Core Strength

April 21st, 2017

I don’t know a single trainer or exercise enthusiast on the planet that would dispute the importance of having a strong core. So let me ask you this: if you wanted to build strong legs would you use endurance parameters? Often I see, hear and correct people who are smashing 25 reps of this into 1 min holds of that with 20 seconds recovery before another onslaught of the abs is undertaken. That’s commendable, and sometimes very appropriate; however, if you want to build true core strength you have to play with strength parameters and expand your exercise selection beyond crunches and planks.

Luckily, there’s lots of exercises and protocols to chose from. I’m still a huge fan of candlesticks and variations among other things.

For more help with ideas on building core strength, have a quick read of this article I posted in 2011. 

Happy training!





Wrap Up | Season 2016-17

April 17th, 2017

That’s a wrap on another Scotland U18 season. It was pleasing to see how far the boys came with their aerobic fitness improvements from January to March prior to their games in Wales, and it was absolutely fantastic to see them show some real Scottish spirit and overcome a strong Italian side during our campaign. I’m looking forward to hearing how the boys progress into the senior rugby scene and push on from there.

 

DISCLAIMER 





Client Progress – A Landmark

March 30th, 2017

When I reopened my books to new clients in early January I was pleased to see a fellow judoka wanted help in developing his athleticism to aid his performance on the tatami.

Prior to our training sessions, we followed the usual process of a thorough needs analysis before setting some clear goals. Through movement screening, fitness testing and an in-depth look into the requirements of judo, alongside a comparison to the standards of elite judoka, we determined that the ‘biggest bang for our buck’ would be to focus on closing the gap in strength and power for our first block of training.

While the results in the table below are outstanding and a testament to how hard Stephen worked, I think the most impressive thing was seeing him power clean 90kg (3 kilos over his body weight at the time) considering two months ago he had never cleaned. A bodyweight power clean represents an important landmark in the training journey and it’s always nice to see – much like a double bodyweight squat.

Exercise 20th January 20th March
Broad Jump 2.21 2.38
Back Squat 100 3RM 130kg 2RM
Bench Press 90kg 4RM 100kg 4RM
Chins 10reps at BW 10 Reps with 10kg around waist
Cleans Needed to learn Technique 90kg 1RM (bw)

We used the reverse chain method and progressed it over the course of eight weeks to ensure Stephen’s goal of being able to power clean his bodyweight was realised. While his technique can be refined, and optimised further, it’s certainly safe and effective. All in all, great results for a guy who has trained hard. We are continuing to push on with strength and align him to the edge of his weight category (u90) before turning our focus to conditioning (which is pretty good at the moment and being maintained).





My Training Update | Judo & Controlling the Controllable

February 14th, 2017

2017 is the year of getting back on the tatami and trying to develop my competitive judo. Though the past few years I’ve been as consistent as ever with general training and able to develop my athleticism, I’ve been unable to build momentum in my chosen sport. Being a S&C coach means that sometimes (a lot of the time) when judo practice is on, I am working with my rugby players. That said, I’m now boxing clever and getting in my mat time towards the end of the week and weekends which gives me consistency. I’m looking forward to building on that.

This past weekend I had a team tournament which was both great fun and a learning experience. A true wake up call to where I currently am. It has fostered a greater desire to improve and further refine my schedule where possible to allow for more judo. Before I go any further, here was the result from the weekend:

Fight 1| Won (Ippon throw)
Fight 2 | Lost (Osaekomi waza – pinned)

This post could easily turn into a breakdown and full analysis of every second on the mat; however, I think it more valuable to share a message with you that I often discuss with my athletes: control the controllable. You see, my first fight almost went the distance. It was a long battle. I was very pleased to win with a throw that scored ippon right at the end, but it was in that moment I realised how gassed I was. There was a short turn around in Fight 2, and I failed to recovery in time. We landed in a non-scoring position and ultimately I got caught in a pin that I failed to get out from. I didn’t recovery between bouts and though there were lots of ‘judo work-ons’ with regards to technique and tactics, I knew straight away I had a new focus in my training: fitness and improved body composition.

The rule of specificity means I need more judo to improve. More high level judo would not only improve my fitness but most importantly my skills. Guys my size with good skill throwing me every Tuesday and Thursday night in randori would help massively. Unfortunately, based in Aberdeen I’m somewhat of an outlier and, as I’ve alluded to, often work clashes with judo practice. While I’m looking forward (I think) to getting to Edinburgh for national randori/ sparring when my work has me down that way, I must focus on what I can fully control, measure and improve on. Fitness and improved body comp is an easy one to get a handle on! Though nothing will replace a good scrap at national randori, I will use the 2k row to assess improvements in my aerobic capacity which I can compare to the GB Judo Team’s standards. And for body composition it’s a case of using the eight-site calliper test and bring the weight slowly down. Strength and power are on the back-burner though I would expect to maintain or certainly only decline by 5% in my core lifts in terms of absolute strength, while my relative strength will increase.

Below is me shooting for an o-uchi-gari after battling for ‘my grips’. A reminder to get in better shape so that I can express my judo on the tatami whether it’s fight 1 or fight 8!





Testimonial | Positive Feedback | Scott Malone MMA Fighter

January 16th, 2017

“To get better at fighting you have to fight. If you want to win judo fights you have to practice judo. If you want to win MMA fights then you better be practising everything – striking, wrestling, judo, BJJ, the whole lot! Developing your skills and strategies is one thing, but you also have to be in the best physical condition possible!

I followed FMT programming and did private coaching with Fraser from 2011-13 and I’ve never felt stronger than when I was training with him. I really enjoyed it. He also has great tips on perfecting techniques with gym movements that carry over to the tatami and the cage!”

- Scott Malone, Commonwealth Medalist (Judo) & Professional MMA fighter.

 





Special Announcement | Two Training Slots Available (Aberdeen)

January 8th, 2017

It’s been a few years now since I ‘opened the books’ for personal training to the public, and I’m excited to announce that from January to April I have two 70mins slots available at the tail end of the week for training whoever is brave enough :) . Some of you will know that my full time contract has me covering a large ‘chunk’ of Scotland and the geography of the region I lead on with regards to strength and conditioning means that periodically, travelling is as much a part of the job as training athletes. That said,  I’ve had a reshuffle of my schedule thanks to a growing network of great coaches emerging in various cities and it has allowed me to spend less time on the A90 and more time doing what I love – coaching and training people to maximise their potential!

Though athletes are welcome, these training slots are available to anyone who has an athlete’s attitude and appetite for ‘getting after it’. Whatever your goal, I’ll have the right carrot (and a few sticks) to get you there. You can read-up more on my qualifications and motivation for training people on my home page.

It’s worth noting I can take three people per training slot and would fully encourage you to train with your friends, regardless of a variance in ability. That said, with group training it is important that members of the group share a common fitness vision (i.e everyone wants to improve their aerobic fitness, or body composition etc).

Please use my contact page to register your interest and request more information.

Summary

Venue |
Exclusive access to a private gym facility for our weekly session (free parking / showers and changing room space)

Blocks | 10  x 70mins sessions (maximum three people per group)

Expectation | Completion of agreed upon sessions (designed by me) outwith our weekly training slot

Session 1 | Establish the baseline (movement screen as part of the session coupled with tests appropriate for your goal)

Sessions 2 – 9 | Weekly 121 coupled with a planned intervention to achieve goals established in session 1, including nutrition guidance if appropriate to goals

Session 10 | Retest and evaluation of progress

 DISCLAIMER

 





Power Clean Clusters from Blocks

November 7th, 2016

Admittedly, I’ve become somewhat of a weekend warrior. As I’m often coaching in the evening I’ve found it difficult to get any consistency and therefore momentum with Judo in the last couple of years. Sure, I can do conditioning or lifting most days and slot it around my schedule, but I can’t slot Judo class around MY schedule. The truth is, the hardest grapple I’ve had these last two years is finding a regular training slot for Judo practice.

To that end, I’ve looked at the weekends as a way to try and get some momentum back on the tatami and this past weekend reflected that. I enjoyed some Saturday conditioning followed by two newaza/ bjj sessions on Sunday.  I went to sleep last night fully prepared to wake up with the aches and pains that every Judoka is familiar with; the cut feet that stings in the shower, the staved finger from an over eager grip and the stiff knees from ‘basing out’ on those grafty butterfly sweeps. What I wasn’t prepared for was the pain when I breathed in/out or coughed. I’m no medical professional, but something certainly wasn’t (and isn’t at time of this post) right with my ribs.

Anyways, there was still training to be done! I was a bit beaten up and sore, but in the grand scheme of things – who cares?! I have a regular Monday lifting session which is purposeful/ planned and part of a bigger vision, so there is no way I wanted to miss it. I simply took a little longer on my warm up, then ramped up to my ‘working sets’ on my exercises with the mindset that I will listen to my body, yet will be aggressive with the lifts and give them my best shot. To my surprise, once I got going I was able to achieve the planned numbers for the day despite being sore during my bracing phase of the lift.

Mondays are currently clusters on the power clean from blocks. Specifically, today was 120kg singles (3 x 3 with 10-20s rest/ 3mins).

