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Hiring the Right Trainer Part Deux

In the second part of Hiring the Right Trainer, we continue to reveal the insider’s secrets to ensuring you don’t waste your money or time when choosing a personal trainer.


When meeting trainers for the first time, one of the ways I can gauge their knowledge and ability as trainers is to listen to the terminology they use. If they sound like a late night info- mercial and liberally use the terms “muscle tone” or “lengthen muscles,” I know they are absolutely clueless. If a trainer throws these terms at you, know that they are telling you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear.

Lesson One

Muscle tonus- The muscle in a steady partially contracted state caused by the successive flow of nerve impulses.

Even at rest, most of our skeletal muscles are in a constant state of partial contraction called tonus. Tonus is maintained by the activation of a few motor units in the muscle at all times, even in resting muscle. For instance, while you are standing in line at the grocery store, numerous muscles are partially activated to keep you upright and from falling to the floor.

When a trainer uses the term, such as “We are going to improve your muscle tone by performing high reps,” they are either confused, misinformed, or worse, telling you what you want to hear.

In this instance, the trainer is misapplying the word tone. What the trainer really means to say is to reduce your body fat, so that the underlying muscle becomes visible. For instance, we all have abdominal muscles, but not everyone’s are visible because they are hidden beneath a layer of fat.

But this is not to say that tonus is undesirable, as a partially contracted muscle is more visually appealing than a flaccid muscle and performs better. The only way to improve tonus is by performing low reps with heavy weights. For men, this means working in the 1-6 rep range and for women, 1-8 reps.

Lesson Two

My biggest pet peeve is when a trainer tells a client their workout is going to “lengthen their muscles.” The ONLY method for lengthening a muscle requires a surgeon to cut you open, detach the muscle’s tendons at both ends, stretch your muscle apart and re-attach the tendons to the bone. Not what you were expecting? As with tonus, what they mean to say is to lose body fat so your muscle becomes visible.

It may appear as if I’m making mountains out of mole hills, but the implications are important. Either the trainer does not understand the terminology or does understand, but is using “buzz words” to tell you what you want to hear to put more money in their pocket. Which one is worse? A trainer with a limited grasp of his profession or one who practices deceptive techniques? Remember, how you do one thing, is how you do everything. If your trainer uses these phrases, you may want to go elsewhere.



Plyometrics is a type of high-intensity power training in which a muscle is loaded and contracted in rapid sequence. Also known as shock training, plyometrics was developed by Yuri Verkhoshansky with the goal of utilizing elastic energy to jump higher and throw farther. This elastic energy is generated during explosive muscular contractions, such as landing from a jump and then rapidly contracting the muscle by jumping up as high as possible.

Plyometrics, while not dangerous, are an extremely advanced training method, which should not be performed by the casual athlete. While running, your body absorbs a force up to three to four times your body weight. Plyometrics can generate forces up to six times your body weight, placing demands on your joints and tendons they may not be prepared to handle.

So What?

One of the main concerns with plyometrics involves their long term use by people who have not been properly instructed in their use. Plyometrics were designed to be used 2 or 4 times a year, whenever an increase in peak power production was required to improve performance with each phase lasting 3-4 weeks. Compare that to the majority of trainers who use plyometrics with their clients year round. Not only does this increase a client’s risk of injury, but it reduces the effectiveness of the technique over time.

What Your Trainer Doesn’t Know

In addition to knowing how to implement plyometrics, the trainer must make certain to teach the client proper landing mechanics. Improper landing mechanics is one of the most common causes of non-contact ACL injuries in young women.

The heavier you are, the greater the risk of injury. A heavier athlete will generate greater forces upon landing than a lighter athlete. However, there is a difference if you are 225 lbs at 8% body fat instead of 225 lbs at 30% body fat.

In order to ensure the client can properly handle the large forces generated, they need to be able to squat a specific percentage of their bodyweight. If you weigh 225 lbs, but struggle to properly squat with 200 lbs, there is no way you are going to safely handle 6 times your body weight upon landing. Your tendons will disintegrate like month old Olive Garden bread- sticks.

Athletes training with plyometrics during their athletic season are the definition of crazy. Most sports already involve a plyometric component and performing additional work in the weight room is going to decrease your performance on the field.

What To Ask

Ask your potential trainer what criteria they have for determining when and how to implement plyometrics. Remember, plyometrics are usually reserved when an increase in power output is desired, such as before a competitive event. They should not be used just because your trainer ran out of different exercises for you to perform.


As mentioned in the intro, out of 300 training certifications, there is only ONE that requires you to demonstrate an appropriate level of expertise before becoming fully certified, the Poliquin International Certification Program (PICP), designed by Charles Poliquin.

Widely recognized as the most successful strength coach in the world, Charles Poliquin has coached Olympic medalists in 17 different sports and world record holders in 10 sports. The PICP consists of 5 different levels, with each having three parts: a theory, a technical, and a practical component. While most other certifications can be completed in a few days, the PICP has additional criteria beyond the course material that must be met in order to receive full certification. For instance, PICP Level 5, the highest level possible, requires you to meet 4 of the 7 following criteria:

  • Train a medalist at the Olympic Games
  • Train a medalist at the Senior World Championships
  • Participate officially as a coach or athlete at the Olympic Games or World Championships
  • Train a World Record Holder in a recognized discipline
  • Train an athlete who wins a distinguished award in their professional league: i.e. Norris (NHL), Cy Young (MLB)
  • Develop course material for the PICP
  • Work as a National Coach for 5 years

Obviously, the PICP requires their coaches to possess a high level of knowledge and skill, which other certifications cannot match.

The PICP is the only certification I recommend, and the only one you should ask for by name. For more information, visit


As you can see, there are numerous factors to consider when hiring a trainer. Our goal has been to empower you with the best information possible to ensure that you hire a trainer capable of helping you reach your goals.

Strengthology, dedicated for readers like you with the same goal as ours – to be the best.

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Health, Muscle & Mercury – The facts

By Wolfgang Unsoeld

Mercury: The Worst of The Worst

1. Mercury is the most toxic non-radioactive metal on the planet.

2. There is no safe level of mercury in humans.

3. Mercury shuts down your body’s ability to defend itself from heavy metal toxicity, by preventing the elimination of ALL heavy metals.

The Two Main Sources of Mercury Exposure

1. Amalgam fillings: your own and those of your mother’s

2. Vaccines

Amalgam fillings contain about 50% mercury, making it the #1 source of exposure for humans.  The main concern, is the mercury which continuously leeches out of the fillings.  This leaching of mercury vapors gases is accelerated by chewing gum, drinking hot beverages and eating acidic foods.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that mercury from amalgam fillings of pregnant women, has accumulated in the brain, kidneys and liver of their fetuses.  The mercury exposure from the mother continues after birth through breast-feeding.  It is estimated that a fetus absorbs up to 75% of the mother’s toxicity.

Thimerosal, an inorganic mercury compound, is utilized as a preservative in vaccinations and pharmaceutical products.

What About Fish?

While a valid concern, the amount of mercury found in seafood, pales in comparison to the mercury exposure from amalgam fillings.  For example, eight amalgam fillings excrete approximately 14-23 mcg of mercury with a twenty-four hour period.  Whereas a single serving of fish, contains 0.5-1.5 mcg of mercury.

Additionally, it is necessary to consider the bioavailability of the types of mercury from fish vs. amalgam fillings.

The mercury found in fish is mostly absorbed in the intestines, with an absorption rate of 7%.  However, mercury vapors from amalgam fillings has a bioavailability of 78%.

Mercury and Your Body

The human body has an innate ability to protect itself from toxic exposure.  When experiencing a toxic load, the body normally stores toxins, including mercury, in metabolically inactive tissue: body fat stores and fibrous tissue.  But for numerous reasons, such as genetics and developmental factors, toxins can spill over into organs, mainly the brain, kidneys and liver.

Additional Health Concerns:

Mercury destroys the blood brain barrier, a physical and chemical protective barrier, which prevents substances in the blood stream from entering the brain.

Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt MD, one of the leading heavy metal toxicity and detoxification experts, has stated he has yet to encounter a patient diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, or Parkinson’s disease, without possessing a high level of heavy metal toxicity.

One way on which mercury depresses the immune system is by damaging heathy intestinal flora.  This disymbiosis can eventually lead to antibiotic resistance or leaky gut syndrome.

Mercury, known as the “great imitator,” is extremely difficult to diagnose, because it mimics symptoms of every disease known to man.

Mercury alters the methylation cycle, which is the “on/off switch” that enables the human body to adapt and respond to environmental changes. This cycle is the most important pathway for disease prevention.

Mercury, when stored in large quantities in muscle tissue, can leads to the development of trigger points and phantom pain.

Heavy Metal Toxicity Test

Blood, Stool, Urine: poor indicators of toxicity levels because mercury is primarily stored in bodily tissue and therefore cannot be accurately measured by blood, stool or urine testing.

Hair Analysis: a useful tool for determining the efficacy or progress of a heavy metal detoxification.  However, while there currently isn’t any heavy metal test that determine total body toxicity, hair analysis can reveal the amount of heavy metals that have ben circulating in your bloodstream approximately three months prior to testing.  Hair analysis is a valid test for acute toxicity, but not for determining total body burden.

What About the DMPS Challenge Test?

DMPS is the most commonly utilized intravenous chelation agent.  DMPS binds to heavy metals and then aids in their excretion from the body through the kidneys.  However, DMPS does has its setbacks.  Following a DMPS challenge test, the patient’s urine is collected for a twenty-four hour period and is then analyzed to determine heavy metal levels.  Issues arise however, when you realize that urine, is not the body’s preferred pathway of excreting heavy metals.  Additionally, once your kidneys are flooded with a certain level of mercury, they become inflamed, which shuts down the elimination process.  This can result in a false negative test result for heavy metals, despite carrying a toxic load.

While intravenous DMPS is one of the preferred methods of heavy metal detoxification, it mainly chelates mercury from the endothelium. And does not cross the blood brain barrier, making it ineffective for detoxifying the brain.

Mercury and Your Hormones

Your hypothalamus and pituitary glands, with their high fatty acid content, attracts lipophilic heavy metals such as mercury.  Since these organs are the main players in the endocrine system, any disruption in their functioning, will disrupt the production and functioning of all your hormones. Since both glands are located outside the blood barrier brain, they are even more vulnerable to mercury damage.

Mercury and Glutathione 

Glutathione, the “master antioxidant,” is the main antioxidant in the body.  The primary function of glutathione is protecting cells against the destructive effects of free radicals and detoxifying substances such as environmental pollutants.  Mercury, however, disrupts glutathione production, leaving individual cells defenseless, allowing it to enter the cell’s nucleus.  Once mercury enters the nucleus, cellular energy production ceases and the cell dies.

Interesting Facts

Amalgam fillings have been banned in Russia for the past twenty years, but are still utilized in the U.S.

Nigeria, possessing one of the highest rising rates of autism. One major reason is that the vaccinations used have a much higher content of the ethylmercury containing preservative thimerosal due to the climate in africa.

The highest suicide rate among medical professionals belongs to dentists, whose profession requires them to be one of the largest users of inorganic mercury.  Handling amalgam fillings, exposes dentists to mercury vapor, which explains why their mercury toxic levels average at least two times that of controls.

Thyroid issues? Mercury toxicity must be suspected, as it can induce both hyper and hypothyroidism, the difference is in the dosage.  Large dosages hyperthyroidism, while smaller dosages induce hypothyroidism by interfering with the manufacture of T4 and the conversion of T4 to T3.

Electromagnetic fields potentiate mercury toxicity.

Testosterone has a synergistic effect with mercury, helping to explain why  autism averages a 4.3:1 male-to-female ratio.

Zinc has a synergistic and potentiating effect with mercury.  Zinc should never be supplemented while undergoing a heavy metal detoxification.

Aspartame, an artificial sweetener, also potentiates the damage induced by mercury.

The Cat and Dog Story

The quote by Aristotle “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” holds especially true for heavy metal toxicity.  While individual heavy metals will wreak havoc in your body, their negative effects to your health are greatly magnified when combined together.

An excellent metaphor for the synergistic effects of heavy metals comes from Dr. Joachim Mutter from the University of Freiburg:

“Imagine you own a store which sells porcelain goods. One night, before leaving, you decide to leave your dog in the store overnight.  The next morning, when you return, you find your dog broke some items while strolling through the store.  That evening, you decide to borrow your neighbor’s cat and leave it along with your dog in the store overnight again. Guess what’s going to happen?”

The metaphor illustrates the disastrous effect multiple heavy metals, when introduced into the human body, can produce.

One often cited research study demonstrated that when rats were given LD1 (short for lethal dose 1, the dosage where 1 out of 100 rats died) of mercury, along with the LD1 of lead, produced a synergistic effect where all 100 rats died.

Mercury, Taxis, High Blood Pressure and Chronic Fatigue

Imagine a red blood cell was a taxi cab, carrying four passenger oxygen molecules, driving through the congested streets of NYC.  Now, as the oxygen molecules are taking in the tourist sights, mercury begins to invade the city.  Since mercury has a higher affinity for red blood cells than oxygen, mercury kicks the oxygen molecules out of the cab.  And to make matters worse, once mercury has made itself comfortable inside the cab, it will never leave.  Now imagine this occurring on a larger scale, to the point where all the taxis in NYC are carrying around mercury molecules.  Day after day, as oxygen molecules get displaced,  oxygen transport throughout your body diminishes.  Since the human body is an adaptive organism, it begins to  manufacture new cabs/red blood cells, however this will ultimately lead to major traffic jams in the city.  At this point, there are too many taxis on the streets, loaded with mercury passengers.  The longer this continues, the greater the odds there will be signs of chronic fatigue.  To make matters worse, the traffic jams in the streets, leads to elevated blood pressure.

