B: Amol Verma is one of the most patient, kind, warm, positive and forward-thinking guys that I know. We have met once per week since September 27, 2018, so over the span of 11 months, I have seen this man make huge progress with his training technique, mobility, balance and strength and his consistent commitment to training on his own outside our 60-minute once per week session together. I’m very proud of Amol and am moved by his patient and goal-focused approach to living the highest quality of life possible in many realms.
Thank you, Amol, for being here and for being a part of our life.
A: Thank you for saying all the stuff about me.
B: It’s true.
A: I’m filled up with gratitude. Yeah, thanks.
B: It’s my pleasure.
Amol Verma’s Initial Goals
B: So, I would like to go back in time to where we started with your goals. When you came to us in September of 2018, you shared with me that you wanted to strengthen your “weak body”. What’s your definition of “weak body”?
A: My definition of “weak” is when your day to day is leading to physical pain or some form of misery that your body puts you through. If your body isn’t up to your day to day, then your body is weak. You could be a lumberjack and be weak because you are not strong enough for your job. Or you could be like a computer programmer who sits at his desk all day but could still be very strong because you are fit enough that you don’t let the sitting all day affect you.
B: Very cool. Did you feel like you were weak when you came here to train with me?
A: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I experienced a couple of bad spells with my back because I am that computer programmer I just talked about. There was one episode where I couldn’t get out of bed. I had to wait there for about an hour and then somehow made my way to the hospital to get some painkillers. I had that happening a lot.
B: It was not only in your neck but also in your back?
A: That was like two years ago. And yeah, I had some problems with my neck, too. All of that is kind of gone now. (smiling)
B: That’s beautiful. You mentioned about your back being better a couple of weeks ago and I was like, “Oh this is great!” And that is from your training. You are moving your body, pushing certain muscles that you haven’t moved like that in a long time. That’s awesome! Where would you say that your body has become strongest?
A: It’s a toss-up between my back and my lower body because we have done a lot of lower body work like squats and stuff. And in my lower body, I can especially feel it in my day to day because I have incorporated those basic motions into my actions. So when I want to pick up something, I won’t just bend my back. I will squat down to get it. While bending forward while washing my hands, I will assume something like a deadlift posture – bending only at the hips – so I can feel a change in my lower body. Just in terms of Quality of Life increase, I would say it would be my back. I had a bad episode two years ago, but that had always been there for 6-7 years. And that’s gone now. I don’t have back pain anymore. So I think that’s the spot that got the strongest.
B: Awesome. That’s great. And the way you approached it is perfect – build the legs as the legs support the back – the legs and the back are the biggest muscles in the body. Awesome. Thank you. You also talked about C5 & C6 (Cervical vertebrae) pain. Is that any better?
A: Well, I haven’t had any neck pain since then.
B: You haven’t talked about it (recently), so when I look back at this (the initial problems that he wanted to fix/heal), I thought, “That’s right! You haven’t mentioned anything about neck pain lately.”
A: Yeah, I think that (the neck pain) started right before I started training with you. Or it might have been a few weeks into it, I started getting neck pain. Yeah, that’s not a problem now.
B: That’s good. One thing we were working on and still working on is ankle mobility. Would you say that it has improved?
A: It’s hard to tell. We did see improvements in how much I can squat, but at the same time, we were increasing weight, too. Bearing more weight always pushes you more (gravity) and it feels that you are becoming more mobile, so I can’t tell if it’s the weight that I am lifting or if it’s an actual increase in mobility.
B: OK, cool. I would like to talk about the obstacles – these were your goals – that came up in our initial conversation (during our first meeting on September 27, 2018).
Amol’s Initial Obstacles
- If it’s not fun I won’t do it – I won’t have the motivation to do it.
B: Has it been fun?
A: Yeah, yeah. I meant specifically for homework. If there is any exercise that I have to do, if it’s not fun, but if I have you around to make me do it, that’s the motivation to do it.
B: OK, I got it.
A: And if it’s homework that I’m doing at home, if it’s too much of a bother to do it and if it doesn’t feel good enough, then I am not going to end up doing it. I have very little will-power.
B: I don’t know about that.
A: I’m smart. I’m not strong-willed. (smiling)
B: OK, cool. This was your next obstacle:
- Without accountability, it’s challenging for me to follow through.
B: Amol, please answer with absolute honesty. Don’t be a nice guy just because there is a camera on us, OK?
B: OK, regarding accountability, did I give you accountability throughout this process?
A: I would say that you were a bit soft on me.
B: OK, especially where?
A: You could have chewed me out a bit sometimes. You passed on some opportunities to do that. But just working with a trainer is a large amount of accountability, so that definitely did help.
B: Good. Your next obstacle was:
- Too much information out there to know where to start.
B: Do you feel clearer about your path now?
A: Oh, definitely. Yeah.
My View of Amol’s Progress
B: So this is my view of you. I was really impressed with your Stick-to-itiveness (stuttering/laughing) in regard to focusing on one exercise at a time. I witnessed you deliberately focusing on one thing for a long time. You are the only client I have ever had that has approached training like this. You’re awesome! Things like foam rolling, which most clients don’t like at all, you have constantly done. It’s painful sometimes, right?
