An Interview with Dean Somerset

One thing I love about our industry is when I start reading new material from a guy who I think “gets it.”

Dean Somerset is one of those people, and if you haven’t heard of him before, I wanted to put him in the spotlight today so you can learn a little bit more about him.

Plus, he’s Canadian and it’s Boxing Day, so it just kind of fits!

Dean, thanks a ton for making time to be with us here today. Could you tell my readers a little bit about yourself?

Mike, I have to say that after following a lot of what you’ve done over the years that it’s my definite honor to be here with you today. Thank you.

I work as an exercise physiologist in Edmonton, Alberta Canada, which means I’m used to watching really bad hockey and throw the occasional “eh” into conversation. I train out of a big box gym called World Health, where I’m also the Medical & Rehabilitation coordinator, running all the medical referrals into and out of the clubs to make sure the patients and medical professionals are happy with how we’re doing things.

I also run a large segment of our company’s continuing education program, and teach workshops a number of times a year to trainers at the 20 different locations we have in Edmonton and Calgary.

I work primarily with medical management and injury post-rehab clients, which I’m sure sounds just about as sexy as watching Gary Busey floss for half an hour, but it’s something I seem to be pretty good at. I can even get insurance companies to cover the cost of training in some situations (depending on the injuries or conditions of course).

On top of that, I write a kick-ass blog at, have written some articles for,, and also a couple informational products with some big names (like you!!).

Awesome man. Taking that a step further, how did you get started in the strength and conditioning field?

Like a lot of strength coaches and personal trainers, I was a competitive athlete in high school and university, but I was pretty bad.

Seriously, I sucked.

I spent more time in the physio’s office than in practice. As a result of finding a way to injure pretty much every part of my body, I began to take a shine to rehab, initially setting my sites on getting into physiotherapy. Along the way, I realized I wanted to work with people through the entire continuum of health, not just in the clinical side of things, so I got a degree in kinesiology and chased some of the clinical certifications that could help expand my scope of practice.

Well at least you’re honest about your performance!

One of the things my readers love to learn about is different people’s philosophies. Could you start by talking about who in particular has helped shaped your training philosophy?

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure I have a singular direct training philosophy, as I work with a lot of different situations. Seriously, I see some of the most jacked up of the jacked up people out there. Just the other day, my day looked like this:

6:00am –young guy with general low back pain, initially weighed 135 (is 6 foot 1) and is now 165 2 years later, trying to add more muscle and move pain-free

7:00am – competitive marathon runner with a combination of celiac’s disease, spinal degeneration, and sciatica who set three PR’s in marathons this year

8:00am – breast cancer survivor (1 year remission) who had a second and third site affected and was going through radiation on her neck and ribs

9:00am – double total knee replacement, systemic arthritis, heart condition

10:00am – hip arthritis, awaiting a replacement

12:00am – weight loss client

2:00pm – football player looking to gain some quickness after ACL reconstruction

3:00pm – senior executive with 6 knee surgeries for meniscus damage, 2 shoulder surgeries including acromial decompression, and 3 spinal decompression surgeries, looking to stay healthy and active

4:00pm – female ACL reconstruction and her friend, recovering from double mastectomy with pec/lat reconstruction from breast cancer

5:00pm – high blood pressure and high cholesterol, plus postural dysfunctions from being a dentist for 20 years

6:00pm – ultra-marathon runner with shin splints, IT band syndrome, and low back pain

That was just on Wednesday. This isn’t including the other 30 clients I have from medical sources at current time.

That being said, If I was to gravitate towards any training philosophy, it would probably be in line with one I have seen from guys like yourself, Joe Dowdell, Gray Cook, Bret Contreras, Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson, Shirley Sahrrman, Stu McGill, and even some used by guys like Paul Chek and Charles Poliquin.

Essentially, depending on the client, I’ll use whatever has been shown to work best, which typically will involve multiple thought processes.

I may even go for an approach popularized by McKenzie or the Australian method, whatever I use just has to work for that specific person. Additionally, a lot of it would be guided by what the referring medical professional recommends during collaboration. I guess you could say I’m a utilitarian when it comes to exercise philosophy.

