Who’s Got Big Rocks?


We’ve all heard the anecdote about big rocks.

No! Not that one! Get your mind out of the gutter!

I’m talking about the one where the Professor stands in front of his class with an empty jar.
He pours rocks into the jar and asks the students of the jar is full.
Of course they say yes.
So he pours in smaller rocks which settle into the gaps, and asks the question again.
The students once again say yes, albeit less certain.
So he pours in sand, which filters into the gaps that still remain and once more asks the same question.
The students are more confident and answer, “Yes”
So he pours in water.
Now It’s full.

Get it?

Why am I telling you this parable about physics?

It is a story dripping in life lessons, which naturally I’m going to spin into a lecture about physical fitness and training.

It goes like this.

The Proff fit so much into the jar because he started with the big rocks.
If he’d have put in the sand first, he’d not have gotten the big rocks in.

So in our training we must do the same.

What are the big rocks of fitness?

chuck-norris-rock-demotivational-poster

Upper Body Push (Dips, Push Ups, Bench Press, Military Press etc)
Upper Body Pull (Pull Ups, Rows etc)
Hip Dominant Lower Body (Deadlifts, Oly Variants, Kettlebell Swing, Broad Jumps)
Knee Dominant Lower Body (Squats, Vertical Jumps, Squats and erm, squats)

Thats it, four big rocks.

Work these with intensity in whatever rep range suits your goals with the fullest range of motion you can safely use.

Thats the big rocks taken care of, and if you only do that, you’ll probably be alright.

Now the smaller rocks.
This is your assistance work. This is where single leg work and the big core training drills fit in.
So Lunges, Turkish Get ups, heavy abdominal training, Half Kneeling presses & pulls, partials, lockouts, locomotion and grip work all fit here.

Now the sand.
Single joint lifts, rotator cuff work and the like all fit here.

And the water.
I don’t know if there’s anything left to do here but it probably involves a Bosu.

The only time this list can be reordered is if there are specific issues that need to be prioritised. If you’re coming back from an injury your big rocks may include some isolation work specific to that injury.
Or if you play a sport that causes certain postural issues, then the prevention of these becomes a big rock in itself. Actually, these preventative drills really should be part of the daily warm up.

Now, what other life lessons can the big rocks story relate to?

Nutrition?
Big Rocks = Veggies, dead animal flesh and water
Small Rocks = Spuds, Rice, Fruits
Sand = Coffee, Herbs, Spices.
Water = Supplements, Alcohol, my wifes Cheescake

Time Management?
Big Rocks = Family
Small Rocks = Sleep
Sand = Work, friends
Water = anyone else

Get the big rocks sorted out and let the other stuff fill in the gaps.
Or to quote a much smarter dude than I, “Don’t sweat the small stuff”

Regards

Dave Hedges
http://www.wg-fit.com

 

7 Random thoughts on Stretching


In lieu of any joined up thinking which may lead to a decent blog post, here are a few random thoughts on the subject of flexibility.

For one reason or another, it’s a topic that’s been floating around WG for the last while so I feel it’s worth noting a few points.

1 – Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Many people who love to stretch do so because they’re good at it. And a lot of folk who need to stretch really suck at it.
And guess what, we all love to do the shit we are great at and hate the shit we suck at.
Unfortunately, if we are to progress in our training, we need to suck it up and prioritise the training of our weak points, and if that means stretching, then stretch.
If you can already touch your elbow to your toes but can’t deadlift your bodyweight, guess what…….

2 – Some things just can’t be stretched.
There are times when a muscle just will not be stretched no matter how hard you try.
And usually with good reason.
Two common examples, the hip flexors and the hamstrings.
The hammies are probably the number one go to when someone stretches. Tell anyone to stretch and they likely try to touch their toes. So why can’t everyone touch their toes? Because ole hammie wont stretch.
Why won’t hammie stretch? Because he’s already being stretched by that pelvis thats in anterior tilt all day long. If it stretches any further it’ll be in danger, so sorry bud, I’ll tighten up to protect myself thankyou very much.
Sort the pelvic tilt and the good ole hammie will do whatever you want it to.

