Underpants + ? = Profit

Southpark had a great episode years ago that featured the “underpants gnomes.” Underpants gnomes were mini entrepreneurs who had a three phase business model.

Phase 1: Collect underpants

Phase 2: ?

Phase 3: PROFIT

This is not a business plan.

So, really all they had was a product nobody wanted, with no plan to create demand or satisfy a need, and they expected to magically make a profit at the end of the day.

It’s funny.

It’s ridiculous.

It’s accurate.

I see this EXACT mode of thinking in the personal industry all the time.

The business side of fitness and personal training (on the whole) needs some serious help.

A little back story…

Emerge opened it’s doors ten years ago with a plan. We offered premium training, with elite trainers, at a premium price.

We knew our market. We knew our product and we knew there was a demand for it.

We knew we had to be able to supply enough of our service to meet that demand, so we began recruiting the best training talent around.

We knew that a nice, but not a world class facility was necessary to deliver our service (our market valued the training more than the equipment).

We knew what we had to service to make a profit, and how to adapt to a changing industry to stay relevant.

We knew what was trendy, and what was worth paying attention to in the ever evolving fitness industry. We focused on and became experts in the right specializations.

We knew the value of our service, and that what we offered was truly premium service. We didn’t give it away or run sales.

Those general guidelines have kept us growing every single year for 10 straight years.

We did a lot of things wrong, but we did more things right, and that’s why we grew.

It wasn’t an accident. It was a plan.

Emerge has been in business for 10 years, but our trainers began marketing their own services before these doors opened.

Today, I don’t often see organized or even well thought out approaches to growing personal training business, both at the level of the individual personal trainer and whole companies that provide personal training.

At the very least, a trainer or training business should;

  1. Know who you are and have a mission statement. What are your core values?
  2. Know your market, and know if it’s a good/viable market to target your service.
  3. Have a specific plan. Training + ? = profit will not cut it.

The training industry is relatively young and so are most of its personnel. There have been no clear templates or business strategies that have become the accepted norm, so most of us are left to figure it out on our own.

Many of the recent college graduates I’ve spoken with know training and exercise physiology but are relatively clueless about the business side. Some figure it out by trial and error, but most don’t and leave the industry because “there is no money in it.”

I’m imparting my two cents and 16 years of experience in the business in this brief article. These are the very surface level considerations when developing a business plan.

There is so much more to consider, like others in the fitness industry who you can partner your brand with that may enhance your brand appeal and ultimately increase your profit. The question is, how do you choose those people or businesses and how can they help you?

One, among many more questions to ask yourself.

If you’d like to chat on this subject more with me, email me at matt@emergefitnesstraining.com

I’d love to share with you some of my experiences. Like I said there is no template and the approach will differ from business to business, but there are a few common and very avoidable pitfalls, you just need to know how to anticipate them.

It’s your turn. Emerge.

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

Train like an athlete, then train like a football star (because you’re neither right now)

Wanna be an all star football player?
Got your eyes set on a deadlift record?
Is one of your goals to perform acrobatic exercise like you see on YouTube?

All very solid goals.
Admiral goals.
Goals that take time to achieve.

So, when training with the goal of being an all star football player (or any lofty goal), what’s the first step?

If you’re looking at it from a strength and conditioning perspective, it means starting where you are. It’s who and where you are RIGHT NOW.

And where you are isn’t where you want to be.

Right now, you’re a human with athletic potential who needs to be functionally stronger.

So, knowing this and applying it to your strength program, you probably shouldn’t be copying a pro athlete’s training program. (Honestly, they shouldn’t be doing most of the things they’re doing, so…)

To build something impressive, you’ve got to start with a foundation. Then you build on that solid foundation.

Variations of the carry should be part of base strength training.

Thomas Kempis explained it best when he said “the loftier the building, the deeper must the foundation be laid.”

This applies to any goal. Before you start specializing in a single movement or exercise or sport, be proficient at being an athletic and well moving human being.

Move in all planes of motion well. Have mobility in the joints that need it. Be stable in the joints that require stability.

Have a good base strength.

All of your basic movement patterns should be on point, including:

1)the squat
2)hip hinge
5)carrying variations

Do these things extraordinarily well. I see circus tricks every day, but I see these patterns done beautifully only rarely.