The standard approach to fixing the issues of chronic fatigue and high blood pressure symptoms, is prescription medication.  However, the smart approach, is to lick the mercury molecules out of the taxis and make room for healthy, nourishing oxygen molecules.

Coming on Friday, part 2 of Health, Muscle & Mercury, where Wolfgang reveals a mercury elimination supplement protocol
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Mentoring: Educating the Strength Coaches of Tomorrow

 Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.

John Crosby

 In the business world, mentoring is a huge part of the culture, where it functions as a support system, providing a diverse perspective on academic, career, and personal development. While mentoring programs are typically designed for the benefit of the mentee, mentors also benefit from the relationship by ensuring the continuation of a high level of professionalism for their chosen field, as well as enhancing their own leadership and management skills.

Unfortunately, within the past few decades, mentor/mentee relationships in the strength and conditioning field have diminished significantly.  Due to the considerable ease of disseminating information worldwide through the internet,  experienced strength coaches have resorted to hoarding training information, in a protective effort to maintain their relevancy and financial income.  And unfortunately, this severe compartmentalization of the strength and conditioning community, has made it remarkably easy for charismatic fitness charlatans to prey on an unassuming public.

In the long run, by shunning the time-honored tradition of mentoring, we place at risk the professionalism of future generations of strength coaches.  My own strength training and consultation career has been greatly assisted and shaped by two mentors, each with a background the complete opposite of the other.

Gilbert Fierro 

Everyone has their “list of first” events which they recall fondly: their first girlfriend/boyfriend, their first car, or in Wolfgang’s case, seeing his first Rambo movie.  As for me, the first time I walked into a weight-room, remains one of my fondest memories.  It was 1985, the bodybuilding craze of the 80’s was in full swing and it seemed as if every strip mall in the U.S. had at least one gym.

Body Builder’s Gym was a small gym located in my home town of McAllen, Texas.  Owned by Gilbert Fierro, a firefighter and friend of the family, he ran the gym more as a club house for wayward meatheads, than a business.  The gym itself, was a study of the natural selection process at work.  The lack of air conditioning, combined with summer temperatures easily reaching 100°F/37°C, weeded out the weak and required a high level of testicular fortitude when training between 10:00 am-5:00 pm.  Gilbert’s training ethic mirrored his work ethic, and anyone who didn’t exhibit the same level of dedication and respect, placed their gym membership at risk of cancellation.

The three biggest lessons or rules I learned from Gilbert are still applicable today, as they were over twenty-five years ago.

 The Fierro Rules

 Deadlift before the Squat:  Gilbert believed if your spinal erectors didn’t possess the strength to pull heavy weight from the ground, then there was “no way in hell,” you could support both your bodyweight and a loaded barbell across your back.  Upon joining his gym, I trained the deadlift for three months before being allowed to squat.  And this was his only standing rule for all new members, no squatting until after performing between two and three months of  posterior chain envelopment.

The concept of 8: Gilbert’s most unusual training protocol, was based on an 8 day cycle and was reserved for lifters experiencing strength plateaus. The concept is simple, you perform the same lift for a high number of sets and after four cycles, you retest your 1-RM.

Lift seven days – one day off

Lift six days – two days off

Lift five days – three days off

Lift four days – four days off

Retest 1-RM

Upper Body 2:3 Rotation: Out of everything that I witnessed at Body Builder’s Gym, the one thing that stands out, was the lack of overtraining or injuries.  Despite the large volume of training and the extremely heavy poundage lifted year round, I can only recall one injury occurring at the gym…when someone dropped a 45 lb. dumbbell onto their foot.  I attribute the lack of injuries to Gilbert’ s obsessive insistence at everyone training with barbells for only two weeks, followed by dumbbell training for three weeks, and keeping that rotation indefinitely.  Regardless of the training cycle, everyone was expected to follow the 2:3 framework.

According to Gilbert, the 2:3 rotation:

  • limited the amount of training performed with barbells, which he believed placed greater demands on weaker limbs, leading to injuries
  • relieved boredom due to the frequent change in training implements.
  • Prevented overtraining due to the variations in performance of the exercises between barbells and dumbbells.

While Gilbert possessed the unique capability of applying the appropriate technique when needed by a particular trainee, his true talent, was his ability to extrapolate information from the most meager of sources.  While others might have selected bodybuilding magazines for their training information, Gilbert devoted his time to reading the works of Peary Rader, George Hackenschmidt, and Arthur Saxon.  Additionally, It was his “working man’s, no BS” mentality and ability to remain objective, which I used as the foundation for my own strength training philosophy.

