Tag Archives: skill

Getting strong is easy, unless you don’t train these three elements that is.

Training these three elements will almost guarantee an increase in strength/performance.
 
1 – Breathing
2 – Core 3 – Grip
 
I can’t quite remember where I heard this and there is every chance I’m getting the quote wrong:
 
“When you master your breath you’ve mastered your strength.” ^^ 🤔
 
Going to dig this out, pretty sure it was a martial arts master who said it and it was in a book on strength training I read recently, probably a Russian author I can’t spell correctly or one of Pavel’s books.
 
Let us now have a very simple look at why each of the three above can yield so much reward for what might in real world time be very little sacrifice.
 
Breathing –
 
Breath is the essence of life and it’s fair to say that if you can’t breath you’ll die.
 
Oxygen and all it’s miraculous dealings/conversions in the body is actually quite impressive and truly worthy of our attention.
 
Alas many don’t give it a second thought.
 
In fact the majority of people breath Apically (top of chest and moth breathing).
 
This leads to a slight dominance in the sympathetic nervous system, if you are to take faith in the science.
 
^ It’s what when we are startled we gasp for air and sprints away. Mouth breathing allows us to get in more immediate oxygen for those ‘life or death’ situations, however it’s not something we should be doing all the time.
 
^^ Posture being a little poor can also affect who we breath.
 
Along with being wired all the time you’ll also find a potentially large amount of excessive tension in your upper back, traps, neck and surrounding muscles because they bering to rise/fall to help you take deeper breathes.
 
Just ask someone to take a deep breath and you’ll see the chest puff up and the person maybe even go a little red as they strain to get in more, while this is common it’s not correct.
 
Diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing, like kids do) is what we really want to be aiming for as this is our so called natural breathing pattern.
 
It’s also worth nothing that when you utilise this style of breathing you’ll find your core stability increases, as does your ability to brace under heavy loads.
 
There is an added bonus too, your hip flexors will relax as they no no longer have to provide ‘last minute stability’ because you’re breathing is shot and your core is akin to jelly, FYI.
 
^ Sue Falsone has some great work on this topic.
 
If you want to master your breath there is only one way to do it; practice.
 
Start off with 5min dedicated time per day (like meditation), in through the nose for a desired amount of seconds like 10 🤔, hold for some arbitrary time, perhaps 5, and then out for 10 again, you get the idea.
 
The focus should be on utilising your diaphragm.
 
If you’re really focused you can even concentrate on doing this while you’re walking, reading, sitting at your desk working (that ones hard), however you do it is up to you, just do it.
 
Next up,
 
Core –
 
Linked with breathing more than you’d think.
 
A great way to start to train your core is to think in the following way: – Stimulate – Coordinate – Isolate Here is what they mean to me.
 
Stimulate = begin a session with some drills such as TVA bracing, deep breathing, micro tensing all so that you can get the ‘feel’ of your core doing what it should be doing.
 
Coordinate = pick some large compound movements such as TGU, Crawling/Climbing/Throwing/Jumping/Locomotive patterns, rotational/unilateral compound movements and of course your classic lifts (snatch, C&J, S/B/D etc)
 
Isolate = finish a session with some core specific movements that start off high on the neurological scale of demands and get easier (2-3 can be a good start).
 
^ Example: Strict Hanging Leg Raise, L-sit, Plank All in all the more movements you can have in your training that link the body together as one unit the better you’ll find your core becomes, especially when you factor in diaphragmatic breathing as well.
 
The last part is known as ‘Breathing Behind the Shield’.
 
^You should investigate this thoroughly.
 
Lastly we have,
 
Grip –
 
Nothing is more impressive than a good strong grip that resonates in a firm handshake that your peers adore.
 
Having a strong grip not only allows you to lift more, it’s also a sign of your nervous systems health/fatigue levels because once your pressure drops you know it’s time for some volume/intensity dealoads.
 
