6 Things I Learned in 2014


We’re coming to the close of yet another year.

It’s unbelievable how quickly the year has flown in. It seems like yesterday that my kids came down stairs to open their Santa stuff, yet here we are again making final arrangements with Santa before his visit in 2 weeks.

So I want to look back at some of the things I’ve learned over the last 12 months.

1: A Muscle Must Lengthen Before it Contracts

Learning about the Anatomy in motion system from Gary Ward and his right hand man, Chris Sritharan has been an eye opening experience.
The way in which these lads look at the body and broken down movement is astonishing.
In Gary’s 5 Laws, the one that states that muscles lengthen before they contract has been a game changer for many of my crew.
It means that if I have a muscle that is either not firing or is hypertonic, instead of getting on the foam roller and “smashing” it (to quote K-Star) or trying to stretch it into submission, I can simply find the position that add a little length to the muscle and then move into and out of that place.
In no time at all the muscle spindles and golgi tendon organs start telling the muscle to contract and lo and behold the nervous system kicks in to get that muscle firing properly.
Not only that but we can take any movement now and look at it through AiM eyes and see where the stretch is occurring, where contraction is happening and then begin to use that to build our training program.

 

2: Human Movement is both the Foundation AND the Top Tier of All Movement

Whoa, getting deep there!
But what is human movement?
Well, the term “movement” is being used a lot these days, and most of it is pretty cool.
As a martial arts guys, fell runner/mountain biker/snowboarder in my past and now S&C coach, you could say movement is what I do.
But all my movement & strength training left me with poor human movement which lead to injury.
So what is the most fundamental human movement?
The Gait Cycle, ie Walking.
Everything we need to know about the function of a body can be seen through its gait. If it walks well, it will run well and has the potential to do all things well. If not, it doesn’t

3: Hang for a Vast Array of Reasons

Ido Portal issued a hanging challenge. The idea was to accumulate 7minutes of hanging each day for a month.
I did it, as did many of my clients, and wow, good stuff happened.
Everyone noticed increased shoulder mobility, better grip, improved breathing patterns (hanging restricts the ribs so the diaphragm has to do its bit) and more.
I even felt my hip flexors stretch out.
Hang people, just hang.

washing line

4: Breathe

Following on from this is simply the power of optimal breathing.
Several clients have reported in with shoulder issues, back pain, tight hips and the like and non of the standard work was helping them out.
When I got them to breathe deep into their diaphragm, to expand the abdomen out in all three dimensions as the inhaled and to fully exhale, and I mean fully.
When we did this, their issues started to fix themselves, shoulders dropped into place, hips loosened out and the abdominals kicked in properly.

Here’s one of the breathing drills we do:

Breathe people, in deep, out even deeper.

 

5: Bottoms Up Kettlebell Work is Magic

Grab a kettlebell, hold it by the handle with the ball above the hand, ie upside down.
Now, do things.

Press it, walk with it, squat it, do Turkish Get ups with it. Whatever.
But feel what a light bell held in this manner does to the whole body.
1/2 Get Ups with a bell in the bottoms up grip have become standard fare in WG

Bottoms Up Waiters Carry feature in many of my guys programs.
Don’t take my word, listen to Eric Cressey:

6: Direct Scapular Work is Essential

Maybe no essential, but highly recommended.
I’m talking about hanging scap ups, push up plus, overhead shrugs, inverted rows with an arm screw and of course Turkish Get ups and Windmills.

I’ve fallen out with traditional rotator cuff work in favour of these straight and bent arm movements and supports. They just work better.
Just about every physio type rotator cuff drill is covered in the TGU and Windmill (which is why the kettlebell Snatch/Get Up/Windmill complex is so effective), but we also need real strength to control the movement of the scapular and therefore shoulder, which is where real loaded straight arm work comes into play.
You’re only as strong as your weakest link and with physio clinics being chock full of people with shoulder issues, get the scaps strong and keep them strong.

There’s more I know, maybe I’ll write a follow up post, but these 6 points are the ones that stand out to me the most.

Regards
Dave Hedges
http://www.WG-Fit.com

 

 

Beginner Friendly Kettlebell Exercises


Kettlebells.

The original kettlebell

The original kettlebell

You’ll probably be reading a good bit about the kettlebell on this blog over the next while as I’ve decided to dust of me ole wristbands and once again train for Kettlebell Sport.
This is something I had to give up a few years ago through injury, but the Anatomy in Motion course I took last year seemed to sort me out, and I am able to keep myself in alignment by applying the AiM system on myself.

It really is a case of, “Physician, Heal Thyself!”

But one thing about this blog has become apparent, is that I have been neglecting the beginner.

As I tend to blog about something that happened in the gym that day or something that came up in conversation and occasionally something that is just in my head at the time I open the laptop. But then I get this email:

“Hi David, I wanted to say thank you for all your videos and get information. I am from the States and I wish there was a facility (and instructor) like yours near me, I would certainly be going there! I started a KB “beta test” workout through Breaking Muscle and they had no instructional videos so when I googled KB Snatch your website came up. Your video and breakdown instructions were most helpful. That also lead me to other instructional videos such as the swing, clean and press, etc. I will continue looking through your website and blog because I love it! Thanks again.
Claire M*******
Tampa, FL”

And it got me thinking two thoughts:

Thought 1: I really ought to write more for the beginning kettlebell lifter
Thought 2: I should be in sunny and warm Florida instead of wet and windy Ireland.

florida

Back to thought 1.

There’s a studio or gym offering kettlebell classes on every street corner.
More and more gyms are adding kettles to their weight rooms.
People are buying bells for home use.

90% of fitness instructors teaching kettlebells have been on a course run by some muppet who hasn’t a fucking clue! <— Tweet that cos it’s true!

I can say that with absolute confidence and authority. I have had to undo the shit that these “certifications” have done on several occasions. One lady who taught her own classes came to me on a recommendation, the following week she came back and reported that not only had her back stopped hurting, but so had her clients.
One of my girls studied a fitness instructor course herself and went on the kettlebell module. When she came back to me we talked about the module and explained why almost everything the “instructor” told her was actually bollocks!

But I’m going off on a tangent and getting onto a soapbox, so…….breeeeeeeathe….

Of the plethora of possible exercises you can perform with a kettlebell which ones should you do as a beginner and which should you leave out?

The key drills are fairly obvious:

The Swing
The Goblet Squat

Next on the list would be a Military Press, but this is something I’d asses first. Many newbies are better served with push ups than they would be with a press.

I’d maybe add to that the “Around the World” drill as it makes a great warm up, passing the bell from hand to hand around the body is a great core activation drill while also developing confidence in the lifters ability to move a bell around.

This is the first clip that came up on Youtube for the Around the world drill. It’s a minute and a half long, but really you only need 10 seconds to get the idea (and no, I’ve no idea why he’s wearing gloves either…)

And the Deadlift and Romanian Deadlift make for great introductory steps leading up to the Swing.

Beginners don’t need anything more.
Yes you can use standard gym moves like lunges and bent over rows, but the three lifts above can be combined to form a solid workout on their own.

Enter the infamous 5-10-15 workout that features on my Level 1 Kettlebell Workshop

Or we can mix kettlebell lifts with bodyweight drills such as push ups, pull  ups and various lunge drills.

Don’t make it any more complex than this.
Beginners don’t need variety, they need to master the basics. A smart trainer can use a small handful of exercises to create numerous workouts while still ensuring that the basics get dialled in and mastered.

Only once genuine competence is achieved should more complex drills like the Clean, Snatch, Get Up and Windmill need introduced.

For more details on the Level 1 workshop and the beginner friendly kettlebell lifts, click HERE

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.WG-Fit.com

Toe Gripping and Karate – Why You Shouldn’t Grip with the Toes


Not+if+he+has+a+foot+fetish+_ea7ad0572d21251b38b2470a3af65907Over the weekend just gone I was on the Anatomy in Motion level 1 course.
I took this about a year ago and felt a review was needed.

I wasn’t wrong, there were several points I missed the first time round.

If you’re not familiar with AiM, it’s founder Gary Ward has become known as the “Foot Guy” which is pretty cool.
He’s looked at the feet in more detail than just about anyone else, he’s also broken down the gait cycle and analysed what every joint should be doing in each stage of gait.

And I mean every joint, including all 33 joints of each foot.

As I grew up in the world of martial arts I always had the feeling that the hips and feet are vitally important to performance, but since attending the AiM courses, that feeling has become certain knowledge.

But like many in the world of Karate I was taught to grip the floor with my toes.

This is something that is drilled into many martial arts guys as a matter of rote.
It’s also something many many folk will do subconsciously to create stability in a body that is out of alignment.

Here’s me about 6 years ago in my back garden, you can’t see to well, but my feet are gripping like bastards during the tension segment of Seisan:

So is this gripping a good or a bad thing?

Have a we look at this video clip, don’t worry about the narration, just watch.
Look at the all the gorgeous movement, see the angle that yellow line traces as the foot pronates and supinates, watch the arches…..

 

 

Beautiful isn’t it.

Now if we grip the toes, what might change?

First of all, what happens when we grip?

Try it, put your relaxed and naked foot flat on the floor, put some weight into it and have a look. Feel the ground underneath your foot.
Now watch AND feel what happens when you grip the floor with the toes…

Well?

What happened?

Did your arch lift? Yup
Did your big toe knuckle lose contact with the ground? Most likely
Did your weight shift towards the outside edge of the foot? Probably

Think about that yellow line again.
If the toes grip and the arch lifts then the foot moves into supination, the foot becomes rigid and inflexible, the talus rotates externally, which rotates the lower leg externally, which moves the knee out and externally rotating the hip.
All the muscles on the outside of the leg load up while the inner side is relaxed. The IT Band gets tight, the VMO disappears, the glutes go to sleep and knee starts to get cranky.

I've no idea who this guy is, nor am I questioning his ability or intentions, but look at that right foot, it's maximally supinated and potentially injurious.

I’ve no idea who this guy is, nor am I questioning his ability or intentions, but look at that right foot, it’s maximally supinated and already showing signs of deformity as a result.

Just think about how many older karate guys have screwed hips and knees. How prevalent are hip and knee problems in the rest of the population?

The most common off the ball injury in pretty much every ball sport ever is the knee joint.

Now look back at that list above. VMO & Glutes on holiday, IT Band and lateral muscles of the leg over working, weight shifted to the outside of the foot held in supination. What direction is the force travelling through the knee?

It’s pulling it to the outside, and that my friend is not good.

Now imagine if the foot had the ability to pronate properly. Wouldn’t that allow the leg to internally rotate somewhat, for the low leg to lean in bringing the knee with it towards the midline and actually getting the VMO and the glutes to load up as a team.

This position, while sneered at by sports science, is actually necessary to load the VMO & Glutes. Valgus movement is very different to Valgus collapse

This position, while sneered at by sports science, is actually necessary to load the VMO & Glutes.
Valgus movement is very different to Valgus collapse

Doesn’t that sound more fun?

I wrote a bit about this in the “Knackered Knees” series, you can get them HERE <- that’s a link, click it.

So the long and the short of the post is this.

Gripping with the toes prevents the movement of 33 joints per foot.
If you’re stood on your two feet and gripping, thats 66 joints that can’t mobilise to create movement. That movement must be created elsewhere up the chain. And sooner or later, something will give out.

In my case it was my SI joint and a lumbar disk.
In my mates case it was his hip as he developed arthritis.

To pronate or not to pronate.

It’s all up to you.

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.WG-Fit.com

Oh, and by the way, I haven’t got round to putting the prices back to normal on my eBooks, so take advantage and get yourself one for a fiver before I do. I’ll be fixing it either tonight or tomorrow depending on time. HERE’s a link for you..

Aaaaannnd, don’t forget the Self Defence workshop this weekend: DETAILS

Fixing, Fighting and Feeding


Got some busy weekends coming up!

Can--t-You-See-I--m-Busy

 

Fixing…..

This weekend I’ll be back out with the Anatomy In Motion guys, Messrs Ward & Sritharan for the Finding Centre Level 1 course.
I already took the course about a year ago but I feel a refresher is well and truly in order.

