This photo reminds me of the cooperative factors involved in the client/trainer/fat-loss/muscle gain relationship.  It also reminds me that it could be above 60 degrees in about 6 weeks.

I’m going to give it to you straight, no chaser.  My client Renee “Bubbly” has been brutalizing body-fat in the last 10 months that we have been training, without interruption.  There is nothing that stands between her and the next pants size downward.  She does not make a whole bunch of money, yet in her budget she finds the means to visit me in the studio for ten sessions every month.  Since January 25th she has lost 3 pounds, despite the vacation she had last weekend, and she is gearing up for another holiday in less than seven weeks.  I can tell you all about how tasy she looks and post photos but that would violate the agreement between us.  Simply put?  She has lost over 100lbs. and counting, and her strength gains are listed below the quick legend to my trainer language.


Volume = total pounds moved, for a given exercise, a given ‘block’ or curcuit, or a specified period of time.

Intensity= % of 1 Repetition maximum effort or for some drills, % of bodyweight

Density= work done in time

PR= personal record [or progress reported], denoting a mathematical, clear-cut  improvement over previous acheivements in the given exercise.

January 27th:

PR in Lat Pulldown density [more work in less time] PR in dead-lift volume [more total lbs. moved]

January 31st:

PR in the barbell military press, volume and intensity [more total lbs. moved and heavier weight used in the workout].

PR in dead-lift intensity/volume, meaning, more reps with a given weight than ever before.

February 3rd:

PR in lat-pulldown intensity/volume, using a heavier weight for every set than before, and moving 600 more pounds in only an additional 45 seconds.

PR in dead-lift intensity/density, or, an additional 252 lbs. moved in the exact same time as her prior workout using a heavier weight.  Awesome.

Today, 9 February:

She dead-lifted for a Personal Record in Volume, moving 5,176lbs. 

The actual numbers may not be staggering or reflect world-record status, but relative to where she was yesterday, and 10 months ago, and two years ago, Bubbly is better.  My job is to point her towards better.  She holds up her end mightily, never missing a session and cooking her own meals 6-7 days a week. 

Lastly, all of these improvements are effortless, and THAT is what makes them such a big darn deal.   

I am ready to schedule your session, so we may begin to point you towards a better body, more strength, and a greater quality of life.

Authentic Strength Training, from the studio

Kettlebells 4 U

17 South Valley Rd. Paoli, PA 19301

Doctor Bravo.  What a student.  Three times a week she shows up on time and ready to dance.  She placed her favorite band, Social D, on the iPod shuffle setting and we just got loud.

Military Press 1 rep maximum is 70Lbs.

We tested one rep at 65% relative intensity and one rep at 85% intensity.  Heavier weight tested better.  So she accrued 12 reps at 85% intensity in 8:25 time.  Looking back at all her pressing sessions, she has not used 85% intensity for more than 3-5 reps in a workout.  Not with her military press 100% intensity at 70lbs.

Volume: 720lbs. [total of all reps x weight]

Intensity 85.71% Personal Record

Density 12.07% [12% of 8:25 was spent pressing the bar]

Next up, squats.  Her barbell squat 1RM is 75lbs.

Test the movement? Tested well.  Test the load? Yup.  We used the grip dynamometer in place of ROM testing today.  her baseline grip on the hand we used was 30kg/PSI.

To begin, we racked 60% intensity/45lbs. on the bar for a single rep and it tested well.  We moved to 86% intensity/65lbs. and it tested much better.  65 x 2 reps, not a good test.

75 x 1, good test.

80 x 1, great rep, good test result.  Personal Record!

85 x 1, great rep, not a good test result down 1.5kg/PSI.  But another PR. . .

90 x 1, wonderful rep, no loss in speed or breathing change.  Another intensity PR, but not a good test, same grip reading as above.  So, we rested twice as long as we had previously.

95 x 1, bad rep, negative test results, grip down 3kg/PSI from previous reps but still above her baseline.  Her rep was slow and she displayed effort.  And though she squatted down and stood back up, i am counting 90lbs. as her new 1 Rep Max, as she displayed no effort on that rep/load.  Despite the fact that it did not test well.