Greg Gardiner

Nearly twenty years later after my first mentor, I was about to meet my second, who would first appear as a client.  As I was soon to find out, Greg Gardiner was not your average training client.  Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., he attended Georgetown and Fordham University, earning a Doctorate in Physical Chemistry.  At the time of our meeting, he was in private practice, consulting for numerous pharmaceutical and biotech companies, as well as a partner in a venture capital fund.  But his most interesting position, and the one which provided the basis for numerous lengthy discussions, was his management of Pfizer’s worldwide drug discovery program.  During our training sessions, he shared numerous stories of his worldwide travels, searching  for exotic plant and herb specimens to study for potential medicinal properties.

And while my mentoring relationship with Gilbert provided me with an education beyond the classroom, Greg Gardiner further expanded on my career and education by granting me access to the numerous professional relationships he established over a life time of pharmaceutical research and development.  Case in point, when we first began training together, Greg felt my familiarization with the endocrine system was “lacking,” and at our following session he brought one of his endocrinology text books for me to study.  I had five days in which to study and learn the material before being subjected to an oral exam.  Exactly five days later, Greg called me and asked if I was ready for my exam, I stated I was and then heard another voice on the phone.  Turns out, Greg had set up a conference call and the other voice on the line, was one of the authors of the endocrine textbook I had just studied.   My oral examination was to be conducted not by Greg, but rather by the author of the textbook.  After the oral exam, I was able to ask the author the numerous questions his textbook had raised and in return, was provided with an educational opportunity available to a select few.

I share that anecdote with you, not to impress you, but to impress upon you, that mentoring relationships provide opportunities which might not normally be made available to you.  By being a mentee, you are automatically given access to not only the information and practices your mentor has acquired over his professional career, but to the professional relationships they have developed.  A mentor acts as a catalyst to your academic and professional development and actively guides you on your path to a successful and rewarding career.

What About You?

Are you a mentor?  Why not?  By mentoring the future generation of strength coaches, we ensure a high level of knowledge and professionalism remains in our field long after we’re gone.  Why leave our profession at the mercy of late night infomercial “experts?”  Additionally, a mentoring relationship can reinforce or remind you of techniques you may have long forgotten and even ignite the desire in you to be a better coach.

Have you asked anyone to mentor you?  Why not?  A mentor can save you a significant amount of time, effort and money.  A great mentor, will allow you to look in his “playbook,” showing you what works and helping you avoid what doesn’t.  Don’t be afraid to ask anyone to mentor you, the vast majority of people you could ask, would be extremely flattered.

However, be prepared to have your dedication and sincerity tested.  The first time I was asked to be someone’s mentor, I had the potential mentee meet me at the gym every Saturday morning at 4:00 am. If someone won’t invest their time in pursuit of their goals, why should I?  Another strength coach I know, ask his potential mentee to write him a check for an undisclosed amount of money.  If the trainee ever fails to meet any of the previously agreed upon benchmarks, the mentor donates the check to a charity.

For all you strength coaches reading this, leave the strength and conditioning community in a better state that you found it.

Exploring the questions brings more wisdom, than having the answer.
-A Course in Miracles

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Stretching 101: The Glutes

Lower back pain?  Do you sit at a desk all day?  Speak to any Fascial Stretch Therapist and they’ll be quick to point out that prolonged sitting acts as a physical stressor to the glutes, external rotators and hamstring muscle, causing the body to lay down additional collagen to strengthen and support the areas under stress.

Consider the following excerpt from Ann and Chris Frederick’s excellent book Stretch to Win:

“When you sit or lay down, your body adapts to the surface of the furniture or the floor.  But if you sit or stay in a position too long, your fascial system accumulates stress and strain from the summation of forces on the body…if you do not change position often, as is the case with many who sit at work, then your fascia thickens in the areas that are under prolonged or repetitive stress and strain.”

Collagen fibers, possessing only a slight level of stretch capabilities, can significantly reduce flexibility.

The Figure Four Stretch

While it’s the most prescribed stretch for the glutes and external rotators, it’s also the most poorly executed stretch, possessing a high risk of injury for those with an extremely limited range of motion.

For this stretch, the closer the torso and lower body are brought together, the greater the stretch placed on the glutes and external rotators. Here are the most common errors in its execution:

Flexion of the Cervical Spine

Due to their limited range of motion, some people will “turtle neck” their head towards their lower body, providing the illusion of an increase in their range of motion.