Knowledge and understanding of the Human Animal of the type possessed by these guys is a rare find indeed and I feel myself getting smarter just by being in the same room as them.

And then they start talking, and all of a sudden I’m back to being some caveman who shouts at people of a living!

But when I’m not shouting at folk to move faster, lift more, maintain solid form, then the AiM work we’ve introduced to WG-Fit over the last 12 months has been a game changer for so many of my crew and also the dozens of people who’ve come in specifically for an AiM session.
The words most commonly used to describe the process is “witchcraft” and I’m tempted to agree with them.

Mr Anatomy in Motion himself

Mr Anatomy in Motion himself

But all the AiM does is take the body back to its natural state, nothing more, nothing less. It’s deceptively simple and infuriatingly complex at the same time. But if we can centre the skeleton we can return the muscles to their resting length and we can hopefully optimise their function.
At least that’s the plan.

But to see people come in with years worth of old injury and degrees of pain, yet to have them leave feeling and moving freer than they have in years is astounding.

So needless to say I am looking forward to this weekend, 3 x 8 hour days of information overload, but what good information!

Fighting…..

The following weekend I’m back to caveman mode as I teach my Self Defence workshop.

I usually schedule one for this time of the year as each December scores of people hit the pubs and bars for Xmas celebrations and partying, many of whom are what the bar and security trade refer to as “Holly & Ivy drinkers” ie not used to the hustle and bustle of the city at night.
And as it’s party time, everyone is out in force and that includes the nasties. The pick pockets, the addicts, the scumbags.
All hunting for easy pickings.

It’s a busy time for professionals, the Police, the Ambulance and Hospitals and the Door Security teams.
It really shouldn’t be this way.

So I run this course to help you avoid becoming part of this years statistics.

This year though I’m doing it differently.
I’ve been asked several times over these last few moths about non violent conflict management, which is a fancy term for talking your way out of trouble.
A few of my clients work in the social care sector and have found themselves in situations where they were less than comfortable, so I’ve added this to the course.
On Day 1 well start with the non violent means before introducing the more violent means.
Day 2 will be dedicated to the physical.

Why the mix?

Well, to be fair, there’s no guarantee either way. Someday’s you’ll talk your way out of a problem, but there are times where this simply is not possible and you must have the tools and the mindset in place to drop the chat and fight your way out.
It’s not a nice reality, but it is reality.

killeveryonein the room

The well known phrase “be polite, but have a plan to kill everyone in the room” sums up the core of this course.

Here’s more details:

Day 1: Sat 6th Dec, 1000-1600

- The Self Defence Continuum
– Non Violent Conflict Management
– Situational Awareness
– The “Fence” Concept
– Body Mechanics for Power Generation
– Three Basic Hand Strikes

Day 2: Sun 7th Dec, 1000-1600

- Day 1 Review
– Two Basic Defences
– Introduction to “Anti-Grappling”
– Determination & Aggression Drills
– Q&A

The workshop is open to all.
Previous workshop attendees will receive a deeper level of coaching.

Places will be limited so booking is a must.

Date : Sat 6th & Sun 7th December, 1000-1700 both days
Location: Wild Geese Martial Arts
Cost: Day 1 only: €65
Both Days: €100
CLICK HERE to book

Feeding…..

Aaaaaand the weekend after that?

I’m having a pre Xmas dinner with the inlaws.
Can you say “over indulgence”????

Chat later

Dave Hedges
http://www.WG-Fit.com

 

1 Rep Max Tests, Are They Necessary?


Over the last few years there’s been a marked rise in the number of independent gyms, largely growing on the back of the phenomenon that is Crossfit

It’s pretty cool as more people are squatting, deadlifting, pressing, swinging kettles and performing calisthenics.
It’s a long awaited return to physical culture as it was before the bodybuilders and aerobicicsts took over.

water aerobics

But on the back of this there’s an issue.

As with all things, when pendulum has been over to one side for too long, when it swings back, it goes too far the other way.
It takes a long time, if indeed it ever settles back to centre.

quantum-pendulum-ions-swing-lg

While the pendulum was over at hypertrophy and low intensity cardio, it’s whipped across to strength and high intensity interval training.

