Tag Archives: strength practice

Nice Snatch

The kettlebell snatch is one of my favourite movements.
While there are many subtle tweaks you can apply in your form they all stem from two styles of snatch with a kettlebell:
1 – Hard Style
2 – Sport Style
The first is meant to generate more ‘power’ and make you stronger overall while still getting a good solid amount of volume in and increasing your work capacity.
The second is all about efficiency of movement so that you can get the most reps in a given time period (typically 10min in the snatch section of the Biathlon, only one hand change is allowed).
You might want to know which is better.
The classic answer is this; it depends on the goal.
While this is indeed the case it’s a cop out answer for people who don’t want to state a preference. Over the years I’ve done both many times and these days I lean towards doing the sport variation more.
Why you ask?
Because it feels more comfortable with the sport bells.
When I grab my cast iron ones I will often opt for the hard style snatch as the handles and dimensions are more forgiving for it.
Here are the two in action side by side:
Notice how the sport style on the left emphasises fluidity and pacing which the hard style is more about oomph.
Both are good, both have pros & cons, you simply have to decide which is better for you and your goal.
Snatching works well in many ways.
– Ladders: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 both arms
– Time Blocks 5-20min
– Intervals 30/30-60rest
– Straight Sets 10×20 per arm
– Pacing per min: 60 seconds for 15 reps L/R x10min
The options are endless.
Snatches work best when largely focused on density in training.
One things both can agree is that there will be a great benefit to your shoulder health, strength, conditioning, body composition and overall athleticism when this glorious movement is added to your training.
Hitting some snatch work 2-3 times per week will truly be a massive benefit.

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Lift Ladies, Lift!

Strength Training for Ladies:
Lift the heavy thing + solid nutrition = all the gains.
That’s essentially it.
I suppose we could look at some details as well.
You know what, to me the fact that more women are lifting is a very good thing because of all the benefits it offers, however we need to look at a few things to maximise what can be gained.
In the beginning days you’ll find these two main differences between the sexes when it comes to training due to genetics.
*If you’ve found different please do share your experience.
Ladies tend to do better with a higher volume of total work and their RM loads are not that far apart.
Men on the other hand don’t handle quite as high a volume and their RM loads can be dramatically different.
We shall tackle the volume in a second, first the loads.
Lady – 5RM = 100kg, 1RM = 107kg
Gent – 5RM = 100kg, 1RM = 120kg
This has bene linked in with overall levels of neurological strength and MU firing rates, plus the initial difference in LBM when looking at beginners on both sides of the fence.
Of course as training starts to progress this gap lessens, however one thing that does seem consistent is that ladies handle more total volume far better than the gents do (faster recovery etc).
Strength itself is a skill.
You have to learn to express your strength, regardless of how much base strength you have, if someone knows how to get everything ‘just right’ they will surprise you with just how much iron they can shift.
The most optimal rep range for this is 1-5 reps.
In regards to optimal sets, that’s where things get interesting as in an ideal world it will be answered as such – how many you can handle with good form.
That might be 5 sets, it might be 50.
Who knows.
Many who follow the tome of hypertrophy will start to bang out statistics and ‘evidence’ or ‘studies’, which is all well and good, however strength is a different animal.
You want to lift a heavy load, as often as possible, while staying as fresh as you can.
When I’ve trained ladies in the past who wanted to get strong this seemed to work very well for beginners put o the intermediate level (as a general starting point).
2-4 reps x 10-30 sets x 3-10RM
The weight east set would change in some rather sharp and random ways.
Not what people expect, here is what is may have looked like if the reps were static (for simplicity).
2 x 7RM, 3RM, 5RM, 10RM, 3RM, 3RM, 9RM, 7RM, 5RM, 4RM, etc
^^ One or two movements (compound focus)
Throw in some conditioning work in the form of sprints, kettlebell snatches, complexes, PHA bits and pieces and you’ll soon find yourself or your female clients getting the results they’ve always wanted.
*I found many ladies enjoyed full body work and responded best to it for when they were after an overall aesthetic look and strength.
Here is an example session:
W/U – Mobility Flow (or KB complex flow)
Skill – 15sets of Bent Press practice 1-3 reps
Strength – 10-30 sets S/S Clean & Press + Chin 2-4 reps
Conditioning – L/C, Rope Climb Hold, Swings – 10Min
C/D – Mobility or Yoga Flow
A lot of volume, a lot of practice and varied loads each and every set.
Easy on paper, in practice no so much.
The aim of getting stronger is the goal of many.
One little gem of information for achieving it though is this; you leave a session feeling stronger than you did when you entered, like you could do more however you don’t.
Leaving something in the tank and feeling strong is key.
Doing the will allow you a higher frequency of training and that will yield results far faster then you could imagine, if you’re willing to leave a little in the tank every session.
Obviously there will be some days you push a little harder than others, however this shouldn’t be the status quo, despite what fitness rags tell you.
Apply the philosophy of ‘same yet different’ as well and you’ve got a very potent mix for progress.
*S-Y-D = Zercher Squat, Front Squat, Back Squat -they are all squats and while the same they’re still different.
Now go, become strong.