Flexion of the Thoracic Spine & Pulling on the Knee

Mostly executed by those with the least amount of flexibility, this compensation pattern possesses the highest risk of injury due to the pulling of knee to help maintain their seated position.  While the previous compensation pattern concentrated on the cervical spine, in this version, the thoracic spine is flexed and the knee is pulled towards the body, serving as a “handle” for the athlete to maintain their balance.  The pulling of the knee combined with limited external rotation, places a high level of forces on the ligaments of the knee.

There’s a Better Mousetrap

When working on improving a client’s flexibility, there are two classification of stretches we utilize:

  1. Those performed under our instruction
  2. Those performed away from our training facilities
For safe and efficient gains in flexibility, proper form is mandatory.  However, when on their own, athletes will often overlook the smaller details of a stretch position, severely limiting their flexibility gains and increasing their injury potential.  To prevent your client’s from utilizing anything but proper form, it’s essential you employ the use of barriers.


Using floors and/or walls as barriers, provides immediate feedback to your clients about their body mechanics, making it considerably easier to maintain proper form.  Barriers should be utilized by your clients whenever away from your watchful eye.

The Stretch

  • Client lies flat on the ground, legs are straight out against the wall
  • Glutes should be as close to the wall as their hamstrings’ flexibility allows
  • A “soft bend” in the knees should be maintained
  • Once in position, toes should be slowly dorsiflexed
  • Head, back and hips should maintain contact with the floor at all times

  • Slowly lower the knee towards the ground
  • Using both hands, lightly hold the sole of the foot to maintain the stretch
  • The non-stretched leg should maintain its soft bend, if not, slide glutes away from the wall
  • Client should ensure their head, back and hips maintain contact with the floor
  • Maintain the stretched position for 45-75 seconds
  • Perform 2-3 stretches per leg, alternating back and forth between both legs

As coaches, you’re well aware of the numerous benefits of proper stretching; improved performance, decreased injury potential and an increased sense of well-being.  However, by having your clients utilize barriers, they receive vital feedback about their stretching mechanics, allowing them to relax and focus on the stretch.

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Acupressure for Elite Performance

5,000 Year Old Techniques for the Modern Athlete

I’m a hired gun. I make a living making people stronger. If I fail, then I don’t get paid, as my athletes will not waste their money on someone who fails on their promises to make them better at their sport. Knowing that every one of my athletes demand my best, I spend an average of 15 hours a week reading research articles and books pertaining to athletic performance and health. I’ve spent thousands of dollars attending seminars, learning from others in my field to keep my word to my clients that I will make them a better athlete. Example: I attended a two-year massage therapy program because I felt that the massage therapists in the area were masters of the “fluff and buff” spa massage, instead of the special massage recovery techniques required for athletes. If it doesn’t improve my athlete’s performance and recovery, I don’t use it.

One of my favorite courses in the massage therapy program, was on acupressure/acupuncture.  During the course, I was constantly amazed at how quickly the positive effects of manipulating meridians were experienced.  Being a firm believer of the adage “work smarter, not harder,” acupressure techniques have been one of my most utilized techniques.

What is acupressure/acupuncture?

Both acupressure and acupuncture rely on the same fundamental principles. Both involve stimulation of specific points on the body called acupoints, but differ in their application. Acupressure relies on using thumbs, fingers, and even elbows to stimulate acupoints along meridians to restore normal flow of life energy.

Acupuncture also strives to bring balance within a meridian, but it does so with the use of specially designed needles.  For those seeking to improve their athletic prowess, acupressure presents numerous advantages over acupuncture:

  • Acupressure is safe to do, even if you have never done it before.
  • I have taught these techniques to numerous fitness professionals and athletes successfully in minutes.
  • Acupressure can be used anytime – anywhere.
  • The only equipment you need is your two hands.
  • I have performed the techniques you are about to learn on athletes during games and strength training sessions without any issues.


The practice of stimulating specific points on the body for the promotion of wellness and the treatment of disease has been used by numerous cultures all around the world for thousands of years. It is believed that the Chinese were the first to do so, as archeologists have found acupuncture needles made from stone, called bian stones, dating back approximately 6,000 years. But, regardless of who “invented” acupressure, the concept of using our hands to relieve pain is something that is ingrained in all of us. Have you ever rubbed your forehead when you had a headache? Have you ever rubbed your toe or foot after stubbing it on your coffee table? That is acupressure and you have been practicing it without even knowing it.

How Acupressure Works

The foundation for acupressure and acupuncture is based on achieving and maintaining balance of life energy. This life energy is called Chi (pronounced “chee”) in China, qi (pronounced “kee”) in Japan, prana in India, and rauch in Hebrew. When the smooth, perpetual flow of Chi is disrupted by internal or external events, the body becomes vulnerable to disease, illness, or injury.

