Weakness. Discomfort. Courage – by Ben Coker

Weaknesses. We all have them. What sets apart those of us that achieve from those of us that don’t? Its not about having less weaknesses but rather having the courage to experience discomfort in addressing your weaknesses.

How many of you take inventory of your weaknesses? How many of you go away and have the courage to tackle your weaknesses head on? How many of you get outside your comfort zone and improve? Those that do are the highest achievers amongst us.

Using myself as an example. When I was a younger lifter (aged 16) with a troublesome low back what did I do? For years I used all the exercises that were available that avoided the low back directly where ever possible and ultimately developed imbalances.  I was building a castle on sand.

At first I was ignorant to the fact, I wasn’t lucky enough to be in a gym with clued up guys and understandably I avoided hitting the low back directly to save my discs. As I got a bit older and more informed I realized that my low back was woeful. It lacked any real strength and stability and not only was it holding back my overall strength in the main lifts, it was making my disc health worse.

For too long a time I lacked the conviction to address this issue due to a mixture of being stuck in a familiar regime, and overwhelmed and even scared by the realization of what I needed to do. I held off and went around matters addressing all other areas to potentially improve lifts but never the low back.

Thankfully all that changed. Somewhere along the way I became a real head case. I was committed to training before but I became relentless after I had an operation to clear up the area. I identified my main weakness, my low back and mustered the courage to take it head on. This wasn’t reckless by any means but it was savage and uncomfortable.

I read up on the area of spinal health taking my understanding of the matter to a new level. In came the deep core work to wake all the related musculature that had just shut down completely after my injury and operation. It was boring and sucked but I did it. Then direct low back work was added on top a soon as possible. I started with bodyweight back extensions but ultimately got to deadlifts and good mornings not long after. Going was tough. The positions and strain felt so unnatural and weak but I dogged on.

People thought I was mad deadlifting and such with a previously troubled and still weak back. I wasn’t. I was sensible. It was what my back needed. It needed to be exposed to stress in order for it to adapt. My ego was in check. Initially I’d come in session after session and pull 60kg! Slowly but surely I’d add weight. Form was always perfect (and remains so to this day). Any sign of form alteration and id cease the lift. When the weights got heavier, I always stopped a couple of reps shy of failure to ensure the muscles didn’t spasm with fatigue like they had done before.

The same was true in squatting. My back strength did not allow me to hold correct posture and therein transfer force from ground to bar. Again, ego in check the weights started light. I lifted lift with perfect form and without a belt. Again madness many cried. Not really. I needed to develop my own ‘internal back belt’, not become dependant on an external source. This isn’t to say everyone should do this. It’s what I wanted to do and it worked very well for me.

Two years on and my back is now a hell of a lot stronger and my lifts are in a whole new realm to what they were back then. My back is still one of my weaknesses and I continue to ensure that I address it and any related issues in my training.

This mind set of tackling weaknesses has helped me massively. Now whenever I see a weakness I tear into it no matter how uncomfortable or daunting. I ask as many people as I can, who can do what I can’t, for feedback and advice and put it into practice. There is no shame in having a weakness, its natural. The quicker you realize this and develop the courage to address the issue, the quicker you will develop.

I write this blog in reflection of recent PBs and sit back proud of what i’ve acheived. Take a look at your own training and performance and see what is lacking. What is your weak link? Once you have found it I urge you to grab it by the scruff of the neck bring it close, taking it head on. It will be hard. You will be uncomfortable but ultimately you’ll be better for it!

Train hard. Train smart. Be strong.

Training, Food & Short Breaks – by Jamie Bolton

A few weeks back, unexpectedly I had to travel on business to Argentina. When I say unexpectedly, I mean pretty much on the day of travel, so I had little to no time to prepare. But what I did have was the intent, as ever, to continue my usual ‘lifestyle’ and make things work, whatever that might end up meaning.

I’m sure you’ve all been there. When away from the usual routine, fitting in diet, let alone training, can be quite a trouble, but it needn’t be.

I was away for 3 days, and here’s what I did.

From the off, I made sure to pack my training gear. Not all the usual bells and whistles (by that I mean as a metaphor, not literally!), but just some trainers, shorts and a top. Simple. I also tossed in my ‘pillbox’ with my usual omega 3’s, curcumin & vitamin D – not that I actually needed the latter, it’s summertime in Argentina! No protein supplements (Argentina is the place to get a steak or 5 after all) – but regardless of where, for such a short trip, it’s just not worth it. Moreover, look up a little on protein cycling and you’ll see a low period isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a few days and utilisation thereafter can be improved, but I digress.

Aeroplane food isn’t always the greatest, so I find the easiest way around this is to ignore the usual ‘carby’ suspects like bread, and if needed – fast. I’ll mention quite a few fasts on this trip, but this article isn’t the place for a fuller discussion – as an intro for those interested I’d recommend reading this article by John Romanellio as a start or checking out Martin Berkhan’s www.leangains.com for the real nitty gritty, but the benefits are numerous, not least for sidestepping otherwise crappy meals.

I’ll confess now and admit what I did also have was a few glasses of red wine too! I could try to claim it was for the purported health benefits from reservratol and other nutrients, but in reality, I like a glass and it also helps to get to sleep – it’s a 13 hour flight!

The rest of the time while I was there, I kept my nutrition pretty simple. I tended to fall back to 2 good meals a day, and didn’t snack either. I also walked – everywhere. I must have covered a good 6 miles a day by foot.

I probably under ate overall while I was away, but I kept my protein as high as I could and didn’t sweat the rest, it’s just not worth the cortisol release! As to what I ate, well, mainly eggs & bacon for breakfast each day, and my other meal was always steak – heck I went through about 2kgs of it in 3days. With that in mind – here’s some food porn:

Breakfast

STEAK!

More steak

and a rare treat for me!

And yep that is an ice cream sat there. And it was darn good. I’m only human! And it was also my only indulgence, minus the wine!

That leaves the training. My hotel had the usual fayre – the under-equipped joke. So, I spent 5 minutes on google and found something a 10minute walk away a little better. And so I headed to the “Megatlon” gym chain locally, and was surprised and unsurprised in equal measure. 3 squat racks – and only 2 bench presses, so far so good. But the rest largely matched up to the standard commercial equipment, but it was good enough. So I got in my 5/3/1 squats and presses regardless, ample assistance work too, and was pretty happy. Job done.

And that more or less sums the trip up. Was it ideal? Not from a strength training perspective. Could I have made it better? Sure, I could have dropped the deviances from diet, but it’s important to live a little too, and those who know me know how strict I am the other 90% of the time so it’s nothing in the grand scheme of things. But what I did, absolutely do, was made it work. My diet was largely on check. I got in the training I needed to do. And I did 10x more walking than I would have done at home, some good NEPA there.

The way I did it may not be for everyone. The fasts in particular. But for me it works. And that’s what this is all about. Don’t let unexpected trips away from the usual routine deviate your route to progress. Find a way. Be clever about your food choices. Make the training sessions happen if they’re scheduled. And don’t be afraid to improvise if needed – remember the jungle gym series anyone!

Wherever you are – make it work.

Until next time. Train Hard. Train Smart. Be Strong.

Why Cardio Is a Bad Investment – by Jamie Bolton

Gyms up and down the country are packed full of ‘cardio bunnies’ endlessly pounding the treadmills. Gallons of sweat flowing everywhere. Thousands of calories being burnt. Great bodies being sculpted.

*Rolls eyes*

Just a hint of sarcasm there perhaps? Just a little. Only the first of those two statements are true, contrary to what the ‘cardio crew’ wants to believe. So what is really going on here? Why is it that the cardio bunnies, year after year, look EXACTLY the same?


Let’s start with some simple human biology. The human body is an incredibly intelligent, adaptive machine.

What happens when you do cardio? The body aims to become more efficient at doing it. It works out the shortcuts so you burn less energy for the same work. It means, all other things equal, your 30mins on the treadmill burns less calories each time you do it. The way around it then? Run faster or for longer, but ultimately you can only go so far with this approach before you’re running marathons at a sprint each day. I realise this is a gross simplification but the point remains – your body adapts, fast. Cardio doesn’t leave much room for addition.

Now, throw in on top of this that standard steady state cardio is not actually a great source of calorie burning. You burn calories while you’re moving. People on the cardio machines sure might look like they’re burning a tonne of calories, they’re covered in sweat after all. But it stops there. At the end of the session that’s that.

