Is the Kettlebell the Optimal Tool for Minimalism?

Training, practice, working out, getting exercise or whatever you call it can take oh so many shapes.

cartoon network tgu 1Compared to 50 years ago when the choice of health and strength came down to gymnastic endeavours, calisthenics or barbell routines, today we have bodyweight calisthenics, parkour, dumbbells, barbells, machines galore, kettlebells, bands, straps, balls, shake-weights (!?!?!) and I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few but you get the picture. There are so many choices today.

One area that has taken the health, strength and fitness arena by storm (if I may say so myself) is that of training minimalism.

Championed by the likes of Pavel Tsatsouline, Pat Flynn and Tim Ferriss to mention but a few, the premise that you should spend your training time on the activities that yield the majority of the results is the way to go. Using a minimum affective dose approach is similar in concept to the Pareto principle or what some refer to as Paretos Law. The principle also known as the 80/20 rule states that 80% of the outcomes derive from 20% of the causes. In other words, 80% of your training results comes from 20% of what you put into it.

Think of it; how much of a standard 1 hour gym session is actually worth the time and effort? All the fiddling around with one body part movements take up valuable time instead of just completing one big compound exercise. You might think that more is better in regards to calorie expenditure, however, if you whittle away your energy on the small ‘stuff’, that have little impact on the metabolism, how much energy do you have to commit to the big ‘stuff’ that has the potential to really impact the metabolism.

Majoring in the minors is one sure way to fail at most things in life.

Talking of minimalism, let’s jump in and look at the Kettlebell and other tools. Is it really the optimal tool for exercise minimalism?

Let’s first consider the important ‘majors’ of any good training session.

  • We need to move those big body parts with compound movements like Squatting, Hinging aka the Deadlift, Pushing, Pulling, Bracing that aids in developing strength and maintaining muscle mass.
  • We should nearly always include power moves or quick lifts.
  • Time efficient.
  • Should relate to your human function – you want to move better for a long time, yeah?
  • Should develop movement skills – related in ways to function.
  • Influence the bodies metabolism favourably.

These are the majors, the important stuff that training is used for.

To address these important qualities you could go to a gym hugely populated with barbells, dumbbells, strength machines for every body part, treadmills, cycles, stepping, thrusting, vibrating gadgets galore…. I said you could, but how much time is that going to take, never mind figuring out what does what.

What we’re looking for in a minimal training mindset is lack of fluff, no hassle, just get in, get the work done and go home to recover, spend time with family or get back to work.

How about the good ol’ dumbbell?dumbbells

While a dumbbell can be used for pretty much all the compound moves it is pretty much limited to just doing the strength moves. Try doing an explosive move with a dumbbell and you’ll figure our how hard it is to manhandle and hold onto. Maybe not the optimal tool to get everything done hassle free but a close contender.

 

What about a barbell, you can do near everything with a barbell?

barbellI spent many years with a barbell and truely love the feeling of training with a barbell. It’s best suited for developing maximum strength in all the big moves and it can be used for quick lifts. With over 20 years of training people I don’t often get to work with someone who is comfortable with a barbell for every big movement. Why? They lack the movement skills to use the bar. They can’t hold the bar on their shoulders to squat. Pressing with both hands often doesn’t work due to shoulder limitations and the same goes for the bench press. Deadlifting is the most common go-to that works fine but as for most other movements, most people, most of the time struggle to use the barbell affectively. Whilst mobility training can address the deficits in some occasions, the very strict linear and bilateral (two limbed) nature of barbell training often causes niggles, tweaks and injury. I love the barbell, but for minimal training it isn’t the best tool for most of the people (in my opinion anyway).

On that note, who are most of the people? 

Most trainers start off with aspirations of working with elites, athletes, hot, toned specimens of human evolution. The reality is that most trainers spend most of their time working with mums, dads, grandparents, people who work 40+ hours a week at work, then supporting their families, they’ve household chores to get sorted, grass to cut and meals to prepare. Most of them want to feel stronger, less tired and achey and probably want some sense of achievement as they escape to their training.

Do you think training minimalism is suited to them? Hell yeah!

 

Enter the Kettlebell. 

rkc bell

Look, I am biased as I start to talk about kettlebell training. Funnily enough, when I first signed up to a kettlebell certification back in 2009, I did so with a sense of disbelief regarding all the hype. It’s a ball with handle on it – ‘what’s the big deal’?

I learned very quickly however, what a gem the kettlebell is.

When I start working with a new client I make it clear that we train movements. When it’s time to load those movements we do so. We still train movements though. The load is just added to keep progressing.

The dealio with the kettlebell is with it’s shape. Plain and simple. There is no magic woowoo Russian secret, it’s just an old agricultural weight that found its way into the training world – because it gets a job done.

The handle, the compact size, the ability to do all the compound lifts, the ease at which you can transition from a compound grind lift to an explosive lift, just makes the kettlebell a good all-round tool to use. Having a kettlebell in one hand at a time or a kettlebell in each hand allows users to do a range of movements without the restriction of a straight bar or a wobbly dumbbell.

To save time and hit all the requisites of an effective training plan, the kettlebell can be used in a complex. A complex is simply a number of movements strung together and carried out non-stop. Training is this manor allows for training strength, explosiveness and metabolic improvements, oh, and a session can be done in under 15 minutes if you like.

You can use a bar or a dumbbell or even bodyweight moves for a complex, but for ease of use, the kettlebell wins. And yes, you can mix in bodyweight movements – no hassle is the game at foot, so less is fluff is more win!

Here’s an example of a very simple kettlebell and bodyweight complex that even an exercise newbie can learn to do in a number of sessions:

  1. Push Ups x 5
  2. Goblet Squat x 5
  3. Swing x 10

Do 5 rounds with adequate rest between rounds.

That’s it. Short, sweet and done in no time at all. The majority of the moves we need are there.

An alternative could be:

  1. Clean and Press
  2. Squat
  3. Row

5 rounds or fit in what you can in 10 – 15 mins. Be your own chef!

Use any rep range specific to your goals. Heavy and short reps for strength. Medium and longer reps for muscle building.

Complexes can be built for many areas and sure, you can still do circuits or pair off movements. The complex is just one way to tick that minimalism box.

Of course technique is vital like in using any piece of equipment, but there are good kettlebell trainers available via StrongFirst, the RKC and other reputable training organisations.

My point here today is this. If you want to pursue training minimalism, I whole-heartily recommend getting to grip with using the kettlebell.

Got any questions? Shoot them my way.

Group Training in Albany Creek

There was a time when personal training, aka one-to-one training was all I wanted to do and to be honest, the bulk of my time is dedicated to training people in just that way, and I do love taking people strategically through an A to B to Z plan to get to their goals.

However, not everyone wants the detailed ‘I dotting and T crossing’ training programs and just want to get a workout with other like-minded people.

Starting the first week in August I’ll be offering small group training from FitStrong in Albany Creek, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:15am to 10am.

I’ll be running fun, challenging workouts combining strength training, mobility drills and the occasional High Intensity challenges. The exact plans will of course depend on who turns up!

If you and perhaps some friends would like to come along, please book yourself in via the following link:

MAKE A BOOKING

(This will take you our group training booking site)

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One Simple Move to Build a Healthier Back

If you’ve ever had a sore, stiff, twitchy or achey back, you’ll recall that you would do anything to get rid of it.

Whilst a couple of pills or a massage might help in the short term, they do nothing to address the underlying reason the back get annoyed in the first place.

In the majority of cases a causal factor is poor strength and mobility throughout the body. The inability to stabilise the spine in awkward position with poorly conditioning core aka torso muscles may result in tweaks and strains and the inability to place the body into awkward positions due to over tight muscles will also lead to increased risk of strains and pulls.

Without going into a lengthy post, I want to share something that helps most people most of the time to strengthen their torsos and in particular, spinal stability.

One movement series we carry out daily is the Birddog. So named due to fact you look like a hunting dog pointing at its quarry.

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The Birddog consists of kneeling on hands, knees and feet (initially) and extending a leg and opposite arm whilst maintaining posture and balance.

The progressions are simple:

  • Hold the limb extended position for a number of seconds.
  • Extend slowly throughout the set.
  • Add in flexion of the torso to bring a knee and opposite hand, forearm or elbow into contact.
  • Keep the feet off the floor at all times.
  • Keep the knees off the floor at all times whilst performing the Birddog on the foot and hand.

The videos below demonstrate these and really, they can be quiet challenging even to those who consider themselves ‘barbell’ strong.

The basics are always mastered before progressing to the next level.

 

 

Good luck.

Jamie

Men Wanted … for Thrivival!

Survival vs Thrivival!

Wow, now that’s a mouthful. Hopefully it got your attention whilst everything else on the internet vies for your attention too. 

Right now there is a growing population of men entering into their 40s and heading towards their 50s, me included. We’re faced with a couple of issues in this age category. There are some of us who have been physically active since leaving school who may have picked up a few tweaks along the way. Of course, there are some too who have been either lucky or strategic (whether intentional or not) to have avoided any injuries, aches and pains. 

There are also those of us who got side-tracked after school or college and now wonder what happened to that 30″ waist and the last 20 years.

At this point, as a 44 year man, father and husband and full time trainer, I’m looking at my daughter growing up and wondering about chasing grand children around and still being able to contribute in another 20 years time. I don’t want to be like so many other 60+ men who have fallen from physical grace, struggling to achieve even the most basic of day to day physical tasks. 

But, I am man who prides himself in being able to move well without pain, who can still throw around the weights albeit with sense and planning and I still want to and plan to do just that for another 20, 30 maybe 40 years. If I can age like the late and great Jack LaLanne, still active and leading by example in my 90s, then I will.

I won’t get there by chasing arbitrary numbers in the gym, beating myself up along the way like so many other gym rats in pursuit of a random goal. I will succeed by practicing the skills of strength and mobility pertaining to what I enjoy, what I need and want to focus on. In fact, this is exactly what I have been doing for the past few years along with most of my keen and eager gym members and friends, practicing the skill of strength. Members have progressed to be able to exercise without pain, regained confidence, lowered stress and have been able to get fitter and stronger than their 10 year younger selves. 

No pain, know gain.

Thrivival (just the word I’ve coined for this piece) is about thriving in our own lives so we can live, long and happy, pain free and able to contribute to the lives of our family, community and circle of friends. 

I don’t want to go into a lengthy, explanatory article here, but I want to invite other men like me, to discover how to still train for strength, to move better without creaking and find a way of exercising that isn’t threatening, but empowering. 

Nuf said!

To recap, I’m looking for a small bunch of men aged between 40-50 (maybe older, why not) who are looking to improve their health, strength and fitness but, without getting busted up along the way. 

Men who want to:

  1. Move without aches or pains
  2. Leave a training session feeling better than when they came in
  3. Rediscover how to use your own body to get stronger and tougher

Spots are limited and I’m looking for men who want to start now between early morning sessions and mid morning sessions at least twice a week.

If this is you, please fill out the form below.

Jamie

 

Just a very, very small glance of some moves we practice.
The list of options for YOU is huge.

Top 10 Things To Do For a Great Training Session

There are many things you could do to make your next training session good, or better or even the best session ever. Here are the first 10 things that pop into my mind which are based on some of my experiences after 20 years working in personal training.

1. Wake up: there nothing quite as sabotaging as arriving at the gym having only woken up 10 minutes earlier. Get up early, drink some water, coffee if you’re a coffee person, a bite to eat if you’re a pre-trainer eater, move around a bit, brush your teeth and spray on your damn deodorant and then head off to the gym with some pumping music to really wake you up.

2. Turn Up: funny how some people don’t improve in the gym when they don’t turn up very often! Now, if you’re contagious, stay away of course. The most successful people in anything turn up. What happens after that is dependant on … next point.

3. Mobilise: you can’t expect to perform optimally if you’re as tight as a lamppost, so spend 5 to 10 minutes loosening up with a mobility routine. There are plenty of resources available from Original Strength, Ground Force Movement, the work of Eric Cressey and Michael Boyle Strength Conditioning. Find one system or combination of all of them that you like and just do it.

4. Have a Plan B: sometimes our plan calls for doing ABC but, we all get those days when our good ol body tells us that it’s not going to do ABC so well. So, what do you do? Go home? Maybe! Fight your way through it? Maybe not a great idea! How about just ease up on the intensity or use alternative movements. This is why doing a Mobility routine as part of warming up is vital. It can tell you what’s feeling off, what’s just not loosening up and it may help direct what happens next. Listen to your body.

5. Stop rushing it: I often get the impression that personal training clients think they’re paying to squeeze as much into per session. Seriously, you don’t have to be doing something vigorous every minute. Take it easy between sets, they are rest breaks – so rest. If you really want something to do, throw in a mobility drill for an upcoming movement.

6. Put your phone away: seriously, unless you’re waiting on a very important call from your boss, wife, hubby or that hot chick you met in the line at ‘Doughnut Time’, put your bloody phone away. Between your irritating message alert and your hunched over posture as you bang away on your smartphone, you’re not doing your training session any good.

7. Leave the ego at home: I’m sure we’ve all born witness to the guy or gal in the gym who loses the plot over a missed rep or forgetting their hand panties, sorry, I mean workout gloves. Being honest, I was once one of those gym rats who took it all too seriously and got way too stressed. It may take a while, but learning to accept that our body knows best and often want’s us to slow up or leave a rep in the tank, is a lesson worth paying attention to.

8. Cover the essentials: for those who want to go pump arms and chest 5 days a week, well done; you’ll be making new friends soon with a physiotherapist, chiropractor, orthopaedic surgeon etal. Your training plan (you do have a plan don’t you?) may have a particular focus at a particular time, but always get in some Squatting, Lifting things off the floor, pulling and pushing, working your midsection and probably do some stuff that gets you out of breath too.

9. Keep records: how do you know you’re stronger now than 20 weeks ago? How do know how you got stronger? Why haven’t you gotten as strong as you anticipated? For a start, if you’re not measuring it you’re not managing it. Keep notes along with your plan. Note the weights, reps and sets or how you deviated from the written plan. By doing this every session for a few seconds will give you a wealth of information for future reference. Case in point: I have records going back to 1989 when I was a young up and coming cyclist.

