Guest Post: Josh Leeger

Today’s post comes from Josh Leeger, owner of LIFT, a performance-based personal training company . Here Josh offers his philosophies and theories on training!

(Note: This was originally published on my old site before I changed the name and brand. It is unedited however from the original post.)


First off, thanks to Matt for offering to let me write a guest-post on his blog.  I’ll take this opportunity to reflect on the three things I’ve come to see as the most important things in training – Play, Specificity, and Nourishment – and the one most important thing in life – Passion.

Play has to be the number one most important thing in strength training, if not in life, generally.  Play is the exploration of possibility.  It is curiosity in action.  The greatest minds and athletes have been playful, inquisitive, at times sarcastic.  The playful challenge the status quo – which is the only way we go to new levels of performance.  The play mindset is also necessary in order to persevere through difficult times.  Even “hard core” athletes or individuals – those who “power through” things – are using the principle or play to keep going – they’re creating meaning in that aggressive outlook that they adopt.  It’s a created outlook.  Play is distinctly creative.  Play more, and learn more about play.  Start at Exuberant Animal, a group I’m part of, that supports play as exercise, and the playful mindset in general.


Josh Leeger

Specificity is touted a lot, but I don’t think most people give it the full attention it is due.  Specificity first demands that you know exactly what it is you’re after.  You can’t plan a specific strength training program without knowing what the specific goal is.  Once the goal is know and accepted, there are very specific things that you have to do to get there, and there are other things that absolutely will not get you there.

For instance, if I want to lose weight, I know that eating a high-protein breakfast first thing is going to increase protein synthesis and likely increase my overall metabolism.  I also know that if I exercise in a way that causes my body to have to build or rebuild muscle, I’m increasing my metabolism.  Empty calories, like sugar or any refined or processed foods (such as alcohol or white flour), are not going to do anything useful in my system.

They’re going to take me off track from my goal.  Strength training is no different.  Very specific exercises have very specific effects.  So, learn more about how your body works, and get specific in your training and your outcomes.  Where do you start with this?  Start with the basics, and work up.  I’d say basic anatomy and physiology are good places to begin.

You can find plenty of free videos on exercise anatomy and physiology on YouTube.  When you get more advanced, people like Joel Jamieson ( and Mladen Jovanovic ( are providing fantastic overviews of metabolic physiology and and periodization (respectively).  As you get more detailed understanding of physiology, branch out into other areas like somatics, soft-tissue work (mobility, massage, etc.), and visualization.  Then get more specific learning about the physiology needs of your particular sport, event, or goal.

Nourishment.  I’ve come to believe that exercise should be nourishing.  We have this idea, I think, that professional athletes have different needs from “ordinary people,” and that, to be extraordinary, we need to really “push it,” or “go all out.”  Pro athletes want to win.  Period.  And maybe that’s where this mentality comes from.

But if you really look at the successful athletes, they “push it” in every direction.  That is – they not only push their training (and in doing so, usually become much more specific and time-conservative in their training), but also their recovery.  Nourishment is even more important for them.

As an example, take a look at Dara Torres‘ training program that led to her 2008 Summer Olympics medal wins – at the age of 41 (a great overview is here:  Her program focused on shorter, more intense training sessions, and fewer sessions in the week.

She did a lot of stretching, and had regular massage.  Granted, younger athletes can handle more volume, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to.  If you’re a trainer, instead of pushing your client to their breaking point, see how far it actually takes for them to get improvement.  All of the activities of life should be nourishing.  Work, relationships, food, activities, and exercise – these things should enrich the body and mind, not exhaust it.

We’ve all experienced the difference.  This is a paradigm-shift, and takes a lot of work for most folks in the United States.  Focus on nourishing yourself.  This can be as simple as visualizing nutrients flooding the cells of your body as you exercise.  It can also involve going on to YouTube and learning simple self-massage techniques to help get fluids into your tissues.


The big challenge as a trainer, coach, and individual, is motivation.  How do you get clients motivated?  How to be motivated as a coach?  The answer, I think, is passion.  If you’re passionate about what you do, that passion spills over.  You can’t hide it.  You don’t have to be a freak about it.

Some people are more introverted and some more extroverted.  But either one (introvert or extrovert) can be passionate about what they do, and spread that excitement to others.  Find an area that excites or interests you, and indulge yourself in it.  Buy a couple of books, take a some classes, reach out with an email to someone you see as an expert in that area.  Don’t be surprised if they don’t respond, but don’t let that stop you either.  As Joseph Campbell said – “Follow your bliss.”


Josh Leeger is a physical educator, conditioning coach, and Exuberant Animal in Seattle.  For more information about the above ideas, contact Josh via his site: