Why train Olympic Lifts?

I have been asked the question: “Why train Olympic Lifts if you’re not an Olympic Lifter?”

Simple.

Because they’re awesome.
Seriously though, it’s a good question and there’s a good answer (I think). Here goes.

Why train olympic lifts? - Weighlifting Woman

There are a few point to share that go into my thinking about training.

  1. People should be striving to improve themselves; Be “Better Than Yesterday”.
  2. Improvement can (and should) be objectively measured; see “What is Fitness“.
  3. Most people aren’t as strong as the could be; see “How Strong are You?“.
  4. Therefore progressive strength training is important; enabling greater work capacity, generally.
  5. Fundamental bodyweight exercises and powerlifting movements are relatively simple to learn* and develop strength well.
  6. Almost all physical activities require the application of strength at speed –> Power.
  7. One of the best ways to develop power is Olympic Lifting.

*Before all you powerlifters get upset, I’m not saying powerlifting is simple, just that it is less complex than Oly lifting. 🙂

So if you want to improve your performance at pretty much any physical endeavour, train the Olympic Lifts.

Have a look at this video for a bunch of different athletes from Catalyst Athletics performing Power Cleans.
Note the sort of weight they are moving. Think about their potential power output. Why train Olympic lifts? Now you tell me! :O

Fitness Newbie? Read this getting started guide!

Fitness Newbie?

Get started with these 10 Tips For Success

Stepping into a new gym for the first time can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming.
You might see a bunch of people lifting really heavy things. Doing unfamiliar movements and using peculiar vocabulary. Fear not fitness newbie; these people won’t bite. They’re actually pretty friendly and supportive once you get to know them. It can be a lot to take in at first glance, especially if you’ve had limited exposure to functional fitness training prior to starting at FunFit. But don’t worry; we’ll look after you. The following are 10 things to keep in mind as you begin your FunFit journey.

1.) Have fun

Let’s face it, not all workouts are fun. But when it’s over, you feel a sense of accomplishment (or relief!). You shouldn’t be upset that you didn’t get as many reps as the person next to you. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Smile. Laugh. Introduce yourself to people you don’t know. If you’re not having fun, why are you here?  Do you enjoy your overall time spent at the gym? Do you enjoy the people, the community, the knowledge and support that it provides? If so, then don’t be too concerned with your competitive nature.

The things you’ll learn at FunFit are fun: making your life easier and helping you engage more. Learn new skills of controlling your own bodyweight, kettlebells, movement, olympic lifts. A lot of the stuff you can’t do in a Fitness First. The attitude is different too; the feeling you’ll have the first time you get an unassisted pull-up or move with effortlessness is an amazing sense of power and accomplishment.

fitness newbie: challenge yourself and have fun

2.) Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification, over and over again


It’s your time, money, and most importantly, health. If you don’t fully understand something, ask. If you still don’t get it, ask again. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you don’t fully grasp the concept, or you think others in the class will get frustrated with you for taking up too much time. We were all a fitness newbie at one point. We’ve all been there. Learning the mechanics of certain movements like the squat, deadlift, or any of the olympic lifts takes lots of practice and critique from a trained eye. If you need help, just ask.

3.) You’re competing against yourself, not others


When it comes time to doing a workout, don’t feel like you have to do everything, or be able to complete as many rounds as other people right off the bat. Go at your own pace. Let the intensity find you. You need a solid foundation of strength and flexibility in order to progress into more demanding workouts.  Start light, get your form sorted out, and improve from there. Chase your own capacity before chasing the person next to you. Which brings me to my next point…

Fitness newbie: Leave your ego at the door

4.) Don’t be too proud to modify


Learn new movements. Progress to more complexity over time. You have to know your own body and its limits. Most importantly, there’s no substitute for common sense.

5.) What you eat is more important than what you lift

Nutrition is the key to every aspect of your life. It affects your energy levels, your recovery, and your overall defence against disease.

“Junk in, junk out.”

When you’re first starting out, the quality of your food is far more important than the quantity. Eat ‘cleanly’ (as much real food as possible / as little processed food as possible). If you’re eating as cleanly as possible, you don’t even need to worry about the quantity at this stage. You are a Ferrari. You wouldn’t put low quality fuel in a Ferrari, would you?


6.) Training isn’t everything


We are doing a strength and conditioning program that focuses on building general physical preparedness (GPP). It can improve almost every aspect of your life, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be your sport or your lifeblood. I train so that I can do whatever I want: Go out, play sports, learn new things. Having that GPP allows me to take on new challenges. Training is not my life. I train so that I can have a life… and get the most out of it.


7.) It doesn’t get easier, but you get better


Persevere. You get stronger, build a greater aerobic capacity, and become mentally tough.  All of these aspects, combined with experience, allow you to know when to push yourself and when to back off, so that you can do each workout to the best of your ability.

Fitness newbie: keep calm and do your best


8.) You won’t PR every day


Don’t mistake intensity for hard work. Even if you’re having a bad day and the intensity just isn’t there, you can still get a lot out of your time in the gym through hard work. Intensity and hard work are not the same thing. Don’t skip a planned session just because you’re feeling a bit flat. Not feeling too strong that day? That’s fine; scale back. Something is better than nothing.

9.) Respect rest and recovery


Too many people new to training (and even those of us who have been doing this a while) get caught up in over-training. Don’t be afraid to schedule in a de-load day once per week, or a de-load week every 4-6 weeks where you cut the weight, rounds, and intensity in half. You have to think about this from a longevity standpoint. If you’re killing yourself every time you step foot in the gym, week after week, month after month, year after year, you’re going to eventually break down. You need to respect your time outside of the gym. There’s an old weightlifting adage that goes something like: “You don’t get bigger and stronger from lifting weights, you get bigger and stronger from recovering from lifting weights.”

Proper nutrition, hydration and sleep all play their part in recovery, but you also need to listen to your body. If you continuously beat yourself down, you’re going to get hurt, injured or worse. Stay on top of your mobility work. Don’t know what that is? Ask!

10.) Thank yourself

Overcoming inertia and getting off the couch isn’t easy. Especially in winter. Thank yourself for making the effort, training consistently and reaping the rewards. You’re investing in yourself. It’s worth it. 🙂


So, what now?

You’ve made a commitment to yourself. You’re about to start eating better. Your vocabulary will soon include words like burpee, deadlift and snatch. See you in training. Welcome to FunFit.

Ready to get started? Get in touch!

FlowFit – Move better, feel better

FlowFit helps you move better

Could you move better / more fluidly?
Do you have some problem areas of flexibility/mobility you know you should work on?
Are you someone who would like to do yoga – minus the “OMM”?!

Strength and speed diminish with age. Flexibility doesn’t have to – it just requires the right training.
You have heard “Move it or lose it”, right? Train now to move better later!

Critically examine this sequence in the video.

http://youtu.be/xcA7v1eyIFE

Identify each joint at work. Observe the range of motion. Imagine yourself doing this. (Or try it as you watch!)
If you can do this sequence without trouble (correct position, balance and coordination) and flow easily between sections – good for you! If you had certain ‘sticky’ sections (lack of flow, lack of strength, lack of coordination) then you may need to do some more work! Can you see your self being able to do this sequence in 10 years? 20? I’m sure you’d agree that if you ‘got’ the flow and practised regularly you’d move better and – never ‘lose it’.

Flexibility training is something most of us know we need to do. The trick is making time to do it and being consistent in it’s maintenance. Unfortunately there aren’t any magic bullets, but there are great tools available to you.

Coach Nav is running a ‘FlowFit’ course. Specifically designed to unlock tight joints. Work through dynamic mobilization drills for shoulders, hips, knees, ankles, elbows and wrists. These are simple drills made into sequences. (For examples of static mobilization drills see here and here.)

Get flowing movement and witness the change it enables. This is FlowFit sequence number one. As proficiency improves, the drills progress.

If you know your flexibility or movement needs some attention – give a term of FlowFit a try. After all, if it improves your lifts, performance and life generally through better movement – what do you have to lose? 🙂

If you can’t make it to the studio then keep up with our mobilization videos on FunFit’s YouTube channel.
Super keen? Then have a look at Kelly Starrett’s book, Becoming a Supple Leopard, for more great mobilization tips.

What is Fitness? Learn how to measure your progress

What is fitness? – A measurable definition!

Fitness is being physically able to do what you want to do, when and how you want to do it. If you are wholly-fit, you can do your job, play games and sports, and do the normal activities of daily living on any level you wish without limitations produced by illness, injury, low self-esteem or stress.

Physical fitness is how you look, feel and perform. It comprises two related concepts: Health-related fitness (a state of health and well-being) and Functional fitness (a task-oriented definition based on the ability to perform specific aspects of sports or occupations). Physical fitness is generally achieved through exercise, correct nutrition and enough rest. It is a vitally important part of life.

Fitness is relative. Just as your fitness will affect your goals, your goals will affect your fitness.


Health-related fitness

Crossfit Sickness Wellness Fitness Curve Diagram

This is a depiction of the the sickness-wellness-fitness curve in the 2002 Crossfit Journal Article defining fitness. (I’d look at body composition rather than just body fat; our understanding of cholesterol has developed since 2002; Systemic inflammation (through C-Reactive Protein and other markers) is also something I’d want to measure as a ‘wellness’ marker. This diagram IS a good starting point for understanding Health-related Fitness.)

Health

One way of looking at health is as our ability to survive and thrive RIGHT NOW. What’s your blood pressure? Blood sugar? Mental outlook? Stress level? Immune response? Ability to survive falling off a 12’ ladder? This is perhaps a simplistic view of health but I think it works quite well.

The indicators of sickness and wellness are measurable. The relative health of a person can be estimated using a range of biomarkers. Please keep in mind that across a population there are large variations in “normal”.

Using the scale, “Sickness” implies something may be amiss e.g Blood Pressure is above 140/90. This doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem or illness, but can spark further investigation and preventative measures if required. “Wellness” indicates normal or average health e.g BP of 120/80. A lower (but not too low) reading would suggest greater cardiovascular efficiency and greater “fitness”. Health and fitness do overlap, but the ‘ultra-fit’ do tend to be more prone to illness than ‘fit’. (Probably due to compromised immunity through chronic stress or inflammation)

Longevity

What if we considered health (the moment to moment ability to survive) over time? We would have longevity. Longevity is health over the long haul.

Longevity CAN simply mean surviving for a very long time. Quality of life does matter. One’s health may be such that any stressor, a cold, a fall, will be more than the individual can deal with. Conversely, perfect health, as measured on the day-to-day level, may curtail longevity. People who have a cold here and there tend to have lower rates of cancer. An occasional drop off in health may translate into improved longevity.

Functional fitness

Capability: Put simply, are you physically able to do the task?

Capacity: What volume of work/task are you able to accomplish?

The Crossfit model of fitness would include the concept that “He or she who does best at the widest variety of tasks is on average the “fittest”.” I would say that would make you the best generalist, or best at Crossfit. Ultimately, your ‘fitness’ is highly dependent on the tasks you wish to do.

Measures of Physical Fitness Summary Table

Recovery

The ability to recover after a physical challenge or illness is in itself an indicator of fitness. Consider two people. Both perform a gruelling task e.g shovelling a large load. At the end of the day, both are shattered. The following day, one is able to continue the task, the other can barely move. They have different levels of fitness / capacity (at least for that task).

Performance Health Longevity Optimal Venn Diagram

Having a performance bias may be at odds with health and longevity. Loads of endurance training may lead to oxidative stress, immune compromise and suboptimal dietary requirements necessary to fuel such efforts. If endurance sports are your thing, that’s fine. It’s perhaps good to know some of the down sides so one might make smart alterations to nutrition and training plans. Similarly if you aspire to be a Super Heavy Olympic Lifter you may need to consume an amount of food and carry a body mass that is absolutely at odds with health and longevity.

Another model is the notion that to be fit one should have a good balance in the development of all the engines that drive human activity: the ATP/CP pathway, glycolytic, and aerobic paths. The specifics of these energy pathways, ways to train them and implications for everyday life will feature in future articles.

