Beyond the Client’s Structural Diagnosis

When it comes to pain, people are always searching for answers.

Some answers are easier to believe than others.

That’s why I’m not surprised when clients come in believing their structure diagnosis is the cause of all their pain. Blaming what they found on a scan is easy for people to wrap their heads around, and it’s often perpetuated by the medical community.

Medical professionals have major leverage on the beliefs and attitudes clients adopt when it comes to how they perceive themselves and their pain.

These beliefs can get in the way of clients progressing at the gym.

It can lead to them having catastrophic thoughts, feeling hopeless, and constantly blaming their body and victimizing themselves.

Strong held beliefs are hard to to change if you’re a fitness professional. You’re at a disadvantage compared to professionals with more letters behind your name.

The two maladaptive beliefs I run into the most with persistent pain clients are:

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No Client Left Behind

Have you ever had clients come in and they can’t seem to do anything without hurting and/or flaring up the next day? 

Not even a handful of exercises. 

Normally, these are the people who scare coaches into turning them away or referring them to a PT. 

But we must ask ourselves: Why do we refer out? 

The real reason trainers refer out should be to get the bad things ruled out; and with these people, the bad things usually have been ruled out. 

I’ve never had a client come in who hadn’t already been cleared to exercise. These clients already have been to PT; maybe even to multiple PTs. They might even be encouraged to exercise by a PT and/or their pain doc. 

The green light to exercise is there, and we just have to figure out how to meet them where they’re at. That’s what many coaches are unable to do. 

Here are the three things these people go through that we as an industry need to stop doing:

1) They Get a Cop-out Referral

I’m okay with “I work closely with a PT in town whom I think would help you find moves that don’t bother you and would help me design a program for you.”

A cop-out referral means you give them zero direction. 

“You should see a physical therapist.”

If they’ve already been to multiple PTs, they might not even go to another one; they’ll just go home.  Feeling hopeless and defeated that they couldn’t even do ONE exercise without flaring up. And you’re patting yourself on the back thinking you just did a good thing when in reality, you perpetuated this person’s fragile mindset. 

Not all referrals are equal. Not all PTs will be the expert this person needs. Not all coaches have Bill Hartman next door to deal with complicated cases.

In some cases, a trainer who understands pain, has good coaching skills, and follows a multi-model approach is the best option for these people.

2) They Get Treated Like Glass

 A cop-out referral might lead to them finding a trainer and/or physical therapist who validate their perception of themselves, which is fragile mindset, and they’re treated like that forever. 

These people never pick up weights heavier than five pounds, their training involves core and balancing exercises, and they never progress from there.  

3) They Are Told to Suck It Up

I’ve heard trainers get frustrated with these people and they’ve said things like “Well, you’ll always feel pain, so you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t, so you might as well just lift weights and deal with it.”

Or they say things like “Research just shows you need to get stronger”, and even though that statement holds some truth to it, it doesn’t mean shit when it’s said to clients who don’t trust you and perceive themselves as someone who can’t handle a lot of physical activity. 

Telling people in pain to suck it up and exercise doesn’t go well. 

Just look at these comments from people IN pain who watched a video on how exercise might be the best thing for them.

As an industry, we can do better when dealing with this population. We can do better at understanding how these people’s past experiences and beliefs validate their present perceptions and views of themselves. We can do better at meeting these people where they’re at, and progress them from there. 

The lack of information in the fitness industry on pain science combined with the ego and old-school mentality in the medical community have left these people behind with no help.

But I’m here to change that. 😊 

For today’s blog, I’ll show you what has worked for us by taking you through two clients who couldn’t do more than a handful of activities when they first started out but now are lifting weights just like our pain-free general pop clients.

If you’re interested in learning the training model that helps us train these people, CLICK HERE to save your spot at our next seminar! You’ll learn how to have consistency throughout your coaching which is what these people need to progress 🙂

Until next time!

Lucy

Our Current Squat Progressions

I had a long post on Deadlifts published few weeks ago where I talked about why I don’t introduce them right away.

Squats on the other hand, get introduced after 1-2 sessions. Today I’ll be sharing with you our current squat progressions that we use at Enhancing Life.