Wow – you weren’t kidding about jacked-up clients!

Appease me here for a second, though – if you had to whittle your philosophy down to a few “big rocks,” what would they be?

Number One: Do no harm.

This means asking your client if they were sore from the previous workout, and then altering the workout if they were. There’s a level of soreness that comes with working out, but that soreness is in the muscles, and feels completely different from a soreness of damaging tissues. I could even use this for someone looking to pack on 20 pounds of muscle.

The value of an assessment comes from picking out what movement you shouldn’t do, and then not doing them. If someone comes in with crap-tastic scapular mechanics, I’m not getting them to overhead press until their movement quality improves with some corrective exercises, simply because I don’t want to screw up their shoulders.

Same goes with squats, lunges, deadlifts, and pretty much any exercise that could potentially cause damage if done incorrectly.

 Number Two: Listen to the client.

This means not only what they tell you, but the meaning of what they tell you.

You want to lose weight? Cool. What is that going to do for you, and are you actually committed enough to see this through?

If not, what do we need to work on to make it happen?

Simply throwing an overweight client into a meatgrinder of a workout is only going to make them sad and feel hopeless while also making you look like a jerk.

Number Three: Einstein may be wrong.

Some recent research coming out of the nanoparticle research facility in Bern, Switzerland (the place where the anti matter was made in “Angels and Demons” for those literary buffs. Yeah, it’s a real place) has shown that there are particles capable of traveling faster than the speed of light. This means that Einstein’s famous theory of relativity, which calculated the total potential energy of an object based on the speed of light being the max speed possible, is flawed.

If Einstein can be wrong, so can some of the top minds in our industry, so therefore any new research coming out or thought process being developed has to be taken with a grain of salt and not accepted entirely at face value.

I’m going to have to marinate on that Einstein bit for a second 🙂

You’ve obviously worked with quite a few people over the years, what are some of the things that the average trainee is almost universally screwing up?

Oooh, this is a hornets nest waiting to be kicked!

However, in all honesty I think that “screwing up” may be too harsh. Sure, there are some universal blunders that come from inexperience, like leaving 4-45 pound plates on one end of the bar while unracking the other, or like walking into the wrong changerooms (by “accident”), but most of it just comes down to learning more and allowing yourself to learn from mistakes.

However, one aspect of the industry I think is being overlooked is that this is still a service-based industry above all else, and when the perceived level of service delivery is less than desired, the client will go elsewhere.

We’ve all had bad service in a restaurant, and it made us want to judo chop the server in the throat as a result (maybe it’s just me).

Training should be no different.

By over-delivering on service and ensuring you are working for your clients and not the other way around, trainers will see their retention go through the roof. Sure, knowing the ins and outs of the alactic system is important, as is understanding the biomechanical implication of loading through your toes during a squat, but if you can’t deliver that information in an empowering and nurturing manner, the client will resent it and take their dollars elsewhere.

 Great point, and I agree whole-heartedly!

A few months ago, I reviewed your contributions to Muscle Imbalances Revealed 2.0, and I really enjoyed your presentation on fascia and self-myofascial release.

Could you give a brief overview of the presentation, and what some of the key points where there?

Those were some pretty fun topics to cover. In my entire degree, I learned probably less about fascia than I learned about playing Golden Tee in the campus bar. Seriously, I rocked that game like no one’s business.

Some of the key points to remember about fascia, which I talk about in more detail in the webinars, is that fascia is highly innervated and can contract and relax like smooth muscle, it’s subject to environmental stress far more than any other tissue (dehydration especially), and fascia needs its own types of warmup, training stimuli, and adaptation processes than muscle, which means we’re doing a lot of our SMR work completely incorrect based on the physiology of the receptors in the tissues .

I could go into more detail, but this post will already be closing in on epic status from the readers’ perspective, so I’ll just say you need to check out Muscle Imbalances Revealed Upper and MIR Lower to get the big picture

Fair enough. I know you also just released your own product – and first of all, congrats! I know how hard it is to take something from the “idea” stage and actually see it through to fruition.

