Saturday, 26 July 2008

Form or Function? You decide

I was recently sent a video of the US Olympic Wrestling team at training camp by the guys over at Diesel Crew. To be honest I was quite shocked by what I saw. Have a look at the clip below and see if you can tell what got my jaw dropping. Don't forget to pop back once you've checked it out. Go on, see you in a bit.

Time to Get JACKED!

In regard to the above video I wrote the following response on the Diesel Crew site.

"Jordan Vezina was spot on in his post on the 20th July. Sports specific training should prepare your body for sport and minimalise injury risk. By its nature sport is chaotic (many variables, more difficult to manage risk of injury). Your form (technique) should determine your function, not the other way around. Granted they need to prepare themselves for the chaotic environment, but less exercises with correct technique would be the way forward (then expand), otherwise you’re just doing more stuff - badly!"

Working harder is not always the answer. But working better almost always is.
Michael Johnson
400m Olympic Gold Medalist

So, the clip got me thinking. While training for the chaotic environment of sport, do we have to sacrifice intensity for the sake of form? No. I don't think so. However your intensity should not outstrip your capacity. To illustrate this, the clip below features Dustin Carter. He is an amazing athlete REGARDLESS of his physical 'disability' and I use the word 'disability' in the looses sense of the term. Glenn Cumiskey at the All Well Centre first showed me about Dustin Carter.

Form or Function? Both. I say you can have your cake and eat it. That's what cake is for. Thus enter Dustin Carter....

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

It's like opening a pack of biscuits

I think there is nothing more breath taking than to watch the human body in movement. I had recently attended a grading seminar at Changs Hapkido, London. While at a barbeque later that day I was discussing what I had seen with Sifu Russel Benham of the Win Tsun System. I had noted that when Master Chang had asked some of the students to apply the technique to a different situation they often froze, unsure of what to do next, until further instructed. Sifu Benham had noted this with his some of his own students as well. A practitioner of Changs Hapkido myself, and being involved in boxing for numerous years I had also seen this phenomenon in the ring.

Sifu Benham pondered this for a moment, then after a deliberate pause he spoke,

'Its all about the continuity of movement. Its a bit like opening a pack of biscuits'.

I almost spat my food out laughing. It was simple. Begin at the start, and follow each step to its next logical conclusion and eventually you will reach the end. Genius.

Another discipline that is beginning to sweep the nation (that I also enjoy) is that of parkour. To me it personifies fluidity of movement and athleticism. Check out the different ways the practitoners of the disciplines below flow. Need I say more.



Wing Tsun

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Change The Rules For Maximum Impact

“Working hard is not always the answer. But working better almost always is.”

Michael Johnson

200m and 400m Olympic Gold Medalist

The temptation is to always do more. How many times have you said to yourself, ‘Just one more lift’ or ‘ just a few miles more’ or even ‘maybe just a little longer’ only to regret it the following day. If you haven’t had that experience, then you are one of the lucky ones. Burnout sets off alarms in your body as loud as the sirens in Bagdad. Recently, a lot has been written about training at shorter, but higher intensities. That does not mean that its easier, oh no, but it can be more effective. It all depends on what your training goals are. When you train ‘anaerobically’, you simultaneously improve aerobic fitness, but it seems the reverse of that is not true. Case in point, The Tabata Protocol.

Izumi Tabata, PHD, while based at the National Institute of Sport in Japan conducted a 6 week study, using cycling as his research tool which gave some interesting results. In a nutshell he found that the group which trained at higher percentage of their heart rate in an interval manner improved not only their anaerobic, but their aerobic capacity as well. While those who trained continuously for the same time frame at a lower intensity did not improve their anaerobic capacity, but increased their aerobic fitness by ten percent. The Tabata Protocal is well worth incorporating when structuring your training.

According to the Norwegian investigators who tested two different exercise regimens, high-intensity exercise actually reversed most of the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease after just 16 weeks of the exercise program, almost half the patients enrolled in trial no longer had metabolic syndrome, without making any changes to their diets. Less impressive gains were seen with consistent, moderate exercise. The findings were first reported by heartwire when they were presented during a poster session at the 2006 International Symposium on Atherosclerosis. The benefits are clear.

