Kim storms into the kitchen, biceps straining as she's holding a bulging box of groceries that is almost too broad to fit through the doorway.

"What are you doing?" She asks, dropping the box on the center island with an egg-shattering thud.

"Nothing," I say, as I peer through the box’s contents. Macadamia nuts—awesome.

"Were you just air deadlifting again?” She asks.

"Maybe," I say reluctantly, having been caught dead in the act. I’m a conventional puller, but when I air deadlift, it's always sumo.

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"My husband is air deadlifting in the kitchen instead of helping me with the groceries. That's just fabulous.” She turns to walk away—a return trip to the SUV for another load.

"Sorry," I say, donning a sheepish smile.

"You know what's sad?" She asks as she pauses in the doorway.


"They looked heavy."


"Your son is in the garage," she says. “He’s training. Tommy is in there with him too. Are you okay with that?"

“Sure; Harrison knows what he's doing," I say.

Harrison is now sixteen-years-old, and his body is really starting to respond to resistance training. During Christmas, we were on the beach, having trekked from Dallas, Texas to Fort Myers, Florida, and he was enjoying strutting around shirtless for the week, basking in his newfound masculinity.

chain base erik

Good for him.

He's been involved in and around training for years, including several years at Beast, where he was both a trainee and when he wasn't training, he was frequently in attendance, as a thoughtful observer. Harrison's seen us put many athletes through their paces in what we consider to be the core multi-joint lifts—squat, deadlift, and bench press, plus a whole collection of other exercises.

"You'd better go in there and check on them," Kim says.

"Honey, when I was his age, I had friends training in my garage all the time," I say. "My dad never came in to watch over us. They'll be fine."

"I'm not worried about Harrison," she says. "I'm concerned with Tommy. He's not used to training, and you know how they lift at school. Based on the stories your boys have told, most of them aren’t training using good form."

"Okay, okay," I repeat. "I'll go in there and check out what those two are doing. Let me grab a cup of coffee first."

I pop a K-Cup in the Keurig, take my favorite mug and prepare to unobtrusively grab a spot in the corner of the garage, reclining on an adjustable bench. I open the door and witness Harrison and Tommy loading the squat bar with a ton of heavy chain, with none of the links resting on the floor to promote the necessary stability accommodating resistance training requires. Their rig more resembles a setup for chaotic training.

I look over at Tommy, and for the first time, literally ever, I honestly look at him. His shoulders are about as thin as a metal clothes hanger, and there's no way his giraffe-like legs are going to be able to support much weight, never mind Harrison's attempt at an accommodating resistance setup—specifically designed to promote instability.

"Hold on a second," I say. "No chains."

Harrison opens his mouth to object, pauses for a second and decides to keep his comments to himself, which is a minor miracle. I can tell he's not happy with my direction and he's deciding whether or not to launch an attempt to thwart my initial objection.

"No chains," I repeat.

The boys remove the accommodating resistance and begin to squat. They are in the power rack with the safety pins set to an appropriate height. Harrison knocks out his first set—ass to grass and looking pretty tight. He then substantially unloads the bar for Tommy.

Tommy backs out of the rack with 115 draped across his back. He’s shaking like a leaf. His right hand is gripping the bar, tight and appropriately, but his left is loose and making some variety of an "okay" sign. He squats down, close to parallel, drifting forward on his toes with each repetition, but manages to struggle through six horrific grinders.

Tommy gently re-racks the weight, cautiously backs out of the rack, and awaits my feedback, hesitating to make eye contact.

squat erik base

"Tommy, we've got a lot of work to do," I say.

"I know."


I'm fortunate to train in my garage gym, so I don't see the commercial gym horror shows I used to witness back in the day, but I have the internet, and a quick spin through the YouTubes or Instagram supplies me with enough training disasters to fill volumes. Just as Tommy wasn't close to being prepared for accommodating resistance training (not to mention the chaotic variety), many of the “trainers," proudly posting videos, have their newbie clients performing exercises that simply don't make sense.

There's more to exercise selection than finding a way to fill an hour with a trainee.

Here are a few of my personal favorites. Word to the wise—if you’re new to resistance training and your programming has any of these gems in the mix, you might want to consider a new trainer.

Weighted Dips (for half-reps) wearing a Sling Shot

Okay—picture this: young female trainee with a set of heavy chains draped around her neck and utilizing a Sling Shot for assisted half-rep dips (and I’m generous terming them as “half reps”).

I understand using the Sling Shot to facilitate a dip progression, but if your client isn't physically strong enough to perform the dips without the aid of the Sling Shot, how can you justify adding additional resistance?

She's not working on top-end strength for her lockout. Trust me—stop.

Yoke Walks For PRs

Yoke Walks are brutal and impressive when performed by accomplished strength athletes, but let's take a young female trainee who arguably doesn't yet have sufficient strength to handle any spinal load and ask her to shakily carry a heavily weighted yoke across the gym turf. Why? Because it will make a "good" video for the YouTubes? There’s no other conceivable reason I can devise.

Guys and Gals, to quote Meghan Trainor—“Because you know I'm all about that bass" (base)—build your client’s base strength first through the traditional multi-joint movements. Don't put their overall health unnecessarily at risk, when they aren't physically prepared to handle the spinal load, especially walking with the weight in an unstable manner. Jeeeeeze.

Safety Squat Yoke Bar Deadlifts

This one may be my personal favorite. First, let me say, I love the SS Yoke Bar. I have the elitefts' version in my garage gym. It's perfect for veteran and novice lifters alike—solid and great quality.

I also love deadlifts (okay, truthfully, I despise them most of the time, but they work, and they're primal). I think deadlifts are excellent for total body development, but if you're relatively new to resistance training and your trainer is trying to combine these two lifts (i.e. deadlifting with a SS Yoke Bar draped on your shoulders), you'd better head for the hills. I'm serious.

If, as a trainee, you don't have a solid ten years of heavy resistance training under your belt and your trainer is attempting to put a weighted SS Yoke Bar across your shoulders and asking you to bend over and pull a deadlift, you're going to need to find a smarter trainer.

I've seen some folks with clients that can't execute a proper pull start adding these additional implements, and it's insanity. Hell, your client can't maintain the proper back arch during a moderate pull and you're adding an additional load to the mix?

That decision is comparable to when the NBA changed the ball without talking to any of the players first—where is the common sense?


Am I bitching? Maybe. Am I an old critical codger? Definitely.

Was I upset that Harrison jumped to accommodating resistance training with a kid that appeared as though he may have had one previous squat session under his belt? I wasn't mad. I was surprised, but not mad. Chains are cool. They have their place with a more seasoned trainee.

I get it. The added implements are great tools. When utilized correctly, they can add great variety to training, but you've got to crawl before you can walk.

You've got to build that base!