Owner of FitStrong Strength & Wellness based in Albany Creek, in the northern suburbs of sunny Brisbane, Australia.
'Was' living in Belfast.... you don't need to ask why we (my wonderful wife and daughter) moved, just check out the weather forecast for Belfast NI, then check out the same for Brisbane... not much more to say about that, eh!
FitStrongs goal is to help people move better, out of pain and explore and discover the many ways in which we can develop strength and fitness.
I provide one-to-one training, small group training, over 50s classes and run workshops occasionally.
Anyway, I'll be using my blog for FitStrong purposes, for my clients or random visitors to read my ramblings regarding fitness, strength, health matters and stuff that grates my cheese, gets on my goat or curls in my rack!!!
I've been involved in the health and fitness industry for 23 years so i've seen a lot of changes in the business. Trends good and bad, trainers come and go and the same old faces providing some of the best guidance and influences in the world of fitness and strength training. Some things don't change though and never should. We train people to get the best out of them without hurting them!
It is just that simple.
If you want to get in touch for advice, to criticise, to give me money - catch me on firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve been a health and fitness professional since 1997.
In that time I’ve ventured from regular run-of-the-mill gym activities like group exercise, circuit training and centre management. I new that wasn’t what I was looking for or destined for.
Moving to Australia opened doors to explore other areas, especially areas operated in by the most successful trainers. Not financially, but in terms of results, health and physical gains.
Kettlebells and the teachings of Pavel Tsatsouline provided underpinning principles of strength. OrIginal Strength taught how movement can be restored. MovNat inspired us to contextualise our training to reflect on life’s needs.
Whilst I know I can help people feel great with movement and strength, one missing link always bugged me though.
Feeling good feels good, and moving better is a part of that. But I have to recognise that many people want to feel better about how they perform as well as how they ‘feel in their own skin and clothes’, and this includes what they see in the mirror. Some people will tell me they don’t see who they really are.
Enter the Mentor from Centaur
For years I’ve admired my fellow Irishman Paul McIlroy who runs an old-school gym called Centaur – the centre for all things strength and conditioning, creating super strong individuals – and his transformation program, The Amazing 12.
Two months ago I met with his program director via zoom and got the ball rolling to become a certified Amazing 12 coach. After a deep study block of 3 weeks (80 hours) I am now certified to operate and coach the Amazing 12 here in Brisbane. The first for our city and state and only the 3rd to become certified in Australia!
The Amazing 12 offers unprecedented body transformations in a surprisingly short period of time (12 weeks) every time, no matter your age, condition, or genetics. There are no special dietary purchases, required – just simple wholesome nutrition. This is not a bootcamp, or a train ‘till you drop program – it’s just perfectly individualised programming with a simple template. It can be called simple now, but it’s taken 15 years of fine tuning and the programming genius of Paul. This is not solely a weight loss program, it’s a physical strength, fitness and mindset transformation program.
The lives of 10000+ people have been impacted by their participation in the Amazing 12.
Just check out the transformation gallery from other certified Amazing Trainers around the globe.
In case you don’t want to click that link, here are just four examples of two ladies and two gents.
I am proud to announce that The Amazing 12 Brisbane will be a new offering from FitStrong in only a matter of weeks, both as a small group program and a one-to-one service.
I totally understand that this commitment might not be for everyone, but you the reader, keep in mind anyone you know who might fit the bill – please forward this for their consideration.
For more information, please head over to the dedicated Amazing 12 Brisbane page.
For many people they exercise, train, workout, whatever you want to label it; just to be physically healthy. They don’t really care about progressing or shooting for personal bests. For these people, sticking to their habit is the success – to these people, I salute you.
Other people want to see and feel noticeable, tangible outcomes. They want to see repetition numbers, KGs, KMs go up. There has to be progress.
However, sometimes this does not happen when expected, or results halt. There are some potential reasons that I want to list below. Some of these may be obvious but hear me out.
Top 10 Recovery Tips to Boost Your Training Results.
Not sticking to the plan. A plan only works when it’s followed and it is very surprising how many people can’t commit to a 4, 6 or 8 week program. Program hopping rarely favours results. Understand a plans expectations and follow it through.
