My Rant: Fitness Gurus &; “Creative” Fitness Businesses

Stephen Yale is the owner of EPE Training Systems, located in Orange County, CA. He can be reached at 949-441-1262. Also, you can visit the website at



So I get this email with a podcast from this sort of celebrity, marketing oriented trainer person who is interviewing another trainer person, who has a pretty thriving business. I get these kind of emails every single day from various fitness training business expert types. Usually, I immediately delete them without even looking. Truth be told, I get really tense and sweaty hearing or reading all of these things that I’m supposed to do if I want to have a successful training business. It’s just too much and it freaks me out.  I think I’m destined to be a lot better at performing my craft than at ever promoting it.  At least I’ll never feel like I’m out there faking it.

Anyway, Every once in a great while, I’ll actually take a deep breath and try to get through one of these life changing vehicles of enlightenment, which is what happened with this podcast. First off, the two guys seemed like nice enough, decent people. “I could have a beer with them” types. I have nothing against them as people, and Lord knows they’re both way more successful than I. But, honestly, they did not wow me with their knowledge – extremely basic, and somewhat misinformed. Also, they got on a little tangent that raised my ire a wee bit!



The active (the one actually training people) trainer’s system is not free weight oriented. He believes in “movement”.  Climbing around things, using ropes and dragging chains, swinging kettlebells, etc. Kind of “fun” oriented style of training. Basically using stuff that might be considered “accessory” exercises more so than “core”. But hey, more power to him. He’s getting a lot of people in better condition, and making money doing it.


The problem for me was when they were comparing training like this to fitness training with free weight. They made free weight training sound old and outdated, and portrayed it as not providing the overall health and mobility benefits of stuff like what he was doing. The marketing guru even mentioned how his big 6”3” 255 pound friend, who lifts a lot, was completely huffing and puffing while helping with a move. Odd as it was, it sounded to me like these guys really thought the wheel had been reinvented, and that the regular person who wants to get in shape and look good can do so more effectively using barbell-less programs like the one mentioned!

Where's the barbell?

Where’s the barbell?


This is not an attack of the two fellows on the podcast, but of the notion that creativity trumps science and empirical experience. The fitness  industry has become big business and, in the process, has become a bastion of misinformation, overly marketed hype, and a bunch of stupid guru wannabes who prey not only on the general public, but on fitness “professionals” as well. This is the world where the ‘functional” crew meets the marketers, meets the uninformed. This is where people like to make the ground unstable before confronting resistance, and where training sessions aren’t recorded within a system that intelligently reacts to performance. And they love to say they’re not “working out”, they’re “training” – but they don’t even know what they mean by this. And guess what pal? You’re wrong – you’re working out – you are NOT training!



Huge Guy

This picture has to have been altered…..right?

So the point these two podcast guys were making was that training that incorporates elements of powerlifting and bodybuilding are fine for powerlifters and bodybuilders, but they’re not so effective for the general person who wants to get in shape and be healthy. Supposedly conditioning and agility just isn’t addressed in these programs, versus the type of programs that pretend that they are going to train similar to how our ancestors (or farm boys) stayed in shape back when life was hard and we didn’t sit at desks all day – anyone heard this pitch lately? Podcast point made; the big lifter guy who was dying during the move is an unhealthy product of barbell training.



Anybody who is carrying a whole lot of muscle (and was probably aided by use of pharmacopeia) is going to get winded easily. That’s why MMA fighters don’t bulk up too much. The extra muscle comes with extra blood capillaries, which in turn requires more oxygen to be consumed. Hell, these really big guys are huffing and puffing while their sitting on the couch, and I’m not kidding! Let’s face it, a competitive powerlifter isn’t going to improve his conditioning (otherwise known as GPP – “general physical preparedness”) anymore than what’s needed to make three strong attempts at his three main lifts, during a competition – and the first lift is usually easy, at that. And the competitive bodybuilder isn’t going to perform any more cardio than what’s needed to obtain their fat percentage goal while minimizing muscle loss. So, fine, a lot of competitive powerlifters and bodybuilders are not the perfect picture of health, but that is NOT an indictment on the efficacy of their training methods.

They’re methods are the best available on the planet for building lean muscle mass and getting strong – two of the most critical elements to becoming fit. To not borrow from their methods is to ignore the most effective means of getting strong and building lean muscle mass. The average person who wants to get in shape isn’t going to ever train exactly like a competitive powerlifter or bodybuilder. But if they want to maximize their training time, you better believe that they’re going to want to do things like squat and bench press. I guarantee you that no person I have ever trained has lost agility or conditioning from use of free weight – nobody!




Whatever your fitness goals are, you will much more efficiently achieve them if you move forward with a foundation of strength. The stronger you are, the harder you are able to push yourself in everything else. It’s not a coincidence that, during the conditioning portion of my group training sessions, the stronger trainees ALWAYs are able to push their conditioning harder than the weaker trainees – without fail! But then again, my adult clients aren’t 300 pound behemoths (some of my football players are another story). They’re just regular people who want to get in shape, look good, and be healthy. They can’t help it if they get really strong in the process. And I guarantee you, none of them would be dying while helping you move into your new home.

In a recent article. “My Argument for the Barbell”, I discuss why the barbell is perfectly designed to allow a trainee to more efficiently develop strength and build lean muscle mass. Nothing allows one to lift as heavy a weight, while navigating against gravity, forcing all the other muscles and proprioceptors to support this action simultaneously – and providing the optimal neurological, physiological, and endocrinological responses from his or her body. Furthermore, because the degree of resistance is so easily adjusted and recorded, there is no other means of fitness that so lends itself to intelligent programming – which in, in fact, is what separates “training” from “working out”.