A: I do it every time I work out.
B: You do. And we worked on Ankle mobility stuff for a long time.
B: Squats! There’s a whole list of squats that we worked on. First, we did Wall Squats over a 51cm box. The box in the video below is at about 31cm.
A: Oh yeah! I forgot about those. Wall squats, yes, and we were doing Box Squats.
B: Yes, Heel Elevated Goblet Box Squats) with mini-band because you had valgus (knee cave).
A: Oh yeah, we had the band (mini band), too. I forgot that.
B: Right? So the step goes out (his ankle mobility improved, so we didn’t need the step to lift his heels up to squat properly, so we eliminated it), the band goes out (we eliminate it), we are getting rid of these things, we are going naked (not literally – just a joke). Then we did squats without the box. And then instead of the Goblet Squat, we transitioned into the Front Squat (video below) because the weight was getting quite heavy in front (too intense on the arms and Amol wanted to focus mainly on the legs).
Then we transitioned into Barbell Front Squats using a cross grip, as that worked best for Amol,
and then back squats.
So, it’s interesting. We started with 4kg (9lbs). The first weight that you held for Squats was a 4kg kettlebell. Now you are doing a 5 by 5 training approach (basically 5 sets of 5 reps with a rest period of 2-minutes between sets. 5 reps is approximately 87% of the weight a person can do for a one-rep max, so relatively heavy weight is used. Amol wanted strength improvements over aesthetic benefits, so I decided that the 5 by 5 approach would serve him very well) What weight are you are using on Squats now?
A: 97.5kg (smiling)
B: 97.5kg (gives Amol a high-five). So within 11 months, you have increased your strength on Squats by 93.5kg (206lbs). Awesome! And you are consistently getting stronger, no doubt?
A: Yeah, every time I complete my 25 reps (5 by 5 = 25 total) with good form, I increase by 2.5kg (5.5lbs) the next session.
B: So after that, we focused on Deadlifts. So once those Squats were “in” (meaning that he mastered then to a proficient level that we were both satisfied with) Deadlifts came in and we started quite high, like knee-high with two mats to keep a neutral spine.
A: Yeah, yeah, yeah, we always had those two mats doubled up.
B: We were aiming to keep a neutral spine and because Amol had some mobility issues in his hamstrings (they were tight), we needed to lift the barbell up so that he could keep a neutral spine during each rep. And little by little, within a surprising 3-months, you went from that high-position of 2 mats all the way down to the floor. So it took 3 full months to get your deadlift mobility to a level where you could pull from the floor.
The first day you came in, we used a wooden dowel to test your hip-hinge/deadlift proficiency. That dowel weighs about 1kg (2.2lbs). What is your 5 by 5 now on Deadlifts?
A: Last week, I lifted 85kg (187lbs). So that’s an 84kg (185lbs) increase in about 9 months!
B: You have really inspired me Amol Verma! I am doing heavy deadlifts once per week and up to this point, like you, I increase the weight by 2.5kg (5lbs) in the form of 2 x 1.25kg plates (see photo below) each time I complete all 25 reps – on the 5 by 5 protocol. But thanks to you, I am seriously thinking of increasing the weight by 1kg (2.2lbs) each time I complete all 25 reps, as I have 2 x 0.5kg (1.1lb) in my gym (see photo below). Most of the commercial gyms I have used in Tokyo don’t have these small 0.5kg plates.
I probably train about 50 weeks out of the year. And if each week, I can add 1kg (2.2lbs) to the bar, then in a year’s time, I have increased my Deadlift by 50kg ( 110lbs). If I could do that, I would be double-body weight, meaning that I would be lifting 2 times my body weight, this time next year. It’s really cool to think that way, having no rush. It’s a lifestyle about enjoying the journey. And increasing the weight by 1kg (2.2lbs) each week would kind of feel like nothing. If you had a bad day, you probably couldn’t do it, but otherwise, you would probably increase the weight virtually every week. I’m excited to put this approach into action!
Upper Body Focus
B: OK, now we are on to the upper body. We didn’t start working on upper body movements until July 2019. So that means we worked on mobility, squats, and deadlifts for 10 months. That’s impressive. That’s a true level of dedication to one thing at a time. Awesome. You Rock!!
A: Because we did Squats and Deadlifts for so long, I got used to them. We always had good form, so I never went into any bad form. And at some point, I started liking them enough that I wanted to do them even when I am on my own. Like I’ll be sitting at home on a Saturday and get kind of antsy and think, “I wanna work out.” That was never the case for me before we started training together.
B: That’s cool. Yeah. Do it right, man. Another thing to add to what you are saying is that when you work the lower body like that, say with an exercise like Deadlifts, the upper and lower back is really getting worked, as well as the grip. Even on Squats, your shoulders are getting worked, your core is getting worked. Another thing is testosterone. There is so much muscle in the legs, that when you train them intensely, it stimulates the entire body.
For the upper body, as well as the lower body, we used compound movements, which means using 2 or more joints, as in the elbow and the shoulder in the case of the upper body and the knee, hip, and ankle in the lower body. These compound movements use the most muscle, so they are most effective. We added movements such as Bench Presses, Overhead Presses, Rows, and Pull-downs.