Consider this: An average male burns 105 calories in a 9 minute 30 second mile, but on average you burn 650 calories whilst sleeping. Say you sleep on average for 7 hours, that is about 93 calories per hour. You can really see that cardio makes sod all difference in the grand scheme of things. You need to run 6.2 miles at 9.30 pace jut to burn the amount of calories you burn when you are asleep. Granted if you do the run and sleep you burn about 1300 calories but it means a 6.2 mile run a day – about an hour daily!

The icing on the cake is that, as you ‘improve’ at cardio, your body will switch its muscle fibre make up toward slow-twitch fibres. In other words, let fast twitch fibres either atrophy (shrink) or take on slow-twitch properties, such as to make the body lighter and more ‘efficient’. What does this mean? A smaller ‘engine’, which thus burns less fuel. In other words you are lowering your resting metabolic rate – in the long run you will have to eat less calories, not more. You will also have to run longer or run faster for that hour to get the body out of its new adaptive cofort zone,

For those of you who think I am being unfair or want some studies to back this argument up, here is an awesome article, ‘Women: Running into Trouble’ by John Kiefer, that is extremely well researched and explains how over prescribed steady state cardio is a losing cause in terms of fat loss.

Now that’s not to say cardio is bad in its entirety, it’s just that there are more effective and efficient ways of shedding fat. It’s well documented that an amount is necessary to keep you healthy, not least for the heart. But unless you are a competitive distance runner, to have it as your main activity, you may well want to think again.

Most people when seeking to ‘get fit’ will instantly go to cardio. Now I support the fact that people are up and exercising and indeed slow long distance running will yield results to a degree. But after the initial treadmill introduction I would encourage those people to get stuck into some resistance training and metabolic conditioning. Hell it breaks the monoto, develops you a better looking physiqe and and saves you time in the process!

How many people that are only on the cardio machines at your gym still look the same as they did a year or two ago? Better yet, at marathons across the world, how many of those at the finishing line have a physique you REALLY desire? Surely that alone should make you think twice about pursuing cardio as a main form of activity.

STRENGTH TRAINING

Like cardio, the ‘act’ of strength training burns calories as you do it. And if you work out with any sort of intensity, you’ll be burning more calories than the cardio bunnies at this point alone. But the good stuff hasn’t even started yet.

Once you’re done, you have to recover. Your body has to build muscle tissue to deal with the stimulus you have put on it. This is a metabolically costly process (read: requires more calories). To top it off, as the body accumulates more muscle tissue, it has to be fueled on a daily basis (5-6 kal per pound of muscle). In other words, you raise your metabolic rate for the long run. Not by a huge amount but it all adds up.

That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Then we have conditioning work. Short, sharp-burst work. Like prowler & sled work, farmers walks, (hill) sprints. My kind of ‘cardio’. If this doesn’t send your heart rate through the roof, you’re doing it wrong.

I’ve got far more out of breath than traditional ‘cardio’ ever has for me. And with this sort of work, the after effect is huge. I’m talking ‘Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption’ (EPOC). In layman’s terms, it’s that after the work itself, you’re metabolic rate is on fire for the next few hours. Talk about fat burning potential! And that’s not to mention the strength endurance, speed-strength, power and work capacity development that’s taking place too.

THE HIERARCHY

I might sound ‘anti-cardio’. But the reality is I’m not. It has a place in a program, just usually not the one people give it. Placing it at the centre of a program is foolish.

It comes down to a hierarchy of what time you have. The more time you have the more you can ‘add’. Start with strength training. Once you have made it to 3 to 4 sessions a week, then can start to think about adding ‘extras’. The next ‘level’ is conditioning work. After you have 2-3 sessions a week of this planned in, can think about adding more. Low level steady state cardio. Weighted walking, inclined walking, cycling etc.

How many of you are at this point? I thought so.

Get the important stuff in first, the strength work and the conditioning. Then, and then only if you have more time would I seek to add ‘more’ in the form of some low level cardio. To get to that point, you will be investing about 6-7 hours a week before you can fit in your precious ‘cardio’. How many of you get even half that amount of time in?