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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.
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.
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.

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The 90min Warm Up

Always be ready, you never know when you may have to jump to action.
How often are you told to make sure you thoroughly warm up before a training session?
Since the earliest days of lifting we have had it engrained that we need to fire up the body, or as it can be know now – RAMP.
Raise the Pulse
Activate the desired muscles
Mobilise the required joints
Potentiate the nervous system
One common practice these days is that you find people spend 30min or more warming up sometimes, which is just excessive really.
If you are an individual who is of immense strength then perhaps 30min is what you need, however from the majority of people 10min would be more than sufficient, most can do just fine on 5.
In some cases you may find you can literally step up to what ever it is you’re about to lift and just lift it with no warm up, which from experience is around 70% of your comfortable max, honestly.
A great many people have become enamoured with trigger point work, foam rolling, excessive dynamic stretching and other things before they even grab the bar and start lifting.
While a warm up is always advisable in some form, if you plan on squatting then warm up with squats and simply warm up in to your working sets, if you feel some strange stiffness else where then in-between squat sets do some gentle stretching/dynamic work (10-20 seconds).
The obsession with a comprehensive warm up is getting a bit mad now.
There is an old saying – “You play how you practice.”
Seeing training as practice is a good mindset to have because it means that you will always be ready to lift something of a decent weight without any real effort.
Think about it logical for a second, in the days of manual labour being common for a career, how many of them did a warm up before they started a days graft?
None, that’s my guess.
If they have do lift beams of 70kg, then they had to lift beams of 70kg, there was no option of smaller ones as a warm up, if there were smaller beams they’d leave those until last and get the heavier more taxing ones out of the way first.
The next time you go to train try and keep keep your warm up to 10min or under and aim to maximise your time by being as productive as possible.
Here is an example of a sub 5min general warm up:
– 20m of crawling and 3-5 chin/pull ups
– Turkish Get Up 3 each arm (increase weight each get up)
– 3-5 single deadlifts or squats increasing weigh each time
Alternatively, try 5min of kettlebell snatches with a light to medium bell, trust me you’ll be ready for anything after that.
If you have a day of pressing then simply add in some single presses to the mix and boom, your ready to go.

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A snippet from some late night reading.

Morning All,
As per routine there is always 30min of reading before bed, sometimes more.
The book that was randomly grabbed was called ‘Beast Tamer
How to Master the Ultimate Russian Kettlebell Strength Challenge’
It is geared around completing the Beast Challenge.
1x Pistol, Single Arm Press & Chin/Pull Up with a 48kg kettlebell.
While looking through some of my old highlights and making newer ones, as you always get more from books when you look at them multiple times, I say this nice simple training protocol.
It combines the PTTP/GTG concepts and is remarkably simple.
*Power to the People & Grease the Groove*
– Living in the Gym
It is based on 5 days training per week.
Each day you will do the following in the gym.
A1 – DL (DL variant) 2×5
B1 – Double Kettlebell Press 2×5
You can vary the loads as needed, set in simple progression protocols, perhaps follow the Easy Strength ethos and much more, that is down to your preference/ability/need.
That was the PTTP part.
As for the GTG, it’s easier on paper than in reality.
Every hour perform
2-3 Pistols each leg & 2-3 Pull Ups (you can add in 2-3 single arm push ups too if you feel your recovery can handle it.)
Now it might not seem like much, however doing 2-3 reps of each every hour, 5 days per week soon build up the volume.
In regards to training days you can do Mon-Fri with rest on the weekend, or the variation I tend to give people is Mon-Wed-Rest-Fri-Sat-Rest, this give you the chance if using ES to go heavy more often when feeling strong due to the days off in between.
All in all a cracking little protocol.
As with anything though you will need to plan in your progressions, vary the loads and track your progress because it’s easy to forget that the idea of this style of daily practice is to progress and become strong without ever feeling like you’re putting in too much effort.
If this is something you find interesting, give it a go.
I’d also advise getting a hold of the book as well, it’s less than £5 and well worth the investment.