Sleep. Aim and plan for 7 hours a night. 8 if possible. And try to make it good quality sleep. The sooner before midnight you can hit the sack, the better chance of catching better quality Zs.
Check out how much fun food you’re eating aka junk food – sweets, biscuits, that sneaky bar of chocolate that fell in the shopping trolley etc. cut it back.
Protein. Make sure you’re eating enough protein every day. Whether it’s animal or plant based, aim to eat 1.5 to 1.8g per kg of your lean weight. As a guide that’s about the same size as your hand x 3.
Eat like an Adult. I have mentioned junk food and protein, but vegetables and fruits really should be present in your daily nutrition. Sure you might not like a lot of what you see on the shelves, but find a selection you do like, and invent lots of ways of eating them… or just make a smoothy!
H20. Yes, water. Wash up, take a cold shower “brhhhhh”, but keep drinking water frequently during the day. If you struggle, here’s a tip. Every time you take a sip of water, take a second sip.
Health check ups. Get your blood tests done annually. Better to be sure.
Reduce your stress. Get outdoors, walk, job, bike ride. Choose something enjoyable that gets you out for an hour or so. If you like to potter around the garden like I do, do it. It feels good. All that Vitamin D is awesome for your immune system.
Move. You don’t have to train hard every day but moving gently every day is a blessing. If you can roll out the exercise mat and stretch, rock, roll, just belly breath, you’ll boost your recovery and probably have a great session the day afterwards. Check out these Mobility Videos.
Like a drink? While a wee glass with dinner is okay, finishing the bottle of Cab Sav isn’t. Reduce the alcohol to allow your body to metabolism body fat better, rest properly and enhance sleep, lower systemic stress and prevent dehydration. Pretty much all the other points above can be boosted by reducing the booze.
I did mention following plans to the end. How about weighing up these items to see how you could improve.
I’m here to help should you need to talk about it.
An undeniable truth of modern living is that we are all sitting much more everyday than our ancestors did.
Humans were never intended to spend so much time sitting still, resting in or being supported by chairs, seats and sofas. As evidenced by much research, prolonged sitting contributes to ill mental and physical health. An average day may see the average adult sit for 6.5 hours and adolescents 8.5 hours. (Research Link)
These figures are based on a study from 2011 to 2016. Our lives have changed significantly in the past year also, with home study and working from home being a new norm for many. The physical activity outcome from this change equates to even further potential for prolonged sitting.
But why is chair sitting such a problem?
Resting has for multiple millennia been carried out not in a chair, or a soft, embracing sofa lounge; but by resting on the ground. Yes, often with some support from cushions, bolsters or a tree! Humans are animals, designed to move, to thrive by being active and resting when needed. Modern humans however seems to live to rest.
Most humans get out of bed, rest to eat, lounge in a supportive chair in a vehicle to get to work and then possibly rest in another chair to work, only to head home to rest up on the sofa. Often people will include going to the gym to sit on machines to workout too! Not everyone works in a chair of course, but the trend is heading that way.
The problem for health is not just the lack of activity directly, but all the indirect affects or tolls on the body.
Increased blood pressure
Increased blood sugar
Increased body fat, especially around the waist
Reduced ocular muscle use
Increased risk of dementia, diabetes, heart disease, cancer
Reduced muscle tone, strength
Pain – neck, back, shoulder pain is common with long term sitters
Choosing the floor
Sitting on the ground is not as popular as it used to be in western cultures. Mostly it is looked down upon, as a poorer option to rest in. We no longer have to choose the floor as a resting position as we have money to buy lots of sitting furniture to sprinkle around the home. God forbid we have a space with nowhere to sit our behinds!
I have had a terrible history with back pain, shoulder pain, hip and knee problems that all culminated (with an outcome epiphany) when I took a family trip back to Ireland in 2016. After only a few hours onboard the plane my hips and lower back were aching. In the terminal of Singapore I spent 20 minutes stretching and doing my usual mobility routine which helped, but once I was onboard again, the pain and stiffness set in quickly. After my arrival all the stretches helped but the sudden change to my lifestyle for 4 weeks of sitting in cars, around dining tables catching up with people really made me realise how troublesome sitting in chairs was.
