Almost EVERY Exercise is a Core Exercise

Virtually every exercise performed in a standing position, where the exerciser is controlling the path of motion of a resistance, is a CORE exercise.
Your ability to brace your trunk while producing force through the hips and shoulders is almost always part of training this way.
Make sure you’re consciously BRACING during these movements to train your core to do this AUTOMATICALLY out in the real world.

It’s Your Turn. Emerge.
Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

Rest is For the Weak

Rest is For the Weak.

At least, that seems to be the popular way of thinking in fitness today.
There are TONS of popular “programs” to choose from today that offer “intense” and brutal workouts sure to leave an exerciser a sweaty clump on the floor.

If they’re lucky.

Rest and recovery in between sets is crucial for optimal performance and injury prevention. Rest goes way beyond just catching your breath so you can brutalize yourself again.
Depending on your goal, the proper rest time is allowing you to train a specific ENERGY SYSTEM.

Why is this important?

First, most sports demand energy PRIMARILY from specific energy systems.
Football takes from very fast and medium energy systems that supply explosive energy, but take longer to refuel. Training this energy system requires much more rest to recover completely.

Marathon running on the opposite end supplies MOST of its energy through the slowest energy system, which refuels very quickly. Training this energy system requires less rest in between sets, sub maximal loads, and generally longer sets.

So training with these energy systems in mind requires an understanding of what energy system you want to IMPROVE, and how much rest it requires to make those improvements. The energy system you’re attempting to improve should be in line with your sport (or daily tasks) so improvements in the gym transfer to improvements on the field (or life in general).

An example:
An athlete performing an explosive hang clean for a 5 rep max would require approximately a 2.5 to 3 minute rest to recover for the next set (for optimal training of that explosive energy system).
Without that rest, the next problem in line arises, that of RECRUITMENT…

Faulty recruitment of muscle can happen when you’ve exhausted your prime movers to the point where they CANNOT produce force anymore. This is not a matter of willpower, it WILL happen at some point.

An example:
An athlete is performing a push press with a challenging load. After 5-8 reps, the large powerful prime movers are tapped, and begin to produce sub maximal force. For the remainder of the set, muscles that ARE NOT made for this lift increasingly take over. Further, coordination becomes impaired as the neurological component starts to fatigue. This leads to this same faulty recruitment pattern in the sporting environment of the athlete (because they trained the body to do it that way). They’ve actually trained their body to default to bad movement patterns.

But bad performance is actually the least of the worries for that athlete.

It may not happen right then, but if this continues and bad day for the lifter (in the form of injury) is all but ensured.

A BASIC guide to lifting for a specific goal:

A load that an exerciser can lift for 3-5 reps.
A rest time of 2 minutes.
5 total sets

A load that an exerciser can lift for 2-3 reps.
A rest time of 3 minutes.
5 total sets.

A load that an exerciser can lift for 9-12 reps.
A rest time of 45 seconds.
4 total sets.

For strength ENDURANCE
A load that an exerciser can lift for 15-20 reps.
A rest time of 30 seconds.
3 total sets.

This is a basic discussion of rest intervals and energy system training. For more details, contact Emerge Fitness at

It’s Your Turn. Emerge.

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

“Yeah, but”

Client: “Dr. Oz said I need to take this supplement to reduce my cholesterol.”

Me: “You’ve never mentioned to me that you have high cholesterol.”

Client: “Oh I don’t, but I thought I’d do it anyways.”


Client: “I saw some workouts in a magazine I thought looked pretty cool. Can we do them today?” (shows me pictures of girls doing kipping pull-ups and clean and jerks)

Me: “You do understand that you are coming back from rotator cuff surgery, right?”

I get it. Diet and Exercise can be extremely confusing these days. One day it’s “Do this” and a week later it’s “Don’t do this.” Continuing education in fitness is always contradicting itself. One research study will show one result and in 6 months, the statistics completely change. It can be complicating, it can be frustrating. Why do you think so many people hang out on the cardio equipment this time of year? They feel “safe” sticking with the elliptical or treadmill.

Here’s the biggest piece of information I can give you about diet and exercise: It isn’t black and white. It’s a very blurred, color filled lifestyle.

A trainer can put together a workout with all of the latest exercises that will make you tired and make you sweat.

A great trainer will put together a plan, catered for YOU based on YOUR specific needs/wants that will get YOU the results YOU want.  See a trend here?

Also, as a client, you should get used to hearing the phrase “yeah, but.” Because everything you read in fitness has a “yeah, but” that is left out of the article.

For example: “Don’t do deadlifts”. Ok, what they mean is “Don’t do deadlifts with an insurmountable weight.” But most people just see “Don’t do deadlifts.” So they come to us and say “This article said not to do deadlifts.” ENTER “YEAH, BUT”: Do you pick stuff up off the ground? The majority of the time you are doing a deadlift movement. You aren’t going to stop picking stuff up off the ground, so I need to teach you the proper mechanics of how to pick it up properly.  It may be a tennis ball, or a 5-10lb weight, etc. but you still have to learn functional mechanics just to get thru the day without grabbing your lower back.