Same goes for a day where you’re literally crushing the bar, that means load that bad boy and get some PB’s.
 
Another benefit of a strong grip is called Irradiation.
 
^ In short it means the sigher you grip something the more potential muscle fibre/motor unit recruitment you can have, look up Sherrington’s Law of Irradiation.
 
All in all holding things for length of time is one of the best ways to build grip strength endurance, to build grip strength you need to ‘crush’ things in your little paws.
 
CoC (captain of crush) grippers are excellent for this.
 
As is performing pulling movements with fat grips, thicker bars, towels wrapped around a bar so it compresses meaning you need to grip harder, you’ve also go the option of doing pulling movements holding the towel (look up towel pull up).
 
Climbing things is also great, like walls, ropes etc.
 
True enough you’ll find yourself humbled adding in a more difficult grip yet it will be well worth it in regards to your strength.
 
Oh, plate pinches and pinch grip work is also epic too.
 
We can’t forget heavy kettlebell single arm swings or snatches also forge a cast iron grip as well.
 
Taking in to account all of the above there is one ‘secret’ move that pretty much covers everything.
 
Heavy awkward object loaded carries.
 
Honestly, try carrying things for 5+ minutes at a time, you’ll find your breathing needs to be correct, your core braced tight and your grip locked like an immovable vice.
 
At the end of a good session of carries you’ll find everything is suitably fried.
 
Not just because of the effort required to pick up, carry (possibly load on to) and repeat, it’s also because of the time under tension (and overall tension too) they force you to have.
 
There you have it.
 
A lengthy ramble that could have been summed up with just one sentence –
 
“To get stronger train your breathing, core & grip more.”
 
😂😂😂 FML.
 
How much training time do you decimate to the above?
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What’s your doctrine?

In fitness you’ll find many tomes.

Each has its own unique benefits, limitations and place in the realm known as physical culture.

You can probably guess I’ve followed a few over the years.

Becoming embroiled in one thought process is easily done, especially if it’s spoken with enough conviction. In the 70’s we had body building, the 80’s had step, the 90’s was functions training and the last couple of decades brought us CrossFit & HIIT and more recently Movement Culture.

As mentioned above, all have their good points and in truth once you find one that keeps you consistently training you’ll feel great, or at least a part of something bigger than yourself.

I’ve personally been in the industry a fair while now, a literal lifetime when compared to the age of some young adults just stepping in to the field.

In this span I’ve seen trends come and go.

Plus there are a few things that have stayed and will always remain important.

  • Strength
  • Mobility & Movement
  • Health
  • Enjoyment (purpose)

You might love running, if so cool you go run just be aware of what running is lacking from the above (strength).

Perhaps you’re a powerlifter, great just be sure to fill in the missing gaps (health, mobility & movement).

I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.

On a personal note I don’t really care what people do so long as they are doing it for the right reasons, that being it means something to them that is at the live of their very soul, none of this superficial bullshit, got no time for such pointless things.

Do you love what you do?

No, really, can you say without any doubt you love what you do (in the gym, this kinda applies for life as well – just saying).

If you have any hesitation or have to justify your answer then somethings not right.

You’ll find many a doctrine in fitness, ideal if you find one that have the elements mentioned above that’s the most optimal one, however it’s also rare.

Enjoy,
Ross

Oh, before I forget, it’s okay to create your own style you know. Learn from all the single views of the big picture and eventually you’ll have quite the impressive view to which you can then give back to the realm of fitness by creating something of your own.

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“Box Jump” – an abused exercise

“I have a 50 inch box jump” 
 
This is my face when someone claims this – 🤔🤔🤔🤔
 
Now while it is entirely possible, it’s not probable.
 
What most people have is a 50 inch tuck jump.
 
To have a legitimate box jump of that heigh yo’d be looking at a 40+ standing vertical jump, and that shits almost as rare as helpful retail staff at TK-Max.
 
It is easy to get movements confused.
 
