Simple Strength 1-2-3

It’s not heavy weights that build muscle. It’s not high reps that build muscle. It’s heavy weight with high reps that builds muscle.

– Tom Platz (former American professional bodybuilder)

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Often people try to over complicate everything in life. Tell somebody to define “clean eating” and they will need a 500-page book to explain it, when a simple eat some animal protein at most meals with a variety of vegetables will do. The same applies to the terms “get stronger” or “get in shape”, where it could take multiple books, depending on the discipline to flesh out the finer points.

Getting strong is not that complicated. It is however, hard work.

One of the simplest ways to achieve this is the “one-two-three” method.

How it works
Pick a movement:

  • Push: Bench or Overhead Press;
  • Pull: Pull-up;
  • Hinge: Deadlift;
  • Squat: Front or Back Squat.

Select a load that you can complete five repetitions. It will vary from person to person, but generally it would be about 80% of the individuals max. Now, follow this format:

1-2-3

Complete a single, rest a few seconds, complete a double, rest some more, then complete a triple. That will be a total of six repetitions completed with excellent form. For a more solid workout, run through this method up to three times:

1-2-3-1-2-3-1-2-3

That is 18 repetitions in a set using a weight that you would normally use for five repetitions!

Rules
Focus on the major movements Push, Pull, Hinge and Squat. Basically, compound multi-joint exercises are best.

Never miss a repetition and don’t chase fatigue. You want to be fresh for each repetition, so rest as long as required. If you have a training partner, the simple “I go, you go” method will be fine.

The weight should feel light and easy. There is no requirement to figure out loading percentages. Just adjust the load by “feel”. The idea here is to increase the effortless efforts to increase your best effort.

Let the volume do the work. Often under appreciated, building muscle mass, getting strong and lean takes time and effort. If you want more strength, you will need a lot of clean repetitions with crisp technique to teach the nervous system to eventually lift the larger loads.

Programming
An easy way to implement this method is to supplement it into your normal training using the 1-2-3 repetition scheme for a chosen movement, one to three days per week.

I have personally found that using this ladder method does wonders for increasing the Pull-up, and have found good results experimenting with other major lifts like the Overhead Press and Deadlift.

Being stronger in these lifts is the secret to power, mass and leanness.

The problem with Stair-master

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The Stair-master is a piece of gym equipment that has been designed to simulate the climbing of stairs. First of all, no machine will ever beat the real life task of climbing a set of stairs or hiking up the side of a mountain. The satisfaction of making it to the summit, along with the view, will always surpass the view of the gym car park or a row of televisions and or mirrors.

However when used correctly, the Stair-master can be used to supplement your training and have some cardiovascular benefits along with being a great tool in developing strength and endurance in the lower body.

This is not always the case as the majority of people are using the machine incorrectly.

The problem with the Stair-master
Almost every time you walk into a gym you will find people who don’t know how to use a Stair-master, or many of the cardio machines for that matter. The machine is meant to simulate climbing up stairs. Pretty basic right? Yet still you will find many people who find it necessary to add all of these un-natural movement patterns to try to complicate a simple movement.

Common mistakes people make on the Stair-master
In no particular order these are just some of the mistakes people make using the Stair-master.

Stair-master kickbacks
Not really sure how this movement developed? Did someone say that this would help give you bigger more developed glutes or did you see someone else doing this exercise so you thought it was worth giving it a go?

Just Squat. And Hinge. The act of kicking out your leg while using the machine does nothing for you other than giving you the impression that you think you’re actually doing something productive.

After you finish squatting, do some glute bridges and kettlebell swings.

Stair-master hanging
There are only two reasons you should need to hang on to the rails of a Stair-master:

  • You’re an older trainer and have poor balance;
  • You’re completely new to working out (or walking) and have developed no balance.

If you fall into the second category, you need to slow the machine down or take a walk around the park.

Stair-master sideways walking
Why? Is it because someone somewhere told you need to try to develop the outside (or inside) of your legs? Those muscles are probably already tight on you and if they’re not then going sideways on a Stair-master isn’t going to fix that.

Stair-master reading
Do you go to the gym to workout or do you go to the gym to read the latest gossip on the bachelor? There is a time and place for everything. Focus on the task at hand. If you want a good workout, then do a good workout.

