Training for the Sake of Training

47 comments written by Al Coleman

To all instructors and trainees alike,

Train to be a better instructor. In other words, perform your own workouts not for your own personal progress, but for your progress as an instructor.

This is something I picked up off of Rob Serraino and paradoxically has made my own workouts improve ten fold.  How can you instruct another unless you can articulate to a subject what they are going through each and every nano second of an exercise?

Train to understand and test the equipment you are using. This serves two extremely important functions. One, it allows you to study the curves of a given exercise and/or a piece of equipment. This is a critcal skill to develop if you ever hope to correctly instruct an exercise. Your instruction should always specifically be machine dependent. For instilling the utmost confidence in a subject in your ability to instruct them, this skill is mandatory. Unless you know what a given machine is doing in any given moment, your instruction will be misdirected “cheerleading”.

Second, the development of the former skill sharpens the level of concentration during your personal workouts. Instead of carrying angst over having to reach some pre-determined load, TUL, rep count,etc…, your workouts turn into a “study session”. You learn to attenuate yourself and merge with whatever the apparatus happens to be doing at that particular second. You lose all thought of having to accomplish any false constructs, but instead are intensely focused on what is happening now.

The only way you will ever be able to train in order to provide a maximally directed inroad, is to forget personal goals. That sounds funny and runs counter to the way we are taught to do everything, but as long as you carry with you an idea of how your workout is supposed to go, you will always fall short. Inroad is real, your idea of it isn’t.

Train with the open ended question of, “What happens if……?”

This should prove confusing enough to spark some questions 🙂

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Doug Holland January 1, 2011 at 8:15 pm

I know what you’re saying.Several months ago a client climbed down from my Hammer H-Squat and said,”What you were telling me while I was up there was EXACTLY what I was feeling during every phase of every rep! How did you know?” My answer:”This is what I do.”


avatar Joshua Trentine January 2, 2011 at 12:23 am

Instant credibility!

Some trainers have client retention issues, this type of attention to detail cures that.


avatar Al January 2, 2011 at 1:05 pm


This is exactly what I’m talking about. You have to be the subjects road map. Especially when they are way up at the top of the H-Squat!


avatar Travis Weigand January 1, 2011 at 10:47 pm

“…is to forget personal goals.” What a great quote.

Goals are quantitative, Renaissance exercise is qualitative.


avatar Al January 2, 2011 at 1:06 pm



avatar Katz Finch January 6, 2011 at 9:16 am

I have found that less I know about everything (TUL, weight, “goals”) the better. All of those specifics serve as a distraction for me and my trainer knows that. My goal? To give it MY ALL physically and mentally and my trainer is there with me nano second by nano second perfectly guiding me. He’s the best!


avatar Joshua Trentine January 2, 2011 at 12:29 am

Interesting article.

Many instructors are attracted to this field because they are bodybuilders or were aspiring bodybuilders.

I’m ONLY a bodybuilder because I’m a instructor.


avatar Al January 2, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Proof is in the pudding.


avatar Andy January 4, 2011 at 5:46 pm


When you train without a personal goal for a specific workout concerning load and TUL, how can you determine the optimum volume and frequency of exercise in the long run? Muscle hypertrophy is my main goal and often it is painfully slow, so how can I determine if my training is heading in the right direction when I don´t compare load and TUL from session to session?


avatar Al January 4, 2011 at 8:43 pm


It isn’t that we don’t concern load and TUL, its that they have to be viewed as a means to an end and not the end themselves. More often that not the outcomes of a workout using these measurements gets grossly misinterpreted. Load and TUL for a given workout should represent what the previous workout stimulated. Sometimes I’ll keep the same weight load and see how I can milk more out of it before increasing it. What I mean by “milking” more out of it is attempting to “squeeze” a little harder in the finished position so as to finish myself off faster. Another way I may work with it is by really being honest with myself to make sure that it is uniformily smooth.