You’ve got to spend your time EARNING the next level.

And when you’ve earned it, it feels good. You’ll feel strong, and you’ll be better able to avoid injury.

For right now, focus on being a stronger person and a more dynamic athlete. Then take that strength and apply it to your specific goal. I promise you its worth the time to do it right.

It’s your turn. Emerge.

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

This for that.

Everything has a cost, but not necessarily a benefit.

Every time you decide to do something, you are deciding not to do something else.

When you decide, for example, to work specifically on strength training, you are by default deciding to sacrifice some muscular endurance, and vice versa. Every potential benefit comes with a cost.

That means, you should have a clear definition of what you are attempting to do with your fitness program.

Take the whole mobility-stability idea. You hear A LOT of hype about mobility drills, in general. When you mobilize a joint, you are in turn destabilizing it to a certain degree. Like the scales of justice, you can increase the range or increase the stability but you can’t do both to the same degree at the same time.

Like the scales of justice, you can increase the range or increase the stability but you can’t do both to the same degree at the same time.

So, you have to decide. Would better mobility benefit me in this particular joint? Or would increased stability help more?

Consider your sport? Does it require more, say, shoulder stability or mobility? Is your performance being limited by one of the two?

You can see that there are many things at stake when you choose to add or delete an exercise from your program.

You can start by asking yourself these questions:

  1. Is this exercise worth the time I’m spending on it? (and not on something else)
  2. Is what I’m giving up as a result of performing this exercise outweighed by the potential benefit?
  3. Do I really even need what the exercise intended to do? (mobility sounds awesome, but do you really need it?)

Using the topic of mobility once again. I had a conversation with a deadlifting enthusiast that inevitably led to the popular topic of mobility. He referenced the toddler who could sit in a deep squat effortlessly and play with his toys, and how we have regrettably lost this mobility over time.

It is a nice thought. Witnessing a child in this pose looks fluid and almost beautiful.

But that child isn’t going to be tasked with lifting and stabilizing hundreds of pounds attached to a bar. To be a great deadlifter (or powerlifter, in general) you have to be pretty stiff. Even a recreational lifter MUST HAVE the stability it takes to bear the torque of big lifts like the deadlift.

There is a balance. You give some here, to get some over here.

So, again, mobility or stability? Long slow distance versus intervals? Bodybuilding or weightlifting? Strength or endurance?

Or, some compromised combination?

It depends on your fitness objectives, the demands of your sport, and/or the daily demands of your lifestyle.

For more information, email matt@emergefitnesstraining.com

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS


It’s your turn. Emerge.

“Take this box of corrective exercises and get to work on your broken body.” -Everyone in fitness right now

So, you’re doing corrective exercise to help with an injury? Or bad posture? Or because your trainer or chiropractor says you’re “out of alignment.”

To know whether or not you’re truly engaging in exercise that is correcting something, you should have an understanding of the concept of corrective exercise.

Is a plank a good choice for exercise.? Yes. No. Sometimes…

This definition, according to Robert Camacho, a strength and conditioning and physical therapy specialist, works well:

A corrective exercise by its simplest definition is a movement or exercise chosen to correct a specific dysfunction.

I think that most everyone agrees upon and can understand the value of corrective exercise as a method of correcting dysfunction. Muscle imbalances, relative weakness, bad movement patterns that lead to discomfort are all dysfunctions that can be addressed through corrective exercise.

What stands out about this definition is the word specific.

What I have been witnessing recently from the fitness industry is a fundamental misunderstanding of THIS part of the definition.

Corrective exercise is prescribed to address SPECIFIC dysfunction.

So, an exercise in and of itself cannot be labeled as “corrective exercise.” What can be considered corrective exercise for one person can be useless or even detrimental to another. Physio ball Y’s aren’t inherently corrective exercise. Neither are certain kinds of band walks or planks.

These exercises can be corrective. For some people. Sometimes.

The “some people, sometimes” part of this equation becomes tricky. Do ALL people have weak scapular stabilizers. Does every single client have weak glutes? Can every person perform a simple forearm plank precisely?