So, now we could calculate her new 55% intensity range.  90lbs. minus 45% = 49.5lbs.  And here is how the remainder of her training session went down.  We started a new block

Weight x reps (work time each set)

50lbs. for sets of 7(:18)-8(:19)-7(:19)-7(:18)-6(:16)-7(:18)-9(:24)

Volume =2,550   Intensity =55.5%   Density = 23.86%

Density Calculation tutorial is next up kids!

<Watch Dr. Bravo bang home a couple of chins/When EFFORT TESTS WELL>

Greetings team,

Thank you for your visit and please enjoy the tutorial today.  We are going to examine the method i use to track relative intensity on a given lift until an actual 100% intensity is established.  This may help you, and if you desire an extension of this idea, please come train at our studio in Paoli or drop a comment.

1 Rep Maximum= the absolute most weight you can lift with a quality movement for most exercises [kettlebell ballistics have a muddy definition of intensity, stand-by on that].

Quality Movement

Quality Movement = the absence of effort

Elements of effort are yellow and red lights, decreases in speed, increases in tension, changes in breathing, loss of alignment established at the beginning of the set.

This single-rep poundage represents 100% Intensity.  Percentages relative to 100% are referred to, commonly, as low-moderate-high intensity.  What number represents each range is, well, relative!

So when the DA showed up today for his 12Pm appointment, we went beyond the estimation of a 1RM and trained a movement that tested well until we hit the end of the lesson.  He had more in the bank.

<View The DA’s deadlift here>

But we were out of time! Until today we had been logging his training range for intensity as the % of his bodyweight reflected on the bar for deadlifts.  Deadlifts using poundage above his bodyweight were not testing well, so we did not train them.

<Read more about “testing” your movements before you train them, but beware of strong language>

Today, the DA ‘stepped into the realm’.  We used his 214 pounds of bodyweight to gauge where to begin testing his deadlifts.  This is how it went down on paper:

We tested all of his sets and reps with range of motion and used them as guidance. What we call ‘biofeedback’.
52% of 214lbs. = 113lbs. x 14 reps
79/80/97% = 171-173-208 lbs. for singles, all sets tested better than the previous set.  This meant that we could either increase the weight or do more reps with any of those poundages and based the workout off those results.  Since our goal was to establish his 100% intensity, we just added more weight!

218 x 1 was great.

218 x7 reps  tested awesome.

135% of his bodyweight is 289, so 289lbs. x 1, 295 x 1, and then 300 x 1, all testing better than the previous set. Once we went above 218 i did not tell him how much he was lifting. His 300 x 3 was an intensity Personal Record. I am projecting his safe 1Rep Max as 315. This is the weight i will use to guage relative intensity while testing. All the while, not using any feed-forward tension or power breathing.

So, when the movement you are training is not testing well for high intensity, or a heavy-duty weight, i will track the relative intensity as what % of your bodyweight the poundage is.  Once we can establish a 1rep max, then we have your 100%, or your 1RM.

Intensity vs. Effort

Kids, i should not list anything vs. anything, unless it can be quantified, like tonight’s Flyers vs. Predators NHL match-up.  So what i can tell you is that we will examine intensity compared to effort.

Intensity is relative.  55% intensity relative to 100%.  100% is relative to the elements of effort that force you to stop and recover.  Elements of effort are relative to each other, in succession andimportance to the user.  Lastly, the user is relative to their self.  How awesome do you feel today, or, like me, do you deal with an old injury in new ways almost all the time?

Effort, or ‘exertion’, is commonly mistaken for intensity when defined in popular American exercise culture.  “High intensity” workouts are marketed here as a sweat and grunt extravaganza, yet if you apply the details i listed for you, a sweat and grunt session could be marketed as high-output, or training at a high rate of perceived exertion.  A high intensity training session could be drawn from lifting at 80% of your 1 rep max.  An example would be when my client Dr. B can press 70 pounds on a barbell overhead, training at 80% of that would be 56 pounds.

I feel it is important to differentiate those two, intensity and effort, since they are not necessarily intertwined.  And if you are just joining me here on the AST reports, you may not know that i changed nearly everything i use to teach movement and measure progress in the last year.

If i can help you in anyway, you may be a candidate for my personal training program.  I am available Monday-Saturday at our studio in Paoli, Pa.  13 miles from West Philly and about 4 miles from West Chester University.  Contact me using

And make it a strong day.


My new class at Lower Merion High School is open for enrollment 🙂