10 Essentials… Have a Back-up Plan

Put me in coach!

Well that was a long break, haha. So you got yourself to the gym, you’ve completed your warm-up and you head to the one squat rack your gym has. But wait, you’re not the only one who wants to use it; there is a murder of bicepsuals doing curls on your precious! What now? You don’t have time to wait in line!

Here are the facts:

1. You came in to do squats (a high-tension, knee and hip-dominant, bilateral, dynamic lower and static upper body movement)

2. The squat rack is in use

3. It’s not the end of the world, or your workout

Good thing you made a back-up plan of similar exercises for every exercise on your original plan of attack! You don’t even look confused, you shrug it off, mutter something about curling on the squat rack, head over to the dumbbells and whip out a couple sets of goblet squats. You make sure to not block the dumbbell rack because you’re considerate. You re-rack your weights because you’re not a jerk and you know the benefits of that extra eccentric movement. After you finish, you head over to the chest press only to find that taken as well! My question is, what kind of gym are you in that only has one of each piece of equipment?? Oh, but there are 5 sets of fixed-axis circuit machines, you say! Now, you’re already on edge because your music is just amping you up! It’s good for that person on the bench that your back-up plan says to do dips. Otherwise you’d definitely be giving him, or her, the stinky eye. I could go on, but you don’t have time to read any more.

The moral of the story is: having a back-up plan is good for everyone.



10 Essentials… Find an Efficient Warm-Up

Put me in coach! Here’s a shorty. Not having a lot of time is a dangerous excuse to forgo a warm-up. Sure, ‘danger is your middle name’, but that’s between you and your parents. 

A good warm-up will reduce risk of injury by priming your muscles for fast movement, increasing your joint range of motion, increasing your ventilation (more oxygen for the muscles) and getting you mentally ready to crush your workout.

Start with soft tissue work, (foam rolling, trigger points etc) then switch to single-part movements (hips, rib cage, shoulders, ankles etc). When you finish with single-parts, move on to multi-joint movements, such as an in-line lunge with torso rotation or toe-touch walk-out to cobra with rotation. You don’t always have to add a rotation, but you do always have to hit each body part that you’ll be using in the session. Don’t spend a ton of time on this; pick maybe 8 movements and then get on with your training. Your muscles will thank you and then you can thank me and then I’ll say something self-deprecating because I don’t know how to react properly to politeness. 

Next time, I’ll address how to stay functional when you aren’t able to stick to your plan because biclops over there is curling in the squat rack.

10 Essentials… Have a Plan of Attack

Put me in coach! Great, you’re still with me; let’s learn the importance of having a plan of attack before heading to le gymnase.

In this scenario, you get to be George RR Martin and your workout is your favourite GOT character: you’re going to kill it, quickly- today.

So, how are you going to do it? You’re going to take the guess-work out by making a plan (think grocery list). You will not have a good workout if you don’t know what exercise to do next. I’ll repeat, you will not have a good workout if you don’t know what exercise to do next.

Start with your goal; for now, you want to get strong. Use your percents; we’ll use the program example from the last article and assume your 1RM squat to be 185lbs and chest press- 133lbs:

Monday– All lifts at 70%1RM for 5-6 reps with body weight warm-up

Squats- 130lbs

Chest Press- 95lbs

Pull-ups- body weight

Make sure you have a pen because you’ll be taking notes!

Traditional strength programs will require all sets of each exercise be performed consecutively with approx. 2-5 minutes rest in between before moving on the the next. But, because ‘Ultra Rich Asian Girls of Vancouver’ is on in 30, you’ll do it in a circuit: 5 reps of squats followed by 5 reps of chest press followed by…you get the idea and repeat for 5 sets. You don’t need to rest between sets, because you’re using different body parts (while you do your chest press and pull-ups, your legs recover).


I’ll be very clear- this is not the ideal way to gain strength and definitely not a good excuse to cheap out on your workout. If you honestly don’t have 1-1.5hrs to put aside 3 days per week or you just can’t continue living without knowing what those girls with all their money are up to, you can’t expect maximal strength results- you get out what you put in. We all have different priorities and that’s completely fine, just commit to some exercise and know what your plan is before you get into the gym. The beauty in this type of program is that it’s both efficient and effective at burning calories and you will get stronger!

Everyone wins!


