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Mastering Movement: Part Four – The Pull

Uncategorized By October 20, 2019 No Comments

Pulling movements are probably the most neglected movement patterns in the body. While doing pulling movements can help you keep a strong back and good posture, we generally don’t access this movement pattern that much in our day to day lives. Pulling movements will generally develop the lats, rhomboids, and biceps.

Generally, pulls are performed in the horizontal plane of motion (rows) or vertical plane of motion (pull downs and pull ups.) And anywhere in between those ranges of motion. In general I will usually focus on developing skills like rows, pull downs, and chin ups with most of my clients using any of the following variations to start off with. There are certainly many options are there for people to use, but these are the ones that I find work very well for most people.

The Seated Cable Row

The seated cable row is a great variation because it allows novice trainees to stay still and isolate the primary muscles being used to perform the pull. By taking the seated position, it makes the learning curve of the movement significantly easier.

To set up for the seated cable row, sit on the bench and place the feet on the panels in front of you with a slight bend in the knees. Grab onto the handle and sit up straight, without too much lean backwards you can either opt to keep the ribs down or to slightly extend the upper to get more engagement out of the lats. Start the movement with a pull by squeezing your shoulder blades together and allowing the arms to follow through. Once the shoulder blades have stopped moving, the pull is done, slowly release the cable back to the starting position. Repeat for as a many reps as necessary. I usually program the seated cable row for anywhere from 8-12 reps and find that is best used in a general preparation training or for hypertrophy (muscle gain) work.

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This week we are diving into our pulling exercises! Pulling exercises are fantastic for developing the lats, rhomboids, and biceps, while also helping to ameliorate posture. Our back muscles are often left under utilized in our day to day life and for that reason it's even more imperative that we train them with pulling movements on a regular basis. The first pulling progression we are going to go over is the seated cable row. _ The seated cable row primarily works the lats. I like this exercise for novice trainees because it is very isolated and allows you to create a strong mind-muscle connection during the movement. Due to have the arms in front instead of overhead, it's also a suitable pulling movement for people who have reduced range of motion in their shoulder joints. _ To set up for the seated cable row, sit on the bench and place the feet on the panels in front of you with a slight bend in the knees. Grab onto the handle and sit up straight, without too much lean backwards you can either opt to keep the ribs down or to slightly extend the upper to get more engagement out of the lats. Start the movement with a pull by squeezing your shoulder blades together and allowing the arms to follow through. Once the shoulder blades have stopped moving, the pull is done, slowly release the cable back to the starting position. Repeat for as a many reps as necessary. _ I usually program the seated cable row for anywhere from 8-12 reps and find that is best used in a general preparation training or for hypertrophy (muscle gain) work. _ If you want to gain muscle and fix your posture send me a direct message to get started with online coaching.

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The Lat Pull Down

Similar, to the seated cable row, I like this exercise because it is also seated and makes it easier for new trainees to learn. With that being said, this movement would generally be progressed into something like a chin up or a pull up down the line when a trainee becomes more advanced in their skills.

To perform the lat pull down, set up on the machine by placing your hands symmetrically on the handle wider than shoulder width, then sit down on the seat and make sure that your legs are secured in place with the brace. With your arms outstretched, initiate the pull by pulling your shoulders blades down and back while keeping the chest up, from here drive the elbows down to the ribs and imagine you are trying to close your armpits. The handle should be close to your collarbones at the bottom of the pull, from this position perform a slow release back to the starting position. Use the lat pull down as a tool for hypertrophy and for patterning a smooth overhead pull as a progressing for chin ups and pull ups. I would generally program these in a rep range of 8 to 12 repetitions for 3-4 sets depending on my clients goals and needs.

The Dumbbell Row

The dumbbell row is a great progression to move forward from the seated row. By partial support the body on the bench you are creating a stable base while still allow the core and spinal erectors to work against gravity to support and stabilize the trunk while working the lats.

