Monday, 8 December 2014

Why you shouldn't make New Years Resolutions this year...

"Some people want it to happen, Some wish it would happen,
Others Make it Happen." Michael Jordan

It's a time of year when most people will have long since forgotten what their New Years resolutions were last year, and may already have a few they intend to set for this year. Likelihood is that many of you set a few New Years resolutions last year and stuck with them for a few weeks or sometimes only just a few days before giving up. My suggestion would be this. 

Do not set New Years Resolutions. 

This attitude only encourages people to delay working towards something. It's the 'I'll start next Monday" or "next week" or "next month" or next year" or once I've got everything else in my life sorted out attitude which stops people from getting anywhere. 

Face facts, the stars are not going to align and everything will never be perfectly suited to you getting going with whatever it is you are setting out to achieve. Successful people are the ones who do not need everything to be perfect to get started. They just get going.
Successful people do not need a tradition like setting New Years resolutions to enable them to move forward. They start right away. 

If your goal is important to you, GENUINELY important to you then why waste time? Your time on this planet is very short and time only seems to go more and more quickly the older you get. If for example you want to be fitter, healthier, in better shape, and it makes you in some way unhappy that you are not then think carefully about what is actually stopping you. It is never ever too late to get what you want, and there are some fantastic inspirational people out there who have gone after what they want very late in life and never given up. 

 Chances are the only thing between you and achieving what you want to is you and your attitude towards life. When you strip back all the excuses, and make yourself fully accountable for what you achieve then you will get somewhere. 

One of the most frustrating habits these days is people 'searching for motivation'. For some reason everyone has to find motivation before they do anything. People use the excuse of 'not being motivated'. That's just a kinder way of saying "I'm currently too lazy to start work on this”. 

Motivation is not a problem. Motivation takes two seconds, if you are overweight or unfit the benefits from not being in that physical state are obvious and are clear motivation. The problem is not motivation, the problem is your attitude and the inability to follow through with your initial goal. 
I advise you to go on YouTube and listen to Mark Bell's speech entitled 'who are you?', and really think about it. Do you want to be someone that if someone else was to describe your character they would say you are lazy and struggle with 'motivation' or would you rather be someone that inspires others because of your strong will and determination? Everyone is capable of inspiring others and many will without knowing it. 

So when it comes to New Years Resolutions, maybe try to recognise that just because it's going to be 1st of January, nothing has changed. You are still the same you and the world is still the same place is was before. Don’t be part of the same inevitable cycle of making and breaking resolutions. Change your thoughts and good intentions into action this time, and why not start today? 

Friday, 8 August 2014

Rant of the Day - Gimmicks Vs Coaching Tools

I regularly am pissed off by things I see in the fitness industry (I use that as a global term to cover all things gym related) so this is as much for my benefit as it is yours.

Here is my thought for today....

I have seen a lot of trainers recently who, the second they come back off a course, (teaching them how to use items like TRX suspension straps or the Power Plate for example) they forget all other training they used to do with clients and solely focus on their newly found 'passion' for one specific type of training.  It is my personal belief that you should not trust a trainer who marries him or herself to a specific training system and tells people that their (very blinkered and equipment specific) training system is all you could possibly need. 

For example, Kettlebells and suspension training systems like TRX, are just examples of tools you can use  with your clients as part of a well rounded approach. Do not trust someone who tries to offer sessions almost exclusively on one piece of equipment. There is nothing wrong with being versatile and using equipment for multiple purposes but you need perspective and to understand that no one thing is the answer. Too many trainers fall in love with one style of training and subsequently push their clients to do this exclusively. 

A good coach should just view these things as tools, not the be all and end all. Gimmicks are ok but 9 times out of 10 they are just reinventing the wheel and are often poor substitutes for barbell compound movements and bodyweight exercises. They can have their place but do not be fooled by someone who attempts to convince you that you can dismiss all your other training and just train with their system and you'll cover all your bases.  

Largely trainers like this are trying to simply maximise their earning potential having paid out for the cost of the course. I cannot blame them for this, but I believe that any new information, coaching skills, or equipment usage should be introduced and used when appropriate and not simply dominate that trainers repertoire suddenly.  It shows a fickle nature to the trainers approach, and I believe that whilst developing new skills and acquiring new knowledge a coach should have some consistency and rather than jumping from one fad to the next, they should build some knowledge and ability to coach what should be the fundamentals.

In my opinion these fundamentals include (but are not limited to) the following...

Squats, Deadlifts, Bench, Overhead Press, Vertical Row, Horizontal Row and Power Cleans (for more advanced individuals). 

Yes there are thousands of variations of these movements and as a coach you should be able to pick the appropriate variation for your client to match whatever stage they are at with their training.  With this in mind I will reiterate that doing a course on using TRX straps and then subsequently all your training sessions, with all clients, becoming largely focussed around TRX shows that you are trying to apply the same training style and method to everyone and not treating each clients individual needs. 

Bottom line, to the coaches and trainers, try to recognise the things which are simply gimmicks, or rather realise that whilst some of these things can be implemented in small doses as part of a full training programme, they are not the be all and end all.  A coach needs multiple tools in his arsenal but should have a good understanding of basic movements which all weight training programmes should be based upon.

To the individuals considering using coaches or trainers to assist them, beware of coaches who sell one specific gimmicky training method to you.  A coaches job is to filter and apply a multitude of information and use it appropriately.   Don't believe everything one coach says automatically either.  There are too many 'gurus' in this business and people with aggressive social media tactics who try to make themselves infallible with the backing of their almost fundamentalist true believer fans who will shoot anyone down who challenges their guru's 'wisdom'.  

Thats all for now. 


Friday, 17 January 2014

Alternative ways of progressing other than increasing weight and reps

There are more ways of progressing than simply increasing the weight or the number of reps...

Try an appropriate selection of these methods to see better progress...

  1. Rest less between sets
  2. Use greater range of motion
  3. Introduce short pauses at or near sticking points
  4. Use better technique (knee tracking, neutral spine, increase depth on exercise like squat)
  5. Use less ‘psyche up’ on heavy lifts
  6. Use less supportive gear (belts, wraps, suits etc)
  7. Train alone or with no music
  8. Use fewer warm up sets than normal (take bigger weight jumps)
  9. Perform more reps during warm up sets. Pre-exhaustion.
  10. Perform the exercise further down the workout order.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

'BRB Method 1' - Beginner / Intermediate Basic Strength Programme

This is a simple system which I have used to great effect with several clients now and so I thought I would detail it here so that you can try it out for yourself.

Programme Split
3 days per week
Monday/Day 1 - Chest + back
Wednesday/Day 2 - Legs
Friday/Day 3 - Shoulders and Arms

Exercise / Order
Day 1 - 
Use basic set and rep scheme for all exercises on this day. See below for rep scheme.
A1 - Bench Press
A2 - Neutral Grip Chin Up
B1 - 30ยบ Incline Bench Press
B2 - Bent Over Supinated Grip EZ Bar Row

Day 2 - 
Use basic set and rep scheme for Squats and Deadlifts, and 4 sets of 10-12 on C + D.
A - Squat
B - Deadlift
C - Dumbbell Split Squat
D - Choose one Ab exercise from Ab wheel roll outs, Hanging Knee Raises, Standing Cable Crunches, Dumbbell Side Bends, Weighted Decline Sit Ups.

Day 3 - 
Use basic set and rep scheme for all exercises on this day. See below for rep scheme.
A1 - Standing Barbell Shoulder Press
A2 - Single Arm 'lean away' Dumbbell Shrugs
B1 - Tricep Dips
B2 - Standing Barbell Curls

The basic set and rep system is as follows
Either test 1 RMs in all main lifts prior to starting programme or estimate 1RM if you think you can do this accurately. I would urge you to choose a weight which you can hit on any given day, whether you are feeling good or bad. Do not choose something which is only obtainable when you are at your very peak as this will lead to a quick stall in the programme.

