Getting Fit with Monte: My Training Philosophy

gym, fitness
Monte Cox doing a cable press

I’ve been on both sides of the fitness industry since I was 18 and entered a gym for the first time. I worked with a great trainer (on a couple of sessions that were part of my joining package) and learned the basics from her. She started me on the old school, single-body part, three sets of 12 reps, and had me focus on form.

This is exactly how I start new people today. Fitness fads come and go but the basics never change. My first priority with anyone is safety, so taking the time to learn the basics at a weight that is reasonable is the way to go. Once core strength and knowledge are established, that’s when things can get interesting.

There are unlimited training variations, and my job is to find what works for each individual client. This is the fun, creative side of what I do and why I love working one on one with people on their training goals.


fitness, trainer, gym
Monte Cox

Make it Fun

People accuse me of having a strange or slightly skewed definition of the word “fun,” an accusation I can neither confirm nor deny. I will say this though, I love training! I love old school bodybuilding, I love new school body building, I love circuit training, I love tabata training, I love may thaI kickboxing. I love plyometrics. I love balance training. I love unilateral training, endurance training. I love TRX training. I love Olympic lifting. I love it all! so I try it all out on the people I train and see what sticks. What one person finds to be an interesting and exciting challenge is a complete nightmare for the next person, but that’s not a problem at all because we can try something else.

I say all this not to show off but to get your mind going. If you have never worked out, if you  are in a rut, if you have reached a plateau, if you are bored with working out lately, if you haven’t been to the gym in a while and are thinking about going back, if you need some help , I am here. I am writing this column for you, not for me. Ask questions and they might end up being a column. But I will at the very least reply to the best of my ability.

Train for Your Goals

this might sound obvious but it has to be said. The interesting part here is that your goals may change as you progress, so you can and should change your training techniques. I have an actor client whose needs and goals constantly change, sometimes because of work, family or travel demands, sometimes for esthetic reasons. When he has the time to bike ride and workout with me separately, we usually do different bodybuilding routines for an average of six weeks. Right now he has a lot of travel and is buying a new home so there are demands with his time that mean his only available workout time is when he is with me. So for now I am switching his training to compound movements, full body with cardio mixed in, and taking time at the end of each session to stretch. The goal with this switch is to maintain his muscle and strength and keep his heart healthy in the limited time available.

Be Realistic with Who You Are

if you aren’t the type who can exist on chicken and veggies and not drink, we may have a tough time turning you into an underwear model. You might have to ratchet back your goal to fit your lifestyle and level of commitment. You can still reach your destination, but you may have to take the local train instead of the express.

You may have to be realistic with where you are in life right now too. Maybe you are going through a breakup and need chips. a lot of chips! I think its ok, if you have an endgame, to reign it back in. Set a date to start phasing treats back out and eat your feelings for a minute if you need to. Life is a journey, and you go get hardcore again soon enough. Its ok to be in a maintenance or prep phase every so often.


you can switch back and forth between hard core bodybuilding (where there are almost unlimited variations), circuit training (also, plenty of wiggle room there), functional training (sky’s the limit), etc. To continue to grow, get stronger and break through plateaus, you must change your routine and challenge yourself in new ways. Switching up your workout and your workout style are also very important for mental stimulation and creating new neuropathways in the brain. Yes, I said it, personal training can make you smarter! You’re welcome.


it’s my job to keep challenging my clients and taking them to new levels. The fun part is getting creative and hearing “I’m sorry, we are going to do what?” On the other side of this is always a sense of accomplishment.  It is also my job to ensure proper form and safety in a couple of ways. First I have to know an individual’s injury and workout history to gauge how to proceed with designing a program. Secondly, I always err on the side of caution when choosing weights for a new exercise and with new clients. The old saying goes “you can always add more salt to the pot, but you can’t take it out.”

Finally, I monitor the entire person for feedback on how his or her body is handling the work we are doing. I look for facial cues and loss of form because some people feel like they have to do more to impress me because of my capabilities. Some people have to win. Injury is not a win, so I encourage constant feedback and realistic progressions. This is how I educate myself on an individual.

My formal training includes my National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer certification and the following advanced certifications: NASM Correctional Exercise Specialist, NASM Sports Performance Enhancement and ISSA Sports Nutrition. I subscribe to and read a few bodybuilding and fitness magazines as well as search the internet for all the new concepts and crazes. I take what I think works and is safe and use it as I find it or alter it to fit an individual’s needs. I do all this so that you don’t have to!

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