Movement Progressions

In part 1 of this expert interview series I have had the pleasure of being interviewed by home fitness expert Tyler Bramlett who is the creator of the Garage Warrior  workouts.

If you missed it then I suggest jumping back to” Interview With Tyler Bramlett of Garage Warrior


Tyler: So, Craig, we’ve got some advanced people in this community and you’ve had a theme going on as we talked about this and that theme was adaptation. I’m so glad you brought that up because people need to realize that everything they do, simply what their body does is try to adapt to that. Can you break that down in a way that people will understand to get them more focused on adaptation and understanding what they need to do to really change their bodies and their lives?

Craig: Sure. Let’s go back to the interval training aspect of it and the cardio versus your interval training. What you’re doing when you’re trying to increase your fitness is you can make adaptations in two things: your heart and lungs, which are the central factor in fitness; and then in your muscles, which are known as the peripheral factors in fitness. It’s probably that the peripheral factors within the muscles, the ability to use the oxygen that’s delivered, the ability to take it out, the ability to use it within the muscle cells to create energy using enzyme systems is what is really important in your fitness.

You can go and put a long slow stimulus on the muscle and it will cause the enzyme system to up-regulate and do more, produce more energy; or you can go and do hard, intense exercise for a short amount of time which pretty much gives the same stimulus as the long workout to that enzyme system. My friends at my former university, McMaster University, have done a lot of these interval training versus cardio training studies and they find that the fitness increases are the same between the two groups, those that do intervals and those that do long cardio but the interval people are done in like six minutes of exercise per week.

They’re basically just getting the same adaptations and they’re only training three times per week for a couple of minutes while the other people have to train a lot more to get the adaptation.

It’s all about that mindset of adaptation. That is what we’re doing in the gym. We are putting the stimulus on the body. Most people know that you break down muscle tissue and you end up with muscle soreness. What happens as your body goes in and repairs and does the adaptation so that in the future, you get fitter and stronger but also you are less likely to break down under the same stimulus. So you know if you go in, you preset to 10 bicep curls for the first time ever you’ll probably be sore.

The next time, you are less sore, the next time even less sore, and the next time after you’re probably not going to be sort at all because your body is adapting to that.

Now if you go in and you do another workout too soon, you don’t give your body enough time to adapt so you don’t get as strong and as fit. Worse, because you’re training in a damaged stated, you might have a greater increase in overuse injury over time. That’s why on my Facebook page today we have a lot of conversation about how often should I be training. Most people think because they’re going total body they’re not getting as wicked sore as they used to from six different chest exercises that therefore they can go and train more often or they can do interval training five or six days per week. But if you do that, you are going to end up with an overuse injury.

A lot of people hear the term “over-training” and people get so obsessed with over-training. Am I over-training? That’s not the main concern. Overuse injury is a much bigger concern than over-training is for most people because overuse injury, I like to think of it this way. It’s like you have the slightest thing wrong in your biomechanics or you have a slight injury and then you go and do 3,600 repetitions, which is what you would do if you were going and running for a long time, 3,600 repetitions of the same movement, it’s just like putting a magnifying glass under the sun to fry the little toy soldier.

You just intensify the stress and you get that overuse injury. It just gets worse and worse and worse. That’s why so many runners end up in the physiotherapy office, because they’re doing the same thing over and over and over again and they end up hurt. When you do less with interval training, you get less overuse and when you train properly with the right amount of brakes, you get the recovery that you need it.

So it’s really an art and science. Like you do a lot of great programming and you know exactly with experience that you’ve come up to figure exactly how often someone should be training and if they go in and do more training, there’s just the diminishing return. If you go and do five sets of bicep curls, is that going to be 20% better than four sets of bicep curls? Of course not. If you do one set, one really great set, it’s probably going to be 75% of the results if you did three sets.

So when people are stressed for time, they know that they can still get an adaptation by doing one quality set. That one quality set is probably the most important thing and then everything else on top of that is additive but not exponentially additive or anything like that. To a point, it just becomes not helpful at all. If you did 12 sets of bicep curls, it would probably be worse than if you did 4 sets because you just have so much muscle damage. Now you have an injury. You wouldn’t have the stimulus; you’d have an injury to recover from. It’s all this really great mystical balance of training intensity, frequency, and volume.

Tyler: Yeah. That’s fantastic. So Craig, you mentioned a lot about movement there and variation in movement. As you know, I’m a huge fan of including the nervous system in adaptation and focusing on movement progressions as well. You also mentioned starting people out with the basic movement patterns. So what are those basic movement patterns in your eyes?