But for the majority, this is just as unhelpful.

After all, does a 40yr old mother who’s trying to shift some body fat really need to do a 1rm Deadlift and 4 dozen burpees?

Is the risk:reward ratio of a max effort lift congruent with her needs?
Is her connective tissue adequately prepared for lifting at this intensity?

One of my own lads was training at another gym on a day he couldn’t get into me. He’d explained that he was training for his first ever kettlebell sport competition yet the coach at that gym still insisted that he work up to a max effort barbell military press.
In his max attempt he suffered an injury to his elbow that nearly put him out of the competition.

320578_Chris_Andrews_military_press

His body was unprepared for the lift, he’d no experience of lifting to that intensity.
He usually works with kettles which are easier on the joints and is unfamiliar familiar with the barbell lifts.
Yet he was pushed into max effort attempt on a lift that has a notoriously high injury risk.

Extremes are inherently unhealthy, and any max effort lift is extreme.

They time to prepare for and time to recover from.
The technique must be dialled in.
The body must be balanced, no major imbalances, adequate mobility and sufficiently well developed connective tissues.

These attributes may be a given in an athlete with a lifetime of training under their belt, but for Average Joe, forget about it.

If we must test, if the clients needs genuinely require we test, a better option would be a 3 or even a 5rm.
This is safer as the lifter should have no problem with the first rep or two and can stop the test if form deteriorates. All is not resting on that single grinding effort.

A decent coach can estimate a person’s 1rm from a 3rm even a 5rm if they are using a percentage based training program.

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.WG- Fit.com

5 tips for Getting Back Training from Illness


This time of year is rough, especially if you have kids!

Mine are just over some bug that they passed onto my wife and then myself.
Many of my clients have young kids and they too have been struggling with illnesses.
Even the young free and single among my client list have been dropping like flies.

And fair enough, getting sick is inevitable, and you could look at it as natures way of telling us to back off and take a breather.
You certainly don’t want to be taking a communicable illness into the gym with you and infecting all your training partners!

But we do need to get ourselves up and back in the fight as quickly as possible.
So how should we manage this?

1: Don’t Stress!
You won’t lose all those Gainzz in just a few days.
Any weight you do lose is mostly going to be fluids, it’s not lean tissue, so don’t fret.

2: Sleep
Yup, get as much shut eye as possible. A solid 8 hours of sack time plus as many naps as you can manage. Even if you don’t sleep, just getting comfy, closing the eyes and getting some undisturbed deep breathing will do wonders for you.

3: Fluids
We said in point 1 that the weight you lost is mostly water weight. So top it up as much as you can. Sip away at water, herbal teas and treat yourself to a lucozade sport or if you’re old fashioned, flat 7Up (granny will tell you to boil it, try it, it works)

4: Come Back Slowly
Do NOT just rush back to training when you think you feel better, ease back into it.
Jumping in balls deep very often results in a relapse.
When you’re sick your immune system is low, as you recover it is still depressed, exhausted by fighting off the illness. When you train your immune system takes a temporary dip, although long term training often improves immunity.
This dip in an already low system can lead to a relapse and more lost training time.

5: Fruit and Veg
Get em into you.
Can’t stress this enough, eat your greens, get your citrus fruits, drink veggie juices, just get em in.
Those vitamins, minerals and fibre will do you nothing but good and will get you back in the fight quick sharp.

Obviously these are very general points, you have to listen to your own body and of course seek professional medical advice.
But I guess the main point here is not to stress.
Training is a life long commitment, a few days off here and there isn’t going to matter. A few days back on the training floor and you’ll be right back where you left off.

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.Wg-Fit.com

Why the Perfect Sitting Posture and the Perfect Foot Strike Are Bollocks.


Of late there’s been several debates / lectures / arguments on the wonderful world of the interweb regarding “The Perfect………”

The two most current are:

“…….Sitting Posture”
“…….Foot Strike while Running”

And it’s these two I want to talk briefly about.