The next time you’re reading a magazine, a blog, or you see an interesting “Pin” on Pinterest, ask yourself if it pertains to you. Does it fall in alignment with your wants/needs? And by all means, bring it up with your trainer.  We’d rather you discuss it with us BEFORE you attempt it.


Kimberly Renoud, BS, ACE, NASM, CES, PESEmerge Fitness Trainingdumbbells

AVOID this core exercise! And focus on these…

How much of your core work is actually hip flexor work with some isometric holding of the upper ab?
This type of “core work” is taxing your iliopsoas (large powerful hip flexor) far more than it is the core. The shear force this puts on the lower back (spine) isn’t worth the minimal abdominal work you get from this type of exercise.
If you have a disc injury (or want to avoid one), these exercises should be avoided.
Focus on core work that doesn’t include a “v up” position which selects the hip flexors as the prime worker.
Core stabilization exercises should focus on a neutral body position, with the challenge of holding that neutral position against resistance.
It’s Your Turn. Emerge.
Matt Pirtle MA CSCS



If I knew then what I know now…

I have been an athlete all of my life but the sport that I really excelled at was lacrosse. I played for five years at Lindenwood University. My fifth year was a bonus year due to the transitioning process from NAIA to NCAA. Looking back on those years, balancing lacrosse and school was like having a full time job and consumed most of my time. I spent a lot of time training to ensure I was in the best shape possible come January. Since I was a midfielder and my job mainly consisted of running all over the field, I did just that…I ran. I would do my assigned lifts from our strength packet but my main focus was on running.

If I could go back and tell myself one thing, it would be to focus more on strength and power movements and less on those long distance runs. Lacrosse is a complicated sport which requires a lot of power and also endurance depending on the postion. I’ve been training with Matt Wirth for a couple of months now and I know for a fact that I am in better shape now than I ever was in college. I am pulling and pushing a lot more weight than I thought was possible.

In October, I went back to Lindenwood and played in the annual Alumni game and I was able to keep up with the current players and even outrun some of them. I was out of breath, of course. Any athlete knows there is such a thing as being in “game shape”.

I loved my team and coaches like family but I think coaches get caught up in running the team for conditioning and punishment. I’m guilty of doing it to my summer team I coach. More focus should be on power and strength movements and that is not limited to the weight room. Uphill sprints, sled pulls/pushes, long jumps, etc are all great movements.


If you are interested in athletic performance training, contact Kathryn at kathryn@emergetraining.comimage



Are you all HORSEPOWER or all HANDLING?
Your body should do both…

If you’ve been a client of mine in the last year or so, you’ve heard me talk about strength training and functional training in a distinct way. The two concepts have a symbiotic relationship in fitness with one feeding and enhancing the other. In fact, one can’t exist (well) without the other.
I like to explain classic strength training as HORSEPOWER building. With this goal in mind, you are training your muscle to contract with other muscles to create max force. In general, I have clients in stable environments conducive to lifting max weight. The idea is to challenge the body in a place where you can see its full potential in force production, thus challenging it to adapt to the heavy load you are imposing upon it. This is building horsepower. Training this way gets you stronger,quicker. However, this is potential force production that may (or may not) be available to you in the real world. Whether or not you are able to use this strength gain functionally depends on your ability to train in many planes of motion simultaneously in a less than stable environment.
I call this LEARNING HOW TO DRIVE. This is the concept of taking all of your available horsepower and training your body to harness this force production and use it functionally. I often use the analogy that if you have a Corvette engine and you place it in the body of a Ford Escort, you are going to have some serious problems (it probably just wouldn’t go, and if it did, you’d blow the tires right off). This is akin to building massive horsepower in the gym with no time spent on stabilization and multiple movement patterns. Dr. Stu McGill (one of my mentors) tells stories of huge Olympic lifters who are strong and stable in the sagittal plane (straight ahead and directly backwards), but if you give a tug on their sleeve from the side, they topple over easily. This is an example of all horsepower and no function.
So, which one should YOU focus on?
It depends on how long you’ve been doing either of these. I almost always start a client off with a period of time where we work on absolute strength alone. We are building the horsepower necessary to move with max force. After that, I teach them how to drive with this newfound horsepower in more complicated, multi planar and unbalanced exercise patterns.
Identify what you’re lacking. Do you move very well, in a balanced and comfortable way but lack the power behind your movement? Spend some more time strength training, then back to functional training to learn to deal with your newly acquired strength.
Can you lift huge loads in the gym but it isn’t translating to athletic performance on the field? Spend more time learning how to manage your strength, directing it towards the activity you are trying to improve. Training functionally in the patterns that match your activity would help this.

For clarity on this or any other fitness related topic, contact

It’s Your Turn. Emerge.
Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

The Story of Emerge

The Story of Emerge.

Angie and I started our training careers over 12 years ago, on the same day, at 24 Hour Fitness.

On a side note, if it weren’t for 24 Hour Fitness, none of this would have happened. It was a great place to start and I thank them for that.