Preceed all of the given sets and reps with an appropriate warm up as follows
Dynamic Warm up, then 3 sets of 3 reps @ 30-40%, 2-4 ramping sets of 2-3 reps to enable you to get to your working weight.
I have given % ranges below, (eg. 70-75%).  I have used this programme with both the lower percentages and the higher percentages both with equal success.  It does depend on the person, but if in doubt, then only use the lower %'s and you will be able to increase the weights more significantly for the following 4 week cycle.
In other words, either choose 70,75,80 and 85% as your programmes percentages, or choose 75, 80, 85, 90%.  In my experience, the higher percentages are normally more suited to people with a slightly longer training history with a bit more experience.

Working Sets are as follows...
Week 1 - 6 sets of 6 reps @ 70-75%
Week 2 - 7 sets of 5 reps @ 75-80%
Week 3 - 8 sets of 4 reps @ 80-85%
Week 4 - 10 sets of 3 reps @ 85-90%

Following end of 4 week cycle, add 2.5 - 5kg (approx) to all weights and repeat.
Every 2-3 cycles, use a week to test your 1RM's on all lifts again.


1. Missing Reps - If you miss any reps during a session then this is not the end of the world, however if you begin to miss reps prior to half way through then you may have selected a working weight which is too heavy.  In my experience you should not really be missing more than 2-4 reps per exercise (total over all the sets).  So if on week 1 you got 6, 6, 6, 6, 5, 4, then that is acceptable as you have only dropped 3 reps out of 36.  However if you only managed 6, 6, 5, 4, 5, 4 then you have dropped 6 reps in total out of 36 which is really an indication perhaps you have overestimated your max or perhaps increased the weights too much between cycles. In this instance I would drop the weight slightly and recalculate all your %'s.

2. Choosing to use either the higher %'s of the lower %'s - For some people achieving 10 sets of 3 at 90% of their max would be near impossible (initially anyhow), whereas some people have the ability to produce quite high reps all the way up very close to their max.  You should decide which percentages to use based on whether you think you are the sort of person who is better at performing high intensity (load) singles but fall to pieces if someone asks you to do some reps and repeat this effort multiple times, OR if you are someone who can knock out lots of sets at a reasonable weight but the second someone asks you to max out, your form breaks down and you aren't able to maximise your potential.  If you are the former, then using lower percentages would be better, but if you are the latter and are better at performing reps, then you can choose the higher %'s.  You must also consider how long you have been training.  Very often the stronger you get the harder it can become to perform higher reps at a high percentage of your max.  This is because the % increases start representing much bigger increases in weight, so going from 85 to 90% is a bigger jump for someone lifting 200kg than it is for someone lifting 100kg. (stating the obvious I know, but all this must be considered when choosing your weights).

3. If in the programme you will be performing the deadlift, for example, having already squatted, then do not use a 1RM, for the deadlift, which you have achieved when fresh having not done anything prior to it.  The same goes for all other exercises in the programme. Remember that you will undoubtedly be able to lift more weight if you perform an exercise when fresh, but these numbers will not reflect what you can achieve whilst running the programme. I would recommend when testing your maxes, to run the programme in the same exercise order, but simple perform singles up to a max.

4. If you will be sometimes training alone, without a spot, then use the weights you are comfortable attempting on your own for the programme and not the weights which you tried once when you had the luxury of a programme. Again this is something that will skew your numbers. Whatever your regular training circumstances will be, run with those for the whole programme. If you then get the luxury of a lift out from a spotter, then great, but do not count on this if you know it will not always be available.

5. Pause at least 1 rep of each set on the bench press.  My preference is pausing the last rep on the chest for at least 1-2 seconds.  This will build starting strength in the lift, and perhaps also keep your ego in check. 

6. Do not sacrifice form for the sake of increasing weight. The typical one here is sacrificing squat depth for the sake of adding weight.  Keep form to a standard on all exercises.  If you train alone then film EVERY SINGLE SET YOU DO, if you have training partners then get them to give you an honest appraisal.  Do ensure they know what to look for in terms of quality though as a training partner who tells you you are doing great when every lift really looks awful is not your friend and is wasting your time and simply massaging your ego.

7. Alternative exercises can be substituted for the main exercises if preferred but these main lifts should give you strong foundation so think carefully before changing them and always examine the reasons behind the switch.  

If you decide to try using this Method, then I would love to hear how you get on so any feedback is appreciated. Email with your thoughts / questions / progress.

Happy Lifting