athletic development

Patience: The key to unlocking your training potential

We live in a world of pure, unrestrained, instant gratification.

The word is literally at our finger tips. If we want something, we can order it within minutes, via nothing more than a couple of soft touches on the screen of our phone. We rarely experience boredom, as we have access to electronic entertainment absolutely anywhere. And if we don’t have the knowledge of a particular topic, Siri is just a quick question away.

Now while I won’t deny the apparent benefits associated with this current world state (Game of Thrones on demand? Yes please), it does also come with some fairly large downfalls - the largest of which is our expectation for immediate and (dare I say it?) underserved success.

We expect things to turn out in our favour – and we expect it to happen with minimal effort on our half.

And unfortunately - as nice as it would be – this isn’t how it works.

You won’t get the job you want just because you want it.

You won’t get the girl (or guy) you want just because you want them.

And I can guarantee with 100% certainty that you won’t get the body you want just because you want it.

These things take time, hard work, and dedication. All traits that should be prioritised by each and every one of us, but in this day and age, are completely undervalued.

And when it comes to training, irrespective of our training goal, these traits are paramount. It takes a long term investment into our training before we are likely to see any significant improvements in strength, noticeable increases in performance, substantial growth of muscle tissue, or considerable reductions in fat mass.

Hunter Bennett Performance

 

Even despite the hard work we are putting in on a daily basis.

We need to dedicate time to our training, in which we work hard each and every session, but we also need to demonstrate patience on a larger scale. We need to realise that changes won’t happen overnight, and that we will progress only though dedicated work in the long term.

And while this may go against the ‘wisdom’ of the many 30 day challenges you see on your Facebook feed every morning, I can guarantee that if you work hard and demonstrate patience you will actually see results from your training.

With all this in mind, I would implore you to take a long term approach with your training goals, and realise that this shit is not going to happen overnight.

Every training session is a small step towards your goal, and it’s going to take a few steps to get there.

This shouldn’t be disheartening – it’s just how it is.

So enjoy the process.

 

Name *
Name

How to Guarantee Results From your Training

The greatest piece of programming advice I have ever heard came from the great man Dan John (unfortunately I didn’t hear it in person, but thanks to the wonders of the internet, I still got to hear it…).

It went something like this: “Everything works. Nothing works forever”.

While it does seem to be an extremely simplistic view on programming, it holds a huge amount of truth, and does encompasses the principal of progressive overload quite well. Ultimately suggesting that programming doesn’t have to be perfect, and as long as someone is training they will see results.

They will eventually adapt to this training stimulus, and it will stop working.

Now obviously, by making slight adjustments to exercise selection, or increasing the weight we are using or the reps we are performing, we can continue to improve, irrespective of the programming quality. While a ‘better’ program may yield slightly higher results, it can be easily accepted that we would likely see increases in strength, size, of performance.

Unless we aren’t putting in the effort required to make change.

 

Effort

While I think that Dan Johns saying is very accurate, it does make one very large assumption.

That we are working hard.

Which, as I spend more and more time in gym settings, I am starting to think is not as common as we would like to think.

Too often I see people performing the exact same exercises, with the same weights, without even breaking a sweat. They are merely going through the motions, performing their favorite exercises and then going home. And while they might feel as if they have done something, they are not seeing any substantial change.

So really, I think it might be better to suggest that: “Everything works, if YOU work hard enough”.

And ultimately, I think this holds a huge amount of truth.

If you went into the gym and did nothing but deadlift 10 sets of 6 reps (at your 6 rep max) 3 times a week, you would undoubtedly get stronger, probably get bigger, and ultimately improve.

Now from a programming standpoint, this would be absurd. It would be brutal, there is absolutely no periodisation (and subsequently no programmed recovery), and you would potentially burn out after only a few weeks.

Furthermore, there is no consideration for muscle imbalances, single leg strength, or core stability (among a number of other things we love to consider).

But you would still improve.

Because you would be working hard.

In comparison, if you had the perfect program (whatever that may be...) but just went through the motions (following it down to the most minute detail, but without putting in any substantial effort), you probably wouldn’t improve at all.

 

Train with Intent

Ultimately, all I am trying to say is while the perfect program may not exist, we can guarantee improvement by putting in the work.

This means training hard, lifting heavy, and building up a sweat.

Train with the intent to improve, and you will.