On my return I delved into the work of Katy Bowman and her passion for helping people regain their comfort with resting on the floor, going barefoot and other wholesome ideas. Since then I have moved away from my armchair and spend my rest time, lunch time, work, study and family movie time, sitting on my yoga mat on the floor. In doing so, my back and hips stay happier for longer.
Let’s look at a list of the benefits of sitting, resting on the floor.
Reduced hip tension. Prolonged chair sitting shortens the hip flexor muscles causing tight and stiff hips – a leading cause of lower back pain. When you sit on the floor, the extra moving uses and relaxes the hip flexors.
Encourages natural movement and stability. Without the support of a chair, sitting on the ground forces your body to engage trunk muscles for stabilisation and encourages joint articulation.
Increased mobility. Sitting on the floor is what I like to call moving rest. The frequent shifting of positions continuously uses and stretches muscles throughout the body, without being a workout.
Improved ‘get up’. Choosing to rest on the floor brings with it the great practice of getting to the ground and back up. Much study has been conducted into the importance of being able to move down to the floor and then return to standing.
Bed time. Think of the last time you stayed up too late to watch TV. Your cosy chair probably made it easier to stay up. When you’re resting on the floor and that becomes too tiring, your body is telling you it’s bed time.
Being totally honest, sitting on the floor can initially to a challenge, uncomfortable and will take a planed approach to get accustomed to it. Much like wearing a pair of your expensive, fancy shoes takes some wearing in time, it can take a wee bit of practice to get your body used to floor time. Of course, I advice you to choose wider, thinner, less restrictive shoes too, but that’s another topic for another day.
Here is a plan
Rather than jumping into selling all your furniture on gumtree and embracing your new floor based lifestyle, let’s just shoot for some reasonable efforts.
The basic plan below which I’ve imaginatively called The Floor Project is a serving suggestion to play with, to encourage your body to adapt to the demands of floor sitting before embracing the freedoms it will deliver. How quick you get used to sitting on the ground depends on your body, how much chair sitting you do and how much you practice.
You may need to keep your chair close by to assist getting to the floor if you are particularly stiff and maybe use a soft rug, a yoga mat and a cushion can be of use too, to help with comfort.
The sitting position options are numerous. From kneeling, squatting, sitting and lying prone, you have many variations to explore.
Don’t limit yourself to sticking with just one style, shift around and try as many options as you can. Be imaginative. Don’t be worried about what the names of the positions are, just move and be comfortable.
Here I’ve taken 15 different photographs to illustrate your options.
The Floor Project Plan
This plan is basic. You can of course experiment with how much daily floor time is reasonable and practical, but I encourage you to give this plan a go for at least the 4 weeks. Truth is, if you can spend 10 minutes on the floor and don’t feel the urge to get up, why not spend more time down there.
The caveat to this plan is what your body brings to the game. If your legs start to cramp and get pin and needles, well then, practice is up for the moment. Get up, move around and maybe tray again later. The times below are suggested ‘accumulations’ per day. A minute here and there adds up.
Aim for 5 to 10 minutes a day of accumulated floor time.
Aim for 10 to 15 minutes a day of accumulated floor time.
Aim for 15 to 20 minutes a day of accumulated floor time.
Aim for 20 to 30 minutes a day of accumulated floor time.
Weeks 5 onwards, I think you can handle more. Maybe you’re ready to move that armchair to the corner and spend your evening time resting on the floor.
If you are more willing, enthusiastic and able, shoot for more, but not to the point of discomfort, pain and such. Just fit in more ground time every day.
Not ready for full blown floor rest?
You can still easily modify your chair sitting positions. If getting to the floor is a trip too far for now, or, if you just have to use a chair at your work station, consider building in some of the above ground based positions on your chair.
You can sit cross legged, side sit, straddle sit and so much more. See below for a few demos. Any frequent change of posture is good. You really want to get out of fixed positions for lengthy periods of time – even 20 minutes in a static position is detrimental. Change is good.