10. Find solace in gratitude: maybe not something you’d expect on a gym to-do list but, we all get those training sessions where we could let the ego take over and go all Hulk-like or, we can learn to stand back, take a breath or two and think of something less unpleasant and realistic. We all have things that happen each and every day which we are thankful for. The smile of our child, the awesome coffee at breakfast, the blue sky, or that hot chick in the line of Doughnut Time. While seemingly inconsequential, making a habit of acknowledging the little good things holds just enough meaning to put a smile on one’s dial.

Created by Jamie Hunter

FitStrong Personal Training

Where to Start in Fitness?

Most of us know the importance of staying healthy. Where we all fall on the health spectrum is of course individual. Optimal health isn’t just an absence of illness by modern definitions.

The World Health Organisations (WHO) definition is: Health is ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’

So to consider whether you would describe yourself as healthy or not, you need to weigh up both physical, social and mental wellbeing.

Exercise nearly always lends itself to being a great medicine to many ailments. Many more health practitioners are prescribing exercise in a medicinal manner ranging from encouraging patients to partake in aerobic exercise, movement based systems like yoga, pilates and similar, to strength based training. Indeed, at FitStrong we attract ladies in their 50s and 60s who wish to reduce the likelihood of osteoporosis.

This leads onto the topic of ‘where to start in fitness’.

Exercise training must always be purposeful. Whatever you do, it needs to be for a reason, with an end-goal or desired outcome in mind, like the ladies above wanting to increase bone density with strength training. Where you start though depends on how you would describe yourself.

The below 3 tabs will redirect you to more specific information regarding where you may consider starting.

  1. Are you a bit broken, tired with a few aches?
  2. Are you just out of shape and in need of a kick-start?
  3. Are you experienced and in need of specific direction for a bigger goal?

Check These Out

 

If you wish to discuss where you should start in more detail, why now start by getting in touch.

From hip injury to a revelation!

‘Don’t do what I do, do as I say’ is the theme of this story.

February 2015 I was having a great time training. The programs were delivering the results and I was happy to say that as a 42 year old, my target lifts were rising. However, maybe it was the former years catching up on me or all those silly things boys do, the many bike crashes or just wear and tear but…

… I hate admitting that I got hurt, but I did get hurt. It wasn’t a broken heart or stubbing my toe (although I’ve done that and it hurt more than my subject today but anyhow).

Like any good trainer, I was doing a demonstration of a simple barbell squat, something I’ve done many times with up to 200kg – go me – but this occasion was with just the empty 20kg bar. I did my set up bla bla bla and on the 3rd rep we heard a big ‘clunk’! We heard because the client behind me heard it just as clearly as I did. The clunk was in my left hip. It didn’t hurt at all but I did check myself out. Nothing like looking down your own shorts in a busy gym and proclaiming, ‘it looks ok, no bruising or anything’!

Stupid Hip!


Two days later was a different story however. Still no bruising but quite a bit of stiffness had developed. Just like a dope I shrugged it off with the impression it would go away in another few days or so. The body can heal itself after all.

Now, I wasn’t a total jerk to myself. I knew something had happened to something and believed the acute stiffness would go. I kept telling myself that I just tweaked something. I was just doing a demo so couldn’t have possibly done anything major.

I dropped the program I was following and immediately turned to doing mobility ‘stuff’. Crawling, stretching and all the things I was using in warming up. I used lunges instead of squats and tried single leg bridges to keep the glutes working. Pressing and pulling weren’t affected so I kept the rows and military presses as normal. Yay!

A couple of months passed and finally the hip pain was lessening, however!

Living in Australia can present a mixed bag of events, especially mother nature and the weather. May 2015 Brisbane got hit hard by a storm not experienced in Brisbane for 175 years

Only a few hours of rain but so much damage!

We learned very quickly that our house wasn’t flood proof and cutting a longer story short, I had to spend 4 hours vigorously sweeping water out of the downstairs of our home – non-stop. After 30 mins I could feel the pain in my hip worsen and at the of the evening I was in agony. Whatever my hip musculature had done to protect itself after the previous injury was evident after this exertion.

My right glute and piriformis was rock hard tight, my right ITB and quadratus lumborum was in agony and tight and a week later we were due to go away for my wifes birthday…eek! (I ended up sleeping on the floor during the break – not very romantic!)

So, in the couple of months since the labrum tear, my body had compensated by over-protecting itself against further harm and I’m pretty sure I had changed my standing posture during this time, just making things all the more crappy!

The Cure!

Something had to change. At this point I didn’t go to physio or book some massages and in retrospect I probably should have but I wanted to fix this myself. Stubborn git that I am!

I had been reading about all my kettlebell friends doing this OS thing! It had a tag line, ‘pressing reset’ and up until then I foolishly assumed it was some kind kettlebell pressing preparation routine or drill. I can’t be blamed too much for this assumption due to the fact that most of my peers are crazy about pressing kettlebells over their heads haha.

On examination I learned that OS or Original Strength was a restorative movement system. It used the movement patterns that babies and toddlers used to build their original strength to progress onto walking with correct gait, head control, proper breathing, coordination and all the things that allow children to do the fantastic array of moving they can do. Yeah I know, its exhausting having kids but, enjoy the fact they move so well. On that note, I wanted to move better, get out of pain and get back to training properly. OS was used with adults to help them ‘press reset’ on their bodies, to reclaim their child like abilities, or as close to it as possible. I put my faith in this system and it’s provided a paradigm shift in our gym towards training preparation.

They use a progression from head nods, rolling from our belly to our back, rocking and then crawling as the baseline for programs. I won’t go into details here but after a few sessions (that lasted around 10-15mins) I felt a bit looser, albeit maybe only for a while, but it allowed me to get down to the business addressing the strength imbalances in my hips, hamstrings.

When I say strength, I don’t mean I was starting a program building up to achieve a new personal best in something. I was simply looking to develop a balance between my left and right hip (glutes, hip flexors) and hamstrings and I’ll include obliques in that too. Generally, I was a mess and needed a reset! I really wanted to tie everything together.

Anyway, through a very simplistic approach I added a few single leg, unilateral components to my (limited) strength plan in addition to the OS preparation movements.

Here’s a simple run down of weekly movements I arranged in a variety of manners week by week.

  • OS warm up #1: head nods, segmented rolls, rocks (with feet in different positions), single leg rocks, windshield wipers
  • OS warm up #2: birddogs, leopard crawling, spiderman crawling and later incorporating more advanced rolls and a wonderful move called the lego rock
  • Strength movements: SLDLs, 1 arm Farmers Walks, Lunges, step ups. 
  • Progressions: Progressively higher step ups  aiming for more control and the lego Squat and even started to add some regressions to a pistol squat which I later (November 2016) achieved for the first time ever, pain free!
  • Other strength moves: Suspension rows, kettlebell presses, abdominal hollow and L-sits.

There’s not a huge variation in this plan but I waved through the loading on these key strength moves from no loading, just body weight, to working up to hard 5 rep sets holding onto a single or two kettlebells.

The SLDL and the Lego squat however were the game changers. The requirements of the single leg movements really helped to address the mobility / stability of my left and right hip separately. Of course, that was the aim.

To be honest, I just played with these movements for a very long time. Whilst I added in some extra flavour from time to time, I always included 2 to 3 sessions of single leg deadlifts accompanied by either lunges, step ups or lego squats.

For a long time there was always a noticeable difference in balance and control of the left leg, especially at the hip. Training bare feet helped a lot with control from the ground up but it took a while for the glutes to fire and stabilise me.

This year, February, an odd thing happened though. My left hip outgrew my right hip! All of a sudden I just got stronger in my left hip. It had taken 2 years to the month but, I had balanced things out to the point of no real pain. Now, I’d be lying if i said the hip doesn’t give me some grief sometimes but no where near as sore as before. I used to pop pain pills on a daily basis just to mask the pain a little. Sleeping was agony and sitting for prolonged periods was very difficult and still is on occasions.

What now?

Well, I have reintroduced goblet squats and have just completed a 4 week program which saw me finish off with a 56kg kettlebell Goblet Squat for 3 reps along with getting back to kettlebell swings. I do still warm up with 3 sets of 5 SLDL on each leg and still play with single leg activities.

My intention is to maintain a majority volume of single leg work with occasional play with bilateral leg movements, like squats and swings.

The message to take away though it this. We are bipedal animals, but we don’t live in a bilateral life. We walk, run, play in a single leg world. We’re not kangaroos! Whilst fine to include squats and deadlifts, I sincerely advocate training the bulk of our strength training in a unilateral stance.

Go explore some of those movements if you get hip, back, knee aches and pains. Seriously, lego squats, 1 leg box squats, pistol squats, they are fun along with the fact they’ll address any lacking qualities in your hips. Of course, you should probably go see a physio first of all! Don’t be like me haha.

Sorry for the long post. I think I was mostly chronicling my last two years of training!

Train smart, have fun and don’t chase pain.

Jamie

Climb Ladders to get STRONG!

What I’d really like to talk to you about today is making your coffee a super-drink. Yeah, I know, you may already consider coffee a super, awesome drink but how about making it better, healthier and much more beneficial. Coffee, caffeinated of course (don’t do decaf… yuck!) offers a great morning wake up smack as well as having antioxidant properties and has been shown to provide other health benefits.

However, a cup of coffee also increases insulin resistance and spikes blood sugar. Now, if you like you coffee before exercise, this is great but if not, and your plans include driving to work to sit behind a desk for the day, meh, it’s lost some of its health points.

However, spicing up your Joe can counter these negative affects. In recent studies half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day reduced blood sugar levels, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Even if not diabetic and not too concerned about insulin levels, cinnamon has other benefits:

  • it enhances antioxidant properties of other ingested foods
  • it aids in reducing inflammation in joints and muscles
  • it helps to control appetite by slowing down gastric emptying and thus blood sugar levels / spikes

So, maybe mix in a little cinnamon to your morning coffee to boost your day… just not before exercise though, you want black coffee for that job.

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Yep, that’s my cinnamon laced coffee right in front of this post getting written!

 


Now, back to the main topic of the post. Today I am going to talk about an exercise programming concept that is sadly not used enough…

…Welcome to the Jedi magic of getting stronger the easy way!

LADDERS

… did you fall off your seat with excitement?

You’ll most likely have heard of sets, reps or repetitions and if you do train you’ll have used them as a way to accumulate your training volume for the session. The most commonly used structures are 3x 5 or 6 for strength, 3x 10 for muscle growth and 2-3x 15-20 for muscular endurance. Throw these at any newbie or young trainee and they’ll get results – for a while anyway.

Whilst these work to a point, say up to the first year or so of training, they do come with baggage, the kind of baggage that can slow down your progress, get you hurt or bore you to tears!

Fatigue in the gym is what a lot of people seek. They associate fatigue with results and of course soreness the next day along with the accompanied inability to do much else that day (that sucks doesn’t it?). Soreness isn’t an indicator of progress. Lifting more weight, better muscular development and lifting more volume is indicative of progress. Being unable to move without discomfort the day (or two) after training is just plain dumb. If you’ve a career, a family, a set of stairs – what use is it to be miserable and sore?

Back to fatigue. Maybe, just maybe, fatigue isn’t a good measurement of when to stop a training session. It’ll sure stop you and it will stop you making potential in a gym session. We’re mostly concerned with gaining muscle strength. Exercising a muscle to fatigue is a common route to muscle strength gain but it’s tainted, rarely successful not the only method.

In most training programs, total training load or volume is a variable that we aim for and want to increase. Let’s basically define volume as the total reps x the load moved. There are lots of ways to express this but, essentially volume is going to increase over the term of a program lasting 4 to 6 weeks. Either the load (kg or lbs) is going to creep up or if you’re a minimalist, the weight remains the same while the amount of ‘accumulated’ repetitions goes up. Simple, yeah? The latter is my preferred method.

28s close ups

With a standard 3 x [enter desired rep range] each set will typically be taken to the point of fatigue and in most cases, muscular failure. This is an absolute waste of energy. Okay, let’s examine that too.

If you are completing 3 x 10 to fatigue in each set, how easy will it be to add more fatigue? You could push harder, take a hit of caffeine or other mega stimulant, risk tweaking that old injury or lose form and create a new injury.

Maybe not?!

When operating at high levels of exertion all the time it becomes increasingly harder to find progress. Is this motivating? If you are a ‘three times a week exerciser for health’ is this going to encourage you to keep turning up to the gym? Hell no my friend.

So how do you add progression, this added volume?

BRING IN THE LADDER

What the heck is the deal with ladders in a training program?

In publications written by Pavel Tsatsouline in and around 1999 or 2000, he wrote of a structure of strength training that avoided fatigue yet allowed trainees to build ‘strength’ and ‘strength and endurance’. The program discussed was primarily used for building pull ups in Special Forces for the Spetsnaz requirement of 18 dead hang pull ups wearing a 10kg bullet-proof vest. This program method has proven to work with most other strength movements.

He explained, trainees would start with 1 pull up, brief rest, then 2 and so on 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. At this point the trainee would repeat the 1 – 10 rep ladder. This 1 – 10 progression carry out once would take less than 10 mins and build up to 55 reps!

‘High-volume plus specificity minus burnout’

This systematic approach to accumulating training volume in a specific movement creates the perfect stimulus to build strength endurance without burnout, fatigue or getting into the injury territory.

For most purposes of building strength we work with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ladders with a 8 rep (almost) max weight. This accumulates 15 reps. Programs generally start with 2 ladders (30 reps) and build up over a number of weeks to as many 5 ladders of 1-5. Yes, a total of 75 reps…. all acquired without burnout, fatigue or maxing out with hideous facial expressions (no-one cares to see your pain face really).

Imagine trying to do 70 reps with traditional 10 rep sets?

Proof is in the pudding!

A recent trainee at FitStrong followed this particular method which many before have followed. The original program had already been detailed out by coach Anthony Delugio in the ‘Rights of Passage’ program based on Pavels methods.

The program is built around the 1,2,3 ladder progressing to the 1,2,3,4,5 ladder with the kettlebell military press.

To be honest I rarely pursue the program through to the end with 5 ladders of 1 – 5. Why? Well, I’ve found over numerous occasions that waving up and down the 1 -3 and 1 – 5 ladders for no more than 3 ladders (scaling down when the body needs it and building up when the body is saying “hell yeah”) proves successful and it eliminates the risk of trainee boredom!

Our trainee started by testing out his pressing strength. He could successfully press the 24kg multiple times, 28kg a few times and get an ugly 32kg press and a pretty disgusting 36kg press x 1 right and nothing on the left.

The program commenced and finished with the 24kg kettlebell press with 1,2,3 ladders and over 4 weeks build up and down towards 1,2,3,4,5 ladders x 3, pressing 3 sessions per week.

Not a single set was taken to fatigue. Every rep was pursued for excellence, practicing good, better and best form.

By the end of the 4 weeks the trainee had had so much exposure to good, better and best pressing that his pressing looked seamless, effortless and smooth. Well practiced in other words.

Test day came along and to cut a long story short, he could press the 36kg perfectly with ease on each arm. “Bazinga”!

Bazinga-designstyle-bazinga-m

So, why do I like Ladders so much?

I can sum this up very quickly with a couple of points.

Deliberate practice without the distraction of over exertion. If every set is taken to the fatigue, this becomes the objective, the outcome and the top of mind element. If your goal at the start of the ladder is to accomplish 1 really good rep, well then, it’s done. You repeat the same with 2 reps, then 3 and the sets of 4 and 5 are the sets where you simply put to practice what you’ve already done but with just a little bit more effort and repetition required.

While you work appropriately hard on the 5 rep sets the shorter sets provide you more volume. Now, you wouldn’t pyramid following ladders as in, after the 5 rep set, you wouldn’t go back to 5,4,3,2,1. The objective is steer clear of fatigue. So after the 5 comes 1 rep set; time to recap on what best form is in other words, before building back up to the 5 rep set.

You may be thinking of dropping all the 1,2,3,4 rep sets and just work with the harder 5 rep sets and indeed, some programs do call for multiple sets of 5 reps. If your goal is to get really good and proficient with a lift though, the added time dedicated to practicing the skill of strength is invaluable. Dropping the 1,2,3,4 three times and just doing 3 sets of 5 actually costs you 30 reps of practice whilst you only train with 15 reps!

Got you thinking?

Well, why not try this method on your favourite lift. Consider your squat, deadlift, bench press or military press, pulls or even use the concept for conditioning movements.

With a weight you can safely handle for a hard set of 8-10 reps, you start your journey.

Commence with 3 ladders of 1,2,3 until you can accomplish 4 – 5 rounds before moving to a 1,2,3,4 ladder for 3 rounds and again, build up to 4 – 5. At this point start the process with 1,2,3,4,5 ladders until again, 4 – 5 ladders are in the books.

You may feel that you have earned your best at 3 – 4 rounds however. Listen to your body.

Don’t be afraid to reduce ladders in any session you feel low on steam or off for some reason. The aim is to wave up and down the volume as you build up to the end.

In case you’re wondering, the original Rights of Passage program is available on different websites, google it if you like.

If you’ve any questions about this program concept or other unconventional, against the norm style methods, get in touch.

Good luck and stay strong,

Jamie

5 Week Challenge

Welcome

WARM UP     LEVEL 1     LEVEL 2     LEVEL 3     LEVEL 4

Welcome to the FitStrong 5 Week Challenge.


First off, what’s it all about?

I’ve put together this 5 Week Challenge for a few reasons and to accomplish a few outcomes.

The program is called a 5 week challenge, but in actuality it may be stretched out for longer with progressions to the key movement exercises.

Only three movements comprise this challenge to start with.  The Crawl, Squat and the Hinge make up the basis of the main routine, a 10 minute timed routine… we’ll get to that later.


squat

Crawling, squatting and hinging at the hip (think deadlift) are three movements that are fantastic for providing the body with the fundament movement skills we as humans need to sustain for health, strength and vitality.

Crawling is not necessarily something you’ll see many adults do on a daily basis (outside of the gym) but we’ve found the crawl to be plain magic at redeveloping torso strength and endurance, hip, back and neck strength, wrist mobility and coordination. Additionally it has wonderful properties in regards to your vestibular system health. This is the system that maintains your balance and spacial awareness.

The squat encourages good ankle and hip mobility whilst strengthening the legs, backside and your trunk and yes, the movement will get you out of breath pretty quickly.

The hinge is the name given to movements that involve mostly a deep hinging at the hips, like a deadlift or general lifting that is not a squatting down movement.

The 4 different levels cover progressions of these 3 movements.


What can you expect from the program

The 5 Week Challenge will start slowly. Now, it might seem too slow for some and even too fast for others so I encourage you to take control and if needed, adjust the timing of rest breaks if it too hard.

It is actually meant to start with a slowish pace so you can still work on the technique of each exercise before we ramp things up.

You will find your mobility, strength, stability and balance and endurance will be both tested and improved during this program.

One important note – do not exercise to the point of failure, extreme fatigue or pain. In fact, I encourage you to just tease your comfort zone. Got it?

Any questions, please submit below.


The program layout

  • 3 challenge sessions per week.
  • The total session lasts 15 minutes. 5 minutes of warming up and prep and the 10 minute main body. Please note that if you need more time to warm up, that’s fine. Do what you need to do.
  • The 3 movements are carried out at the START OF EACH MINUTE for the allocated GO time, then REST the remainder of the minute.
  • The 3 movements are carried out in rotation for a total of 10 minutes. Note that the first movement will always have one set more than the other two movements.

EXAMPLE:

In session 1 of week 1 you will carry out the Crawl, Squat and Hinge in rotation. The GO time is 15 seconds and the rest time is 45 seconds.

15 seconds Crawl, 45 seconds rest, 15 seconds Squat, 45 seconds rest, 15 seconds Hinge, 45 seconds rest… and so on until 10 minutes is up.

Cool Down Note: if you want to spend time chilling out after the 10 minutes please feel to use the warm up routine of elements of it.


Now what?

Go to the top of the page and check out the WARM UP before heading over to LEVEL 1.

Yes, there are further levels. you may of course check them out but whilst they might look simple on the screen, they will be challenging in terms of both the mobility to accomplish them as well as the strength endurance to complete the sessions. I would suggest running from level 1 and onwards… common sense should prevail!


Get In touch with any questions

 


Disclaimer

This challenge is not a personally prescribed exercise program but is intended for educational / interest purposes only. You follow this challenge at you own risk. You must consult your doctor prior to starting a new exercise program, if you have any medical condition or injury that contraindicates physical activity.

Partner Up

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. Mark Twains quote is perfect when talking about getting started in exercise. Whatever your goal or purpose, getting started into an exercise plan can be a battle between procrastination and an overworking imagination.

I’ve been there, I visit it frequently and I still get to battle with the whole getting started. It’s crazy really because once I get into the session I really enjoy the time.

One solution I discovered is training with other people. Whether it’s with my wife doing her own routine or with someone else on the same program as myself, training in the company of others gets us going, holds us accountable and offers opportunities of support even if that’s just a bit of old craic and banter.

ACE describe Semi-Private as;

“Big enough to be fun, but small enough to still be quality.” This is how I describe small group training.

Small group training has been gaining popularity because it’s an affordable, fun way for clients to take advantage of a trainer’s expertise at a lower financial investment — all while keeping the fun and competitiveness of a group dynamic.

Ok, training with a buddy will be fun and a little cheaper but, what about one-to-one, isn’t it a better method of getting results and learning?

Well, whilst a few people will prefer working with a trainer one-to-one, maybe for the undivided attention or because they don’t want to exercise with others and the cost doesn’t bother them, that’s cool, it’s fine, but the results won’t be affected or any different.

Alwyn Cosgrove of Results Fitness was one of first to embrace, champion and build a huge business around semi-private training. He often makes the point that many other highly skilled activities are taught and learned in groups and they perform just swell. The Military learn to shoot guns and fight, all taught in small groups. Others from dancers, wannabe chefs, martial artists and dancers are also taught in small to large groups and yes, they too do just fine. Sports teams from recreational to professional level all train in small to large groups and they all perform very well.

So, the case is made, you’ll learn and perform very well being instructed in small groups.

At FitStrong I limit small groups to 3 people. Often these are friends who want to train together. Sometimes eager participants want to train at a particular time and end up sharing the time slot with other FitStrong clients.

Getting down to business, I have opened up specific times that I’d like to fill up with eager exercise beavers.

Now, I’m not really looking for whiners and time wasters – sorry, I have to be blunt. For a trainer to really work well with people, getting dragged down by whining and negative vibes isn’t an environment for nurturing success. Yuck, I really didn’t like having to write that but I really must be honest… got it?

I am looking for people who meet this criteria:

  1. Want to learn new exercises
  2. Want to work within a small group
  3. Willing to work hard for results
  4. Can meet up and train twice a week for 45 mins (ish)
  5. Want to have fun doing all this without whining!

OK, well here’s a snap-shot of my Semi-Private openings I am offering now. All the times not labelled are either filled with one-to-one training , family life ‘stuff’ or other activities. However, I’m a nice guy really, so if there is a time that you’re really motivated to train in, do ask, it might just be available.

screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-11-47-41-am

Current Available Semi-Private Sessions (accurate as of 30th Dec 2016)

Further resources that might help you now.

I’M A BEGINNER, how do I start training?