Training Plans: The What And The Why

Part 2 of the series

 

You may have heard the expression:

A goal without a plan is just a wish

Cliché? Maybe.

True?

Clichés often are. That’s how they become clichés.

Let’s dive right in and talk about training plans/programs and their importance:

Why Do You Need A Plan?

If you have a goal but don’t have a plan of how to get there, what you’re doing is at best, guesswork; at worst, counterproductive.

If you have a training goal, whether that be a 100kg bench press, lose 10kg, or run 10km in 45mins, your training plan should be taking you towards it.

If you have multiple goals, say you wanted to do each of the 3 above. Put them in order of priority and knock them out one by one, maintaining the previous one in the process, rather than trying to achieve them all at once. You will be more productive that way.

A plan is a map. It’s a guide to take you from where you are currently to where you want to be.

Think of it like this: any time you’re travelling, if you already know where you’re going; you’ve been there before – it’s easy to get there yourself. If you don’t know where you’re going but you’re familiar with traveling, you can look at the relevant sources and map your way. If you know where you want to go but have never been there before and have no clue how to even begin getting there, you pay someone to take you there.

Each way you need a plan. It’s up to you to decide whether you can make that plan yourself or need someone to do it for you.

Now, I admire people who go off the beaten track, but the people who have success doing that are people who have followed the given way for years and then realised there may be a better way and start exploring it.

They are not people who come to the track and say, “that way is too hard” or even worse, “too boring, everyone goes that way” and try to make their own way without any prior knowledge of the terrain, the risks, navigating their surroundings, or how to stay the course when things get tough.

If you want to achieve something, plan your way. If you don’t know how to do that then get someone who does to do it for you. Otherwise you will end up lost and frustrated and likely have to go back where you started. You will have wasted time.

You need a plan to ensure that what you are doing is worthwhile, and to maximize efficiency in getting there.

Setting Out A Plan

The first step to making a plan is knowing what the goal is. What do you want to achieve?

Once you have done that you need to start thinking about what needs to be done to get there. Your plan should be made up of components that will take you towards your target. Don’t try to go in five directions at once, you’ll end up not going very far in any direction.

Firstly, plan the bare minimum that you need to get you where you want to be. Only once you have got that should you add other things that may be beneficial, but not essential to achieving your goal.

Stuff that plays no part in getting you there, leave it out.

Factors To Consider

There are many factors to consider when it comes to making a training plan: timeframe, experience, intensity, frequency, recovery, other commitments (family, job, etc.). These are things that need to be taken into account when forming a plan.

Priority here should be given to fitting a plan into your schedule. There’s no point having a plan that requires you to workout 6 days a week, 2 hours a day, if you can’t actually find that time to train.

Regardless of how good that plan is it won’t work if you can’t complete it.

Following A Plan

Make a plan you can actually follow. When I first sit down with someone to discuss designing a program the first question I always ask is, “what is the minimum amount of days per week you can guarantee you’ll workout?”

If, for example the answer is, “I can guarantee 2 days a week, but most weeks it may be 3”, I will plan for 3 days, but have 2 priority days with the main bulk of the plan in there, and 1 additional/semi-optional day with the stuff that is beneficial but not essential.

That way if they can only train 2 days on a certain week they still get the important stuff done.

Don’t plan for more than you can commit to.

I asked if anyone had any questions about training plans on my Instagram story and received this:

“Do I follow the plan if I haven’t eaten or slept well or should I lighten the weight and increase sets and reps so the volume is the same?” (Paraphrase).

A great question, and one that any of us who have been training have wondered. There are always days when you aren’t feeling it. Life happens. You had a shitty night’s sleep. You had to skip lunch to finish a work project. This is the stuff that happens to those of us that aren’t professional athletes.

The answer depends very much on the individual and the goal.

For people who’s goal is to be healthy, get a little fitter, lose a little weight, adjusting the load and rep range may be a good option.

But since this question was asked by an individual with a performance target and a timeframe, I want to answer directly to that situation, though anyone should be able to take something from this:

For someone who trains towards a specific goal like competing in an objective strength sport, adjusting the plan may not be an option as it’s probably going to affect your performance on the day of the competition.

A better option may be to look at your recovery strategy. I’m big on recovery, because I like to train and work hard. Recovery is essential for optimal performance.

If you work hard and then train hard on top of that you need to be putting thought into how you recover from all that stress.

There will always be unexpected situations that throw us off course. But it’s up to us to minimise these instances as best as possible. Plan your sleep. Plan your meals ahead. Have a back up plan. Carry an emergency banana and some rescue rice cakes in case you need to fuel up. Find a closet at work where you can take a nap.

These days will still come along from time to time, but if you’re finding that you’re feeling this way more often than not then your recovery strategy is off.

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

One of the most satisfying things as a coach is seeing someone execute and succeed on a plan. Whatever program you are on, commit. Commit.

A good plan is not a substitute for hard work, but hard work enhances the effects of a good plan.

I opened on a cliché and I’ll close on another;

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

 

Gotta love a good cliché,

 

Andrew

Life Performance Training

Training Philosophy

First part of the series on “training” is discussing philosophy.

As my old mate Confucius would say:

Get yo’ philosophy in check fo’ I crack yer neck” – Confucius

Keepin’ it real since 551 BC.

 

What is a training philosophy?

A training philosophy is the set of values or principles by which you plan and structure your training.

Everyone’s training philosophy will be different, and that’s ok. Many will have similar or even identical components, that’s ok too, better than ok even. There are certain training principles which have been forged over decades of trial and error, experimentation and study. These should not be ignored for the sake of individuality.

And while there are elements of almost every type of training that are beneficial, many have also got their priorities wrong.

Spending your whole workout hour laying on a foam roller is not doing anybody any good, I don’t care how stiff or tight you feel. Doing the exact same thing week after week after week, the same amount of repetitions with the exact same load, will not get you very far either. You are stalling.

If training is about improvement in performance and adaptation to increasing stress then you have to force the issue. With all that said, here is what makes up my training philosophy:

 

What is the Life Performance Training philosophy?

First off, what is Life Performance? Well, that will look different for each of us, because we all live different lives, right? Nevertheless, humans are humans, our bodies are fundamentally the same even though we all have individual strengths, weaknesses, and issues. For each of us the hip is a ball and socket joint, for some it may be deeper or more laterally placed than others, but they are not that different.

Yes training has to be individual, but not so individual that you’re doing something ridiculous just to be a contrarian.

We all need a base level of strength, we all need a base level of conditioning, and we all need a base level of mobility. Without these you will not function, nevermind perform. These 3 things essentially make up “fitness”. So our first thought is to make sure these bases are covered.

These will be implemented in varying ratios depending on the individual, and they are not separate entities, there is overlap between the 3. Depending on starting point, goal, restrictions, and injuries, one or two will take precedence over the other[s]. But none should be completely ignored.

Jim Wendler says it like this:

Stretch. Lift. Sprint.” – Jim Wendler

Beautiful in its simplicity.

 

Without further ado, here are some of the main principles that make up the LPT philosophy:

Progressive Overload

This one’s a biggie. Simply put, if your training plan does not incorporate progressive overload it is not worth your while. Not for any significant time anyway.

Progressive overload simply means that each session/week/month/year you do a little bit more. Without it there is no progression.

Frequency

Train often. As often as you can. The body responds well to frequency. Let me put it this way: if you can only spare 2 hours a week to train, 4 half hour sessions spread throughout the week is better than a single 2 hour session.

Training more often allows you to accrue a higher skill level in performance, and you can get higher volume spread over more frequent sessions than in an individual session.

Intensity

Train hard. Push yourself. Force adaptation. Lift heavy – (intensity in strength terms is % of your max, not how breathless or sweaty you get). Run fast. But also…

Recover

Manage fatigue. If you train with intensity you need to put thought into your recovery. Prioritise sleep. Eat well, get plenty of protein and veggies in your belly. Stroll in nature. Get a massage. Take care of yourself.

Focus

When you’re doing something give it your full attention. Feel the movement. If you’re gonna do something don’t half-ass it.

Consistency

Nothing else matters if you aren’t consistent. Suboptimal work done consistently trumps optimal work done every once in a while.

Purpose

Why are you doing what you’re doing? If you can’t answer that then you need to rethink. You should be training for something. It doesn’t have to be competition, it can be for health, or dare I say it, to look good. Whatever it is for, your training should be aiming for that very thing.

The majority of coaches would agree with me on the above points. Following below are some of the beliefs that may or may not make our philosophy a little different (but not so different as to be a contrarian).


Strength Training Is For EVERYONE

You don’t have to want to lift double your bodyweight. You do have to push and pull against resistance and maybe pick something up and carry it around a bit though.

Strength training develops the body and the mind and I have seen people gain great confidence from getting stronger that I haven’t seen replicated by running a longer distance or being able to get lower in a stretch. Pretty much everyone with benefit from getting a little stronger.

Don’t Be Afraid To Try New Things

Experiment. The only reason people know anything about anything is because they tried it. And yet…

The “Boring” Stuff Works Best

I believe in barbells. I believe in big compound movements. The reason I believe in them is because they work. The reason they are still around after all this time is because they work. I believe in push ups and chin ups and crawls. This doesn’t seem exciting because its not new and fresh but there is no need to reinvent the wheel. One of the best exercises in existence? The farmers walk – picking up a heavy weight in each hand and walking with it. That’s been around since the dawn of time. It still works.

I Don’t [Really] Give A Shit How You Look

Physique is not that important to me. Don’t get me wrong, everyone likes to look good, including me. I know you want to be leaner and more muscular. I’m not discrediting that completely. But it seems that for many that is what fitness and training has become. People come to me thinking they’re gonna be made to do bro splits and be told to eat plain chicken, rice, and broccoli. I can’t believe this is still most peoples perception of fitness!

