training

Why you should use performance based goals to track progress

Something that has become quite apparent to me in more recent years, is that most people make the decision to join the gym and start training as a way to make changes to their body.

And while there are certainly some exceptions to this rule (there are no doubt a select few who want to get stronger, or improve athleticism), you can guarantee that the vast majority of people who enter the gym want to feel better about themselves, and ultimately, look good naked.

And there is nothing wrong with this.

Improving body composition is a worthy goal, and working hard to make changes to your body can be extremely rewarding.

The issue is that when trying to improve body composition, people often measure progress through the use of weight related goals - for example: I want to lose 10 kilograms. And while I admit that I am not in the position to determine whether your individual goal is acceptable or not, I can say that in my experience weight related goals rarely provide any value at all.

Although it may sound like a good idea at the time, most people don’t realize that our weight tends to fluctuate massively in accordance to what we have eaten the past couple of days, how much fluid we have consumed, and how much exercise we have performed (among a myriad of other potential factors).

Moreover, if we are using weight training (as ideally we should be) to promote fat loss, then we will most likely see increases in muscle mass that coincide with reductions in fat mass. This would result in a relatively unchanged scale weight, despite actually losing fat tissue.

As a result, if your goal is ‘to lose 10 kilograms’, you might become disheartened despite actually making some pretty serious changes to your body composition.

In this situation the scale is not really indicative of all the progress you have made.

So what can we do instead?

 

Performance based goals

Performance based goals pretty much describe goals based around improvements observed in the gym or on the field.

For example, completing 5 strict chin ups, deadlifting 1.5X body weight, or performing 15 strict push ups are all fine performance based goals. These performance based goals have much more merit than weight related goals because they don’t rely on something as variable of body weight to track change.

And more importantly, these goals are truly indicative of the hard work that you put in.

If you start at the gym and can’t perform either a single chin up or a single push up, and then after 3 months of training can complete 3 chin ups and 10 push ups, you can be certain that you have made progress. These improvements are a tangible measure of all the hard work you have put in to your training over the last 90 days.

And seeing the cumulative results of your hard work is extremely rewarding.

Furthermore, I can guarantee that some serious changes in body compassion (aka a loss of fat mass and an increase in muscle mass) will have come along with these performance based changes.

And while these changes may not be identified as clearly by the scale, you can certainly see them (in both physical appearance and improvement in performance).

 

So In Summary

It’s unfortunate, but too many people seem to think that a reduction in scale weight is progress. I say unfortunate, because realistically speaking, I could go to the bathroom and see more weight loss in 10 minutes than most would see after 2 weeks of solid training.

While the scale does measure ‘weight’, it can be extremely deceptive. How do you know that you have lost fat and not muscle? or just fluid for that matter?

But if you see genuine improvement in your performance, then you can guarantee you are making quality progress.

Seriously, the sooner you make your goals performance based, the better off you will be (trust me).

 

Name *
Name

Why injury prevention and improving performance are one in the same.

Why injury prevention and improving performance are one in the same.

It interests me how injury prevention and training for performance are viewed at opposite ends of the training spectrum.

People often associate injury prevention with low level corrective exercises, foam rolling, and stretching, where performance enhancement is associated with lifting heavy, jumping, sprinting, and a whole heap of other cool stuff.

I genuinely believe that this view is flawed, and that not only can each of these training methods contribute to both injury prevention and improving performance simultaneously, but that preventing injuries is arguably the most important thing we can be doing toimprove performance.

Hunter Bennett Performance

 

How can injury prevention improve performance?

While this point is actually pretty simple (and logical) if we think about it, it often gets forgotten.

If we are injured, we can’t train.

If we can’t train, we can improve our performance.

See, simple.

Although if we were to break it down a little further, we can see that injuries impact our ability to train both in the gym and on the field. This will therefore limit our ability to improve strength and power performance, and skill development (both of which contribute significantly to performance).

Secondly, in a team sport scenario, if you can’t compete with your best players on the field, your chances of winning our reduced. As such, in season injuries can negatively affect an entire team’s performance.

As such, keeping your players healthy and able to train is paramount, and should be one of the key focuses of any strength and conditioning program.

