Friday, 17 May 2013
Recently we had a request on Facebook for how to build a good weight training regime. It got me thinking, how do you build a good regime? My personal rules have become so ingrained that its hard to express them in so few words, but I'll give it a try. Everything you are about to read is my own opinion, formed from years of experience as it may be, but its still only my opinion. Its not a comprehensive guide, but rather a set of rules that have helped me, and which stand up to reason – the greatest test for fitness advice!
Rule 1: In order to get bigger, start big, get small. How often, in a commericial gym, do you see guys whacking out a few sets of bicep curls, a few sets of bench, then five minutes on the treadmill and that's them? Maybe I spend too much time watching other people when I should be checking my own form, but I see this kind of behaviour a lot. These guys are putting the cart before the horse, working the small muscles before the big muscles – or even not at all. In every session you should aim to exhaust the larger muscles before you start to work your way down to the small. Which means, start with legs (even if you hate doing them, you NEED to train legs, as I will discuss below), next to back, then to chest, then shoulders, THEN you can start thinking about your biceps and your triceps. Bicep and triceps are small muscles, and work best as a part of a chain, utilised in large compound movements. Do the big movements first, and you will experience big gains. Bicep curls are the icing on the cake, not the main course.
Rule 2: Do legs. Legs are the biggest muscles in your body, if you neglect them, you are neglecting over 50% of your strength, almost all your explosive power, and also hampering your ability to burn calories. This means doing deadlifts and squats, the two great, and most neglected, strength exercises. If you don't know how, find someone to teach you. If you aren't squatting, you aren't lifting.
Rule 3: This is less a rule, and more a guideline. Start with low reps, and heavy weights, then work yourself down, as you work smaller muscle groups, into the higher rep range. This means you are recruiting the full range of muscle fibres in your first few exercises, as it takes the entirety of your muscle to lift near its max ( when you can only manage 3- 5 reps of an exercise), and then as you get onto your isolations (bicep curls etc) you are burning out your muscles and exhausting the smaller muscle fibres which are hit by isolations.
These are just a few simple rules. There are many, many more. All of these rules have exceptions, and you will probably hear different fitness professionals argue different methods for different results. By and large though, these rules will serve you well as an amateur, and unless you are specially looking to body build professionally, or compete in a specific event, will do you well. But I encourage you to research for yourself, and to find what works for you, after all, that's the joy of weight lifting. Good luck!
Tuesday, 14 May 2013
I don't think it should be the business of any fitness instructor to tell you to do what you hate. This might sound like a controversial statement. After all, you say, doesn't everyone hate exercise? Isn't it a punishment that we inflict upon ourselves because we want flat stomachs, six pack abs and big biceps? I say no. I don't hate exercise, and I don't think anyone should.
I love to exercise, and I honestly believe that everyone, given the chance, does too. You just have to find the exercise that you like to do. I don't just mean the exercise you find easiest, but the one that you enjoy, and can return to and feel good about doing again and again. The simple truth is that anything you hate, you won't be able to sustain in the long term. You want fitness that will last your whole life, not a fad exercise phase that you point back to in twenty years and say 'that was the best shape of my life'. Fitness should be sustainable, exercise should be fun, and you should love what you do.
If you search, with an open mind and a willingness to try new things, I guarantee you you will find a form of fitness that you like to do. Whether its martial arts, dance, running, or even mountain biking, there is bound to be a path for you out there. Sustainable is the word of the day. If we follow sustainable diets, which we enjoy, and sustainable exercise, which we can look forward to, we will developed sustainable health, which will last our whole lives.
Sunday, 12 May 2013
“There is no easy way to do a deadlift - no way to cheat, which explains their lack of popularity in most gyms around the world”
Mark Rippetoe, Starting Strength
The deadlift may be a challenging lift but it’s a breeze to incur a deadlift injury. After all, it’s the exercise most closely akin to lifts you might have to perform in real life - lifting heavy shit off the floor - when the only advice you may be able to recall for the occasion is “bend zee knees!”
While it’s a lift that primarily utilises the muscles of your lower back, it involves more muscles than any other lift you’ll perform. Everything that stabilises the “core” - the abs, obliques, the intercostals, plus all of the muscles of the upper and lower back are going to get seriously tested, as well as the glutes, traps, lats, delts, teres major, the quads, the hamstrings and, assuming you’re not using lifting straps, grip strength. In short, it is the Daddy of all compound lifts.
Why is the deadlift such a bitch? Anything that challenges your back has the potential to be a bit of a scunner but the main issue with deadlifting is that it starts with a concentric contraction and ends with an eccentric. Unlike the squat where you are lowering yourself into a “hole” before “exploding” put of it, with deads you are already in the hole which is what makes them so hard. You are not a coiled spring drawing on your power, you are heaving something off the ground from a dead stop (hence the name).
Here’s how you do it:
Your stance should be narrower than for the squat, just a little more than hip-width apart. Toes are slightly angled out - less so than in the squat. The bar should be over the ball of your foot, an inch or so from the shin. Grip the bar so that the thumbs just clear the legs. Bend your knees and sink your bum. Keeping your chest high by lifting the shoulders up and back. The most important thing to think about is to ensure your back is flat/neutral and not rounded, throughout.
Remind yourself that this is not a squat. You are not looking to get your thighs below parallel to the ground, you are only bending at the hips and knees enough that you can grasp the bar with straight arms.
Keep tension in the lats by pulling the bar to touch your shins. The bar should maintain contact with the shins, then the knees, then the thighs, throughout (you might wish to invest in some sexy tube socks or wear tracky bottoms on legs day because there will be scraping). It might be helpful to think of the hands as merely hooks from which the bar dangles. Your arm strength will not be utilised at all. Simply grip the bar and let your legs and hips do most of the work.
Take a deep breath, face forward, look slightly down, and pull the bar up your legs, straightening the knees, pushing the pelvis forward. At the top of the pull, pull the shoulders back, lift the chest and lock the knees. Don’t exaggerate this thrust forward, your spine should still be in a neutral position. To complete the lift, lower the bar to the ground in the same way in reverse. You can let gravity do most of the work. You don’t want to waste your energy lowering it down super-carefully. Although if you drop it from a height while lifting anything less than a majestic amount of kgs you’re going to look like a bit of an idiot. So try not to do that.
When the bar touches the floor reset yourself, mindfully, for the next rep.
Do not let you vanity drive your deadlift. Think of your spine! If you can’t lift with perfect form ie a flat back, you’ve got no business lifting that weight. I should know. As I sit here typing, awkwardly propped up with cushions on my sofa, I’m counting the minutes till I can take my next painkillers. What did I do? I hurt my back. How did I do it? Trying to deadlift too much.
Friday, 10 May 2013
Well that's me back from Iceland and the FILC European Celtic Wrestling Championships have ended for another year!
Was an opportunity I'm glad I took, had a great trip and watched some amazing wrestlers do their thing. Meet some great people and made loads of new friends.
Over the 3 days I managed to place 4th in the Glima and took Bronze in both the Backhold and Gouren categories. To say that I'm happy with these results would be and under statement. Was hard work and took a few knocks along the way but was well worth it all.
Below are some pics from the Championships
Getting ready to wrestle!
This was my first match against one of the favorites in the 62kg category. First win of the day. Apparently I dislocated his shoulder!!!
Myself and Max discussing and trying to figure out our competition.
Father and son celebrate a rather successful day of medal collection!!!
So to finish up, was a great trip with great company. And the fact I won a couple medals, well that just makes it all the better!
Tuesday, 7 May 2013
An interesting read with regards to diet and heart disease. As with all these things, public opinion seems to flip flop, but there seems to be more and more scientific (key word here) evidence that low fat is not as healthy as was once thought, that animal fats (in moderation) are in fact beneficial and that sugar and some vegetable oils are, in fact, the devil in disguise.
This article nicely complements the recent Alex Ferrentinos/Strength Academy nutrition talk we summarised and posted on April 11. As always with these things, read, digest (no pun intended), think and research. Comments welcome as always.
Sunday, 5 May 2013
So, back in 2006 I meet up with Rannoch Donald who has been away training with Pavel in Russian Kettlebells. I don't know what the hell they are but he's convinced I am going to love them and, even better, they will make my Krav Maga better. So we head up to Rannoch's house one day and are training in his back garden where he takes me through a few exercises, but in particular the kettlebell swing. At first I didn't really get it as I was trying to muscle that thing with my arms but I practised there all that afternoon. When I walked back upstairs into his house I felt my legs start to go. I was hooked from there.
Rannoch and I worked out the similarities between striking and KB swinging. From the relaxed tension, to breathing, timing and hip snap - it was all there. We started introducing them into the classes from an early date and were really the only place using them at the time to condition the guys. In fact it wasn't until about 4 years later that there seemed to be a link between one of the main Krav Maga organisations and a kettlebell one. They were spouting on as if they were something new, but we had already beat them to that one. To be fair, when I was out training in Norway they started using the kettlebells and CrossFit there. It's actually a small world - one of the guys from Sweden who taught me KM was on the same kettlebells course as Rannoch. Rannoch wanted to find out more about KM and the guy suggested looking up me. And from there Combat Ready was born.
If you want to get in shape fast and be able to move big weights and actually have a direct crossover into your Krav Maga training then kettlebell training is for you.
Right now there is a class on a Tuesday at 6-6.45pm with another planned on a Thursday in the coming weeks. Come along to a few and see what I mean.
Tuesday, 30 April 2013
A few years ago I had an epiphany at the gym. I looked around and saw
that men were lifting hefty weights and getting results. Whereas women
(generally speaking) were running on treadmills and lifting small
weights without achieving anything. Trainers I worked with assumed I
wanted to “lose weight and tone up”. They would give me generic
programs consisting of a crazy amount of reps at unchallenging loads
on machines. And that was it. It was boring, it was pointless and I
strongly suspected the boys were having all the fun.
One day I thought sod this! I'm going to train like a man and see what
happens. For many women the idea of training like a man might not
sound particularly attractive. The world at large does not revere a
“masculine” women and it’s impressed on us from an early age that we
are expected to be delicate, to take up little room. Be skinny or be
pneumatic, be fragile, be helpless, for god’s sake don’t be in any way
like a man!
But being a physically strong woman is nothing like being a man. And
as I got into my training I realised that there was nothing
particularly gender specific about lifting weights. Although we are
composed differently hormonally, women and men have exactly the same
skeletal muscle composition, so there is no reason to train
differently. Our hormonal differences mean that it is much harder for
a woman to pack on muscle than it is for a man. Female body-builders
work exceptionally hard to look the way they want to look, so there’s
no way you could look like one by accident.
One of the first things I noticed about weight-training is how
time-efficient it is. Heavy weights at low reps meant that rather than
hanging around the gym for more than an hour, I could get a much more
meaningful workout in around 40 minutes. I also started to look
forward to getting into the weights room to see how I could improve on
my previous performance. Instead of focussing on losing something
(weight), I was making measurable gains (strength) and with this came
a very profound change in the way I related to my own body. Feeling
strong physically is one of the biggest confidence builders
And there’s more: Muscle costs your body more to maintain than fat.
When your muscle mass increases your metabolism changes, with fat-loss
as the happy by-product. As well as strengthening your muscles, weight
training has been shown to improve bone density, this is specifically
useful to women who are more likely than men to succumb to
osteoporosis in old age. Studies have also shown resistance training
improves the cognitive abilities of older adults, keeping dementia at
bay. It's also a powerful tool for combating depression as brain
chemistry is altered through the release of endorphins and increased
levels of mood-boosting serotonin. On top of all this, after a session
your body continues to burn calories at an elevated rate for several
hours even when you're resting.
Strength, fat-loss, confidence, enhanced mood, longevity, plus a hot
body. Why would anyone cheat themselves out of those benefits?
Squatting, benching and dead-lifting are for everyone. Not just
body-builders. Not just guys.
Sunday, 28 April 2013
Saturday, 27 April 2013
The guys really seemed to have enjoyed the revised class format this week. Thursday had the guys working on some lifting then doing rounds of push press, jump squats and crunches. From there we went on to develop basic defences before some sparring. I said Thursday and I will say again. You wouldn't go climbing without a rope, so don't come sparring without a gum shield and decent gloves. If in doubt just ask one of the instructors or drop us an email or text.
Wednesday, 24 April 2013
Last week the classes focussed heavily on developing our sparring skills. The classes were planned to develop the boxing curriculum and also added in some clinch work and knee strikes. Everyone performed very well and seemed to really enjoy the contact. With this in mind the format of the classes will change to the following:
Warm up to include mobility and a strength and conditioning workout. Using kettlebells or olympic weights.
Pad work developing effective combinations for street confrontations.
Technical application of defences against specific attacks.
Sparring (optional) to develop timing, rhythm and tempo. Application of techniques in real time.