Chi is transported through the body in channels called meridians. These meridians act like invisible pipes within your body that connect to every tissue and organ, supplying them with Chi. Along each of the meridians are numerous points called acupoints, where Chi flows near the surface of the skin, and can thus be easily accessed and effectively regulated. Depending on the needs of the athlete the flow of Chi can be strengthened, calmed, or unblocked by pressing these superficial acupoints along the meridians. By learning the acupressure techniques in this book, you will be able to correct these imbalances immediately, restoring Chi balance and improving your strength and performance.

Acupoints and Science

Acupuncture in the United States was virtually unknown until 1971, when Secretary of State Henry Kissinger went to China to negotiate a visit by President Richard Nixon. Traveling with Kissinger was New York Times reporter James Reston, who received acupuncture after undergoing an emergency appendectomy. Reston was so impressed with the post-operative pain relief he experienced that he wrote about acupuncture upon returning to the United States. Later that same year, thirty acupuncturists from China were invited to participate in a medical exchange program with UCLA Medical School. To this day, the UCLA Pain Management Center continues to use acupuncture as one of its main modalities for the relief of pain.

At the time of Reston’s articles, Western scientists knew very little about the workings of acupuncture and acupressure. Since then, a significant number of studies have provided a biological explanation for the “mysteries” behind the acupoint therapies.

In the mid 1970’s, it was shown that stimulating acupoints caused the body to release chemical substances called endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters produced by the pituitary gland, which possess pain-relieving properties similar to morphine. In addition to their ability to reduce pain, endorphins also help reduce muscle tension and increase feelings of well-being. The decrease in muscle tension should not be over looked, as a relaxed muscle allows blood, which carries oxygen and nutrients into the area, facilitating healing and the elimination of toxins. Endorphins are responsible for the sense of euphoria that runners and exercisers have labeled “runner’s high.”

Do Meridians Exist?

Two French researchers, Dr. Claude Darras and Dr. Pierre de Vernejoul are believed to be among the first to demonstrate in humans, that meridians do actually exist. They injected radioactive tracers into patients at specific acupoints and used nuclear scanning equipment to follow the flow of the radioactive tracers. The researchers found that the tracers migrated 30 cm (11.8 inches) from the site of injection along routes that corresponded exactly with meridian pathways illustrated in thousand-year old acupressure charts. To ensure that the tracers were flowing through meridians and not blood vessels or lymphatic channels, some patients received injections in non-acupoint skin regions as well as in nearby blood and lymphatic channels. In these cases, the radioactive tracers diffused from the injection site into a small circular pattern. This demonstrated that meridians are a network of separate pathways within the body. The researchers further found that when acupuncture needles were inserted into distant acupoints within the same tracer injected meridian, a change was produced in the flow rate of the radioactive tracer through the meridian. This seems to support the claim that stimulating acupoints stimulates the flow of Chi though the meridians.


  • Acupoints have lower electrical resistance than the surrounding skin. This allows Chi to flow easier through the meridian.
  • Studies performed on the locations of acupoints found that the points correlate to large nerve bundles or nerve endings.
  • When tissue in the body undergoes trauma or microscopic damage, such as when skin cells are pierced with acupuncture needles, they leak electrically charged ions into the surrounding tissue. This electric current is called the current of injury and is known to stimulate a healing response from nearby cells.
  • Acupoints possess a high density of gap junctions, which are small channels between adjacent cells that allow material to pass freely from one cell to the other without having to pass through their plasma membranes. Gap junctions facilitate intercellular communication and increase electric conductivity.
  • Both oxygen pressure and the carbon dioxide output of tissue at acupoints are higher than in non-acupoint portions of the meridians and at non-meridian points. Since oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production are a measure of local metabolism, these findings suggest higher metabolic activity at the acupoints

Locating Acupoints

Finding acupoints is relatively easy once you know the secret. This method has been used for thousands of years and represents the best method for finding acupoints easily and more importantly, accurately. In all acupoint therapies, acupoints are located according to their distances from anatomical landmarks on the body, using measurements expressed in cun (pronounced “ts’un”). This proportional body measurement takes into account individual physical proportions, as the patient’s finger widths are used as a unit of measurement. While other articles or books would have you solely use anatomical landmarks for locating acupoints, which only get you in the general area, by using finger cun measurements, you are precisely where you need to be, thereby greatly increasing the effectiveness of your work. So, whether you are trying to find acupoints on a 295 lb., 6’2” NFL lineman, or a 100 lb., 5’ gymnast, rest assured that you will be able to locate their acupoints with ease.