The INVESTMENT

Training is always an ‘investment’ of your time. How you decide to invest it will clearly affect your results. If you make bad choices, like focusing on cardio solely, your investment may not even give you back your initial stake, i.e. you could look and perform worse.

By investing wisely, you make sure you get the most bang for your buck, and after time will find your ‘investment’ has flourished and you look and perform better.

So what will it be today? The treadmill or the squat rack and sled?

Train hard. Train smart. Be strong.

Lower Body Plyometrics 101 – by Adam Bishop CSCS

A huge number of sports and activities require leg and hip strength for athletes to be successful. Collision sports such as rugby and American football involve explosive extension of the hip for running, jumping and changes of direction while static sports such as weightlifting and powerlifting are heavily dependant on leg and hip strength. Indeed any sport that involves running of any kind, especially sprinting and sports that involve rapid changes of direction, such as racket sports, rely on similar lower body strength.

Plyometrics training has been used to successfully increase athletes vertical jump heights, a test that requires a lot of leg and hip power production. As I’ve stated in previous articles, it is impossible to jump “non-explosively”. When performing plyometrics, an athlete uses gravity to store energy with the muscle structure of the body, which is then immediately followed by an equal and opposite reaction, using the elastic properties of the muscles to produce a kinetic energy system (1). Plyometric drills develop explosiveness, the ability to use strength as quickly and as forcefully as possible (2).

Ok that’s great but how do we apply it to sporting situations? Well firstly let’s take a look at a rugby union player preparing to perform a front on tackle on an attacker. Hip and knee flexion occurs as they sink into a low body position followed by rapid hip and knee extension as they drive up and into the midsection of the opposing player. The more force the tackler is able the produce, the greater the chance of them “winning the collision” and driving the opposing player backwards. The rate of force development (RFD) of the movement can be improved with similar the jumping movements of a plyometric program.

Next let’s take a look at a sprinter, or indeed any athlete where their sport requires them to run at maximum velocity. In order to run as fast as possible the sprinter needs to reduce ground contact time while also applying a large amount of force through the ankle joint in order to best provide forward propulsion. This is the basis that plyometric training techniques are based on; applying the greatest amount of force in the shortest period of time.

PLYOMETRIC EXERCISES

 Lower body plyometric exercises are based around jumping, hopping or skipping movements where an eccentric muscle action is rapidly followed by a concentric one. Different exercises have differing levels of intensity and therefore much thought must be taken when deciding which exercises to include in an athlete’s training program as well as the frequency and rest periods of the sessions.

To give a little bit of guidance for selecting the correct plyometric exercises for your training I have split a small number of techniques into low, medium and high intensity. All the exercises below are to be performed in series (each rep performed straight after each other no rest).

Low Intensity

  • 2 footed ankle hop
  • Squat jump
  • Double leg vertical jump

Medium Intensity

  • Box Jumps
  • Split squat jump
  • Barrier hops

High Intensity

  • Depth Jump
  • Single leg vertical jump
  • Pike Jump

All of the exercises above are aiming to utilise the stretch shortening cycle which combines mechanical and neurophyiological mechanisms to increase the amount of forced produced.

Jumping exercises involve a rapid eccentric muscle action which stimulates a stretch reflex and results in the storage of elastic energy within the series elastic component. This is followed by a rapid concentric muscle action which utilises this stored energy allowing for a greater force to be produced.

IMPLEMENTING PLYOMETRICS INTO A TRAINING PROGRAM

 Plyometrics should not be thought of as just warm up exercises, they are a session in their own right and the intensity dictates the frequency. The higher the intensity is, the lower the frequency should be to allow for optimum recovery.

As a general rule, sessions should be separated by 42-72 hours, this means athletes can perform between 2-4 sessions a week depending on training age and experience. In regards to rest periods between sets, a work to rest ratio of 1:5 – 1:10 should be used to optimise performance. Another consideration that should be taken when implementing a plyometric program is that of the athlete themselves. A heavier athlete should avoid single leg and high intensity exercises to begin with to avoid excessive stress being placed on the joints.

Studies have shown that combining a simple 2 day a week plyometric program with a 2 day a week squat program produces the greatest gains in hip and leg strength in regards to jumping ability(3). Adams et al found that vertical jump scores increased 3 times greater in athletes who partook in a 6 week squat and plyometric regime over those who performed a squat or plyometric only regime of similar volume.

