Category Archives: Client Spotlight

Client Spotlight: Kartik's First Muscle-up

Kartik has been one of my most consistent and hardworking clients for a long time, so he’s no stranger to pull-ups and dips.

Despite a shoulder injury from before we met, Kartik’s built a considerable amount of upper-body strength and power in recent years and he’s now stronger and healthier than he’s ever been.

Always seeking to challenge my clients, Kartik and I decided it was time for him to begin training for his first muscle-up. After a few sessions spent practicing explosive pull-ups, straight bar dips and assisted muscle-ups, Kartik was ready to try the real deal. There were lots of unsuccessful attempts, but Kartik persevered and finally achieved his first muscle-up!

It's normal for one arm to come over first when you're learning to do a muscle-up

It wasn’t the best looking muscle-up, but nobody’s first one ever is. It’s normal to have to kick your legs and throw one arm over before the other when you’re first learning to get the movement pattern down. Do whatever you need to in the beginning – with practice you’ll learn to keep your legs straight and make the movement fluid. Don’t get hung up on perfecting your form before you can even do a single rep.

Now that Kartik got the first one out of the way, we can work towards improving his form. Check back this summer for an update on Kartik’s training and watch the video below to see his triumphant break-through moment:

For more information about muscle-ups, pick up a copy of my book, Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics.

Client Spotlight: Katie

When I first met Katie, she had worked with trainers before, but hadn’t been able to maintain long term fitness. Like many people, she seesawed back and forth with her dedication and often let life get in the way of her health. As a result, she was never able to make any significant gains in her strength and endurance.

Having shed a considerable amount of fat and built a healthy amount of lean muscle since we began training, Katie now recognizes that fitness can only be maintained with dedication and consistency. There are going to be bumps in the road, but Katie knows to keep the car moving.

When Katie and I started working out together, the idea of her doing a pull-up was out of the question, but now she can do one with confidence! We’ve also started working on more advanced leg exercises, like pistol squats.

Watch the video below to see Katie doing push-ups, Australian pull-ups and more during our last workout at Tompkins Square Park.

Client Spotlight: John

You might not know it by looking at him, but John is one hell of an athlete, having completed multiple marathons and Ironmans. Since his last marathon, however, John had gotten lax with his training and diet. Nothing lasts forever; if you don’t use it – you lose it!

A few months ago, John decided it was time to get serious again and enlisted me as his trainer. John has since lost over 25 pounds; his conditioning is coming back and he says he feels stronger than ever. Not bad for a guy who just celebrated his 40th birthday!

John loves healthy competition, so when he heard about the 100 Rep Challenge he wanted to give it a shot. I designed the following 100 rep workout to test John’s strength, conditioning and balance.

John’s 100 Rep Challenge consists of:
20 Push-ups
20 Lunges
20 Australian Pull-ups
20 Squats
20 Dips

All that is to be done in succession with as few breaks as possible.

Watch the video below to see if he can make it:

Don’t forget to check out the 100 Rep Challenge official website for more info.

Client Spotlight: Betsy

When I met Betsy last October, it had been a while since she had last worked out. As a former varsity tennis player, however, she was able to jump back in quickly, immediately becoming one of my most committed and consistent clients.

During the months that we trained together, Betsy made significant progress in her strength, endurance and agility. When she left NYC for California in February, we felt optimistic that she could continue building on the foundation we created.

Betsy recently got word that I was going to be in San Francisco for a wedding this week and she made sure to get a workout in with me. I was excited for the chance to see her and equally excited to see that she’s still got it! Betsy has been working hard and staying fit.

After seeing my blog posts about my own parkour training, Betsy had become curious to try it herself. We explored some parks in the area and worked on vaulting, precision jumping and handstands.

At first Betsy was a bit apprehensive, but with a little practice she quickly loosened up and started to get the hang of it. This is often the case when starting out. Parkour is as much psychological as it is physical – the challenge is more often in the mind.

Watch the video below to see how it went:

Client Spotlight: Alex

Alex is the most recent addition to my roster of personal training clients. In only a few short months, he has seen huge improvements in his strength, coordination and energy level.