 

Name *
Name

Smash Through Your Training Plateau: Increases in Both Volume and Intensity

When we think about gym related progress, we typically consider the load we are capable of lifting. Whether we are talking about a 10 rep max (RM), a 5RM, a 3RM, or a true 1RM, we tend to measure progress by improvements in strength.

And, ultimately, there is nothing wrong with this.

A direct strength measure (such as that seen in RM testing) provides us with a tangible measure of progress. As such it can give us a clear demonstration that the hard work we have been putting in is genuinely paying dividends.

Unfortunately, this train of thought can have some repercussions.

One of which is the way it can influence an individual’s perspective of progress. This results in the thought that the only way to progress is to throw more weight on the bar. This describes progress through increases in intensity.

 

Progressing through Increases in Intensity

By adding more weight to the bar, we increase the load we need to lift. This describes an increase in intensity.

Increasing intensity is one of the key ways we can make an exercise (or exercise session) more challenging, subsequently implementing the principals of progressive overload and allowing us to become stronger.

So say hypothetically we are doing 3 sets of 5 deadlifts as our main strength work, and to progress we add 2.5kg to the bar each week. As a result we continue to do 3 sets of 5, but the weight at which we perform it at increases. This elicits tangible improvements in strength, and follows the principals of progressive overloads perfectly.

But, unfortunately, this can’t go on forever.

Eventually we will hit a bit of a plateau.

During which, we may no longer be able to hit our prescribed number of reps.  Or, we can hit them, but our form deteriorates badly after each rep, until the 5th rep looks less like a deadlift and more like a 7 car pileup.

This is when progressing through increases in volume can become extremely valuable.

 

Progressing through increases in Volume

By increasing the amount of volume we perform each session we are still implementing progressive overload into our training, but doing so in a different manner (without adding any weight to the bar).

So building on the above example, say hypothetically we do reach our current ‘upper limit’ in regards to exercise intensity. In this scenario, we can’t go any heavier because our form begins to break down significantly (which is obviously not a good thing). Rather than increasing the weight, we can start performing additional sets at the same weight.

So from 3x5, we can go the 4x5 the following week, and then 5x5 the week after that.

This allows us to progress by increasing the amount of volume performed at a given intensity each session (which can also trigger additional muscle hypertrophy). While this in itself is a form of measurable progress (we are undertaking more total work per session AKA progressive overload), it can also have another key benefit.

By increasing the amount of reps we are performing of a particular movement each session, we can improve our technical proficiency of that movement. As our ability to express strength relies heavily on the capabilities of our nervous system, this can lead to improved neural efficiency, and subsequently increased strength.

By allowing ourselves to improve our performance of a movement at a given weight through increase in volume, we can then set ourselves up for future increases in intensity (which we can now handle).

 

So using the above examples, we can manipulate increases in volume and intensity to elicit a solid training response. This might mean starting with a weight that we can perform for 3x5, and then adding a set each week until we can perform it for 6x5.

Once we master this weight at 6x5, we increase the weight (progressing through increases in intensity) while also reducing the volume back down to 3x5. We then start the process again with the new weight.

Which would look something like this:

Week 1: Deadlift 3x5 @150kg
Week 2: Deadlift 4x5 @150kg
Week 3: Deadlift 5x5 @150kg
Week 4: Deadlift 6x5 @150kg
Week 5: Deadlift 3x5 @155kg
Week 6: Deadlift 4x5 @155kg
Week 7: Deadlift 5x5 @155kg
Week 8: Deadlift 6x5 @155kg

Using both intensity and volume to improve we can set ourselves up for long term, sustainable progress, that is visible each session!

 

Name *
Name

 

 

 

 

Why Simple is almost always Better than Sexy

While the title of this blog post may suggest an intense debate over what style of lingerie is best, I actually wanted discuss training (as per usual...).

Each and every week there seems to be a new method of training, using some new fandangle piece of equipment that is suggested to help you build more muscle, become stronger, and increase athleticism (often in a fairly short amount of time).

These methods often include things like agility ladders, suspension trainers, unstable surfaces, among a heap of other unique pieces of equipment.

Now while I won’t say that these methods don’t have any merit at all, people often become focused on these a little too intently, and as a result, lose sight of the bigger picture.

 

The Big Picture

The bigger picture is simple (and unfortunately not all that sexy).