In the end, I think inroad is the key. Make sure you’ve inroaded as deeply as possible. If you’ve done this then you’ve done everything you can to stimulate a hypertrophic response. Take measurements. How do your clothes fit? Things of that nature. Weight load and TUL is relatively poor feedback. Tools are in the works to improve our feedback, but for now only concern yourself with the immediate inroad you’ve created(of course you need to do it within a reasonable amount of time). Find ways to inroad faster.



avatar Andy January 5, 2011 at 11:11 am


that makes it clear!

Thank you very much!


avatar Andy January 5, 2011 at 6:07 pm


just one more question concerning the issue of regulating volume and frequency of training. Muscle hypertrophy is often a very slow process and sometimes not detectable. Therefore it can be a very delayed feedback concerning the effectiveness of your training. How do you decide when it is time to decrease or maybe increase frequency and volume of your training? Avoiding to run into overtraining is one important point of that complex subject.


avatar Terry Condrasky January 2, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Interesting read AL, this goes along with what Dr. Ralph Carpinelli calls – training Intrinsically! For “silver haired trainees”, like myself, this places another very important dimension into our training and instructing. Especially as one gets older, the extrinsic (quanitative) values of training are more difficult to achieve. I definitely will be getting to know my equipment better!
Thanks for the article Al.


avatar Al January 2, 2011 at 1:08 pm


Reading Dr.Carpinelli’s thoughts on this were very influential in my process. Dr.Winett interviewed me in April regarding this. I’m not sure if any of it ever made it into Master Trainer.




avatar Dave January 2, 2011 at 10:45 pm

My chiroprator had pamphlets with Dr.Carpinelli’s research in his waiting room. 🙂


avatar Richard C January 2, 2011 at 11:16 pm

I can speak from first hand experience…it’s hard to imagine Josh Trentine becoming any better as a personal trainer. If it is possible, the best somehow would get better…


avatar Joshua Trentine January 3, 2011 at 1:53 am

Thanks man! The pursuit never ends, the thing I like about this most is you can always keep getting better. The knowledge base is so broad that you can continuously find untapped areas or sharpen skill sets.

We study Anatomy & Physiology, Biochemistry, Physics, Engineering, Physical Therapy, Psychology,Nutrition, and much more.

As of late I’ve been studying progressive relaxation and really making a study of the language and cues I use to evoke certain behaviors. Much of this comes from time dicussing instruction with Al Coleman.


avatar John Tatore January 3, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Josh said …As of late I’ve been studying progressive relaxation and really making a study of the language and cues I use to evoke certain behaviors. Much of this comes from time dicussing instruction with Al Coleman


This would make for a great article.


avatar Joshua Trentine January 3, 2011 at 5:01 pm

it would make a good 10 articles 🙂

we’re getting there, i have some other articles standing by to go up this week.


avatar Jon January 3, 2011 at 5:48 pm

I find as I get older my workouts tend to be more “experimental” in nature as apposed to goal related. I only keep workout records to see where I am going, and don’t necessarily care where I end uo, if that makes sense. Some days I’ll go to failure, other days I might cut out the ten second static at the end of positive movement.

I have thought of trying a 10/5 as opposed to the 10/10 rep. We’ll see.


avatar Joshua Trentine January 4, 2011 at 2:12 am

When you learn to listen to your own biofeedback, your focus is no longer weights and reps but rather fatigue of the muscles.


avatar Katz Finch January 6, 2011 at 9:21 am



avatar Matt Probst January 3, 2011 at 9:51 pm

I was a client of Josh’s about six years ago and subsequently became a trainer. This subject is close to my heart as I employ trainers who were both clients at one point and trainers who have never been a client. I have found that trainers who start off understanding the protocol from the client’s perspective have a much faster learning curve because they understand the verbal cues and how instructions process in their heads during the exercise. In addition Josh once told me that any good instructor will question protocol from time to time stray from the ideal methods to inroad muscle correctly, then return to the fundamentals as these fundamentals are an absolute requirement to maximize the benefits of proper strength training. Josh’s prediction came true in my case as I began to experiment with various speeds of motion, time under loads, even listening to music during my workout. The more I experimented the more I found myself coming back to the basics and the more I focused on the basics the more beneficial my workouts became and the faster I progressed. I absolutely agree that using your workouts to improve your ability to be an instructor is paramount; furthermore the more instructors can train other instructors as a method of practicing your skill, the better your staff will become. PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL!


