Posts Tagged ‘strength and conditioning’

2011 thus far…

9 months in to the year I think it’s about time I took a step back and thought about some of the great successes that my clients have achieved so far.  We all know that January is the busiest month of the year when people start their new years resolutions with regards to their health and wellbeing.  Most fall short of their goals for one reason or another.  Below is the list of successes that my clients (some of which I have trained since January, some since long before) have achieved in the previous 9 months and are the ones who didn’t give up during the quiet times of the year and who have consistently worked hard from session number one!

In 2011 so far have helped clients lose a combined fat loss of over 11 stone, or 154 lbs if you’d rather look at it that way.  My clients have added a total combined strength increase of over 700kgs   (1543 lbs) across all lifts so far since January.  What does this strength increase mean? It means lean muscle gain. And for the ladies out there who worry that weight training will get you big, then let me tell you that that is a myth! Some of my strongest, leanest female clients are under 5’3″ and are size 8-10 with a lifting capacity of at least 1.5x their body weight. Every single week since January 1st, one or more clients of mine have beaten their personal bests in one lift or another.  Some people spend months trying to increase their ability in something, my clients have proven that with hard work, correct programming and nutrition that they can excel upon previous bests week upon week.

I have worked with competing athletes, weekend warriors, mums, dads, housewives, househusbands, the elderly and the young.

I have helped clients who have suffered with weight troubles their entire lives, make drastic changes and drop kilos of body fat and inches upon inches off their body.  I have helped them gain vast increases in self confidence, had the fortune (or misfortune for their wallets) of making these changes result in completely new wardrobes. 

I have helped older less mobile clients with hip replacements become more mobile and pain free. I have helped triathletes and marathon runners shave time off of their previous personal bests. I have helped them train consistently  pain free all year, allowing them to remain on top of their game no matter the season. I have helped football players become drastically more explosive than previous seasons.  

I have helped clients who have suffered with IBS their entire lives eradicate such problems for good. Even after doctors had told them that it is a condition they will suffer for life due to ‘stress’.  I have helped clients with mild to serious intestinal inflammation live a healthier inflammation free lifestyle. 

My clients have enjoyed energy levels higher than they have ever experienced and enjoyed the best nights sleep of their lives, some after suffering with sleeping problems for decades. I have helped clients with low thyroid function increase their bodies natural thyroid ability and even helped them lose body fat whilst not on medication. Much to the surprise of their doctors! 

I have helped clients who have suffered with back pain for years, move and sit pain free. I have helped clients who have come off the back of serious injuries rehabilitate their bodies so that they are able to get on with their daily lives in much more comfort than before. I have helped to create transformations so great that because clients have taken complete ownership of their health and wellbeing that they have gone on to make other drastic changes in their lives and have helped to inspire similar changes on their surrounding friends and family. 

These changes are why I became a personal trainer. I don’t list these things above due to some arrogant need to show off, I list things as a testament to the hard work and success of my clients. So that they might read this and see themselves in these words. I am only as successful as they are. I don’t ask for any thanks or praise as their success is all the thanks I need. Seeing my clients drop more body fat, seeing their surprised and proud faces after lifting 10kgs more on their box squat than they thought they would be able to, or having a client email me saying that they produced a new personal record in a triathlon or half marathon; these are what fuel my passion towards helping them reach their goals!

This is only a list of personal successes in the previous 9 months. Just think of the list of successes I will be able to sing from the hill tops about in another 9 months!? 

If you have personal goals relating to your health, weight or fitness then let me help you so that I can list your success story in my next update. The only thing I ask for is hard work and some self belief that what you want is achievable. Just ask my current clients, they’ll tell you that your dreams aren’t really that far off.

To your continued success!

Joff brown


In today’s modern fitness culture we are constantly exposed to new pieces of fancy equipment that claim to revolutionise our training, or help us to build muscle faster than previously thought methods. They range from machines enabling us to move in ‘un thought’ of planes of movement to just absolute nonsense! My newest favourite piece of gym kit that looks like absolute tat is the Shake Weight for Men! My brother recently posted on my facebook the advert for this crazy piece of equipment that is basically a dumbbell with weights that shake up and down via a spring that runs through the centre of the handle. This is only one example of the sorts of equipment out on the market that are supposed to help us get fit and strong. Most of the time they are over priced pieces of kit that get left in the bottom of your wardrobe because after one or two goes on it, you realised that it was £30 not so well spent!

Today’s blog is about going back to basics. Forgetting about all the fancy gym equipment and going back to the type of workouts our ancestors did unintentionally which helped them get big and strong! My suggestion for a piece of kit to buy to help you workout is something that is functional for strength training plus has a use outside of workouts…….a sledgehammer! One of the oldest tools in modern history used by construction workers the world over! Using a sledgehammer enables you to train outdoors in the fresh air, will work your incredibly hard and at the same time acts as a phenomenal stress reliever!

