Head of Education and King of pain-free training, you may already know Ash Grossman for his funny looking exercises and his army of “Silly lungers”. But when he’s not busy helping gym-goers overcome injuries and fixing everyone’s niggles, Ash is creating the very best syllabus to keep our VPTs heads, shoulders (and quads) above the rest. Our very own fitness educator sat down with resident blogger Kat to give an inside scoop on his life as a personal trainer…
How did you get into fitness and what made you decide to become a PT?
I took a very roundabout route into fitness. I actually worked as a management consultant for about 6 years at several big banks, Vodafone and Shell. I’ve always had a really strong passion for sports and training throughout school and uni.
I had a recurring neck and shoulder injury that I sustained when I was 14 playing rugby. I’d see physios, osteos, chiropractors…they’d give me some treatment and whatever exercises they gave me I would do them diligently, but it would keep reoccurring. I just became really frustrated with it.
While I was doing my management consulting and falling out of love with it, I realized that there are some schools of thought about how to address injuries like mine. I started reading up about CrossFit and functional training and realized that there was information available that might be the answer to sorting out my shoulder. After a few years, I decided that I was ready to get out of management consultancy for good. I became a qualified PT, got some work experience at a CrossFit gym, and got some movement specialist certifications. After a year, I was making enough money to go full time.
I decided to become a PT because I realized not many people were bridging the gap between physio and performance training, where people were cleared from physio but had these niggles and recurring injuries which just never got sorted. It was more of a business idea than necessarily “I want to be a PT for the rest of my life.” I wanted to solve that problem for myself and then realized I could solve it for other people.
When did you become Head of Education at Gymbox and what does that job involve?
I became head of education in 2019. The job involved coming up with a syllabus which would bring up the standard of Gymbox PTs to be next level compared to other standard PTs in a typical gym.
At Gymbox we’re known for having high quality PTs who are all very good at their jobs and we want to maintain and build on that reputation. I was flattered to be asked by Tom Atkinson and David Cooper to do the job. We discussed what skills make a PT really good and what would take them to be a level above the competition, both so that our members get the best but also so that our personal trainers can run a more successful business.
I’ve created a syllabus of things to teach the trainers. Everything from how to really understand a client’s goal to structuring programs. We also dig quite deep on anatomy and physiology and the principles of training. We do some assessments on spotting where people might have imbalances and look at how to correct them so that we can keep all of our clients fit and healthy and find the most direct route to get them the results they are looking for.
Having designed the syllabus for the course, I now deliver a two-day seminar/workshop for all the new PTs every month. It’s really fun! I love it because the recruitment process is great for selecting really motivated, curious and passionate trainers. It’s always really fun to discuss the ins-and-outs of training and compare and contrast styles. We might have a high-level boxer with a high-level bodybuilder, a pole dancer, a CrossFitter and everything in between. Everyone can share their experiences.
You’ve worked with CrossFit Games athletes, elite Olympic weightlifters and pro rugby players - that’s an impressive resume! What are some of the things you’re most proud of?
I’ve been really lucky to have some awesome experiences working with the best of the best, including CrossFit games champions. But, and this is probably quite cheesy, I think the most satisfaction I get is being able to help people who are held back from training by pain or injury do what they love again.
I’ve had some really cool success stories. There was someone who had sixty hours of physiotherapy over 18 months to try and get over knee pain but they couldn’t squat or lunge. CrossFit was their passion and I got them back squatting and increasing their squat load. They’re absolutely made up that they can go and jump back into classes with all their friends again.
For me, that’s what I’m most proud of: being able to help people do the stuff that they love.
What are some of the most challenging parts of your job?
The honest answer is probably taking some down time, as ‘woe is me’ as that sounds!
Because I work in fitness and sport, what I work in is most people's passion or hobby and the thing they do outside of work. So the logistical challenge is that people want to train when they’re not at work, meaning you have to work contrarian hours as most people have to train around their 9-5 job or at lunch time. You’re having to work very antisocial hours and potentially weekends
Being able to create some separation between when you’re working and not working can be quite tough as a PT because your clients will be thinking about fitness all hours of the week. I think that’s something I’ve had to get better at as I’ve gotten more experienced as a trainer.
I think the most challenging thing about delivering the service itself is convincing people of the hard truths and going a little bit slower! Everyone wants everything immediately. We’re in the one click generation!
Also, it’s hard convincing some people that what you do outside of the gym is more important than what you do inside of the gym - so your nutrition, your sleep and recovery. These are huge parts of the puzzle. I think selling that part of the story and making people see that actually these things are just as important as good training can be difficult.
I’ve been told about your “silly lunges.” Could you please elaborate?!
With all the movement mechanics, biomechanics and techniques that I apply to help people improve their movement patterns and fix niggles in injuries, it involves designing some strange looking exercises. These might involve someone throwing one hand over their head and the other one round the corner as they do a rotating lunge. It looks silly!
People often go up to each other in the gym saying “do you work with Ash?” because they’re both doing really weird exercises which no one has ever seen before. They look totally ridiculous but it’s all for good reasons in that they are getting specific bone motions and their muscles are working in a certain way. This will ultimately lead to better performance in their normal training. You might be doing a strange lunge which will rebalance your squat so it will relieve knee pain, or something like that.
It’s quite funny, as I’ve worked with more and more people over the years the silly lunge army has been growing. It’s nice to see people taking some camaraderie out of it!
The Gymbox PTAcademy launched on the 28th June. What can prospective PTs expect when they enroll on the course?
My understanding is that it will be a comprehensive educational experience where personal trainers can level up their skills to be over and above the industry norm. They’ll get exposure to experts in several different styles of training who are industry leaders and thought leaders in their respective fields, whether that’s biomechanics, movement mechanics or Olympic weightlifting.
Eventually, there will be courses to cover all areas and interests in fitness so that PTs can offer a service to their clients that is top-drawer.
What will prospective PTs gain by training through the Gymbox PTAcademy that they won't get from anywhere else?
All the above and access to industry leaders who are currently practicing. I think it’s super important that the coaches delivering the educational material are actually operating in the field - they’re not just academics who are pushing theories. They have the academic background but have field-tested all their techniques and material so that it’s really applicable.