avatar Joshua Trentine January 4, 2011 at 2:10 am


Stick to this and I’m sure you will build a very successful practice.


avatar Paul Marsland January 3, 2011 at 10:23 pm

The sign of a good instructor (which lets face is rare these days and most simply repeat what they have been told in some classroom and on some two bit course) is the ability to evolve and to learn, and in doing so one should actively seek out new (to them) information, also a lot can be learned from re reading old articles and books, not be afraid to try new things and constantly experimenting, tweeking things here and there,

I’m my own instructor and my one and only client which suits me fine, don’t get me wrong I would dearly love to it for a living but sadly here in the UK its not something that one can make a decent living from, unless I’m prepared to teach spin or plyometrics or some other in vogue fad, my principles mean more to me than this..so I’ll keep on as I have done for the last twenty years, training my ass off as that is the only way I know how….


avatar Joshua Trentine January 4, 2011 at 2:08 am

A very wise man told me ; Elite instructors control variables. Control as many variables as possible.

If this can’t be be done it’s all but impossible to make any evaluations about what you are observing.


avatar Jim J January 4, 2011 at 12:37 am

Thank you for this info. As a result of Josh’s and Al’s explanations, I’ve learned more in the last month than in the last year of my training. Thank you! Thank you !


avatar Al January 4, 2011 at 1:23 am

No, Thank You!


avatar Ed Hovanik January 4, 2011 at 8:23 pm


What an eye opening article. Many years ago I took up martial arts and worked at it for several years. I never made real progress, however, until I trained with Paul Vunak and Demi Barbito who said that to become proficient in the martial arts you must train to become an instructor. This was the basis for all their teachings. I never made the connection to utilize this approach to body building, however. (Duh!)

Logically, this makes perfect sense, which is probably why I never figured it out. I’ll call tomorrow to ser up some kind of appointment. Thanks again for turning on the light bulb.

Ed H


avatar Al January 4, 2011 at 9:52 pm


Thanks for stopping by and reading. I’m glad my thoughts helped to turn something on.

Could you call tomorrow between 10:30 and noon?

Speak soon,



avatar Ed Hovanik January 5, 2011 at 2:13 am

Hi Al

Will call tomorrow. Thanks



avatar Scott Springston January 5, 2011 at 6:51 pm

So what I’m hearing here is the importance of feel and inroading the muscle more than weather a certain weight or rep sceme is achieved? Early on in my training I was not so consumed with how much weight I could lift but was more concerned with how hard I felt I had worked the muscle. Part of that was a burn and exausted feel I obtained after what I called a good set. I would stand there doing my puny 10 pound bumbell laterals and felt my delts pumped and worked to the max compared to what I figured those around me got by using much more weight but not focusing on form etc.
So to wrap this up in a nut shell the renaissance exercise idea is more about feel than weight? Getting the most inroad and feel out of a set of 5 heavy 120 pound pullovers is better than a sloppy less focused set of heavier 140 pound pullovers??


avatar Joshua Trentine January 6, 2011 at 6:05 am

None of the accounting matters unless, every second, of every inch, of every rep(or rep attempt) is focused and concentrated on inroad.

