Posts Tagged ‘FMT’

Refinement | Nailing the Basics

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

In judo you spend a lot of time practising the basics. Repetition, repetition repetition. That’s what it takes to learn the language. I’ve been doing judo for a fair few years now and there’s still plenty to work-on with the basic movements and principles which will make me more effective at having conversations :-) .

Whether it’s the fitness industry or the business world, there is often a desire to discover the next big thing‘What should we add to make a big change and get ahead of the competition?’.

Sometimes the biggest bang for your buck is refinement in what you’re doing and focusing on becoming a master of the basics.

Below is some footage of my second session on Thursday, repeating the entry of a throw. My body really didn’t want to be there after a high-volume squat session in the afternoon, but my future opponents don’t care about that, and so neither shall I.

Whether it’s nutrition, lifting weights or whatever else; if you can perfect the basic principles you may find yourself more successful than if you chase the smoke and mirrors.

Back-off to break through

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

Changes in body composition can be tricky for athletes that are in season and trying to maintain/ develop a variety of  fitness qualities.

A go-to method I’ve used for my athletes and clients over the years that helps sneak some extra volume in without subtracting from strength or power is a ‘back-off’ set @ 70%+ in the core exercise.  I generally use between 70-85% and instruct the athlete to rep out, pulling them back for max reps depending on what week in the programme we’re on.

For example, today I completed a heavy set of three reps @ 100kg. Then took 80kg (~72.5% of my 1RM) and repped out, saving 2-3reps in the tank.

Training Update

Monday, January 18th, 2016

December and January are typically quiet months for me due to athletes having time off over the holidays in preparation for national fitness testing and camps. It means that I’m in the office more than on the road and I can dial down on a regular lifting schedule which helps in making progress/ managing fatigue.

I’m currently in week six of a strength block and I was pleased with hitting a 135kg on bench press in the second week in January. My previous best was 130kg, which you will see in the video is certainly a lot easier than it use to be. So much so that I didn’t have a spotter during the below session (not advisable when you’re benching). Granted I’m never going to win any records with my bench press strength, but then, I don’t want to. I have a objective notion of where I want my body to be when I am in ‘peak condition’ and though it will be some-while away, I’m tracking well to achieve it and enjoying the process as I go :) .

Scottish Martial Arts Centre Seminars

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

The Scottish Martial Arts Centre has a track record of success in both domestic and international competition so it was a real pleasure to be asked in to present on a few topics, both for the fight team and recreational gym members.

Seminar: Nutrition 101
In the first seminar I was debunking misconceptions with regards to healthy eating and eating for performance. Learning simple principles that can be applied consistently really make the difference with nutrition, and this seminar gave me the platform to share with members what habits I use with my clients and athletes to achieve success.

Workshop: S&C for Martial Arts
This was a gym based workshop where I discussed the concept of understanding the needs of both the individual and the requirements of the sport.  In this workshop we covered key exercises that should be included in a martial artist’s regime as well as progressions/ regressions on useful accessory exercises.


Judo 2nd Kyu: Blue Belt

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

This coming Saturday provides me with my first oppertunity to fight for the grade of 2nd Kyu. I will face three opponents and must win two out of three to gain the promotion to blue belt. Of course, my goals are slightly more ambitious:

1. Process goal: obtain my grip and feel out my opponent before throwing.

2. Performance goal: Achieve an ippon throw.

3. Outcome goal: Win all three fights.

I hope to get footage of my fights (my last recorded footage was when I was a 5th Kyu yellow belt and so I have added many skills since then) but for now, I’ll share my excitement with a cool judo video…

Getting it done (when you aren’t fresh)

Monday, March 19th, 2012

The use of different periodization models are essential if training is to continue in a safe and progressive manner. Beyond the selection of an organisational model, there are ample scientific principles that can be applied to training in order to enjoy adaptation. That said, we are not machines (as much as I wish I was) therefore even the most cutting edge and individualised training programme can leave you a bit beaten up and less motivated to ‘get it done’. Of course, a deload week in every three – five weeks of loading will help, as will good nutrition, supplementation and sleep. How about those days where you’ve been so busy prepping for a work presentation that you had three straight days of bad sleep? And the days where the *insert niggling injury* is playing up again? Or worse, the days where you’re suppose; to clean the house, do the shopping, pick up the kids, walk the dog, make dinner for your partner…Then muster the energy for a max effort lift. Basically, life is going to get in the way. There is no way around it – no quick fix or easy option. Being prepared always helps; however, there will be days when even the most prepared are having an ‘off’ day.

