14 Lessons of 2014

About this time last year, I did my 13 Lessons of 2013, and I figured why not continue that trend. 2014 was, in my opinion, one of the years that I learned more than any other year prior. Not just with training, but business, life, myself, the list goes on; but for this blog, I’m going to keep everything as fitness related as possible because some of the lessons that I did learn were game changers for our clients.


1. The cheapest food is always the most expensive food.

I see this more often that people will tell me that they cannot afford to eat healthily; that their budget only allows them to live on the dollar menu at McDonald’s or less expensive gas station food.

Not too long ago I would call BS at this, but to be completely honest it’s not their fault because a lot of the masses have been led to believe that eating “healthy” is expensive. That you have to have grass-fed or free-range meats, organic produce and gluten-free whatever and YES that will cost a BIT more. But in all reality, you MAY save SOME money at first by living off processed and fast food, but you will pay a compound interest later in life when your medical bills are sky high from years of eating fake food.

I wish I could find it, but I wrote a piece a while back where I stated that processed cheap foods lead to higher divorce rates. <=== Bit of a stretch, maybe. But if you feel like crap how do you think that’s going to carry over in a relationship?


2. Criticism is self-hatred turned outward.

Over this year we have done a little bit more online work and started to become more active on Facebook and Instagram. Now, this is allowing us to help a lot of people, of course, BUT then we also have the “other” kind of individual.

Of course, we get some very positive comments and feedback, but on occasion, there are those that are just hateful people (haterz). No matter what you do, they will always find something to fault, to expose, to poke, and prod.

After working with more people and getting more exposure universal lesson I learned is these hateful people are just hateful people, they are unhappy about everything, especially themselves and look to take it out on others.

Instead of arguing with them, I simply delete them from my life and move on.


3. Spend more time learning neutral spine vs. arched back.

At the beginning (and I think this is very common for a lot of coaches and trainers), when we try to teach sNeutral Spine Vs. Arched Back | Fitness Revolution Rowlettomeone a deadlift or squat, we would tend to tell them to arch their back. This is a common cue initially because a majority of new people are unsure how to straighten out there backs due to years of being in a caved-over state (think working on a computer). Therefore,  telling a person to ARCH brings most of them into a neutral spine. After a period of time, you will start to see some repercussions of the long-term effects of this being taken TOO literal

What we have seen from individuals that have done this for too long, is they will begin to rely on the vertebrae bracing against each other-versus their trunk muscles tightening-to tighten up their backs. From there, you will have people with some very well developed lower back muscles BUT will eventually ingrain a low back lifting pattern with minimal glute and hamstring activation. In turn, we have a leak in power and the ability to get strong.

In laymen’s terms, they have no ass and won’t get very strong without getting hurt.

We started to spend more time teaching neutral spine (sometimes called “staying long”) and within a month, we noticed a VERY big difference in abdominal strength, bigger weights being moved, greater hamstring and glute development, WITH a safe and strong spine.


4. There is a big difference between weight loss and health.

I really don’t want to say this is anything new we learned this year; it has just become more and more prevalent.

If you’re reading this, you can think of countless examples of how that statement above can be true. What we’ve run into recently, was people that were going through bariatric surgeries or suffering from the negative effects of bariatric surgeries for weight loss.

They were so gung-ho to lose WEIGHT, that their health has been compromised with some of these surgeries (there are SOME exceptions to this rule so don’t get all butt hurt on me)

Crash diets, loads of fat loss stimulants, and risky surgeries will surely get the weight off but they do not look like what they thought they would look like when the number on the scale is smaller. In fact, some have caused further damage to their body that is a pain in the butt for us to fix… let alone for them to live through.


5. There’s more to detoxing than just food, sometimes people are involved.

This past year we ran about three detox programs and we learned quite a bit about the benefits of abstaining from certain toxic foods (sugar being the number one).  The benefits of abstaining for certain toxic people also became more prevalent.

We teach that detoxing is just abstaining from the things that are causing you to feel like crap, and this involved people too-sometimes even family members.

One of the best detox results we saw was when we had a client drop nearly 18lbs in 21 days from avoiding certain foods BUT also avoiding certain people in her life. You’d be surprised how much better you feel if you let go of those negative people.


6. Teaching someone to squat between their legs has been a better coaching technique.

During a squat, one of the movement cues you need to do to lift some big weight is to try to externally rotate your thigh out, think of it as pushing the knees out over the little toe. This creates a lot of positive torque in the legs and hips which allows you to rebound from the bottom position of a squat much better and safer.

The kicker is that it’s actually kind of hard to teach someone to push their knees out. Especially if they’re just learning how to squat; however, we found that if we tell someone to squat between their legs, then next thing you know their knees are pushing out on their own.

Cool huh?


7. We see better results with three-week program waves versus four and five weeks.

We define a wave here at Rowlett Transformation Center as the length of a particular phase in your program. A typical program can be anywhere from 12 to 52 weeks, but we break these up into smaller phases with different focal points of each phase.

We used to have our clients do four-week phases and after the fourth week of the workouts, we would have them switch to something new to focus on for the following month. Although we found that there was a lot of benefit to this, most people started to see their results stall or slow down at the fourth week, so we decided to give a three-week phase a shot.

What we noticed (again this could just be the way WE program) was clients still got great results with their workouts and were not getting bored because, let’s face it, after about 4 weeks of similar workouts, you would feel that the workout was getting a bit stale.


8. Treadmill sprints can be a good alternative.

Sprinting has proven time and again to be one of the best methods of cardio to help our clients drop extra body fat fairly quickly. I can’t emphasize this enough: you can ALMOST notice a difference the next day with a good intense sprint session.