Hip flexors are a pain at the best of times. They get so wound up and tight they can cause a whole lot of trouble. Problem is, they’re deep and have several sections meaning that stretch your doing is most likely hitting only one region, and I doubt that’s the region that needs stretched.
Plus when a muscle gets this tight, especially if it forms a “trigger point” or a “knot” the muscle will stretch all around it but the adhesion itself remains steadfast. And that aint good.

3 – Leave your ligaments and tendons alone!
First off, they don’t like being stretched in the first place. They don’t rebound like the muscle does. Stretch these and your likely to simply destabilise the joint. It might feel like you’ve gotten more flexible, right up until the point it falls apart on you!

4 – The IT band WILL NOT STRETCH!
That bad boy is attached to the bone, and bones are pretty solid.
You can stretch the muscles that form and attach to the IT band, namely the TFL, Glutes and Quads.

5 – Maybe you’re flexible enough already?
Ever consider how much you need to be able to move? Will extra flexibility really help you?

6 – If you don’t build strength through your full range of motion, adding more ROM is irresponsible.
Strength + Flexibility = Mobility and mobility is the ability to move fluidly, with full control throughout the full range of motion.
Notice the words “with control” in that sentence? Over the years I’ve met many a yoga practitioner or semi-contact martial artist who could demonstrate incredible passive stretches, yet had no strength to back it up. They struggled to do something as simple as a basic squat.
If you don’t build strength in your range of motion you are simply putting yourself at risk, it’s one fo the reasons back and knee pain is prevalent in the karate world I grew up in.
I myself had bad knees for a time, once I got strong and developed mobility, pain went away.
Move into and out of your stretch, do it slowly and fluidly, even build up to adding light weight to the movement.
As an aside, between Kettlebell Swings and Romanian Deadlifts, you’ll probably develop a better hamstring stretch than any amount of toe touches.

7 – Stretching is NOT a warm up
This just will not go away. Stretching is for after training, better yet, several hours after training.
It is no way to warm up.
OK, once you have warmed up and done some mobility work you may find yourself in need of some specific flexibility to work to get into the positions you’ll be training that session, this is fine, the stretch you do there and then is perfectly functional.
Otherwise, save it for the cool down or for in front of the telly that evening.

Regards

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

Battling the Micro Manager and Being a Better Coach


Having kids can be great.

A few months ago my Missus went off for a few night away with her friends which meant I was left in charge. It was the weekend that the Lego Movie came into Irish cinemas.

So naturally I booked three seats and took my two boys with me as a cover for me dying to see it!

And I wasn’t disappointed.

I think I’ve seen it about 32 times now.

It’s taken till now for me to have a topic for a blog post where I can blatantly reference the awesome Lego movie.

And here it is……

Bring out the Micro Managers!

micro manager

 

Recently I’ve been working with an up and coming coach.

When I watch her working I see she has a great eye for detail and genuinely cares for the people she’s working with. She also knows her stuff.

All good so far.

But then it happens, out come the Micro Managers.

It’s a very common issue with many new coaches/instructors. I’ve worked with many new to teaching/coaching and more than not do exactly the same. Hell, I did it.
As I grew up training Karate, there was a time where I was given teaching responsibilities, and at the tender age of 16, I thought I was the dogs bollocks.

And I micro managed.

I wanted the people I worked with to be perfect. I wanted them to move right, have their stance perfect, back leg straight, front knee bent, hand pulled back to the hip and a sharp, crisp punch.

So I worked on the minutia, I tried to get the polish on the technique before there was any technique to polish. Essentially I did those guys a disservice.

My own instructor took me aside and gave me a vital lesson on become an instructor.

He told me that I wasn’t training black belts, I was training white belts, so I needed to work at the white belt level. As a shit hot brown belt, I’d almost forgotten what it was like being new, uncoordinated, unfit and intimidated by the higher grades as well as the volume of information to absorb.