One of many very valuable lessons that I learned from my time at Cressey Performance was that if (or when) injury occurs there is always something that can be trained. Of course, don’t train an injured muscle if it’s internally sore (beyond muscle fatigue sore) yet keep in mind that the goal you have set out to achieve doesn’t care about injuries or excuses. So figure it out. Persist and succeed.

To use myself as an example, after a subluxation of my left shoulder I couldn’t do many strength and conditioning moves. It was (and still is) very annoying; however, I got myself in the gym days later to do my rehab and discover what I could do. Again, I won’t suggest storming into the gym and banging out loads of overhead presses – at that time it would have been flat out stupid and sore. What could I do? Can’t back squat but front squat is ok. Can’t overhead press or bench press but DB floor press is ok. Ultimately, there are no excuses. Focus on the positive and progress it, all the while making slow and steady gains in the weaker areas (I’m almost ready for back squats again…and overhead work). The path of progression is not linear and there is going to be more than one bump in the road, I mean just  last week I was doing some light judo and walked away with my thumb looking like this: 

A week later is it fully healed? Of course not. Will it stop me? Of course not.  In the grand scheme of things, it’s not my spine – it’s my thumb.  I’ll just tape it up, apply a thumb-less grip for a month or two and I’ll progress forward. Persist and succeed.

As I’ve alluded to, training smart is essential for continued progression. When I launched FMT I was on a mission to communicate to people about training smart (the use of a programme, periodization, deload weeks, sensible exercise selection and form etc) to maximise potential.  Though that message is still just as important, if you don’t train hard then it’s all a waste of time. Training hard should be the given. No matter what your knowledge base is. Training smart is the responsibility of coaches (myself included) to communicate, plan and implement. Persist and succeed.

The importance of box squat variations & practical applications

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

The squat is one of the most popular movements in the world. Everybody squats. Everyday. Athletes perform the squat and its variations in an attempt to develop strength and power while bodybuilders use it for building lower body mass. Yoga practitioners use the squat to increase flexibility and even popular celebrity fitness dvd’s include it to help all the people dancing around in their living room sculpt glutes of steel. In fact, even people who don’t actively exercise squat at some point – everyone’s got to use the bathroom right?

Many different techniques exist due to the various populations that enjoy the benefits of regularly performing squats. Each population has ‘fine-tuned’ the movement to cater for their needs; for example, an Olympic weightlifter will generally have a narrower stance than a competitive power lifter. The topic of the squat and its variations may warrant a full article at FMT sometime in the future; however, the scope of this article is to uncover the benefits of box squats and when they can be used.

The Importance of the Stretch-Shortening Cycle
The stretch shortening cycle (SCC) is paramount in sport. This process refers to a stretching of an active muscle immediately followed by shortening action. In the squat this means stretching of the quadriceps and glutes followed by a contraction (or shortening) of the same muscles. Also known as the stretch reflex, it can be broken down into the myotatic stretch reflex and the inverse stretch reflex. The former essentially senses the speed of the stretch and is located in the muscle’s belly spindle cells, while the latter makes use of the golgi tendon organ whereby the muscle almost switches off to prevent tearing.  Plyometric training is a method associated with training the SSC in an attempt to improve explosive strength. Activities such as: med ball throws, clap press ups, bounding, jumping and lots of other exercises that involve a fast eccentric-concentric action can be used. That said, with the correct percentages, common movements that involve the SSC (squats and bench presses) can be programmed in a manner where the SSC is dominant.

So why box squat?
An important concept to understand is that the box squat involves a static-overcome-by-dynamic action meaning there is an element of overcoming inertia when performing the movement. Therefore, any athlete whose sport involves this process will benefit from the exercise. Consider a sprinter in the blocks, a rugby player at the edge of a scrum, an American football lineman, and a swimmer on the blocks. Keeping tight is important with box squats and a good way to visualise the process is to imagine a coiled spring. An athlete that has utilised box squats in their training will possess a strong start and explosive edge.The box squat can be performed by doing a squat to a box with a pause, or by using a ‘tap-and-go’ technique. In fact, fitness professionals like to distinguish between the variations because the technique used will impact on the loading selected and the SSC involvement. If further clarity is needed between the differences between box squats and squats to a box (interesting stuff) check out this video.