To set up for the exercise, plant your knee on a flat bench, bring your other leg out from the bench while keeping the hips square. From here hinge the hips back and keep a flat or slightly upward arch in your back. Have your wrist planted under your shoulder on the bench, and grab the dumbbell with your free hand. From here, pull the dumbbell back and up towards your hip in a bit of “J” like movement. The start of the pull should begin directly underneath your shoulder and it should finish near your hip. Repeat. The dumbbell row is best performed for 8-12 reps, but it can be used outside of these rep ranges successfully too.

The Dual Pulley Pull Down

The dual cable or dual pulley pull down is great accessory movement to develop the muscles of the back. Especially if you want to create balance between both sides of the body in terms of strength, function, and muscularity. By isolating each side with its own cable you give each side equal opportunity to generate the same amount of force during the movement.

To set up, you need a dual pully cable system (bands can work too) set to the same weight on each cable. You’ll need to grab onto the handles and assume a kneeling position between both of the cables. From here, with the arms overhead, you want drive the elbows down towards your rib cage while keeping the chest big and open (no hunching forward.) Release the handles slowly back to the starting position. You can contract the glutes to stabilize the hips and trunk.

I would opt to program any exercises like this for 10-15 repetions. You can of course, work outside of these rep ranges, but this is not an exercise to go super heavy on with low reps.

The Pull Up

The pull up or chin up is honestly the king of all back exercises. Nothing feels as good as being able to lift and control your whole body. There are many ways to progress to being able to do a full chin up, which includes use additional assistance (manual, band, etc.), performing eccentric only (negative) repetitions, or position specific isometric holds.

To perform the pull up, you want to set up with a grip that is at least slightly wider than shoulder width. You can use a variety of grip positions (supinated, neutral, or pronated.) Start the movement at the bottom position with the arms overhead. From here, you want to pull yourself as far up as you can while preventing the shoulders from rounding forward. Lower down back to the bottom position in a controlled manner.

You now have a plethora of strength exercises to develop your posterior chain strength. All of these exercises can and will help you to get stronger, develop more muscle, and correct your posture. If you need more help and assistance, please reach out via e-mail to get in touch regarding personal training or online coaching.


Mastering Movement

Uncategorized By September 22, 2019 Tags: No Comments

Crawl before you walk. And walk before you run. In general, most people understand the concept of building skills like walking and running and how we develop those skills throughout our lives. As babies we crawl, then we learn how to stand and shift our weight, then we learn how to walk, and eventually we can run. All of this is a linear progression.

But as adults, we general take movement for granted and try to “run before can walk” when it comes to training in the gym.

There are several basic movement patterns that most people should be able to do that are part of our natural movement patterns in day to day to life and can be enhanced with training in the gym. These movement patterns are the squat, hinge, push, pull, lunge, and carry. These are also often referred to as primal movements and they are generally required to maintain a structurally balanced body with healthy functional joints.

The squat is skill that can help people in terms of getting up and down from a sitting or crouching down to the ground for other tasks like gardening. Squatting is a movement that requires flexibility in the ankles, knees, and hips and requires stability of the trunk. The primary muscles used during the squat are the quadriceps and glutes. Some prime examples of the squat in training are: goblet squats, front squats, and back squats.

The next movement is hingeing. The hinge is an essential movement that should be the basis of picking things up from the floor. The hinge generally utilizes the glutes, hamstrings, spinal extensors. The hinge is done by bending at the hips with soft knees while keeping a flat and stable back. Examples of the hinge in the gym would be exercises like back extensions, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, hip thrusts and glute bridges.

Pushing or pressing is reflected in our day to day like during tasks like pushing open doors, it’s done by extending the elbows and flexing at the shoulder. Pushing exercises generally work our pectoral muscles, deltoids, and triceps. Some pushing exercises are push ups, overhead presses, bench presses, push presses, dips, and handstands.

Pulling is an essential movement pattern that requires the use of our back muscles (primarily lats and rhomboids) and biceps. Examples of pulling in day to day life could be reflected in any climbing or pulling open doors and gates. Pulling movements in training include: rows, pull downs, chin ups, and deadlifts.