Here is a fun experiment I had on the gym bench. Not quite a chair but close enough. Sure, you might get strange looks sitting at the cafe ‘on’ the chair… or you could sit on the ground. Your call.
Want to get in touch, share a story about getting down to the floor and staying there for a while? Please do, I’d love to hear from you.
I’d really love to have a gym with a long line of kettlebells, all lined up numerically in military fashion… oh, wait… I do. Ah, but I train people, people in all shapes, sizes and abilities. I also train a handful remotely via this www thingy.
I use kettlebells for all the many benefits they bring and every single person starts their strength regime at a different point. For some (read many) no weights are involved to start with, as we build technique, movement proficiency and a solid foundation. Once ready, we move on with an appropriately sized kettlebell.
The key loaded movements that kettlebells excel with include pressing overhead, front squats, carries and naturally the kettlebell swing, clean and snatch.
For everything else, bodyweight movements prove optimal. I’ll not go into these details here but feel to ask.
One question I get a lot however is – ‘how many kettlebells do I need, and should I use two at the same time’?
This is one great question. I’m not a man for wasting money on things I will never use. If I end up with something in the gym that never gets used, I sell it on.
Regarding kettlebell training, is has proven good practice to have a small range of kettlebells that allow you to:
practice with great form and little distraction
practice with a focus on strength and grinding (safely)
practice with a medium effort.
For ladies this might equate to an 8, 10, 12kg or an 8, 12, 16kg and gents, a 16, 20 and a 24kg kettlebell.
The second part of that common question relates to double kettlebell training. This is an option for both pressing and squatting i.e. holding a kettlebell in each hand as opposed to single kettlebell training.
What’s the difference?
Single kettlebell training is, for most people, a great starting point. holding the kettlebell in one hand for an overhead press allows the user to focus on individual shoulder / arm strength, condition and form. A single kettlebell is great for the goblet squat to build the ‘shape’ of the squat and a foundation of strength. A single kettlebell is perfect to learn the hinge and snap of a kettlebell swing.
A single kettlebell held, racked on one shoulder will also expose asymmetries (imbalances) during a single kettlebell squat. It always surprises me and the user, when they goblet squat, say a 16kg with perfect, easy form, then rack it onto one shoulder to find they twist like a noodle!
Loading one shoulder will always expose weaknesses.
However, when one is relatively balanced and seeks strength, muscle building and a metabolically charging training program, then double kettlebell training is the solution.
Yes, you may still be pressing a 20kg kettlebell, but there is now 40kg on your frame, not just 20kg. No-one can argue that won’t make you stronger.
The same goes for cleaning the kettlebells to the shoulders. Cleaning a single 24kg bell is great, but a pair is magnificent. Racking up two 20-24kg kettlebells for front squats will vastly boost lower body strength.
Anyhoo, to conclude:
If you are a kettlebell enthusiast, a few kettlebells should inhabit your training space and ideally, doubling up is a great idea and investment.
Need help with your kettlebell training? Why not get in touch and we can chat about what you need and how I can help.
Or do you: Want to feel good? Want to feel stronger? Want more confidence? Want to lose some unneeded body fat? Want to be happier looking at yourself in the mirror? Want to be capable of more physical tasks? Want to choose better eating habits? Want to set a healthy example to your family, your children, … Continue reading Do you really want to lose weight?
More and more often I find myself referring people to practice the Bear, Monkey, Frogger and the Inverted Crawl (aka the Crab). These 4 ground based locomotion exercises alone address so many weaknesses, develop great strengths and offer a fun element to any training block. Staying stable, controlling or resisting rotation through the torso and … Continue reading Ground Based Locomotion
At FitStrong I help people get fitter, stronger and more mobile. Not just for the sake of it though, but to become better more useful versions of ourselves.
We work on the skills that lead towards our goals, building confidence, competence and physical autonomy without an emphasis on ‘busting a gut’ or ‘smashing out sessions’. I like to consider training as nourishing our bodies rather than punishing it.
If you know that you need to move better and stronger, why not book in for a chat about what you need and how I can help.
Here’s just one example of working on reactive strength, in this case – balance.