These progressions take you through four phases:

1) Phase One: Increasing movement option

The first three progressions are not technically squats. See these activities as exercises to help your clients gain access to motions that are required for someone to have a good looking squat.

One of the biggest issues you’ll see when people squat is, they’ll hinge back vs going straight down.

Hingy Squat:

Squatty Squat:

The first three progressions will help your clients tuck their hips, stack the rib cage on top of them, and maintain that position as they descend down (like the second picture above).

If your clients can’t do this or don’t have access to that motion, it doesn’t matter how many cues you use, or how many times you show them what to do, they won’t be able to do it.

Our current favorite activities to open up our client’s movement options are the following three moves:

90/90

90/90 Bridge

Rockback Breathing

2) Phase Two: Owning the Position

This stage will help your clients OWN the position you want them to maintain. No movement, just holding. For someone who is extremely unaware of their body and doesn’t take cues well (most of your clients), ISO holds are great to teach them how to own the position you’re wanting them to keep for when you progress and add movement to the lift.

This is perfect for group/semi-private training! You should be able to walk away from this exercise once you’ve put them in the position that’s desirable.

Assisted Squat Hold (Ramp)

(why elevate the heels??)

3) Phase Three: Adding Movement

Your job as a coach has never been easier. All you have to do now is add movement to the position they’ve already mastered by doing the ISO hold.

Assisted Squat (Ramp/to box)

4) Phase Four: Add Load

Can you imagine getting to loading a squat and all you have to do is “Hey, keep doing what you’ve been doing, but hold this weight” and that’s it!

I’m all about making my job easy, keeping the coaching quality high, AND being able to manage multiple people at once.

Goblet Squat (ramp/to box)

KB Front Squat (Ramp)

Zercher Squat (Ramp)

Safety Bar Squat (Ramp)

DB Squat on Ramp

TB Squat on Ramp

There you have it. Our current squat progressions at Enhancing Life.

What about all the ways clients will mess up?!

Now I know you’re wondering…. So how do I implement this? How fast does someone get through the list? How many reps? How many sets? Do all clients need to go through all the phases? How does the actual program look like? What about coaching?! I suck at coaching! I can’t even get my clients in a correct 90/90 without them looking at me like I’m wasting their time.

I’ve got some good news for you 🙂

On Wednesday, I will be sending all my newsletter subscribers the answer to all of those questions….except for the last part. I can’t teach you how to coach through the internet, but I do have a solution to that part that I will share at the end of this blog.

On Wednesday I will be taking you through three different clients’ timelines. I’ll talk about what variations I start with, how it’s implemented in their program, and how long they stay with each phase.

My goal is to give you AS MUCH context as possible to help you with the clients you work with.

Client A:

Your regular general pop client who is fairly active outside of the gym. They’re not scared of the idea of lifting weights and they’re ready to get after it.

With these people, I’ll show you how to get them to buy into the basics.

Client B:

Deconditioned client who is not very active outside of the gym. They’re scared of lifting weights and they’re really wanting to lift weights.

With these people, I’ll show you how to use the basics to get them to buy into lifting 😉

Client C:

Deconditioned client who is not very active outside of the gym. They’re scared of lifting weights and they’re not wanting to lift weights. They are unable to progress due to outside factors that as a coach you cannot control….but you still have to train them.

With these people, I’ll show you how you can continue to train them, even though there are other things outside of your gym that are preventing them from progressing. #noclientleftbehind

If you’re not on my list and you’re wanting to see what I do with all these people: CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE

Now let’s talk about your coaching skills, because if you’re not able to coach people through everything that I shared with you, the execution will fall short, the results will not happen, and the client will not buy into your training.

That’s why Michelle Boland and I created a workshop that is 100% hands-on!

Have you ever attended a seminar where they picked you as an exercise demo? For 5 minutes, you get to feel what it’s like to be coached by the instructor. You get to respond to their verbal and manual cues, which allows you to feel what your clients will need to feel.

Out of all the other attendees who didn’t get coached, you’ll be more successful getting your clients to execute that exercise correctly.

This workshop allows you to be coached, demo, practice coaching, and walk through some troubleshooting with every single activity! Instead of 5 minutes of personal attention, you’ll have a whole day of movement and hands-on learning.

