Tales from the Trenches: Private Facility Personal Training with Coach Grayson

Tales from the Trenches: Private Facility Personal Training with Coach Grayson

By Chris Grayson
February 16, 2018

The advantages of quantifying velocity and effort for athletic performance are clear, but the benefits that gym-based athlete monitoring concepts bring to personal training programs are equally as impactful. We sat down with Chris Grayson, owner of the Urban Strength Institute in Chicago, to discuss how he has incorporated PUSH into his daily training environment, reaping the benefits of wearable technology and electronically tracking client progress, taking his facility to the next level.

How have your clients reacted to the introduction of the PUSH Band to their training?

“Right off the bat, my clients were a lot more engaged. They always want to see their metrics and being able to clearly see their progress motivates them to continually improve. We mostly look at velocity - whether or not they’re hitting the right velocity for our targeted outcome, and what their velocity loss is after a set. Being able to give feedback by showing their metrics at any point in the session is a big value add for both the client and myself.”

“When you’re explaining concepts like velocity and power, or showing them measured results, it sets you apart from other trainers and gives clients confidence in your knowledge as a coach. Client perception is also very important in our industry. Automatically collecting and storing training data through the PUSH Portal software brings state-of-the-art efficiency and legitimacy to my program, as well as the added benefit of going paperless."

"By staying up-to-date and investing back into your business, it shows you take pride in your work and that you are always looking to improve. Clients perceive the service you provide to be better than the gym down the street when you invest more into helping them as a client. I don’t know any other gyms in my area using this type of technology, so it separates me from my local competition.”

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Video 1 (Top): Example of power training with the PUSH Band.

How has your training process been affected by PUSH?

“Collecting the basic training data and deviations from the prescribed workout (load, reps, sets) with a phone or tablet instead of pen and paper is a big win and welcome change at our facility. It gives our gym a modern ‘high tech’ feel which my clients love. Even better, I no longer have to manually enter data by hand into a spreadsheet after every workout to get my session totals and volume load, because it’s already done and presented nicely for me.”

“My daily routine hasn’t changed much, although it’s more engaging PUSH Band and set up on our iPads. Generally, I don’t have to move the iPads to follow the clients, the bluetooth signal reaches throughout our gym."

"To start a session, I’m having clients (that are qualified) perform a jump squat after a warm up to see how they are performing on the given day. I use Dan Baker’s recommended range of a plus/minus 2% change from their average score (Video 2). From there I determine if there will be a volume change for the day, adjusting up or down as necessary. During the workout, we use the PUSH band to track all of the metrics that are relevant to the desired training outcome. I often show the clients their post-set data in order to reinforce my coaching cues, as you can easily see the outcome of certain cues show up in the velocity or power data”

Video 2: Dan Baker explains how to monitor daily readiness to train with a zero load jump squat. 

“After the workout, we grade the perceived exertion (RPE) of the training session directly into the Push iOS app. All of the data flows directly from the app to online Portal software, where I can review and manage the data. Using PUSH, I don’t have to go back to my computer with my pen and paper notes to manually enter the data into a spreadsheet. This automation saves me a massive amount of time, which I can instead spend on coaching, business improvement, or personal growth.”

What is your favorite application using the PUSH Band?

“That’s a tough one. I’d say my favorite part of it for me right now is when we perform a strength assessment to establish a baseline, and re-test after 8 weeks of training to see the client improvements. This allows me to assess how my intervention performed, and tweak the program based off of the results and course correct if necessary."

"I use the 1RM predictions from the load-velocity relationship. Testing for a true 1RM can take quite long time, and given that I have limited time with my clients. Also, given some of my client populations, it sometimes is not worth the risk of taking them to max effort/intensity. Having someone with a low training age I prefer staying at lighter loads and using the regression to estimate their values. Also, when you re-test, seeing an increase in velocities during those exercises is another metric I can show the clients their improvement in, so I am not just stuck with using the amount of load lifted as a metric. “

“I’ve also been able to identify how much volume to give an athlete or client on a given day based on their velocity drop-off and output after repeated efforts. This hasn’t always been possible or as easy to identify, but with the PUSH Band I can now see the percentage of velocity lost across a set. Even further, I’m experimenting with various rep protocols (using the same volume load) to see what produces the most post-activation potentiation and better overall output. For example, comparing a 5,3,1,5,3,1 wave load protocol against a 1,3,5,1,3,5 protocol. The same loads are used and I’m comparing the velocity scores of each to see which wave has the better end result.

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Figure 1 (Top): PUSH Portal graphical report of velocity data from max effort wave loading protocol mini-experiment. Table 1 (Bottom): Corresponding table of data comparing the average velocities across the wave loading protocols.

Figure 1 (Top): PUSH Portal graphical report of velocity data from max effort wave loading protocol mini-experiment. Table 1 (Bottom): Corresponding table of data comparing the average velocities across the wave loading protocols.

“Another great aspect of the PUSH portal is the automatic calculations and reporting of volume load (weight X sets X reps). This is very helpful because you can see what an athlete or clients total volume load is, and look at trends over time to answer questions and determine things such as ‘what amount is necessary to either maintain or gain strength or size?’. For instance, if an athlete is used to lifting a total tonnage of 80,000 lbs within a 3-week mesocycle and there’s a reduction in tonnage to 63,000 lbs in the next 3-week cycle, it may be responsible for any strength or performance losses resulting at the end of the cycle. Perhaps getting their volume load back up to 80,000 lbs will get their strength levels back up to where they were. I’m oversimplifying to a degree here because there are many other things that could be responsible such as exercise selection or lifestyle factors, but this is very useful data to look at. It’s up to you as the coach to interpret the data and makes decisions based on your goals.”

Figure 2: Volume load report for an individuals training sessions over a 2-week block taken from the PUSH portal software.

Figure 2: Volume load report for an individuals training sessions over a 2-week block taken from the PUSH portal software.

“PUSH is really helping me deliver a high-quality product to my clients. It allows me to easily quantify training methods that wouldn’t have been as practical or accurate by just observing with a naked eye. I’ve educated my clients on a new set of metrics for assessment and prescription, that aren't just the traditional load, sets, reps, tempo, and rest intervals. It brings an element of science, they see me conducting mini-experiments and think of me as a scientist, and it makes me feel like one too. That’s one of the biggest reasons why I fell in love with training people: trying to solve a puzzle by using the scientific method in real-world environments."


Chris Grayson's passion for exercise and training began while wrestling in high school, but really grew afterwards when he enlisted in the Marines. After leaving the Marines in 1998, Chris harnessed his love of fitness and began helping others reach their own fitness goals. By using his understanding of the value of hard work and determination from his time in the military, he took a passion for strength training and has turned it into a thriving business based on the foundations of continuous learning and personal improvement. Now, Chris is training everyone on the spectrum, from firefighters and police officers to mixed-martial artists to the everyday person looking for improved health and physique. His training facility, the Urban Strength Institute, is located in Chicago, IL, USA.