I get it, the box jumps we see on the gram look impressive, they draw in the likes, however if you know what a good form box jump looks like you’ll know the difference.
 
We mistakenly think that the higher we stack the boxes the better it will be for us.
 
So very wrong.
 
Like terrible, really.
 
There are a lot of articles form well respected athletic coaches that are not he same page, I will google one and pick the first without reading it because I’m that confident if I search –
 
Real vs Fake Box Jump
 
I will get one.
 
 
Do you have box jumps in your training?
 
If so you might want to dig in to the form, just for the lol’s if nothing else.
 
I will leave you with two points to remember.
 
1 – Your hips want to stay above your knees when you take off and land, that is correct form, video yourself and check.
 
If your knee/hip angle chances dramatically from takeoff to landing on the box then I’m sorry, that’s not a box jump, it’s a tuck jump on to a box.
 
(I’m not really sorry).
 
2 – They are a power exercise (high velocity) and best served in sets of reps where you accelerate maximally, once speed goes you stop.
 
While you can use them for cardio you probably shouldn’t.
 
Bonus Point – Step down off the box, don’t jump down, unless you want increased risk of injury, then by all means fill your boots.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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***Plateau Breaker Series***

We all hit a wall at times with progress.
 
Given I’ve been here several times I’m going to share with you some of the methods I used to overcome mine.
 
First up, shoulders.
 
More specifically, pressing overhead.
 
There is little else quite as impressive as putting a heavy weight over head.
 
Ideally you want to be able to press your own bodyweight with crispy clean form.
 
Many can’t because they’re just too weak.
 
Or too heavy, might be a combination of both, who knows.
 
The three go to methods in my arsenal are as follows:
 
Negatives – High MUR, allow overload of CNS, good fun
 
Partial Presses – Teaches high tension, helps with confidence to grind through sticking points, looks cool
 
Plyometrics – Improve RFD, improves CNS connections, makes great fodder for Instagram video
 
How do you apply these?
 
There are many ways, I will give you some easy to apply ones immediately.
 
Negatives:
 
Push press (or push jerk) a heavier load than you can strict press overhead.
 
Aim for 2-5 reps, each rep you will aim for 6-10seconds on the negative portion of the lift. If a rep negative is less than 6 second stop the set, if it happens on the next set you’re done for the day with these.
 
Sets, well starting off with 3-4 is good, aim to bulk to perhaps 6-8 total, rest as needed between sets.
 
Don’t just let it drop though, stay tense and almost aim to pull the weight back down.
 
Partial Presses:
 
You will need Pins for this of block son some description where you can place the bar on.
 
Simple set the bar at your sticking point and press away.
 
Given the reduced range of motion 4-8sets of 4-6reps work well for this, you may also be abel to utilise heavier loads than normal as well, just make sure you keep total body tension in each rep.
 
*You can also set partial ROM, you’d need two sets of pins for this, say giving you 4inches of movement, you press from a pin just below your sticking point to a pin just above your sticking point. You’d drive the bar in to the top pin AS HARD AS POSSIBLE, for as long as possible, then repeat until you hit momentary muscle failure, then rest 5min.
 
Plyometrics:
 
Personally I’ve found launching a medicine ball as high as possible in the air works well.
 
You’d so as many sets as possible while maintaining speed, reps would be 2-3 per set as the focus is on acceleration. Rest 1-3min.
 
If you’re more advanced you can look at handstand depth drops – look up the book ‘Plyometric Training, achieving explosive power in sport, Hatfield & Yessis’.
*Please note all of the above, unless stated, are to be done while leaving a couple of reps in the tank, strength is a skill and you should see the above as PRACTICE not a workout method, if you want to get strong.
 
There you have it.
 
Some simple methods for breaking a pressing plateau that can be performed in most gyms without the need for specialist kit.
Be sure to get in remedial work in the form of lateral raises, reverse flies, t3 raises and so on, these areas are often neglected and can be the cause of tension (strength/power) leakage, they will be covered in the future so keep your eyes open for that post.
 
Next time; Deadlifts.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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Stuck on Repeat, it’s not so Bad

Repeatable training sessions, chance would be a fine thing in this day and age.

Morning All,

We’ve all done some crazy ‘one off’ training sessions over the years, however they are not really repeatable and as such nothing more than a little bit of a challenge.

Having something like this every now and again is good for the soul, it leaves us feeling rather pleased with ourselves, so long as they’re only every once in a while.

Sadly this attitude has been applied to every training session in a lot of peoples arsenal.

Repeated sessions like this, while it can indeed be done, will not yield any benefit or long term progress because these sorts of things are not training, they’re testing.

If you go in to the gym, you’re there to train and build up your max/fitness/etc, not to test it because if you’re constantly testing you get nowhere and eventually burn out.

Take these two arbitrary examples:

100×1 – Overhand Deadlifts at 140kg – a one off session

2-3-5-2-3-5 – Overhand Deadlifts, wave load – repeatable

One will leave you feeling accomplished and be great for the Gram, the other can be down two maybe three times a week for several months and allow you to build some great technique, strength and skill in the DL.

Pick your poison, because it’s in the dose as they say.

How do your training sessions stand up?

Are they repeatable yet progressively challenging enough to elicit progress or nothing more than haphazard gym fuckery?

Give it some thought.

Enjoy,
Ross

Repeatable training sessions, chance would be a fine thing in this day and age.

Morning All,
We’ve all done some crazy ‘one off’ training sessions over the years, however they are not really repeatable and as such nothing more than a little bit of a challenge.
Having something like this every now and again is good for the soul, it leaves us feeling rather pleased with ourselves, so long as they’re only every once in a while.
Sadly this attitude has been applied to every training session in a lot of peoples arsenal.
Repeated sessions like this, while it can indeed be done, will not yield any benefit or long term progress because these sorts of things are not training, they’re testing.
If you go in to the gym, you’re their to train and build up your max/fitness/etc, not to test it because if you’re constantly testing you get nowhere and eventually burn out.
Take these two arbitrary examples:
100×1 – Overhand Deadlifts at 140kg – a one off session
2-3-5-2-3-5 – Overhand Deadlifts, wave load – repeatable
One will leave you feeling accomplished and be great for the Gram, the other can be down two maybe three times a week for several months and allow you to build some great technique, strength and skill in the DL.
Pick your poison, because it’s in the dose as they say.
How do your training sessions stand up?
Are they repeatable yet progressively challenging enough to elicit progress or nothing more than haphazard gym fuckery?
Give it some thought.
Enjoy,
Ross

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One move to rule them all

The kettlebell snatch, what a great move.
 
Do you know if there was only time and space enough to do one movement several times a week this would be a high contender.
 
Here is why:
 
– Epic cardiovascular hit
– A true test of mental fortitude
– Power, Strength, Endurance & Muscle is the consequence
– Nothing in the posterior chain gets missed
– Posture, core and grip strength are built
– It’s fun, plus you can get in some quality work in sub 5min
 
What is not to like about a movement that can do all of that in such a short space of time.
 
You will also find that depending on the style of technique used it can affect the results you get, commonly you will find two main styles.
 
 
 
The first will yield slightly more strength, the second more CV due to it being a movement of efficiency.
 
Personally I’d advise you utilise both.
 
If you have never done this before than I would suggest you hire a coach to teach you, someone from StrongFirst (or RKC) or an active Kettlebell Sport competitor would be my recommendations for a high quality of instructor.
 
For the sake of thought theory, let us say that you’re going to do the above movement because you life dictates that all you can do for a period of time, say 50 days straight.
 
Yes, I said 50 days straight.
 
How can you train everyday and not tear up your hands or injure yourself?
 
That’s easy, you wave the volume of each session along with the length and you may also do well to see each day as a practice rather than a ‘workout’ because people seem to link the latter word with killing themselves; this is not conducive to long term progress.
 
Here is how you can structure a short cycle of days that repeat.
 
Day 1 – Long Session, 45min, light bell, aim for 200+ reps
Day 2 – Short Intense practice – 5min, AMRAP
Day 3 – 30min session, heavy kettlebell ladders 1-2-3-4-5
Day 4 – Short Intense practice – 10min, AMRAP
Day 5 – 20min Session – medium weight/volume (tech work)
Repeat
 
Also, don’t be afraid to have a session that consists of singles and perhaps doesn’t go beyond 25 reps each arm, it’s okay, technical sessions such as that allow a great amount of recovery while still keeping your body in the groove.
 
You don’t have to kill yourself each time you go in the gym, maybe once or twice a week going hell for leather is good, any more might not be conducive to long term health of performance.
 
Essentially you auto-regulate the training and go by feel.
 
Can you periodise it, yep, that will take some planning though and while that is my person approach some people don’t have the inclination to do such things. As such you’d do well to have a training diary and simply track what you’re doing.
 
Follow a Heavy-Light-Medium-LIght-Repeat approach.
 
Try the above for 50days, trust me, it will be worth it.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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A Month of Madness

Who likes a challenge?
 
Morning All,
 
During that time before falling asleep, you know the one, where you stare up in to the dark waiting to drift off, I had a thought.
 
The 10,000 swing challenge.
 
5 sessions a week is the recommendation in which you will do 500 swings per session using sets of 50-30-20. You can also superset a grinding movement with it as well for some extra oomph.
 
The above is great for improving the following:
 
– Posterior chain
– Grip/Core strength
– CV
– Fat loss (provided nutrition is appropriate)
 
It’s a good 4 week block of training for those who need a cookie cutter approach that is easy to follow.
 
While mulling over this last night it occurred to me that you could do this for any lift, perhaps not with 10,000 reps mind you as that would be a killer on some, however utilising the same theory a 1000 rep challenge over 4 weeks could be very viable for many lifts.
 
Instead of 50-30-20×5 you’d do 5-3-2×5 or 2-3-5×5.
 
Still 5 seasons a week (unless you can only manage 3 or 4 because of work/family/life commitments in which case you’d just extend the length of the protocol), you can still super set a movement for extra oomph and it could be great way to really hit a lift or muscle that you feel needs work.
 
If nothing else it’d keep you focused for 4 weeks, or more if life dictates a longer period is needed.
 
Immediately these lifts came to mind:
 
– Squat
– Press (any)
– Pull (any)
– Hinge (some variations, not DL)
 
The loading would be the tricky part, personally I wouldn’t go above 70% (60% would be a nice starting point) due to the high volume, it may kill you, well not literally, I hope.
 
So yea, say 60-70% for most people starting as the 50 reps each day and frequency of 5 times (potentially) a week would be hefty.
 
With the Swing challenge the weight stays consistent, however with a single lift a logical approach would be to follow a periodised loading/unloading stye microcycle, here is an example.
 
Day 1 – 2-3-5×5 at 67.5%
Day 2 – at 62.5%
Day 3 – at 70%
Day 4 – at 60%
Day 5 – at 65%
 
You get the idea, or you can just rotate 60,65 & 70% loads, it’s not gospel, just an idea.
 
The above days may also not be consecutive which will also potentially change the wave like loading flow, if you can doing 3 days on, 1 off, 2 on, 1 off is good.
 
When it comes to the other lifts that you’re not focusing on here are some suggestions of how to keep them in the mix.
 
In an ideal world you’d be able to keep the rest to a minimum and be in and out of the gym within 45-60min tops.
 
If you’re one of the lucky people who has time to train more than once a day then you can split your training session in to perhaps 30-45min in the AM with the challenge lift and partner (antagonistic) movement, then do either some SQ/DL and light accessory work in the PM for 20-30min.
 
Let us say you’re focusing on your press for the challenge and you decide to super set that with a pulling movement, you would alternate a SQ/DL as the warm up lifts for the day.
 
W/U – 5min Genreal Mobility etc
A1 – 2-4×2-4 SQ or DL (ramping)
B1 – Press 2-3-5×5
B2 – Face Pull x4-8
C1 – Remedial Accessory Lift (if time)
 
This style of training would be very much around the hypertrophy end of the spectrum due to the volume and is not for the inexperienced lifter because of the total amount of work that will be done.
Be sure to have your nutrition tailored accordingly.
 
There you have it, a small block of training to focus on a lagging lift or muscle that will keep you occupied for 4 weeks, or perhaps a few more if your diary dictates it.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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Rest for Strength

“If you really want to be strong the rest period is 5-15min between sets, if you have the time, that’s crazy long.” – Pavel Tsatsouline

Many will often say they never have that kind of time, however if you are to program effectively then you can potentially get that amount of rest, it’s a hard mindset for people to adopt as people these days chase fatigue.

I’d suggest you take some time to dig in to energy systems and how they work. In the latest revision of ‘Periodisation’ by Tudor Boompa you’ll find a great chapter on this topic and why a long rest is optimal for performance/strength.

If you are interested in strength then here are some examples of how you can achieve the above rest.

A1 – Press x2-3
– Rest 3min
A2 – Pull Up x2-3
– Rest 3min
While a small amount of effort is required in the pull up you are getting in a good amount of rest before your next pressing set.

A1 – Press x2-3
– Rest 3min
A2 – Pull Up x2-3
– Rest 3min
A3 – Farmers Walk x20m
– Rest 3min
I’m sure you can see where this is going in regards to potentially adding in extra movements or even just adding more rest if the weights require it.

A1 – Press x2-3
– Rest 5min
A2 – Pull Up x2-3
– Rest 5min
A3 – Farmers Walk x20m
– Rest 5min
What would the loads be? 85% of max and above, however if that was the case it would be preferable that you just take a decent rest, however if you feel you need to be doing something then a super set or tri-set option is a good one.

Remember that strength is a skill.

Enjoy,
Ross

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6 Reasons Front Squats are awesome.

1 – They improve your postural & core strength.
 
2 – Increased sporting/athletic crossover.
 
3 – You get very strong in the upper back doing them.
 
4 – Their self limiting nature keeps your ego in check and your injures reduced. Once your form goes it’s gone, no cheating those reps.
 
5 – Mobility & stability benefits.
 
6 – You’ll finally start to build some impressive legs.
 
If you are looking for some great little resources I would suggest Juggernaut Training, they have some great videos.
 
Here is one to get you started –
 
 
Head Coach Max of JTS is also a mountain of knowledge for these too.
 
By adding these to your training you will yield some great results.
 
You may have some wrist discomfort in the early days, however this goes away once you nail the form, until then, better get practicing.
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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A different take on Eccentrics.

Morning All,
 
Chances are you’ve heard about lowering a weight slowly and under control when lifting.
 
Have you heard about ‘pulling’ the weight back to the starting position or in to the hole though?
 
Probably not.
 
It may seem like a strange idea however it will help build a lot of strength and serve to increase total body tension in your movements.
 
Here is an example:
 
Press a kettlebell overhead to lock out, stay tense and gripping it tight.
 
From the top you now want to engage your lat hard and star tot PULL the weight down, as opposed to slowly lowering it – think along the lines that you’re trying to do a one arm chin up.
 
At first it will feel weird, however the more you do it the better you’ll get and suddenly you will find yourself becoming a lot stronger.
 
This tactic works well on all movements, especially unilateral ones such as Pistols and Single Arm Press Ups.
 
Here are some books to delve in to to learn more about this (mainly because I can’t remember exactly which book I got it from).
 
All by Pavel Tsatsouline:
 
– Enter the Kettlebell
– Power to the People
– The Naked Warrior
 
Enjoy,
Ross

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