If you’re wanting your staff under one consistent model, this is the workshop for you and your employees. Learn to develop movement standards where everyone gets to develop their own training talent and skill following the same principles.

Going through our Consistent Training Model will allow you to manage multiple people in one session while keeping the coaching quality high. You will creatively increase your client’s movement repertoire by altering load placement and performance variables to drive adaptation in each plane of motion.

Location: Hype Gym, NYC

Date/Time: Sunday, September 29th 2019. 9:00am-4:30pm (lunch 12:00pm-1:00pm)

CLICK HERE for the event’s page.

I hope to see you there 🙂

Holding Off on Deadlifts

When I introduce a new movement/lift to a client, I don’t have time for them to struggle with it because I work with multiple people at once. I try to pick exercises that they will be able to do with confidence and little to no coaching.

In a semi-private setting, I have other people waiting for my coaching, which leaves me with less than a minute to show someone a new activity.

Because I don’t work in a private setting, I tend to hold off on deadlifts for the 1st month or so.

To give you more context: We train people who have never trained before (bad at taking cues), people who might fear to lift weights at first, and people in persistent pain who are very deconditioned (my target market).

Deadlifts are hard to get right.

If they don’t tuck enough, they’ll arch their back, if they tuck too much they’ll round. If they’ve never lifted before, they don’t know how to create tension in their abdominal area. They don’t know what it’s like to push their feet through the floor…the list of problems can go on and on.

Plus, the word “dead” is in deadlift.

There have been many instances during a consult or introductory session a new client will witness one of our current clients lifting heavy trap bars off the ground, and they tell me something along the lines of “I never want to do that!!!”

With these people, you run the chance of them feeling confused, threated and non-confident when you try to introduce a weighted hinge within the first few sessions. If they build a bad taste about deadlifts from the beginning, they’ll progress way slower than they’re capable of. And the goal is always steady progression.

This is especially true with persistent pain clients. They feel their low back during a deadlift and they’ve had back pain for 10 years. Their brain is on high alert. If they flare up the day after their first time trying it, good luck getting them comfortable progressing with that lift.

I want to remind you: Context Context Context! Of course, not everyone is like this. Last month we had a brand-new client start with us and within one month, she was deadlifting, squatting, and doing kettlebell swings.

If someone comes in with a small lifting background and not scared of weights and they take cues well, we introduce things way sooner.

But since most people don’t take cues well, we train multiple people at once, work with those who are scared, or ones who are super deconditioned, I save myself the struggle and hold off on hinging until I think they’re ready to handle all the instructions to do one correctly.  

That sets ME up for success, but most importantly, it sets the client up for success.

How do I know they’re ready?

Glad you asked 😊

Think of this as giving your clients the ingredients for a deadlift so when the time comes, it takes minimal to zero coaching.

1) Restoring Motion at the Hip and Thorax During the Initial Month

In order for your client to execute a good-looking deadlift, certain motions at the hip and thorax are required. People who lack certain motions will struggle from keeping their deadlift looking like a banana or their inability to sit back and only round the shit out of their spine.

All of those positions above are undesirable.

Instead of thinking it’s your inability to coach it correctly, or your client’s ability to understand what you want them to accomplish, It might be that they don’t have access to the motions you’re wanting them to perform.

To free up your client’s movement, here are my top few moves that I will go into deeper detail explaining the “WHY” behind them over the next few weeks.

For now, practice coaching them. We’ll dive deeper later on 😉

These exercises are great for warm-ups and homework for the clients that like do thing things at home. (yes, those clients do exist).

Once you go through these activities, you’ll notice the cues are very similar. Exhale, reach, and tuck.

But what if someone seems like they need to do the opposite? What if someone is super rounded on the deadlift??

You want to keep in mind, you can’t use your eyes to assess what the client needs when deadlifting. Take Carden for example. It looks like he needs to extend and get his chest to the KB. Carden has deadlifted a little over handful of times.

Carden went through 90/90 Bridge and Elevated Bench Rockback (shared above)

Can you see a small difference? on the left from the first video he seemed to round a little too much. Second he was able to sink back into his hips more and round less through his low back. Nothing to write home about, but it’s a good change!

