42 – Skyler Tanner – On Growing Your Personal Training Business And Deviating From The Classic HIT Paradigm

Image courtesy of SmartStrengthAustin.com
A peek at Skyler’s gym, Smart Strength

Skyler Tanner is an exercise physiologist with more than 18 years of one on one training experience. In addition to being co-owner of Smart Strength, he lectures for World Instructor Training Schools, teaching future personal trainers the nuances of exercise science in practice. His work has  been featured on Fox and on the Prevention Magazine media network.

In addition to being a high-level fitness and nutrition coach for nearly two decades, Skyler holds a Masters in Exercise Science and has lectured at the Ancestral Health Symposium 2011, The 21 Convention, and Paleo FX. Skyler’s talk Strength Training and the Biomarkers of Aging has been featured on Peak Fitness by Dr. Mercola.

Want to hear more from Skyler? Check out my previous interviews with him here and here.

Contact Skyler:

In this episode, we cover:

  • Motivation, growing your business, and overcoming challenges
  • Improving your health, avoiding injuries, and biomechanics
  • How to lose weight and maintain your gains outside of the gym
  • How Skyler deviates from classic HIT paradigms and why
  • Using ARX Machines, barefoot running, basketball shoes, and much more!

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This episode is sponsored by Hituni.com, the best online courses in high intensity strength training. I recently completed their personal trainer course to increase my knowledge and become certified in HIT. HITuni offer DIY courses to help you get better results from your training and personal training courses to help you start and grow your HIT Business. Visit HITuni.com and use the code “HIB10” to get 10% OFF.

Show Notes

  • What motivated Skyler to start Smart Strength? [4:37]
  • Lawrence and Skyler talk about motivations and “doing things for the sake of doing things” [13:19]
  • Skyler talks about his business goals and the rhyme and reason behind them [19:34]
  • On FMS certification, risk stratification, and identifying client risks and injuries [22:52]
  • Regarding “Wellness” clinics and the Placebo Effect [25:53]
  • Skyler talks about bleeding edge movement therapists and the human nervous system [27:47]
  • Why people go to wellness clinics, why the placebo effect works, and what food habits are [30:14]
  • How does Skyler overcome challenges in business? [35:16]
  • Skyler goes off on a tangent about Texas weather [40:17]
  • One change that Skyler made for his business that got good results [42:22]
  • The time when Lawrence went for a pint with James Steele, James Fisher, and Luke Carlson [45:32]
  • On taking from academic literature and applying it to the personal training business [48:10]
  • Skyler and Lawrence touch on Blood Flow Restriction Training (Kaatsu) [53:05]
  • Does Skyler use ARX machines for everything? [55:59]
  • What advantages do ARX machines provide in terms of generating results? [1:00:06]
  • Skyler talks about measuring bone mineral density and age and inactivity as factors [1:07:46]
  • What activities outside of the gym does Skyler recommend for weight loss? [1:09:09]
  • Bill DeSimone asks Skyler Tanner what Skyler Tanner thinks of Bill DeSimone (and Skyler talks about biomechanics) [1:20:07]
  • On exercise frequency, knee pain, sport shoes, and more about biomechanics [1:27:09]
  • Lawrence and Skyler talk about basketball and barefoot shoes [1:31:17]
  • Bill DeSimone asks Skyler about his thoughts on the Body Blade [1:34:58]
  • Has Skyler deviated from classic HIT? Why? [1:40:40]
  • Skyler talks about his diet, nutrition, and intermittent fasting [1:48:04]
  • Can overfeeding/macronutrient imbalance be harmful for people with certain body types? [1:54:55]

Selected Links from the Episode

People Mentioned


Q&A with Skyler Tanner:

  1. What is the proper role of classic HIT in a lifetime training program? In my opinion, HIT is the essential ingredient of a training program over a lifetime. If you’ve read my work for any period of time, you may have seen me quote Ken Wilbur: Needleman once said that Zen was essential Buddhism, and that Tibetan Buddhism was complete Buddhism. That’s sort of what it is, Zen it goes right to the heart: Satori! This is it, satori! IF you don’t have satori, you don’t have Buddhism. But Tibetan is like the whole shebang. I mean it’s got every single aspect, vehicle, gross, subtle, causal, all sorts of practices.” HIT is to exercise as Zen is to Buddhism. If you want to be a fit human being, you need resistance training, of some volume, to fatigue, through congruent exercises. And with what you gain from that, go out into the world and be a better, healthier, more helpful human being.
  2. Do push-ups work the chest muscles as well as a chest press machine? (in a hypertrophy context) Yes, though you might find that for your specific leverage you’ll need to tinker with hand position to really “feel” the chest. Biomechanically the act of reaching in front of you must include your pecs, and the nature of a pushup being on your toes creates a slight arching that moves you away from impingement as you extend. I’ve also found that some clients with janky shoulders from old injuries tolerate pushups (and blast strap pushups) better and I suspect that’s due to the freedom of movement that the scapula enjoys compared to being pinned to a bench or machine.
  3. The number and complexity of studies available makes it difficult for one to follow research and find reliable data. Do you insist that one reads the whole study, as the abstract can often be misleading? Any advice on absorbing scientific literature on health and fitness in an effective way? I suggest that for those interested, they read the study body, arrive at their own conclusion from the data, and THEN look at how the researcher framed the result. You’ll often find that how they talk about the study in the abstract versus the actual data & discussion sections are very different indeed! I’ve come to think of the abstract as the book cover of a study: often filled with fanciful claims that, while perhaps somewhat true, are likely to be lacking the nuance of interpretation and contextualization that should come from the data presented.
  4. (From James Steele) Have you found that, anecdotally, your ability to tolerate discomfort has improved as a result of your foray into lower load body weight training again. Basically, has it made him you being a big girly girl and are you learning to enjoy the shit sandwich more? Context: it’s becoming increasingly clear that both low and high load exercise, within a certain range (e.g. a feather for a million reps isn’t the same as an anvil) can produce similar outcomes. However, it is also clear that different individuals can tolerate different loads better or worse from a “rating of perceived exertion” perspective. So, as I quipped, it’s really which shit-sandwich are you willing to eat on a regular basis? In doing the bodyweight training to failure, I found that exercises that are going to be “long” no matter what  you do (bodyweight squats) accumulate significant metabolic discomfort. They’re not fun and the mental gymnastics I must use to get to failure are very different than the gymnastics to get to failure with the upper body (which is “easy” for me, contextually). At first it’s really not fun, but once I was able to experience just how uncomfortable I would ever be, I could better prepare mentally. So while I much prefer single leg bodyweight work to failure (my favorite is this exercise without all of the extra crap at the end), in a pinch I can park myself on the wall for 2+ minutes before doing 2 leg squats to failure.
  5. How have you successfully motivated friends and family to engage in strength training? Be the example for long enough. I’ve also found that not making a big deal of it when people ask is important. Often people will start talking about their training or diet when they find out you’re a trainer. I typically give somewhat generic answers to this people initially because they’re making conversation. If they follow up with the line of inquiry at a later date or otherwise show REAL interest (you’ll know) then I get a little more specific and invite them for a consultation. I think also being a “fitness guy” who isn’t a “fitness bro” is motivating because my message has always been that this is for the rest of your life. It makes life better, so let’s focus on getting those benefits instead of impressing your ego or some bro.

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