Stuff I Learned In 2014

...And my favorite movies of the year, as an aside.

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Needless to say, it’s time for the only blog article authored by Boyce that occurs on a reliably consistent and timely basis – my year in review.  This year seemed to go by even faster than the last, as my twenties hurtle towards closure. Soon I won’t be “the kid”. I’ll just be that arbitrary trainer.  Let’s see how things went:

  • I was published over 70 times online, and appeared in 8 print magazines.
  • I was pleased to have made breakthroughs into great publications this year, including Esquire, Shape,, TRAIN, and Men’s Journal.
  • I made a dent in the radio media world with repeat appearances on the Boomer’s Rock radio show (Michigan), and a segment with ABC News Radio  
  • I was featured in the official Men’s Fitness Exercise Bible – 101 Best Workouts of All Time book, written by Men’s Fitness’ Group Fitness Director Sean Hyson (pg  166-170).
  • Some hefty new lifting PR’s,

like a 385 Front Squat,

..and a 215×3 Strict Press!

But in all honesty, it’s been a good year. As is the custom, I’ve amassed tidbits from my experiences of the last 365 days that brought me to learn, realize or appreciate certain things about fitness. Here they are.


There are so many things we do in life that are a component of strength. Even efforts we make in mobility-based movements depend on the strength of something for them to be effective.  Often times we don’t get the chance to train each segment of a movement individually for positional strength and strength balance, in conjunction with the classic isotonic training methods we use when traditionally weight training. We could be passing over weak points and reinforcing disproportions all the time. This year, I headed over to Striation 6 to visit Muscle Activation Techniques practitionerBrad Thorpe (check out Brad and his company at  I was skeptical about the isometrics idea for training purposes, but that quickly dissipated after he absolutely torched my entire posterior chain in about 12 minutes’ time.  In conjunction with standard weight training, I see great value in performing fixed-position isometric contractions, as they can act to restore balance to an unstable joint. Since then, I’ve been using them, especially to stabilize my shoulders before press workouts. You should too. In fact, it may deserve a blog article in 2015…


It’s something like sitting down to talk with a guy who’s 100 years old. Only good things can come out of the conversation because of the abundance of wisdom and experience from someone who’s lived through BOTH world wars and literally seen it all. Likewise, I welcome the opportunity to speak to guys who’ve been in the training game for 25, 35, and even 45 years; even more so if they’ve never been a trainer or certified coach.  It sounds strange, but gym rats who got big and strong on their own (and stayed that way) without a list of credentials to let the world know “they know what they’re doing” have my respect. A lot of the ol’school advice that they’ll dish out may even contend with “current research”.  But they lasted the test of time.  Anecdote trumps everything, especially if you’re looking to get big. There’s a 64 year old guy at my gym who I met between his sets of repping 225 on the incline bench. It made me come to realize that before taking elixirs of supplements was a big deal, and before training with the most recently touted “best method”, people were still getting big and strong. Eating regular food and using tried, tested and true lifting methods.  It’s the take home point that stuck with me.


Long story short, you don’t need one to be the other. For some reason, lots of coaches think that they have to reinvent the wheel to emerge as a “rising star” in the industry.  The truth is, being a bit innovative can be a positive, but straying from the basics in pursuit of originality is bad news bears. Good coaches are disciples of the foundation first.  Before you know it, you could be promoting a method of training that you don’t even fully believe in. It may be a slower burn, but staying true to the methods that elicit the most results as your central hub is the smart way to go if you’re looking for results for your clients, and respect from your peers.


Speaking of clients, it’s worth talking about them when it comes to the “good coach – bad coach” continuum.  Now, I can’t speak for elite athletes, but I will speak for 90% of the office jockeys who I brush shoulders with on a day-to-day basis. Simply put, every trainer is the “best trainer ever” to their clients. That’s why those clients stick around.  You could have the lowest levels of knowledge possible. Chances are, the client will never know. They’re getting a workout that makes them sweat, maybe even shed a few pounds, and show submission in a world they’re otherwise used to running. They usually could care less about the science that’s going into what they’re doing. They often just want to work hard, and get results to show for that hard work.  They trust their trainers, and the bond deepens the longer they train together, and the more a relationship is built.

So that’s horrible, right?

To these folks, the 45 minute seminar on Huxley's Sliding Filament Theory can be put on hold.
To these folks, the 45 minute seminar on Huxley’s Sliding Filament Theory can be put on hold.

Not entirely. But it does mean that the onus is on US as fitness professionals to make sure we educate ourselves using good sources, and apply that to our clients. The clients trust us to be using good methods, so we should make sure we are.


This year, I wrote an article called “Big Guys use Bad Form” for TNATION. The stuff I mentioned in it still rings true to me. To think you’re not going to need to break your picture-perfect form if becoming the hulk is what you’re after is a thought that needs to be perished immediately. Just like I did in the article, I’ll post a video of my friend John Meadows doing a set of hack squats specifically for quad development, as he’s coached by the legendary Tom Platz.

John’s heels are coming off the platform, he’s using incomplete range of motion, and his knees are passing his toes. All of these are no-no’s by the book. But exceptions need to be made for advanced trainees.


