Thoughts from The Fitness Summit 2015

The Fitness Summit rocked.*

* If you’ve read my 2014 review of TFS, you know I wasn’t nearly as thrilled. In fact, I started with “The Fitness Summit Sucked.” The event seemed unpolished and unprofessional. I was also missing the whole goddamn point.

Organizer Nick Bromberg is focused on creating an event that focuses on something that most conferences do not: Creating community. This year, I realized that he’s done just that. Here’s a good example:

Join me on a journey to Kansas City for The Fitness Summit. I’ve done my best to create an in-depth recap of everything there was to offer in 2015. It’s long, and my goal is to provide valuable information for everyone from life-long fitness professionals to those who are planning to start working out. We’re all in this together.


Friday morning began with an introduction from Lou Schuler.  He needs no introduction as a writer, editor, and best selling author, but he does need some credit for his awesome stand-up.  Lou was a great emcee all weekend long.  Let’s get into the presentations:

Tony Gentilcore

Tony Gentilcore discussed the importance, or lack there of, of deep squatting. You see, the deep squat is an important movement in many strength & conditioning programs. The problem is, some people just aren’t built to deep squat. Proclaiming that everyone should deep squat is an admission that you don’t understand variations in bony architecture. Bonus knowledge bombs from Dr. Stu McGill:

While deep squatting isn’t practical for everyone, it is possible for everyone to improve the quality of his or her squat within anatomical ability. We can’t change the structure of your hips, but we can improve what you do with your range of motion. Tony shared several of his assessment strategies to determine squatability, and these play into exercise selection. Whichever squat lets you feel the best, that’s your squat. Bonus: Squats with a load in front of the body (anterior) often allow you to squat deeper than a squat with the load on the back of your body (posterior.) Start with a Goblet squat that often looks and feels better.


Jeannine Trimboli

Jeannine is a coach from Albany, NY who shared a good deal of personal information that is integral in understanding her passion for empowering women to train as they prefer. She shared her frustrations and insights regarding Female Stereotypes in the Fitness Industry. It was emotionally charged, and shared her own experiences, as well as things that men and women are doing well to work on equality within the fitness industry.

Mike Nelson

Mike T. Nelson is awesome. He’s a genuine goofball who loves science, and it comes across in his talk. From running his own N=1 experiments for fun, to implementing new technology in his coaching, he wants to build awareness. Mike spoke about HRV and then went beyond it, with gadgets, gizmos, and apps to help measure what means the most.

And that’s where the catch is. What you’re measuring depends on the client, their goals, and what you feel good about. Ultimately it’s not about data, it’s about using information to simplify the process. If you want to track your sleep, your calories, your HRV, your heart rate, and your emotional response to Gone With the Wind, that’s totally cool… as long as it improves your performance and ultimately your quality of life.

Pete Dupuis

Pete Dupuis is a new name at the Fitness Summit. Funny, because he’s not new to fitness; he’s been at Cressey Sports Performance since the beginning, co-founding with Cressey and Jedi Gentilcore in 2007.

Pete discussed the business side of CSP’s success, which I can quickly summarize as: The Hudson, Mass. location became even more successful after Eric went to Jupiter, FL. Coaches were able to shine. He shared love for the entire #CSPFamily, emphasizing that it’s a culture where athletes find their “off-season locker room” and coaches can pursue their passions to build their skillset.

As leadership is spread amongst a passionate team, energy increases and everyone gets better. Sounds a little bit like home… If you’re focused on building a business, focus on building a culture. Support your niche with culture, and you’ll hit it out of the park!

Dave Dellanave

Dave Dellanave, the proprietor of Movement Minneapolis, again shared his range of motion (ROM) based biofeedback ideas. I’m confident that it was 90% the same talk as last year. I’m also confident I enjoy it 90x more. Dave sold me with 30 seconds that I’ll paraphrase:

Last year I saw biofeedback as an unsalable system. This year I see it as an empowering device to build kinesthetic awareness. Changing your mind is okay, and I’m now fascinated to learn a bit more about what Dave does, as well as how I can use it to empower Ninjas at MFF as well as my coaching clients.


Nick Tumminello

Nick Tumminello is truly changing the game of fitness. He thinks critically about effective training for both athletics and aesthetics, and I’ve always loved what he comes out with. On Saturday, Nick spoke about Cross Body Patterns on the “functional movement” continuum.

Pause. Let’s review functional movement. It’s not movement that looks like another activity that you’re going to do. It’s movement that improves another activity that you’re going to do. Strength training has traditionally looked at the “big” lifts: Squats, bench presses, deadlifts. However, they don’t necessarily mean improved athletic performance.