What all this boils down to is for general fitness you need capability in various modalities, physical adaptations and metabolic engines, and capacity across a wide variety of tasks and time-frames. This offers a quantifiable way of measuring fitness. Do more work in less time and you are fitter!

Once again – Fitness is relative. Just as your fitness will affect your goals, your goals will affect your fitness.

Quad, Hamstring and Lower Back Mobility Video

Mobility Wod Quote

Here’s the inimitable Kelly Starrett of Mobility WOD delivering a great lesson on how to improve mobility to hips and spine and flexibility to quad, hamstring and lower back.

Also check out an earlier post on thoracic spine and hip mobilization.

Check it out – and do it!

Also have a look at Kelly Starrett’s book, Becoming a Supple Leopard, for more great mobilization tips.

Pregnancy and exercise – a guide for training

pregnancy_exercise

Many people seem to treat pregnancy as an illness. Pregnant women do not need to be wrapped in cotton wool. While pregnancy does mean significant physiological changes, the expectant mother has not turned into an alien! [1][3] A sensible approach to pregnancy and exercise training can mean a happier, [9][11] healthier, [2][3][6][10] fitter [2][3][10] mum. This can lead to better recovery post-delivery [2][4][5] and better headspace [2][9][11] for dealing with sleepless nights!

If in any doubt at all consult your obstetrician. This is especially important if you have complications. Some of the things to discuss include:

  • The type of exercise you like to do
  • Your general fitness level
  • How much exercise you did before you conceived. [1][3]
  • Your desired intensity level [7]
  • Any complications with your pregnancy

Ultimately – see the conclusion below – especially number 5!
 

Some general benefits of exercise

  • You might actually (shock, horror!) enjoy exercise – or at least the social aspect [9].
  • A more efficient engine means more energy
  • Improve your posture [2] and circulation [10]
  • Improve your cardiovascular health
  • Get stronger
  • Improve your work capacity (see work capacity below)
  •  

    Pregnancy specific benefits of exercise

    • Stronger back muscles – help alleviate back pain as your belly grows [2]
    • Stronger core muscles – help prevent incontinence [2][4][5]
    • Relieve stress [9][11]
    • Improve your sleep and ward off insomnia [11]
    • Ward off pregnancy-induced bone loss [6]
    • Prepare for the physical demands of labour (see work capacity below)
    • Improve your recovery after labour [2]
    • Initiate a faster return to pre-pregnancy fitness and weight [2]
    • Increase your ability to cope with the physical demands of motherhood (see work capacity below)

     

    Changes Cautions (things to be aware of)
    Increase in body weight Changes in Balance / Coordination due to increased weight and the distribution of the weight
    Loosening of all ligaments (Relaxin) The loosening of ligaments can make you more prone to sprains and other injuries
    Increase in resting heart rate Don’t use heart rate to guide intensity as it has increased – use Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
    Decrease in Blood Pressure (2nd Trimester) Avoid rapid changes in position due to decreased blood pressure
    Increase in Blood Volume, Haemoglobin and VO2 Max (First few weeks after birth) Improved performance!
    Abdominal separation (painless) Sit-ups or crunches may worsen this, and are ineffective.

     

    Things to avoid

    • Overheating has been linked to developmental problems for baby in animal studies
    • Lying on your back (from 4 months) can restrict circulation. Modify exercises to on your side.
    • Excessive intensity is thought to have effects on birth weight (3rd Trimester), though there is conflicting evidence and opinions, so this is still inconclusive [2][3][7][8]

    Avoid jolts or falls [3]. Unfortunately vigorous or extreme activities such as horse riding, skiing, mountain climbing are out. You should also avoid most contact sports, such as football, basketball and so on. In the later stages of pregnancy, avoid activities that involve jumping, frequent changes of direction and excessive stretching (such as gymnastics).

    Pregnancy is not the right time to start any new intensive [7][8] exercise, but it is safe to continue with most types of exercise if you’re used to them.
     

    Limitations of Guidelines

    Public health recommendations by their very nature are designed to capture as many members of the public within their umbrella as possible. They are an excellent starting template. They often have current information and links to resources for further inquiry and should not be overlooked.