Furthermore, those exercises that are perceived as ‘low-level’ (AKA corrective exercises, mobility exercises etc.) play an important role in maintain and improving joint mobility, trunk stability, and movement quality. These qualities can directly influence our ability to express power and strength, and subsequently our ability to perform at a high level.

So these exercises therefore play an important role in maximising performance, outside of reducing injuries.

 

How can performance based training reduce injury risk?

Now, when most people think of jumps, cleans, squats, and deadlifts, they don’t automatically think of injury prevention BUT they should.

Strength training using basic exercises builds tissue integrity. This applies to both muscle and connective tissue (tendons). By building tissue integrity, we improve the capacity of a given tissue to handle load, and produce and resist force. This alone improves our resilience to the likelihood of developing injuries of those tissues.

Furthermore, improving strength around specific joints can improve joint stability, which can consequently reduce the load absorbed by passive joint structures (ligaments and joint capsule). This can significantly reduce our risk developing ligament or joint injuries.

In a similar fashion, both jumps and other power based movements will not only improve our ability to produce force rapidly (AKA improve explosive power), they will also improve our ability to jump and land efficiently. This is extremely important as these movements produce a significant amount of eccentric force loading through the muscle tissue.

By improving both our ability to manage this eccentric force, and improving our ability to jump and land from a skill based perspective, we can limit our risk of injury during these highly demanding movements.

 

So, to summarize

Not only is mobility and flexibility important from an injury prevention perspective, but also a force production perspective. By improving our capacity to produce force efficiently during movement, these ‘corrective’ type exercises can lead to an improvement in physical performance.

Strength and power based movements have the capacity to improve muscle and joint integrity, which can lead to a reduced risk of injury of those tissues.

Furthermore, by improving our ability to perform skill based explosive movements such as jumps and bounds, we can reduce risk of injury occurrence during those movements.

 

So: Training is injury prevention AND injury prevention is training (Prioritise BOTH)

Name *
Name

Do we need to deload?

When discussing training and the potential of overtraining, there appears to be two very individual and opposite camps within the fitness industry.

The first camp appear certain that any individual, no matter their training status, is at risk of overtraining. As such, they recommend you deload every couple of weeks, and go further to suggest that you should train a single muscle group any more frequently than once every 6.75 days (or something like that).

On the other hand, we have the ‘overtraining is a myth’ camp. These guys train balls to the wall every single session, often with a high training frequency. These are the guys who will frequently run training programs such as smolov (or some other form of brutality) to elicit a training response.

So which group is right?

 

Recovery, Adaptation and Overtraining

All in all, the training process is a relatively simple one.

When we train, we place the body under external mechanical, neurological, and metabolic stress. This external stress causes a short term response (AKA a sweet pump, some hormonal changes, followed by DOMS) and long term adaptations (AKA bigger and stronger muscle tissue).

These small stressors put the body in a state of overreaching, where ultimately we push our body past its current training limits. The body then adapts to this state of overreaching.

It is these longer term adaptions that describe the training response.

The kicker?

That these adaptations only occur if there is adequate time for recovery.

If there is a lack of recovery, and continued training stress, we fail to adapt. It is this failure to adapt (in conjunction with further training load) that turns overreaching into overtraining.

Ultimately, during this stage, we continually break down and further fatigue already damaged and fatigued tissue. This can lead to a host of issues, as explained in the diagram below.

But is overtraining really worth worrying about?

Well, like anything, it depends.

 

The Risk of Overtraining

Now, I will tell you that overtraining exists.

Of that, there is no doubt.

This is a fact.

BUT.

Overtraining may not be as common as what some people make it out to be.

In a population of elite athletes, there is a considerable risk of Overtraining. These individuals train at a high intensity each day, participate in competition regularly, and often have to deal with additional life stress as well.

For these people, balancing training and recovery is like walking a tightrope. If they move one way too far, they may not get a training result, and performance will suffer. BUT, if they move too far the other way, they may train too much without adequate recovery, which can lead to overtraining (and again performance will suffer).

But for most of us, this isn’t as applicable.

We may train often, but rarely is it enough to result in a state of overtraining. Even if our life stress is high, reaching this state is still highly unlikely.

This is because we spend very little time actually training, and a lot of our time at work recovering.

 

So do we need to deload?

In short, yes.

While I have just suggested that most of us have very little reason to worry about overtraining syndrome, there are a number of reasons that we should still incorporate deloads into our training schedule.

Firstly, training creates significant stress on both muscle tissue, and the passive support structures of our joints (ligaments and tendons). Physiologically, tissue remodelling occurs at a much faster rate in muscle tissue than it does in these passive support structures.

As a result, if we do not undertake the occasional deload, we run the risk of causing negative degenerative tissue changes in our tendons and ligaments. This may lead to overuse injuries and joint issues.

As such, by undertaking a deload every now and then we provide opportunity for these passive structures to recover, reducing our likelihood of developing an tendon or ligament related injury.

Furthermore, a light week can often provide some time to refresh mentally, getting us excited for upcoming blocks of training. Consequently, deloads can play an importnat role in keeping us not only healthy, but motivated too.

 

Name *
Name

Offset loading – what is it and why you should care about it?

In what feels like a never ending quest to find the best ways to build muscle, increase strength, and improve athleticism, we are frequently looking for new training techniques to help us reach our goals as quickly and as effectively as possible.

While I am strong believer that the basics will get you MOST of the way there, there are definitely occasions when different methods of training can have a very positive effect on our results.

One of the methods that I have been having frequent success with (both personally, and with my clients) is offset loading.

Hunter Bennett Performance adelaide personal training

 

Offset Loading

Offset loading is a training technique that is extremely simple to implement, but can have huge benefits.

Pretty simply, it refers to loading one side of the body to a greater degree than the other.

So as a very simple example, we could do farmer carries with a heavier load in one hand than the other (which is then repeated on the other side – can’t have those imbalances...).

This exact same loading method can be applied to squat and split squat variations, both bilateral and unilateral deadlift variations, and upper body pushing and pulling variations (think single arm dumbbell presses and single arm dumbbell rows).

This can be done by completely unloading one side while adding significant load to the other side, or using a slightly lighter load on one side and then a slightly heavier load on the other side.

 

Benefits of offset loading

While its method of application of simple, offset loading can have a number of benefits dependent on your training goal.

The initial benefit that we get from offset loading is due to the demand it places on the body to maintain stability. By loading more on one side we create flexion and rotation forces at the trunk and the hip that would not be there with regular loading parameters.

Therefore, the muscles of the trunk and hip must work overtime to maintain a neutral lumbo-pelvic position.

This makes offset loading a great tool to use when we are limited for time and want exercises that provide big bang-for-your-buck, as we can improve core stability while also loading the upper or lower body.

Not only will this increased demand for stability build core and hip stability strength, it also provides a great opportunity to work on any imbalances we may have in regards trunk and hip strength.

Additionally, offset loading is a fantastic way to introduce more total volume into your training as we have to do twice as much work than we would with normal loading methods.

This increase in total volume can directly increase our total time under tension AND the metabolic demand placed on the muscle tissue – both of which can contribute to increased muscle hypertrophy significantly.

And while using offset loading is not the best way to build strength on its own (because the total load used is reduced), correcting imbalances can indirectly lead to greater improvements in strength over time.

 

Offset Loading Programming Considerations

So now we know the benefits of offset loading, it is HOW we implement it into our training that makes all the difference.

Firstly, irrespective of whether our goal is hypertrophy or performance based, exercises using offset loading should be used strictly as assistance exercises, and should not replace our core strength lifts. This is because their capacity to build strength is somewhat limited, as they will not provide the mechanical stress necessary to increase maximal force production.

BUT, due to the various other benefits that offset loading can have, they should be used as either the first or second assistance exercise in our training program.

Example Lower Body Workout

Back Squat 4x6
Romanian Deadlift 3x8
Offset loaded Bulgarian Split Squat 3x8 /side
Walking Lunges 3x10/side

Example Upper Body Workout

Bench Press 5x5
High Bench Row 4x8
Single arm Landmine Press 3x8 / side
Single arm Renegade Row 3x8 /side

Incorporating offset loading into our training can be a great way to increase core and hip stability, correct any imbalances we may have, and promote muscular hypertrophy.

Additionally, using offset training can promote further strength development by improving stability and eliminating those imbalances!

 

Name *
Name

Training vs Exercising. There is a Difference.

There are many different ways to describe the attempts and efforts we make to improve our body composition or physical capacity, but ‘Exercising’ and ‘Training’ are hands down the two most common terms I personally hear on a daily basis.