We opened Emerge Fitness almost six years later. …a week after we got married. We started pretty humbly. We had a modest 2300 square foot office space above a shop that sold balloon sculptures. The balloon lady didn’t like us. She would repeatedly beat our floor with a broom when we were too loud. The next door neighbor would complain about the music constantly.

We dealt. We started with 3 trainers. Myself, Angie, and Beth Pirtle opened the doors the first day. Very soon after, we had reason to celebrate as Jason Tokun and Debi Westhues joined us.

We had new equipment, but not a lot of it. We didn’t have anything resembling a reception area, and we had three small bathrooms. Our office could fit maybe three adults in it, and our rickety desk was purchased at target and put together by yours truly. We relied on our exceptional training skills and customer service to wow our customers. And it did. We added Adam Kulp and Kimberly Renoud within a year and a half. These two tried and true trainers helped grow the business quickly.

Our reputation began to be well known. We were a VERY strong, educated, well rounded training staff. We attracted the attention of the St. Louis Rams and began to train many of their athletes, and spent some time at the Rams training facility as functional training consultants. Three years later we opened a facility down the road that was approximately 3x as large as our original space. We added three skilled trainers immediately, including performance coach Matt Wirth, and continued to grow. Now, six and half years into business, we still rely on the same things that made us successful in the early days. Exceptional customer service and highly educated, career trainers and coaches are our focus. We have a few more toys at our disposal now, and our facility is much more impressive, but this is nothing compared to the strength of our staff.

Emerge is growing still. We are planning the next Emerge as we speak. We are developing the next generation of Emerge trainers through internship programs, and are attracting the BEST in the business to join our staff. We have partnered with some of the brightest in the fitness industry, like Dr. Matthew Lytle at Precision Health Group. The synergy of these partnerships continues to help Emerge service our clients with the BEST available resources. The addition of Taylor Dalby, Jess Baker, Kathryn St. George and Sophia Galati has made this the strongest Emerge team ever.

THANK YOU ALL for making this possible. It has been a wonderful 6.5 years, and this is solely from the support of our clients and our community. We promise to continue to offer the best in the industry fitness coaching, and hope to have the chance to continue to serve (or have a chance to serve) you and your fitness goals in the future!

It’s your turn. Emerge.

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS

Trainers: Remember Who You Are…

On the topic of fitness, I give equal time to articles from a clients perspective and articles from a trainers perspective. This one has a little of both.

It’s officially a trend.

In the world of personal training, many trainers have decided that mere strength and conditioning is not enough.
Instead of honing their craft and getting REALLY good at what they do, many have decided to broaden their scope of practice into some questionable areas. With that in mind, here is my top 5 “offenders” in the personal training world.

The Dietician:
Don’t get me wrong, diet advice and even some meal planning by a certified nutritionist is helpful and should be considered an important part of any training program. But when a trainer starts to spend 30+ minutes of EVERY session fine tuning the macronutrient ratio, you’ve got a problem. Yes, I know, almost every fitness goal is fueled by nutrition and this can account for 75% of your eventual results, but the minute details of a diet plan (if this kind of focus is actually needed) should be the job of an actual dietician.

The Soft Tissue Specialist:
This is a trainer that, like The Dietician, spends an inordinate amount of time doing something OTHER than strength and conditioning. In this case, it’s spending large parts of each session on a mat or massage table doing “soft tissue work.” The idea is nice, but what this is really accomplishing is minimal. It is difficult to remove adhesion even from an experienced and well educated soft tissue practitioner (like an ART specialist), and it is almost impossible to do without a targeted and very well educated hand. While a client may feel better from the brief inhibition of the muscle being worked on, this is largely a waste of time because the change is reflexive, short lived, and definitely not sustainable.

The Psychiatrist:
Again, as ANY trainer can attest to, there is a little therapy involved in what we do, it’s part of helping our clients reach their goal. However, the trainer that tasks themselves with being their clients psychiatrist is not only going far beyond their scope of practice, but could be doing some damage as well. A trainer should always offer an understanding ear for their clients, but remember that exercise is the therapy that we are experts at prescribing.

The Football Coach:
This is the trainer that forgets he/she is a strength and conditioning coach, and is instead a coach of a particular sport. We are in the business of creating better ATHLETES. Skill training and practice is better left to the actual sport coaches.

The Professor:
This trainer feels a compulsion to explain, in great and cumbersome detail, every aspect of every exercise the client is performing. This trainer will take long and unnecessary breaks in a training session to pontificate on general fitness topics to impress the client with their knowledge. The client’s time is better spent actually PERFORMING the exercise, versus sitting at a virtual desk taking notes for the next fitness exam.

I think all trainers are guilty of some of these, some of the time (I know I am of all of these, especially The Professor. As a matter of fact, to be a great trainer you have to do a LITTLE of all of these, and certainly be aware of the role of each of these in training a client well. The point is to stay on track, learn as much as you can about our craft, strive to be the best at what we are qualified to do, and apply it with precision. If a client is in need of supplemental help in reaching their fitness goal, make it your job to know the best specialist available to REFER them to.

We are an important part of the health and fitness equation. Let the experts at other crafts do what they do, and be the absolute best at what you do.

Matt Pirtle, MA CSCS