A Lion in Iron: Ladies, Measurements Don't Matter

TAGS: women clients, training women, Measurements Don't Matter, measurements, ladies, lion in iron, Strong(her), Alexander Cortes, women, personal training

Since my article on training women was published, I’ve been awestruck by the reactions it has garnered and the responses I have gotten from women who have read it. It honestly has left my heart in awe because I never imagined that it would resonate so strongly. Thank you to everyone—it means the world to me.

Since then I have also inadvertently picked up a number of female clients (more than I have ever trained prior to this point). This has been a great experience for me; however, it has also presented a different set of challenges than what I am used to. That being said, I will readily say that this by and large is a rant. After venting about it enough, I felt it merited being put down in writing.

For anyone who has ever worked within the personal training field, the word "measurements" is an important one, especially amongst female clientele. As I wrote in my prior article, the fitness industry focuses almost exclusively on weight loss in regards to women. Subsequently, the results of personal training are driven almost entirely on whether a person's (a woman's) "measurements" are going down. Having worked as a personal trainer since I started in this industry, I can say that the majority of training and advice I have received, both from managers and other senior trainers, centered on the importance of constantly tracking a client’s measurements. The success of the trainee then revolves around whether he/she is making the "right" choices lifestyle-wise so that he/she gets his/her "measurements" down to whatever arbitrary number that has been decided upon by the personal trainer.


This is what an investment in a personal trainer represents? A fucking caliper measurement added up on a calculator and compared to a chart?

Bullshit. Yet, this is what I see happening every single day:

You, Mr. Personal Trainer, meet with your new client. She is paying you a considerable sum for one-on-one coaching and a 12-week+ program. Because you are so highly paid, you use cookie-cutter questions (asked in the driest manner possible, of course) to fill in her measurements on a little chart while testing her “body composition.” Then, by looking off another chart , you tell her whether she is fit, normal, or overweight. You then continue to make some estimation based on your lousy text book certification calculator as to how long it will take her to reach her “goal”—which you have decided (for them, of course) is 20% bodyfat. She's 5-foot-8 and weighs 140 pounds, and you’ll call her skinny-fat because that sounds pretty judgmental and should get her to buy training, right? She could totally be 125 pounds...according to your science sports academy chart based on research data from the 1970s.

Of course, after asking your bullshit questions you will disregard your client’s relationship with food. So anorexia, binge eating, cultural anxiety, familial pressure...all of that you will only half-ass be trying to change, but hey, you're tracking measurements! And to be honest, it's not like that any certification actually talks about coaching anyways.

You will also disregard whether the client enjoys a physical outlet, as well as disregarding whether you teach her anything that actually empowers her to make any real mental paradigm changes.

You can, however, name all the bones (mostly) in the body and tell your client that she is quad-dominant and that her balance sucks when standing on an unstable surface—because that’s clearly fucking important according to your other chart that labels how imbalanced she is.

Now, regardless of whether or not your client's “skinny-fat” state came from her job, marriage, boyfriend, family, children, struggles with depression/anxiety, stress, or some combination thereof, You are going to give her a Pass/Fail grade every two weeks on all this by taking measurements. Then, if these numbers have gone up or stayed the same, you chastise her for not making the "right" diet and exercise choices because, by Zeus, her thigh circumference hasn't budged and the caliper still says "X" number! And you know that she is lying to you about how much food she is eating…



Go fuck yourself. I mean it. You’re not a trainer, you’re not a coach. You are just someone ripping her off, masquerading as a health professional while essentially charging people for the right to exercise them to death while increasing their stress and anxiety about food. Get the fuck out of this field because you’re not helping anyone.

We live in a culture where women will readily stress about pants and dress sizes going up and believe a scale number will make them magically happy, and you are going to make measurements the thing that matters?


And before I get accused of not taking “measurements” or how I track progress, shut up.

Of course I take bloody measurements, but what I do is assess and account for what matters. My clients' understanding of the four foundational movements (squat, hinge, pull, and press) matters. Their understanding that they are all athletes who can become physically powerful through progressive training matters. Their understanding that they need to eat enough to fuel their life and have energy matters. Their understanding that we are working to turn them into a stronger and more powerful version of themselves matters.

My female clients feeling cute in their clothes and not ashamed of their arms matters. Them enjoying moving for the first time and not being intimidated by weights matters. My girls being able to do pushups and pick up heavy things without needing a man to help them carry luggage or open jars matters. Them having No fear when picking up a barbell or walking into the “man area” of the gym matters. Forcing their boyfriends or husbands to work out or rebuilding their confidence after a break-up matters. Them liking the shape of their bodies matters—them not feeling weak matters. Becoming strong both mentally and physically matters.

And if can get them to do pull-ups, pushups, sprints, swing a 24-kg+ kettlebell, and deadlift and squat way more than their bodyweight, do you think they might look different? I give them permission to run if they like to run (hey, a lot of women like to run, and that’s okay), and I empower them to believe that it's their right to enjoy food. I also encourage them to understand that the pounds on the bar will mean a lot more about their performance in life than the number on the scale ever will.

All of that is what matters.

And, of course, I record and progress their major movements, their pounds, and their improvements. I record their squat, bench, deadlift, pushups, pull-ups, dips, and squats. They can run easier and enjoy moving and, for the first time in their lives, they don’t feel fragile. I adjust as needed and set small and large goals as needed, and if body composition is truly worth tracking, then we shall account for it because it’s relevant to the goals that have been mutually agreed upon. I keep records and I make sure they set small PRs every day—and they leave feeling more capable than when they walked in...because they are.

I regard them as students, and I teach them everything I possibly can about strength, health, and nutrition. I ask them questions about their lives, both personal and professional, because I want the strength they build with me to carryover to every part of their lives. I am a man and they are trusting me with their health—I will do no less than set an example of what a teacher and gentleman should be. And, in turn, they do the same for me by forcing me to be a better teacher and a better man for them every single day. One day I won’t be their teacher, so I make damn sure that I teach them to be stronger, more confident, and more empowered women.

That is what truly matters.

Be More, not less.

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