And so what, right?

People can call it whatever they want, if it refers to the same thing?

well, maybe not?

What if i said that Training and Exercising are actually inherently different from one another?

Because In my personal opinion there is a significant difference, and by changing your mindset and the terminology you use from’ exercise’ to ‘training’, you can begin to make massive jumps forward in achieving your personal goal.

Hunter Bennett Performance, Adelaide Personal Training, Lose Fat Build Muscle

 

Exercising

Firstly, exercising.

Exercise is physical activity for the sake of physical activity. 

It is exercise performed for TODAY, and for today only.

Exercise is often done for the sake of raising the heart rate and getting a bit of a sweat on.

People who ‘exercise’ typically perform the same sort of routine over and over because it does meet their immediate needs - to perform physical activity today.

And honestly, there is nothing wrong with this.

It is great way to meet the recommended weekly requirements for physical activity, ultimately providing us with the minimum required stimulus to stay healthy and manage weight gain.

This is fine. It keeps our cardiovascular system working efficiently, and significantly reduces our risk of developing a number of diseases and disorders.

But what if you have a specific goal you want to achieve?

I don’t care whether it is strength related, performance related, or body composition related.

Merely ‘exercising’ will not cut it.

Training

Enter training.

Training is different.

If you have a specific goal in mind, then training is essential to effectively achieve that goal.

If you want to run a marathon, become a better athlete, or compete in a physique contest, performing a group exercise class 4 days per week is not going to cut it.

You need to follow a clear track that will lead YOU to YOUR specific destination. 

Training involves reaching small, specific goals that lead directly to the achievement of your overall goal.

Each individual exercise you undertake is a small, specific step leading to the end of your journey.

Each set and every individual repetition is well thought out, and implemented with this final goal in mind.

You do these things not because you can do them, but because to reach your goal, you need to do them.

With that in mind, training is performed efficiently.

If you don’t have a valid reason for doing a specific exercise (AKA it doesn’t help you reach your overall goal), then you shouldn’t be doing it.

If you’re a sprinter, you don’t need to be jogging 10km on your rest days.

If you’re a powerlifter you don’t need to be doing 4 sets of Bicep curls at the end your session.

If you’re a marathon runner you don’t need to be bench pressing double body weight.

This doesn’t mean you throw out entire rep ranges, or stop doing certain exercises forever, it just means you need to focus on what is specific to your current goal and make that your priority.

Training has a focus on your individual needs.

This may mean addressing weak points, or correcting individual imbalances or dysfunctions.

It means addressing the areas where you are deficient, while also improving those which you are already good at.

Using a running as a specific example, your goal might be to run a marathon. You have good aerobic capacity, but are weak and have poor movement quality.

Increasing strength becomes a priority, as does improving your efficiency and quality of movement.

This occurs through specific exercise and training recommendations. Not through doing ‘whatever you have always done’ in the weight room.

Training results in measurable improvement.

This means that you actually PROGRESS through training. Whether it is getting stronger, getting faster, or getting leaner, when you are training (and training EFFECTIVELY) you will see improvements in yourself.

 

Now, exercising is fine. Some people enjoy working hard and getting a sweat on for the sake of it. And again, there is nothing wrong with that.

BUT

If you have a specific goal you want to reach, and find yourself doing the same thing over and over, you are exercising when you should be training.

And it is now time to make that change.

 

Name *
Name

 

 

 

It’s Ok to take it Slow – The Benefits of Eccentric Training

The man lies on the bench. He is comfortable, prepared. Slowly, almost cautiously, he unracks the barbell. With elbows completely locked he stares at the bar with intent, a gaze full of resolve and determination, like a lion slowly preparing to launch from the tall grass and attack its prey. He takes a deep breath in, filling his lungs with an ocean of oxygen, and suddenly, BANG! The bar drops to his chest at unimaginable speed, his sternum compresses a full inch, where it proceeds to rebound rapidly, and then, time stops. A second feels like an eternity. The bar quivers with anticipation. His elbows sit at right angles. Slowly, oh so slowly, the bar continues its ascent. The bar continues making its shaky rise to the top. Legs flailing and man grunting the barbell reaches the apex of its journey, elbows once again locked out completely, the bar is racked. The man sits up, grinning manically, he laughs, proud and triumphant.

pressing-charges-7-bench-press-crimes-solved_10.jpg

What does this story have to do with anything?