Having never done any strength training before, Alex and I have been spending most of our sessions focusing on the fundamentals of body-weight training. Alex has built the strength to do push-ups and dips and we’ve even began working some plyometrics into our sessions.

Alex recently remarked that even though he’s gained a few pounds since we began our workouts, his pants are actually looser in the waist. His T-shirts, however, are fitting tighter around his arms and chest. Alex is starting to get diesel!

Check out this video clip from one of our recent outdoor workout sessions:

Water Jug Workout

When training at home, it can seem daunting to try to implement a successful workout strategy that doesn’t involve lots of expensive equipment.

However, you don’t need to feel limited by the fact that you might not have a lot to work with at home. The key is to get creative–an everyday object like a jug of water can be a useful workout tool. (A gallon of water weighs 8.35 pounds.)

Using a water jug for resistance training is efficient, practical, and it can also make for a damn good workout!

I recently did a water jug workout with my client Armen at her apartment. She doesn’t have any workout equipment (or a ton of space) but that didn’t stop us from getting it done.

Water is readily available and relatively cheap. After all, it’s the world’s most abundant resource. As a resourceful trainer, I’m happy to take advantage of that fact.

Watch the clip below to see highlights from the workout:

Client Spotlight: Sam

Sam CardonaSam Cardona is one of the most fit people I’ve ever trained.

Sam has completed two Ironman triathlons, including last year’s Ironman Championship in Kona, Hawaii, where he finished in 12:41:47. You read that right–over 12 hours of exercise!

For anyone who doesn’t know, an Ironman is a triathlon that consists of a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, and then a full marathon–26.2 miles.

When working with an athlete of Sam’s caliber, my goals are to constantly keep him moving and to challenge him on different fronts. It doesn’t require a lot of fancy equipment, though. Watch me give Ironman Sam a full body workout with nothing but a medicine ball and a pull-up station.


Client Spotlight: Barbara

barbaraBarbara Roche Fierman is living proof that everyone can (and should) exercise, regardless of injuries, their age, or any of the other excuses that people tend to come up with.

Barbara’s list of injuries includes a fused ankle, a cyst in her lower back, and a torn rotator cuff.

She’s also 72 years old!

But in spite of all that, I meet with Barbara 3 times a week and she gives it her best effort.

Regular exercise helps her to continue working full time as the CEO of New York’s Little Elves, NYC’s #1 cleaning service, and do all the things New Yorkers need to do to get around.

Take a look at this video from one of our recent strength training workouts:


Client Spotlight: Emma Robinson

Emma pullupEmma Robinson is a one of a kind client. As a former Olympic medalist (Emma’s won both sliver and bronze medals in rowing, at the 1996 and 2000 games respectively), she is no stranger to busting her butt in the gym. Emma is one of the hardest working, most determined people I’ve ever met. She’s also one of the strongest!

But when I first met Emma, it had been years since she had been on any type of strict exercise regimen. Even though she had at one point in time reached the pinnacle of athleticism, she was still a bit intimidated by starting over in the gym by herself. Throughout her athletic career, Emma had gotten used to working out with coaches, so she decided to take me on as her trainer.

Emma has come a long way since then, and while she no longer rows competitively, she knows how important it is to continually push her body to the limit. Emma loves doing pull-ups and dips, and I thought a little friendly competition might give her the extra motivation to push herself even harder, so I challenged her to a pull-up and dip contest.

Since I am a guy (and guys naturally have more upper body strength) I decided to do my pull-ups and dips with a 45 pound weight hanging from my waist to level the playing field.

For the last event, Emma selected power cleans–nice choice!!!

Watch the clip below to see how it went. Behold: The Al-ympics!

Client Spotlight: Mike Lieberman

Mike is gettin' diesel!

Mike is gettin' diesel!

Mike Lieberman has been a good friend of mine for a long time, but he recently felt inspired to get in better shape, so he got me to start training him.

Mike has had the nutrition aspect of holistic wellness down for a while. Now that he is stepping up his workouts, he can really take his health and fitness to the next level.