That’s right, my trainees at EPE utilize programs that strongly borrow from powerlifting and bodybuilding. And they also use strongman equipment, push sleds, and perform conditioning circuits with all sorts of instruments. And here is what I want to say to all of you “functional” and “creative” trainers who have your clients swinging from vines, etc. My clients are way stronger than your clients –WAY STRONGER! And they didn’t do it at the expense of their conditioning or general health. This is not magic, just strength and conditioning science, combined with empirical knowledge, combined with a filter for excluding the less efficient means of achieving their overall goals. And surely, you don’t have a problem with strength, right? I mean, you’re not actually going to disparage someone from becoming stronger, are you? And you’re not going to tell me I’m superficial if I were to enhance my shape by adding some lean muscle mass to my body? I mean, you don’t have a problem with someone looking like they train, right?

So if you want to criticize powerlifters or bodybuilders, be my guest. But if you are going to try to prop up your catchy little creative fitness systems by denigrating fitness systems that use barbells and dumbbells and pulleys, and established real world systems and programs, etc., then I ask you one simple question. What have you really truly built your business on; the best possible fitness model or the best possible business model. Hmmm………… now that I think about it, maybe I’m the idiot after all.


Rants, Thoughts and Other Observational BS – The State of Fitness Training

Stephen Yale is the owner of EPE Training Systems, located in Laguna Niguel, CA.  EPE is a one of a kind fitness training facility catering to both athletes and adults of all ages and levels of experience. You can visit the EPE website at  Stephen can also be reached at

 rant 2

I live in Southern California – land of the sun and fun, and bronzed bodies, etc. So yeah, compared to my years in the Philadelphia area people are definitely in better shape. But if you expect this part of the country to be some mecca of fitness, I just can’t bring myself to agree. Yes, there are a lot of people doing something, but there is a lot of fitness fluff out here. For example, we all like to make fun of the whole “functional” wave;  no matter how much of a bad rap it gets on line, I’ve literally watched trainers put their clients on top of Bosu Balls, and perform any number on strength oriented movements. In fact, this reminded me of my buddy and his wife, who live in San Diego. They’re telling me about this great trainer she once used, he supposedly used to train Madonna. They went on and on about this guy, and how “high level” was things he was having her do. Apparently he would put her onto a Bosu Ball and have her do one arm dumbbell curls (!?!?). Trainers to the stars! Gotta love em, huh?

bosu ball pulley

Picture from Google Images

I realize that anyone who reads this post already gets it, but just in case; When your body is on an unstable object, it directs energy away from whatever movement is being performed. You are then not placing enough stress on your muscles to force a positive adaptation (supercompensation).

My gym is actually located in Orange County, and it appears to be the land where everyone wants to get in shape, but nobody wants to really work for it – unless maybe they’re a Crossfitter, but that’s another story. I mean, whoever said that bootcamps are a thing of the past has never been out here. I think it’s fair to say that they are alive and well in the O.C.  – just as are Bosu Ball sales. So enough picking on California, because doing something is a lot better than doing nothing (blah, blah, blah), even if it is an incredibly inefficient/unintelligent approach towards achieving one’s goals. I mean, just walk down Market Street in Center City, Philadelphia some day, and do a little people watching. Suddenly, Bosu Balls aren’t the worst thing in the world – even though they are best left in the physical therapist’s office…………Okay, maybe they are, but moving on!


squatting on stability ball

We’ve all seen this classic before.


So, probably no matter where you live, the personal training aspect of the strength and conditioning industry is a very distant, and mutated derivative of athletic performance enhancement, as well as competitive bodybuilding – both of which have lots of excellent trainers who intelligently and efficiently approach whatever goals they’re targeting. But in the personal training community there is an acceptance for sub-par training that goes on when the average person wants to get in shape and is willing to pay an “expert” to help. I think I have isolated the problem and am going to take a stab at coining a new term for it, let’s call it, “Creative Training”, for lack of a wittier phrase.

Personal trainers assume incredible creative license at the expense of actual results. They get away with it because their client base is largely uninformed. They do it because most personal trainers, who cater to the general population don’t tend to possess a whole lot of knowledge, anyway – which is perpetuated by the low expectations of their uneducated, inexperienced client base.

So, the personal trainer resorts to bells and whistles to entice their clientele. They invent exercises and workouts that look interesting, but do not rely on strength and conditioning science. They ignore basic tenants of strength training which has been empirically proven to work, for years and years. They often times create their own little version of PX90 or Insanity, or some form of “cross training” – enough said. They often times don’t teach how to properly perform compound free weight movements because that would be too much work. They combine strength training and conditioning into one cute little goulash, which is time efficient, but completely ignores the problem of competing metabolic systems, creating compromised results – sorry CrossFit and bootcamps, but it’s the truth. Great business models, but piss poor fitness models!



Putting traditional personal trainers aside, today’s average person wanting to get into shape is often enticed into joining one of a variety of specialized fitness classes. Stuff like, Pilates, Yoga, pole dancing, TRX, Spinning, Brazilian Butt, twerking (!!!!!!!), something with a ballet bar or some other single piece of equipment, etc. There is nothing, per se, wrong with any of these, but they are all incomplete when used as one’s primary means of fitness. None of them – not one – provides a well rounded strength base, which is the foundation from which all other fitness goals are progressed. Developing a well-rounded base of strength is absolutely essential for developing and maintaining a truly healthy body, at every age level.


So there you have it. Through nifty little business plans and marketing strategies, corporatization of the fitness industry, and sheer laziness, the American state of fitness has been homogenized and pasteurized to the point where people are “twerking” their butts in the name of fitness. Absolutely comical! Sure, we super size our food these days, but the current state of fitness in today’s America shares its portion of responsibility for today’s de-conditioned American.


miley cyrus twerking

Am I just getting too old for this world?