Monday, 29 October 2012

Steady progress

Monday's Strength session:

1) Hang Snatch 4 x 4-5

2) Deadlift 4 x 12 (90-95kg)

Found that I could hang my gymnastic rings in the climbing room of the gym
so although it doesn't exactly fit with the high rep work I am doing at the moment...

3) Muscle ups 5 x 3-4

I also played around on the climbing wall a bit and tried a few handstand push ups.

Keep training people.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Working Overtime

So in the week just gone by life got a lot busier.
I started my job at Sunshine Village Resort in Banff, Canada. This has meant getting up at 6am, its still dark outside and at the moment anywhere between -5 & -10 degrees Centigrade but that will gradually get colder as we get further into the winter.  Generally I am getting home about 5.30pm knackered from a day stomping around in deep powder snow and learning my new job (I actually think this has been tiring me out more, have you ever taken a dog to discipline training, it sparks them out more than any physical session!)
Anyway, I know that these aren't the longest working day in the world and I am not looking for sympathy but the change in pace, the learning and the altitude have taken their toll on my energy levels a bit.
If you look at the previous post you will see that I took an unscheduled rest day on Thursday, this was because I felt that my body needed the recovery from my first full day working up on the mountain and that I just wouldn't have got a productive session done.

With that said I didn't like having a rest day when I wasn't meant to, I think it was the right decision but mentally it made me feel shitty and frustrated.

Around the same time I came across this video of Arnold Schwarzenegger talking about his early training life during his time in the army.  I had no idea about this part of his life and the attitude he demonstrated really spoke out to me.  Now I am not personally interested in body building and previously I had kind of looked down on Schwarzenegger's achievements because of his use of steroids but after watching this video I saw that a lot of that is beside the point.  Here is a man that has really worked hard for what he has achieved in life, he has overcome multiple obstacles and got the necessary work done. The lesson learnt from this experience in his life is one that he feels he carried over as a blueprint for all his future endeavours and I think it is one that many people, regardless of their goals, can learn from too. It is well worth a watch.

The message is fantastic.  If you want to achieve something, don't listen to the nay-sayers! But you are going to have to work hard, harder than everyone else.  That is how greatness is achieved, step by step with consistent hard work.  There will be many obstacles but if you want it, YOU CAN DO IT!
Sadly many people won't.  They want overnight success, they want a pill they can take to melt away the fat or build the body of their dreams.  Quite simply, they don't want to work hard for it.

Below is another great video from Schwarzenegger talking about hard work and focus.

With that in mind here is the conditioning session that I put myself through today:
Hang Power Cleans x 5 (60kg)
Press ups x 10
Skipping Double unders x 15
x 10 minutes (As Many Rounds As Possible)        I completed 6 rounds


1 DB Snatch x 2 per side (50lbs / 22.5kg)
Sprawl Burpees x 6
x 10 minutes (As Many Rounds As Possible)       I completed 12 rounds

I could go out tonight and party with some the other guys but I know I have to get up tomorrow at 6am, work a whole day (doing the best job I can do) and then hit the gym hard for a strength session.  So I am not drinking, going to bed early and resting up.  You want something? make the scarifies and work hard for it.

Train hard, live happy.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Training continues...

Wednesday 24/10/12
Strength 1

1) Hang Snatch 3x4 + 1x3 ( up to about 47.5kg)

2) Deadlift 4 x 12 (up to 90kg)

3a) 1 DB Overhead press 3 x 10-12 per side
3b) Assisted 1 arm Pull ups (using rope attachment) 3 x 6 per side

4a) L / Y / W shoulder exercises 3 x 15 each
4b) Handstand practice 3 x max

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Friday 26/10/12
Strength 2

1) Hang power Clean 5 x 5 (55-60kg)

2) Front squat 4 x 12 (up to 50kg)

3a) See-saw DB chest press 3 x 12 per side
3b) Bodyweight rows (feet elevated - pause at top) 3 x 12

4a) L-sit 5 x submax
4b) Planche hold (tuck) 5 x submax

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Saturday 27/10/12
Recovery / Drills

Solo BJJ drills x 1hr

Swiss ball work:
- S-passes
- Low squat
- Kneeling balance
- Knee on belly balance
- Parachute position
+ transitions and general movement

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Do what you gotta do

Today was a conditioning / General Physical Preparedness (GPP) day.
I always have mixed feelings towards these.  In principal I love the idea of them, they are usually very simple but brutal workouts where you just get stuck in and give it all you've got.  However when it comes to actually doing them I often find myself procrastinating and delaying the start of what I know if going to be a brutal 15-30 minutes.