Lungeing while similar to squatting is an expression of single leg or unilateral strength and stability. Lungeing has high carryover into any movements that bring us to a kneeling position as well as running and walking. Lungeing in training can also be any regression or progression relating to single leg strength development. The primary muscles involved in lunge variations are the quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Examples of lungeing exercises include walking lunges, reverse lunges, cossack squats, curtsey lunges, split squats, step ups, and side step squats.

Carrying refers to carrying objects. This could be reflected in carrying backpacks, duffel bags, purses, or groceries in our day to day life. Loaded carries generally challenge core stability and work the lower traps. Because carries are done while walking they are also a fantastic corrective exercise for poor gait (walking) patterns. Loaded carries can be performed as farmer’s carries, overhead carries, waiter carries, and odd object carries. Carries can be done in a multitude of ways with various implements.

Including any of these movements in your training program will certainly help to ease your day to day life while improving your overall health and fitness. Some people love exercising for the sake of exercising, but it’s also about training for life. Life is a lot easier when you’re strong. If you get strong at squatting, hingeing, pushing, pulling, lungeing, and carrying – the physical aspects of your life are only going to get easier and easier from here. So while doing an hour of ab exercises or biceps curls may seems like fun, adding in a solid mix of primal movements into your training regime will only make you better.

Get out there and get lifting and start mastering your primal movements!

Want to train but don’t where to start? Send me an e-mail at to get start with customized in-person or online coaching.


Unconditional Permission

Health, Lifestyle, Mindset, Nutrition, Uncategorized By November 4, 2018 No Comments

Recovering from dieting and disordered eating behaviours can be difficult. Diet culture is so pervasive in our day to day lives that sometimes we miss the signs that certain behaviours are restrictive and damaging. It can be very easy to become preoccupied with food and start depriving yourself in the name of “health” and end up in psychological and physiological turmoil.

“I really want ice cream but I won’t have it because it’s not healthy.”

“I love chicken wings but I will never eat them because they have too many calories.” 

Lines like these feed into to deprivation – both psychological and physical. Our body and brain send us signals to tell us when to eat and what to eat. Whenever we don’t eat what our body is telling us it needs we are depriving ourselves of nutrients and energy that we need for survival and also just general enjoyment.

It’s in these moments when our body is telling us what it needs that we must listen to it and trust it. This means giving yourself unconditional permission to eat. Giving yourself permissions to eat what you want, when you want it. This will allow you to discover and enjoy foods while also staving off cravings (which can prevent things like binge eating. ) Eating with unconditional permission will satisfy your hunger and cravings while making your food experiences more meaningful and enjoyable.

Unconditional permission give your body what it needs, let’s you build trust with your body and let go of damaging food rules that keep you from food freedom. No foods are off-limits (unless you have allergies or other medical reasons to not consume certain foods.) If you want eggs, bacon, and avocado for breakfast, have it. If your hunger is telling you to eat pizza for dinner, do it.  If you want midday pancakes, listen to your body and eat. You will also probably eventually find yourself craving things like apples, salad, watermelon, yogurt too once you allow yourself to have some food freedom.

In addition to allowing your body to have a variety of foods, you are also less likely to overeat when you are actually eating and savouring the foods that you really want to eat. There is a switch in your brain that goes on when you realize you can eat what you want, whenever you want it, in quantities that are congruent to your hunger. The following examples will illustrate the difference between dieting and eating with unconditional permission.

DIETING: ” I want a brownie, but I can’t have it because it’s not allowed on my diet. I am going to eat three cups of cooked broccoli so I’m too full to eat a brownie. I ate three cups of broccoli but I still want the brownie. I now ‘give in’ because I am deprived, and instead of eating one brownie I eat a whole batch. I then swear to never eat brownies again in my life because I am now uncomfortably full and ashamed.” Repeat cycle.