Feel is one feedback cue, a very valuable one.


avatar Dennis January 5, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Great point! As has been said training to be a better trainer adds so much to a workout.
My training has recently taken on new meaning and focus as a direct result of the comments on this site.Sessions now are filled with a certainty that was dwindling in the past year or so.
I was trying to’perform’ my workout to fit what I thought ‘had’ to be the ideal protocol.
Now I am back to using the great equipment I have as a tool to experience the profound stimulation of transformation. I finish a set and I know I nailed it, I can’t measure it, I may not even be able to prove it but I know I nailed it.
Andy’s question is a good one. Until recently I would judge the effectiveness of an exercise by an increase in tul or weight and I would kill myself to get it, but even then I had my doubts. Even though the markers were improving I didn’t feel like it was ‘working ‘ .
The reality is that if I improve my ability to deliver the stimulus the tul my actually go down. A few months ago I would have thought I hadn’t fully recovered if the markers didn’t improve- now I’m glad- go figure.
As complicated as I can make this sound it really isn’t rocket science,I do everything I can to honestly make the exercise harder and rest long enough until I know I am ready to do it again only better.
If I just do what I already know to do the rest will take care of itself.
Thanks guys for a great site, I think you are really on to something.


avatar Katz Finch January 6, 2011 at 9:44 am

All of this discussion reminds me of looking at something from a right vs. left brain perspective. I literally went into my workout on Monday with a mind set to keep my mind open and to FEEL during my workout (a right brain perspective). I put my trust and myself 100% into my trainers hands and he takes care of all of the details (the left brain stuff). I try as best as I can to be in the moment of NOW as I’m pushing the weights and panting and FEELING it so I may become a better human being mentally and physically. Until 4.5 years ago I had never been a “worker-outer” (I’m an artist) so all of this was new to me and I think that the less I knew the better. Now, after shedding 50 pounds, I am totally into what my body is going through. But I couldn’t do it without my attentive trainer, Alex.


avatar Al January 6, 2011 at 1:45 am

Scott,Dennis, and Andy,

These are all thoughtful and good questions. I’m going to try and post a blog entry addressing the answers(IMO) in the next few days.




avatar Andy January 6, 2011 at 9:43 am

Al, thank you!



avatar John Tatore January 6, 2011 at 2:17 am

Josh & Al … what are those things, you both are wearing, on your hands during the videos of the chest pressing exercises


avatar Joshua Trentine January 6, 2011 at 5:28 am

Renaissance Exercise hand pads.

A very, very dense…very, very thin pad.


avatar John Tatore January 6, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Do you sell them … where can one purchase them?


avatar Joshua Trentine January 6, 2011 at 8:44 pm

not yet.


avatar Jeff January 6, 2011 at 3:06 am

Joshua Trentine wrote:
The machines are in Cleveland, Ohio if anyone wants a test drive.

Chuck wrote:
Well worth the drive. Thanks for your hospitality today Josh and Al. You gentlemen are always welcome here anytime.
So, I still feel pretty much like a wimp after using the leg press.
Sorry about no video to post from today but I would have been the stick figure standing next to either Al or Josh.
The reason very few will get this at present is because it is a total paradigm shift in how you evaluate the process of stimulating musculature for the purpose of growth. Too much training is rooted in the attempted demonstration of strength and accounting methods based in the purely mechanical analysis realm.
ROM, TUL.. they all become meaningless when they become the end instead of the means.
There is potentially something far more profound going on at Renaissance/Overload and I don’t suspect that many will be able to understand from their current experience base. You have to see it and do it under careful tutelage to have a glimpse of what is so correct about this.
There would still be a lot of shovel throwers though.


avatar John Tatore January 6, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Josh and/or Al .. what do you guys do when someone has one leg longer than the other while doing the leg press … is it OK to do the squeeze technique with the legs bent at different angles?


avatar Joshua Trentine January 7, 2011 at 12:59 am

I would not ever attempt squeeze on the Leg Press if there is a noticable LLD.

Most of the time a LLD is the result of inominate bone rotation. I’ve included some information to deal with this.

The functional leg length difference and SI problems can be a result of a number of things.

Let’s assume that we have removed whatever stress that has got you to this point, and lets assume that you have been accurately diagnosed with a functional leg length difference. For the sake of discussion let’s say that the right leg is shorter than left leg.