Craig: Well, for someone who’s really, really, really basic, like I’m thinking back to my days when I had a 300-pound lawyer and his basic movement patterns because he was overweight, unfit, and hadn’t done exercise in a long time, were such as ab stability, like planks, and learning how to contract his glute muscles, doing hip extensions, so going all the way back to that and then doing wall slides and getting shoulder mobility. That’s like the like the lowest of the low. I don’t want to say it like that but that’s the absolute beginner.

Then we try and get them into a squatting motion. I like do circuits of big five, which is a squatting motion and then a push, a pull, single leg exercise, and then a total body ab exercise. Those aren’t necessarily the movement patterns but those are the exercise sequences that I use to cover most of the important movement patterns. A great source for movement patterns is The New Rules of Lifting Volume2 because he’s changed—Alwyn Cosgrove wrote that book—it from The New Rules, the original, which included a lot of twisting which he’s taken out based on some of Dr. Stuart McGill’s research on avoiding twisting type movements.

So really it’s being able to lunge properly, being able to do push-ups properly with your scapula in the right position, being able to do rowing type exercises properly and pull down or pull up type exercises properly with proper shoulder mobility and movement, and then being able to stabilize your torso and move your upper back but not necessarily move your lower back in a lot of exercises like the chop or something like that. Those are the movement patterns we’re looking to get but most importantly to be able to see people controlling their bodies and really being able to hold the proper positions.

Tyler: Absolutely. Those are great. Well let’s take it on the flipside. Let’s say you’re training an athlete now and you’re somebody, you really want to get extremely fit or somebody who just wants to get in fantastic physical shape, what progressions do you push them towards then?
Craig: Honestly I’m just going to get them strong. For like a speed and power athlete, just get them strong with the basics and then whoever helps them get their speed or their sports training does their sports training. Because I’m not a big “I can really make a guy fast in the gym with this weird exercise” or anything. I just think that if you’re strong, like going back to what they do with Ben Johnson. You just had him do squats and bench press and then made him fast on the track. That’s all they did. They didn’t do anything super bizarre or any Russian type of training or any loaded hip flexion or anything. They just made him strong in his big butt.

There’s no magic in a weight room. I’ve seen all types or crazy golf programs where they do it standing on this and stuff and like in hockey. This one guy who’s a famous exercise guy—he’s not a famous exercise guy but it’ s a famous photo that everyone makes fun off because he’d never played hockey before and he thought that if he had the hockey player squat on a Swiss ball, it would make them better skaters, because he had no clue. He was an ignorant guy and so there’s a photo of him squatting 135 pounds on a Swiss ball like that’s going to do you any good on anything other than get made fun of on the internet.

I’m not into that type of training. It’s just basic strength. Those big five exercises would go for pro-athlete that I’d work for as well and then it all comes down to making sure that he’s not going to get injured and that he’s going to have some individual aspects that we’re going to help, maybe rehab or maybe he just needs extra shoulder protection so we avoid some types of exercises. Then he goes and he does his sports training. He does his specific training and I’m just a general training guy. That’s me. Maybe I’m just too simple but that’s how I work with the elite guys. I don’t work with many elite guys anymore but I used to actually be into training candidates of the rugby team of all sports and we worked with those guys on the basics.

Tyler: That’s fantastic. I asked a mentor of mine years ago when I started training a pro surfer where I lived and I asked him about all the specific training that I could do to help a surfer. He was training Maria Sharapova at the time. He’s like deadlifts, Turkish get-ups, core stability, and some sort of sprint. He was like he can surf. That’s how they’ll learn how to surf. I think that shows your wisdom, Craig, in that answer because so many people who are making up these insane programs and these insane exercises are the ones who don’t really understand that you specifically adapt to what it is you do so you can’t really train a sport outside of that sport. I really appreciate you sharing that wisdom with us.Now, Craig, one of the things that you’re well known for is your transformations contests. Do you have a number on how many people you’ve helped transform so far?

Craig: I haven’t counted it up but put it this way: we have done 17 contests. We just finished. The voting’s on right now. We have four categories and then first, second, and third in each then usually we have a bunch of people that don’t win a place. So at the very least, we’ve had almost 80 winners in our contests plus we have all those other people, plus we have all those people that just sent in written testimonials with no pictures. I’ve been doing this since 2003 so we have a lot of people that have gone through my program or just read something in Men’s Health and stuff like that but unfortunately I haven’t had a good way of keeping track of it. But it’s a few people.

