This book is organized in a way I hope to teach you not just ‘what’ to do, but also how to do it. Not just how to do the exercises, or how to move more optimally but how to actually train with better effectiveness.
The ‘Suggested’ Rules
O.K. so they are more like guidelines, but I have a few things to ask of you in return for getting this book for free. The ‘Catch’ is:
- Pass this book on to other people you know who want to learn about getting more out of their gym memberships, or anybody you know who may be interested in physical change. Ideally you refer them to SkillBasedFitness so that I can get an idea of how many people get their hands on this program, but emailing it to them is fine too.
- Stick with this program for at least the four months it was designed for, and focus on the progressive method I discuss. Learn how to train sequentially/progressively, the benefit of this program exceeds the static program examples I give you.
- Take before and after pictures, and please send them to me if you’re comfortable. Cut your head off or blur your face if you like, so long as you can track something qualitative.
- Take before and after measurements (if possible), particularly girth and please send them along with your photos!
- Be mindful of the quality of movement you develop and not just the increased number of repetitions or the increased amount of weight you can now train with.
- If you feel stuck, you must seek out the advice of someone with more experience than you, a coach, mentor, or teacher of some kind. I strongly believe that coaches/mentors make THE BIGGEST difference in any learning experience, that’s why I became one.
- If you have questions about things, go to the forum on my website to ask questions, or email me directly at [email protected]. I would rather you get the help you need than suffer, sure my time is valuable, but so is your body.
- If you experience great results from this program, either weight loss or performance related, please send me a story about your experience either on the forum, or again through email. Your experiences in this program, will shape future editions.
- Once you’ve completed this program, become a mentor for others. You can take your own skills to the next level by passing on the knowledge you’ve learned to others you encounter at the gym or health club. In other words: PAY IT FORWARD
- Sign-Up for my email newsletter, and I’ll let you know when the Blue Belt Program is ready…
- Consider a donation of any size, if you found value in this book. All donations will be utilized to enhance this book further and contribute to things like hiring a copy editor, hiring a photographer to get better photos, and enhancing the functionality of this website.
What You’ll Find In This Book
This book will be constantly evolving, so consider this version 0.9 or volume one.
It has been organized into the sections that I take training clients through in our one-on-one sessions every day, but some stuff that I don’t often get the opportunity to fully teach. Each step progressively and sequentially builds on the previous step, in fact that was a name I considered for this book, “Fitness Progressions” or “Progressive Fitness Training.”
I am going to show you the progressive training model works and why it’s the best way for beginners to train. Honestly specific ‘programs’ are good for intermediate to advanced lifters but when you’re learning the progressive model is more flexible and yields a better overall outcome. You’ll see some examples of those, but the principles will take you further. The more advanced you get, the more specific and narrow your focus will become. This book starts broad and builds towards specifics.
Alas ‘White Belt’ instills the sensibility that this program is mostly for beginners, novices or in some cases ‘intermediate’ trainees who may have somewhat neglected their early fitness foundation. I myself find the material contained in this book to be a great starting point to come back to semi-regularly just to work on my base or foundation of training. The material also makes for great ‘de-loads’ or ‘down-weeks’ concepts in recovery I will teach you. In advance of this book, I do want everyone to know that I am planning to follow up this book with other titles such as Blue Belt, Brown Belt and Black Belt fitness, geared to the more advanced concepts I use with intermediate to advanced clientele, but it is really crucial for the beginner or novice that that you not get ahead of yourself.
Perhaps the single biggest mistake I see at the gym is trying to walk before you can crawl, or trying to run before you can walk. In other words, I see more people doing exercises that are far too complicated for their level of skill and they are at serious risk of injury and stagnant progress as a result. I know a lot of stuff looks cool, and some of this stuff won’t look nearly as ‘cool’ by comparison, but it works and it will give you the skills you’ll need to do all that complicated cool stuff later. I want you to own all of these principles and movements, not rent them. Don’t write cheques, your body can’t cash.
I’ve learned that the best training strategies are often the most simple, time tested ones. Fitness is actually far more simple than we often allow ourselves to believe. The fitness industry has thrived off of ignorance and the constant introduction of weight loss products and services. If you can keep people on a constant yo-yo cycle, you can keep them coming back for more.