Mike is also very concerned about the environment and the green movement, so I make sure that the only energy expended during one of Mike’s workouts is his own. We’ll never use electrically powered equipment during our training (treadmills, etc.).

Mike’s goals include building more upper body strength and improving core stability. He wants to get better at pull-ups and eventually build towards doing a muscle up!

Watch this video of our most recent workout!

Client Spotlight: Trish Balbert

Trish NowFor the last two years, Trish Balbert has been my most dedicated and consistent client, usually training with me four times a week. Everyone at our gym knows Trish!

But before I even met her, Trish had been no stranger to exercise. She had already lost over 80 pounds and had worked with several trainers before me. She even did some nutritional counseling herself.

Trish rarely misses a training session. She’s usually excited to come to the gym, but also knows how important it is to get there even on the days that she doesn’t feel like it.

What a transformation!

What a transformation!

Despite past injuries, such as an extruded disk in her lower back which required surgery, Trish has gained a lot of strength and has become more functionally fit in the last two years.

But she doesn’t use old injuries as an excuse–in fact it’s just the opposite–Trish needs to work out and keep her core strong so that she doesn’t need to have surgery again.

Trish is still concerned about keeping her weight down and she understands that fitness is an ongoing journey. She continues to stay the course, often doing supplemental cardio sessions on her own in addition to our workouts together.

We usually tend to alternate our focus between upper body and lower body workouts from one session to the next, although we have done total body conditioning as well. Trish’s favorite exercises include dips, Australian pull-ups, and lunges.

Watch the video clip below from one of our recent upper body strength training sessions:


Client Spotlight: Amanda

amandaAmanda is living proof that there’s no reason for women to be afraid that doing weight training will turn them into a beefed-up bodybuilder.

As a former basketball player, Amanda’s used to dedicating a lot of her time to fitness. She also knows the value of having a coach.

Amanda started training with me this past spring after having had knee surgery. When we started out, she was barely able to do squats only going half of the way down, now she does squats with almost 100 pounds on her back and does a full range of motion. We have even started working towards one legged squats!

Amanda is the best combination of things to have in a client: she’s a natural athlete and she has a tremendous work ethic in the gym. She continues to push her limits and I’m excited to see what she’ll do next!

Watch this video from one of our recent training sessions:

Client Spotlight: Armen Gemdjian

Armen GemdjianArmen is one of the toughest chicks that I know. When she first took me on as her trainer last December, she could barely even do one decent pushup–she has come a long way since then! Now that she’s made progress with pushups, we have been focusing on other challenges, such as kettlebell training.

Still gotta keep practicing those pushups though!

Two of Armen’s current goals are pull-ups and parallel bar dips. Armen also takes spinning classes regularly and she is planning on running her first 5K race next month.

Check out this video clip from one of our recent training sessions:


Client Spotlight: Kartik Tamhane

kartikI met Kartik back in the summer of 2005. He approached me during my workout while I was in between sets of deadlifts. I remember he seemed amazed that I was doing deadlifts after just finishing up three sets of squats.

Soon after that initial meeting he started training with me and he has stuck with it ever since, longer than any of my other clients. Now he’s done squats and deadlifts back to back himself on many occasions.

When I first began working out with Kartik, he had recently gotten over a shoulder injury and was worried about doing things like pull-ups and dips. But over time his shoulder has gotten so much stronger and more stable.

Now Kartik can do 15 consecutive wide grip pull-ups and 20 consecutive dips!

Watch the video clip below and see for yourself:


Client Spotlight: Dan Budiac

BudiacDan Budiac started training with me in August of 2008. Before I started working with Dan, he had been training with my brother Danny; I was lucky that Dan had a really good trainer before me so he already had a good foundation.

In the time I have known Dan, he has finished several races of varying distances, including setting a personal best 5K time of 25:48. Dan has qualified to enter the 2010 NYC marathon and is currently working on building strength and adding a little muscle this winter, while still maintaining some cardio base.

Dan’s current plan involves 2-3 days a week of strength training and 2-3 days a week of running. In the spring, it will be time to focus on getting back to running more and building up towards longer milage.

Check out this quick video clip from one of Dan’s recent training sessions with me!