My instructor told me that as long as the students were good enough, then it was good enough.
There was always next week, and the week after, and the month after.

Or to put it another way, they are like a lump of rock in the hands of a sculptor.
You don’t start smoothing out detail straight away, you first have to hammer and chip away until you have a rough shape.
Then refine that shape.
Then add a little detail.
Then work into that detail.

It might take a day or might take a year.
It’s not important as long as the process is happening and moving in the right direction.

This is coaching.

It’ about getting people training, causing a training effect, getting them working and building their confidence.

So what if the lifting technique is a little off, as long as their not in any danger, why change it, why slow down their workout and rock their confidence by nit picking.

Why not instead let them at it, encourage, maybe drip feed pointers here and there. But only add in a new piece of info once the first has been absorbed.

Only change one thing at a time.
refine the shape, add a detail, refine the detail…..

People learn at different speeds, and very often it takes time for a piece of info to soak into the body. You may very well find that when the client comes back the following session, they move like you wanted them to do without need for more coaching.

If you really want Everything to be Awesome ( <– see what I did there?) you must learn to not micro manage. Learn to drip feed info, to not present new info until the student is ready, and then present it in the simplest manner possible.

This is coaching.

It’s taken me the last 21 years to get the hang of it, but I reckon in another 20 or so years I ought to have it nailed.

Over the last few months I’ve gotten a stack of emails asking about kettlebell workshops, I have plans to take the kettlebell workshops and instructor program off the shelf and dust them off over the next few months. They will be relaunched early next year with the intention of providing accessible, high quality information and providing the tools for those wishing to genuinely coach the lifts and integrate them into their clients training.

Until then, stay awesome.

awesome

Regards

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

 

When Not to Add Weight or Volume to a Lift


I’ve been meaning to write this blog for a wee while now, but as I’ve had a few of the busiest weeks in Wild Geese history, which by the way have included my wife rescuing two kittens left in a bag and also my eldest boy turning 6.

Purrnard & Kurtains look to making themselves quite at home....

Purrnard & Kurtains look to making themselves quite at home….

But then this afternoon when my BJJ guys come in for their S&C session, one of them asked a question.

I like questions.

It shows me that the guys I’m training actually give a shit and genuinely want to not only come in and mindlessly do the work, but want to understand the processes behind the program they’re following.

This is the reason I love what I do.
If I just stood in front of a class and gave orders, I’d be bored out of my brain, but when the guys question and challenge me, I have to prove to them I know what I’m about. And this particular dude isn’t a native English speaker, he’s Polish. So when he’s halfway through a session with music blaring and asks a question. I have to not only know what I’m talking about but be able to phrase it simply enough that he understands but not so simple as to be patronising.

If you’re moving into coaching for a living, read that paragraph again. And again.
Anytime your client is in front of you, struggling, straining, panting and giving it socks. You better know how to make your instructions as simple as possible, cos I guarantee you now, they couldn’t care less about fancy latin terminology, Bsc, Msc or Phd. All they care about is how you are making them better.

But back to the question.

“On this exercise, will I now do more?”

My answer,

“No”

1404137395_Grumpy-cat-no1

Simple eh?

No, I didn’t leave him hanging, I explained why.

The exercise in question was the last superset of a three superset workout.
He’s done the big strength lifts, a Squat and a Press.
He’s followed that with specific core and scapular work.
He’s now moving to movement integration work, or loaded mobility.

As the mobility work is very much about quality, there’s no point in adding any load or volume to the drill until the drill is being done with adequate levels of proficiency.

When it comes to these type of drills, progress is in quality not quantity. Are the hips moving better? can we keep the heels down longer? are the transitions smoother? are the end positions held solidly?

When my lads look like this, they can progress.....

When my lads look like this, they can progress…..

Until all the boxes are ticked, why would we move any faster or do any further reps?