UNCONDITIONAL PERMISSION: ” I want a brownie. I eat a brownie to satisfaction. I move on with my life.”

The diet mentality is painful, restrictive, and stressful. Giving yourself unconditional permission to honour your body and hunger is simple, and it gets easier and better with practice.

Your relationship with food does not need to be complicated and painful. You are allowed to eat free of restriction, stress, and guilt. You are allowed to the foods that you want, when you want them. You can trust your body. You can nourish your body. You can give yourself unconditional permission to eat. 



exercise, Programming, Training, Uncategorized, Workout By January 26, 2017 Tags: , , , , No Comments

Hello, my lovelies!

I want to introduce you to Chrissy. A benchmark Kettlebell workout from Agatsu Fitness – created by Shawn Mozen for some crazy fit woman named Chrissy.

As the story goes, Shawn was training Chrissy. Chrissy was super strong and fit, and came to Shawn one day saying “I like the workouts, but I want something harder.”

So Shawn got to work and came up with this devious workout that is more a test a mental fortitude than anything and named if after his lovely student Chrissy. And we have many full body sweat stains on gym floors everywhere owed to Chrissy. So thank you, Chrissy, thank you.

The workout is a timed ladder.
The exercises are the tuck jump burpee and Kettlebell swing.

And it goes as follows.

Tuck Jump Burpee :  Kettlebell Swing

30: 20
25 : 25
20 : 30
15 : 35
10 : 40
5 : 45
Complete the ladder as quickly as possible. Record your time, and try to beat it the next time you complete it.

I did mine in 10:51 – a big improvement since the last time I did it almost a year and a half ago now.

Let me know how you do! 🙂


KETTLEBELL QUICKIE: It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing!

exercise, Fat Loss, Programming, Training, Uncategorized By December 20, 2016 Tags: , , , , No Comments

This week’s kettlebell quickie has landed, and if you haven’t guessed it already: it’s all about the the kettlebell swing.

This week’s workout is a short and simple complex consisting of 4 rounds of several types of swings with one minute rest in between each round.

Let’s do this!

A1) Two Hand Swing x 10
A2) One Arm Swing (Right) x 10
A3) One Arm Swing (Left) x 10
A4) Hand to Hand Swing x 10 per side

4 rounds. Rest 1min in between rounds.




Understanding Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating

Uncategorized By August 16, 2015 No Comments
  • 10% of people with Anorexia Nervosa will die within 10 years of onset of the disorder.
  • Approximately 30% of high school aged girls engage in weight loss related behaviours.
  • 40% of high school aged girls view themselves as too fat regardless of if they are of healthy-bodyweight.
  • Girls who diet moderately are 5 times more likely to develop an eating disorder within 6 months of dieting than non-dieters. 
  • Adolescent girls who diet are 324% more likely to become obese than those who do not. 
  • 20% of overweight females and 6% of overweight males report using laxatives, vomitting, diuretics and diet pills to try and lose weight. 
  • 20% of female elite athletes and 8% of male elite athletes meet the criteria for being diagnosed with an eating disorder. 

These are all various stats from short term studies that show that eating disorders and disordered eating impact people of all walks of life in different ways. As prevalent as eating disorders are in our society they are often very misunderstood by most people – part of that is because a lot of the behaviours associated with disordered eating are considered culturally acceptable.

To better understand people who have eating disorders or engage in disordered in eating, we need to know: what is considered an eating disorder or disordered eating, what’s considered optimal eating in terms of physical and psychological health, how disorder eating effects the body, what needs disordered eating fulfills, who’s at risk for developing disordered eating patterns,  different types of disordered eating, how disordered eating effects the active population and the role exercise plays, and how to effectively treat eating disorders.

When I say the word “Eating Disorder” you probably visualize an image of a frail emaciated woman who looks she hasn’t eaten in 4 years. It’s a common misconception that eating disorders manifest themselves in the form of an extreme visual. The majority of the time eating disorders and disordered can’t be identified just by looking at someone’s body.