Stair-master slump
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How often do you walk into the cardio section of the gym and see people slumped over on the Stair-master? The aim of the machine is to simulate the climbing of stairs. There is zero transferable skill to slumping while conducting this movement pattern.

It’s bad enough to sit slumped over at your desk all day, but to go to the gym afterwards and make it worse by slumping over on a machine for an hour? One of the main reasons the gym exists today is to help correct the imbalances created by living in the concrete jungle.

Just slow down, stand up straight, chest up and shoulders back. And get those hands off the rails!

Chasing calories on the Stair-master
Why? Because you need to burn 500 calories so you could eat some food afterwards? Or the night before? There is another whole post here. Chasing calories will not develop successful training or eating patterns.

Firstly, if you’re slumped over and holding onto the rails then the number on the display isn’t even an accurate measure of calories burned.

Secondly, all this is doing is creating a negative relationship with both exercise and food. This will almost always end in failure.

How to use a Stair-master effectively

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This picture tells a thousand words. Try a real set of stairs. Get outdoors and go for a hike. There is no machine that is going to help you with your movement so you actually have to do the work. You can’t lean on anything. You can’t read. It’s just hard work.

And that works.

The Med Ball Slam

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Athletic training has evolved greatly over the last hundred years.

Advances in technology and knowledge of the human body have reflected in the fine tuning of training methodologies used by the worlds most elite athletes and trainers alike.

Several exercises however, have remained constant throughout this time. The Med Ball Slam is one such exercise.

Med Ball Slams are an exceedingly simple exercise. Lift the ball high above your head, launch it into the floor beneath you, pick it up, do it again. It looks like child’s play compared to more technical lifts like the Snatch, but beneath its no-frills exterior, Med Ball Slams are building better athletic performance. Thus, the reason Med Ball Slams have persevered for centuries can be summed up in two words…

They work.

How to perform the Med Ball Slam
It is important to make sure you’re using an appropriate weight. This is not always the heaviest weight possible. The Med Ball Slam is an explosive movement.

  • Grab a med ball.
  • Assume an athletic stance and hold the med ball at waist level in front of you.
  • Rise up onto your toes as you bring the med ball overhead.
  • Explosively contract your abdominals and drive your chest down to slam the ball into the ground with as much force as possible.
  • Retrieve the ball as it bounces up and go into your next rep.
  • Your feet should remain in a good athletic stance throughout the exercise.

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Fasted Training

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Intermittent Fasting can be a valuable tool to improve your overall health and performance. But how do you fit in intense training while fasting?

Firstly, I wouldn’t recommend that most people just too many changes, too fast. Sometimes that can be too much of a shock to the system, which may lead to a decline in health and performance.

If you’re eating a mostly whole food diet you’re already almost there. Some small changes to your eating patterns and slowly extending your fasting period every couple of days will get you out to a pretty decent daily fast in no time at all.

Training in a fasted state
Training should be completed on an empty stomach and/or after the consumption of 10 g BCAA. Technically, the training is not completely fasted – as over time this could become detrimental to health and performance.

The pre-workout amino acid intake has a stimulatory effect on protein synthesis and the metabolism, is a crucial compromise to optimize results. The 8-hour feeding window commences with the first post workout meal.

Example

  • 1130-1200: 10g BCAA;
  • 1200-1300: Workout;
  • 1300: Post workout meal;
  • 1600: Second meal;
  • 2030: Final meal before overnight fast.

The largest meal of the day is consumed post workout, then calories and carbohydrates are reduced as the day progresses.

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Early morning fasted training
This is a common example as a majority of the early morning athlete will usually train fasted before starting their day. This example shows how you can train early morning and begin the feeding phase at noon or later.

  • 0600-0630: 10g BCAA;
  • 0630-0730: Workout;
  • 0830: 10g BCAA;
  • 1030:10g BCAA;
  • 1200-1300: Post workout meal (largest meal of day);
  • 2000-2030: Final meal before overnight fast.

This is my preferred method as I like to train early in the day. I also have a cup of black coffee with some MCT Oil pre-workout.

One pre-workout meal
A common methodology for athletes wishing to train late afternoon or directly after work.

  • 1200-1300: Pre-workout meal. Approximately 20-25% of daily caloric intake;
  • 1500-1700: Workout during this window;
  • 1700: Post workout meal (largest meal of day);
  • 200-2100: Final meal before overnight fast.

Two pre-workout meals
The standard protocol for athletes who work normal business hours.

  • 1200-1300: First meal to break the fast. Approximately 20-25% of daily caloric intake;
  • 1600-1700: Pre-workout meal. Similar caloric intake to first meal.
  • 1830-2000: Workout during this window;
  • 2000-2100: Post workout meal (largest meal of day).

The take away
No calories should be consumed during the fasting phase. Exceptions to this are black coffee, tea, BCAA and a cup of bone broth.

The fasting window is the perfect time to be productive. Try not to sit around, get bored and think about food.

Once in the feeding phase, meal frequency is fairly irrelevant. Most people prefer three meals out of habit.

The majority of your daily caloric intake should be consumed during the post workout period, with the largest meal being the first meal post workout.

The exception to this is on non-training days where your largest meal should typically be the first meal of the day, with the emphasis being on quality protein intake.

Remember, there is no one size fits all. If your preference is to eat your largest meal in the evening, then do it. Some people like to like to consume their largest meal on rest days later in the day with family or friends. If this helps you to enjoy your food and stick to your eating pattern long-term then it’s a win.

If training fasted, BCAA or an essential amino acid mixture is highly recommended. If you’re not into having a large supplement program, that’s fine. A whey protein concentrate will suffice and can be consumed during the pre-workout window.

Which method is best?
Depending on what your daily routine and training preferences are, a different protocol will be preferable. If your preference is to train early morning then the fasted training option is likely to be best for you.

Conversely, if you work the standard 0900-1700 business hours and your only option is to train in the evenings, then the one or two pre-workout meals pre-workout protocols will work better.

Sprinting for better health and performance

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The 100m sprint is one of the most popular and prestigious events in the sport of athletics.

A sprinter has a powerful physique. Body shape, muscle strength, the relative lengths between the legs, heels and toes, as well as a primed nervous system to pull the whole machine together. These are just some of the physiological attributes required to make an elite runner.

Now all of us will not be able to compete for the coveted title of “the fastest man in the world”, but we can definitely use sprint based training to improve our own health and performance.

Sprint training can build lean muscle tissue, burn fat, improve your overall body composition and improve performance across a variety of sports. Sprinting is a physical fitness tool that delivers a return far greater with regards to health and performance benefits than the original effort required.

There are many reasons to conduct sprint training, but unless you’re a competitive athlete or a hardcore fitness addict, you probably aren’t sprinting as often as you should. This is a mistake.

Here are some reasons why you should add a few sprint workout in your physical training programming:

It burns body fat
Weight loss isn’t just about losing a few extra kilograms. It’s about burning excess body fat while maintaining or building lean muscle mass and bone density. Sprinting is excellent at burning body fat without the muscle loss that can be seen in endurance athletes. This study found that a sprint session can increase post-exercise oxidation by up to 75%. This indicates that sprinting can improve body composition by burning body fat.

It’s anabolic (it can build lean muscle and strength)
Sprint workouts can increase testosterone levels in male athletes. In this study from 2012, men and women completed three 30-second maximal effort interval sprints on a stationary bike with a 20 minute rest between each sprint. Muscle biopsies taken from their quads showed markers of protein synthesis (this is how muscle is built).

It may be even better for women than men. The study mentioned earlier showed an increase in protein synthesis of up to 222% in women and 43% for men.

It builds new mitochondria
The basic function of the mitochondria is to extract energy from nutrients and create ATP, the standard energy currency of the body. More mitochondria, more power available to our body and brain, more fuel burned, more energy produced. It’s better to have healthy mitochondria, and scientists are always trying to find ways to preserve or increase their numbers because so many degenerative diseases are caused by malfunctioning mitochondria. Sprinting is one way to make more.

Multiple studies have shown that the type of sprint work doesn’t really matter.

It’s more efficient than endurance training
Generally, sprint training requires less time than endurance training. Sprinting can be just as effective in many ways and completed just a portion of the time. Adding sprints (4-6 sprints, 2 or 3 times per week) to your training can be just as effective as cycling for 40 to 60 minutes at improving insulin sensitivity, arterial elasticity, and muscular density.

It works for elderly people
Even the elderly can benefit from sprint workouts. They might be slower than a younger athletes. Sprinting ability to build and maintain lean muscle tissue may help prevent muscle loss associated with ageing.

It can improve insulin sensitivity
Sprint training can improve insulin sensitivity, improves hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetics, and lowers post meal glucose response in diabetics. If you’re pre-diabetic or already suffering from the condition, sprinting will help.

There are many variations
Sprinting can be completed in a variety of ways. It’s not just the standard 100m sprint on the athletics track. Even though an effective workout, there are many ways to vary your sprint training. You can get on the bike, run some hill sprints, get on the rower or even push a sled. The variations can be endless.

One session, every 7 to 10 days may be enough for some people to notice some of the benefits listed above.

The Turkish Get-Up

The one-arm get-up is general test of strength which had considerable appeal to most strongmen from yesteryear…

It has always made a hit with the theatrical public, for it was obvious to them that magnificent strength was being displayed when an athlete did a one-arm get-up with a heavy bell.

– Siegmund Klein (an American strength legend)

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The Turkish Get-up (TGU) is an outstanding exercise that develops strength, conditioning, mobility and stability throughout the entire body. It is both an excellent injury prevention and rehabilitation exercise for the shoulders. In fact, the TGU will give you shoulders that can take punishment, and dish it out.

It is a highly dynamic movement with enormous carryover to lifting heavy things. It does this by combining a series of movements from lying down to standing up with a heavy kettlebell overhead.

Many strong athletes have been humbled by the functional strength required to perform this movement, but mastering the TGU will make all overhead exercises safer and easier to perform.

A bit of history
The TGU was a staple exercise for the old-time strongmen and wrestlers. It has been said that this was the first and only exercise taught to many aspiring weightlifters to practice. The young athletes would have to master the TGU and be able to perform a TGU with 100 pound (45kg) weight with each hand.

When this goal had been achieved, the athlete was able to progress to the other lifts. There is some real wisdom behind that old-time methodology.

It takes tenacity and commitment to conquer this feat of strength. Secondly, it builds a solid foundation of strength that practically “injury proofs” the body, making it ready for more demanding training. It also significantly strengthens the major muscle groups, smaller stabilising muscles and the connective tissues.

Benefits of the Turkish Get-up

  • Promotes cross lateralization (getting the right brain to work with the left side, and vice versa);
  • Promotes upper body stability;
  • Promotes lower body stability;
  • Promotes reflexive stability of the trunk and extremities;
  • Ties the right arm to the left leg, and the left arm to the right leg;
  • Gets the upper extremities working reciprocally;
  • Stimulates the senses that contribute to balance;
  • Promotes spatial awareness;
  • Develops anterior/posterior weight shift;
  • Develops upper body strength, trunk strength, and hip strength.

How to perform a Turkish Get-Up
To keep it simple. The TGU can be broken down into three parts.

  • The half get-up;
  • The transition; and
  • The full get-up.

TGU: The starting position
Lying on your back, extend the arm holding the kettlebell in front of the chest with the arm locked out. If necessary, you can use your supporting arm to assist the initial lift or spot the weight. The goal is to get the weight into the locked-out position and not to build a big chest by pressing.

Post your left foot flat on the ground, with your heel close to your backside. This is the starting position. Remember to keep your eyes on the kettlebell throughout the exercise.

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TGU: The half get-up
From the starting position, with your supporting hand flat on the ground, roll slightly to your right side and sit up. Allowing the weight to drift forward slightly, then push off your posted foot to help you sit up.

It is acceptable to allow your free arm to assist slightly against the floor in sitting up. Finish with the left arm and kettlebell vertical (above your head), making sure the wrist is tight and elbow locked.

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TGU: The transition
In the transition, the athlete will move from the sitting to the kneeling position.

Begin by pressing the shoulder of your supporting hand (the one on the ground) away from your ear. This is important, but often overlooked step. It puts the shoulder into a strong position. It keeps the shoulder “active”, by keeping it in the socket.

Simultaneously press off your hand and posted foot, lifting your hips off the floor, forming a glute bridge. This will create the space necessary to swing your (right) leg underneath you as you slowly move into a three-point kneeling position.

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TGU: The full get-up
Slowly straighten your torso and pull your right arm up off the ground so that you are in a two-point kneeling position. Keeping your eyes on the kettlebell, and actively pressing the kettlebell straight up toward the ceiling.

Keeping your leg vertical, load your weight onto the heel, contract the outer glute and stand up, pushing the kettlebell up overhead as you straighten.

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From here, pause for a few moments, then reverse the steps under control to lower yourself on to the floor and back into the starting position.

Remember, there is no rush in completing this movement, and at times speed will destroy the movement quality, leading to an even more challenging or even dangerous practice. You will benefit from time under tension. So take your time and get it right.

Finally, always keep your eye on the kettlebell whilst conducting the movement.

 

Final thoughts
Mastering the TGU is an excellent investment of your time and effort. The TGU can compliment a variety of workout programs giving you many transferable benefits. It is versatile enough to be used as an injury prevention or rehabilitation activity, to a warm-up or even the main lift of your workout.

Personally, it is one of my favourite exercises (in and out of the gym), and has been a staple movement in many of my strength and conditioning programs over the years.

Basic fitness movements

Generally people would think that strength and conditioning training would require a gym, some heavy weights or even machines. This could not be any further from the truth. It is definitely one way get an effective workout, but you can also get a great strength and conditioning results with compound bodyweight movements.

It is a real simple way to introduce a beginner to a fitness routine. I’ve also come across many intermediate and advanced athletes over the years who have used bodyweight training to great success.

Below is a list of some of the basic fitness movements.

Plank

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As the names suggests, your body is a plank. Place your hands underneath your shoulders (either arms extended or on your elbows) and ground your toes into the floor and activate (squeeze) your glutes to stabilise your body.

Place your neck and spine in a neutral position, looking about foot ahead of your hands.

Movement standard:

  • Male: 2 minutes;
  • Female: 2 minutes.

Push up

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From the plank position, lower your body until your chest touches the ground. Keep your core and glutes tight and a neutral spine and neck. Press your body up again into the plank position.

Movement standard (single set in 2 minutes):

  • Male: 50 push ups;
  • Female: 20 Push ups.

Pull up

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Grip the bar at shoulder width (or slightly wider) with an pronated (overhand) grip, then hang from the bar with your arms and legs extended.

Pull yourself up until your chest reaches the bar, focusing on drawing your elbows into the ribs and sliding the shoulder blades down your back. Then, lower yourself down under control until your arms are straight.

Movement standard (single set effort):

  • Male: 10 pull ups;
  • Female: 4 Pull ups.

Air squat

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Feet at or around shoulder width (whatever’s most natural) and toes either forward or pointing slightly outward, lower by pushing your butt back and out until your thighs reach at least parallel.

Keep the weight on the heels and a tight, neutral spine throughout the movement.

Movement Standard:

  • Male: 50 Squats;
  • Female: 50 Squats.

Two or three days per week, after a suitable warmup, for example, some light cardio activity with some range of movement to activate the joints, try to complete a circuit using the four basic bodyweight movements.

Your initial goal should be to aim for the movement standard in each exercise for three rounds, with two minutes rest in-between rounds. Once you have surpassed this standard, try adding another round, decreasing your rest periods or even add some additional functional movements like interval running, the farmer’s walk or another type of weighted carry.

The 10,000 swing workout

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In a nutshell

  • Challenge yourself with four weeks or five of intensive kettlebell swinging to test your grit and improve body composition;
  • At the completion of the program, you will have done 10,000 kettlebell swings dispersed throughout 20 workouts. You’ll do 500 swings per workout;
  • Between sets of kettlebell swings, do one of the following: chin-ups, goblet squats, dips, or overhead presses;
  • Master your kettlebell swing pattern. It’s not a squat. It’s a hip hinge and a hip snap. Your arms should not travel above your shoulders.

Making progress with training
As humans, we thrive when we push our boundaries, reach goals, and beat our personal records. If we’re performing faster, fitter and stronger, we tend to feel more alive.

So, if you want to improve, you have to seek out new challenges, struggle, adapt and overcome.

The 10,000 kettlebell swing workout is a challenge that will rapidly transform your overall body composition in just four or five weeks.

 

The Program
In four or five weeks, the athlete is going to perform 10,000 proper kettlebell swings. These will be split over 20 workouts. That is 500 swings per workout.

Between sets of swings, the athlete performs a low volume, strength movement. Training either four or five days per week. Training two days on, one day off, then repeat.

  • Men should use a 24kg kettlebell;
  • Women should use a 16kg kettlebell.

Breaking it down. Swing clusters, sets and repetitions
Following this repetition scheme to reach 500 total swings per workout:

  • Set 1: 10 swings;
  • Set 2: 15 swings;
  • Set 3: 25 swings;
  • Set 4: 50 swings.

That is 100 swings completed, or one cluster. Repeat the cluster another four times and you will have completed you’re daily total of 500 swings. Between sets is where more conditioned or experience athletes can add a low volume strength movement.

The strength movements
Use a strength movement with low volume between sets of swings. Some of the best movements are:

  • Overhead Press;
  • Dips;
  • Goblet Squat;
  • Chin-up.

Other movements to consider could be a front squat, weighted pull-ups or even muscle-ups. This is where you can really personalise your program. I would stay with presses or pulls. It is fair to say that after 500 swings per day, you probably won’t feel like adding any extra hip hinge work.

Use a 1-2-3 repetition scheme for most movements. Here is an example using the overhead press:

  • 10 swings
  • 1 press
  • 15 swings
  • 2 press
  • 25 swings
  • 3 press
  • 50 swings
  • Rest for 60 sec.

For the strength movements, use your five repetition max weight. If you’re conducting dips, use a 2-3-5 repetition scheme.

If you choose to lift five days in a week, conduct strength movement on four of the days and pick a day where you will only conduct the swings.

You can use a different strength movement each workout, rotating through the movements mentioned earlier. My preference is to use two days of both overhead presses and pull-ups.

Only use a single strength movement each workout.

Rest
After each set of 10, 15 and 25 repetitions, rest for 60 seconds. After each set of 50 repetitions, extend your rest to three minutes. During this longer rest period, perform some corrective work. Conduct stretches as required, such as in the hips, or lower back. Add in some mobility movements to keep your body loose.

Here is what a sample week could look like:

Day 1

  • 10 Swings
  • Press 1 rep
  • 15 Swings
  • Press 2 reps
  • 25 Swings
  • Press 3 reps
  • 50 Swings
  • Rest 30-60 seconds; repeat 4 more times.

By the end of the workout, you’ll have completed 500 swings and 30 presses.

Day 2

  • 10 Swings
  • Chin-up 1 rep
  • 15 Swings
  • Chin-up 2 reps
  • 25 Swings
  • Chin-up 3 reps
  • 50 Swings
  • Rest 30-60 seconds; repeat 4 more times.

By the end of the workout, you’ll have completed 500 swings and 30 chin-ups.

Day 3 – Rest

Day 4

  • 10 Swings
  • Press 1 rep
  • 15 Swings
  • Press 2 reps
  • 25 Swings
  • Press 3 reps
  • 50 Swings
  • Rest 30-60 seconds; repeat 4 more times.

By the end of the workout, you’ll have completed 500 swings and 30 presses.

Day 5

  • 10 Swings
  • Chin-up 1 rep
  • 15 Swings
  • Chin-up 2 reps
  • 25 Swings
  • Chin-up 3 reps
  • 50 Swings
  • Rest 30-60 seconds; repeat 4 more times.

By the end of the workout, you’ll have completed 500 swings and 30 chin-ups.

Day 6 – Rest

Day 7 – Rest, or begin the cycle again

Swing Technique
There are several variations to complete the kettlebell swing. The two main variations being the American Swing, as seen in Crossfit workouts, and the Russian Swing.

The major difference between the two variations is that the Russian Swing is primarily a hip hinge movement with the kettlebell reaching to roughly chest height, and that the American Swing there is a secondary movement where the kettlebell is pulled overhead.

While there are uses for both variations of kettlebell swings, we will focus on the Russian Swing for this program.

The condition:

Swing the kettlebell between your legs and then in front of you up to chest level for repetitions.

The swing standard:

  • Maintain the box-squat alignment during swings and when picking up or setting down the kettlebell:
    • Keep your head up;
    • Keep a straight – not to be confused with “upright” – back;
    • Sit back, rather than dip down.
  • Extend the hips and knees fully on the top: the body must form a straight line;
  • The kettlebell must form an extension of the straight and loose arm(s) on the top of the swing.

What is next?
Firstly, congratulate yourself for completing this program. If done correctly, it can be  quite the challenge. Well done.

You’ll most likely be in much better shape than you were four or five weeks ago and you should be ready for the next challenge.

Keep swinging.

Iliotibial Band (ITB) Syndrome – Is your ITB killing you?

If you’re an active person, and especially if you’re a runner, Iliotibial Band (ITB) Syndrome is one of the most common overuse injuries that can sideline you. Though many people suffer from ITB Syndrome, few understand what it is and how to treat it.

If you’ve ever had ITB Syndrome, then you know how much it can hurt, and how it feels like it’s never going to go away.

It’s one of those pains in your knee or the outside of your leg where you go out for a run or a ride, and have to limp home. Many suffer with this injury for months. It’s like a knife digging into the side of your leg or knee. The ITB is an extension of a short muscle on the side of your hip called the Tensor Fascia Lata (TFL) as well as your gluteus maximus (glute max) muscle, (that’s your behind). The ITB extends from the TFL and glut max down to the outside of your knee.

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Symptoms
Pain occurs anywhere along the ITB, usually at the insertion (by the knee) or somewhere in the middle. You’ll have pain running, riding or walking [usually down] stairs, and anytime you try to bend your leg, especially after keeping it straight for a while.

Sometimes, even waking up in the morning will be like an ice-pick in your leg. If you’ve ever had an ITB problem, you probably went through a whole slew of treatments and still had it for 3-6 months; that is very common and no fun.

Causes
ITB Syndrome occurs typically from the following reasons:

  • Often there is an actual weakness of the TFL or glute max itself. 75% of the ITB is made up of  the glute max – the major muscle you use to jump, climb, squat, run, ride your bike, and even just to get out of a chair;
  • A muscular imbalance between the inside and the outside of the leg;
  • One or both of those muscles could have fatigued from wearing the wrong type of shoes or orthotics;
  • An old injury that is still haunting you, but you don’t know it because the pain is gone, but your body has compensated;
  • An insulin issue from eating too many carbohydrates creating a gait disturbance, or even from a digestive problem, (gut inflammation can inflame the ITB);
  • Overtraining.

Treatment
Once you notice ITB pain, the best way to get rid of it is to rest immediately. That means fewer miles, or no running at all. While you’re backing off on your mileage, you can cross-train. Swimming, pool running, cycling, and rowing are all fine. If you diagnose an ITB problem early enough treatment can be as simple as rest, massage and stretching.

Medical treatment is cortisone shots and NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for inflammation and if that doesn’t help, then surgery can be recommended to cut and release the band (in severe cases).

Other keys to treating ITB and speeding a healthy return to the track are as follows:

  • Stop running. It’s simple – if it hurts to run, don’t run.
  • Increase strength. Simple exercises to strengthen the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and core muscles can aid a speedy return to the track.
  • Massage the injured area. Using a foam roller and/or a tennis ball to work out tightness in my glutes, quadriceps, ITB, hamstrings and hips.
  • Better quality sleep. Most recovery and healing happens when you’re asleep. Aim for 8 or 9 hours minimum of quality, unbroken sleep.

My training at 36-ish

Goals
Fitter. Faster. Stronger.
Always learning.

Context: 36-year-old. 180cm. Soldier. Student.

My aim is to live as long as possible and as healthy and productive as possible. I’m not a father yet, but I would like to be a parent one day and see those children grow up.

Basically, I want live well and avoid chronic disease (for as long as possible). My grandfather lived to 84 years old, although his last decade was hampered by heart disease, elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

So, I plan to use some evolutionary wisdom and apply it to modern society. Simply put, keep my metabolism as healthy as possible (eat whole foods), keep enough muscle mass and remain as mobile (be active) as I can so that I can actually get around and do everything I want to do for as long as possible… and hopefully help a few people out along the way.

Caveat: This is what has worked for me so far…

Food
For those who don’t know me, I have been following Paleo or Primal type nutrition for about six years now. For the most part it’s just eating whole foods as often as possible. I do like my full fat dairy (like cheeses and some yogurt) and they don’t really affect me in a negative way unless I eat them in excess so with a bit of discipline I’m all good.

I’ve been trying to get about 125-150g of protein per day, with a lot of cooked veggies (for nutrient density) and some healthier fats like avocado and oils such as coconut, macadamia and olive. I must admit, I been fairly liberal with my use of butter and sea salt with my cooking. Not only are they a good source of vitamins and nutrients, but they taste really good.

I would usually split this over two or three meals depending on the day and what was going on during that day or week. The last two or three months I have been fairly low in dietary carbohydrate and have felt pretty good. I do have days where I really lift my carbohydrate intake but they have been fairly random and are usually after some intense training periods where I need a bit of a boost to aid in recovery.

I do a bit of intermittent fasting here and there. I am metabolically flexible, meaning I am well adapted to using fats or ketones as an energy source. Occasionally on a low tempo day, I would dabble in a longer fast of up to 24 hours This wasn’t very regular, maybe once every 6-8 weeks.

These days I don’t count calories or worry too much about when I’m eating or not eating. Basically, I eat when I’m hungry and try to avoid processed foods when practicable.

Most weeks I eat out with friends one night which would usually lead me to the local Vietnamese Pho or Grill’d restaurants.

Supplements
I’ve been supplementing with Nordic Naturals Fish Oil. I think omega-3 supplementation is important for overall health and Nordic Naturals is basically the gold standard of omega-3 supplements.

Magnesium. This is probably one of the most important supplements for me. I generally take it post workout (especially in the warmer months) or in the evenings prior to sleep. Magnesium is vitally important to so many biological functions in the body and these days it’s not that easy to get enough from diet alone. Add in some intense training or workloads, and your requirement increases.

At the moment most of my work days are spent indoors so during the winter months I add 10g L-glutamine daily (in the morning) and about a 10ml of Nordic Naturals Cod Liver Oil every other day. The L-glutamine is got for overall health and recovery while the Cod Liver Oil is a good source of both Vitamins A and D. 

Training
There are several coaches that I go to for inspiration when it comes to my program design. They are Dan John, Pavel Tsatsoline and Ross Enimait. When it comes to strength, conditioning, combative and kettlebell training these guys have you covered. 

Over the last 12 months or so I have been playing with some basic strength and conditioning programs consisting of mostly compound movements such as deadlifts, squats, rows, bench and overhead presses. Most of the time being spent around the 3-6 repetition range.

Heavy Turkish getups (up to 50kg), kettlebell swings and farmers carries have also featured consistently in my programing. 

I had a good three or four month period where I added some decent metabolic conditioning (metcon) circuits a couple of times per week. I felt this was working quite well but I had to really ramp up my caloric intake as the metcon work really depletes the energy levels.

Running. It’s been mostly interval work and 5km racing. The days of running 10km to 21km are behind me. I just found them too taxing on the body as a whole. My preference lately has been to run 200m and 400m intervals and every now and then I just get out and run around for 4km or 6km.

I missed out on the usual Run for the Kids in 2017, but I did compete in the Run Melbourne (26:50 for 5.7km) and Melbourne Marathon (26:03 for 5.7km). This year I have run in the Sole Motive Zoo Run (25:25 for 5km), Run for the Kids (23:20 for 5.2km) and the Mother’s Day Classic (17:41 for 4km).

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Right now my training consists of three days of strength and conditioning, two days of running (easy run and some sprint work) and maybe a single boxing workout. Each workout lasts about 30-35 minutes with the exception of the boxing which usually lasts 60 minutes. This gives me a total of about three to four hours of dedicated training per week which allows me to have more free time in my week.

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Lifestyle
I’m back in Melbourne. Where I grew up. Around family and friends definitely makes life a little easier. The importance of good social connections is often overlooked when it comes to optimising health and performance.

The last twelve months have been kind of interesting for me. A lot has happened on a personal level. Some good, some not so good, but I believe overall that I have had a net win which is great.

This year will mark 15 years as a soldier. That’s basically a lifetime. Soldiering has taken me to some pretty interesting places around the world and it has given me the opportunity to learn and work alongside some professional people.

I mentioned earlier that I am once again a student. I am finally completing my studies in nutrition which I am excited about. I am doing this via correspondence which will take about two years to complete, then I’ll make a decision on where I go from there.