Now today’s question was asked in the context of this particular workout. Lukasz was feeling good and want to push.
But in the grander scheme of things, quality should ALWAYS be a precursor to quantity.

Why would you add weight to the bar when you squat if your hips pop up on the ascent?
Why would you do an extra set on the deadlift if you’re rounding your back on all previous sets?
Why would you do another rep on the push up when your back is sagging?
Why do an extra pull up when you didn’t touch the bar on the previous reps?

Why not keep the sets, reps and rest periods the same and instead focus on doing it better, and THEN add weight/volume?

Regards

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

 

A Perspective on Fitness


ido quoteI saw a quote on facebook a while ago from Ido Portal.
As much as I scrolled back through I couldn’t find it again on his timeline or on the dude who’d shared it, there’s a chance it was an old quote that just got bumped by new traffic.

But I can remember the essence. Which is important as it’s what this blog post is kind of all about.

Ido pointed out a continuum of “fitness” which he summed up in three words:

Human – Movement – Fitness

He then told how he and his methods are all about the second part, Movement.

And that’s cool.

But it got me thinking.

Last January I was sat on the Anatomy in Motion course. During the course I had a few minutes to chat with Chris Sritharan, the AiM right hand man. Chris and I were discussing how AiM integrates in the gym environment. During the conversation Chris stumped my when he said that “Exercise doesn’t improve human movement”

Stumped because I always trained to improve my movement and it was always a goal of mine as a coach to improve other, and in my mind I had succeeded on many occasions.

But on deeper thought, I realised Chris was right. This is further highlighted by actually working with clients in specific AiM sessions.

Yes physical training does have the potential to increase human movement but most often it is used to improve specific attributes of performance which are then aggregated in sports and skills training.
After all, there’s no denying the relevance of the Deadlift or Kettlebell Swing to an athlete, but the reason we do these exercises isn’t movement, it’s fitness. It’s about developing strength (deadlift) or power endurance (swing) in hip extension, which is an element of movement.

But as a fitness professional who has people come in day in day out requiring attribute development, or as I usually call it, Supplemental Training, it’s easy to get caught up in our own bullshit and forget about the bigger picture.

This was further illustrated to me over the weekend when I hosted World Champion Pole Dance and Acro-Balance expert Lisette Krol of Tribe Dance & Fitness at my place.
In attendance was fellow Kettlebell Coach Sarah Smith who owns and runs Galway Kettlebells. Sarah has competed in international kettlebell sports tournaments so has experience to speak from.

After the workshop where we learned flexibility and basic acro-balance drills, Sarah came to me and said that her eyes had been well and truly opened to just how narrow her focus in fitness had become.
She was inspired, and rightly so, by Lisette’s strength, flexibility, athleticism and movement.
If you watch this clip, you’ll see why:

So whats the point I’m trying to make here?

Lets go back to Ido’s list:

  1. Human
  2. Movement
  3. Fitness

Three elements that build on each other. You can’t have fitness without movement, you can’t have movement with first being human.

I’ve worked with strength power athletes that can squat and deadlift insane loads, yet their basic human movement sucks.
I’ve worked with distance runners who also have terrible human movement.

Yet their fitness, in their chosen pursuits, is well up there.

But for how long?

Hell, they came to me because they were hurting.

Once we restored their human movement through the use of AiM, they stopped hurting and their fitness went up.

Even when Ido Portal speaks, he talks about improving human movement so that he can then build seemingly limitless freedom of movement.

Yet in the fitness world, the human and movement aspects are largely forgotten in the pursuit of more weight, more reps, higher intensity.
Maybe it’s time for a return to a more holistic approach.

We should start back be re-establishing human movement, then  exploring the greater movement before considering specific fitness or attribute training.

  • Don’t be in a hurry to specialise, certainly don’t make your kids specialise.
  • Play more
  • Get on the floor and crawl, roll, stretch.
  • Feel the ground under your feet, yes that means taking your shoes off.
  • Spend time in stillness learning to simply listen to the body.
  • Breathe, breathe deeply, maximally inhale and then maximally exhale, no really exhale till you’re empty. Learn to recognise how this feels.
  • If fitness is your goal, use your warm ups to improve both the human and the movement aspects prior to the attribute training.
  • In your fitness training, consider the needs of your body and use the training to increase the movement potential of the body. This is the opposite of becoming musclebound.