A: Those are still compound movements, but Squats and Deadlifts involve a whole lot more, right?
B: Right, they do.
Focusing on the Details
A: And I think it’s worth spending the amount of time we spent on them just because they are so complex. We had something new to pick out, something new to talk about my form, just about every week. It takes that long.
B: It does. Squats tend to bring up a lot of fear for people – putting a heavy weight on one’s shoulders and bringing it down. Deadlifts can instill a fear of back injury, but on a Deadlift, you can just drop the weight to the ground, so it feels safer than squats for most people. It’s in the details: breathing, holding the breath (Valsalva maneuver), and being aware of angles.
We did Dips and Pushups for the upper body. And from all of these exercises we tried, you chose the exercises that you thought you would like to do on a three-day training program that you could take with you, that hits all the major muscles, so you can continue training during the two months you are in Canada.
A: That’s right.
Amol Verma on His Progress
B: Do you want to mention anything about your progress from your point of view?
A: Yeah, people say that they really want to work out. And I say to them, “If you don’t really want to work out, that’s fine. That’s totally fine. Find something that you actually like doing instead of forcing yourself to work out.” That’s one great reason to work with a trainer. You will learn to like it. And once you start liking it, it’s not work anymore and you just start doing it on your own. That’s the whole reason I started working with you because I knew I didn’t have the motivation to do it on my own. And now I’m at the point where I have the motivation to train with you and also without you. I think that’s really important and that has really worked for me with you. We’ve always done things in a way that I like them. If something felt weird, we moved away from it.
B: That’s right. You have always been very clear about what you like and what you don’t when I would offer suggestions and solutions to mobility and stability issues we were facing.
Amol’s Clarity as a Decisive Student
A: One thing that worked out really well when it comes to YOU, is that I give you a really tough time as a student.
B: Ha ha ha!
A: And you roll with it really well.
B: Oh, thank you.
A: And you have the humility to let me choose my own direction. I’ll say, “No, I don’t like what we are doing. I want to do something else.” And I rely on you as that source of knowledge. You have a lot of know-how and I can draw upon it. And you have no hesitation at all about me directing the show. About me saying, “No, show me five more upper body exercises. I don’t like these.” You always come up with more. That’s not only rare for trainers. I think that this trait is rare for teachers in general.
B: I am a Learner, man. I appreciate that you have chosen me as your trainer and I want to make sure that you like training. I know that someday we are all going to say goodbye to each other and if you take with you that love of training or just the wisdom that you gained from learning how to exercise properly, it was well worth it for me. In addition to that, you helped everyone else, all of my clients, because every time you pushed me to learn and grow, I raised my bar, and I was able to apply to other clients what I gained from helping you. It’s like this interview. Some people might watch it or read it and get some gems out of it, so Thank YOU, Amol.
A: You are welcome.
Amol’s Next Stage of Progress
B: OK, next goals! What would be your next stage of progress?
A: I am already at the point of working out on my own and I know how to proceed – how to incrementally increase everything. I still do need to come to you for training form. An example of that is today, I am going to have you check my form on Deadlifts and Squats to make sure that I have maintained my form over the time we have focused on learning upper body exercises. Goal-wise, the next thing I might do, after a couple of months of strength training, is to see if I want to focus more on becoming leaner. And you said that is easier than what we are doing right now.
B: Yeah, it is. In some ways. Temptation is hard. I mean temptation from the outside – social pressure is the toughest part. And when you get tired or stress builds up, it’s easy to go to unhealthy food or unconscious overeating for comfort. The actual “Doing” (sticking to a nutrition plan) is straightforward. In three months, you can completely transform your level of leanness.
A: So I may focus on that.
B: That would be great. And I’m sort of an expert on that – ha ha ha! I’m proof of it anyway (at the time of the interview I was very lean after doing a three-month only raw fruit diet).
B: I think there are smart ways to do it. And the thing is, you have to like it. That’s my job to show you how it can be really enjoyable, then it lasts with you for the rest of your life.
Amol’s Closing Words on Sustainable Goal Acquisition
B: I think you are a success, Amol. In fact, I know you are. I am certain of it. Could you share something from life or from training that you think would help others?
A: Sure. When you are trying to do something new, like training, where you are trying to acquire a habit, do it in a way that you can do it for the rest of your life. So when you are dieting, if you are cutting out all carbs and sugar, can you do that for 70 years? If you think you can keep it up, then yeah, do it that way. But don’t do things with the intent of short-term gain. Always look at it in terms of building habits, which will keep rolling forward. Their effect becomes bigger and bigger over time. Think of it in that way and don’t get impatient when it is slow-going at first.
B: The Master – he’s got that down. Amol Verma is Awesome. Thank you. That’s perfect. It’s been an absolute pleasure working with you, Amol.
A: Same here.
B: Thank you. You are a sweetheart, man.
A: Between you and me, we share a lot.
B: Yeah, you are part of my family, man. So please never be a stranger. I’m in your corner! Have fun in Canada! Alright, man. (they give each other a big hug and shake hands)