• “Is Your Fat Loss Program on Track for Success?”
  • “Coach Profile: Sheldon Persad”
  • “The Overhead Squat – Balance & Flexibility Required”

Getting Your Fat Loss Program on Track

Now that the first two months of 2003 have came and went, its time to evaluate the results of all your hard work. Have you made the progress you set out to achieve this year? Are you on track to meet your New Year’s resolutions? If you are stuck, then please, please, re- evaluate your training and nutrition. Meet with a trainer or nutritionist and get professional advice. Check out a CB ATHLETICS manual. And in the meantime, read this article from the archives: www.cbathletics.com/issues/28.htm. Hopefully it will steer you in the right direction on your road to fat loss and better health.

Interview with Sheldon Persad of Personal Best

Sheldon Persad, BPE, CSCS, CPTN-CPT
Co-owner Personal Best Health & Performance Inc.
Strength and Conditioning Coach

CB: Sheldon, Thank you for the interview. Why don't you start by telling us a little bit about your current coaching commitments?

SP: The very first coaching job I was paid for was over 18 years ago and since that day I knew that I wanted to be a career coach and if lucky enough have coaching as my primary vocation as well. I’ve worked with over 700 marathoners, triathletes, duathletes, and athletes from several different team sports. I hope to still be coaching 20 + years from now.

CB: What is your educational background?

SP: I graduated from McMaster University, I hold a CSCS designation and I am a certified personal trainer. I am actually one of the co- founders of the Canadian Personal Trainers’ Network and as such teach, assess and certify personal trainers. I also teach the assessors of personal trainers and I am on the National Certification Committee. I am a course conductor for the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP), and through the NCCP I am certified in several different sports. I teach in the fitness leadership program at Seneca College, and the new Excelerate Speed Agility Quickness certification courses.

CB: Sheldon, I attended the Level 1 of the Excelerate program at your facility, and I have to say that it was very educational. The instruction was top-notch. It helped me re-design portions of my training sessions. What is your competitive background?

SP: Many moons ago I was a provincial champion in track and field and did compete in the US at the junior national level. I still play rugby and have been doing so for almost 20 years (high school, university, club and representative). However, I also coach with the rugby club I am a member of and realize that as a player there are far fewer games ahead of me as there are behind me. I also try to play (a form of) hockey once per week and really have not played a sport I did not enjoy.

CB: Let’s move on to your coaching. What is the range of your clientele?

SP: The full spectrum, male and female, national team athlete to novice athlete, young and old.

CB: What are your personal achievements as a coach?

SP: Being privileged enough to teach other coaches, trainers, athletes and my clients is something that I am very proud to do. Most recently, I have completed writing a book with a colleague for personal trainers.

CB: Excellent. I look forward to seeing your book. Please let the readers of cbathletics.com know when it is available. Can you describe a typical day of training and coaching that you will go through?

SP: For the most part I train clients one on one in the mornings then coach teams and team members in the afternoons. My day usually starts at 6:30 in the morning and ends at 7:00ish at night, except the nights that I teach at College which end a little later.

CB: Let’s talk about the team coaching a little more. How do you monitor your athletes as they push the upper limits of their performance?

SP: Completely individual, as you know Craig, one responsibility that we have is continuously assessing the needs of our athletes / clients. Nevertheless, I often use resting heart rate as one indication of overtraining

CB: What are your tips for the female athlete, and coaches and parents of female athletes for improving performance? Is it any different than for men?

SP: As with the above question, it is completely individual. I prefer NOT to assess an individual based only on gender but upon individual needs. The concern that I do have for females especially dealing with team athletes (i.e. rugby) is that testing standards are usually male dominated. When setting goals caution should be taken to ensure that objectives are not based on men’s results.

CB: What are your other goals as a coach?

SP: To continue to teach, to continue trying to discover methods of training, to write another book, to continue to grow my company, and to have another radio show.

CB: Sheldon, you are doing an excellent job so far. It’s great to hear what other professionals are doing in the field and you are setting a great example for other coaches and those just getting started in the field of health and performance. What is your coaching philosophy?

SP: Directly from an NCCP course I did some years ago, “My main objective is to teach healthy lifestyle skills to every individual who I coach / train.”

It is my wish that all have the skills beyond their sport(s) involvement to maintain healthy active lives free of injuries due to overtraining, overuse and / or improper training habits.

Second, my goal is to ensure the success of any team or program I am involved with through organized, well structured, and at times FUN training sessions. If the athletes enjoy themselves at training sessions, adherence will be high and game play / performance will continue to improve.

Third, I want to do my best to increase the individual skill level of all athletes I deal with. Some always need more attention then others, however I would like to motivate each person to play / compete to their optimum.

CB: Can you compare your training philosophies of then and now? Have they changed?

SP: The philosophies have not changed; nevertheless what occurs over time is (hopefully) more improved ways of accomplishing the goals. To this end I have tried to learn from as many different people as possible. There are dozens of people – university professors, chiropractors, physiotherapists, and other coaches who I try to learn from.

CB: So what are some of the training techniques that you have found to be most valuable to the athlete?

SP: I am constantly trying to improve my needs analysis methods. At the moment I have an eight-step plan that has been working fairly well. I detail the method in articles on PT on the NET and also on our web site www.personalbest.ca

CB: During the Excelerate certification, you described sport as “chaos”. Would you like to elaborate on that description and its implications for athletes and training?