The hammer is a wondrous tool to help with both strength building and helping to keep you lean. Workouts based around using this tool are intense but extremely effective. Every time you strike a sledgehammer, almost every single muscle group in your body is required to perform the stroke. Whether your swinging the hammer overhead or from the side, it is an all body workout. Firstly your core is required to fire in order to prevent excess flexion of the spine and hips, secondly your shoulders, legs, back and arms are brought into play to help you lift the hammer from the ground, over your head then once again to slam the head into the ground.

The first thing that you need to sort out before actually undertaking a hammer workout is what you are going to use to soften the blow of the hammer. It is important that what ever you strike with the hammer is soft so as to save any jolting of the wrists, elbows or shoulders. Like all exercise, we have to weigh up the risk vs reward factors to reduce the risk of injury. My advice is to use a tire of some sort. Large truck or tractor tyres are the best due to their size, however a car tyre would probably suffice. If you don’t have any of these to hand, go find a truck company and ask them if they have any spare tyres going that they don’t want. Most of the time you will find that they are more than happy to offload a tyre because due to government legislation they have to pay a waste carrier to remove the tyres from their sites. If you are unable to get hold of a tyre then find somewhere that has very soft ground, or even a sandpit!

Sledgehammer training can be used as part of an outdoor circuit or on its own. If you want to complete a workout purely based around using a hammer then I recommend doing interval periods. For example, strike the hammer into a tyre for 30-60 seconds, rest for 60-90 seconds before repeating. This can be done as many times as you are able to undertake the exercise safely. To increase the difficulty of the exercise, concentrate more on the downward swing phase of the exercise. The speed and velocity of the downward swing is what will help increase your overall power output.

Another important thing to be aware of is that there are multiple weights of hammers out there. For example if your goal is to increase your body conditioning whilst burning multiple calories to get lean, then buy a lighter hammer. Use this hammer for multiple sets of intervals. If your goal is to increase gains in size and strength then go for the heaviest weighted hammer you can lift safely. But be aware that its not necessarily the weight of the hammer that is going to give you the greatest gains, as mentioned above, it is the velocity of the swing that will give you the greatest gains in power and stremgth.

Keep the training safe, I would not normally recommend this to someone just starting a weight training programme due to the high injury risk factors associated to lack of core, shoulder and hip stability. But if you are looking for a cheap, different but thoroughly rewarding training session, then get to your local hardware store, get your hammer, get your tyre, grab your ghetto blaster, head to the park, throw out some aggressive music and get hammering!

Probably one of the things I’ll say the most frequently to my clients whilst they are undertaking an exercise is ‘tense your core’ or ‘tuck in that tummy.’ But what does that really mean? Long before I became a personal trainer I’d hear about how important it was to tense my core when exercising, but I didn’t fully understand or realise the importance of our core for bodily movement control and prevention of injury.

The ‘core’ is basically our upper torso minus our arms. It is made up deep underlying muscles that have many functions. They help with keeping the organs in place, they protect the spine from excess flexion and extension and help maintain stability of the body during heavy resistance be it weight or force of movement.

Every body wants a flat stomach or six pack right? But in order to carve out a good one, you need to work from the inside out! The biggest player in keeping a nice flat stomach is the Transverse Abdominis (TVA) muscle. This is a large sheet like muscle that runs from our sides to the middle of our stomach region. It lies beneath the more prominent six pack muscles and when it is well trained helps pull in what could otherwise be a protruding abdomen. Imagine that the TVA is like a weight lifting belt or corset. It will help pull in that tummy region leading to a nice flat stomach! It also supports our trunk area when lifting heavy weights such as when performing a heavy back squat. If an athlete tries to undertake a heavy squat with a poorly trained TVA then we’re looking at a drastically increased chance in failure of the squat and potential injury.

Where most people go wrong when training their core is the application of thousands of stomach crunches each week in the hope of getting a nice flat stomach. Now doing stomach crunches or sit ups is a contentious issue for many trainers and coaches out there due to the flexion of the spine.

So how do we train our core effectively in a way that will help us keep a nice flat stomach and aid us with our daily lives or sporting performance?

There are numerous methods to work your abs that trainers and coaches the world over constantly argue over. Are crunches good for us or should we avoid them at all costs? Is there one exercise that works all of the muscles? How frequently should I train my abdominals?

These are all valid questions that I have been asked and my answer to these is that there are no definitive answers! There are a dozen ways to get from A to B and some methods will work more effectively for some than others.

The easiest way to start training your core is to stop using weight machines for your workout and replace these with free weight exercises. For example; just performing a lunge forces you to fire up your core in order to prevent you from falling over. It’s starting with the simple things that can ultimately lead to a fine flat stomach or chiselled six pack. Try integrating the multitude of planks, hanging leg raises, revers crunches and swiss ball roll outs into your workout to help with training your core. You will find that your training will come on leaps and bounds as an increase in core stability will result in improved technique and your ability to push yourself harder without the risk of injury.

Any particular questions about how to best train your core just drop me a line!