FINAL THOUGHTS

 Ok so I know many of you will be thinking “well that’s great but I am a static athlete who doesn’t need to jump”. Think again.

Jumping movements produces the holy grail of strength training, triple extension of the hip, knee and ankle which is used in a huge number of sports.

An example of this is shown in the following video of a hero of mine Werner Gunthor the shot putt legend with a PB of 22.75m. Take a look at what this 2m tall (6ft 6) 130kg man could do when it came to jumping:

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Now tell me that plyometrics don’t make you powerful…

References

(1)     Verhoshansky, Y. 1968. Are depth jumps useful? Sov. Sports Rev. 3:75-76

(2)     Yessis, M and Hatfield, F. 1986. Plyometric training, achieving explosive power in sports. Canoga Park, CA: Fitness Systems.

(3)     Adams, K. O’shea, J.P. O’Shea, K.L. and Climstein, M. 1992. The effects of 6 weeks of squat, plyometric and squat-plyometric training on power production. Applied sports science research. 6:1 pp 36-41.

Coach to Coach – An Interview with Joseph Lightfoot

EK: Joe, Welcome to Elite Kinetics and thanks for taking the time to speak with us and share your knowledge to our readers. To get us started why not tell us a little about yourself.

JL: Hi guys, first of all thanks for asking me to do this interview! I’m a strength and conditioning coach currently based in Manchester where I am just completing my medical degree. I consult to and coach a number of clients and athletes, including the England Under 19 Lacrosse team. I’m also involved in a few research projects at the moment. Basically, I’m interested in anything health or performance related!

EK: Okay, let’s kick off with your pursuit of medicine. What have you been able to take from your medicine studies that further your knowledge and application of effective strength and conditioning?

JL: Medicine has given me an understanding of the human body. It’s also given me the skills to find out the problems a patient, or client/athlete has, and then the knowledge to go about investigating them. Having the competence to examine joints and then understand the imaging process is also invaluable. Communication skills are also a huge part of medical education now, and being able to use those when coaching is very useful too.

EK: England Under 19 Lacrosse. Let’s use this area as a focus:

Sport specific training can be taken out of all proportions. How do you make your resistance training effective in terms developing of strength and power that carries over to the field?

JL: Bottom line is fundamental movements. I was recently lucky enough to see Kelvin Giles speak on this topic and he explains it very well. Underpinning all sporting actions are athletic movements, and the basis of athletics are fundamental movements. So I start there. I’m a big believer in quality over quantity. Plus with the lacrosse guys, they are young and have very low training ages. Along with Chris Wainer I’ve got a responsibility to teach them these movements so they can have successful sporting careers in the future, and not just 6 months from now. So we stick to the basics, (and I mean basics!). I believe you have to earn the right to load a movement and a right to increase complexity. Now that doesn’t mean we spend all our time doing unloaded exercises. You’ve got to add load eventually – but particularly with the under 19’s, I see it as a long term plan and I want to lay a good foundation now. But back to your question – I think once the basics are locked down, and the athlete can handle load, doing sport specific work can play a part. But I don’t think it should be a major focus initially.

EK: Any athlete at a high level cannot, nor would want to spend hours in the gym, day in day out at the expense of their sports performance. How do you maximize your athletes time in the gym, meaning they can get everything needed done to improve their performance, letting them focus on their sports training?

JL: Just be ruthless. I heard a great quote the other day: “If it’s not worth doing twice a week, then it’s not worth doing at all”. So I really chase after what is actually giving results. If I can’t justify why we are doing something, AND it’s making a difference then I don’t do it. Again focusing on quality rather than quantity. I’m also a big fan of fillers, so I’ll programme mobility and activation exercises during rest periods. It doesn’t affect the lifting or conditioning portion of the workout (and can often improve it) and saves on time massively. I don’t think we need a lot of stuff to excel – personally some of my best training sessions have had just one exercise in. Once you’ve done 6 sets of 4 reps with a quality weight in the snatch grip deadlift, or performed 30 minutes of farmers walks, you realise that you don’t need to do much!