SP: A common mistake we all make as coaches / trainers is trying to take too much responsibility for our athlete’s / client’s goals. There are so many variables that we do not control, variables that no one can control. Sport as chaos suggests the unpredictability of occurrences. At times we simply must accept what happens. The implications for training are trying, as difficult as it may seem, to plan for the unexpected. For example, teaching a triathlete how to change a flat tire. Also, for example, teaching an athlete to value process goals as opposed to only outcome goals.

CB: Excellent advice. Let’s turn to your specialty – endurance sports. Could you list the 3 top tips you could give to a beginner runner?


      Do not set goals (races, times, etc) based on what training partners or friends are doing.
      At times, train at the speed you want to race.
      Listen to your body – often the best training is rest!

CB: Can you elaborate on the use of strength training for a runner? You had mentioned to me the importance of upper body strength in hill climbs.

SP: Runners should not underestimate the value of having a strong upper body. Your legs will do whatever your arms dictate. This means that the best strength program for a runner is one that incorporates upper and lower body exercises. Powerful arm drive will aid powerful leg turn over especially when climbing hills.

CB: And how do you prevent running injuries?

SP: CROSS TRAINING – utilizing as many different modes of activity as possible (that the athlete enjoys) to train the central system. Water running is an excellent alternative (with a belt or jacket) for the healthy runner. Too often water running is prescribed as a method of rehab for the injured runner. Why not implement water-running sessions on a regular basis?

CB: And finally, how do you coach a runner on re-fueling and nutrition?

SP: This depends upon volume of training, mileage and intensity. A common mistake here for the novice runner is trying a new fluid replacement drink for the first time during a race. If you plan on using a drink during a race, train using it. If you are uncertain of the contents of a drink supplied during a race, stay away from it and bring your own. Best advise here (because I am not nor profess to be an expert on nutrition) is to seek advice from a specialist.

CB: What do you recommend for someone who is interested in doing a mini- triathlon?

SP: Try and find group training sessions in your area. Having a coach correct your form (especially in the water) is invaluable.

CB: Thanks Sheldon. Do you want to leave a contact email or phone number?

SP: sheldon@personalbest.ca - www.personalbest.ca

Introducing the Overhead Squat

This is a great exercise for athletes. The overhead squat will help your balance and flexibility. It is not an exercise to be used to improve your max squat or bench press.

According to one author, “The overhead squat requires total concentration, total lockout and perfect positions. There is no cheating; one can’t squirm, roll the knees or hips, or let other body parts help kick in. It builds ‘Dad Strength’.” – but please don’t use your child as the resistance in this exercise.

In preparation for overhead squats, you will need to adequately warm-up the shoulder area. Holding a broomstick in this position will be a relatively novel task for the majority of lifters and you may find it uncomfortable. However, you must be strong and flexible with this hold position because according to one lifter, “As a beginner starts to squat down, the bar tends to float forward.” Don’t let the broomstick move forward because this will completely ruin your balance.


Dr. Mel Siff recommends using a broomstick to begin learning the overhead squat – just like our model Emily is doing here.

Using a broomstick will allow you to practice and to increase the depth of your squat while maintaining an extended elbow position. If you can only do a half-squat, then do that and hold yourself in the bottom position for a couple of seconds while maintaining perfect position and balance. Make a gradual progression at each training session. The overhead squat is a nice exercise to include in your warm-up on a regular basis. You will make great strides in flexibility and balance.

When you begin, it is unlikely that you will be able to squat deeply while holding the proper “extended arm” position. This is due to a lack of flexibility in joints of the lower limbs and the shoulders. Dr. Siff warns that it is very important “to choose a hand spacing which suits you, because too narrow a spacing will be very stressful on the shoulders and will severely limit the depth to which you will be able to squat.”

Renegade Coach John Davies recommends using a “snatch grip” – the distance between your elbows when your arms are parallel to the floor.

Furthermore, according to Dr. Siff, “It is essential that you NEVER bend or relax the arms while overhead squatting. This means always using light resistance. If you never advance beyond a broomstick, don’t worry. It will still help you with overall balance and flexibility. Dr. Siff also recommends against doing overhead squats with dumbbells.

    Some final tips:
  • Warm-up your shoulder joint with light dumbbell lateral raises and light shoulder presses before your first set of overhead squats.
  • To start, practice overhead squatting with a broomstick.
  • Have a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) analyze your form.
  • Don’t advance to a barbell unless a Strength Coach agrees you are using perfect form.
  • Determine your optimal posture in this exercise.
  • Use multiple sets of only 2-3 repetitions to practice.
  • Dr. Mel Siff recommends against using more than 5 reps per set because he feels this is unnecessarily stressful for the joints of the upper limbs.
  • If you cannot move into a very low squat position, then go as far as you can, but whatever you do, never allow the elbows to unlock.
  • Your shoulder flexibility and balance will be challenged. If you have flexibility or balance problems, be patient, practice, and it will come in time.
    Exercise description:
  • Stand with your feet shoulder width-apart.
  • Hold the broomstick with a snatch grip over your head.
  • Snatch grip – the distance between your elbows when your arms are parallel to the floor. Your body will form a “Y” position – see our photos.
  • Lock your elbows. You may need to push your hands out even further to do this – and bring your shoulder blades together.
  • Push outward and back on the bar. Concentrate on pushing the bar to a position slightly behind the head, not in front of the head – see our photos.
  • Once you've found this lockout position, find a visual focal point on the wall slightly overhead and squat down.
  • Keep a tight abdominal core throughout the entire movement.
  • With your back arched, chest out, and arms raised, squat down slowly by pushing your hips back.
  • To practice, go only as far as a half- or quarter-squat.
  • Pause for a 3-count while holding your balance and posture.
  • Reverse the movement and stand up.


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