Before I go anything further, let me be brutally honest with you and myself.  I have at many times contradicted the title of this blog post.  When I first started training, I had all clients use machines because I was worried about getting them hurt.  Then, after learning more about free weight and body weight movements, I suddenly became anti-machine.  The same thing happened when I learned more about barbell training and then eventually kettlebell training when I earned my SFG certification with StrongFirst.  Want to hear the boring answer that no one likes?  IT DEPENDS!  

    To quote one of my mentors, Zack Henderson:  “Effective programming comes down to tailoring tactics to the trainee, not the other way around.”  It’s very easy to forget that as coaches, we are here to serve, first and foremost.  You have to be able to adapt to the current needs, limitations, goals and desires of each individual client.  For the 6-months pre and post-SFG, I had about 95% of my clients training with kettlebells.  This was great for two reasons:  First, I was able to serve them better by getting them better results and teaching new movements.  Second, it helped me sharpen my skills as a coach.  

     However, I’ll admit that I simply assumed every client would like kettlebell training.  It wasn’t until a couple of my clients asked for more variety that I realized I was getting a little stuck in my ways.  At that point, my fancy certification didn’t mean anything.  It came down to how I would best serve my client, taking care of their needs.  

     The same can be said of any training modality.  I love the quote Bruce Lee once said:  “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”  I’ve borrowed concepts from a bunch of training philosophies.  Below are a few examples:

  • Bodybuilding focuses on muscular hypertrophy and symmetry.  This is effective, particularly for shoulder health.  I found through training clients that hitting the upper back/rear delts with more volume helped the muscles grow.  This not only added the muscular aesthetic they were after, it helped balance out strength between pushing and pulling muscles, making the shoulders healthier and improving posture.
  • CrossFit popularized timed training protocols among many others.  I honestly love limiting training to a set quantity of time.  This is a great way to push the body, build mental strength and increase conditioning.  They also incorporate a lot of body weight movements, of which I’m a huge fan.        
  • Powerlifting is all about training absolute strength, particularly in the big 3 lifts (squat, bench press, deadlift) in competition.  When the right movements are selected, getting stronger makes you better at everything.  It simply makes life physically easier for you.  Just the other day, one of my clients went kayaking.  It was the first time in years, and naturally she was expecting to be extremely sore.  Not only was that not the case, kayaking felt easier for her than the last time she went.  This is largely due to her much stronger core, upper and lower body.  Want to know what she does in training?  She presses, squats and deadlifts!  

     These are only a few examples, but you get my point.  Just because a certain training modality works for you, don’t assume everyone should do it.  Be willing to adapt everything to the person in front of you.  If you’re not a coach but love training, be willing to step outside of your comfort zone.  My coach Mike said it best:  “As long as exercise is safe and you enjoy it I’m all for it.  If it becomes unsafe at all, then it must be modified.”       

To your lifelong health and success,


We started a series called ”Beers, Bells and Bros.” Episode II is below, thank you so much for your support. If you’re reading this, you’re part of the Strong Squad!

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