Here’s a video of a simple way I explain to students on why they can’t use their eyes to assess what a client needs:

 2) Being Able to Push Through the Floor

I got a lot of cues by my employers when I first started out. One of those cues when coaching a squat or deadlift was “Push your feet through the floor”.

Since clients had no problem telling me when I didn’t make sense, I would always get the confused look and a “I have no idea what you mean by that” when I’d cue it.

Because of that, I started introducing that concept early on in someone’s training when we’re doing basic activities on the ground. It seems to help them understand what I mean by “pushing yourself through the floor”, which is a great thing to think about when you’re starting to lift heavier weight off the ground.

Glute bridge hold is a good exercise to start introducing that concept:

3) Create Tension in a “neutral” Position

I hate this term because most people say good posture = having a neutral spine. I’ve gotten away from that thought process, but I still think it’s important for clients to be able to lift with not arching too much and by not rounding too much, and I can’t think of a simpler term to use than “neutral looking spine”.

Which I know there’s no such thing as neutral, you don’t have to write that in the comments (yes, talking to you, Zac), but can we all agree that you don’t want deadlifts looking like this….

Or like this….

And we want them more like this….

Plus, if you share clients with someone, don’t you want to have somewhat of an agreement of what a good deadlift looks like. We all have to come up with our own standards, and my standards are:

A deadlift needs to look somewhat like this:

Where they’re maintaining a “neutral looking spine” throughout the entire lift.

Top position

Transition:

Bottom:

You and I both know people struggle with this. They’re not aware of their body and to ask them to keep their trunk looking like this as they’re focusing on 5 different things at once. Pushing hips back, keep whole foot contact, not shrugging, keeping head with spine, knees slightly bent…you’re asking for a lot.

That’s why, by the time I teach someone how to deadlift, exhaling, tensing up their “core”, has already been ingrained in their movement skillset and close to second nature.

Here are a few activities that can be put in someone’s program prior to deadlifts:

Tall and Half Kneeling Band Pull-over breathing are GREAT ways to teach someone an optimal position:

Here are a few other ways you can teach your clients to create tension:

4) Confidence in Your Ability to Keep Them Safe

If I have a client who was super scared to lift and it’s been 4-8 weeks and I haven’t hurt them yet. Chances are, they trust me. Their trust means a lot when I tell them they’re capable of lifting that 50lb KB off the ground.

If they trust me, they too will believe they can pick up the 50lbs KB off the ground.

Trust will be a long way with persistent pain.

A few years ago I worked with a lady that would “hurt” herself each time she didn’t train with me. To the point where she cried if I wasn’t there. Since I knew nothing about pain at the time, I thought my colleges and employer were not paying attention and let her do things wrong. Now I think she trusted me so much, that if I was watching her, she thought she was doing it right. Which isn’t a good thing for a client to develop a dependency on you like that, but it does go to show how much trust plays into a client’s ability to do something.

Wait….so what about squats???

I don’t deadlift people right away but I will squat people on day 1 or 2.

Squats are easy because you can start with an ISO squat hold, which makes it easy to coach. Plus, if a client over tucks a little bit, I’m cool with it. With deadlifts, I don’t want people rounding too much.

Here are a few variations I start people with:

(I don’t cue hands together anymore)

If someone nails these down, adding movement to the lift is a piece of cake 🙂

A strong squat will also prepare someone for a successful deadlift when you decide it’s the right time to introduce it.

I hope all of that was helpful. Will be diving deeper into movement and whats required for your clients to move well over the following weeks 🙂

Until next time!

Lucy

Human Matrix by Zac Cupples

Someone asked me if I just zone out while Zac speaks since it’s my 7th? 8th? one as his TA. When I’m not coaching or demoing, I’m listening.

I listen to how well things flow, make sure people are following, catch when they get lost due to their facial expression, when they get distracted or disinterested…etc.

(now that I’m typing this, I wonder if anyone has caught me looking at them and wondered “Why is Lucy starting at me?!?”)

For the following course, he takes all my critiques and all the anonyms critiques from the attendees and spends countless hours making improvements.

Almost every course is a different course.

How could I zone out? He has simplified it so much, his explanations are becoming more and more clear, the practicality of the information taught gets higher each time, and his jokes eventually start to be funny to me.