Assuming you have no abhorrent and glaring movement deficiencies, basic strength exercises should make up the bulk of your training. This holds true whether your goal is to improve athleticism, increase strength, build muscle, or lose fat.

Simple barbell movements have been the staple of exercise programs for decades. Funnily enough, this is for an extremely good reason.

They work.

Squats and deadlifts (and their single leg variations), presses, and rows should make up the bulk of your training. These exercises are large compound movements that require the simultaneous work of a number of different muscle groups, and subsequently use a heap of muscle mass.

Additionally (ultimately because of the above), it is with these movements that we can use significantly greater amounts of external load.

This makes them extremely beneficial for hypertrophy (due to the increased mechanical tension associated with increased loading) and fat loss (due to the huge energy expenditure associated with the large amount of muscle mass used).

Furthermore, looking at the movement’s occurring at specific joints, these exercises replicate those of ‘athletic’ movements such as jumping, bounding, and sprinting. It therefore makes sense that by becoming stronger and more powerful in these movements, we are going to improve our ability to perform those more athletic movements.

These movements can be performed a number of different (simple) ways to help us achieve our individual goals:

Strength: Heavy weight and sets of 1-6 repetitions
Hypertrophy:  Moderate weight and sets of 6-15 repetitions
Power: Light to moderate weight and sets of 1-5 repetitions moved EXPLOSIVELY with INTENT.

See, simple (and kind of sexy?).

While there is a place for sport specific exercises, suspension trainers, unstable surfaces, and in some cases, machine based exercises, we should not forget that basic strength exercises still reign supreme.

They provide a fantastic way to put on mass, build strength, and improve athleticism, and as such should ALWAYS make up the bulk of our training.

 

Name *
Name

 

 

Should you Olympic lift?

The Olympic lifts are a fantastic way to develop power.

This is particularly important for those trying to improve athletic performance, as they provide an opportunity to develop power under load - something that is not achieved by jumps and other body-weight power-based exercises.

But (there is always a but…)

They do have some associated negatives.

Firstly, they have an extremely steep learning curve.

This means that they will require a lot of coaching, and take a lot of time to learn to before they can be completed safely and efficiently. This has further downside, as during this time when technique development is the focus, they will not actually be building strength or power, as the load used will be two small to elicit a decent training response.

Secondly, they require a HUGE amount of joint mobility – so much so that some people (due to various anatomical restrictions) may never be able to complete the full Olympic lifts (snatch /clean and jerk) safely.

hunter bennett performance adelaide personal training lose fat build muscle

 

So what can we do?

Well, like most things, it depends.

Obviously we screen someone’s movement, and if they have the capacity to Olympic lift (AKA deep overhead squat with no issues), then there is no real reason why we shouldn’t Olympic lift – particularly if they have the time available to learn them, and have a need to develop power.

If they are lacking the mobility required to complete full Olympic lifts, but have the time and need, then we can use ‘safer’ variations, such as hang power cleans. During this time, we can also try and improve mobility so that they can get into those demanding positions more comfortably, with the potential to progress to full Olympic lifts further down the road.

If they have a serious lack of mobility, and don’t have the time available to learn them effectively, the answer is probably no. Instead we would use jumps, loaded jumps, and medicine ball throws to try and develop power in a time efficient manner. During this time we would also work on mobility (because we know that mobility is important, yo).

 

Now, it is also important to note that we probably don’t have to complete full Olympic lifts with ANYONE (unless of course you are an aspiring Olympic lifter – then it is probably a necessity).

Like most things, we need to assess risk vs reward.

For most people, no matter what the population, the risk associated with performing the snatch probably outweighs its training benefits. While it is a great way to develop power, it places the shoulder in a compromised position under load.

This position is what I would consider high risk (particularly for overhead or throwing athletes), and as such would avoid it if possible.

Instead, the power clean is a much safer option, as we can develop power without moving into an overhead position. This reduces the load on the shoulder significantly.

Using another example, if someone does not have the hip mobility to deadlift from the floor safely, a clean may not be a good option – BUT a hang clean from above the knee would still be safe AND be a great way to develop power.

 

So, should you Olympic lift?

Like I said earlier, it depends.

If you have both the mobility and time available, and need/want to develop power, then there is not any reason why you shouldn't.

If you do not, then there may be more suitable options.

Like anything, assess, and make educated decisions.

 

Contact me if you have any questions, and if you like the article please give it a share on facebook!

Name *
Name