But What About Typical Resistance Training?

Charles Staley’s, Escalating Density System (EDT) has shown that managing fatigue, rather than seeking it, can reap miraculous benefits in terms of strength gains, developing lean muscle mass and drastically altering your body composition. It’s a system that can be adjusted for the fitness enthusiast and the athlete alike. At its most simplistic EDT comprises two fifteen segments in a session, with a five minute rest in between (totalling thirty five minutes excluding warm up!).

Here's how it works:

• Choose two exercises for each segment that work either antagonistic muscle groups (e.g a push and a pull motion) or two exercises that work distal muscle groups (e.g Squat and weighted pull up)

• Select a weight you can manage ten repetitions with good form, and no more

• Alternate the two exercises chosen for that time segment

• Aim to complete five repetitions and no more of your selected weight

That’s it. Simple, but effective. I’ll be writing more on EDT, but in the meantime check it out you’ll have to tread lightly through the sales pitch but definitely worth your time.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Want to know how to improve your triathlon ? Well, I just want you extra time and your.....KISS!

Ok, stay with me now. It's easy to get bogged down in making your training more complicated than it needs to be. Why not make it less complicated? (note I didn't say 'easier'). I'm sure you've probably heard of the principle before, but this time, KISS (Keep It Stupidly Simple) has a different twist.

I got the following information from the Iron Mate newsletter. They've got great tips if you're training for a triathlon, from sprint all the way through to Iron Man. Try it out and let me know how you get on (purple suits, high heels and rock guitars are optional).

"KISS" Interval training

Ironmate recommends (Keep it stupidly simple).

Divide your race distance by 10% and complete race pace efforts.
Discipline Sprint Olympic 70.3 Ironman

Swimming: 75m x 9-12 150m x10-12 200m x 6-12 400m x 6-10

Cycling: 1km x10 2km x 4-10 4km x 3-5 16km x 2-4

Running: 500m x5 1km x 5-10 1.5kmx3-6 2 x 30 mins run @ IMHR*

*( IMHR = Ironman heart race intensity).

The above all depends on past experience, fitness level, recovery rate, ability, injury prevention and where you are in your training cycle.

Aim to train once a week at 10% faster than predicted average race pace for cycling and running. For swimming work on increase by 5% (as this is much harder as it is the first discipline in the triathlon).
With cycling and running it is easier to push yourself in training above race pace speeds.

A hard back to back session, swimming then running or cycling then running or even running then cycling, will increase your top end fitness rather than a single discipline where you would lose some of the quality by slowing down.

Ironmate Tip
To improve your speed, designate a speed session to train with someone of similar ability or who is slightly faster. If this is not possible, give your training partner a head start and aim to catch them (playing tag- safely) to make the session harder for you.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Industrial Strength London

With Commander in Chief, Jonathan Lewis, going AWOL to deliver physiotherapy at the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament, it was left to a few good men to remain steadfast, and brave the torrential down pour for the recent installment of Industrial Strength London.

Date: Saturday 5th July
Time: 10am - 12pm
Location: Wandsworth Common, London, England

Well, as you can see by the pictures, the weather cleared up and we got down and dirty. This session focused on agility, speed, balance and strength. After a dynamic warm up led by myself, James Bower took the lead with some sprint agility drills laced with bear crawls, which were challenging, but good fun. We continued with some plyometric bounding and vaults, followed by a hearty dose of pull up variations ala 'Bartendaz' style (check these guys out on youtube they are awesome) with everyone throwing something into the mix. To finish us off (literally) we ended up with a personal favourite of mine, bungee cord sprints followed by slap press ups. Job done, we cooled down and stretched out, ready for the rest of the day.

Here's what we got up to in detail;

Warm up: Joint mobility followed by multidirectional runs and bear crawls.

Agility sprints:
Box run: run up, side step across, run backwards, side step across.
(Perform same but as bear crawl)
'M' run: run up, run backwards to middle, run back up,
run backwards to last cone.
(Perform same but as bear crawl)

Plyometric Bounding
over hurdles followed by cat crawl along balance beam x 4-5 reps

Pull Ups: Pull up variations including side to side, pull up and leg raise, circular pull ups, backwards and forwards. 6-8 sets of 4-6 reps.

Bungee cord sprints followed by 10 hand slap push ups x 3.

Cool Down and Stretching.

Thank you to Neil, Tim, and Peter for rocking up and getting stuck in. For more details about London's only 'not for profit' strength training club, check out

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Achieve Training Success: Do more of what you're bad at....

Does doing what you're bad at make you feel frustrated, angry, awkward, clumsy, motivated? When it comes to training, everyone enjoys doing what they're good at. I'm no exception. Its perfectly normal. While challenging, we can manage it without too much trouble, so we feel good about ourselves, our sense of self worth grows and we can look forward to our next session. But thats the problem, it limits our potential for growth. We get comfortable, and often our greatest chance of improvement lies in doing the things that we're not so good at.

Years ago, When I first started Kettlebell lifting, it took me about 6 months before I was able to do a pistol. I knew it wasn't due to my lack of strength in my legs or athleticism, but for some reason I just couldn't quite get it. Frustrated, I initially avoided them, but secretly it niggled at me. After a while, I declared to myself that this was something I wanted to crack. I knew that I would be able to perform them and I pursued it, not in a fanatical sense, but as a matter of fact (and just a question of time).

Each day I practiced, not obsessively , but just enough . I watched clips and picked the brains of coaches who's opinions I trust. Still no joy. It is often said, be careful of what you ask for, as you might just get it - well this was a case in point. Around about that time, I had the chance to train with Steve Cotter in one of his workshops in the UK. It seemed fate had a plan in store, because as part of the work shop Steve covered Pistols. Filled with excitement at the prospect of being able to do a pistol (and slight concern of making a complete fool of myself) I attacked the training drills. Limbs flailing (but determination still in tact) after considerable effort and technical adjustments from Steve, I finally got it. In essence it is a very simple exercise, and a very simple thing, but that was exactly the reason it was all the more frustrating, as I was capable of things far more physically challenging and technically complicated.

The sense of achievement was far greater than when I had done the things I was good at in my training. Not only that, I was able to add pistols to my marathon training routine. My times have improved vastly since.

So the question is, what are you avoiding in your training? how could it help you improve if you did it? and are you willing to put in the work?

Dave Tate over at T-nation talks about an experience he had at a weightlifting competition, where he failed to lift his first attempt. It was a weight he had handled many a time before, but this time, when attempting the squat he couldn't even get it out of the rack,

"Finally, over the loudspeaker came the words I'd waited nine months to hear, "Load the bar to 860 pounds for Dave Tate." It was a weight I'd squatted several times before, and it was to be my opening attempt. Full of rage, I began chalking my hands.

This is the moment with every big lift that I "detach" from myself, and go on autopilot. Rarely do I remember anything from the time I leave the chalk box until after the lift.

However, this lift I do remember, because I couldn't get it out of the rack.

I remember trying to stand up with the weight, but I couldn't budge it. It felt welded to the rack. I tried a few times and still nothing. This pissed me off to no end, so I stepped back and increased my rage as high as I could, got back under the rack, and nothing.

My helpers stepped in and pulled me from the rack. Needless to say, this was not a good moment for me. Nine months of training and I couldn't get my damn opener out of the rack.

Just then, I heard Louie Simmons call out, "Dave, you're done. Pull out." I glanced back at him, figuring he was just trying to piss me off. But he looked straight at me and said, "I'm serious, Dave. You're done. Pull out, and we'll talk later. It's not worth what could happen right now."

Now, Louie Simmons is one of the best coaches in the world, and I was part of his team, the Westside Barbell Club. This club is known to be the strongest gym in the world and I was one of Louie's boys. I respect this man and trust him with my life.

So I pulled out, and spent the rest of the meet watching the rest of my team lift well, sitting there eating hot dogs and wondering what the hell my problem was.

On the drive home, I told Louie, "I don't understand what happened today. My training went well. I was strong as hell on everything in the gym."

Just then he stopped me and said something I'll never forget: "That's exactly your problem." [read more]