Probably my biggest gripe of the year comes in the double-edged-sword presence of social media. It seems to be the new way to go if you don’t have what it takes to get people to respect you the old fashioned way – you know – through a track record of good work. Now all you need to do is fire up a facebook page or Instagram account and take bathroom selfies of your scantily clad body and vapidly smiling face. Pay for a few thousand followers (and continue to expose yourself – literally – for a few thousand more), and all of a sudden you’re a “big deal”.

It happened. It Happens. It's Still happening. 
It happened. It Happens. It’s Still happening.

Unfortunately, it used to bug me. A lot. But the truth is, it’s the sad reality. Technology is in its finest hour, and for that reason, as far as content goes, you’ll get a handful of crap with every pinch of good.  It’s a game we’re all in together.


The truth is, I lost track of how many flicks I saw in theatres this year, but I know I beat the 28 I saw last year, because that’s when I stopped counting.  This year was pretty epic when it came to quality movies that got released. So epic, in fact, that I couldn’t narrow things down to a top 3. Not even close. With that said, here are my picks for best movies of the year, that you need to make a note of seeing, if you haven’t yet.

  1. Foxcatcher – My personal favourite of the year. A slow-burning, chilly sports drama that had transformative breakthrough roles for the entire cast.
  2. Birdman – I’ll admit that this was the BEST movie of the year, even though Foxcatcher was my favourite. It was a nearly perfect movie. Mesmerising cinematography and awesome character development.
  3. Whiplash – You owe it to yourself to watch this movie just for JK Simmons’ performance.  I never expected so much intensity from a movie about jazz drumming. Excellent psychological thriller.
  4. Nightcrawler – “Drive” meets “Taxi Driver” meets “American Psycho”. THIS is a good movie. If this doesn’t confirm Jake Gyllenhaal as the real deal, nothing will.
  5. Enemy – From the director of my favourite movie of 2013 (Prisoners), this is basically your perfect mind bender. If I say anything more, I’ll spoil it. Just watch the thing.
  6. The Drop – This deserved more attention than it got. Tom Hardy was excellent, along with James Gandolfini.

The above movies, to me, have the most “right” with them on the most levels. Cinematography, completeness of the story, character development, and of course, remarkable acting. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t honourable mentions:

  • Gone Girl
  • Interstellar
  • The Equalizer
  • Captain America 2
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Godzilla
  • The Judge
  • Wild
  • Fury
  • The Theory of Everything

I’ve still got to see a few key players like Boyhood, Guardians of the Galaxy, and X Men, so don’t be too quick to excoriate me in your hate mail.

Well, that was fun.  . . Back to your regular scheduled program.


When I bench press heavy, there has to come a point in my ramping sets where I lift 275lbs. 2 plates and a 25 on either side. No more, and no less. Exactly 275. Even when I know I’ll be benching 340 that day. I can’t skip over that set with 275.

My boy Tony Gentilcore calls this an “indicator set”, and I’m on board with that. Basically, indicator sets give you an idea of where your strength is at by way of a benchmark number that you’re comfortable with lifting to let you know how you’re feeling that day. They can also act to “set a groove” to your training session, which brings me to the point of this subheading.  If you do certain things that just plain make you feel good to get primed up or into the zone, don’t stop doing them just because Fishsticks’ article on  said it’s unscientific. Foam rolling, stretching, dynamics, cardio, muscle activations, and various warm up set methods all go under individual scrutiny on the internet more than one can imagine.  The beauty of the internet is the fact that we can respect various opinions and find out what works for us, using a now wider base of knowledge.



Really. I mean it.

As a track athlete I sustained injuries to my hamstrings in 2006, 2007 and 2008 while sprinting, which helped me learn what was going on with my posterior chain function after exhaustively seeking therapy in various forms. This year, a bad squat caused an acute injury to my lower back, that continued relapsing into aggravation over the course of most of the year. The rehab process for this has included chiropractic and MAT therapy sessions, and caused me to drastically change the way I train. Of course, this helps diversify my own knowledge base for solo workouts, but more importantly, it creates good red flags for what to think about when training clients. A practitioner’s angle on biomechanics is rarely touched on in the strength and conditioning world, and a healthy crossover (I said healthy) is worth its weight in gold.


When I see trainers in my city following the strictures of a long-term periodized program for their 40 year old, 1-day-per-week client, I raise an eyebrow. Clients who aren’t making a lifestyle change to complement the act of personal training have no need for programming, as they train too infrequently to elicit any consistent change.  Many gyms pride themselves in having their training staff follow every client around with a clipboard, program, and full file with a client’s extensive biography contained within the documents. Sure it looks good, but most of it is useless if fitness hasn’t entered the client’s lifestyle as a regular component. Not something to do every Thursday and some Saturdays.

On the flip side, as coaches, we should be making every effort to encourage that lifestyle to be pursued in all our clients who show lackluster effort, since we know it will do nothing but improve the quality of their lives.

And Beyond

2015 should be full of excitement, learning, more movies, and hey – maybe even a little change. I’d definitely like to thank everyone who reads this blog – most who know me are aware that I’m not after a material gain by blogging. I talk about things I see in the industry before making articles that implore you to “train with me”, so it’s definitely warming to know that people like to read it! I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store for Lee Boyce, and I hope you are too.

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