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The Art of Movement Edition 43: Start Identifying Progress Properly

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

WEEKLY CIRCUIT CLASS: Tuesday 29th November, 6:30pm Turnham Green, Chiswick - Come down and get involved!


Check out my Patreon channel for video episodes, on-demand workouts, training programmes, training guidance/advice and more!

Edition 43 - Start Identifying Progress Properly

‘I wanna lose this’ (grabs belly)

‘I just want to turn this fat into muscle’

‘I don’t want to get too bulky, but I want to be fit and strong’

‘I want to lose weight at all costs’

‘I’ve been coming to the gym at least once per week, so why am I not seeing progress?’

Honestly. Trust me. I’ve heard it all. I really do sympathise with anybody who has ever felt that frustration of not being able to realise a goal, or worse yet, not even knowing where to begin when it comes to setting one. Sadly, the average person has no idea where to start when it comes to framing objectives correctly in the gym, to give a concrete set of markers which provide regular feedback and information, revealing how near or far from their target they are on a given day.

Today’s edition will provide a precursor to next week’s edition on goal setting, which is a nice topic to touch on as we approach the January season of determination, transformation and so-called fresh starts. Although it is always fantastic seeing new faces in the gym, I always have an underlying urge to grab as many of them as possible, shake them and stress the importance of having a crystal clear direction and set of rules, or run the risk of immediately fizzling back into old habits.


A common interaction I see in the gym with my fellow trainers and new members, concerns the uptake of a new programme. We spend a whole hour of the members' first session sitting down with them, delving deep into who they are, why they are here, what we can do for them, and what they can do for themselves. By the end of the hour we have a shiny new training programme ready to go for them, showing them each exercise, its purpose etc. before we schedule in their follow-up sessions. We then spend the next session taking them through the routine in full, examining their technique, fielding questions, establishing correct volumes and intensities specific to the member, and set them tasks at the end of the session which may be along the lines of:

‘Carry this session out once/twice again on your own before we meet next week’


‘Our next session is in 1 month, carry out the routine twice per week, every week until then’

Imagine then, the horror and disbelief when the member returns to say they’ve been a bit busy, and haven’t had a chance to do the routine on their own, and was wondering if they could go through some different exercises today. Confirming they have had ZERO attempts at the routine, but would like a new one. This happens extremely often. Not only is this hugely disrespectful to the trainer, who has identified exercises for the routine specifically as the ones this person is most desperately in need of, but they are also lacking respect for themselves and their goals by not going to any lengths to carry out the bare minimum required to achieve them. And to top it all off they are then asking the trainer for a new set of exercises (based on their track record, they won’t do these independently either!)

I know not all trainers are perfect, but trust and standards are important if you are trying to get somewhere. If a trainer tells you that you need to carry out your programme 3 times per week (based on your objectives), that is exactly what you need to go away and do. If you carry out the work they have suggested to the letter for the recommended period of time and see no hint of results, then maybe discussions about alternatives can be justified. But at least to begin with, it is so important to do what is required of you, or otherwise relinquish the training goal you had in mind.

As I have found out over the years, people are able to set themselves some really nice sounding goals in the gym - but guess what, when push comes to shove - not many people are actually prepared to do what it takes to achieve the goal. Your goal can be to lose 10% body fat and gain 5kg muscle in 3 months. But if you’re only training 2-3 times per week, that goal is just a bunch of words. Next week we will discuss how to set goals correctly and put you in a place where you can attack them with integrity.

But the message for this week is whatever you do, be specific and don’t buckle to the industry ideals. Do away with the cliches and vague, hopeful clutches at goal setting - most of the time they make no sense. For example:

‘I want to lose weight at all costs, and appear lean, fit and athletic’

This is a contradictory statement, because brainwashed people think that losing weight involves starving themselves, doing long slow cardio a few times a week, and staying away from weights to avoid ‘getting too bulky’. The reality is that becoming lean, fit and athletic involves gaining weight (see pics below) in muscle mass, and the type of changes they really desire involve:

  • Sprinting, not jogging or walking

  • Eating well, feeding the body high quantities of quality protein, fruit, veg, legumes etc.

  • Jumping, hopping, skipping and lifting heavy weights for low reps

So why would you want to lose weight at all costs? When the fact is your weight is probably going to have very little to do with how athletic you can become and the progress you can make? Even if you do in fact lose weight, it is not the deciding factor of whether your body is in a better place or not - if you lost weight by starving yourself and using bad habits you are unhealthier despite your weight loss, and guess what - when normal service is resumed, that weight will go straight back on and then some. The key is to ignore the scales (unless you are observing the relationship between body fat % and muscle mass) and just focus on actually getting better at the activities you are carrying out in the gym - this is the process, and the better you get at your process, the better the results.

PS. This is why seeing fluctuations in weight should be largely ignored (it is usually all over the place!), and why weight gain doesn’t always = bad.

“Be specific.”

Movement of the Week: Press Ups

3-4 sets of 5-15 reps

Nothin beats a good old fashioned bodyweight exercise, and press ups will always be great! Get practising your press ups regularly and focus on good quality reps, full depth and solid core stability throughout. Establish your personal best and then set out your targets for improving it!

That’s all for this week! Check out my Patreon channel for video episodes, on-demand workouts, training programmes, training guidance/advice and more!

Thank you,


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