In all honesty, not a heap. It just seemed like a good introduction to a blog post about the importance of using the eccentric portion of a lift to your advantage (which the man failed to do).

The eccentric portion (negative or yielding portion in some circles) of a lift refers to the part where the muscle is lengthening under load. For example as the bar comes towards the chest during a bench press, the pecs and triceps are getting longer while under load. Similarly, as you descend during a squat, the quads are lengthening under load.

To train safely you need to be able to control this portion of the lift. In the example above, the man doesn’t do this all that well, and runs the risk of injury in that bottom position (AKA cracking a sternum? Injured shoulder joint? etc, etc.).

While avoiding injury should be motivation enough to use the eccentric portion of lift effectively, there are a heap of other benefits that come with emphasising eccentric training.

 

Eccentric loading can increase muscle mass

Controlled eccentric loading increases muscle damage which in turn can result in greater increases in hypertrophy. Additionally, by increasing the eccentric portion of a lift you also increase total time under tension (TUT), which is a key factor in muscle growth. 

By making sure you control the eccentric portion of every single rep you will maximise the opportunity for muscle growth. Using 3 second eccentric lowers on your assistance exercises is a great way to promote greater muscle growth.

Get Stronger

Most people are weakest where the exercise turns from eccentric loading to concentric loading (bottom of the squat). By slowing the rep down you get to spend more time in these weak points, and as a result, will increase strength at these weak points.

More Flexible

Eccentric training has shown to actually improve flexibility, in some cases even more than stretching! Particularly when using heavy load and really focusing on the negative portion of the lift. Think 3-5 seconds heavy eccentrics.

Improved technique

By Slowing down a rep you are forced to control the load throughout the duration of the movement, while maintaining the best (safest) positions (straight back, chest up etc.). By getting stronger in these ideal positions you improve your technical proficiency, making you better at specific lifts.

 

Now by no means do I condone using really slow eccentric loading all the time, but it definitely has its place. It’s important to remember that the concentric portion of the lift should still be as explosive as possible to maximise your strength gains.

If your not sure how to incorporate eccentric training into your programming, or just are not sure where to start, contact me below.

 

Name *
Name

What is functional training? Answer: The most overused term in the fitness industry

We've all heard it before.

“I’m into more ‘functional’ training”

Often said by that guy wearing those weird Vibram finger shoes while doing band assisted single leg squats on a stack of 4 foam pads.

hunter bennett performance. Functional training, stability ball, balance, strength, resistance training, athlete

 

But what does the term 'functional' actually mean? Heck, does it even really exist?

In my opinion, there isn’t really a specific type of training that is ‘functional’, but rather an exercise becomes functional if it improves the ability of a particular function. Now obviously this could mean anything, but it’s true.

It’s all in the context.

Now some people will suggest that squatting on a bosu ball is functional. My most common response is ‘why?’

Funnily enough, the answer I often get goes something like this – “uhhhhh ummmm…. Glutes…….. ummm balance….. stability”. In other words – “I don’t know”.

Now if the goal is rehabilitation of an ankle injury, then squatting on a bosu ball may be considered perfectly functional, as it has a direct impact on the outcome goal, which is returning stability to the ankle joint.

In similar light, the bench press normally gets torn to shreds by ‘function fitness gurus’ for being useless, as it is not ‘functional’.

But what if my goal is to get a stronger bench press?

Suddenly it becomes pretty functional, right?

Similar to the leg press. I would argue that majority of people in the fitness industry would say it’s not functional. But what if you’re a rower? A sport that requires you to be in the seated position, pressing through both legs simultaneously, requiring minimal lower body stability component? Suddenly it’s functional.

If a body builder wants an additional assistance exercise to promote hypertrophy of the quads? Leg press probably has a function. But as a sprinter, or a field athlete, it becomes less functional as it becomes less specific to their performance goals.

So what I’m actually getting at is that we should always consider our exercise selection carefully. Any exercise could be considered ‘functional’ if it provides an appropriate way to achieve a particular goal.

We shouldn’t do exercises just because they look cool or exciting, but because they will directly impact the goal that we want to achieve.

If you want to improve your performance but are not sure where to start, click here to apply for personal training or online coaching.