I’ve already heard him talk about the improvements he needs to make for the next course 😊

Learn from people like him. People who keep getting better and haven’t mailed it in.

However,

I think the HM playlist needs to have more than just one LP song on there 🤷🏽‍♀️💁🏽‍♀️

Thanks to the attendees for sending me all these videos and pictures form this weekend’s seminar!!

So if you haven’t (or have) attended Zac Cupples’ course, YOU SHOULD.

zaccupples.com/seminar

Ps.

Thank you, Zac. For letting me help you.

Thank you, allllll the amazing attendees who have helped me find my purpose 😘

What Do You Have Left If Your Job Gets Taken Away?

In the fitness industry, a job that can be SO rewarding, makes it easy to forget your life outside of it.

Your family time, your friends, your relationships, your health, your old hobbies, your fun time…everything.

I’m about to get personal AF, which is not meant for you to feel sorry for me, it’s to remind YOU to get a life outside of your work and learn from my mistakes because things got extremely dark for me, and if one coach reaches out to an old friend because of this post, my struggle was worth sharing.

I’m lucky you’re reading about Lucy Hendricks right now, by Lucy Hendricks, because I’m alive and you’re not seeing pictures of me on social media spreading with captions of “I had no idea, she seemed so happy when I saw her at seminars. May she RIP”.  

I was recently on a podcast where I was asked What is the hardest thing I’ve had to overcome? Which I answered with “Losing everything”.

A few years ago, I didn’t have a life outside my work. But it wasn’t like I was sitting at a desk 60 hours a week getting super unhealthy being glued to a chair and a computer.

Being consumed by my work was a healthy thing for me. Especially with all the research showing how important connection and community are.

My coaching hours kept me moving throughout the day hitting 15-20k steps. I was constantly learning new things and applying them with all my clients. I got to come into a community with people that I would consider family and interact with them 2-3 times a week year after year.

I had found my purpose.

I was learning what it took to thrive, and I had a community to learn along with me.

I got to express my creativity and purpose through workshops, building a gym library, posting on the social media community page, sending out emails, writing articles, coming up with protocols, 5 minute health rants before group class, 20-40 minute conversations after training sessions, community potlucks…etc. I was living the dream.

I had found my tribe, I was fulfilling my purpose, and I felt like I didn’t need anything else.

I ignored all my friends outside of work, I didn’t take any time meeting new people, I couldn’t have a relationship with someone outside of the industry because that’s all I could talk about, but I never saw it as a problem because I was truly happy.

Until it got taken away.

I’m sure you know what it’s like to lose a friendship/relationship. It sucks.

I lost over 100 in one night and I had no one to turn to.

I grieved on my own. No one checked on me to see if I was okay and there was no one to see that I was climbing into a deep hole of depression which ended up changing my life.

One month went by….two…three…four…and it just kept going.

The only thing that kept me from staying in bed all day were my current clients, the students I started working with, and seminars I was helping with or teaching.

Things got way worse before they got better.

Last year I developed some intense persistent back pain that lead me to beg my business partner to constantly cover for me. I was taking over the recommended daily dose of Advil and developed horrible gut issues from that. I had waves of intense fatigue that were so strong I could barely talk or get out of bed…which lead to even more begging for my shift to get covered.

On top of all of that, I couldn’t train, and I couldn’t stand touching my muscle-less (is that a word?) body, and hearing people say things like “Lucy must not like to train”.

When I went into work, clients would jokingly ask me if I even worked there anymore, and I just had to laugh it off, because they had no clue how bad things were. No one knew. The only reason they could sometimes tell something was off was due to me constantly getting sick, which lead to more covered shifts.

It got to the point where I was going to bed hoping I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. I started isolating myself from everyone because it was easier than feeling pressured to satisfy their needs.

I had loved ones asking me to be different, telling me to change my perspective and attitude, demanding my love and time, constantly requesting for my attention and presence.

I felt all this pressure to service other’s need, but I had nothing to give. I felt like I was drowning, spiraling down a deep hole I couldn’t get myself out.

Losing my community, losing everything I had, was the catalyst of the hardest two years of my life.