At its greatest width, the thumb measures 1 cun.

For example, if you are trying to locate an acupoint one cun below your kneecap, position your thumb at the base of the kneecap and the acupoint is on the opposite side of your thumb.

There are two methods you can use when palpating acupoints on others:

Method 1:

Place your thumb against the recipient’s and compare the difference in width. Is their thumb narrower or wider? Make a mental note of the size difference and then use your thumb to locate their acupoints, making the necessary measurement adjustments.

Method 2:

This second method might be easier as you simply have the recipient use their own thumbs or fingers, under your guidance, to locate their acupoints. This method can be used on the easier to reach acupoints, but unless the recipient possesses the flexibility of a Cirque de Soleil performer, certain acupoints will be unreachable to them. In which case, you will have to resort back to method 1.

Additional Proportional Measurements

Here are other proportional measurements based on finger cun that will assist you in locating acupoints.

Middle and index fingers together measure 1.5 cun in the most distal region.

Middle, index, and ring fingers together measure 2 cun in the most distal region.

Middle, index, ring, and little fingers together measure 3 cun in the widest area over the knuckles

Techniques for Athletic Performance

For centuries, athletes and coaches have searched for ways to improve sports performance. This search has led to advances in training techniques, nutrition, and equipment, but any advantage they provide can be nullified if you are suffering from Chi imbalance, causing strength imbalances between one leg and the other, or between the upper and lower body. Acupressure will correct any strength imbalances you may be experiencing, allowing you to perform to your full potential. These improvements in your strength and athletic performance will occur immediately, reliably, and without any negative side effects.

The techniques you are about to learn will give you an edge over your competition.

Acupoints for Strength Imbalances

This first section will demonstrate acupoints that correct strength imbalances between limbs and for the upper and lower body. The second section will demonstrate acupoints for various ailments that will negatively affect athletic performance.

Lower Body Strength Imbalances

Three Mile Point 

Chinese legend states that this acupoint got its name for its ability to boost endurance in the legs of fatigued army soldiers, allowing them to go for an extra “three miles.”

Benefits: Used to combat fatigue and improve strength levels in the legs and to revitalize Chi and strengthen the entire body. Can be used on both legs, or on the leg displaying a strength deficit.

Location: Three cun below the lower border of the kneecap, one cun to the outside on the shinbone. You are in the correct area if you feel the muscle (anterior tibialis) contract when you flex your foot up and down.

Wind Market 

Benefits: Relieves leg weakness and pain.

Location: The easiest method for locating this acupoint is by standing up, dropping your arms and hands down your side, and the acupoint is located where the tip of your middle finger touches your thigh.

Upper Body Strength Imbalances

Crooked Pool 

Benefits: Reduces weakness and pain throughout the entire arm, including the shoulder.

Location: With the elbow bent, the acupoint is located at the end of the outer crease.

Lesser Sea 

Benefits: Relieves fatigue, numbness and pain in the forearm and elbow. Ideal for pitchers and tennis players.

Location: With the elbow bent, the acupoint is located at the end of the inner crease.

Adjoining Valley 

Benefits: Balances Chi and strength levels between the upper and lower body. Ideal for sports requiring coordinated effort between upper and lower body (football, tennis, etc) and the Olympic lifts.

Warning: Do not press this point if pregnant.

Location: Position your fingers straight out, with the thumb alongside your index finger. The acupoint is located at the end of the crease.


UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre undergoing acupressure treatment with Strengthology’s Wolfgang Unsoeld

As you have learned, acupoint therapies do not require magical powers, spiritual beliefs, or years of training in order to work. What it does require is some effort in learning the placement of acupoints. I recommend you print out this e-book and have the pages available for reference while first practicing these techniques. With regular practice, you will find the points easily, quickly and be well on your way to maximizing your athletic potential or that of your clients.

This article is a small excerpt from my book, Acupressure for Elite Performance: 5,000 Year Old Techniques for the Modern Athlete.

If you would like a copy of the entire book, send an email to, and enter “book” in the subject line.  You get the book FREE, that’s a $29.95 value.

It Pays To Be A Winner

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Welcome to Strengthology.  Our objective is to provide you with realistic and effective training protocols, which are not only based on valid exercise science, but tempered with pragmatism.

Along with our training protocols, we’ll provide educational instructions on how and when to apply these techniques to your training, or that of your clients.

Additionally, we’ll cover a host of other topics, anything which can affect your performance in the gym, or on the field.

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We are Jess Banda and Wolfgang Unsoeld, and we look forward to reading your comments and suggestions for future blog postings.