Tyler: Yeah. It’s great. It sounds like it’s well over thousand people. One of the questions I wanted to ask you, Craig, is being someone who’s looked through the experiences, the journeys that these people have taken, I’m sure you learned a lot more than just exercise science and physiology. Maybe you could share with us some of your nuggets of wisdom from these people, how they succeeded in transforming their bodies. Maybe we could start with something a little bit more simple and superficial like nutrition and then we dig in just a little bit to mindset before we finish the call.

Craig: Okay. All right, because it’s all mindset. There are five pillars of transformation that people have to have. If they have that, they can change anything in their lives. We’ll get to that in a second but the nutrition stuff, any diet works. I’m a guy who believes that any diet works. You can find a success story on anything. What you need to do is find the right diet for your schedule and your personality. Most people don’t really talk about that stuff but just because I’ve seen so many people, why is this one person using Weight Watchers so successfully while this other person is using Eat. Stop. Eat. so successfully or some type of fasting program so successfully?

I will say this. In my transformation contests, Eat. Stop. Eat. is the most popular among the winners. It just really seems to resonate with my audience and my audience tends to be heartland of America type of people, a lot of people from Wisconsin, the Midwest, and that type of thing, that win my contest. So what we find is you’ve got to try all these things. You don’t give them two or three weeks and then say nah, this one’s not fitting me or yeah, I like this one. I’m not hungry or the fasting suits me because I get so much done and it really just suits my lifestyle and I’m happy with it so I’m going to go with this.

So I recommend that for nutrition, people just need to try things. I know that they’re frustrated because there’s not one diet that works and there are all these experts disagreeing on everything but I can’t think of any industry in the entire world where all the experts agree on something. People don’t agree on the definition of things in the bible so why would anybody agree on everything diet-related. People need to understand that there’s never going to be one clear answer. You just have to try and figure out what works for you. Just think of what’s going to suit my schedule best and what’s my personality? Am I a type A person who really loves to eat according to an alarm clock? That’s fine. If that’s you, go for it. Or am I so busy that I skip breakfast most of the time so I need to find a diet that lets me skip breakfast? Then you’re probably one of those 16/8 fast type people and that’s going to work perfect for you. Your life is going to be so much better because of it, because you think less about dieting.

Tyler: I think that’s brilliant, Craig, that you’ve just got to find something that works really well for you, especially the schedule part because people make excuses where their diet is not fitting within their schedule. You guys who are listening to this right now, go back a few calls. We had Brad Pilon on a call. He is the author of Eat. Stop. Eat. and there’s some great information on that call about how you can get started with that program. Then go even further back, we have Abel James and Sean Croxton, some other great nutrition experts on the call. You guys can check those out and decide what works for you.

Let’s dig into the mindset, like you just mentioned, and the five pillars you were talking about.

Craig: Sure. Over the years, what I’ve realized is you can’t have a physical transformation without a mental transformation. It’s just impossible to do so. What we’ve found among the winners is that there are five pillars of success and if you have all five of them in place your success is ensured. If you’re missing one of them, it’s going to be much more difficult. If you only have one or two of them, you’re pretty much guaranteed to fail.
The first one I start with is planning and preparation. You need to better plan and prepare for your transformation or whatever you’re changing, any habit change, better than ever before. That means coming up with every obstacle that could be in your way and two solutions for every obstacle. If you have two solutions for every obstacle, that means you have Plan A ad Plan B, usually that’s enough to get you through.

Now after planning and preparation, then it’s social support, meaning you need to tell the people that are going to positive about your transformation so that they can support you when you’re going through the tough times. The third thing is public accountability, preferably to a professional. The research from Stanford University says people that are accountable to professionals, whether it’s a doctor, a trainer, or a nutritionist, are more successful than people that are accountable to somebody who is not a professional. But people who are accountable to anybody, meaning you share it with strangers on the internet and say, “Hey, you’ve got to hold me accountable to this” are more successful.

I know it because I’m doing this with my clients as well. I found that, if there any trainers listening, every time they run a transformation contest, they should do a transformation themselves even if that has nothing to do with fitness. You might say okay, I’m going to do a personal transformation of being better with my money while you guys do a transformation on losing fat, and you share and use them for accountability. They’ll get more into it. You’ll be more into it. Everyone will be more into it. Everyone’s going to win with this approach. I learned that this year. It’s probably one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year.