    A great example of sensible pregnancy and exercise recommendations can be found at:

    http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Pregnancy_and_exercise

    The reason I particularly like these recommendations is their acknowledgement of relative capacity, which is often lacking in Public Health statements.
     

    Relative capacity

    If you haven’t exercised before becoming pregnant, you would approach the new activity pretty much the same way as if you weren’t pregnant. That is, you’d seek the help of a professional who can design a structured program with your particular goals and needs in mind. Gradual development of strength and fitness with incremental improvement over time.

    On the other hand, someone who’s been exercising for years, has built up a baseline of strength, endurance and other general physical skills is going to have greater physical capacity than someone who has not. This woman would be able to do much more than her previously inactive counterpart. Her loads and speed would be reduced compared to pre-pregnancy levels as a margin of safety, but she could still outperform others at her gym of lesser capacity.
     

    Pelvic floor exercises and pregnancy [4][5]

    Strong abdominal muscles support your spine. The internal core and pelvic floor abdominal muscles act as a natural ‘corset’ to protect the pelvis and lumbar spine.

    Your pelvic floor muscles are weakened during pregnancy and during birth (vaginal delivery), so it is extremely important to begin conditioning the pelvic floor muscles from the start of your pregnancy.

    Appropriate exercises can be prescribed by a physiotherapist or a personal trainer who has training and experience with pelvic floor. It is important to continue with these throughout your pregnancy and resume as soon as is comfortable after the birth.
     

    Warning signs when exercising during pregnancy [3]

    If you experience any of the following during or after physical activity, stop exercising immediately and see your doctor:

    • Headache
    • Dizziness or feeling faint
    • Heart palpitations
    • Chest pain
    • Swelling of the face, hands or feet
    • Calf pain or swelling
    • Vaginal bleeding
    • Contractions
    • Deep back or pubic pain
    • Cramping in the lower abdomen
    • Walking difficulties
    • An unusual change in your baby’s movements
    • Amniotic fluid leakage
    • Unusual shortness of breath
    • Decreased foetal movements

     

    Conclusion

    If the exercise you’re doing makes you feel strange or hurts in a non-working-muscle kind of way – stop! The best guide to whether something is working for you or not is how it feels. The rough guide can be summarised as follows:

    1. Get advice for your particular circumstances
    2. Every woman is different
    3. Try things out
    4. Listen to your body
    5. You can still work hard but don’t overdo it.

    Consider exercise during pregnancy an opportunity for ‘maintenance’ rather than for ‘improving performance’.

 

Further Reading

Victorian Government Better Health Channel Guidelines:
http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Pregnancy_and_exercise

Sports Medicine Australia FactSheet:
http://sma.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/WIS-ExPreg.pdf

The website babycenter has some useful articles, including:
http://www.babycenter.com.au/a622/tips-for-a-safe-workout
http://www.babycenter.com.au/a637/when-not-to-exercise
 

References

[1] Lokey, E. A., Tran, Z. V., Wells, C. L., Myers, B. C., & Tran, A. C. (1991). Effects of physical exercise on pregnancy outcomes: a meta-analytic review. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 23(11), 1234-1239.

[2] Nascimento, Simony L.; Surita, Fernanda G.; Cecatti, José G. (2012). Physical exercise during pregnancy: a systematic review. Current Opinion in Obstetrics & Gynecology: December 2012 – Volume 24 – Issue 6 – p 387–394

[3] Horak, T. A., & Osman, A. (2012). Exercise in pregnancy: review. In Obstetrics and Gynaecology Forum (Vol. 22, No. 4, pp. 13-16). Sabinet Online.

[4] Hay-Smith J, Mørkved S, Fairbrother KA, Herbison GP. (2008) Pelvic floor muscle training for prevention and treatment of urinary and faecal incontinence in antenatal and postnatal women. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD007471. DOI 10.1002/14651858.CD007471.

