What to eat for performance and getting leaner?

Yes, what a topic to confuse everyone. The choices are numerous and every single ‘diet’ has one common theme – a total energy deficit. Whether it’s a low carb, high carb, high fat, high protein or whatever diet, there will always be a calorie deficit involved.

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So whilst change is hard, let’s keep the advice simple, and real.

If you really want to get those muscles strong and lean, any well structured program will deliver but only if your nutrition is dialled in.

A progressive strength program will run in phases to set you up, get you strong, then probably have a hiked up period of boosting your metabolism. To get these specific adaptations in the muscles we need to focus on a limited number of movements, perform them well and repeatably. 

To get a return of investment from your efforts and muscles the eating advice is clear:

If nature grew it out of the ground, off a bush or a tree, or it ran, flew or swam (plants and critters in other words) you eat it. Don’t be fearful of carbs – just keep them natural.

Here’s a wee list of what I find works the best to stay lean:

1. First off, cut added sugars. Seriously, if you want to drop excess weight, start with dropping the sugary stuff.

2. Replace the frequent starchy food for vegetables. Bread, potato, pasta – gone. More veg – in. This is especially important on non-exercising days.

3. Good news. You can eat your starchy carbs post exercise, but one portion, not a plate piled high with chips or pasta. 1 portion = a potato or a wrap or a palmful of rice.

4. Per day you will have to be sure to consume your proteins. Aim for non-processed protein sources and these can be non-meat plant based proteins if you prefer.

How much?

  • Men = 4 – 6 palm sized portions a day.
  • Ladies = 3 palm sized portion a day.

5. Eat HEAPS of of vegetables. I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again – to fill you up and to provide your body with oodles of nutrients and minerals, eat a variety of vegetables. Aim to have every colour represented every day. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are great and versatile.

6. Water. This is Australia folks, we sweat. Replace those fluids and help your body flush out toxins by drinking around 8 glasses a day – or just more than you’re currently drinking. A great tip that has helped others is this. Every time you take a sip of water, take a second sip.

7. Last point. Don’t get hung up on recipes. Just prepare food and meals that you enjoy eating taking into consideration the points above.

 

My best advice is to take a week by week progression, much like the exercise component.

Week 1: How can you make breakfast (your first meal regardless of time) a little better. What can you prepare and eat easily without fuss? A quick omelette? Yoghurt with added berries and seeds? Boiled eggs? Experiment.

Week 2: The same process with Dinner. Maybe make a big dish that’ll last a couple of days, for lunch too. Like shredded pork? Cook up a shoulder overnight, and shred as needed – yum. How about a bolognese sauce that can be eaten with so many options? Fun and simple to prepare but make enough and it’ll last a few days.

Week 3: Maybe it’s time to hone in on the shopping list. Write a list that reflects the meals you like to prepare and eat and shop accordingly – that easy.

If you are not the main meal preparer – talk to who is about what you are trying to do and work with them. Support them as they help you.

You get the idea? Gradually try to implement the tips to progress your meals to good, better and betterer. I used to write ‘best’ as the final goal, but really, that’s unattainable in the real world.

Strive for continued better.

Any comments or advice or feedback – just get in touch below.

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.

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

Just 1 Rep!

The strength training world is an odd place with an alarming number of methods, systems, extremists, Instagram idols and fallacies.

I’m not about to sell you some snake oil method here although it may sound odd to some.

First off though, strength and training for strength is not to be limited to the use of tools like barbells, dumbbells and my beloved kettlebells. Getting stronger is simply the process of a specific muscular adaptation to an imposed demand. Uuur, that just means, if you exercise muscles with a specific movement it will adapt.

Going a little deeper, this exercising must be repetitive, repeatable and must use an acceptable amount of effort.

To get stronger we need to fulfil progression requirements, like one of these three.

  1. Tension: Applying gradually more tension to the specific muscles performing the movements.
  2. Capacity: Working on achieving the training repetitions in a gradually shorter window of time. Like doing 5 sets of 5 squats with gradually shorter rest breaks.
  3. Volume: Gradually increasing the muscles exposure to the specific movement. i.e. repetitions.

This latter requirement is my go-to progression model recently, due largely to how easy it is to get strong by systematically adding reps over a set period of time. This process sets the scene that allows the body to expand its comfort zone with a given stress, load or weight in some cases.

Getting back to my early subject of not always needing tools to get stronger, I was specifically referring to body weight movements.

I’m currently 44 years of age and 93kg and I’ll be dammed if I don’t know how I got here. I’m over twenty years a trainer and still learning, exploring methods, trialling, getting stronger and setting targets that 34 year old me would laugh at. “I’ll never be able to do those”, I probably would have said.

IMG_1405

Got to start somewhere!

Right now I’m working on achieving better Pistol Squats and …. wait for it… a One Arm One Leg Push Up (OAOLPU).

I hate push ups, so this move is purely for the love of curious exploration.

For an initial period of 4 weeks I’m getting myself ready for delving in deeper into these two movements. Whilst I have achieved the Pistol 6 months ago, I lost it quickly when I took a break. Now I want to be able to do a Pistol anytime.

The plan #1 is simply getting familiar with the requisites of conducting a good OAOLPU and Pistol Squat. For this I am applying progression requirement #1 – tension.

However, rather than attempting to work on the tension elements of each movement with sets of numerous reps in a single session, I am spreading the volume of reps (10 a day) over each day, 5 days a week, with just ONE REPETITION PER SET!

1 rep x 10 sets sprinkled over the day… that’s all.

This method was made popular by Pavel Tsatsouline in the late 90s and is generally referred to as Grease the Groove training. The ‘practice’ of spreading numerous single reps over the day allows for no fatigue, good quality focus, tension and execution of the movement.

Plan #2 next month will bring into play progressing the movements into their full version. Plan #1 uses the OAOLPU on an incline (seriously, I’m 93kg and doing a one arm one leg push up on the floor is beyond me right now). The Pistol Squat training uses drills that make up the positions going down an up in the squat and the tension required to hold those positions. I will write this up in a seperate post soon.

Plan #2 will therefore see me move the OAOLPU closer towards the floor and pistol hopefully towards doing actual full pistols. Again, this plan will use a Grease the Groove approach, ONE rep at a time, sprinkled throughout the day to accumulate 10 reps.

I’ll follow this post up with an update in 4 weeks, when Plan #2 is under way.

PS This plan works fine while following other routines. I’m training the Kettlebell Swing along with High Step Ups and plank variations… all of which will compliment the GTG plan.

Stay strong, stay healthy,

Jamie

Carry On to Get Real World STRONG

Training must always have a purpose. It’s that simple.

You turn up and you conduct movements with an overarching purpose. That may be to elicit a calorie burn, to add muscle or to get stronger, faster or to develop a skill. Whatever the purpose or purposes, you should ideally choose purposeful movements. Think I’ve made that clear… next point.

The word functional gets a fair amount of use and misuse in the training world. Maybe it’s me, but when I consider function, I immediately visualise movements that relate to our daily lives and occupations. Movements like lifting things up and putting them back down again, pushing, pulling, pressing and of course bracing ourselves to handle those activities.

Just for a moment, reflect on your day-to-day physical activities outside of the gym and then consider how they fit into the above range.

Go on… I’ll wait for you.

These movements above are what I think of when talking about functional training. One more activity that we can’t ignore is carrying ‘stuff’.

How often do you carry armfuls of shopping, maybe gardening activities, carrying those 25s to the bench to press them and a myriad of other carrying? You might find these chores challenging too, exposing your weaknesses. The carry has a much great purpose than just incidental transportation of things, it transforms your weakness to a strength.

The action of successfully carrying heavy implements has a multitude of physical benefits that’ll be sure to toughen you up and give you some real-world ‘strong’.

So what do carries do?

If carries had a sales pitch:

Putting carries into your life will tighten up your posture as good as granny making you walk around with books on your head. Your upper back will get strong like ox whilst your shoulders will boast some impressive wolverine shadows (the hair is a different story though!). Expect your grip to take on a vice like quality… everyone likes a firm handshake. Talking of firm, your backside will develop mighty fine hardware to go along with a torso only the Gods of Mount Olympus could forge. “Holly abs of Zeus”!

How to do carries?

The rules of the carry are simple. Pick up your weight and carry it for a set time or distance. Vague I know, but committing to the carry is vital. Yeah, it might suck a little as every muscle on your frame gives you feedback that time is up. Rule two then is this… don’t let go, don’t give up. Rule three, maintain your postural integrity. We don’t want to see any hunch-backing, bending over sideways or other ugly positions. Stay tight, stay upright, stick with it.