So when you tell somebody something, even if it’s a stranger on the internet, you’re less likely to go back on that promise. There have been several times in my personal transformation. Spending less money was one of my things and there were several times when I wanted to go and buy a few books on Amazon but I was reminded of the promise that I made to these people, most of whom I’ve never met on my membership site, and I stuck to it. So accountability, preferably to a professional, but accountability to anybody and that goes hand in hand with social support.

The fourth one is an incentive. You can have a positive or a negative incentive. You need to reinforce yourself with reward so maybe at the end of the contest, you get rewarded for something or there’s an opportunity for you to win a prize or if you don’t stick to it then you lose out on something. That’s another way of having an incentive. The incentive is for you to do well so that you don’t get punished. Then finally the deadline and the deadline comes with a capital T and a capital D, so The Deadline because it’s one of the most important factors, if not the most important factor in this. Without a deadline, you’ll just extend and extend and extend. You’ll procrastinate getting started. You’ll be less likely to stick to the resolutions that you’ve made even if you have that accountability because you obviously will say, “Well yeah, there’s tomorrow” then there’s no deadline for this. But if you have a deadline of 90 days, with 30 days, or 60 days or 4 weeks, or whatever, whatever it is, it’s really, really valuable. So that’s why I see people on fast start programs like 21 day, people can see the light at the end of tunnel already and so they’re willing to say, “I can do this for 21 days.” Almost anybody can do anything for 21 days so that deadline’s awesome.

90 days is what we do often in our transformation contests and we do see a lot of people drop out because 90 days is a long time so sometimes we’ll put in a six-week mini contest so that people at least get to the sixth week. Once they’ve made it to six weeks then they’re halfway there and they can see the light at the end of the tunnel, which has always been official. Having that deadline for anything, in business or in fitness, makes people really push hard at the end, like in a marathon. That is the fifth pillar.

You put them all together and you really have something very powerful there for changing literally any aspect of your life. One thing that I changed last year was I stopped swearing and I was able to do that in six days by using the pillars. People use this to change their lives. If you watch The Biggest Loser, they’ve got a deadline. They have all this stuff in place. It works. You see it in my transformation contest, your transformation contest, anybody’s. It works. If you’ve struggled before, the people that are listening, just go okay, I didn’t have these things. I’m going to do a little planning and preparation, put this all in place, and then boom! This is going be the time it’s finally going to work for you.

Tyler: Fantastic, Craig. You guys are going to have to rewind this thing. Pull out your pen and paper and start taking some notes on that last little bit because those are really some powerful gems there. Thank you so much for sharing that, Craig. Well, I really appreciate the time you had to come on the call. Where can people learn more about Craig Ballantyne? What have you got in the pipeline? Where can people learn how to follow these workout programs and transform themselves?

Craig: Probably the most important thing that I have coming out is Turbulence Training has been around for over ten years now. It was 2003, September, when I launched it so we’re celebrating our tenth anniversary with it this year and we’ll be releasing brand new follow along videos—I’m really excited about that—at

Then we also have follow along bodyweight-only workouts at People can always ask me more questions on my Facebook page at That’s where we do a daily Q &A and also lots of interaction, some great posts, some videos, and really cool stuff.

Tyler: Awesome, Craig. Well thank you so much again for your time. I really appreciate you coming on the call and sharing all those nuggets of wisdom with us.

Craig: Yeah, happy to help.

Tyler: Awesome, man. Thank you so much. That was a great interview. I really appreciate your time and fantastic information. I’m sure we can—

Craig: You had great questions, man, big questions.

Tyler: When are you launching the Turbulence Training 2.0 thing?

Craig: That’ll be September third.

Tyler: September third. I might use this to jump onto that one.

Craig: Okay.

Tyler: All right. I’ll keep that in mind. So third through the—

Craig: Probably fifth.

Tyler: Third to the fifth? Cool. Awesome.

Craig: Yeah. If that doesn’t work for you, just let me know. We’ll set something up some other time in September.

Tyler: No, I’ll jump on that one third to the fifth and if you’ll just send me an email of the contact stuff or throw me on your affiliate’s list and all, I’ll jump on there.

Craig: Sure. Sounds good, man. All right, thanks.

Tyler: Thanks, Craig. Have a good week. Bye.

Craig: Okay. Yup.


Craig Ballantyne, CTT
Certified Turbulence Trainer