What is your new product all about? And who would benefit from it?

Post Rehab Essentials is a 12-hour video series covering the basics of post-rehab for personal trainers. It covers the main functional anatomy of the shoulder, knee, hip and spine as well as some of the most common injuries seen in the average population. To top it off, I also include assessments to use with each area of the body, specific workouts to get the most bang for your buck when training specific injuries, and even a workbook that you can use directly with your clients.

This can also be for those fitness enthusiasts who have a lot of injuries of their own and want to get some info on what would be best to help them get stronger, train like an animal, and not wind up in the ER. Again.

As an added bonus, this product will be a one-time purchase, and any new updates will be automatically added for free. I already have a few more goodies to throw in over the Christmas break, so it’s going to be even MORE jam-packed with awesomeness.

This normally retails for $209, but for today seeing as how it’s Boxing Day in Canada, (December 26th) I’m going to give it away at a steep discount. It’s not $149, not even $129. For today and today only, I’m going to practically give this away for only $99.

Wow that is awesome! Hopefully some of you that are just sitting at work doing nothing will take advantage of that deal while it’s around!

Moving along, the term “post-rehab” scares a lot of people – specifically because it has the word rehab in it! Could you explain what you consider to be post-rehab? And why more trainers should know about it?

Post Rehab is the grey area of health that comes when someone is discharged from their primary care by a physician, physiotherapist, chiropractor, or other medical professional, but they haven’t completely healed yet. This is typically around 80% of functional capacity, and is leaving them susceptible to re-injury if left to their own devices in the gym or if they stop exercising altogether.

When I started working as a trainer, I noticed that everyone coming in to see me said they had either an old shoulder or knee injury from years ago that never really got better, or they had a mysterious pain in their back, or they had surgery a few months ago or something like that. The funny thing is I’m sure it wasn’t just me, as a lot of trainers would probably tell you they see injuries all the time and may or may not know what to do with them.

Another way to look at it is that everyone coming through the door may be injured. If we took MRI’s of shoulders, knee’s and back of 100 people, I’m pretty sure only 2 or 3 of them would come back with no issues whatsoever, and those would be the 20 year olds who have never exercised and are normal weight. Pretty much everyone out there will have something going on, so I always figured it would be best to train them to become beasts without breaking them in half.

Ok Dean, you’ve been a good sport, so let’s have some fun.

The gods have come down and you are king of the fitness world. What changes would you make as to how people train?

Damn, that’s a lot of pressure for a guy who can’t even get his wife to do the dishes, but here goes!

First, I’d get rid of certifications to use pieces of equipment that don’t have built-in computers. I can see needing a certification to run something like a metabolic cart to analyze gas exchange during activity, but not a Bosu.

Second, stop using the Bosu for everything. The research that’s been done on unstable surface training shows it’s really only beneficial in developing proprioception in rehabilitating lower limb injuries and in those with neurological impairments.

Want to make your core work harder? Lift something heavy and don’t let your spine collapse. That will work your core.

Next, quit saying something like chain swings while standing on a stability ball is in any way “functional” for anything other than swinging chains while standing on a stability ball. Functional training is training to improve a specific function.

Dean, thanks a ton for coming on here today. Where can people find out more about you?

You can check out my blog at, as well as pick up your copy of Post Rehab Essentials today while I’m having my big Boxing Day sale. It’s on for half price today only, so you should act quick and get yours now.

Sounds great Dean – thanks again!


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  1. Great interview, like the harsh words on some topics like balance-proprioception things with bosu, chains…

    I just ordered his Post Rehab product and so far what I saw it is great product containing great info.

    Happy holidays

  2. This has been an insightful post. I am a broke college student about to graduate in May, otherwise the post-rehab essentials would be a no-brainer. Especially after watching the free teaser videos. As soon as the funds allow, I will purchase it regardless of the discount. Thanks Mike and Dean!

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