I think corrective exercise has become synonymous with warm up. For a general warm up, all people can benefit by moving themselves through movement patterns likely to be involved in their sport or exercise. It’s general and universal.

Hip thrusts can be hugely beneficial for many people. But not all.

Corrective exercise, on the other hand, is specific and targeted strength training for weak or inhibited muscle. It is not universal. It is SPECIFIC.

There are a wide variety of exercises in the corrective toolbox. As a matter of fact, any exercise can potentially be a corrective exercise given the correct application to the person who needs it.

Emerge coaches are known for their rehab and corrective exercise prescription. If you know you need this type of workout, and you are navigating the exercises on your own, it would be worth a visit to an Emerge trainer for expert guidance.

As always, any questions regarding this topic or any other fitness topic can be sent to matt@emergefitnesstraining.com

It’s your turn. Emerge.

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

Exercise programs should be designed around MEDs. Seriously.

When exercising, think about MEDs.

The MED, or minimum effective dose, is the LEAST amount of something (a drug, supplement, training, exercise) that one needs to get the intended benefit from using or doing it.

For exercise specifically, the MED is the least of amount of prescribed exercise to get the maximum benefit without side effects or wasted gym time.

More exercise equals more gains…to a certain point.

Most exercise routines have a benefit curve that resembles the classic bell shaped curve. As exercise time goes up, benefits increase…to a certain point. After that point, returns (or gains) come far slower, and detrimental side effects start to increase in frequency. These side effects include:

  1. Wasting time that can be used more efficiently on something else that needs attention in your life
  2. Potential injury from overuse of a given joint
  3. Hormonal fluctuations due to overtraining
  4. Burnout on exercise given the time demand

In a world filled with messages that encourage MORE exercise and LESS rest, advocating for doing less is tough.

The key is to devote time to quality exercises. Quality exercise is the kind that gives you maximum return per minute spent performing it. Defining quality will depend on your ultimate goal, so for the sake of this article, let’s assume the goal is INCREASED STRENGTH.

Increased strength comes from the progressively applying resistance to a given movement pattern that someone wishes to strengthen.

Assuming the movement is free of compensations and bad mechanics, applying a progressively increasing load will increase the force production in that pattern. So, getting stronger in the squat pattern (a highly functional human movement) requires time spent squatting. Usually, 4–5 sets a week with a 5–12 rep range will do the trick. More sets will burn more calories, but so does running on a treadmill.

Deadlifting once a week is perfect for adding hip stregth.

Squats are for strength training, not calorie burning.

Too much squatting on a fatigued tissue and nervous system will invite compensatory movement, possible injury, and strength losses. But you will burn some extra calories, so…

The same goes for all of the big movement patterns. Upper body pushes and pulls, hinging and squatting and full body stability exercises. These exercises should be done 1–2 times per week, maybe one day with max effort, and one moderate load day. There will always be the big gym dude who will tell you otherwise, but there are probably some other variables at work there (freak genetics, vitamin s, youth, lack of a life outside barbells).

The point here is, for MOST people with busy lifestyles who love exercise but also value time spent on other aspects of their lives, the MED is efficient and it works.

Here is a basic 3 day split using the MED for these exercises.

Day 1:

General warmup-air squats, hip bridges, band lateral walks

Barbell hip bridges 2 sets of 12

Barbell Deadlifts 4 sets of 6

Goblet squats 4 sets of 10

Split squats 3 sets of 10 each leg

Walking lunges 3 sets of 12 each leg


General warmup- push ups, dumbbell ys, t spine extension on foam roller

Bench press 4 sets of 8

Overhead press 4 sets of 8

Pull up of Cable pull downs 4 sets of 10

Lateral dumbbell raises 3 sets of 12

One arm dumbbell rows (on bench) 2 sets of 12 each

Day 3:

General warmup-band lateral walks, forearm planks, PVC shoulder dislocates

Farmers carries with dumbbells 4 sets of 40 steps

Suitcase carry Kettlebell or dumbbell 3 sets of 20 steps each side

Barbell Push Press 4 sets of 10

Push up with rotation 3 sets of 8 each side

Stir the pot (plank on ball) 6 sets of 12 seconds

Some of these exercises are not household names, I know, but try googling them for a reasonable explanation. They have been chosen for their safe, big bang for your buck value.

For a more detailed and personalized MED strength plan, contact me at matt@emergefitnesstraining.com

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

It’s your turn. Emerge

No matter how you look at it, it’s a solid, unmovable, REAL brick wall

You can sprint at it. You can hit it sideways. You can jump, hop, or skip into it.

It’s still a freakin brick wall.

You can eat a banana, not eat a banana, or change your pre-workout supplement.

Morning. Noon. Night.

Then crash into the same old brick wall.

Sometimes, an exercise, or a sport, or any number of other physical activities just aren’t for you.

They are your brick walls.

How many times will you test that wall?


“I REALLY want to keep the barbell snatch in my workout, but my neck blows up the next day every time.” Despite mobility drills, corrective exercise, and targeted core strengthening, the same brick wall presents itself.

Now the choice.

Continue to smash yourself into the brick wall until you can’t anymore (usually an injury will prevent you from even trying).


Find yourself a ladder to go OVER that wall.

I’ve found that, in my many years in the fitness industry, there are ladders everywhere if you’re willing to look for them. You’ll get to where you’re trying to be, you just have to change the path a bit.

If you can disconnect yourself from the novelty of the barbell snatch being the end-all-be-all, the single dumbbell snatch can be a great (if not superior) alternative. It’s a perfect ladder for most.

Back squat doesn’t agree with you despite making all the necessary changes in form and mobility? The goblet squat is a solid ladder. It’s also a phenomenal replacement for the leg press.

The goblet squat.

Running on a treadmill giving you (fill in the blank) issues? Try the rower instead. Or bike. Or elliptical.

Sit ups and v-ups giving you back awareness? Try planks and various core holds instead. If you need to have the “burn” associated with abdominal work, try the swiss ball curl-up.

Curl-up on a swiss ball.

The point is to identify and use the ladders available to you. Don’t expect that wall you’re running yourself into to suddenly crumble.

It won’t.

You will.

There will be some brick walls that have no obvious ladder. If you like to run half marathons but a structural injury wont let you, then that’s that. The smart move at this point would be to go AROUND the wall and pick another distance, or sport, that doesn’t require the same repetitive movement pattern.

If you have specific brick walls of your own, and are having trouble finding the ladder to fit that wall, email me at matt@emergefitnesstraining.com

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

It’s your turn. Emerge.

The Magic of T- Spine Extension

Shoulder pain sucks.

One hundred percent of those involved in athletics or a fitness regimen experience some level of shoulder discomfort over time.

The pain can be acute and stabbing or dull and nagging, either way it can stop a person from doing what they want to do.

Shoulders are also tough to figure out. The best part about the shoulder joint (huge range of motion) is also it’s greatest weakness (huge range of motion requires great stability).

Allow me a quick digression…

I’ve become a hip and spine guy over the last couple of years.

I’m good a fixing and strengthening muscles that affect these areas to:

  1. Decrease back pain
  2. Increase performance
  3. Improve aestehtics

In that order of priority.

It started with an influx of folks who were referred to me for strengthening just to alleviate the pain of everyday life.

After years of study, practice and practical experience, I’ve got a pretty solid protocol that I use as a framework for clients suffering from back (usually disc) pain.

And I can modify, even to the smallest joint angle, to increase the effectiveness of this protocol for an individual.

To me, it’s become EASY compared to issues involving the shoulder.

So, my next area of intense focus has been the shoulder.

What I have found, through my own anecdotal experience with my clients and myself, is an 80/20 fix that seems to work wonders.

80 percent fix, 20 percent effort.

Here’s where the thoracic spine comes in.

The thoracic spine refers to the upper- and middle-back. It joins the cervical spine and extends down about five inches past the bottom of the shoulder blades, where it connects with the lumbar spine. http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/spine-anatomy/thoracic-spine-anatomy-and-upper-back-pain

Most folks, due to the forward nature of regular activity (driving, eating, sitting at a computer, working out, aka LIFE) have a forward trending head and rounded upper back, or t-spine. This can contribute to a host of problems including:

  1. Limited shoulder range of motion overhead
  2. Pain in the lower back
  3. Pain in and around the shoulder joint
  4. Diminished athletic performance (especially in throwing sports)
  5. An unappealing forward posture

The fix?