I want to change that. There is so much more, so much more! You are capable of pretty incredible physical feats. Performance. This is what I prefer to focus on. Put effort into getting better, stronger, faster, and with just a little deliberate thought about what you eat and drink, your body composition will change favourably. Eating healthily is part of optimal performance.

Don’t Be A Pussy

Life is tough. If you want to succeed you’re gonna have to be tough as well. There will be disappointments and worse. You have to be prepared.

Life Performance Training prepares you for life!

I feel like I could go on and on about persistence, self-belief, phases, confidence, movement patterns… but I’ll leave it there for now. A training philosophy will evolve and grow and the useless stuff will be stripped away. The simpler, the more refined the better.

I hope this gives you an insight into what a training philosophy is, what my training philosophy is, and gets you thinking about your own philosophy in regards to training, because you should have your own.

 

Andrew

Life Performance Training 

Training  > Exercise

*this is an intro to what is going to be a series of articles on all things “training”. Enjoy.

 

I’m not shitting on exercise, I’m just saying there is something more for people who want it. Let me explain:

Training And Exercise: What’s The Difference?

Exercise is movement and physical exertion. Training is movement and physical exertion with a purpose. Like I said, I’m not shitting on exercise, for many people that’s all they will ever need: to move a little, lift a little, get a wee bit breathless and sweaty. You will get fitter. You will be in better shape.

But for some that is not enough. Some people want more. They want purpose. They want direction and they want to get better. They want to set goals, they want to reach goals, and then they want to move on to the next one. Never settling. Never satisfied. Always seeking  more. If you belong to this special breed, then the upcoming series is for you.

 

Training has direction

Training takes you towards something. It is structured and carefully thought out. Each component of a training plan has a reason for being there, and if it doesn’t then it is ruthlessly cast aside. Oh, it’s your favourite exercise? Who gives a fuck. If it’s not taking you towards your goal then it has no business being in there. If you can’t justify it, cut it.

Training plans can be broken down, dissected, and evaluated to see if everything there is needed. A plan should be as efficient and effective as possible, regardless of the goal. Everything should be pulling in the same direction.

If your goal is to add 30kg to your deadlift, you should not be eating 3 lettuce leaves and a chia seed for lunch. You need to eat according to your goal, and while you’re at it you can leave the calf raises and wrist curls for some other time. You want ripped abs but you binge drink at the weekend and eat leftover kebab on a Sunday? Not gonna work. You want to pack on lean mass but spend 90% of your workout writhing over a foam roller and jamming lacrosse balls up your ass then you need to rethink your approach.

Dan John said it most eloquently:

“The goal is to keep the goal the goal”

 

Set yourself and get after it.

 

To be continued…


Andrew

Life Performance Training


The Slow Poison Of Procrastination: 3 ways to combat distraction and excel at getting shit done

I’m a procrastinator. But I’m on the road to recovery. Here are a few things I’ve done to help me beat procrastination:

 

Make Lists

The first and greatest tool in helping me overcome procrastination has been making to-do lists. I have daily, weekly, yearly, and even longer term (lifely?) lists.

This reminds me what I have to do, when I have to do it, and what I should be working towards.

Having a list of things to do keeps me focused, plus it feels good ticking things off.

Do this however suits you best. I have previously kept a list in the Notes app on my phone, but have recently changed to jotting them down in a little notepad as I find I can text in my phone quite absentmindedly, but when I write them down they tend to ingrain better in my head. Plus, when going to my phone with the intention of looking at my list and then getting to work, it’s easy to get sidetracked and end up 50 deep in Instagram comments reading people argue over whether Donald Trump is indeed the love child of Pol Pot and Cruella De Vil. (I never participate in these senseless discussions FYI, but do sometimes find myself engrossed in them for 20 decadent minutes and then needing a shower and a cry afterwards.)

 

Be Less Indulgent

In the spirit of Brick: I love naps.

If I have time I will find myself just curling up and closing my eyes and drifting away to a world of blessed tranquility. This is perfectly fine once or twice a week, maybe on a Sunday. But when I find myself at lunchtime on a Tuesday waking up from my third nap since arising, it becomes a problem.

See, I do a lot of my work from home. Writing, planning, programming, emails, texts, check-ins, social media, this is all stuff that I will often do either before I go to, or after I return from the gym. It becomes so much easier to procrastinate when you’re at home. I mean the couch is right there, seducing me with her cushion-y bosom. And oh, there’s Friends reruns on from 10am through to 2pm!? That’ll do nicely. Sure, I’ve only seen them 5 million times before.

If I think I have nothing to do (even though I always have things to do) you bet your ass I will nap. It’s like a default setting, like how your laptop goes to sleep if you don’t use it in a couple of minutes.

Having a list keeps me focused and means that I don’t indulge those naps and old 90s/00s comedy repeats. Which leads me to my next point:

 

Have A Designated Workspace

We have just recently set up a little office space in our house. It’s upstairs, away from the couch and away from the tv, for both me and my wife to retreat to when we have a project to work on. This is where I now go to get shit done.

 

*token Supple Leopard in the book stack

 

And you know what, I’m so much more productive when I’m there. When I sit down at the desk, I’m there to work, I don’t sit there for any other reason. Unlike the dining table or the couch or the porch or wherever, all these places have other functions. The desk is where I work.

The same goes for the gym. It’s easy when I have some time between clients to sit in the kitchen where there is food and often other colleagues to chat with. But I like to use this time productively when I have it, as I then have less work to do at home. So I make a conscious decision to sit in the office and work on programming or whatever has to be done. Antisocial? Maybe. Productive? Definitely.

 

 

There is an expression: Time is our most valuable resource. I honestly believe this. It’s the one thing you can’t recover once you’ve lost it, but you can spend it and invest it wisely.

I still struggle with procrastination from time to time, but I have gotten a helluva lot better these past few years. Hopefully these tips can help you too.

 

Yours sexily,

Andrew

 

Life Performance Training

Be A Specialist Generalist

Are you a competitive athlete?

No? Then why do you train like one?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to specialise. It’s great to focus on one aspect of training and put your all into it to improve in that area. But there is a point of diminishing returns.

Example: training like a powerlifter when you’re not a powerlifter. There comes a point in your pursuit of strength when the risk outweighs the reward. It’s different if you’re competing and have something to gain. But if you’re training simply for enjoyment, health, aesthetics, or whatever, do you really need a triple bodyweight squat?

Last week I seen a guy almost buckle under a squat, his upper back started to round and he barely made it. It was not tidy, and it was not training. His training partner followed him and she did fold under hers and was saved by the pins. (Neither squat was anywhere close to triple bw by the way, barely equivalent to bodyweight. Not criticising their strength levels, simply stating.)

I’m all for getting stronger, in fact I swear by it and recommend it to everybody who comes to me. But if you’re training in such a way, and chasing numbers recklessly, leaving yourself beat up and in pain, or at major risk of injury, you are doing it wrong.

This is not necessary, and it is not smart. Do failed lifts happen sometimes in training? Yes. But they should be kept to a minimum.

Train with the attitude of “never miss a rep”. If you’re not 90% sure you’ll make the lift, don’t attempt it.

 

Training is training

 

Training is training. It’s not competition. Even competitive athletes should not be training that way. It puts them at risk of missing the very event that they’re training for.

Train smart. Train to get progressively better over time. What’s the rush? And what’s the use of putting your body through the ringer for such a lift unless it’s for competition, when there is actual reward at the end.

Once you build a good level of strength, maintain it, improve your control of the weight. Of course it’s nice to continue getting stronger, but don’t push it at all costs.

You’re strong, but how well conditioned are you? How well do you move? Are you carrying too much body fat? Do you know how to eat well? Can you crawl and roll? Can you stand on one leg? Do you know how to defend yourself? These are all things you can look to improve.

Be a specialist generalist. Get good at everything. That is what fitness is for the everyday person. Unless you’re competing in one particular field then there’s no need to specialise in only one area of training.

Think of an MMA fighter. They are the ultimate example of a specialist generalist. Good at a little bit of everything. Are they better in some areas than others? Of course. That’s natural. But they train every aspect of fighting and for every eventuality in the cage.

So should you train for life. If you need to lift something, you should be able to lift it. If you have to get down on the ground and back up again, you should be able to do that too. What if you have to climb a fence? Or run for the train? Would you be strong enough, supple enough, and conditioned enough to do these things?

You don’t have to train everything at once, but should at all times give some thought to the various elements of fitness.

That’s what life performance training is. Being good at everything. You’ll be better at some than others and you’ll enjoy some more than others, and that’s perfectly ok. But you still train the other aspects because you know they’re useful and you know you’ll be ready for circumstances requiring them if and when they crop up.

 

 

Andrew

Life Performance Training

Low Reps or High Reps?

It’s a common question: which is better, high reps or low reps? I get asked it often in the gym.

The answer, like almost always, is: it depends.

But, there is most certainly an order in terms of which should be prioritized for a beginner to training. Let’s address this:

Firstly, what is considered a low rep range is anywhere between 1-5 reps. The low volume means heavier weight can be handled and this is generally considered the best rep range to work in to build strength.

A high rep range is considered 15 and above reps in a set, and this is termed best for muscular endurance.

In between these 2 ranges we have the moderate rep range or 6-14, or more commonly 6-12, as it’s rare to find someone doing a 13 or 14 rep set. This is known as the hypertrophy rep range and is deemed best for increasing muscle size.

So, it would seem pretty straight forward that you simply choose your rep range based on what outcome you want, right?

Possibly. But I’m going to make a case here for why everyone, regardless of goal, should begin their training by straddling 2 ranges with low-to-moderate reps, say between 5-10 reps in a set.

See, although these rep ranges have titles indicating the primary result of working in the confines of that range, none of these things: strength, hypertrophy, or endurance, are exclusive to the ranges that bear their names.