But here I am. Happy to be alive. Slowly climbing my way out of the hole I got myself into. Constantly reminding myself to take care of myself no matter how much I love my job or how pressured I feel to service others.

And I’m here to tell you to do the same.

The two things you should take away from this short story are:

1) Get a life outside of work and take care of YOURSELF.

Build connections throughout the industry that don’t involve your job. Go out with your local friends even if it means too many drinks and dancing your ass off until 3 am. Hire professionals (therapist, trauma experts) to help you cope with whatever you’re dealing with because no one can do it alone and your loved ones sure as hell can’t be the ones who help you.

2) People are suffering all around you, just because they don’t share about it on the internet doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

If you’re reading this, you probably follow my work, or you might have seen me at seminars. It looks like I have it all figured out and I’m doing great, but the reality is, I’m an amazing fucking speaker and I’m an amazing coach, but everything else needs a whole lot of work.

If you need help with coaching and developing a training model, I’m your girl! But there’s a reason why I don’t teach people how to manage their time, how to cope with life stressors and trauma, or successfully manage their employees and business.

Never Struggle Getting Someone to Tuck After this Video

If you’re into positional breath work, trying to get people to tuck is usually one of the first things you do.

When you attend a seminar that shows you all these foundational activities (breathing exercises), they seem like they’d be easy to coach, since they’re being demoed on a coach.

However, we all know clients don’t take cues well. Especially the general population.

So if you struggle getting people to tuck correctly, this video is for you 🙂

What other coaching questions do you have??

If you missed my post on how I introduce the basics to brand new clients, you’ll want to head over to THIS BLOG, and watch me take my new students through their “first day”. 3 out of the 4 I had never worked with before! It gives you an idea of how I deal with people who have never done any type of positional work.

How to Introduce Movement to Brand New Clients

Do you know what’s not fair?

Going to a seminar and watching a coach take another coach through an exercise and expect you to recreate the same execution with your clients…

Good luck with that.

Do you know who take cues really well?

Coaches

Do you know who doesn’t take cues well?

Clients

A lot of coaches who want to be detailed and want to add a breathing component to their training, struggle to get clients to buy in or fall short when producing results that are meaningful for the client.

Is the root of their problem the lack of knowledge? Do they need more theory? do they need more courses where they sit and learn about the rib cage for 15 hours?

No! They need better execution, better coaching, and more realistic expectations.

Fortunetly, I’ve got a solution for all those needs 😉

You can learn how to do something by countless hours of observing someone else do it, or you can learn by actually doing it. Michelle Boland and I created a 100% hands on workshop where you get to learn how to do everything you would like your clients to do. Keep your eyes peeled because we’re currently working on scheduling more 😉

If you can’t attend our workshop in two weeks, I’ve got an hour of content that you can watch today!

What does it look like when someone who has never trained with me goes through the initial consult where breathing is introduced?

I was lucky the April class from the Lexington Healing Arts Academy let me record them on our first class together. 3 out of the 4 I had never worked with before.

Even though they all have been active in the past/present, they have never been taken through my detailed coaching or any breathing exercises.

With these videos I want you to focus on a few things from a “new client” perspective”.

I want you to notice:

  • How I break down the activity. I start with one aspect of the breathing exercise and let them practice/fail, and I slowly get more detailed and add other cues.
  • How much I repeat what I say. exhale, keep exhaling, exhale, more….more exhaling, keep going. I’m not afraid to keep asking for a certain thing, and you shouldn’t either. Cue it until they do it.
  • How complimentary I am. For my friends and loved ones, I might seem like I have a cold distant personality, but for new clients, I’m the nicest most encouraging person on the planet. Let people know they’re doing a good job. At Enhacing Life, we take all aspect of training seriously…including breathing. Our new clients get a lot of praise for doing these things correctly.
  • How it’s not perfect. Detailed coaching doesn’t mean it has to be perfect. It means it’s always improving 🙂

Throughout the videos, you’ll also hear me talk to the new students. I want you to notice I don’t impress them with big words. If you’re dealing with interns or new hires (new trainers), you can’t start them off where you’re at. You’ve gotta give them the big picture, you have to start with practical information and keep it simple simple simple.