Last I checked there were more than eighty-thousand nutritional supplements on the market! Look up ‘Fitness’ in the book section on Amazon.com and you’re likely to find more than two-hundred-thousand books! Every six months there is hot new fitness trend out, from Tae Bo to Zumba to Crossfit, and with it, a ton of confusion into what you should do, what works, and what doesn’t.
The shear volume of stuff out there alone is probably why you’re not seeing the results you want to see, in the timeframe you want to see it. Before you have the opportunity to see how well something works, you’re often baited into doing something new 30 days later. This constant flip-flopping is a major setback to progress,. Could you imagine if the Gap tried to sell clothes for 30 days, then electronics for 30 days, then home reno products for 30 days? They wouldn’t have much success as store if they did.
I hope you can see a potentially similar pattern formed by switching from Zumba, to Crossfit, to running, to rowing every month. There is something to be said for experimenting until you find something that resonates with you. There is also something to be said for adequate variety, but only if you eventually arrive at a solid conclusion. As we say in the fitness world, ‘the best program is the one you’re not on.’ I hope you will realize that it is necessary for you to stick with this program (or any program) for a certain amount of time in order to actually reap the benefits.
I will caution that trying to do too much too soon. This will only hold you back as you work towards your black belt. Typically people take on too much fitness and change in the excitement. Only to be worn down, exhausted by week 3 and potentially injured. We also all have egos that stand in our way for true physical development. Especially if we were active in our younger years, and used to be able to do something well.
Please remember: that was then, and this is now; What your body could manage when you were 18, is probably different from the majority of 30-35+ year olds I work with on a regular basis. As you age your tolerance to training changes, but the principles contained in this book do not. I’ve used them with 15 year old and 70 year olds. If you understand good training principles, then you can revisit and reapply them over and over again. Meet yourself at your level of ability or just slightly above and you’ll be fine.
This book is dedicated to teaching you how to train smart. Sure it will be hard work, but it’s also paced out deliberately to protect you from your own excitement and ego. We want you to get the maximum benefit from these pages, which means breaking everything down into small manageable chunks that you can easily digest on a week to week, or month to month basis.
If this all seems a little ‘too simple,’ it’s because it probably needs to be, in order to address the correct usage of movement and exercise before it builds into more advanced concepts. By my observations in gyms, nearly 60-70% of existing gym-goers probably fall into the white belt category already.
The physiotherapy industry has exploded as a result of active people training poorly, so I hope you find the concepts in this book liberate whatever your active passion may be. That’s really how I view fitness actually. Training at a gym serves to complement the other physical passions you have. Even if that’s just being capable of playing with your children, being a little more productive at home or at work, or even enjoying nature from time to time.
I use training to maintain my quality of life; Particularly as it pertains to my involvement in sports like basketball, soccer, squash, sprinting, volleyball and baseball. If I’m not training appropriately my body suffers when it participates in those sports, due to the high physical demand. Effective fitness prepares my body to effectively deal with the demands of those activities. Every day living also has it’s demands and it might be more than you think.
The movements and techniques that tend to be most effective for this are rather small in number, and easy to learn. You’ll find in these pages the techniques I use to help people develop those fundamental skills of the gym, but it’s all presented in a progressive fashion, so you’ll find the first phase of the program focuses heavily on one concept, and the next phase focuses on a concept that builds off the previous concept. You can skip ahead (and I’ll actually show you how) if you master one concept quickly. This program is all about developing mastery and control over the basics.
As I indicated earlier, skipping concepts means you will have holes in your physical intelligence. You know that person you go out to dinner with who has a lot of difficulty calculating the tip? Don’t be that guy (or gal)!