If we’re not training the ability to transmit force between the upper body and lower body, we’re not likely to improve performance. The squat and deadlift have more carry over, but the bench press isn’t nearly as close. When it comes to exercise selection, this sometimes means the less conventional:

Capitalizing on cross-body patterns, formally known as the Serape effect and commonly called the X-factor, can allow a more applicable development of strength in the weight room, as well as providing physical variety and mental stimulation for those who aren’t competitive athletes. 

Sol Orwell

Sol Orwell is the guy. He’s also the “guy” in a few other businesses: A supplement information website isn’t Sol’s first foray into information. Sol’s business experience and success has utilized e-mail contact for the most effective marketing possible. Here’s a comparison of “value” that Sol shared:

  • Twitter follower = $.10
  • Facebook fan = $2
  • E-mail subscriber = $15

In full disclosure, I’m not sure if those are’s stats, or an industry average, but I know that quite a few of us in attendance were intrigued by his talk. Expect some mailing lists from fitness friends in your future. Here we go, Mailkimp.

Friday night wrap-up

We wrapped up the day with a hands on, then Wheels and I returned home to unwind and take some notes on our learning for the day. The evening concluded with a BYOB party for #TFS15 attendees, involving several varieties of BBQ, Mrs. Bromberg’s cookies, and super casual atmosphere. I hung out with the Bergeron’s of AMP Fitness in Boston, Dell Farrell of WEBSITE, and several stars from Movement Minneapolis. We nailed it.


Dean Somerset

The party started on Saturday morning with batting lead off, Dean Somerset, and one of his goals was to have the best presentation of the weekend. He’s certainly in the running for that award. Dean spoke about “Ruthless Mobility,” which was awesome. Ruthless Mobility is also the name of Dean’s new DVD, and that title was chosen because this one is too long: “Neurological tricks that lead to transient changes in active range of motion which can be reinforced by developing stability through the newly accessible degree of joint excursion.”

I can best give Dean’s talk the justice it deserves by sharing a video that we were able to see him demonstrate in person:

Dean has absolutely raised the bar on how trainers approach education, from his own academic background to the continuing education products he’s created.

Susan Kleiner

There have been several times in my career where I’ve attended a conference unbeknownst of the caliber professional I was about to learn from. As Susan Kleiner set up for her talk, I could only think, “Oh crap, I stole that woman’s seat last night.” I’m sorry, Susan!

My short bio is that Dr. Kleiner basically started the field of sports nutrition. She’s been doing meaningful research since before I was born, and continues to bring clarity to what I call “applied nutrition research.” That is, taking research and interpreting it in ways that allow people to improve the quality of their lives.


In this case, Susan explored the differences between be “fat adapted” and being “carb adapted” which looks at how our diet effects how our body uses energy. It’s currently in vogue to become “fat adapted,” meaning you train your body to use fat as a primary fuel source. Now for a rudimentary education in exercise metabolism, you may burn more calories exercising at higher intensities (measured by % of VO2 max), but a lower percentage of those calories are from fat. That means that they’re from carbohydrate sources, and that means that if you don’t have enough carbs to fuel your workout, your intensity at or above lactate threshold seriously suffers.

Dr. Kleiner reminded us that skipping breakfast, too long between meals, fasting before training, very low calorie and/or low carbohydrate diets can all negatively impact our performance, particularly in female athletes. Her penultimate reminder:

It’s quiet clear that carbs aren’t the devil for performing well, but they’re also not your best friend when consumed with wreckless abandon. We may need some Gatorade during a long workout, or potatoes to fuel our next one, but this likely doesn’t apply if you’re walking laps around the mall and calling it a day. Refuel appropriately for your next workout, and refuel appropriately for your next rest day.

Spencer Nadolsky

We followed Dr. Kleiner’s nutrition advice with related information from Spencer Nadolsky, the resident MD of The Fitness Summit crowd. Dr. Nadolsky is a doc who lifts, often using exercise and nutrition information in the treatment of his patients. He came out with a great talk about cholesterol. We learned the good, the bad, the ugly, and a simple metaphor for understanding how atherosclerosis works. You see, cholesterol doesn’t just float through your blood; it’s more of a cargo, inside a ship called apoB protein. Sometimes the ship (proteins + cholesterol) bump into the dock (blood vessels) and can get stuck. Ships have a different impact on the dock based on their size and density. How simple is that!

Who said they were ships in water?  May the Fourth be with you!
Who said that the ships were in water?!  May the Fourth be with you!

Spencer discussed a few dietary facts, considering saturated fats, monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs.) You don’t need Spencer’s MD, or my BS to appreciate the following: Fat from plants and most animals probably isn’t all that bad. (How the animals were raised can change this.) Fats from “processed” products probably aren’t the best idea. Yes, there’s a difference between margarine and butter, but it’s probably not the best idea to put butter on EVERYTHING. I don’t care if it’s Kerrygold or not, stop putting butter in your goddamn coffee.


Erika Mundinger

Erika Mundinger lead us into the afternoon after an amazing lunch from Chipotle. She discussed issues that arise at the Sacro-illiac or SI Joint, and how trainers can assess movement and train appropriately. For maybe the 10th time of the weekend, she reiterated a huge point for some trainers: If it hurts, don’t do it. (Guys, we don’t treat pain. Respect scope of practice and refer out.)

Erika shared some exercises that address both stability and mobility through the SI joint, reminding us that sometimes there may not actually be enough movement there. When a MAYO Clinic physical therapist speaks, it’s time to shut up and listen.

The bottom-line take away from Erika’s talk is that we can test and retest to use pain-free movement to our advantage. Avoiding pain is important, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t exercise. Exploring bilateral and unilateral variations allows us to find variations that are most favorable for our SI Joint, letting you create a training effect as successfully as possible.

Bret Contreras 

When I think of contemporary coaches who have changed the way we program, I think of Bret Contreras. Even if you don’t know his name, you know his muscle: He’s the Glute Guy. I’m going to put Bret in a new group that I completely mean as a compliment: He’s a fraternity physiologist. Scientific poise with the best of them, matched by an easy-going calmness aimed at gluteal glorification.

Bret’s talk on program design is awesome for those who want to work on their programming chops, and he’s making things beautifully simple. For example:

An expected suggestion that I love is to balance work between anteropostero hip extension and axial hip extension. We need to balance both: Our glutes work the most at the top of a hip extension, and at the bottom of the squat or deadlift. Leaving one out means we miss out on results.


Once you’ve selected an appropriate variation of each, exercise order becomes an issue. Bret suggested doing a squat pattern before you do a hinge pattern like the deadlift, as there is less interference. He added that your hinging volume should likely be higher than your squatting volume. Those two suggestions should help us balance our the two types of hip extension work, as well as sequence them more appropriately.

Alan Aragon

Alan Aragon matches Bret Contreras for scientific prowess and passion, and he’s nailing the nutrition world. Alan touched on his topic, “Toward Ending the Diet War,” where he touches on some of the zealotry trends that we may see in fitness. From vegan, to low-fat, to grass-fed lobster, we get a little fanatical. Alan shared his 10 essential characteristics of a healthy diet:

  1. Respects personal taste preferences
  2. Supports physical & mental performance goals
  3. Covers macro- & micronutrient needs
  4. No unnecessary/scientifically unfounded food restrictions
  5. Respects medical intolerances/ allergies
  6. Convenient
  7. Affordable
  8. Socially acceptable
  9. Compatible with personal ideologies.
  10. Sustainable in the long term.

Focusing on these 10 characteristics will help us nail our diet as well as our overall life. How we eat should improve our quality of life. How we live should be supported by how we eat. If you’re overly focused on food or exercise it’s easy to miss the big picture of living the best life possible.


After Alan wrapped things up, the rest of the presenters joined him for a presenter panel that answered attendee questions. Andy Morgan asked a beautiful question about career highlights that let personalities poke through, while Amanda Wheeler asked a question about getting into writing that I loved. There are writers who write about fitness, and there are trainers who write. There’s a difference…

I don’t think it’s a big one. Stevan Freehold and I turned to each other and said, “It’s 2015, if you have internet, you can start a blog, and you can write.” I’d encourage every coach I can to start writing:

Just because someone is writing doesn’t mean that they’re a “writer” per se, but it does allow them to refine their craft in meaningful ways. It’s functional training, if you will. By no means does this make me a writer, but damn do I love doing it.

I’m glad you let me tell you my story about The Fitness Summit for 2015. I have to thank the Bromberg family for organizing it, the passionate presenters, and the fitness professionals who are itching to learn more and get better.  There were lessons for all of us this weekend, and I hope I’ve passed some along.  Let me know which lessons you’ll be using on your own, and I’d love if you shared this with a friend who’s as excited to learn as you are.

Best, Harold

3 Replies to “Thoughts from The Fitness Summit 2015”

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