This is obviously a deeper topic, but one I’ll return to in future posts.
As I grew up in the martial arts, movement has always been important to me, I was influenced by the work of Joseph Pilates, Georges Herbert and the martial arts community, but in recent years I moved away from it and got more into the strength world, focussing almost entirely on the fitness end of the spectrum.
And guess what?

My own injuries flared up massively.

Since the AiM course, working with Lisette and learning from Ido, mine and my clients have noticed performance improvements even though we’ve stepped out of the standard s&c protocols.

Humans are not specialists by nature, our specialisation is in fact generalisation.
Train accordingly.

Human first, Movement second, Fitness last.

In that order.

There will be more on this topic to come, but in the meantime, please share your thoughts in the comments.

Regards

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

 

Fighting Back – my eBook on supplementary strength training for BJJ that focusses on the low back and removing low back pain has been very well received since I released it.
I got several requests that we take the rope design from the cover and turn it into a Rash Guard.

Well, it’s here……..

Check this out:

Click for more info

Click for more info

Now the good bit.
If you buy the eBook, I’ll send you a discount code for the Rashie. Those who already have it, already have an email from me with the code.
If you buy the Rashie, I’ll email you the eBook.

Fighting Back sales

Everything you need to know about the Kettlebell Clean


The kettlebell clean is an odd beat.

I’ve been teaching the kettlebell lifts full time since 2009. For a couple of years prior to that I taught a few training partners.

And of all the kettlebell lifts, it is the clean that seems to have the longest learning curve.
I still haven’t figured out why, but I’m not the only coach who’s noticed this.

However if you wish to get the most out of your kettle, you have to master this movement.

Kettlebell-Snatch-olde-time

Once you have the lift you will discover it’s not just a very underrated upper back/posterior chain drill, but it also opens up a whole world of kettlebell complexes where the ability to clean the bell to the chest serves as a linking movement.

This then is the collection of articles I put together to explain the clean and help you master the movement.
Book mark this post for future reference and pass it on to someone who may need it via your social networks.

Kettlebell Clean part I

This is the start point. All the key points to help you move away from banged up wrists and torn hands, the two most common reasons for people avoiding this lift.
Read more HERE

Kettlebell Clean part II

Now that you have the basics of the clean in place, this post builds on it by dialling in the bottom part of the movement, ie the swing portion.
We also discuss breathing and how we can take the lift and use for high rep conditioning work.
Read More HERE

Kettlebell Clean part III & IV

In this post we look more into the top portion of the lift having cleaned up the bottom in the previous post.
The exercises here focus on the upper back involvement and also the catch.
Oddly enough, these are also some of my favorite training exercises as they eliminate the swing forcing the upper back and core to take on the lions share of the work.
Read more HERE

So there you have all the information you need to get the most out of this under utilised lift.
Take your time building up the technique so as not to damage the wrists and tear the hands, then go to town with it.
Two of my favourite training combinations are the Clean & Press and the Clean & Front Squat.
And of course we have the full body torture that is the Clean, Squat & Press combination.

Or you can just take the clean by itself and enjoy the upper back and posterior chain benefits.

Regards

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

 
Fighting Back salesFighting Back – my eBook on supplementary strength training for BJJ that focusses on the low back and removing low back pain has been very well received since I released it.
I got several requests that we take the rope design from the cover and turn it into a Rash Guard.

Well, it’s here……..

Check this out:

Click for more info

Click for more info

Now the good bit.
If you buy the eBook, I’ll send you a discount code for the Rashie. Those who already have it, already have an email from me with the code.
If you buy the Rashie, I’ll email you the eBook.

Daily Strength Training for Grappling Awesomeness.