Here in Texas, the weather is chaotic-one day its beautiful, next tornado, then a few hours later, ice (you think I’m kidding, don’t you?)-so we have our clients do treadmill sprints on those random weather kind of days.

We were quite surprised at HOW difficult these could be BECAUSE it forced you to keep your pace and NOT slow down when you were tired; if you did slow down… well you would bust your butt and end up on gymfails.com

Times such as 10 rounds of 20/40’s (20second sprint, 40second rest) or any other variation did the trick.

Side note: If you do decide to do treadmill sprints, make sure your incline is around a 5. Sprinting on the treadmill and sprinting on the ground are two different things so the incline helps mimic the work your legs would have to do on the ground by giving you something to push off of.


9. Tempo and pause work is great to help a person learn HOW to do an exercise.

I was introduced to these styles via Mike Tuchscherer and damn him, it really took the wind out of my sails on how strong I THOUGHT I was… but it did teach me how to lift a TON better.

Tempo work is where you raise and lower the bar at a predetermined speed (tempo).  An example was 303 squat: 3 seconds to lower the weight, 0-second pause, then 3 seconds to raise the weight. Those were MFers BUT damn if you didn’t get an amazing leg workout and quickly found out where your weak points in your lifts were.

Pause work is where you hold your body still at a certain part of your lift for a predetermined period of time before continuing the lift. An example of a pause squat is to hold the bottom position of the squat for a 2 count before standing back up.

Both of these methods put you under the tension longer, so eventually, you became more comfortable being UNcomfortable and it forces you to slow down and really practice engaging the proper muscle.   

In turn, you got stronger and felt so much safer with heavier weights. What’s more, we noticed some additional muscular development… always a plus in our books!


10. Dieting in waves works great for maintaining fat loss over the long term.

What we mean by waves are having a client diet down to “x” body fat percentage during a period of time, THEN having them MAINTAIN it for another predetermined period of time before we started dieting them back down again.

The periods of time differ per person.

We found that these waves allowed a person to psychologically adapt to the new habits and routines that got them to the leaner state, dieting and getting leaner can be a mindf–k some days.

For example, we would have a female client that started at 28% body fat diet down to 22%, when she reached that point we would start a new wave of dieting allowing her to be comfortable with the routines that got her to that percentage. Then when she was comfortable with that lifestyle, we would start a new diet wave to get her down to 17-18% and then have her maintain that for a period of time.

Sure this was slower for some, BUT we noticed that the rebound rates of diet declined significantly; once people lost the weight, they had a better ability to keep it off and never go back to where they started.


11. The longer you do a “cut,” the leaner you will get and the leaner you will stay.

Photo courtesy of Bettina Nagy
Photo courtesy of Bettina Nag

“How long should I diet?” is always the biggest question I get and my response is, “As long as it takes.”

There isn’t a predetermined amount of time a person should diet, BUT we did find that the slower a person dieted the easier it was for them to maintain it vs. a quick diet.

When you start to lose fat at a point in that process, you WILL lose SOME muscle (just going to happen) but if you drop your body fat in a slower more controlled manner (say 1/2% of body fat a week) then you kept a LOT more muscle AND didn’t suffer any major physiological or psychological rebounds.

Think of it this way… your metabolism is like a ball. If you throw it down to the ground very hard then it rebounds pretty quickly BUT if you loft it in a slow arch to the ground then the rebound is minimal.


12. You can train a lagging body part every workout for two-three weeks, then take a two-week break.

I got this idea from Paul Carter and damn it if it didn’t work!

The idea was pretty simple. Let’s say that your shoulders just didn’t have the development that you wanted to be in proportion to the rest of your body. You would simply do one exercise with some very high reps sets (2, MAYBE 3) with light to moderate weight every workout (don’t kill yourself, just go for a good pump) and after about 2 weeks, you stop and go back to your normal training routine.

After the two week break, if they needed more you would repeat the process

I plan on going more in depth in a later blog; but think about it this way, some of the best muscular development you had came in short spurts, typically over a few weeks when you radically changed your workout or program. This just mimics that initial response you get.

Side Note: If you are dieting, or in a caloric deficit, you can get SOME results but it won’t be anything near the results you would get while in a caloric surplus.


13. Teaching lifestyle routines is best for body transformations.

I love doing total body transformations and from doing a number of these, a reoccurring theme always comes about: you are a result of the daily/weekly routines you have created.

If your routine consists of snacks and processed foods (even on occasion) you won’t get the body, or transformation, you want.

The bodies that you idolize, or the ones that you like on Instagram or Pinterest, are of athletes that have created daily routines and rituals over time to ensure they look like that.

We stopped coaching dieting at the beginning of a program with a new person and instead, starting coaching habits. These habits ALWAYS lead to some of the most impressive-and lasting-transformations.


14. EVERYONE needs to get stronger.

I’ve never heard anyone tell me that they were TOO strong. The carryovers of ANYONE doing a strength phase in their programming are limitless and this little exert won’t do justice to the importance and benefits of just being strong.

Clients coming in that want to achieve a certain look will eventually have to lift a certain amount of weight to elicit some of the muscular development they are looking for.

True, a person can get SOME muscular development from lifting 5 pounds, but you’ll notice much better development lifting 25 pounds, and so on and so forth.

Getting stronger just makes life easier.


In Health and Awesomeness,

Travis Merritt, BS, CPT, (and other letters behind the name) is the Owner of Rowlett Transformation Center in Rowlett, TX.

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