[5] Mørkved S, Bø K. (2014) Effect of pelvic floor muscle training during pregnancy and after childbirth on prevention and treatment of urinary incontinence: a systematic review. Br J Sports Med 2014;48:299-310 doi:10.1136/bjsports-2012-091758

[6] Brandao KL, Mottola MF, Gratton R, Maloni J. (2013) Bone status in activity-restricted pregnant women assessed using calcaneal quantitative ultrasound. Biol Res Nurs. 2013 Apr;15(2):205-12. doi: 10.1177/1099800411423807. Epub 2011 Oct 13.

[7] Salvesen KÅ, Hem E, Sundgot-Borgen J. (2012) Fetal wellbeing may be compromised during strenuous exercise among pregnant elite athletes. Br J Sports Med. 2012 Mar;46(4):279-83. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2010.080259. Epub 2011 Mar 10.

[8] Szymanski LM1, Satin AJ. (2012) Strenuous exercise during pregnancy: is there a limit? Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2012 Sep;207(3):179.e1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2012.07.021. Epub 2012 Jul 20.

[9] Poudevigne MS, O’Connor PJ. (2006) A Review of Physical Activity Patterns in Pregnant Women and Their Relationship to Psychological Health. Sports Medicine – January 2006, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 19-38

[10] Kramer MS, McDonald SW. (2006) Aerobic exercise for women during pregnancy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD000180. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000180.pub2.

[11] Goodwin, A., Astbury, J. and McMeeken, J. (2000), Body image and psychological well-being in pregnancy. A comparison of exercisers and non-exercisers. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 40: 442–447. doi: 10.1111/j.1479-828X.2000.tb01178.x

My love hate relationship with Crossfit

crossfit

My love hate relationship with Crossfit

The motto of our gym is “Better than Yesterday”. Tied into this idea is that there’s no perfect system or perfect person – there’s always something to work on, always something that can be improved.

I first heard about Crossfit from a friend when in Japan in 2006. I remember I tried a ‘mainsite’ workout (scaled) with dumbbells and got through it – barely. At that stage I’d been doing Martial Arts regularly for about 5 years and considered myself reasonably fit for a 25 year old. I was so shot through the core that when I was getting into the shower afterwards I was unable to maintain my spine position and had to lie down. I felt like if I’d stayed standing I would have done myself some potentially serious damage.

finished-a-crossfit-wo-baby

That experience taught me a valuable lesson. Scaling is good but is second choice after progression. (Also, learn what you’re getting yourself into and don’t push too hard at first!)

I did my Certificates III and IV in Fitness in 2008 and got my Crossfit Coach’s Certificate in 2009. Looking back I recognise how important the ‘mainstream’ skill set has been in terms of my understanding of simple anatomy and physiology. The Crossfit Certification has been instrumental in my growth as a Strength & Conditioning coach and the application of functional movements to the prescription of exercises to my clients.

Had I never encountered Crossfit I am fairly sure I wouldn’t be nearly as effective as a trainer as I feel I have become. That said, had I not had the grounding of the Cert III & IV, and just had the weekend Crossfit Coach Cert – I would be downright dangerous.

Let me be clear – I am not saying that all Crossfit coaches are dangerous. Most aren’t, some are. Some ‘mainstream’ coaches are dangerous. I’m just saying I feel I would have been a dangerous trainer without the conventional skills and experience to be my (and my client’s) seat-belt.

What does all this have to do with a love-hate relationship with Crossfit?

What-is-Crossfit-Infographic

The concept of Crossfit is great. I think the idea of constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements is fantastic. The implementation of that idea has evolved, for me, over time (Better than Yesterday). No longer do I program 20+ minute AMRAPs where at the end of the session you feel like you need to be scooped up with a trowel. The sledgehammer has been replaced with a scalpel. Clients who have been with me for the last 5 year would readily agree that the programming has changed – and for the better. A progressive overload strength program is now the bedrock. A strength-endurance or Olympic lifting progression is alternated cyclically. Constantly varied (within a thought-out pool of purpose-driven) Metcons of no more than 10 minutes duration rounds out the ‘cardio’.

Great results for clients (with very low injury rates) have been the result.

