exercise (let’s say 5). On the fifth rep, you hold the top position for five seconds and then move on to do four reps. Hold the fourth rep for four seconds then do three reps, until you end with the final rep.


As Many Rounds As Possible. Popularized by CrossFit, AMRAPs are exactly what it sounds like. Set up a circuit of exercises, pick a length of time, and away you go. As always, I like creating well-rounded circuits that include a squat, a pull, a deadlift, and a push movement. By following this simple structure, you are still able to easily scale the difficulty of the circuit based on the abilities of your client. For instance, a novice client would find a circuit of step ups, TRX rows, glute bridges, and incline pushups to be challenging. For a more advanced client, you can program barbell squats, pullups, Romanian deadlifts, and medicine ball pushups. I generally go with 5, 10, or 15 minute increments with the clientele that I have. Again, this is a great way to measure fitness progress as clients can aim to complete more rounds in the allotted time frame.


Another popular CrossFit protocol, EMOM stands from Every Minute On the Minute. For this format, you choose one exercise, a timeframe, and the number of reps. For example, 20 kettlebell swings and 5 minutes. This means the client performs 20 kettlebell swings at the top of each minute for 5 minutes. In other words, each round lasts for one minute. The faster they complete the 20 swings, the more rest they get until the next minute begins.


What is known as Tabata training in the mainstream fitness market is a very poor representation of the true protocol. However, using the Tabata style is still an effective way to increase your clients’ work capacity. The Tabata protocol is 3 sets of 20 seconds of maximal effort work alternated with 10 seconds of rest for a total of 4 minutes. This type of training is well suited for use with cardio equipment. It would also be suitable for full body movements like squats or burpees. The original intent of the Tabata protocol is to improve aerobic and anaerobic capacity, so using this protocol for something like bicep curls would not be very effective.

Some of these techniques (ladders, AMRAPS, EMOM, Tabata) are short in the amount of time it takes. This makes them very easy to incorporate into the end of a strength workout. Decreasing rest periods is something you can progressively incorporate day by day or week to week. Isometric holds and countdown reps are things you can add to your clients’ everyday training for some variety.

Whatever you choose to incorporate, always remember to keep your clients’ capabilities in mind. Select exercises that they can perform well. Pick a time frame that they can handle. If you can nail these two things, you will be able to make your clients work hard and keep t