First, mobilizing this area of the spine. Encouraging extension, or flattening the curve, is the place to start. I use t-spine extensions over a foam roller for this purpose.


Now that the t-spine has more movement capability, the key is to train the muscles that hold you in extension. Without this part, you’ll just be temporarily adding mobility instead of making it a sustainable fix.

Make sure you pull with only the upper back. You SHOULD NOT feel this in the lower back.

Thats it. Just these two exercises. Two sets each. Everyday.

This is not an all encompassing shoulder fix, and it is oversimplified, but it does make a huge improvement MOST of the time.

With a more neutral curve in your upper back, the shoulder will be able to move more efficiently. You’ll see less compensations in overhead movement, and your humpback-in-training posture will start to diminish.

Give this relatively quick fix a try.

Let me know how it goes.

Send any questions to matt@emergefitnesstraining.com

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

Opportunity or Misfortune

It’s your Choice.

You have a choice to make.

These things happen:

Your job, kids, social life, and relationships take up much of your time, and you are struggling to find “you” time.

Over the course of time, you have let your health slip and have gained some extra, unwanted weight.

An injury has sidelined you from doing your favorite physical activity.

These things, or some of them, or one of them, may be a fact of life for you.


Whether you like it or not. The fact that these (and other potentially negative) things exist isn’t up to you to change.


You can change how you perceive them. You can change how you think about them. You can change how you let them dictate FOR YOU what you are going to do.

As the stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “Everything has two handles, the one by which it can be carried, the other by which it cannot.”

Take your imperfect situation for example. That situation has “two handles.” Two ways to perceive it.

You can grab the big, easy handle that relieves you of responsibility and work…and ultimately the satisfaction of successfully doing something. That handle gives you temporary relief.


You can look for and identify that small, cumbersome handle that asks you to reconsider your situation. It will require of you work and tenacity. But it comes with a reward. By grabbing that handle, you’ve chosen not to see limitation, but opportunity.

You have a choice to make any obstacle an opportinuty.

When you start looking for and grabbing that handle, it becomes contagious. It feels good to be able to control your situation by doing what IS in your power to control.

So, you have obstacles in your way to your fitness goal. What are you going to do? Which handle are you going to grab?

Once you’ve grabbed the handle that can be carried, Emerge can help show you the path to carry it along to your goal.

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS


Feats don’t fail me now!

I’ve been working out for a long time.

I’ve been a trainer/coach for a long time.

I’ve coached and personally performed 10’s of thousands of squats, presses and pulls.

And I’ve seen great results as far as strength increases and body transformation both in myself and my clients alike.

But, like I’ve mentioned in my article “Try a Little Less,” there are only so many biceps curls and chest presses that one can perform in their life before just the thought of doing another one becomes almost unbearable.

Workouts like this can soon become an OBLIGATION, not a time of personal fulfillment like it should be. That’s not a place you want to be. This is when many workout plans die.

So, I started doing something about this inevitable motivation mud pit.

One day a week, I work on “The Feats.”

The 3 med ball push up for reps was a “feat” I choose to add to my workout.

The Feats are a list of mostly arbitrary feats of strength that I want to be able to do (or get better at). They don’t have to be “functional” or useable in my real life in any way other than they make me happy when I can do them or get better at them.

And that happiness and sense of accomplishment in your workout can take you a long way in staying motivated to do all the OTHER things you need to be doing to stay healthy.

I look forward to Wednesdays. That’s the day I get to retest the exercises I labeled as “The Feats.” I feel good when I do them. I feel GREAT when I get better at them. And then I change my list…

I do the same with my clients.

I ask them to tell me some physical feats they would like to accomplish that may have nothing to do with the main reason they are working out.

And then we work on them systematically until they achieve what they set out to do. Its a lot of fun, and gives another sense of purpose to the challenging weekly workouts.

I highly recommend, if you’ve arrived at the inevitable workout-burnout stage, to add a “Feat” or two into your weekly workout program. It’s a great way to breathe life into a stale, repetitive workout routine.