1: The “Perfect” Sitting Posture

This is a preposterous idea from start to finish.
More money has been thrown down the toilet researching this subject than is reasonably imaginable.
A few years ago I was doing a bit of work in the Price Waterhouse Cooper building just across the river from Wild Geese. I was given a bit of a tour as we wandered to the top floor fitness centre and listened as I was told at how much was spent on the ergonomics of the place.
The employees were sitting in thousand dollar seats.

Yes, that’s what I was told.
The chairs were so ergonomic, supportive, signing, dancing and whatever else, that cost about a grand a piece.

I was mightily impressed, right up to the point I had a group of 12 employees all in the fitness studio, got them all down into a plank and saw that every one of them had the exact same hip tilt, the same angle in the same direction.
Every last one of them.
I ran the class with three different groups, all the same hip issue.
And they sat in the best chairs the corporate world could buy.

_42328901_seating_pos3_416

Now it’s all the rage to rebel against sitting at work all together and instead we have standing desks.
This must be better.

Or not…..

Can we say, “knee jerk”??

Standing isn’t much better than sitting, I spent enough time doing it as I worked full time as a nightclub doorman for the best part of ten years. There’s nothing magical about standing for hours at a time. It’s as bad as sitting.

So what is the answer?

Here it is.

Are you ready?

The best posture is…..

I have to give credit here, I stole this sentence from Eric Cressey…

The best posture is…….

The best posture is one that is always moving.

Boom!

No one sitting posture is any better than any other.
No one standing posture is any better than any other (unless you learn Wu-Chi from the Chinese Martial Arts that is, but still, 40hrs per week stood here?)

Silk Pj's while standing in Wu-Chi in the snow. This dude has it nailed! You on the other hand, don't.

Silk Pj’s while standing in Wu-Chi in the snow.
This dude has it nailed!
You on the other hand, don’t.

So sit tall, slouch, lean to the left, lean to the right, stand, stand shifted over the left leg, stand shifted over the right leg, kneel, squat.
Set a timer to buzz to remind you to get up and move about a bit.
Use the stairs instead of the lift, get up and talk to someone rather than using the internal email or phone, find an excuse, any excuse to move.
Now, yes, now we’re looking at perfect posture, because now we’re in motion.

The Perfect Foot Strike

Ever since “Born to Run” came out (great book by the way) there’s been a flood of info on barefoot running and on the back of that, this mythical, perfect midfoot strike.

Chi Running advocates the same thing, albeit in more detail that Born to Run and without the whole barefoot theme.

But is it right?

In short, of course it bloody isn’t!

US10k_trials_footstrike

When we walk we land heel first, roll over the foot, onto the ball of the foot and off the big toe.
When we sprint, we pretty much only use the ball of the foot and the big toe.

Anyone who runs will tell you with confidence that running at 400m pace is different to 10k pace which is different to marathon pace.
And guess what, each will have its own foot strike.

Think of foot fall as a continuum, where walking is at one end and sprinting the other. Slowest to fastest.
Now forget about it.
Instead try to run in absolute silence.

Your feet make no noise as they land, none at all.

What does your body have to do?
Lean forwards slightly? Probably, but don’t pike at the hips though.
Do you glide rather than bob up and down? Most likely
Do you lose control of your speed? I’d say so, but only at first as you learn to relax and control this.
Does your foot figure out how to land all by itself? You betcha!

Now your approaching perfection.

But here’s the real key.

Run Off Road.

Get on uneven, undulating terrain.
I’m talking, tree roots, rocks, shale, mud, streams, fallen trees, hills, ditches, the works. Or as close as you can get to it.

The more uneven the terrain the better, because now we will achieve the perfect foot strike.

If each time our foot comes down the ground is different, then each foot fall will send a different stimulus through the body.
No pounding in a poor movement pattern now, no, we have to learn to flow.
We still want to be light on our feet, running silently without impact, but now we’re flowing over terrain.

Perfection is not one thing.

Perfection is in the ability to adapt, that is what the human animal specialises in. We are one of the most adaptable creatures ever to live on the planet, our niche is in not having a niche, so don’t try to fit yourself into one.

Move.

Move more.

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.WG-Fit.com