I’d like to throw out an idea for your consideration; the idea of creating a training program with calisthenic movements that are contextual. The context I want to refer to (apart from a specialist strength or sport program) is the real world and the physical activities that stress our bodies on a daily basis or from time to time. If we are not preparing ourselves for our current and those potential physical activities and challenges we really are doing ourselves a disservice.
I totally get the reason for hitting up the local equipment packed gym with the intention of getting bigger muscles, to pull a bigger deadlift or to row a faster 5km. It feels good to see results. I’ve been there and (mostly / kind of) enjoyed the process.
You know what feels better though?
Being capable, competent and safely confident when met with physical challenges. I was reminded of this recently when a client spoke of a friend who goes to the gym frequently (and trains hard) but gets his kids to lift the shopping out of his car because… wait for it… he’s afraid of hurting his back!!!
I am a fan of purposeful training, much like I’m a fan of purposeful anything. Time is not for the wasting. Don’t get me wrong, I love to explore new things, but anything I do try out is for the greater cause and if it fails to benefit in any way, it’s gone.
So to recap, ideally the majority of our time exercising, training, practicing (whatever you want to call it) should be benefiting us.
Next, let’s look at traditional calisthenic movements. Calisthenics is defined as a form of strength training that uses our bodyweight as resistance and involves multiple muscles in full body movements. These range from pushing, pulling, gripping, squatting and hip hinging as well as jumping and climbing activities. Breaking these down to the usual suspects we have moves like:
Vertical and broad jumps
These form the basics and they are great. In fact, the FitStrong January program is built around ‘reviving’ foundations with these movements.
Street calisthenics has been a growing progression to calisthenics over the 15 years or so but really takes the concept of bodyweight training to a much more athletic or dare I say performance level. Do most of us need to do a human flag, levers, flips and spins? Whilst cool, I don’t agree that it’s what we need to do if our goal is to live stronger and for longer.
Real World Calisthenics
Most us of will have a life that requires rather similar physicality’s. Carrying in the shopping, gardening work, taking out the bins to the roadside, lifting our kids or elderly (it’s going to happen at some time), cleaning up the house and all those other household DIY jobs. And it’s all good. We are meant to move and do all of these plus more. Most of us don’t have to hunt and forage our food anymore, but we still have a huge capacity to manage many physical tasks – if we are prepared.
Prepare by practice.
I’ll now start to break down how we could practice or ‘train’ with real world calisthenics. Again, let me categorise our real world movements.
Lifting and carrying
Getting down to the ground and back up again
Jumping over something, onto, off and across
Low to ground locomotion, aka crawl like manoeuvres
Mostly, these are rather similar to traditional calisthenics. With a thoughtful couple of minutes you can easily imagine how these fit potential physical eventualities.
How would a training program look?
First off, a great program doesn’t need to be sterile and void of fun. A great program also doesn’t need to take ages. A lot of benefit can be gained from 30 minute sessions, three or even twice per week. Each session could be used to work on a handful of movement skills in a circuit or over three 10 minute blocks. You could practice the same movement skills per session and gradually build up the effort, or reps or repeat efforts.
There are so many options.
What I will do next is provide two training sessions that demonstrate this idea of real world calisthenics. I’ll pop up a follow up video post to check out or follow along with.
If you like what you see, I will have a progressive program made available soon.
There’s nothing like getting to exercise in the comfort of your own home… well, except for having access to a huge number of programs to follow as well.
The FitStrong Online Membership has just that, ‘years’ worth of programs to follow along with. I update programs every month and the membership has a library of short ‘workouts’ too. Check it out and if interested, it’s just $1 a day!!!
2020 taught us many things. Learning how easy it is to teach sessions online with our laptops and smart phones was one. Now with the click of a button we can meet virtually anywhere together to work through a training session.
Whether you need to give your kettlebells a good workout or you want to get to grips with body weight training, live online personal training is a great solution.
Get in touch below to get started.
An even simpler solution if you are happy to train alone without the live online interaction is EPT.
‘Email Personal Training’ provides a detailed program for you to follow. With an extensive video library and customised videos just for you, I can quickly compile a program to meet your needs, provided straight to your inbox.