EK: Acceleration is crucial for all athletes yet many athletes and coaches alike get confused with how to use weight training to aid in this area. What are your favorite resistance training exercises and protocols for developing acceleration in your athletes?

JL: Two things: teach proper mechanics and then get stronger. I believe the key to getting fast is proximal stiffness with hip mobility. Getting stronger obviously helps with force production, but it also helps with reducing the risk of injury. I spent 7 years training and competing for track (100-400m) and nothing stops you getting fast quicker than missed training due to injuries. Favourite resistance exercises would be deadlift variations, squats and single leg variations, particularly reverse lunges from a deficit. As well as increasing strength, working on lifting speed is also a focus. Loaded carries are also a staple as they teach proximal stiffness.

I really like the wall march iso hold for teaching proper body position and also resisted sprints. With the resisted sprints, use a harness to hold the athlete back while they try to sprint. Resist them so they can lean forward and maintain the acceleration position; allow them to move forward at a fast jogging pace. Repeat this 3-4 times. Now do a run without the harness. The athlete will subconsciously be thinking they have to resist the harness, and lean forward. Often they can over rotate forward, but it’s a powerful tool to show them how far they can get their centre of mass outside their base of support.

Finally, practice. Like strength, speed is a skill. You see people do a couple of speed sessions and then moan they haven’t got any quicker! Moving your body as fast as possible is an immensely difficult skill – you don’t just get it over night!

Actually one more thing – this is a bit of a pet peeve. You have to be aggressive. Running fast is brutal. Whilst being relaxed is key to running fast you have to get your athletes to bring the right attitude to speed sessions.

EK: Okay, textbook versus real world…Sum up any differences between the two that you have noticed from your experience coaching athletes?

JL: Tough question! Implementation is hard. I’ve read and written plans that on paper I think look awesome. But then you get to the gym or field and realise it isn’t happening, especially with big groups or teams. Percentages are another thing, on paper or in a textbook are great but they don’t address all the other factors in the real world. I think working towards some form of auto-regulation is a good idea, but with the support of a plan. To borrow an analogy, textbooks are like the manual you get with your car. You could read it cover to cover, but you don’t have to in order to drive. It’s nice every now and again to refer to it, but practical experience is the bottom line. That said I am an avid reader!

EK: On a more general note, are their any philosophies or teachings of training that you gravitate towards more than others for yourself or in training others?

JL: Movement quality and strength. These two things underpin health, fitness and athletic performance. I really like strength training for everyone, regardless of goals. Athletes obviously need to be strong, but lean body mass and strength are too great markers of health in the general population as well. To some people walking up the stairs or carrying their shopping is strength work. We’ve got to keep people strong!

Personally, I’ve been heavily influenced by Dan John, Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson.

EK: Quick fire question on a current hot topic in the industry: Abdominal training and spine longevity – to crunch or not to crunch?

JL: No crunch. I was lucky enough to spend two days with Dr. Stuart McGill and he makes an extremely strong argument. There is a small selection of people who probably need to do some kind of crunch work, but I’ve never met one. Plus to refer back to your earlier question on time management – I can think of a thousand exercises I’d pick ahead of crunch variations!

EK: Whilst we are on hot topics…The slow steady state vs HIIT style training debate for fat loss…Where do you sit?

JL: I think both are effective. It depends on the individual. I think fat loss is all about picking something you can be consistent with. My belief is that the key to fat loss, and more importantly maintaining low body fat levels is Non-Exercise Physical Activity (NEPA). By incorporating activity into your daily life without even thinking about it makes things a lot easier.

EK: Moving on. Hip hinging can be a very difficult movement pattern for people to get to grips with. What has been your best coaching cue/tool for developing the hinge in your clients?

JL: I agree it can be tricky. Some people really struggle to get it. I generally work through a number of steps. Firstly I get them standing 30cm away from a wall, I then tell them to push their hips back to touch the wall. I’ll cue them to make the stretch in their hamstrings as large as possible. If that fails, I’ll get them to put one of their hands on their abs and one on the back so they can feel their spine flexing. If that doesn’t work I’ll get them to stand up tall, and exaggerate their lumbar curve, then to push their hips back. Whilst I don’t actually want someone to exaggerate their spine curvature – it often is the point which makes the hinge click, and they get how they can mobilise at the hips and not the spine. We’ll then go back to the previous two things and drill the movement. I’ll try and add load as soon as possible to really cement the movement pattern, but only when I’m confident the pattern is locked down. I find teaching the goblet squat at the same time can be very useful as it teaches the client/athlete to dissociate their hips from their lumbar spine.