If you go from lifting nothing to lifting something you will get stronger, regardless of whether you’re lifting a relatively light weight a bunch of times; if you’ve never lifted before, you will get stronger. That’s not the ideal way though. Imagine you begin bench pressing 40kg for sets of 15. In order to progress to 45kg you have to be able to lift that extra 5kg 15 times, totalling an extra 75kg over the course of a set. Now, if you can bench 60kg for 5 reps and want to increase to 65kg for 5, you have a much greater likelihood of doing so saying as you’re lifting “only” an extra 25kg over the course of the set. This is one of the reasons why lower reps are better for getting stronger.

But, are higher reps the best place to start if you want to build muscular endurance? Maybe not.

Maybe the focus should be on getting strong first. See, jumping straight into sets of 20 as a beginner is a recipe for disaster. Firstly, chances are your form isn’t nailed on yet, so if you’re doing something wrong, even just slightly, that will accumulate over the course of multiple high rep sets and the repetition of poor movement could (and almost certainly will) over time cause injury.

Beginners rarely have the mental focus or the bodily awareness to tell if something is going wrong in a movement, so even if you start out correctly chances are that over the course of the set as fatigue builds and the mind starts to wander that your technique will break down somewhere along the line.

 

breakdown

 

It’s also generally not a good idea to focus on sets with too high of a weight and too low of a rep range in the beginning. Trying to grind out a heavy single with piss poor form is even more risky than shitty high reps. Your connective tissue simply won’t be prepared to handle it either = joint pain.

This is the reason I recommend a low-to-moderate rep range for beginners, and that you stick in this range until you can be considered an intermediate lifter. There’s no official pass mark to tell you you’ve reached intermediate status, but mastering the equivalent of your bodyweight in the big 3 is a good start (think bodyweight squat x10, bw bench press x5, 1.5 bw deadlift x5). If you can achieve these with good form, you’re probably there.

Build up a good level of strength in the 5-10 rep range, and only then think about going higher or lower. High rep sets are only beneficial if you are lifting appreciable weight. Getting stronger will certainly build your muscular endurance while simultaneously having the benefit of getting you jacked and feeling like a bad ass.

Put it this way: someone who can squat 120kg for 5 or 6 reps can quite easily squat 60kg for 15 reps. Someone who solely works at squatting 60kg for 15 reps will have no hope of squatting 120kg. It’s more efficient to do both.

There is simply a greater benefit for everyone in beginning by getting stronger in the low-to-moderate rep range first, then shifting your focus higher or lower, whichever way you be inclined.

Basic strength is your foundation. Hypertrophy, max strength, power, and endurance can, and should, be built on top.

The Key To Success

What if I told you the key to success? That if you could nail down this one little thing, you would be able to achieve anything you want?

Would you be interested?

Of course you would.

What I’m going to tell you is simple, but not necessarily easy.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

I have seen it time and again. The people who see success, are the people who take responsibility for their own shit.

You’re unemployed? Stop blaming circumstance, or immigrants.

You got an F? Stop blaming circumstance, or your teacher.

You’re overweight? Stop blaming circumstance, or Ronald McDonald for opening his restaurant on the corner of your block. Or donuts and ice-cream for being too damn tasty.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself

You can give yourself a million excuses about why you are the way that you are, or why you’re in the situation you’re in, and some, or all of them may be valid. But you know what they’ll do to change things? Jack shit.

Everybody has reasons why they can’t. Some people choose to shelter themselves behind these, and some people use them as motivation to succeed.

I used to be one of the former. I blamed everybody around me for my circumstances, some very vocally, and others more inwardly, but I blamed them.

Truth was, no one was responsible for the mess I’d made of my life other than me.

People may have done some real bad shit to you. I am not downplaying that, not at all. But for every bitter and resentful person out there blaming their past on why they are sad, alone, broke, fat, or whatever, there is another with similar circumstances who is living life with gusto.

What is the difference?

The individual.

 

Put Up Or Shut Up

Of course there are reasons why you are like you are, but there is a single reason why you stay where you are.  You keep giving yourself excuses. So unless you are willing to make a change, to take responsibility and take action, just be honest about it and say you can’t be bothered, or you’re afraid, or other things in your life are of higher priority.

Willingness to make a change is not a single decision. It’s not a one time thing. It is a mindset. It is an attitude. You see something in your life that you’re not happy with and you set yourself about improving it regardless of how you got that way.

Instead of moping and feeling sorry for yourself, you take action.

This can be learned, but it will take effort. It’ll take you to look at the exact same things with a new set of eyes.

You must train yourself to see obstacles not as excuses, but as challenges. I remember hearing that the Chinese had the same word for problem and opportunity. I have no idea whether this is factual or not but the precept is true. The difference is simply in the perspective of the looker.

Donald-Trump

Don’t be a whiner. It seems to be more prevalent than ever nowadays to blame surroundings, upbringing, or Donald Trump on your problems. Take responsibility for your own shit, there is something strangely liberating about it.

 

 

Andrew

Life Performance Training

Sport Specific Training: It’s Not What You Think It Is

I train a guy who is a recreational surfer and kite surfer. He wants his training to improve his sport.

What is one of the primary exercises I’ve prescribed him?

Farmer’s Walks.

Yep.

I could have put him on a bosu ball to simulate the unstable surface of a board on water and had him hold one end of a resistance band while I held the other and played kite by jumping around trying to pull him off balance.

Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it?

Yet that is what many think when they think “sport specific”. That the movements trained in the gym have to exactly mimic the movements of the sport. Then they want to load these movements with additional weight.

Before we go further, back to Farmer’s Walks. How in the hell do these transfer to kite surfing?

Answer: grip strength and full body stability. An obvious requirement when you think about it.

We also do things like Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats to work on single leg strength and stability, Trap Bar Deadlifts to strengthen the posterior chain, Unilateral Presses, Rows, and Straight Arm Pulldown variations. Strengthening and stabilising, and putting slightly more emphasis on areas related to performance in his sport while keeping his training in balance.

Sport specific training doesn’t mean doing movements that mimic the sport in as close a way as possible. Rather it means doing movements and exercises that will improve the ability to perform in the sport.

Then, to actually get better at the sport in question will require practicing and practicing and practicing said sport.

To give another example:

Another of my clients is a junior competitive alpine skier. I don’t balance him on a stability ball and have him swipe 2 dumbbells back and forth. (We’ve all seen these kinds of videos right?) I’m going to talk further on this later.

Instead we work on Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats for single-leg strength and stability, Trap Bar Deadlifts to strengthen the posterior chain, Unilateral Presses, Rows, and Straight Arm Pulldown variations. Do you see the similarities?

The demands on the body of these 2 very different sports is actually very similar. Both require strength and stability; both require robustness.

Again, improvement in the particular sport will come down to practicing that sport. This is the principle of specificity. To improve at something you have to practice it. You can’t improve your ability to surf by jumping on a bosu ball. Someone could practice that for years so they can jump on blindfolded and land on one foot while juggling fire, then get on a board and wipeout immediately. Proficiency in one doesn’t necessarily transfer to the other, even though the 2 things may look very similar.

The greatest gym example of this is Lat Pulldowns and Pull-ups. You will see guys who can lift the whole stack on the Lat Pulldown machine but can’t do a single Pull-up even though the movements look incredibly similar. The 2 don’t necessarily correlate.

My job is to build a stable and agile body that can better handle the rigours imposed on it and produce more power when necessary. I occasionally throw in things that may somewhat mimic the movement of the sport, but only if it will actually benefit the athletes performance in some way. This can also allow the athlete to connect the training to the sport in their mind. I don’t do it for the sake of looking cutting edge, and definitely not if it puts the athlete at unnecessary risk.

I’ve stated before and I’ll state again that I am open-minded when it comes to training. I try not to judge someone’s training based off short videos without knowing the background. But I hate seeing athletes being put through tasks where there is more risk than reward, or where there is little-to-no reward at all for what they are doing.

One that springs to mind is a video I seen of a top Formula 1 driver standing on a stability ball while turning a weight plate left and right like a steering wheel. He was even doing the gears (lol). I laughed at the absurdity of it but at the same time I cringed.

I fail to see how him balancing on a stability ball is going to benefit his sport. The risk faaaaaaaaar outweighed the reward. In fact I’d like to know what the reward was.

No doubt “bus drivers”, as the exercise of holding a plate out in front and turning it side to side is known, are a half-decent exercise for the shoulders, but if this driver had of fallen off the ball, his season, and maybe even his career, could have been finished.

There is always an element of risk in training, but it is the job of the coach to minimise it, not increase it for their own benefit.

In my mind the stability ball was there for no other reason other than to look fancy. In the minds of some it may have made the trainer look innovative, but it was actually idiotic.

Sport and sport training provide enough risk to an athletes body as it is, complementary strength and conditioning training should not further that risk but enhance the ability of the body to withstand it.

 

Andrew

Life Performance Training 

You Should Be Strength Training

Just for extra emphasis:

You Should Be Strength Training

I’m a proponent of almost every kind of training, to some extent. I can see the benefit in most training styles and believe there is something to be learned from each (for the most part, not the blatantly idiotic stuff).

I try to remain open-minded and often like to experiment with alternative training styles. At various times throughout my training I have ran long-distance, sprinted, done HIIT, calisthenics, body-part splits, agility work, mobility work, played sports, trained specific skills, and probably other things that don’t spring to mind now, but there is one constant throughout my training since I first experienced it years ago: good old-fashioned strength training.

Strength. Moving weight. There is something so satisfying about it. It requires more than just training, it requires a mentality. A mentality that not everyone has, but that can be built.

Because free-weight strength training doesn’t just strengthen the body, it strengthens the mind. It gives you a grit and a confidence that you don’t get from running or solely training on machines.

Without getting overly dramatic, there is a very real overcoming of adversity in strength training. You will not squat down and back up with a heavy weight on your back without a level of mental strength. You must overcome fear and doubt in order to do it.

It will change you. It will change your body and it will change your mind. I don’t hesitate to say it will change your life.

How It Changed Me

After years of substance abuse I found myself in my mid-twenties skinny, malnourished, and weak as shit. Growing up I’d always been relatively fit and even tried maintaining some level of fitness during years of treating my body poorly (an understatement), but after getting sober I decided to join the gym and start training “properly”, which at the time meant bro training.

I can remember going to train with a friend who had been training for a few years and being thoroughly embarrassed by how weak I was in comparison. So much so that I actually quit the gym. Stupid of course, everybody starts somewhere, but it was how I felt at the time. Already being anxious and self-conscious, my ego couldn’t take that hit.

Unhappiness Is The Catalyst Of Change

I didn’t quit training though, instead I started working out at home, which at that time was my mums house (I’d moved back there for the 10th time since I first moved out at 19). I bought a pull-up bar and some push-up handles and started doing bodyweight work.

After a while I dug out some old weights and a fold-away bench my mum had got me for Christmas one year in my mid-teens, and started doing some bench press (working my way up to a majestic 50kg) and squats (hitting the even more spectacular 40kg because I had to clean and press it first) and started doing the “Big 5 55” workout because I read in a fitness magazine that that was what Jason Statham used to get in action star shape.

One day, while at the supermarket, I got a comment from someone I hadn’t seen in a while along the lines of “look at the guns on you”. – Now, since I’d long abandoned my life of crime I knew he was talking about my arms. That felt good and gave me the confidence to enrol again at the local gym.

I knew that strength motivated me. More than being big, more than being ripped, I wanted to be strong. I knew I’d never be the strongest guy about, being small, naturally light, and unwilling to use anabolics, but I wanted to feel like I could hold my own.

Still not knowing much about programming, or writing a training plan beyond the typical bro-split, I started to research a little on strength training programs and settled on Stronglifts 5×5, a simple, straight set, progressive overload system that came with its own (free) app.

This program worked fantastically for me and soon my bench was up to a ginormous 70kg for 5 sets of 5, and my squat and deadlift both cracked 100kg, though looking back now my squat form in particular was horrendous. These were also complemented with things like chins and dips, overhead presses and rows. To this day the greatest and most rapid strength progress I’ve ever made was at this time on the Stronglifts 5×5 program.

This is for a couple of reasons. Of course there was “newbie gains”; the fastest progress you will make in your training, provided you do it right, will be in the beginning, when you go from doing nothing to doing something. But also, this was a no-bullshit program centred around progressive overload and compound movements. For a beginner in particular, this is vital. That’s right, vital. No superlative, just fact. I’d argue that it is vital regardless of your training experience, these things should still be the foundation of your programming.

Have A Strong Foundation

Don’t be afraid to experiment with your training. Don’t be afraid to try new things. But make sure you have a foundation. The base of your program should be made up of squats, hinges, pushes, and pulls. There are exercises in each of these categories that will fit any individual. My client base currently ranges from a 12 year old male competitive alpine skier through to a 75 year old widow, with every kind of human in between, and each and every one of them train these movements loaded. Not always loaded from the beginning, but we work our way there.

Functional Training 

Strength is functional. These are fundamental human movements replicated very much in everyday life and in pretty much all sports. You should be training them. I don’t care who you are, you should be training them, and you should be training to get stronger in these movements.

Strength training will develop strength in more than just your body, it will develop strength in your mind.

There are some good resources and programs out there on this topic, the aforementioned Stronglifts 5×5, Jim Wendler’s 5, 3, 1, and many, many articles on sites like T-nation (I have no affiliation with any of these by the way).

If you have any questions at all regarding implementing strength training, or improving upon your current strength program, hit me up in the comments or via email or social media.

 

Andrew

Life Performance Training

How To Stay Fit And Healthy When You’re Too Busy To Workout

First off, and I say this with love and tenderness: you’re not too busy to workout, so cut the bullshit. Either you don’t want to, or you don’t know how. If you’re the 1st, each to their own, no judgement. If you’re the 2nd, maybe I can help.

There are many ways to stay fit and healthy with limited time. It’s a matter of priority, and trust me, your health should be a priority. You work so hard to have all these nice things; house, car, holidays, satin underwear. That’s good, but you can’t fully enjoy them if you’re not healthy.

The healthier you are, the better life will be.

You can’t perform when you’re giving yourself a million reasons not to. Excuses do nothing but keep you where you are, maybe even run you backwards. (No, that doesn’t count as exercise.)

“I can’t make it to the gym.” – workout at home.

“I have no equipment.” – use your bodyweight or stuff around the house.

“But, I have no time.” – get up half an hour earlier. Don’t plop down on the couch as soon as you get home, bust out some push-ups. Tabata literally takes 4 minutes. Manage your time better and you will have time.

Staying fit and healthy doesn’t have to mean 3 hours of training per day. Set aside 45mins 3 times a week, or 15-20mins 5 or 6 days a week and during that time work-the-fuck-out. No phones, no Inspector Gadget watches. No ass scratching. Do what you set that time aside to do.

I have a push-up/chin-up countdown circuit that I do at home sometimes. It takes me around 15mins and in the time I do 150 push-ups and 75 chin-ups, plus it skyrockets my heart-rate. More on that later when I’ll give you some actual, real life, time efficient workouts for all you busy mofos.

 

But before that…

I am not downplaying busyness, or tiredness, lack of time, or stress. All these things play a factor in many of our lives today.

Your health will come down to more than working out, it’ll be managing all these things better. Luckily, if you love this next point as much as I do then you’ll be very happy to hear what I’m going to tell you to do next…

 

Sleep

Yes, sleep is vital to your health and performance. It’s not a waste of time. No, you can’t “sleep when you’re dead”. You need to sleep now. Possibly right this instant, or at least very soon.

Napping is my favourite pastime, I do it whenever I can. My ultimate ambition is to have a nap-to-work ratio of 3:1 in favour of naps. I have big dreams. (Nap pun for the win.)

Another quite enjoyable factor of health and performance…

 

Eating

Eating has become a huge fucking issue for people nowadays. People are afraid to eat. Or they just eat shit. Or eat too much. Some people are all these in one day.

Thing is, nutrition does not have to be this overly complicated matter that scares the living shit out of you. Food should not be scary, it should be scared of you, it’s the one getting munched.

There is of course an emotional linkage with eating for many, but I’m not going to touch on that here. What I am going to say is: put some thought into what goes into your mouth.

Energy in vs energy out. That’s what you need to know. If you take in more energy than you burn then you will store that extra energy as fat. If you take in less energy than you burn then you will use your reserve stores of energy (fat) as fuel. Simple. (This must be consistent to see any noticeable change in the body.)

If you have a sedentary job, a slow metabolism, and no appreciable muscle mass, you won’t burn as many calories throughout the day as someone who is the opposite. So eat accordingly.

If you regularly have a donut on your coffee break realise that you have to account for those calories elsewhere in your day if you want to lose fat, either by being more restrictive at another meal or increasing your daily activity. (Let me make clear that I’m not hating on donuts, I love them, but they are a high calorie food that offer little in terms of satiety, that’s why I use them in this example. The same of course goes for all calories.)

Even still, with all my love for donuts, I do question the need for an adult to have one every day. Sweets should be treats, not a regular meal. That’s opinion by the way, if you don’t agree you can tell me to go fuck myself and shove that sugary goodness in your face.

 

Sleep, Eat, Train

If you can improve these 3 things to a higher level than you do currently you will get fitter and healthier.

So after covering sleeping and eating here are some simple workouts for busy people. Some done at the gym, some at home with minimal equipment, and some that simply require a body, preferably your own.

This first one is not written by me, but by Pavel Tsatsouline, here it goes:

Day 1

Deadlift

Bench Press

Day 2

Squat

Bench Press

I honestly believe this program could be done as is, just pick a set and rep range and go, but for sets/reps and assistance exercises, Dan John (who is the king of realism when it comes to training), elaborates here: https://www.t-nation.com/workouts/2-times-a-week-for-twice-the-gains

This next one is the one I alluded to earlier and is an upper body conditioning workout that can be done at home only requiring a pull-up bar. You can pick one up to hang in your doorway for next to nothing. Alternatively, go outside and use a tree branch or monkey bars, anything you can hoist your chin over:

Push-ups 10, 8, 6, 4, 2

Chin-ups 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

Alternating between push-ups and chins. So begin with 10 push-ups and 5 chins and work your way down to 2 and 1. Do 5 rounds.

What about the lower body? I’ve got ya:

100 goblet squats

There you go. Pick up a weight and do 100 goblet squats in as few sets as possible.

This one requires no equipment whatsoever:

10 rear foot elevated split squats on one side

10 push-ups

10 rear foot elevated split squats on the other side

1 minute plank

Repeat 5 times

Single kettlebell:

Swings 20

Unilateral Press 10 each side

Goblet Squat 20

Unilateral Row 10 each side

x3

And another with a barbell for people who like to hit the gym but don’t have a lot of time to spend once they get there:

Day 1

Front Squat, ramp to a triple, drop the weight accordingly and do 4×8

Day 2

Bench Press, ramp to a triple, drop the weight accordingly and do 4×8

Day 3

Trap-bar Deadlift, ramp to a triple, drop the weight accordingly and do 4×8

Day 4

Chin-ups 3×8

TRX Inverted Row 3×8

Face-pull 3×20

These programmes are nothing fancy, there’s no periodization, no accumulation blocks, no bosu ball back-flips. What there is, is no-nonsense workouts for busy people. If you train hard at them you will see improvements in your fitness. Every training programme, no matter how basic or extravagant, is only as good as your execution of it. Approach any of these workouts with focus, precision, and intent and they will change your body. Half-ass them and they won’t. Consistency is key. Stick at it. And warm-up beforehand, just because I haven’t typed a warm-up doesn’t mean don’t do it, that should be a given.

 

Oh, and drink water,

 
Andrew

Life Performance Training