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5 exercises you’re not doing that will change your life.

In the modern age the mentality of training is heavily influenced by body building.
Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about this, however not everyone wants to be one, some want strength, others want performance and a few just want to move better and enjoy life.
Give the influence of BB’ing most peoples training is constructed around open chain isolation exercises.
Again, nothing wrong with this, however there’s so much you than you know.
The 5 movements below will literally change your life in the following ways:
– Add slabs of lean muscle
– Build strength
– Increase mental fortitude
– Strip fat
– Improve movement patters (mobility, flexibility etc)
Be prepared, chances are you don’t do these at all.
1 – Clean & Press
2 – Turkish Get up
3 – Loaded carry (farmer walk, bear hug, overhead hold, sled drag, prowler push)
4 – Rope climbing (or climbing in general)
5 – Front Squats
Why these 5?
Apart from he fact people don’t really do them I will list some benefits in correlation with their number:
1 – Explosive power & strength
2 – Full body coordination, improved ROM, stability, strength
3 – Conditioning (strip fat), strength, stability, mental toughness, power
4 – Helps you climb trees to get down your kite
5 – Strength, stability, ROM, posture
Now there is one movement that you may feel also needs to be in there and I’d agree, the deadlift should be in there as well.
6 – Deadlift – snatch grip variation especially :3
You’d be surprised the body you could build doing those exercises, however many of you won’t because they don’t fall in to the norm and fit the status quo, shame.
If you’re one of those who has the courage to brea away from the norm here’s a protocol you can use to make that change you’ve been looking for –
*Number to correlate*
– 5-25 total reps per movement (1,2,5,6)
– 80% + 1RM loading
– 10-20min total distance covered (3/4)
– Train 2-5 times per week
– Session length 45min tops
– Track everything and aim to progress where you can
Seems simple, however you have your movements, you can choose to do them with dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, odd objects and much more.
Just aim to break the norm if you really want to get some results.

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4 techniques to getting stronger.

Let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to be considered strong.
Being strong is awesome.
It makes you more robust, improves your health*, changes your quality of life and above all else it looks pretty bad ass.
*Provided your nutrition and overall lifestyle isn’t self destructive.
Strength is a funny thing.
You’re either strong or you’re not and to what degree of strength you have simply boils down to wha you need it for, after all, strength is simply the ability to perform a given task much like fitness.
So how strong s hold you be?
As strong as YOU need is the answer.
Okay, enough philosophical thoughts.
Time for some techniques.
1 – Paused Reps
A classic that is still relevant to this day.
It’s great for helping you generate and more importantly hold tension in a lift, plus it will get you over sticking points.
You simply pause your rep in one or more locations throughout the lifts ROM, it’s that easy.
Most will pause at the hardest part of the ROM, in a squat this would be at the bottom as coming out of the hole is hardest for most people.
For a deadlift you may choose to pause mid shin, then continue the lift.
My recommendation is to do anywhere up to 25-30 total reps for this style of training, that could mean 5×5 or 12×2, perhaps only 3×3 or 4×4, you pick your poison.
2 – Singles
Another classic, however there’s a slight twist.
Again you’d do well to limit the total reps to around 25-30, however here is how you might set it out:
– 1 lift per workout for this protocol
– 80-90% 1RM load on the bar
– Perform 1 rep on the minute every minute (EMOM)
– Stick with a load % until you can hit all 30 reps, then incase load of change the lift variation
The idea of this is to build volume at a decent intensity level, having to start each rep will help you groove the form and the skill of the lift.
My favourites for this are the Deadlift and Presses.
3 – Speed Work
Increasing your rate of force development (RFD) will help you get stronger as you’ll find you may already have the base strength needed to make a lift, however you’re just too slow.
Dave Tate speaks about this at length at Elite FTS, check out his work, it’s mind-blowing stuff as he is crazy smart.
Back on topic, speed work.
You take 50-65% of your max and perform sets of reps as explosively as possible (ensure good form).
You’ll find the 25-30 rep total is again a good bench mark to go for.
Concentrate on making each rep as crisp and fast as possible, you will also be limiting your rest, top end being 60 seconds, no more.
This method is great for not only boosting RFD but also getting in a good amount of volume in a short space of time.
You may think that this won’t help you get strong, it will, trust me. Most strong people are actually pretty fast, just watch any world record lifts and you’ll find the majority look effortlessly fast for the most part.
4 – Eccentrics
Yet again another tried and tested method.
Loading up an exercises will over your max with 110-130% of 1RM and lowering it as slowly as possible is great for helping you break through plateaus.
Due to the highly demanding nature of these lifts I’d advise most people to make sure they have spotters and aim for 3-5 sets of 1-3 reps, limiting this rep total to 15 as it can be quite taxing.
You will also do well to use this method for 2-3 weeks tops.
Doing them it never seems like much, however if you’re using 130% of your max I can tell you it is soul destroying, don’t fall victim to your ego on this, especially with compound lifts.
This is great for Chins, Dips, Curls and other such exercises, I’d be a tad weary of doing it with squats and DL unless you’re a very accomplished lifter.
There you have it.
4 simple techniques that have all been proven to work.
Use one method at a time, don’t be a hero and try to do more than one or combine them because you will snap your self up.

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6-10 week protocol to a new PB for you & your clients – new twist on a classic.

If you’re not interested in hitting some new PB’s, that’s cool, feel free to skip reading this.

Let’s say you are interested though, keep reading.

Below you’ll find a simple protocol to help you improve on one or multiple lifts.

This is not something you’d find in body building very often, it’s for people who chase strength.

The information in question is a favourite of many a Russian athlete oddly enough and one I’ve done many times to hit new heights.

I first learnt of this from reading older writing by Dr Fred Hatfield, if you’ve not read any of his books you should, they’re amazing resources.

As you may have guessed I quite like the Russian methodology.

Here is the premise:

– 80% 1RM is starting load, 105% is the end game
– Double Progression is applied
– Intensity is increased incrementally
– Train a 2-3 times per week
– Rest as needed
– Stay tough and you’ll reap the rewards
– Don’t get greedy, follow the protocol

This is how the classic program looks based on 3 days training per week (Mon-Wed-Fri or Tue-Thur-Sat):

*All 6x sets are at 80% 1RM, % changes will be listed below.

^^ If you don’t know yours or your clients 1RM, use an RM calculator to establish an estimated one and go from there.

Week 1
– 6x2x80% 1RM*
– 6×3* (the volume progression begins)
– 6×2*

Week 2
– 6×4*
– 6×2*
– 6×5*

Week 3
– 6×2*
– 6×6*
– 6×2*

Week 4
– 5x5x85% 1RM
– 6×2*
– 4x4x90%

Week 5
– 6×2*
– 3x3x95%
– 6×2*

Week 6
– 2x2x100% (old 1RM)
– 6×2*
– 1x1x105% (aim for a new 1RM)

Week 7 Deload

Congratulations, a new PB to help you drive up old RM’s and add some much sought after muscle/strength.

Thats the typical way to do it, however if you’re short on time then this  may be of use.

The new twist for those short on time –

If you with to do this twice per week the cycle will end up being 10 weeks long (9 with the last being a deload).

Week 1
– 6×2*
– 6×3*

Week 2
– 6×4*
– 6×2*


Week 9 – Week 10 Deload
– 6×2*
– 1x1x105% (aim for new 1 RM)

From experience you can pair two lifts together when doing this and PB on both so long as they don’t interfere with each other.

It’s also good because you get a heavy day and a light day each week meaning you can really go for it each heavy session as it makes the overall progression far more manageable.

For example:

DL & Press (or weighted dip)
Squat & Pull Up
Bench Press & Row

You’ll find that some token accessory work of say 30 reps per accessory lift is enough to help the other lifts keep up and maintain some form of muscular balance.

Here is how I planned my sessions using the twice per week training schedule. I was forced to train this way because of upcoming events and life doing what it does best, however I hit new numbers and intact made progress.

Sometimes less really is more.

Lifting Day 1 & 2:
A1 – DL – sets/reps as above
B1 – Press – sets/reps as above
B2 – Chin – 5 reps each set
C1 – Squat 1×10-20

  • I would add in perhaps some postural work and make a few sets for smaller muscle groups if I had time
  • You can also add in some CV training (sprints etc) a couple of times per week that don’t require you going to a gym

The funny thing with this is it’s so simple people will ignore it.

We live in a world where people think that unless they’ve destroyed themselves they haven’t had a good training session.

This is not true.

Especially when you look at MRV (maximum recoverable volume) vs MED (minimal effective dose), however that’s for another day.

Give the above a go and see how you fair.



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4 Movements you should be able to do.

Well you don’t have to be able to do these, however life will be much easier if you can.
1 – A full ROM overhead squat
2 – A full hinge
3 – A get up without the use of your hands
4 – A full ROM pull up
5 – A handstand – advanced
Why those 4?
In terms of general health you’ll find it’s these qualities people lose over time and as such their quality of life depreciates, however if you keep a good amount of strength in these movements you’ll find you age proof yourself throughout the years.
Let’s look at them all individually.
1 – A full ROM overhead squat.
Now this doesn’t have to be with maximal loads, it’s just a movement that will show your bodies potential limitations in ankles, hips & shoulders which are common because of daily life.
This skill can be linked to getting out of a chair or up from sitting on the floor. 
If you’re really strong you can do this on one leg too.
2 – A full hip hinge
This is in reference to a full hip flexion with minimal knee bend while not losing upper thoracic position, it will basically allow you to lift things correctly and minimise injury while firing up your hamstrings, glutes, erectors and musculature of the posterior chain.
It will also cross over in to picking something up and carrying it for a distance or time, a skill we NEED in everyday life.
3 – A get up without the use of your hands
If you’ve ever watched the difference between a elderly persona and a youth when it comes to getting up you will see the difference, however keeping the ability to get up without the use of your hands shows total body connection and strength which if kept in to old age can help keep you out of a retirement home.
The above being said, having the ability to perform a Turkish Get Up is also a great skill to have at any age.
4 – A full ROM pull up
Climbing is something we are meant to do. The ability to pull up your own body weight is an essential skill because it shows health & strength, plus if you’ve gotten in to your golden years and have slipped over and perhaps twisted your ankle the ability to grab something and lift yourself up will be most welcome.
5 – A handstand
Balancing on your hands was an old favourite in the days past and showed not only strength and total body connection along with wrist, elbow and shoulder health.
Inversion is a great skill as it requires concentration, bracing, controlled breathing and calm.
Now these movements are very useful for overall health and longevity, if you wish to specialise in a sport then you will have different needs which may go against the best interests of your health/longevity, this is the sacrifice you make.
Being able to move is also great for your mental health too.
If you want to work on these then you can either take up a movement class or perhaps some form of advanced yoga.
Being able to move is important, don’t lose it, the difference between a young body an old one is the ability to move.

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Short on time? Better back off.

The introduction and more frequent use of ‘back off sets’ has become quite popular of late.

You’ll find you can use them to determine suitable loading for your next session, increase total TUT and even help you maintain your progress if you find your gym training time has been chopped down due to life getting in the way.

In the past this has happened several times and as such a way and to be found to get in some quality work, here is an option for you, it will take anywhere from 20-30min tops, try not to spend longer than 30min (especially if your time is limited), just focus on hard work.

This protocol will:

– Provide suitable mechanical tension for strength
– Generate metabolic stress for adaptation
– Create muscle damage for new growth

All you need to do is follow the guidelines and put in all your effort, eat the calories required for your goal (I’ve written about this previously), sleep and stay focused.

Let’s get down o the details.

– Use compound movements (Squat, DL, Press, Chin, Row, etc)

– 1 or 2 per workout (A1/A2 pairing)

– Ramp up your weights each set, start off with 5’s and work to one heavy set, then add a little more weight for a 3, then finally a little more for 1 single. The triple/single aren’t all out efforts, only the 5, they’re just for extra neural stimulation.

– Take 70% of the top 5 and perform 1 back off set of 10-20 reps unbroken

– Rest is minimal between sets, go as soon as you feel ready

– 3 sessions per week is a good minimum to cover the full body

You will be in and out in no time at all.

This short style of workout will allow heavy enough loads to trigger a host of positive things and the back of set will further potentiate this.

If you find you’re doing all of this in 20min then use the extra 10 for some accessory movements (arms, calves etc).

The protocol above is nothing fancy, it’s devised to get maximum results out of minimum time and as such leaves no room for dilly-dallying.


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