In fact when it comes to eating disorders or disordered eating, for every person you see looking extremely frail with all of their bones protruding from their skin their are thousands who look very athletic, average and chubbier. Disordered eating / eating disorders can only be confirmed by analyzing behavioural patterns towards food, exercise, body-image, etc – not by aesthetic. And a lot of the time disordered eating behaviour slides under the radar due to the fact that a lot of disordered eating patterns are considered socially acceptable in our culture.

So what is disordered eating?

Well before we can understand what “disordered eating” is, we need to understand what is optimal. What’s considered optimal along the spectrum of eating is something called attuned eating.


In a nutshell, attuned eating can also be referred to as “internally regulated eating” or “non-restrained eating.” What this means is that person will eat simply by listening to their body, they are in tune with their hunger and satiety signals and know when it’s time to start eating and when to stop eating and act accordingly. Attuned eaters will use moderate constraint when eating but are non-restrictive in their food choices. Their food choices will vary in response to emotion, schedule, hunger and proximity to food. They include both “healthy” and “unhealthy” foods in their diet in order to maintain satisfaction over the long-haul. Their bodyweight has a way of self-regulating itself because they listen to their body in order to determine their energy needs.

When our behaviours start to deviate from this model we start to fall into what’s called “disordered eating” which can eventually transgress into eating disorders. Disordered eating is externally regulated – meaning there is cognitive control of food intake. This can often times be referred to as dieting. Essentially all variables are controlled in terms of determining when, what, and how much a person eats – eating is based on external guidelines. Hunger and satiety are often ignored or given minimal attention attention and the person actively resists the needs of the body. Some people are able to undertake dieting or disordered eating behaviours for short periods of time without it becoming an issue, however when done for prolonged periods of time the risks of developing an eating disorder increase significantly.


What’s the difference between an eating disorder and disordered eating?

Eating disorders are very misunderstood by anyone who isn’t going through one or anyone who isn’t a professional that deals with treatment of eating disorders. The main difference between disordered eating and eating disordered is the emotional and psychological factor. Eating disorders are symptoms of low self-esteem and powerlessness and are often accompanied with isolation, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Eating disorders can manifest in many different forms, such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) and Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS.) BED is the most common eating disorder in North America. And many people who are suffering from and eating disorder can experience symptoms of more than one eating disorder


An eating disorder will most likely develop after a prolonged time of disordered eating behaviours. Most commonly with prolonged disordered eating and eating disorders peope lose their ability to regulate their caloric intake and can lose the internal cues from the body for hunger and satiety.


Loss of Internal Cues

Despite the face the we develop the ability to regulate caloric intake at 6 weeks olds a lot of people lose the ability to respond to internal cues of of hunger and satiety. They may block them out or consciously ignore them and as a result lose the ability to respond to internal cues of of hunger and satiety. People who lose this ability do not know when to eat, when they are satisfied, nor do they know how much to eat. Sometimes people have ignored these cues for so long that they don’t know they exist. This creates a dependence on externally regulated eating and pulls people farther and farther away from attuned eating.


Who’s at risk of developing disordered eating patterns?

Some things that increase the risk of developing disordered eating patterns are:

  • Having low self-esteem or depression
  • Being exposed to media portrayal of unrealistic body standards
  • Being unable to respond to or communicate emotional needs
  • Being exposed to culture that places a high emphasis on “physical ideals”
  • Having a history of abuse (emotional, physical, or sexual)
  • Having a history of dieting behaviour
  • Being a high achiever or perfectionist (academically, professionally, or physically)
  • Being female


Functions of Disordered Eating

The reality is that people don’t pick up disordered eating habits because they want to. Generally they pick up disordered eating behaviours because it fulfills a need or a function for them. These are some of the functions that disordered eating can fulfill:

  • Comfort and soothing
  • Attention
  • Release of tension, anger or rebellion
  • A sense of predictability, structure or identity
  • Avoidance of intimacy
  • Numbing and sedation
  • Self-punishment or punishment of the body
  • Cleansing or purification of self
  • Creating of a large or small body to protect from abuse

It is important to understand the cause of the behaviour or what the disorder is fulfilling in order to treat it properly. The most neglectful thing a person can say to someone who is suffering from an disordered eating or an eating disorder is to change the way they eat. “Just eat more” or “just eat less” are commonly touted by misinformed people. The behaviours have nothing to do with food, the food is the expression, but everything causing it is psychological and emotional, hence the need for qualified professionals (psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers) for proper treatment.