Why some coaches don’t use them
I’ve heard the argument that sitting on a box with load is unsafe due to the loading on the spine when overcoming the static position of the box squat. This case is not presented by physiotherapists or back specialists (I may reconsider my position on box squats if someone like Dr Stuart McGill ever publishes a paper that has uncovered the detrimental effects box squats have on spinal health), moreover, this argument is negated if a tight squatting posture is maintained. Further rational for the exclusion of box squats are based around the shin angle;  the traditional back squat creates a shin angle of ~45 degrees, which mimics the angle of the shins in most athletic endeavours, such as sprinting. In contrast, the box squat allows an athlete to ‘sit back’ and coaches encourage an almost vertical (60-90degree) shin angle in order to fully engage the hamstrings during the movement (1). To go against the status-quo: the shin angle isn’t a bad thing, it’s a good thing! Yes, training with a shin angle of ~45degrees is important; however, if athletes always experience this in their chosen sport and are restricted to it in the gym all-year-round then quad dominant will be taken to a whole new level while the hamstrings wither away into the untrained and weak abyss. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel here, so checkout this article to understand the importance of the posterior chain.

Beyond the hamstrings: other reasons to box squat
Drawing on personal experience, I have had many situations where I have utilised box squats for teaching technique -especially on overhead squats. Sometimes I’ll use it for one set for a beginner to ‘get it’, or maybe they’ll need a couple of sets or even sessions to practice the pelvic control (I had such a session with a new client 3 hours prior to posting this). In contrast, I utilise the box squat throughout whole mesocycles with regular gym goers, amateur and elite athletes. Case in point: Gintaras (FMT grappler client) performed the back squat ‘ass-to-grass’ low with near perfect form. After two months of regular back squatting he could squat 1.45 of his body weight; however, I knew that to fully unlock his potential and get him STRONG he would have to engage the hamstrings more (sit back more) and so guess what the next two months of his program included? Yip, you got it: box squats.

Box squats are also used in research to ensure a rigorous investigation. Researchers use the movement to provide consistency in squat depth (2) and because of the value it has to specific sports (3).

Practical Applications
In summary, there are many situations where the box squats plays a valid role in a strength and conditioning program. From elite athletes that will throw around twice their body weight to complete beginners that must be (re)taught how to move properly. The list below outlines some situations where individuals would benefit from regular box squatting:

An individual has no pelvic control (can’t maintain neutral or achieve anterior tilt on descend of squat).

An athlete scores poorly on the static vertical jump (or seated vertical jump).

Slow sprint time from 0-40m.

Can’t achieve full depth in overhead squats, back squats or front squats.

Variation in a squat program to continue progress and adaptation.

When an athlete is quad dominant and needs some solid hamstring development.

(1)A, Christos., Gill, N., Keogh. J., Hopkins. W., & Beaven, M. 2010. Effects of a short-term pre-season training programme on the body composition and anaerobic performance of professional rugby union players. Journal of Sports Sciences, 28(6) p679–686.

(2)Crewther, B., Gill, N., Weatherby, R & Lowe, T. 2009. A comparison of ratio and allometric scaling methods for normalizing power and strength in elite rugby union players. Journal of sport sciences, 27 (14), p1575

(3)L, Simmons. 2005. Benefits of Box squatting. [Online]
Available from:
Accessed on 14th Feb. 2012.

Super Shakes Revisited

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

By now most people know that to get big, you’ve got to eat big. That seems obvious; however, sometimes it can prove difficult to increase daily calorie intake when attempting to eat clean. For this reason I like Super Shakes - they’re clean, high calorie muscle building concoctions that are cheap and easy to make. An anabolic meal can literally be done  by throwing a bunch of ingredients into a blender.

One great tasting Super Shake that I like to suggest to individuals that are trying to add some mass to their frame is:

Low Fat
Cottage Cheese
Organic Whole Milk
Flaxseed Powder
Vanilla Protein Powder

This can be used as a snack, a meal replacement or as a post workout shake and will take less than five minutes to prepare.  Be warned - Super Shakes will lead to super physique changes!

As I alluded to in my original Super Shakes post, your imagination is the only limitation when it comes to these blended muscle building cocktails. Be creative.

3 Movements for Desk Jockeys

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Technology is great. Computers, internet, mobile phones and all the other cool gadgets that allow communication and information sharing has shaped the way we live today. The only problem is that when I say shaped, I mean it quite literally. Nowadays it is uncommon to see a desk without a computer and there is a large chunk of the population that spend the majority of their working day desk-bound. Beyond the  IT industry, many of us spend hours each night updating facebook, instant messaging, blogging, emailing, or that other thing that the internet is popular for…I’m not going to put forward the message that everyone should spend less time at their desks, instead you will find three movements below that I highly recommend to anyone who finds themselves at a desk (or indeed driving) for over an hour every day. These movements cover flexibility, mobility and strength.