Today was no different.  I stepped out of my door and headed off up the snowy and freezing cold hill toward the gym.  My head was pounding, which caused me to consider whether exercising hard was a good idea when my head was already hurting, stupid paranoia regarding brain haemorrhages and such made home seem the better idea, but I put it aside and found that the fresh air actually chased the headache away by the time I reached the gym.

So here was the plan for today's session:

100 Skipping rope turns
10 Burpees - proper not sprawling burpees
10 Press ups
10 Bodyweight squats (low as possible)
10 Pull ups (strict, no kipping)

x 10 sets as quickly as possible

It's a supped-up variant of a session which I have done with many of my clients but I was feeling fairly confident...that didn't last long.

By the second round I had a slight bloody taste in my mouth (probably a result of the cold air outside followed by heavy breathing) and I couldn't see how I would possibly finish the workout in anywhere near a decent time.  I pretty much committed myself to just doing 5 sets and then building up on it by 1 round at a time over the weeks until I finally reached 10 sets in one session.

However when I got to 5 sets I just knew it wasn't enough, I knew I had more to give and that if I quit there would be letting myself down.  Eventually I completed all 10 sets in 32 min 50 sec, not the best time in the world and considerably more than I was hoping for but it is a starting point and one that I will defiantly be building upon.

One thing I wanted to discuss, which I don't think is mentioned much by coaches is how you behave when pushing through a session like this.  Sessions like this are nasty and generally my demeanour adapts to match them.  Generally I motivate myself by viewing everyone else in the gym as a rival or enemy, I mutter insults under my breath, I shoot people dirty looks if they stare, I stomp around and guard equipment.  Any other time of day I would consider myself a nice guy, but when I have to get through a session like today it helps to let something more primal take over.
Now obviously I'm not saying go and act like an arse hole in the gym, there are enough of those already around already, but don't be afraid to let some primal behaviour surface for the duration of a tough rep, set or session.

Most 'Globo-Gym's' actively discourage people from working their asses off.  It is frowned upon if you drop weights, shout out during max effort reps or sprint so hard that you risk flying off the back of the treadmills.  Now I can see WHY they discourage this type of behaviour, its intimidating and for legal reasons it can be quite risky.  But as an individual wanting to bust your ass to achieve your goals, it can be very limiting.  So, you have to find ways to get around it without risking your own or anyone else's safety.  My way around it today was to choose simple exercises that could be done to max effort with little risk... and to act like a bit of a dick for the 30 minutes that it took me to get through it.

This is an interesting topic and I have actually written more than I meant to, I might pick it up again in the next few weeks as I'm currently a member of a standard 'Globo-Gym' but have aspirations to own and run something more tailored to actually getting work done.  However for the time being I have to find ways to still train like a beast in this place (and I'm sure most of you reading this work-out in high street gyms).  So, more info on this to come in the following weeks.

As always, any comments, leave them below.

Train hard, live happy

Monday, 22 October 2012

Staying sharp

Today was my scheduled rest day and I decided to take the opportunity to run through some solo BJJ drills to try and keep myself sharp.

After a bit of advice from my team mates back home I decided to run through the drills in this video

After a warm up and some dynamic stretches I ran through each drill (except 1-2) for about 1 minute each.
I only had a small exercise mat in the local gym to work on but it felt good to go through some BJJ specific movements and get my body warm and moving after 3 heavy days of training.

I am going to try and incorporate a few of the drills into every session I do and then run through a more comprehensive drilling session on each of my recovery days.  Obviously I will keep searching for new drills to incorporate into the routine.  Also as I get more confident I hope to start to flow the exercises together rather than working through them individually, that way I can do 6 minute rounds of flowing BJJ drills.

It's not perfect and it certainly doesn't take the place of drilling and sparring with a partner but its better than nothing and it should keep the cobwebs off.

Now, in this specific case I am training for BJJ but this general principal can be applied to pretty much any sport.  If you want to succeed then there is always something you can practise hone to hone your skills.  If you are inventive enough then you can always find SOMETHING to do, even if you are on your own with little or no equipment.  Give it a try.

Keep training hard!


Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Daily Grind

So, another 2 days, another 2 sessions.
For the time being I have decided to go with a four day cycle of training, until I get into a regular working shift I figured this was a pretty solid option.
Day 1 - General conditioning - focusing on cardiovascular fitness and strength endurance.
Day 2 - Strength: Snatch work / Lower body pulling / Upper body vertical push & pulling + gymnastic/core
Day 3 - Strength: Clean work / Lower body pushing / Upper body horizontal push & pull + gymnastic/core
Day 4 - Rest / BJJ drills

So after my Run up tunnel mountain on Friday, yesterday was my Day 2 strength session.

1. Barbell Hang Power Snatch x 4 + OH squat x 1 (x 4 sets)

2. Deadlifts 4 x 12

3a. BB OH press 3 x 8-10 (intended to do more reps but the weight suprised me)
3b. Rope assisted one-arm pull ups 3 x 5-6 per side

4a. Hollow body rocks 4 x 15-20 reps (would usually do for time but forgot timer)
4b. Arch rocks 4 x 15-20
4c. Handstand practice 4 x 1

                                          - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Then there was today's session:

 1. Hang Power Clean 4 x 5

2. Front squats 4 x 12

3a. Weighted dips 3 x 12
3b. DB one arm row (w/ pause at top) 3 x 12 per side

Bit of a short workout today, I finished off with a few BJJ mobility exercises but apart from that I called it a day.  Coincidently, while playing around I created (or discovered) a nice little BJJ drill (video coming soon).

So... Rest day tomorrow, general mobility work with some specific mobility for my shoulders and thoracic, then I will be trying out some more BJJ drills, will let you know what work and what doesn't.

Keep training hard.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Tunnel vision

Hey Bad-asses!

So yesterday was my rest day, no heavy training but a group of us went for a hike. Nice little recovery and a good way to scope out today's session.

Following on from my last post about Benchmark sessions I decided to try out a new cardio benchmark session.  At the edge of Banff town is Tunnel Mountain, a 1.8km trail with a total elevation of 1,690m.
Today I ran it, it took me 20min 25 sec to reach the top and I got back down to the bottom in a total of 35min 19 sec.  It was tough going and my pace did slow considerably on a few of the ascents but I think I will be able to bring my time down over the next few months (especially considering that I was carrying a Camelbak belt with water, bear spray and an air horn - safety first!).

Obviously during the depths of winter I may not be able to get up the trail but as discussed in my previous post, it will still work as a benchmark session, all-be-it one that I wont be able to repeat as regularly as I would like.

I may adjust the session to only measure the ascent to the top as I don't want to try and descend any quicker than I did today because of the strain it puts on the knees running downhill.

If you don't happen to have a convenient mountain near you then try repeating hill sprints on a small incline.
See how many you can do in 20 minutes, then next time try and beat it. Why not?!

Train hard, live happy

Thursday, 18 October 2012


Today I want to talk about Benchmark sessions.

Regardless of what you are training for it is important to always have a yard stick by which you can measure your progress, without this there is no-way to know whether what you are doing is effective or not and what you need to adapt of change.

Now if, for example, you are trying to lose bodyfat, this could be as simple as checking your weight and measuring your waist regularly but generally this is the minimum that I expect most people to keep and eye on.

Through personal experience and especially working with my clients I have become a strong advocate of Benchmark sessions.  Now there are a couple of guides to adhere to when creating a benchmark session:

Firstly it has to be specific to your goal.
Are you trying to change your bodyshape? Get stronger? Or perform better in your sport?  If your goal is athletic development then what does your sport look like? Is it endurance based? Do you play in 20 second bursts over 90 minutes or 5 minute rounds over 25 minutes?  Making the benchmark appropriate to your goals will allow you to accurately chart progress and make changes where they are needed, otherwise it is just a guessing game.

Secondly, you must be able to consistently recreate the parameters of your benchmark.
This is one of the most basic laws in scientific experimentation, only change ONE variable at a time.
In this case the one variable is your body, so that means everything else needs to stay as consistent as possible, otherwise the results aren't reliable.
For example, if your goal was simply to get 'fitter' then a simple benchmark could be to time yourself doing 100 Burpees.  Simple, if you get quicker then its safe to say your fitness has improved.
However to really be able to trust the results you have to make sure each rep is as identical as possible.
So, how low did you come with your burpee? Did your chest touch the ground on each rep?
How high did you jump? Onto a box? Can you use the same box each time? Or did you jump up and touch a bar/ceiling each time? Is that a set height?

Finally, test regularly and with a variety of different sessions.
Without regular testing your can't make the micro adjustments that you need to in order to keep progressing with your development.  Also, I like to use a few different benchmark sessions to keep things fresh and varied (obviously this is different if you have a very specific goal, e.g. running a marathon).  If you only have one benchmark then there is a tendency to train just to get better at the benchmark.  You should always train to get achieve your goals, not to improve the benchmark, this should improve anyway, and if it doesn't then you need to change your training.

I realise that this seems very pedantic but this is the nature of benchmark sessions, they have to be accurate, even if the rest of your training is completely unstructured and free-styled (which is fine by the way).
Some sessions I will just go outside, hit a tyre with a sledgehammer for a while, lift the sandbag a few times, maybe carry it a bit or try and throw it over my shoulder, maybe do a few burpees in between, that session doesn't have to be exactly re-creatable, I just have to work my ass off, but that's the difference between training and testing with benchmarks.

With that said, here is a benchmark session which I decided to revive, I last did this one back in 2008 (over 4 years ago) but I remembered it kicking my ass and it seems appropriate to my goals again so here is is:

10 Pull ups (Full R.O.M. - kipping allowed)
10 DB or KB swings per arm
10 Plyometric Press ups
10 Tuck jumps

Try not to rest between exercises, rest as necessary between rounds.
Perform as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes.

The Pull up station - where I think most of my gains were reaped during this session

Now I have my own parameters that I use for each exercise but this one is fairly easy to recreate.
I am happy because I managed to significantly improve my PB on this session from 8 rounds to 10 rounds.

Now I don't actually think that I am cardiovascular fitness is better than 4 years ago when I achieved 8 rounds of this session (in fact I am pretty sure it has gone down) but I know that my strength has improved meaning that I was able to perform the exercises with more ease, putting less strain on my cardio.
For this reason I will also be using other benchmarks which reduce the strength aspect and more purely test my cardiovascular fitness.

Still, a good result and I was happy with it, especially considering that I learnt Banff is 'Canada's highest town' at 1,384m (4,540 ft) above sea level!

Anyway, apologises for the long post,
Any questions or if you want help creating a benchmark session or even adapting this one then just add a comment below.

Train hard, live happy.

Maintenance continues

Here is my workout from Tuesday. General strength maintenance again (same as yesterday).
Starting with a more powerful movement for lower reps to get the fast twitch muscle fibres going.
Then high rep strength endurance work utilising basic compound movements and finishing off with a couple of Gymnastic Fundamental Static Position (FPS) exercises as found in 'Building the Gymnastic Body', great  for all over body & core strength.

1. Hang Power Cleans 3-4 x 5 (about 75-80% 5RM)

2. DB Step ups 3 x 12 per side

3a. DB Chest press 3 x 10-12
3b. 2DB Bent over Row 3 x 10-12

4a. L-sit hold (dips bars) 5 x submax (10 sec average)
4b. Advanced Frog stands 5 x submax

Again, any questions, drop a comment below.

Keep training hard!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Finding my feet

So here I am in Banff. My first couple of days have mainly been spent walking around town and the surrounding national park getting my barrings. Nutrition wise it has not been strong, lots of white carbs, not much fruit & veg and a few cheap, fatty discount meals from bars.  This was inevitable and the real trick was always going to be finding a routine as quickly as possible.

With that in mind I have already signed up to the local sports centre.  As well as a small gym there is also a swimming pool, basketball / 5-a-side court and an indoor climbing wall (a real unexpected bonus).
I did my first session the in the gym today, I stuck to strength work, working with fairly high reps and with a fairly basic format.

1. 1 DB Snatch 4x5 per side + 1x3 per side
2. Deadlift 4x12
3a. BB Overhead press 3x10
3b. Side to side Pull ups 3x10
4. Standing rotations (using the bar attachment on a cable stack) 3 x 10 per side

I will have to check the altitude different here because this simple workout had me feeling pretty shitty towards the end.  I however suspect it was the poor nutritional intake over the last few days.

I also got a lift to Canmore (the next town over) to check out the Canmore Fight Club, which is where I am hoping to train BJJ 1-2x a week. Unfortunately no-one was answering so I am going to have to chase them via email to get more info from them and to work out the logistics of getting there regularly.

Anyway.  Lots of ideas about future sessions and training options are running through my head now but I will keep them for future posts.

If people are interested drop a comment below and I will put up some info on the rational behind the session I did tonight (there should always be a plan, unstructured training is more likely to end in unproductive training).

Train Hard, live happy

Friday, 12 October 2012

Letting others take charge

Yesterday I did my last group Strength & Conditioning session before setting off to Canada.  The session was tough and there were no teary goodbyes, I was simply given additional sets of high intensity exercises.
The reason I mention this is because I feel that I've gained an immense amount from these particular S&C sessions over the last couple of years.

As a PT I constantly push people through tough sessions ('tough' being a relative term, unique to every individual) and I pride myself on being able to 'walk the walk' and therefore push myself through an appropriately grueling training regime.  However despite this, once a week I put my physical development in the hands of another coach (Vince Skillcorn) and follow as he leads.

I have 3 reasons for doing this: Variety, Encouragement and Trust.

Having another coach plan and administer sessions adds great variety into my training.  Simply because of our backgrounds, experiences and preferences; Vince and I will approach the same training goals differently.  I truly believe that there is no one single perfect way of training for any particular goal.

"A shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases."
 - Carl Jung

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when they are engaged in regular training is not to vary their sessions enough.  The body needs new stimulus in order to continue adapting, doing the same thing over and over again will only get you so far and progress is bound to die away eventually.

Encouragement in this instance encompasses a variety of things, from the presence of team mates who force competitive behavior to the determination I find in not wanting to 'fail' an exercise in front of my coach.
Again, training by yourself is fine, I actually do most of my own strength and conditioning work by myself and I would like to think that I always push myself hard.  However without doubt you will always find that extra bit of gas in the tank for another rep if there is a teammate or better yet a coach, standing next to you encouraging that extra performance.  Don't believe me? Try it!

Finally the aspect of trust.  Trusting your coach's knowledge, experience and decisions is paramount if you are going to progress with continued training. When I'm coaching my clients I like to present them with as much information about how or why an exercise or a programme will benefit them as possible.  I've found that if someone trusts in the person that is coaching them then they commit to the process more fully and so reap more benefits.  I trust Vince's decisions as a coach and so whether I want to do an exercise or not, I will if he tells me to, and guess what?! Week after week he gets me to bust my ass training hard, I don't always want to but I do and I reap the rewards.  I see this in my dedicated clients, they might not always be happy about the sessions I put them through but when they see their bodies changing and their performance increasing it makes it all worth while.

So if you want to help maintain your progression with whatever your fitness goals are, try using a coach.  This could be as simple as taking a group exercise class that suits your goals, it breaks up the rhythm, gives you a new stimulus and surrounds you with other people to compete with and to encourage you.
If you decide to use a PT or coach, look into their background, check that you trust their methods.
Give it a go!

I will be posting exercise and workout ideas as the weeks go by which you can use to spice up your normal routines. I will also be back in England and available for training sessions from June 2013.

If you fancy checking out Vince's work, contact him via his company website

Train hard, live happy

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The next challenge

This marks the first post of my new blog, and the beginning of a new training challenge for me.

The story so far...
So I have been working as a Personal Trainer in a commercial gym for the last 3 years, training a wide variety of clients with different goals, abilities and time restrictions.
Personally my main training focus for the last few years has been improving my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

An average weeks worth of training for me will include:
3 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu sessions
1 Wrestling / No-gi session
1 Judo session
2-3 Strength sessions
1 General fighting conditioning session

But, that is all about to change!

I am moving to Canada for the next 7-12 months to work a ski season and to learn how to snowboard and/or ski.  It has been my ambition to live and work in Canada for years but it does mean leaving behind my BJJ team mates at Carlson Gracie Camberley, my gym, my clients and my coaches.

This is where my new challenge comes in.

While I am keen to embrace this new experience and all that comes with it (I know there will be many temptations to abuse my body) I still want to maintain the physical abilities and skills that I have spent so long developing. I am going to use this blog to chart my progress.

My goals are:
- Maintain my 'sharpness' & skills in BJJ and Olympic lifting
- Improve my Gymnastic skills (mainly Front & Back levers, Handstands, Muscle ups & Planche holds)
- Improve my fitness (using a few benchmark workouts to measure this by)
- At least maintain my strength in core lifts such as Deadlift, Bench, Squats & Pull ups

I will post more details in future post but for now, enjoy the ride.

Train hard, live happy!