At the End of this Book…
You should be well versed in the following foundational principles:
- Basic Anatomy
- Basic ‘Joint By Joint’ Theory
- How to breathe better
- What neutral spine is and how to maintain it while you train
- The ‘Tripod’ of the foot and how it impacts training
- How to pack the neck
- How to pack the shoulder
- The difference between an open-chain exercise and a closed-chain exercise
- The basics of exercise programming
- The basics of organizing a training session
- The basics of structuring a training week/month
- The basics of training notation
- The difference between high threshold training and low threshold training and why the difference matters
- ‘Spectrum’ training
- Progression Based Training (Lateralization and Regression)
- The basic phases of muscle training
- The ‘planes’ or directions of training (there are 3) and why it’s important to consider
- The ‘long-term’ approach
- The basics of ‘recovery’
- Useful mindset practices for training that can help you maximize your training
- The basics of the Warm Up and Cool-Down
- The 5 Main Core Training Principles (What I call ‘Pillar Strength’)
- Anti-Lateral Flexion
- Anti-Rotation (Controlled Rotation)
- Controlled Hip Flexion
- The Basics of Neuromuscular Training
- Most of the basic isolation movements the body can make
- Basic Developmental Patterns (Like Rolling and Crawling Patterns)
- The Hip Hinge or Deadlift (AKA ‘Hip-Dominant’ or ‘Glute-Dominant’ Lifts)
- The Squat (AKA ‘Knee-Dominant’ or ‘Quad-Dominant Lifts)
- The Lunge/Step (Single Leg Lifts)
- The Push (Horizontal and Incline only for now)
- The Pull (Both Horizontal and Vertical Pulling)
- Basic Gait Patterns like the Farmers Walk, Waiter Walk
- How to absorb force so that you can learn explosive strength training later
- The Basics of Energy System Training (‘Cardio’ or ‘Conditioning’)
- Training the short-burst system (The Anaerobic ATP-CP System)
- Training the medium-burst system (The Anaerobic Glycolytic System)
- Training the long-steady system (Aerobic Training)
If that doesn’t make a lot of sense to your right now, don’t worry, it’s not supposed to. I’m going to get into the details of each aspect over the course of this book. It’s supposed to serve as a checklist of the principles you learned in this book, something that will probably be revisited at the end.
What You Won’t Find In This Book
In a rush to get out great content that I think more people need access to, I’ve had to exclude some things that are important (like nutrition), and some other things that I deem more high-level and appropriate to the intermediate and advanced trainee. It’s not uncommon for some intermediate principles to overlap with beginner principles. Your squat might progress significantly faster than everything else, but this book doesn’t discuss how to do it with a barbell. In a client situation, I could easily make that judgement call, that you’re ready to move one or more movements to the next level, even if other skills are still at the white belt level. Your not going to find the latest and greatest drop set strategy, or the best wave loading principles and other advanced training strategies in here.
In an attempt to accelerate the process of writing this, I’ve deliberately excluded a lot of scientific theory from this book and I will not be referencing much research (to start). It would take too long for me to go back through all the courses, certifications and schooling I’ve done, to gather my notes and bookmarks to quote every single bit of research or book I’ve read in the last eight years. However, I use these concepts every day, I know how they work (and they work well), so just because I don’t have 3 studies to back up every method I use, hopefully you can trust my experience for now and be patient with the scientific references for future editions.
I’m also not diving much into nutrition, which is most certainly a very important part of the physical training realm, but warrants it’s own dedicated book. I highly recommend that you learn skills in basic nutrition too and will make some quick recommendations in this section before I get into the meat of the program. Nutrition and exercise are incredibly complimentary and most physical objectives you want to achieve will require you to develop competency in both.
I want this book to represent a very practical outlook on fitness. If you want to question the logic, please feel free to contact me (see earlier in this chapter) and together I think we can make this book even better. I fully intend to field questions and modify this book a few times over the next few years based on those questions to address them in advance for you the reader.
For now, the focus of this book is not to discuss the black art secrets of training, or the hundreds if not thousands of different ways to get 2% more output from a high performance athlete — when you compete at a high level 2% makes a world of difference. Many existing programs on the market are geared towards the latest and greatest new research, giving people something new to do. As human beings, we actually crave some variety, so these programs tend to sell, but the majority of them are also geared to experienced trainees, this program is not. If you’re an experienced trainee you can still get a lot of benefit from reading this book, applying the principles and doing the programming.
Just recognize that everything about this book is geared towards foundational movement, or ‘the basics.’ If that doesn’t suit you, then maybe one of my future books will, but in the meantime I’d still really appreciate if you read this and passed it on to people who might not be as advanced a trainee as you are. Even better, please feel free to take these principles and pay it forward by teaching them (or some of them) to your friends and family.
Here is a quick list of topics and things you won’t find in this book:
- Actual Coaching – Just because I can’t actually coach through a book. No book could ever replace the benefits of actual coaching. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE to maximize the concepts in this book, please seek some form of mentorship or coaching from someone with experience. Otherwise these are just ideas without implementation.