Healthy movement is something quite close to my heart because I know the value of what good posture and technique can do for; strength, power, injury resistance and fat burning. Each year I feel it is my duty as a fitness and health professional to post an article with the theme of posture and improved movement. That’s why in 2009 and 2010 I posted articles that address the above issue from a different angle and I would encourage you to give them a brief read to gain additional knowledge in the area.

Practical Help For The Desk Jockey
First and foremost, in the seated position the hips are stuck in flexion. That is why the first movement I recommend is hip extension, or more specifically a hip flexors stretch.

Movement 1: A version of the hip flexors stretch


Flexibility isn’t the only issue when considering all the desk jockeys out there – strength is too! I’m not talking about deadlifting twice your bodyweight or banging out 20+ chin ups (though that would be impressive), I’m talking about the strength of the shoulder stabilizers. The image in my post “The Age of the Hunchback” shows exactly the kind of posture (an almighty hunch) that is likely to happen when exposed to long periods at a desk. To combat this there are a few things to consider which include; stretching the pec minor and the upper traps, strengthening the lower traps and strengthening the external rotators. SCAPULA WALL SLIDES! Using this movement will tick all the right boxes and is one way to combat the lack of shoulder strength (stability). Here’s the video again in case you missed it in the 2009 post:

Now that hip flexibility and shoulder mobility/stability has been addressed, can you think of another key to maintaining a preferable posture while you surf the world wide web? Yes! You guessed it – the “core”. This article outlines four great movements for building an effective core, but the main thing to remember is that the upright position is most desirable when in front of a desk. That means sit ups are ‘out’ and movements like rollouts are ‘in’.


Of course there are many different movements out there that can also help the desk-bound among us; however, the movements above are the most basic and essential movements that are very easy to implement into your routine.

Taking Out The Guesswork
Implement the movements above anyway you see fit or try a tri-set at the end of your regular workout:

Hip flexors stretch 2 x 30seconds e/side
Scap wall slides        2 x 15
Rollout variation    2 x 8
(Repeat until all sets are completed)

That said, don’t let these movements be restricted to the gym. I’ve been known to stretch while working and I would encourage you to do the same. Just ignore the inquisitive looks by your colleagues.

Point to Remember
The technology we are exposed to now is fantastic and has help shaped the world today – just don’t let it shape you!



Summer Updates

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

This summer has been more fast-paced than any summer I can remember. While I’ve managed to rehab my back and shoulder to around 85%  of full throttle, I’ve also been training people in Glasgow, both through FMT and a commercial gym. In addition to training people and myself, I’ve been involved (and still am) in a British Judo talent identification scheme and I have tested out my up and coming EBook on some of my summer lab rats.

Stay In The Game…Or Find A new One
For now I’m excited to report that I have been ‘tryed & tested’ by the UK SPORT talent identification scientists and I have been selected from 1230 men to attend phase 3 (15 or so men) of the selection process. Judo is a very physically demanding sport and very technical. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to try it out and see how far it goes. Coaching rule number one: practice what you preach. It wouldn’t be right for me, or any young coach, to promote certain techniques, workouts and advice without being actively involved in the process myself. Regardless of what happens with the selection process, Judo is definitely my new sport…It’s like rugby only you get awarded for dropping someone on their head…

An Experiment
As I alluded too, at the start of this year I wrote a program that specifically targets the off-season (not pre-season) of rugby players. This summer was the testing phase of the program and I am happy to report some superb results.

“Here are my results for last two weeks…..and I must say I am very very pleased…Your programme obviously works mate and I am very thankful for you letting me try it out…If you ever need help testing out any more don’t hesitate to ask as I would love to continue with it.”

This guy ended up squatting 185kg on his testing day and added 15kg to his bench press max – all in the space of 12 weeks. Most guys are coming back with 15kg increase in their bench and +20kg on their back squat for one maximal rep. What surprised me though, is that 89% of subjects increased in relative strength and maximal strength. In real world terms  – they performed more chin ups at the end of the program than they did at the start, with an increased bodyweight! This shows that the weight these lab rats gained was good weight. Aka MUSCLE.

There is still a lot to be finalised before the release next year – more information over the coming months.