Disclaimer: these students took cues really well. Over the next few months I will be doing consults that will be recorded. My hope is for you to watch me fail and problem solve with people who are extremely difficult 🙂

Hope this was helpful!

Lucy

Rest in Peace- Belly Breathing

I was seeing a psychotherapist last year who guided me through a meditation. During the breathing portion, he cued me to let my belly expand upon inhalation.

After the meditation ended,  I asked him why he wanted me to push my belly out. He said pushing the belly out allowed me to breathe with my diaphragm instead of being a shallow chest breather. Better diaphragmatic breathing would tap into my parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest), and allow me to relax.

Little did my therapist know I’m a breathing fanatic. My life might always seem like it’s falling apart and I don’t know what I’m doing from his perspective, but I got breathing retraining down pat. I ended up educating him like I do many people on what diaphragmatic breathing really is, and what it is not.

Spoiler alert: belly breathing isn’t doing what most people think it’s doing, and people are not really chest breathers.

During respiration, you actually want your abdomen AND chest to expand. Your lungs are in your chest, not in your belly. Your belly already has a bunch of substance in there (organs), let the rib cage take the air.

During normal respiratory mechanics, the ribcage and abdomen should expand a complete 360 degrees to achieve adequate intra-abdominal pressure.

Belly breathing lacks this circumferential expansion, reducing intra-abdominal pressure, which can result in limiting movement options and performance in the gym.

Before we go any further, let’s go over what are normal mechanics of respiration, and what it is not.

THE Zac Cupples made an amazing 8 minute video for you all. It will get you a better understanding on what breathing should be and then we’ll get into some practical stuff that I know you’ll love.



If you’re coaching belly breathing, it’s okay to stop.

It’s 100% okay to let your clients know you’ve learned something new and you want to implement it.

When I first got into teaching breathing 8 years ago, I too coached belly breathing. I would put light chains on their bellies and got them to push against as they inhaled. Even though my intentions were always in my client’s best interest, my lack of knowledge led to lackluster breath coaching.

If your intention is to stop your clients from being shallow breathers, tap into their parasympathetic nervous system, teach them how to chill out, and have them become better movers and more efficient lifters, belly breathing is not the way.

So as of today: RIP Belly Breathing.

Never again will you coach it.

I will teach you what you CAN start coaching and you will start helping your clients with wayyy more than just “breathing”.

Let’s say Zac’s video just went over your head. It’s cool. Breathing is complicated.

Let’s wrap your head around this stuff by showing you the big picture and giving you some actional steps to start getting good at this stuff.

If you want to change someone’s breathing, you have to start looking at the structure that surrounds the lungs.

When you’re trying to understand your main breathing muscle, your diaphragm, you must appreciate the position that the ribcage is in. And if there’s something I look at a lot, it starts with R and ends with IBCAGE.

Trying to achieve diaphragmatic breathing by cuing a “belly breath”, “pooch the belly out” or “Let your belly billow out” would be like trying to open a door that is already open.

A door must be closed before it can be opened.

In order for you to take a breath IN with your diaphragm (Inhalation, Inspiration), it needs to come from a state of being OUT (Exhalation, Expiration).

In order for you to be ale to do what’s on the left, you have to come from being on the right.

I’ve put my hands on hundreds of people’s ribs. Some of the assessment findings stay pretty consistent with each person I look at . Even though everyone seems different from the outside, their thorax’s keep telling me a similar story:

And It’s telling me to tell you “STOP COACHING ME TO BELLY BREATHE, You’re fucking it up!!”

When you assess the rib cage, you can make some assumptions on what phases of respiration people are in and what phases of respiration they struggle getting in. In this post, we’re going to keep things simple.

Because in reality, people can present different breathing limitations all throughout the body. Today’s goal, is to get you to stop coaching your clients to belly breathe, or start coaching breathing in general, and start globally making clients better movers/breathers!

Once you have experience coaching the activities I will share below, you’ll be ready to take things deeper. Because it always goes deeper. Nothing about the human organism is simple. Remember that.

To not overcomplicate things, we’re going to say your clients struggle to achieve a position of full exhalation with the diaphragm in a domed position, where the middle is pulled up, like a parachute.

See how it looks like a parachute?