What kind of weights or implements depends on what you have. I like kettlebells because they’re compact and often heavy. Specialised bars can be used as well as dumbbells, barbells, heavy bags, a wheelbarrow full of rocks, rocks by themselves. An adventurous mind will be helpful.

Carrying isn’t just limited to carrying by your side. Here’s a list of options:

  • Farmers walk with two weights by your sides
  • One arm carry by your side 
  • Racked on your shoulder, one or two arms 
  • Overhead carry, one or two arms (depending on shoulder mobility this might or might not work) 
  • Sled pull and carry anything, anyhow, any way
  • Sled pull with a harness, a weighted vest whilst pushing a wheelbarrow – I have never done this one, but wowsers, it sounds pretty cool.

Here are a few videos:

Coach Dan John calls carries the Game Changer. Read what he has to say – just in case you don’t believe me!

An adventurous mind will be helpful but stick to the rules and really do try to include some kind of carries into your training week.

I challenge you to experiment over the next month with carries. You’ll not be disappointed.

Stay strong and mobile,

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.

img_1049

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”!

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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

Greed vs Acquisition

We all know those people, they’ve got all the mod cons, gadgets and gizmos, latest trending whatnots and thingajigs. Whilst I’m quite content with the essentials things that will just ‘do me fine’, other people appear to want everything, probably with the goal to satisfy their position in their societal circles. My circles tend to be happy to get sweaty and dirty types who enjoy crawling and swing Kettlebells so yup, there is a distinct difference between my normal and that of others.
Now, I was recently tied into an engagement with a couple who, throughout the evening, seemed enthralled with detailing to us all of their possessions, recent purchases, new cars, watches, expensive kids clothing, how much they spent on a night out and all the what’s next on their purchase schedule.

As I often do in these situations I switched off rather quickly, put on standby as it were, until something would trigger the interest of my streamlined, introverted brain matter!
During the time I was listening though, I did find myself feeling a bit down, like I was letting down my immediate family because I wasn’t squandering my earnings on whatchamacallits. But, then the observational ah ha moment hit me. One brief moment reminded me of a scene from some old movie scene or maybe it was a boisterous scene from Blackadder, with a superfluous banquet, wenches and all.

Steak, wine, bulging bellies and full-mouthed blathering. Greed, excess and an obvious disregard to health.

So, I put away my guilt and replaced that with pity, dismay and wonder.
It also makes me liken this gratification lifestyle to that of the fitness ‘want it all now’ types.
It breaks my heart at times to tell some enquirers that losing 5kg in 5 weeks probably won’t happen. Gaining a huge deadlift, running a sub 40 min 10km or learning how to create a life-lasting diet change doesn’t happen in any short time.
It may seem disheartening to most but, making any lasting change takes time and lots of it, along with learning, planning, patience, falling down and getting back up again and realising that getting your goal just because you want it, isn’t the same as acquiring the goal in time.
You can’t buy results, not genuine ones anyway.

I was brought up in a Steiner education that empowers children to explore to learn, to understand in their own ways and time to fully understand the how’s, why’s and ah ha moments.
Acquiring any skill and goal does require just this. Patiently wading through the steps and progressions with a few learning hiccups along the way. Eventually whilst stumbling you’ll figure out how to stumble less and yes, of course, a well experienced trainer or coach can help because they’ve / we’ve already made those stumbles, learned some good stepping stones to success hopefully, and moved on.
Speaking personally, I’ve finally conquered one of my own goals this year after battling on and off with it over the past years. The pistol squat comes naturally to many men and women but I struggled for various reasons until this year when I tackled it with a progressive plan that wasn’t timed at all. I only levelled up progressions when I mastered each stage with competence. Now I can easily drop into and pop out of a pistol squat whenever I feel like it. This success took around 4 sessions a week over a number of months, simple.

Another female client had a goal this year of being able to carry out multiple push ups and getting her first full pull up. This she did, but it took around 4 months of gradual waving up and down progressions (4 times a week) to safely and proficiently achieve her goals.

The instant gratifications took simply months of commitment.

So many people chasing their fitness goals don’t want to hear about committing to months of training and have the attention span of a 2 year old in a toy shop. But, seriously, if you have a goal, treat it seriously and nut down the goals steps and stick to a plan. Expect ups and downs so, in terms of creating a time-line, don’t be too strict. Just take each weeks training as it happens and respond accordingly.
If all this seems a little too much to handle, I’d be happy to talk, to help clarify the steps.
Essentially though, don’t be greedy and hasty, take your time, enjoy the trip, fall, get up and keep going.

How Strong is your X?

Before you think this is a relationship post, questioning the strength of your former girlfriend / boyfriend, it’s the other X, your core.

Your torso and all its wonderful collections of muscles tie you together. However, the old crunches and sit ups don’t really provide the stimulus to really develop a rock hard, well functioning torso. Most of us have actually already had the most awesome ‘core’ strength but lost it during our older childhood years and adulthood, especially as we stopped moving as much.

As babies we crawled, lifted our heads that where a third of our bodyweight, we rolled and moved in an extraordinary array of ways that we would probably struggle with as adults.

I’m 93kg and I can’t imagine doing my training with an extra 25kg attached to my head, but I still try to move my body with the same ability as an agile toddler!

baby-roll

So, here are some challenges for ya’ll.

While I could suggest you attempt to hold an abdominal hollow for great time over 4 weeks, it really won’t develop what I aim for. What I am aiming for is develop your torsos cross bracing, control and body awareness.

Progress through each challenge sequentially. No rush!

Challenge #1:

Perform Segmented Rolls for 5 mins. Lead with the eyes, head and that single limb.

 

Challenge #2:

Perform the Hollow Roll without your hands or feet touching the floor. Aim to progress to 2 minutes of this. Don’t rush, aim to complete 2-3 breaths (or longer) whilst on your back and stomach.

 

Challenge #3:

Perform the Hard Roll with a foam block spacer – just perform one full hard roll on each side. The spacer just makes the move a little easier to get used to the movement.

That’s the first agenda item, getting used to the movement. After that, aim for 2 each side, 3, 4 then 5 over a number of sessions. When you can do that, move to the Hard Roll.

 

Challenge #4:

Perform the Hard Roll for 2 mins straight… Here’s my video of my failing the hard roll tonight. Ideally, keep the hands and feet off the ground or from assisting with the roll. Keeping it real, I am human after all! I’ll get up a better video soon.

 

Feel free to share you attempts on the FitStrong Facebook page 🙂

Jamie

Number 1 Key to Success

Now there’s an attention grabbing title!

However, I do have just that, one key thing to do in order to start the success process…

Number-1Whether you seek success in life, fitness, weight loss – in fact, anything you want to achieve, I would argue that the most important action is to “JUST SHOW UP.”

Many clients often ask something similar to, “How long does it take to…lose 5kg / knock 5 mins off my 5km run / eat better.” The answer is invariably always the same – start doing something.

I’m personally a terrible procrastinator. I’ll want to start a program but spend too much time pondering the details when all I’m doing is wasting time in starting the program. Another great example I’m sure my wife would agree with is finishing the new raised veggie patches. I want to do it but, I’m all, “yeah but, I’ve to go get the wood, level the ground, buy more stuff for drainage ….bla bla bla, I’ll do it tomorrow!”

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We all want something that’ll requires us to start doing something and it’s even easier to not do it. But, once we do actually start, we’re on the path to success.

Getting to the point. If you have something in your head, a goal, an outcome that you want to achieve, something you want to change, start to initiate that change with just one thing. The Just Show Up line can refer to actually making it to the gym or it could refer to writing out your dinner meal plans for the next day or two, heck, it could even be the simple act of writing your goal down on a note pad and leaving it next to your bed, computer, TV remote, whatever. Just start with something that points you in the direction you want to go.

Probably half my clients at FitStrong did procrastinate at some stage and left their health to play second fiddle to other things like work, partying, bringing up the family, or just procrastinated. At some stage something happened, usually unpleasant that made them decide to take action. Take pain, aches and a general feeling of being week, that’s a good motivator to change something. Their one thing was to look up a personal trainer on Google and I am very thankful that they got in touch with me.

So if you’ve been stuck in procrastination land for a while, contemplating change, I’d rather you acted now, grab your proverbial goals by the horns and just turn up for yourself.

If you’re ready to commit to change, maybe not sure what to do next, let me know below, let’s catch up over email and talk about how to get you started.