This much information and the sum of my experiences would lead me to believe that you probably have a left anterior innominant rotation. This is likely due to an adaptive change(shortening) of the hip flexors on the left side, usually most effected is the Iliopsoas followed by the rectus femoris and sometimes the sartorious. Many people will find themselves stretching their hamstring group when they have this disorder because the adaptively shortened hip flexors and anterior tilt of the left innominant bone has Left the hamstrings are on a constant stretch.Do not stretch the hamstrings they are the only dynamic or passive restraint holding some sort of stability for the pelvis or SI joint(Which is generally considered a immobile joint).

Static stretching is usually not going to fix any problem anyway.Although it does help with noxious stimuli and may be an effective modality in breaking the pain-spasm-pain cycle.

Step 1:
I would ask you do some passive stretching for the left Iliopsoas , the left piriformis and possibly the right piriformis, the right hip may need some work in external or internal rotation but for simplicity sake lets start with both and see what happens.

Realize, that in this case passive stretching isn’t really going to change the length of the muscles it doesn’t work that way. In my experience it does help the process.If you are not aggravating the SI you may want to move forward with some sort of PNF stretching or contract/relax techniques for for the left Iliopsoas.Insome cases an physical therapist, massotherapist or active release therapist can help with this. My experience tells me a motivated subject can do these things themselves.

Step 2:

some stretching may have helped to reset the nervous system or relax spasmotic structures associated with SI Dysfunction. Now we can try some “Muscle Energy” techniques—Using your muscles to realign the pelvis. In this case you might want to do two separate activities.
1: Isometric ball squeeze– purchase a kid’s rubber ball place it between your knees in a supine, hooklying position (lying on your back with your knees bent).Gradually apply force in ADduction against the ball, within seconds pushing as hard as you can !
you may feel a grinding crackeling noise at the symphysis pubis or a hollow ‘pop’ in the groin.It is ok if you don’t, you are still affecting alignment.Muscle energy needs to be done, at most, only once a day or when you notice pain or pinching in the SI, low back or prior to your strengthening portion of rehab.
2:Supine One-legged bridge–Bend your left knee, so that your left foot is flat on the floor in supine , and your right leg is perfectly straight, dig your left heel in to the floor and bridge your pelvis off the floor, bringing the straight right leg up with you and in line with the left leg(femurs in line), hold stable concentrating on your left glute and left hamstring , repeat 3 to 5 reps.For you ,Do this only on the left. You can stop this exercise as soon as your SI pain/pinching goes away.

Step 3 (Strengthening)

This is the most important part as it creates stability and resets adaptively shortened structures.

2x week:
–Hip ADductor-1 set, moderate load, only go to a R.O.M that produces the slightest
sensation of stretch.When in doubt do less R.O.M.

–I would avoid hip ABduction at this time, i would have to look at you before i could decide about this movement, on many machines you may make things worse, in some cases sidelying ABD, with very short R.O.M focused on the glute medius might help.

–Lumbar EXT or extensor mechanism strengthening. My first choice here is the Medx Medical lumbar machine. Done after your correction sequence mentioned above. Depending on the person and their pathology Reverse-hyper extension can work well.Some can do these on a physioball if they are in a pinch for the right equipment, I have rehabed many backs this way.Now in days i have any machines i need.For MedX lumbar 1 set is plenty, for reverse hypers i may do as many as 3 sets in some cases.

Very early in the rehab, once the muscle gets used to the work and we are beyond the “therapuetic” effects of pumping blood to the muscle and depending on the conditioning of the subject.I would bump down to 1x/Week strengthening on these exercises.In some cases, with some people and depending on what type of general strengthening they are doing, i may eveutually back this workout down to once every three weeks,This is not for everyone but, eventually less can be more, long term.Short term- start as i described with moderate to light loads in early stages and when frequency is higher.

Abdominal work or as some like to call “core” work may be of some indication, in some cases but, most people use the hipflexors too much and make the whole thing worse.


avatar John Tatore January 7, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Thanks Josh.


avatar Andew Shortt February 23, 2011 at 6:15 pm

“Inroad is real, your idea of it isn’t.”

Al you have a way with words.



avatar Al Coleman February 24, 2011 at 8:55 am


Thanks man! That means a lot coming from you!.



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