EK:  Let’s end on a funny note. At Elite Kinetics we like to share the acts of stupidity that we may encounter during any visits to commercial gyms. What is the stupidest thing you have witnessed on the gym floor?

JL: Wow, that’s a tough one to call. I’ve seen some pretty idiotic stuff but the stupidest thing ever is something a good friend told me about (I didn’t have the chance to witness it first hand unfortunately). A guy was standing on a stability ball, on a power plate doing squats. To make matters worse, this guy was a “Personal Trainer”! Crazy…

EK: Wow. Epic fail right there. Joe, I think it’s fair to say that there are some absolute gems of practical knowledge there that our readers can learn from. Awesome stuff. Thanks again for taking the time to speak with us and share your views and knowledge on the world of strength and conditioning. We look forward to speaking to you again soon!

JL: Not a problem, thanks for having me! If anyone wants to find out more about what I get up to they can check out www.jplightfoot.com or follow me on Twitter at @JosephLightfoot. Thanks guys!

The Power of Micro Nutrients – by Ben Coker

In the quest for muscle building, fat loss and even athletic performance, much attention is given to macro nutrients. This is good to a degree; science and research has helped us to take human performance to the next level. It seems though that along the way it is easy to become too focused on macro nutrients.

Let us not forget that our bodies are made up of cells and they rely on specific biochemical reactions to enable proper metabolism, maintenance and growth. These reactions rely on the presence of a whole host of micro nutrients (vitamins and minerals).

Full Article

Where’s Your Head at? – by Ben Coker

The mental aspect of any performance is crucial. Performance under the bar is no different. So I ask you, ‘Where’s your head at as you set up for a big lift?’

For experienced lifters the difference between nailing a big lift and failing or even getting injured is all in the head. Many lifters don’t get fired up enough for lifts. Instead they doubt and they fear.

I’ve had back surgery after suffering an injury whilst playing rugby a few years ago. Every time I load up a bar and get under it do I think about how my discs can pop, or how my muscles can spasm, like I know from previous experience they can?

Hell no!

Those thoughts are as far removed from my head as possible. Im invinceble. A beast.

Before you are even allowed to think about lifting a PB you need to be convinced that you are going to smash the lift. All thoughts of injury and failing must go out the window. Spotters are in place, your technique is grooved (or so it should be by this time!), rehab is done and sensible and adequate progression has lead you to this moment. If injury occurs it’s not due to your errors its due to bad luck, chance or whatever you want to call it. It’s the nature of the game.

Forget that all. Don’t be scared. Become aggressive. Don’t hold back.

In the weight room we strive to be ‘not normal’. We want to do what no one else does and become our alter egos. Therefore it seems only logical to develop a cognitive state that is out of this world too.

Think what you need to think. Visualize tearing shit up. Mumble to yourself self mantra. Grunt. Ask to be slapped. Do whatever it takes. Forget what others think. Just know that when you grip that bar you’re gonna own it!

Observation of the all the big lifters I know tells me that these guys are 100% convinced that the lifts are theirs! Observation of all of the guys I witness who hopelessly un rack bars, with no purpose in their approach, nor conviction in their thoughts, shows that most of the time they fail the lift.

If you think you might  not make the lift, or you aren’t feeling psyched, go home brother… because you’re right.

This isn’t a call to arms to start screaming randomly in the gym or to start throwing weights around like an idiot. It is a reminder though that you need to attack each lift with a maelstrom of mental energy.

I’m a very quite, reserved lifter from an external perspective. I usually sit in corners, and stare long into the floor. But In my mind, all sorts are going on. I’m on fire. I’m ready to go to war and the bar is going to know it.

I leave you with the example of NFL safety, Brian Dawkins. This video is inspiration in its fullest and testimony to the power of mental aptitude. Approach your lifting like he approaches gameday and PBs will crumble.

Go out there and ‘act the fool’.

Train hard. Train smart. Be strong.

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