Many a coach seems to confuse ‘constantly varied’ with ‘random’. Random workouts is an easy out for the coach as they can just check the Crossfit main site or other Crossfit gyms WOD feed for ideas to pinch or modify. This method does the coach and the clients a disservice. Copying another coach’s programming without understanding the intended progression (if there is one) or appropriate scaling (if you must use scaling) means the workout will not be optimally challenging for the client(s) or fit their needs or goals.

‘High intensity’ is not the same as ‘wiped out’. If your client doesn’t walk out feeling better than when they walked in – this is a symptom of overloading them and can be steps down the path to adrenal fatigue – or unhappy clients who get sick of ‘punishment’ (especially if it is associated with eating habits). At the end of a workout the headspace should be ‘proud of my achievement of completing a tough workout’ not ‘I’m glad I survived and kind-of dread next time already.’

‘Functional Movements’ are hard to get wrong. You do need to remember to ask yourself “functional for what?” The movement you ask the client to perform should have some link to the things they want to be able to do in their everyday life, or specific sporting event or challenge they’d like to participate in. Doing a hard workout full of functional movements is good – and better than hard non-functional movements – but there needs to be a point. There needs to be a WHY this movement is good for you and how it applied to YOU.

There is huge variety in the quality of training in the fitness industry. There is huge variety in the quality of coaching in Crossfit. My major criticism of Crossfit is that (perhaps due to the prevalence of the competition aspect, bromances or macho vibe) people do things they shouldn’t. (Clapping Fran??? – see below) Often those things are cool TO BE ABLE to do – but can and should aren’t the same thing. I don’t think this was addressed in 2006, and I still think it hasn’t been adequately addressed in 2014.

Very, very keen to hear your thoughts.

New Year Resolutions: How to make them work

This is a special guest post from Lachlan Heasman.

New Year’s resolutions have the same reputation as pre-election promises. As early as the second of January you find yourself keeping the resolution that you actually made, rather than the one you might have liked to have made. Having these good intentions can sometimes be effective, but most of the time are not as our past behaviour is the strongest indicator of our future behaviour.

One simple way of to overcome this problem is to be specific and challenging in what you intend to achieve. For example having a resolution that you will “get fit this year”, is not as effective as “being able to do 50 push ups – in one go – by Easter”. Here you’ve moved from the vague to the specific and (maybe) challenging.

Specific Goals

Another simple way to stick with your resolutions is to make a simple plan. If the goal is 50 push ups, then the plan could be “whenever I go to turn the TV on I will do as many push ups as I can”. This plan has three important elements, 1 – you need to goal (specific and challenging), 2 – you need an action that will help you attain a goal, 3 – you need a situation that will trigger you to do the action. You then put your plan together like this: “When situation X arises, I will perform action!”.

Intentions

Intentions

For a reminder on SMART goal-setting, click here.

Of course this is not the panacea for keeping your resolutions. You need to actually care about goal you have set in your resolution, you also need to be committed to taking action, and the situation needs to be something appropriate and workable.

So here’s a test for you when kicking back in front of the cricket on the 2/1/2014. Ask yourself the following;

What do I want to achieve this year? Or this quarter?

How much do I care about this?

What am I going to do to make this happen?

What are the situations where I will be making this happen?

The Best Strength Training Program

What is the most successful strength gain program?

Starting Strength? Wendler 5-3-1? Stronglifts? Madcow? Texas Method? Smolov? OPT? Catalyst? A hybrid system? [Insert other serious sounding name here]?

The most successful strength building program is:

is…

The one that you stick with!

I know, I know – you really want to know which program will give you the best “bang for your buck” to get you lean/jacked/cut/shredded/toned/pumped/(flayed?) the fastest, ideally with the least effort.

Sorry to burst the bubble. Real, lasting progress takes time and effort. If it was easy – everyone would be doing it. It takes determination to show up week-in week-out, when you don’t feel like it, when it’s cold, when it’s hot, when you’re tired, when you’re [insert excuse here]…

Just show up.

The world’s best strength coaches do have differences in their philosophy, approach and programing. They may differ on small stuff like “a huge impact on the programming – exercise selection, timing, rest, sets, reps and loads”, but I challenge you to find a decent (reputable and respectable) strength coach, be it Mark Rippetoe, Jim Wendler, Jason Ferruggia, Greg Everett*, Charles Poliquin or anyone else who would say that for consistent gains you can or should do anything other than “show up consistently”. Anyone who would say that you should do anything other than low reps and high load on Back Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift, Press and Power Cleans. The auxiliary exercises may differ, but the main lifts are the main lifts for a reason.

*Greg Everett has an Olympic Lifting focus, so would put more emphasis on development of the Clean and Jerk and the Snatch – two AWESOME strength and power development movements, but I’m sure if you asked him about the utility of ‘the Big 3’ and presses and power cleans for strength development he would agree they do get the job done well.

Yes, your exact sets and reps are open to debate. Do I do 3 sets of 5, or 5 sets of 5 for maximal strength gains with some size development? Answer: it depends. Are you a beginner who needs volume? Are you an intermediate lifter who is closer to your genetic potential where doing 5 heavy sets would be too much volume and stress on your central nervous system? How old are you? How did you sleep? Are you eating properly? How much recovery do you get?

What ever program you do – to get progress you need to train consistently and train hard. Almost all strength programs call for at least 80% of your 1 rep max for the work set(s). The idea of progressive overload is shared universally. The way to get stronger is to lift more than you did last time. Expand your comfort zone by working outside your comfort zone. You only know what you can do when you try to do more than you can.

That’s not to say you should always train all out. If you’ve had 3 hours sleep, are stressed to the eyeballs or are sick. If you’re contagious stay home – but otherwise, show up “oil the groove”, de-load if you need to but show up and lift.

You might even do what Mike did last night. Really not feel like it, show up anyway, eventually get into it and hit a clean and jerk PR!

So show up – even when you don’t feel like it.

Can Exercise Make You Smarter?

Scientists have long studied exercise and its impact on any number of physical and emotional factors, including bone density, cardiovascular disease and stress.

But if we take the mind-body connection one step further and study exercise and cognitive functioning, will we see a link?

Cognition is your brain’s ability to acquire and process knowledge through thought, experience and your senses. It involves thinking, remembering, judging and problem-solving.

Our ability to take in information and reason informs our social behavior and can contribute to life’s successes. For example, you might make a judgment call about whether it is the right time to ask for a raise based on knowledge you’ve acquired and synthesized about your work environment.

A number of research studies have identified a link between improved cognitive functioning and exercise in elderly people. A 2004 study, for example, found that exercise did, in fact, improve the cognitive functioning of elderly people with cognitive impairments or dementia. In an analysis of more than 30 years of data and 2,020 subjects, this study found that groups who exercised fared better in terms of mental acuity than those who did not exercise.

Can the same be true for adults of all ages? According to a recent study presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress and reported in the Wall Street Journal, it can.

This small study involved overweight, sedentary adults. They first underwent a series of assessments and then completed twice-weekly exercise sessions. These sessions involved both cardiovascular exercise (biking) and weight training, lasting for four months.

The fitness gains for the group were clear, with reduced waist circumference and lower body weight. Researchers reported the more surprising result: “significantly and clinically” improved functioning on tests of mental acuity.

“Even ten minutes can change your brain,” says Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey, author of the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. According to Ratey, exercise increases the level of brain chemicals called growth factors. It is these growth factors that help make new brain cells and establish new connections between brain cells to help us learn.

German researchers found that high school students scored better on high-attention tasks after completing 10 minutes of a complicated fitness task. Their research suggests that complicated physical activities, such as tennis or dance, enhance our attention and concentration, thereby improving our capacity to learn.

A 2011 Canadian study found that in an elderly population even those who engaged in short walks, cooking, gardening and cleaning scored better on cognitive tests than those who were more sedentary.

According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise has a wide array of benefits including weight control, combating health problems and disease, improved mood, greater energy, better sleep, better sex and more fun. If these advantages aren’t enough to get you motivated, maybe knowing that it also improves your mind will.

This article was written by Christy Matta, MA, and has been reprinted with the kind permission of PsychCentral. To see the original article and other great entries, please visit www.psychcentral.com