Can you train every day and make progress?

Damn straight you can.

my-daily-routineIf you’re smart.

I’m an old martial artist and many of the guys I train are martial artists and regardless of whether we train Muay Thai, BJJ, Judo, Karate, Eskrima or anything else you can think of, ALL martial arts guys live by the “more is better” attitude.

A solid martial arts session will last for 2 hours or more, leave you in a pool of sweat, exhausted from chasing technical improvements and left on the floor from testing those techniques in a hard spar.

The problem arises when you take this attitude into the weight room.

Many, my younger self included, look to feel the same at the end of every gym session. The more wiped out we are, the better we will be.

But that’s not true. Not in the gym.

We can only train as hard as we can recover from. And the iron is unforgiving in this.
In our martial arts training we can roll easy, we can look to be technical instead of physical, our training partners will understand and accommodate.

But a barbell is just a barbell and doesn’t give a shit that you hurt your knee yesterday or didn’t sleep too well last night.

This is where a sensible approach to volume and intensity is needed.

As volume increases, intensity must go down.

Must.

So if I am to succeed in daily strength training, I must consider my ability to recover.
Recovery is a combination of calorie intake, sleep and taking care of the body.

What do I mean by taking care of the body?

I mean mobility work, foam rolling, extra attention to the hips and shoulders and keeping mobile.
This should make up your warm up.
10 minutes of targeted work on anything you suck at is enough. But get it done.

Next is the lifting.

A big lift first. Be it a Squat, a Deadlift or a Power Clean.
Follow this with an upper body pull and an upper body pull.

Deadlifting  car for reps. Must be the socks.....

Deadlifting car for reps.
Must be the socks…..

Legendary strength coach Dan John tells us that you can only really get 10 good reps done of any lift.
Listen to Dan.

Pavel Tsatsouline has a book called Power to the People where he advocates Deadlifting 5 days per week for 2 sets of 5 reps. That’s 10 reps. Coincidence?

In Matt Perryman’s excellent Kindle book “Squat Every Day” he talks about setting a daily minimum and being sure to hit that each day, if you feel good go heavier.

Available on Amazon

Available on Amazon

Put it all together and you’ve got a great recipe for hitting hard and heavy strength work each and every day without burning out.
Here’s how it looks:

1: Squat or Dead / Clean, work up to a daily minimum weight and hit 10 reps of that weight or more.
2A: Big press, same formula as above
2B: Chin Up, just do these. You can handle volume on chins. For BJJ guys I like inverted rows here too.

Just three lifts, thats it.
If you need to do conditioning work on top of this, I’d cut these to maybe three sessions tops per week.
Bear in mind, you’re already training your sport multiple times per week, and more is not always better. Sometimes it’s just more.

The key here isn’t killing yourself in every workout. It’s about accumulating a good volume of high quality work over the course of the week or the month.
The actual day that’s in it is almost irrelevant. The average over the longer term is what counts.

So today you lift 10 singles and hit a new PR on three of them. Tomorrow you’ll be a bit wiped so you may just do your 2 sets of 5 at the minimum. On average, you’re still up.

Now here’s a rider.

Don’t jump into this unless you’re already an experienced gym rat.
If you’re new, work from Power to the People. 2 sets of 5, that’s it, no variance. Stick with the same weight the entire week, no variance. The following week add 5-10% to that weight and keep it all week.
Do this for a couple of months to acclimatise to the increased frequency.

After that, start playing with the daily minimum.

Regards

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

Now the sales pitch!

Fighting Back salesFighting Back – my eBook on supplementary strength training for BJJ that focusses on the low back and removing low back pain has been very well received since I released it.
I got several requests that we take the rope design from the cover and turn it into a Rash Guard.

Well, it’s here……..

Check this out:

Click for more info

Click for more info

Now the good bit.
If you buy the eBook, I’ll send you a discount code for the Rashie. Those who already have it, already have an email from me with the code.
If you buy the Rashie, I’ll email you the eBook.