If it can’t dome/exhale, the diaphragm sits flat, in a position of inhalation (inspiration), which can be accompanied with numerous movement limitations, and what most people would consider “poor posture”.

Your muscles that you use to breathe in with are winning, but they’re not even winning a good way, like our President.

Your muscles that help you achieve a state of full exhalation are struggling and are not in a position of a lot of power. Like our coward corporate Democrats we have in office.

Your clients struggle breathing correctly, just like they struggle with other movements like flexing their shoulder or extending their hips. Fortunately, a little emphasis of it goes along way.

I’m very biased, but I think breathing is a movement more coaches should be paying attention to.

If you can’t perform another movement like hip extension, It’s easy to understand that limitation will be accompanied with problems on the training floor. Can’t extend hips, means they can’t lock out their deadlift without arching their back.

With breathing, it’s harder to make those connections, but I guarantee, if your clients suck and breathing in and out, it will definitely be accompanied with problems on the training floor.

You’ll see things like, limited shoulder motions that prevent upper body lifts from looking good, hips can’t extend so they feel everything in their back, ankle won’t bend and their squat looks like shit…you name it.

If you start appreciation breathing, you might start seeing alllll the annoying problems on the training floor magically disappear.

If you’re interested in how breathing can affect movement, the next video is perfect for you.

If programming constraints are taken away due to the quality of movement your clients can demonstrate, you can get these people STRONG no matter what their background is.

This is Josh. Two years ago Josh couldn’t do much without pain.

Josh can now deadlift over 300lbs and squat over 200lbs and he got there with the help of breath retraining.

Josh’s story repeats itself over and over, not just at Enhancing life, but at gyms all over the place.

Coaches who get deep into breathing, realize that it’s more than just breathing. It’s more than just putting people in 90/90. It’s more than just rehab.

This rabbit hole gets hated on all the time but the ones that get into it, are no longer driven by what other fitness professionals think, they’re more driven by the results their clients are getting.

Like Josh’s results. Josh was doing step ups last week with 100lbs on his back (safety bar), and he said “This feels so good!”.

The same Josh that said last year that he thought his knees were one day going to give out on him.

Appreciating breathing is a huge reason why he has progressed so much. Not the only reason of course, but it was definitely a big piece of the puzzle.

Now I hope you’re wondering, what should I do instead of cuing belly breathing? How can I help my clients breathe without overusing their back and neck muscles 20,000 times a day? How can I get my clients moving better and get them to become more efficient lifters?

I’ll help you get started 🙂

Look at the following exercises as activities that put your muscles in a better position to be a better breathing/mover.

The better you breathe, the more degrees of freedom your joints will have. More degrees of freedom means more movement possibilities!

Breathing sequence for all these activities:

  1. Full breath OUT through the mouth
  2. 3-5 second hold at the end of the exhale
  3. Inhale keeping the front ribs down vs belly breath. The cue of keeping the front ribs down doesn’t mean expansion is not allowed there. By cuing that, it allows for the expansion to be closer to 360, so you should see some movement in the belly, but cuing it to not expand tends to give you the outcome you want (360 expansion).

Once you have hours of coaching these exercises under your belt, you’ll be able to start digging deeper.

I didnt come up with ANY of this. This is just my interpretation of the things I’ve learned through REALLY smart people.

The two people you need to start following are Zac Cupples and Bill Hartman. If you keep asking yourself Why and How these are the guys that will help you figure out those answers. Invest your money on their courses/intensives.

However, you have to be a decent coach to even take their info and be successful with it.

Good coaching can’t be taught through a webinar or a lecture seminar where they only use one person to demo with.

Lucky for you, Michelle Boland, Michael Mullin, and I have the perfect seminar for you!

The first day 100% HANDS ON coaching.

April 27th & 28th 2019
The Trio: Lucy Hendricks, Dr. Michelle Boland, & Michael Mullin
Day 1: Saturday with Lucy Hendricks & Dr. Michelle Boland, Fundamentally Sound: Coaching & Technical Mastery
Hours: Five Total, 8am-1pm
Day 2: Sunday with Michael Mullin, Circuiting the Rehab Training Model
Hours: Five Total, 8am-2pm, lunch 11:30-12:30pm

What people have said about the hands on portion: