How to program for strength and muscle gain – an expansion

Ok… so ever since I wrote my Idiots Guide to Programming piece, I’ve had people come and ask about sets and reps, and exercise selection. Which is kind of annoying because I left it out of the original post on purpose because I genuinely feel it’s too broad an area to get specific in a blog post about, and because someone is DEFINITELY going to take something I say here, apply it poorly and then blame me because they’ve been an idiot.

But I’m a complete whore and people have been asking, so I’ll deliver – but with the express qualifier of – don’t blame me for your stupidity.

Now that that’s out of the way, allow me to remain ambiguous. What follows are some general guidelines on reps/sets and exercise choice, but first, some general points about general things, generally speaking.
Continue reading


The importance of hand position in the squat

“My wrists hurt” is probably one of the most common complaints I hear off people squatting, and the good news is it’s really bloody easy to fix. Think of it this way…

“Straight wrist = strong wrist” and “Bent wrist = bad wrist”

The pictures below do a better job of explaining the position than any text can. Essentially rather than the bar sitting in your hand, it sits across it. I think it’s a safer, less painful position, and I personally find it a lot more secure to for keeping the bar on my back, and the external shoulder rotation tends to force thoracic extension as well which will increase your squat and protect your lower back. It’s simple fix with lots of positive benefits. So….

GOOD                                                   BAD

GOOD                                                   BAD

One thing to be conscious of is that as you try to drive the elbows forward out of the bottom of the squat (like you should be doing), you’re trying to create thoracic extension and keep your chest up. Having “soft” wrists so that you go from the “good” position to the “bad” position while you’re doing that does not create thoracic extension and just loads the absolute hell out of your wrists.

It might take a while to work into that position because it does require a good level of flexibility and could be uncomfortable while you’re trying to adapt to it, but I believe it’s worth it in the long run. So give it a try and let me know what you think.

….and yes, I know. My forearms are jacked.

Quick Tips – Volume 3

Push something, pull something, do something for your legs… and do it 2-4 days per week.

If you just based your workout around those three simple things, you’d probably be more healthy, have increased injury resistance, be more in balance and achieve your goals faster.

It’s simple, it’s VERY quick, and it’s “functional” in the strictest sense of the word.
Continue reading

Powerlifting Equipment – A Beginners Guide

Powerlifting has 3 big debates – squat depth, drugs and supportive equipment. The last one is what I want to discuss today. What follows is a quick and dirty history around powerlifting equipment as I know it, and where it is today. It’s not meant to be comprehensive, but to give a better idea as to what it is, how it works and why it’s not “cheating”.

EDIT: 1,400 words later, and “quick and dirty” should read “tedious and boring”

Let’s start with an analogy before looking at equipment on a lift by lift basis… Imagine you’re at a race track. You want to learn how to drive a car around a track and there’s 2 dudes there. One’s a Touring Car driver, he’s got awesome skills in his saloon car, perhaps a bit rough and ready but he can get around the track a hell of a lot faster than most. The other guy’s an F1 driver. He’s a master of taking the absolute limits of technology and extracting ever last little drop of speed and power out of it.
Continue reading

How to get ripped and toned with 5SS (5 simple steps)

“I want to get toned” and “I want a six pack/abs” are probably the single most common thing any personal trainer, or anyone who spends a significant amount of time in a gym will hear. Everyone wants shortcuts and magic supplements – but they don’t exist.

Generally speaking, the only way you can do it is through diet modification and hard work, so…. most of you will probably stop reading here 😦

 For those who REALLY want to make the change (ie the ones willing to put the work in and get the results, not the ones who want to boast to their friends how much they’re training and dieting without ever really pushing outside the comfort zone), here’s some quick tips:

Things that WON’T work:
-just taking protein/fat burner/hoping you’ll get lean without changing anything else
-running for hours on the treadmill without modifying your diet
-flat out not eating anything

Things that WILL work:
-adjusting your food intake to “real” food
-knowing how many kcals you need to take in on a daily basis to obtain fat loss, and sticking to it
-patience (you didn’t get fat overnight, you won’t get lean that way either)

Continue reading

Quick Tips – Volume 2

So Christmas is upon us and it’s the time of year when people tend to add a little extra winter padding. It happens, try not to stress out about it. Here’s a few quick tips that might help you to minimise any damage over the season of indulgence…

1) Don’t be all or nothing – if you have a slice of cake, it doesn’t mean your day is over. Keep the rest of the day on track and eat well to make up for it.

2) Glycogen depletion and calorie partioning –  train with higher volume and intensities in the days before a big event and run your carb intake down a bit so that when you do go out and party, most of the calories go towards replenshing the depleted energy stores in your body from hard training rather than onto your hips/bum/tum in the form of fat. This is the exact reason I’ve designed my 2011 Christmas FitCamp.

3)  Consider a mini diet – similarly to point 2, if you know there’s a big feast coming up on Saturday, run your kcals and carb intake down for the week before so that your average weekly kcal intake comes in right were it should be (also start your meals with lots of meat and leafy green veg and eat ’til you’re full – it’ll stop you eating too much dessert).

….and if none of that works, chill the hell out, it’s Christmas. ENJOY YOURSELF!!!

One For The Ladies – Why Lifting Weights Won’t Make You Big and Bulky

Almost every girl who steps into the gym for the first time has the same concern when their trainer suggests a weights program – they’re going to ‘bulk up’ and become some muscular monster with chunky veins everywhere (sound familiar??). Nothing could be further from the truth. Weight, and particularly strength, training in conjunction with mobility and conditioning work will give you that toned body which you’re after. So let’s plough on and see why you shouldn’t fear weight training…

What weights WILL do:                             What weights WON’T do:
Continue reading

Why I Do It

I give out about quite a bit. There’s a lot wrong with it, and it breaks my heart at times. But every now and again I remember why I post there. I got this in a private message yesterday…

“I don’t post on the [] health and fitness forum, but I read it everyday. I have been following the advice you give on weight training and especially on fitness training when it comes to training with a heart rate monitor. Anyway since I started following the advice you were giving others, I have lost two and a half stone and regained my place on the rugby team. It might seem odd to you but I credit my change in weight and fitness down to you shooting down the bullsh*t and putting up serious good advice in the various threads. Thanks I enjoy reading your advice”

Continue reading

Technical Failure

It’s not going to be very often that you hear me refer to something Charles Poliquin says as a positive, but there’s at least one concept of his I really love – technical failure.

Reps stop counting once your form breaks down beyond a defined technical standard. For example, that’ll be bouncing or bum lifts on the bench, not breaking parallel with your squats, or not getting your chin over the bar for chin ups and pull ups.

Continue reading