The takeaway message: you’re not always going to arrive at a training session fresh and feeling fantastic. Sometimes you’ve got to talk yourself into achieving the goal of the day and gauge how you feel and how your body is responding after an aggressive warm up.

“DON’T BLAME IT ON THE INTERNET”
Obviously if you’re unwell or injured you should seek a medical professional prior to exercise as per disclaimer. The advice I follow and give to my athletes when they are not 100% (but not injured) is: “warm up, ramp up to your working sets, then we’ll talk”.





An insight into the competitive season | Part 2

November 2nd, 2016

Though my athletes are in-between the ‘train to compete’ and ‘train to win’ phase of the Long Term Athletic Development Model, they are never to old for FUNdamentals.

The guys are in the depths of their competitive season and can easily become stale, demotivated and stagnant when it comes to their physical preparation sessions. As an S&C coach you’ve got to read between the lines and get a reading on how your athletes are feeling. This can be done in several ways. For example, wellness data collection (forms / subjective feedback) or a battery of morning monitoring tests (assessing neural fatigue, muscle tightness and providing objective feedback on readiness to train). We use both subjective and objective feedback with our athletes, although today the best indicator I had for readiness to train was being a human being! Simply paying attention to the mood of the group and intuitively understanding that we ain’t getting anything productive done today until the shackles of the previous nights fitness drills were shook off.

As I’ve alluded to, this morning the guys seemed somewhat ‘flat’ and I needed them to ‘get after it’ as this is their heavy day and they are at the intensification stage of an in-season wave. We introduced some simple competition today to create an atmosphere and get the guys going for their heavy lifts.

The clip below shows Round 1 of 6, serious hats were on until the final rope race where the victor claimed some brand new kit.

This slotted into the end of our warm up and worked a treat at getting the guys smiling and wanting to train hard!

Athletes want to compete!

DISCLAIMER





The Clean | Learn, Load & Explode

October 28th, 2016

We use the reverse chain method for teaching the clean to beginners. Essentially, once an athlete has demonstrated they are competent on the deadlift and front squat movement we get them cleaning from the high hang position.  This allows the athlete to benefit from the loaded jump element of a clean (the second pull) without worrying about perfecting bar path from the floor and is arguably the most important part of the clean for non-weightlifting athletes as it’s the section of the movement where most peak force is expressed. Typically, we’ll progressively load this during a mesocycle while working on our core strength lifts before progressing to low hang cleans in the next block of training.

As great as this movement is for teaching the clean to beginners, it’s also incredibly useful as a variation for an intermediate or advanced athlete. Simply load it up or use as part of a ‘clean complex’.

 

DISCLAIMER





Individualisation | Scapular Wall Slide Variation

October 26th, 2016

We use ‘Scap Wall Slides’ as a filler exercise between sets on our core lifts or as part of a warm up sequence. The purpose of which is to teach scapular control and activate the muscles of the upper back. Like any exercise, if ‘Scap Wall Slides’ are done incorrectly they are useless and simply reinforce bad posture and poor movement mechanics. That said, when performed correctly they are a useful prehab/activation exercise.

It’s not uncommon to see athletes compensate during movements and it’s important to establish the best variation of a drill for the individual, keeping the objective of the exercise in mind. A good trainer isn’t going to let an athlete set up for a deadlift like Quasimodo; a good trainer would stop their athlete and coach him/her into the right position and vary the drill if necessary to achieve the optimal position (raise the barbell for a period of time while working on mobility to eventually hit the desired set-up position). This level of coaching detail must be done on every exercise, including activation/ prehab based exercises if necessary.

In this video we have feet and hips away from the wall, with the upper back in contact, which is contrast to our standard wall slides where heels, hips, lumbar to cervical spine are all in contact with the wall while the elbows and wrists remain in contact and slide up and down (Y shape to W shape).

This variation is specific to the individual and we’ve coached him to inwardly rotate at the bottom to push away from the wall to allow for scapular retraction and activation of upper back muscles. Though he achieves the goal for this movement (scapular retraction, minimal lumbar movement when reaching upwards) he needs coached (and foot position modified slightly) to allow contact of wrist/ elbow against the wall while reaching overhead. He simply struggles with external rotation of the shoulder and super-tight lats at the moment, so we have a list of exercises that have been incorporated to enhance his mobility and strength in the shoulder area.

It’s important to be as progressive with mobility exercises as you would be with any core lifts. With this exercise we will gradually have the athlete walk his feet back towards the wall (as his external rotation ROM improves) and have his back flat against the wall.
Of course, there are other movements we’re using to ‘open up’ this athlete; however, this provides an example of choosing the right variation of a drill to reinforce good movement mechanics without subtracting from core lifts and the pursuit of strength.

DISCLAIMER