The behaviours will manifest differently in people based off of their behaviours, beliefs and attitudes surrounding food and eating despite any parallelisms between causes.


Disordered eating will usually manifest in one of two forms: deprivation eating or emotional eating.



Disordered Eating in the Active Population and the Role of Exercise

An often neglected population when it comes to recognizing and diagnosising disordered eating is the active population. The active population includes athletes, regular gym-goers, our beloved meatheads, weekend warriors, etc. It’s harder to recognize disordered eating patterns in these populations because we generally admire characteristics in pursuing athletic endeavors. Some of these people will try to hide disordered eating by saying they are doing it for performance. Disordered eaters of the active population will typically have skewed relationships with exercise in addition to food and eating. They will often fall into the category of being a compulsive exerciser (Note: someone can be a compulsive exerciser without exhibiting disordered eating.) A proper psychological analysis will usually indicate that compulsive exercisers are not exercising for performance or reshaping the body but because of not dealing with feelings. As a result this creates an exercise dependence in order to avoid dealing with unaddressed emotions.


Exercise Dependence is expressed as:

1.A stereotyped pattern of exercise; once or more daily

2.Giving up other aspects of life to maintain exercise

3.Withdrawal symptoms following a cessation to exercise

4.Relief or avoidance of withdrawal by further exercise

5.Subjective awareness of a compulsion to exercise

6.Rapid reinstatement of the previous exercise pattern after a period of abstinence


Treating Disordered Eating

Disordered eating needs to be addressed by qualified professionals meaning psychologists, social workers, nurses, doctor’s, dieticians, etc. Treatment of disordered eating does not focus on regulating food intake as dieting is generally at the root of the problem for most disordered eaters and needs to stop in order for the disordered eating to stop. In the active population, if compulsive exercise is an issue this also needs to stop for proper treatment to occur.

Counselling is the most appropriate and effective way to overcome an eating disorder and is a crucial part of the treatment – a large component of the disorder is psychological and without addressing that there will be little success in overcoming the disorder. Often times, challenging food fears is necessary as most disordered eaters develop phobias around certain foods. We want to challenge food fears because the fear of what people believe food can do to them underlies many eating problems. Dichotomous food labeling (Good vs. Bad, Clean vs. Dirty) discourages exploration, discovery and natural feedback from the body. Often reframeing the mindset around food with supportive vs. non-supportive eating is crucial. With supportive eating food should be emotionally and physically supportive, meaning it should attribute to your physical and mental well-being.

In addition to learning to eat supportively, people also need to relearn how to respond to hunger and satiety. And it’s important to answer the following questions:

  1. How do you know when you are hungry?
  2. How do you know when you are full?
  3. How do you know when you are satisfied?
  4. What is the difference between full and satisfied?

Being able to answer these questions will help you learn how to eat supportively. Learning how to eat supportively is crucial in overcoming disordered eating and is an important part of the treatment. Fortunately there are qualified and caring psychologists, social workers, dieticians, and nurses who specialize in treating eating disorders and can help implement the treatment.

If you or someone you know is a disordered eater or has an eating disorder, please encourage them to reach out and connect with professionals who specialize in treatment of eating disorders. I know it may be difficult, as I was once personally in the same position. There are caring professionals and excellent outpatient/inpatient treatment centres that want to help and have successfully helped others in the same position, myself included.


The NEDIC (National Eating Disorder Information Centre)

Sheena’s Place –

Sudbury District Eating Disorders Program –