Monthly Archives: October 2017

Testing for the experienced

“If you’re not assessing you’re guessing”

A good quote many would benefit from remembering.

When it comes to programming any form of training there is a large amount of people that do it blind.

This means they jump in head first without first assessing the basic strength, ability or condition of their trainees, it’s a shocking state of affairs.

While you may indeed get away with this if your clients are exclusively bodybuilders, this sort of behaviour won’t cut it with people who are interested in performance or strength. The chances of success are about the same as hitting a fish in a barrel with no fish in it.

So what tests do you have?

  • RM Test (squat, bench, deadlift are the classics)
  • Vo2 Max Test (1.5 mile run for example is often used)
  • ROM Testing (movement/flexibility can be FMS or other)

That’s essentially it for most people, and something all coaches/trainers should do, yet many don’t.

You literally have endless tests you can perform, however they will differ depending on the overall goal of the client.

If you’re looking at some options I will share with you what I use (keep in mind most people I see are after strength and/or performance progress).

RM Test – 1,3 or 5 reps

  • Squat
  • Power Clean
  • Press or Push Press (goal dependent)
  • Weighted Chin with Half Body Weight
  • Farmers Walk with Body Weight
  • Standing Broad Jump

The above give a good gauge of where the athlete is in regards to relative strength/power (Say I’m working with a sprinter, ideally they are hitting a 2xBW squat for 5 and 1.5xBW on the power clean, meaning they have optimal lower body strength/power)

Vo2 Test – Sport Specific

  • Example: 40 yard dash
  • Example: Watt Bike Test
  • Example: 2k Row

ROM Test

  • FMS (functional Movement Screen)

That’s essentially it.

This gives me a good idea of a persons level of strength, power, fitness and overall movement capabilities.

While a little different than what you may need, it’s worth remembering that having these is essential for good programming and progress.

Always assess, never guess.

Enjoy, Ross.

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Gem 1

I finished reading a coupe of good books this weekend.

Once again clarity of training thought has been restored.

Along with various stones getting uncovered to reveal knowledge.

Given this fact I thought I’d share some of the little gems over the next few days for those who are perhaps a tad up in the air with their training currently.

Gem 1 – Manipulation of reps for optimal strength gains.

*If you want the short version skip to the end*

The reps you choose will dictate not only the weight you use but also the overall training stimulus.

Optimally if you’re aiming for size/strength then you’ll be looking at utilising sets of 1RM-12RM (100%-70% – typically, this can change as one gets stronger and it also changes exercise to exercise).

Each rep you add increases the intensity of loading by roughly around 2.5%, although as mentioned this can differ once people get stronger or in those who have a high degree of training pure neural drive/facilitation – e.g. powerlifters.

Now we should all know this, however we’re all guilty of going in and hitting the same set/rep ranges day in day out with little to know variation.

This is why many of us stagnate.

The most optimal way to train is with varied rep/set ranges in blocks of accumulation/intensification as this means you can overload your systems, rest-recover-adapt and repeat.

If strength/size is your goal, well, actually if you have any goal really, you need to wave the volume/intensity.

For example:

7x5RM will elicit a very different physiological response to that of doing 4x9RM given the total loads lifted will be drastically different in terms of intensity, even though volume is equated.

For starters you’ve got more MUA (motor unit activation) in higher loads 1-5RM has been shown to offer the most bang for your buck in this regard.

When it comes to training the more of the muscle you can recruit the more benefit you’re likely to get.

Yet staying with one for too long will only lead to stagnation and potently overtraining. Especially with loads of that magnitude.

The energy systems used will vary as well, so Anaerobic Alactic 1-5RM, Anaerobic Lactic 6-12RM and Aerobic 13-20RM to briefly touch on that.

^^ It’s wroth looking into further if you are curious.

Rest periods will also be different which will further change the hormonal response of the body for example, resting 60-90 seconds has been shown to have a positive effect on growth hormone production, while 3-5min has been shown to have a greater effect on testosterone levels.

So apart from obvious intensity differences what else is going on?

If you load with a sub maximal weight you will find the MUA is lower and will take far more time to achieve as you will need to ramp up the volume to provide the fatigue necessary to achieve full recruitment of the muscle.

While not a bad way to go it can lead to burn out rather quickly if your recovery is not on the nose (I speak from experience).

Or you can simply warm up and lift heavier loads for repeated efforts instead and get a better response with less overall volume, to a degree, there’s always a caveat to these things.

You can’t do the above forever, more on that later.

Given what I’ve just written here is a little technique you can utilise a nice little trick of the body to make sure you’re firing from all cylinders from the get go, here is how you may do it:

Intensification Block Protocol – Rest pause sets:

Ramp to a heavy 1RM for the day
Rest 15 seconds & drop 2.5%
Do one rep using 97.5%
Rest 15 seconds & drop 2.5%
Do one rep using 95%
Rest 15 seconds & drop 2.5%
Do one rep using 92.5%
Rest 15 seconds & drop 2.5%
Do one rep using 90%
Rest 3-5 min & repeat for 3-5 sets

Now this would work well being punt in an antagonistic super-set A1-A2 – Bench Press – Weighted Chin up.

This means you’d do A1 using the entire RP protocol, rest 3min then do A2 followed by another 3min rest, then back to A1 for 3-5 sets.

That would be your entire workout for the morning, you’d potentially pop back later in the day for some accessory work at 4-6×6-8RM for a couple more pairings.

You would also use this for perhaps 2 week blocks of a toal of 3-4 sessions depending on your training age, recoverability and overall fatigue management.

Apologies, I’ve waffled a tad (as I do).

So what does this jumble of information mean for you?

In short it is this:

*Vary your rep ranges for the best possible gains.*

Here is a quick example of how to wave the rep/set for some decent gains:

Week 1-2: Int – 3-5x5RM
Week 3-4 Acc – 4-6×6-8RM
Week 5-6: Int – 3-5x4RM
Week 7-8 Acc – 4-6×5-7RM
Week 9-10: Int – 3-5x3RM
Week 11-12 Acc – 4-6×4-6RM

Again this is all info you can find if you do enough digging.

The above is one example, you literally have hundreds of methods to utilise, so why stick with just the same ones when you can learn more and optimise your training, eh?

How do you plan yours or your clients reps/set protocols and how often do you wave them?

In fact how much have you read in to this?

It’s something I’m learning more about as the days go on, there is almost no end to the nuances involved, yet it’s certainly fun learning about them and WHY things work the way they do.

Such a nerd, ūüėā


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Volume & Intensity with a twist.

Lift a lot while also lifting heavy too.

Morning All,

I had a random thought last night while staring out of the window after reading some rather interesting information about knee alignment.

They had nothing to do with knees.

The thoughts were of a potential protocol for you to consider if you’re looking for something a little different than incorporates both volume & intensity.

Here is the premise:

– 2-4 exercises per session (2 compound, 1-2 accessory*)
– Compound focus
– *1-2 Accessory lifts (isolation), time providing

Rep/Loading Schemes
– 5-3-2 x75%
– 1-1-1 x85%

– None between rep sets: 5-1-3-1-2-1-rest
– 3-5min after each fully complete set
– Repeat for 5 rounds

You will find this gives you 50 reps at 75% 1RM on one lift and a solid 15 at 85% on the other.

It will seem easy on paper, however it’s not.

The overall idea is to progress and you can do so in the following ways on the main two lifts:

– Add in extra waves (volume progression)
– Increase load (intensity progression)
– Reduce rest periods (density progression)

Just ensure progress is being made

There is nothing unique or special about this, it’s just playing with intensity ranges on the single rep lift.

You might set something up along these lines (based on typically week):

Day 1 –
A1 – Squat 5×5-3-2×75%
A2 – Press 5×1-1-1×85%
B1 – Chin 6×6-8
B2 – Lateral Raise 6×10-12

Day 2 –
A1 – Bench 5×5-3-2×75%
A2 – DL 5×1-1-1×85%
B1 – Barbell Row 5×10
B2 – Hamstring Curl 5×12

Day 3 – Off

Day 4 –
A1 – Press 5×5-3-2×75%
A2 – Squat 5×1-1-1×85%
B1 – Pull Up 6×6-8
B2 – Lunge 6×10-12

Day 5 – Off

Day 6 –
A1 – DL 5×5-3-2×75%
A2 – Bench 5×1-1-1×85%
B1 – Barbell Row 5×10
B2 – Dips 5×12

Day 7 – Off

If you didn’t have time to do the accessory lifts you may end up with the following acceptable tweaks:

Day X – Option 1
A1 – Squat 5×5-3-2×75%
A2 – Press 5×1-1-1×85%

Day X – Option 2
A1 – Squat 5×5-3-2×75%
A2 – Press 5×1-1-1×85%
A3 – Accessory Lift – reps between 4-6

Of course you don’t have to use the lifts above, you can use any variation of the lift, instead of deadlift you might use Snatch Grip Deficit Deadlift, instead of Bench you might use Incline Press, and so on.

You get the idea.

Something worth remembering is that the single reps lifts all want to be done with crisp form, there is no sense in being a hero.

My advise would be to pick your lifts and milk them as long as you possibly can, or stick with them for at least 8-12week minimum.

As you can see there is plenty of scope for progression.

If it’s not for you then that’s cool, if you fancy giving it a go, just be sure to stick with it for the prescribed time above, ideally longer.


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Calories Calories Calories

Think we need a nutrition post, haven’t had one in a while.

Morning All,

This is one where the PT’s/Coaches can get involved and display how they work with their clients.


Despite what some Guru’s claim, they do matter.

Those crafty little things that people seem to struggle to have any form of candour with when tracking them.

At a base level, for those without any for of genetic or medical conditions, calories influence you the following ways:

Energy balance 101 –

– Positive Energy Balance = Calorie Surplus = Weight Gain
– Negative Energy Balance = Calorie Deficit = Weight Loss
– Energy Balance = Caloric Maintenance = Weight maintenance

Pretty simple.

Your own personal caloric needs will differ depending on these and other factors:

– Age
– Activity (TDEE)
– Lean Mass
– Hormones
– Current Weight

There are other factors as well such as TEF & NEAT/NEPA, however these will do for the purpose of this post.

We can also look at macros as well however that will be best suited to another day.

The big question now is this.

How do you establish the calories you need each day?

This is in regards to weight maintenance, once you know how many you need to consume to sustain your current physique you can manipulate then accordingly for your desired goal.

You have the following methods to choose form:

The Katch-McArdle Equation
The Cunningham Formula
The Mifflin-St Jeor Equation
The Revised Harris-Benedict Equation
The Owen Equation
The WHO/FAO/UNU Equation
The Aragon RMR Equation
The Eric Helms M&S Pyramid Equation

To name a few.

Those will all give you an estimate of your BRM (Basal Metabolic Rate) from here you’d then take the number provide by them and use an ‘Activity Multiplier’ to get again an estimate of your total calories for daily needs.

It’s worth noting that as with anything these are estimates.

There will always be some degree of movement, you’ll even find with the different equations above there can be up to a 300 calorie difference between them.

An older equation I’ve used was pilfered from a book called PowerLifting and is as follows:

(This give you calories for your daily needs based on your goal)

Losing Weight = BW in Lbs X 11-13

Gaining Weight = BW in Lbs X 17-19

I’ve found these to be pretty similar numbers wise to all of the others that involve activity multipliers and so on.

However if I do use this with a client I will not necessarily put them straight at those calorie targets.

What typically happens is the target is compared to their current (this is established by having them track all their foods by the number for 2-3 weeks to gain a solid understanding of how much they’re eating).

Once this is done calories will be dropped or increased periodically by 50 per week until their is movement on the scales, then we stop adding and stay there until the scale stalls again, at which time 50 is added/dropped each week until steady movement once again begins.

This is repeated until people fall in the target ranges estimated form above, typically.

It has always seemed that people want an all or nothing approach with nutrition.

They want nutrition plans that they evidently won’t stick to (plus not many are actually qualified to write them anyway).

Or they want that drastic calorie drop because they think it will get them faster results, which is does for about 4 weeks and then they crash and burn in a glorious blaze.

You have to remember you can also factor in training, recovery and various other things as well.

If you start to hard and fast you soon find you run out of places to go, I speak from experience on this one.

How do you establish your calories?

What recommendations do you give your clients?

Perhaps you have questions on the above, if so feel free to pop them down below.

Let’s get discussing that ever so complicated (which is needn’t be) topic of nutrition.


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Know your goal

Is your goal really your own?

A question more people should ask themselves.

How often have you heard of people achieving their goal only to be left feeling unsatisfied or unfulfilled?

You’d be surprised to find out that it’s actually quite common.

There are many people who undergo certain tasks to achieve what they think they want, when in reality they’re achieving what they’ve been told they want.

A very common state of affairs.

Have you ever honestly sat down and thought about why you’re doing what you’re doing?

I’d be surprised if you had, pleasantly surprised.

Knowing the underlying reasons is key to long term success and sustainability.

That said, it’s not something people give much thought to.

Might be worth considering before you set your next goal.


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Generation Idiot

Keeping up with the Kardashians.

Proof that being an idiot can have you winning at life.

Morning All,

The rise of reality TV has been amazing to watch of the subsequent years, however it’s lead to the breeding of a generation of idiots.

Deluded idiots at that.

Some people will be offended by that truth, oh well, be offended it’s your right after all.

This mentality has bleed in to the fitness industry as well.

So much so that there are two clearly defined camps:

– Evidence based people
– Everyone else (anecdote, instafamous etc)

Well, that’s have the former would have you see it.

It’s easy to see how and why people are getting confused about what to do for optimal results.

For the average person they’ve complicated fitness & nutrition beyond belief.

The evidence based lot often end up getting people to delve in to science they’re not interested in and lambaste anyone who doesn’t follow their view.

Everyone else will simply share the latest fad craze and tell people what they want to hear, regardless of if it is going to be useful to them.

Is is any wonder people are frustrated these days.

Where should people start?
Who’s should they listen to?
What are they meant to believe?

Three questions that have so many answers you couldn’t ever hope to know them all.

That said, here are three simple considerations for you, it’s your choice if you want to delve in to these more or not.

– Start by looking for the leading authorities in the filed you want to delve in to – evidence & anecdotally based.

– Next find people who have consistently grown in the field, not just in success, in their own education and views. If they have changed over they years that’s a good thing because it means they are searching for the truth and best possible answers for people, hopefully.

– You can believe what you want, however always question it or at least look for views to oppose your own beliefs so you can gain the broader perspective, don’t become dogmatic.

*Bonus – Always look to learn & question why, please also remember that there are some great people out there who give away a lot of great info for free, there’s always two sides to a coin, just try not to be on the same as the¬†Kardashians and their ilk.

Take the above and do one the following:

– Apply it to your life
– Ignore it and move on

If what I’ve said is something you consider absolute bollocks, great, you don’t need to heed my words, that’s your choice.

However perhaps it’s struck a cord of intrigue, if so you should look in to it.

The power of free will & choice, use it wisely.


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Becoming a Bear

The Russian Bear!
A simple yet sinister protocol.
Doing it you will achieve the following:
– Strength
– Lean mass gain (nutrition provided)
– Mental fortitude
– Movement skill (good form providing)
– A lesson in humility
This was something I found many years ago while reading the book Power to the People – Pavel Tsatsouline.
His protocol recommendation is picking two lifts to focus on and doing 2 sets of 5 (*1x5x100%, 1x5x90%),5 days per week, the workouts take 25-35min tops.
*It is suggested that you start off at 80% of your 5RM and add weight in a linear fashion, there’s no sense in going too hard too soon. Build up over time.
It’s a strength focused work ethic.
I’ve run it several times over the years and do more than two moves, putting in squats, chins and so on. I found 5 lifts was about right for me when done 5 days per week.
Over that time I also found that aiming for 10 total working reps was good as well. This allowed for my bodies natural ebb & flow.
Some days would be 2×5 as above, others would be 3×3, some 4-3-2-1 or 5-3-2, it added some variety.
However all in the name of maintaining and/or increasing strength while I trained for other things (combative sports).
If your goal is pure strength, give that a go, however if you want or need to add some serious slabs of muscle and overall weight to your frame then the Russian Bear is for you.
Here’s how it works:
Pick two lifts – my recommendations are the Deadlift & Military Press.
They are both test of strength where you need to overcome the initial inertia to get the weight moving, not to mention you can pause each rep at the bottom of the lift for even more strength progress.
Once you pick your two lifts to focus on you do the following:
– 2×5: 1x5x100%, 1x5x90%
– As many set as possible of 5×80% of first set of 5.
– Aim to hit 15-25 total back off sets
– Rest 30-90 seconds per set
– Always have 1-2 reps in the tank, don;t go to absolute fail
– When form starts to go, stop
– Train 3x per week
The benefit of this style of protocol is in it’s massive amount of volume.
It seems easy on paper, don’t be fooled though.
Once you hit the top end back off sets (25), you could change the lifts or increase the weight – I recommend a deload or week off before starting it again though.
You might be tempted to do all 3 days per week using this protocol for both lifts, you can however it’s potentially not smart.
Here is my recommendation for it:
Day 1 – Deadlift 2×5 (PTTP style), Press 2×5+AMSAPx80%
Day 2 – Press 2×5 (PTTP style), DL 2×5+AMSAPx80%
Day 3 – Deadlift 2×5 (PTTP style), Press 2×5+AMSAPx80%
This will be more than enough for most people.
Should take between 45-90min to complete
Over time you can build up by adding weight and sticking with the above suggestion or start doing bear deadlifts 2xper week.
Day 1 – Deadlift 2×5+AMSAPx80%, Press 2×5+AMSAPx80%
Day 2 – Press 2×5 (PTTP style), DL 2×5 (PTTP style)
Day 3 – Deadlift 2×5+AMSAPx80%, Press 2×5+AMSAPx80%
Eventually working to all three days being volume ones.
^^ If you did that I’d be tempted to stick with the same loading, not gospel, just sensible. The first option is preferable as once you hit the max back off work you can increase the overall load.
Many will not like this due to it only having two lifts, adding in one extra accessory lift for some token reps isa acceptable, however it’s up to you.
Just something to consider.

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Specialise much?

A short post on specialisation.
It’s all about picking something you want to focus on.
If you are looking at your gym lifts for example, here’d be some sensible guidelines for the average gym goer.
If lifting related:
– Pick 1-2 lifts to focus on
– Increase the frequency: 2-3+ times per week
– Use the appropriate loading/rep schemes for the goal
– Set other training at a maintenance level
– Watch out for interference from other exercises
– Set a clear goal
If body part or aesthetically related:
– Pick one lagging body part
– Increase the frequency: 2-3 times per week
– Use the appropriate loading/rep schemes for the goal
– Set other training at a maintenance level
– Watch out for interference from other exercises
– Set a clear goal
As you can see the guidelines are essentially the same because it’s just common sense.
One thing people do when they specialise is to pick multiple things at once, often those things interfere with each other and little to no overall progress is made.
Sadly you can’t excel at everything at the same time.
If you try to be good at everything you end up being average.
It’s not uncommon for people to want to increase strength & cardiovascular performance in tandem, now if correctly planned it’s possible, however most people get it very wrong.
Training for multiple goals that may have some conflicting factors – energy system usage, global fatigue etc, is an art and this process is called concurrent training.
We won’t be covering that today.
This is a large topic to cover, as such here are some good places to start:
So some thing to consider if you want to bring up something that’s lagging.
If you want to focus on making something better, limit what you want to focus on.
You won’t lose your other gains if you set other training at a decent maintenance level.

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Break your pattern

7 day weeks are overrated.
Especially for training.
Morning All,
When it comes to frequency of training we know that we should be hitting each muscle group or movement at least twice per week.
You can also look at this from the standpoint of hitting the muscle or movement every 3-5 days.
Most people do this by running on a 7day week, which is fair enough, most people have lives after all.
That said, there is a more interesting way.
Our body is a clever thing, it will begin to remember the pattern we adopt and as such we may unknowingly sabotage our progress.
Have you ever though about a rolling routine for your training?
Now if you have no training restrictions and can train on any day then a simple 4 day split of; Pull-Push-Legs-Rest-Repeat will work very well.
If you are constrained to the 7 day week fear not, you can still utilise a rolling training program while hitting the optimal frequency of every 3-5 days (2 exposures in a 7 day period), you just won’t train the same workout each time.
Say you have only 4 days a week to train:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday
If you use the split above it might look like this:
Pull, Push, Legs, Pull – Week 1
Push, Legs, Pull, Push – Week 2
Legs, Pull, Push, Legs – Week 3
You can see it’s a three week rotation and you’re hitting each muscle every 3-5days while also not doing them on the same day of the week, meaning some extra mental stimulation as well.
You also have to factor in exercise crossover.
^^ Deadlift & squat for example, both hit the legs and posterior chain. Perhaps you have get ups as a warm up & prowler on Leg day as a finisher, these also hit the upper body isometrically, make sense?
As you can see there is no lack of logical structure here.
Something what would be very useful is perhaps having 3 distinct workout options (think same but different), so that each 3 day block of training hits the same muscle/movement actions just with different variations of the same exercises.
Then you’d set yourself the task of doing each 3 day mini cycle 6-8 times, progressing by a doing weight, sets or reps as needed.
That would mean you have a solid program that will last anywhere from 18-24 weeks.
Talk about forward planing for long term gains.
Here is an example of different movements you may use (I will give you 3 main lifts & variations per day) –
Pull –
Deficit Snatch Grip Deadlift
Block Pull
Push –
Standard Grip Bench Press
Close Grip Bench Press
Incline Press
Legs –
Front Squat
Hack Squat
This is with the main lift, I’d then advise perhaps 2-3 accessory lifts, erring on the side of 2 as over the years I’ve found less is more.
Guess what, you can also have different options for each of the accessory movements as well, talk about variety planned in to a specific goal.
Now this might seem like a lot of effort, however it works, it works well to be honest, it works best when combined with optimal nutrition (calories set accordingly of your goal).
Give it some thought, if you can’t cray it yourself feel free to ask for some help on here.

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A question for you

Have you made progress?
Like any at all?
Have you
– Gotten stronger
– Improved VO2 Max
– Gotten leaner
– Added LBM
– Ranked higher in your sport
I would trust that you have rather than simply spinning your wheels.
What was it Warren Buffett said –
“It’s nice having a lot $$$ but don’t keep it around forever. Otherwise it’s like saving sex for old age.
I feel a lot of people do this in their lives.
They aim to accumulate points over time and then expect something marvellous to happen.
Many put off the gym and pledge to do more later on, it never happens. They never make the change they need.
They remain the same.
Are you one of these people?
Give it some thought.
If you haven’t made progress in a while it might be time to make a change.

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