- Nutrition Advice – Most likely an entirely separate book, however, some kind of nutritional intervention WILL be necessary if you have specific aesthetic objectives in mind (i.e. weight loss, or even muscle gain). This book is designed specifically to make novices more comfortable at the gym. I’m confident that if you become confident in the gym, you can then easily learn how to apply nutritional principles to nearly any objective.
- Overhead Pressing – For the novice, the risk doesn’t seem worth the reward. In modern society, our postures are making overhead pressing harder and harder for many people. Also newer research indicates that people have four different types of shoulder blades — Acromion Processes specifically, which is the hooked part of the shoulder blade bone nearest to your upper arm — and that the majority probably have shoulder blades not ideally suited for overhead pressing, unless their posture is spot on. Future editions will probably address the sequence for developing this skill, including the clearance tests I use to make sure overhead pressing is appropriate for you.
- Plyometric or Shock Training – We will cover basic explosive power principles only. I believe elastic and explosive movement is a necessity in training. Explosive power is the one quality that seems to have the highest co-relation with longevity and quality of life as we age. More so than any other physical quality, if you want to prevent hip fractures in your old age, start doing some explosive strength training. I’ll discuss more of these in the follow up book.
- Useless or ‘Less-Than-Useful’ Exercises – I’m a bang for buck kind of trainer, so I choose exercises that yield the biggest bang for your training time buck. The exercises that I chose for this program, may not be your favourite, but they are effective. For instance I find exercises like sit-ups and tricep kickbacks to be low on the totem pole for overall effectiveness by comparison to other exercises. This doesn’t make them ‘bad’ exercises, it just means that I think there are more effective exercises at your disposal.
- Workouts That Will Make You Want to Vomit – High amounts of fatigue are counterproductive to learning how to train. If you’re tired or fatigued, your movement patterns will be altered, which is useful for the more advanced trainee whose level of fitness warrants more stressful training tactics. In this program I want you to think work + rest = success. You will still train hard, but you should rest appropriately to get a better result from the training.
- Barbell Training – While very effective, I’ve deliberately avoided it in this book because it’s more for intermediate+ exercisers, and it’s harder to learn via a book without proper coaching. Barbells will allow you to lift harder and heavier than dumbbells, which is very useful as you master physical training. I chose to leave them out of this program and will probably address them in a followup book.
- Self Massage – AKA Foam rolling or self-myofascial release technique. Honestly this stuff is super important, way more important than most people think. It just might require forty pages on its own, so I’m just going to refer you to some sources that can teach you more for now. I may either add more of this to this book in future editions or include it in a followup book.
- Advanced Concepts in Warm-ups – Warming up is really important but again, would require an additional forty pages to cover in any kind of detail. There are literally entire books written about just warm-ups. Books written on muscle activation, pre-hab and dynamic warm-ups; All variables you can use in future. I want to do justice to this topic so bad, it’s just a very time intensive project that I think may warrant a separate book. I will do my best to give you some simplified warm-ups that give you a high bang for buck.
- Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT) – RNT techniques are very effective for cleaning up motor patterns, but they need at least a partner and are best served being coached by someone with experience. Honestly, most people won’t even know what they are missing if I exclude this, but I plan to include it somewhere in future.
- Advanced Concepts in Anything Really – These are foundational concepts, but ignore them at your own peril. Actually ignoring them is a lot like trying to build a house in a swamp or in the mud without a foundation, eventually something will collapse and I just hope it doesn’t require surgery.
- “Cardio…” – I honestly hate this term, some people may refer to it as ‘conditioning’ which is more appropriate, but Cardio inadequately describes how to train your cardiovascular system. This goes well beyond aerobic training. Instead, I’ll show you how to get more out of your three energy systems.
Later In This Book
In the first section of this book I’ll discuss the mindset issues that I see plague beginner trainees. I’ll give you some tips for how to excel in any training program. Make sure you read, absorb and try to utilize some of these as you go through the program.
Then I’ll discuss programming basics that I think everybody should know. This includes some basic anatomy, good programming theories, the progression model, the framework model, the joint-by-joint theory, training notation, reps and set schemes, how to organize workouts, how to schedule them optimally and generally how to squeeze more effectiveness out of your training.
I’ll finish with the specifics of resistance training, then energy system training, including an example program that I’ll show you how to modify as you progress through the program. We’ll go over the basic movements, and progress to harder variations.
Finally I finish with some relevant late info, as I field questions on the book. I may even end up being an FAQ of sorts.