Next up: ‘Find an Efficient Warm-up’.




10 Essentials… Know your Percents

Put me in coach! If your plan is to have an efficient workout, you need to know your percents. In order to calculate them, you need to know what your 1 rep max (1RM) is for each basic lift (squat, deadlift, chest press, overhead press) and you need to know your cardio zones as a percent of your heart rate reserve (HRR=max HR-resting HR). HRR is used because RHR is a fitness indicator and therefore gives a more accurate optimal cardio zone.

To calculate your 1RM, use the formula:

= weight / (1.0278 – (.0278 X reps))



If you really hate math or you’re really lazy, you can just find a website to do your calculation for you.

These numbers are important because, for resistance training, you need to adequately overload your muscles depending on your outcome goal. I’ll go into more detail in another post. For now, you’ll use your percents to build a progressive program using sub-maximal effort. For example, an intermediate program might look like this:

Week 1

Mon- all lifts at 70% 1RM

Wed- 80% 1RM

Fri- 90% 1RM

Week 2

Mon- 75% 1RM

Wed- 85% 1RM

Fri- 95% 1RM



If you’re in for a quick cardio session, intensity is paramount to your success!

Depending on your goal, you’ll be working in different HR zones:

For fat loss, stay in a moderate zone (ie. 50-75% HRR) for no less than 30min, but ideally 60min (you want to hit at least 150 minutes per week). Calculate 50%HRR and 75%HRR and just stay between those numbers. This is the zone where fatty acids are your body’s primary fuel source. When the HR hits 93%HRR, carbs (in the form of glucose and glycogen) are the main fuel source . Protein (muscle) is rarely used  for fuel and for the vast majority, a combination of fatty acids and glucose/glycogen provide your energy fuel. Exceptions may be ultra-distance athletes or fasted (starved) individuals.

For HRR percents, use the Karvonen formula:

=((220-age) – RHR) X intensity + RHR


=150 beats per minute to meet 70% HRR

Again, there is always Google.


If you like what you just read, please share it with a friend and make sure to check back for ’10 Essentials… Have a Plan of Attack’.


#fitness #health #wellness #vancouver #personaltrainer

10 Essentials… Have a Goal in Mind

Put me in coach! Before you start a workout, you should ask yourself why you’re going to the gym. Are you doing it for the countless health benefits? Are you an athlete? Did bikini season just sneak up on you and you literally can’t even? Were you recently diagnosed with hypertension or maybe you just want to feel more confident playing Tom Cruise in Risky Business (don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about). Whatever your motivation is, it’s a good reason to start working out.

Your goal is important because it will dictate the way your sessions play out. For example – you just had your physical and the doctor said, if you don’t lose 20lbs, you run the risk of becoming diabetic. Are you going to train the same way as that bro carrying around 2 protein shakes and a gallon of water? No. You have opposite goals which require different programs, and don’t worry, he’s not judging you, he’s judging himself.

So what are you going to do? You’re smart. You’re not going to ride the elliptical for an hour; you’re in a hurry and you’ve read that resistance training is important for maintenance of fat free mass. You’re going to go in and do a quick warm-up and dynamic stretch, followed by a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) program, and to finish it off, a cool down. Shower if you must, but then get back to whatever it is that you do.

In my next post I’ll explain how to find both your optimal heart rate zone and working weights. Knowing these percents will allow you to set a new PR in exercise efficiency!

That’s all for today; be sure to follow this blog and don’t miss out!


10 Essentials for a Time Restricted Workout

Put me in coach! So you want to workout, but you don’t have enough time. Since this is to serve those in a hurry, I’ll quickly outline what I feel are the 10 essentials for a time restricted workout. I’ll break each point down into detail when I have more time. Here they are:

#1- Have a goal in mind (why are you exercising?)

#2- Know your percents (heart rate zones, 1 rep max)

#3- Have a plan of attack (what, exactly, are you going to do at the gym?)

#4- Find an efficient warm-up (don’t just jump right in)

#5- Have a back-up plan (your equipment is occupied- what now?)

#6- Limit rest between sets (different rest time for different rep ranges)

#7- Use proper form (if you’re hurt, your progress will be too)

#8- Take notes (don’t guess your weights)

#9- Listen to upbeat music (set the tone)

#10- Stop making excuses


No time for a closing statement