Examples of “Feats.”

  1. Turkish get up (left and right arm)
  2. Pull ups/ jumping pull ups/ weighted pull ups
  3. Split jerks
  4. Farmers carry
  5. Bottoms up kettlebell press
  6. Handstand pushups
  7. Medicine ball push ups (2/3/4 balls)
  8. Overhead squats
  9. Rope climbing
  10. Sprinting

This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start. Just pick one or two to work on at a time.

Something to keep in mind, feats don’t have to be so circus-tricky. Just pick a lift, or movement pattern, or running time, etcetera that you want to improve. Work on that one thing specifically once or twice a week.

If you have any questions, or would like any clarity on this or any article I’ve written,

Email me at matt@emergefitnesstraining.com

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

The Golden Mean

Dealing with the reality of injury when you want to be active.

You have goals and aspirations.

You have the motivation and resources to achieve big things.

It’s just… your body doesn’t share your enthusiasm.

No, it’s not fair.

Over time, the wear and tear of life takes its cumulative toll.

All the workouts, practices, runs, and long days at a desk are rearing their collective ugly heads, and it’s time to pay the activity piper.

It sucks, and what’s more, you get conflicting messages on how to manage this situation.

“Don’t do anything and you’ll be safe. You’ll have a pain free, ridiculously unfulfilling life.”


“Disregard what your body says and attack with barbells until you puke or break.”

To me, neither one of these is an option. The answer lies somewhere in between these obvious extremes.

Getting stronger and respecting the “no no” exercises will help you manage injury.

I don’t care how “good” I feel if my next 40 years of life consists of cautiously navigating the world, constantly worried about what may overload my body, missing out on the very things that make me feel alive. I would rather hurt.

On the other hand, completely ignoring physical realities and injuries that are a fact of life, and having no caution or thought about what stress you are putting on your body is a recipe for a bad future. You will hurt. A lot. For a long time.

I can speak on this issue through personal experience. I have a disc injury in my back.

Besides for all the other slow wear and tear my body is dealing with, the disc is my claim to pain.

To be honest, most people do have disc injuries, they probably just don’t know it…yet.

Having a bulging disc or a herniation is so common an injury that it almost feels like its in style to have one these days. The en vogue physical ailment of the time, but I’m getting off topic.

Dealing with a disc that is painful will force a person to change things a bit, but it shouldn’t sideline a person altogether. And this goes for the vast majority of overuse or common activity injuries.

Most injuries will have their own “no-no” lists. This is a list of physical activity or exercise that will increase pain or further injury. The physical reality of the injury will prevent a person from performing these activities without pain. It doesn’t matter how bad you want it, you’re arguing with a reality that doesn’t care.

This fact shouldn’t keep someone from enjoying being physical, though.

As I tell my clients, if you’re willing to compromise, there is always a way.

I’ve witnessed people who were/are dealing with pain do some pretty incredible things. Its all about understanding what you’re dealing with, and a willingness to compromise.

I cannot perform heavy deadlifts and then go running. But I can deadlift on Monday afternoon and then run on Tuesday night. A client of mine can’t have a long car ride followed by squats at the gym, but if he puts a day between his business trip and his squatting workout, things work out a lot better. Those with hip or back injuries probably should never do leg lifting exercises or leg press on a machine, but they can work their core with planks and perform goblet squats with success. Ass to floor squats will no longer be a pain-free reality for some, but modified range of motion box squats can be an excellent substitute.

These are just a few examples of “living in the middle” when dealing with injury or pain. Everyone is different and every injury presents itself differently, so the compromises will be different from person to person.

The point is, given the reality of injury, you should not disregard nor lie down to your situation. Given some modifications you’ll be surprised at what you can still do. I’ve seen this happen literally hundreds of times.

PS Note:

Modification isn’t simply doing less. Depending on the nature of your pain or injury, there is a specific set of exercises and movements to avoid, and a specific set of exercises to focus on. In addition to exercise therapy, soft tissue work from a qualified practitioner will hasten your recovery and give you a better shot at managing your injury. I recommend Dr. Matthew Lytle from Precision Health Group.

For more information, or for help with your specific situation, contact me at matt@emergefitnesstraining.com

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS