Posted November 20, 2017

Video Game Cheat Codes and Winning the Game of Fitness

A few weekends ago I was in Boston teaching the grande finale workshop for Complete Shoulder & Hip Blueprint before we wreak some new hotness on the world in 2018. We somehow managed to cram 60 people into AMP Fitness in downtown Boston over a long weekend, which was pretty amazing.

What was equally impressive was the steak at Smith & Wollensky I had Sunday night that was about the size of my face and a delicious way to cap off the weekend.

During the workshop, I made a comment that in many instances a small tweak to positioning here or there that may come across as asymmetric or against the textbook elements of what would constitute “good form” could actually be a sort of cheat code for getting faster results than would be expected. My goal as a trainer is to always find the easiest, fastest and safest ways for a client to get the results they’re after, and if we use such a cheat code, they win.

Growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s, there wasn’t such a thing as the internet for kids who lived in rural British Columbia, Canada. Because of the limited access to online video game knowledge, we were stuck with most of the games sans-cheat code, until someone in the group purchased a magazine outlining some of the commonly used cheat codes for popular games, such as the Konami code shown above.

Wait, you mean there’s a way or multiple ways to get through the games easier, or to unlock previously unknown versions of the game, and NO ONE TOLD US SOONER???!!?!?!

Playing games like Contra, Doom, and later stuff like Grand Theft Auto (on PS1, no less), lead to unlocking new abilities, unlimited health, and some ridiculous fun that didn’t come with the need to save your progress because those cartridges didn’t have save ability. If you made it to the boss and died, well, that was 6 hours of your life you’ll never get back, so yeah, a cheat code was appealing.

In terms of efficiently achieving the goal of beating the video game, a cheat code was pretty gnarly.

Similarly, I used another video game term that weekend when describing corrective exercises, a term I’m slowly pulling back from using in favour of something else.

Imagine you’re playing your favourite game and you’re starting at level 1. Your character, essentially, sucks. They have limited health, next to no weapons, and almost no special skills to think of. As you go through the game, you gradually unlock new abilities and aptitudes, making your character pretty awesome by the time you’re ready to challenge the big boss.

In my brain, corrective exercise implies the person you’re working with has a problem that you’re trying to solve. In reality, it’s often not a problem, per se, but more of an ability they haven’t mastered yet, or to parlay into the terminology I’m using in this post, it hasn’t been “unlocked.”

Sort of like when Mario gets the star. That was FIRE, yo.

Now the unlocking elements of the video games are considered incredibly important in the craft of storytelling, and specifically how they relate to the concept of the Hero’s Journey which is prevalent in most games. When Joseph Campbell came up with his 12 stages of effective story telling, and those parallels can be very telling of a fitness goal from the average client. They’ve answered a call to action, so it’s up to the mentor to help them somehow unlock their abilities or show them the easiest path to success.

That, or maybe they just squat a bit deeper without feeling sore or awkward about it.

Maybe not all stories need a hero’s journey or a meeting of a mentor. I don’t think Eleven needed to go to New York to meet her “sister” to figure out that anger made her powers stronger. She knew that from her psychic tantrums.


Plus playing something like NBA Jam with a mod code to make everyone’s heads bigger didn’t really skip any steps, but it was hella fun.


So what kind of cheat codes do I use to help unlock some new abilities in clients?

Simple stuff like using a core exercise to help improve mobility.


Maybe some higher tension strategies in a PNF contract-relax manner to help some shoulder mobility.


Just like a normal video game cheat code, these unlock some pretty sweet abilities in the character, and let them tackle new levels much more effectively than before. That means they can dominate the game of fitness and crush all their level bosses that stand in their way.

One Response to Video Game Cheat Codes and Winning the Game of Fitness