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,



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?


Dave Hedges


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.


Dave Hedges


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

A Lesson in Attitude & Humility

On Saturday I was down in Tramore Kettlebell Fitness using my Anatomy in Motion training to help out several of gym owner Gan Power’s clients.

Over the day I learned a good deal from the various bodies as I assisted them to better movement and hopefully pain free performance.

But one guy stood out.

By far the quietest and oldest guy in the group.

When it came to his turn to be assessed I asked him about his injury history.
He wasn’t very forthcoming, he didn’t think he had much wrong at all.

Except a bit of shoulder pain from time to time. But that went away when he warmed it up.
He then lifted his arm demonstrating what looked to me like a very uncomfortable and restricted action.

But, “it gets better when I warm it up”

Then he told me that he’d “Broken a knee, but it never bother me” he told me this in the same manner you’d tell someone that you’d just crossed a road or something equally banal.

And then he dropped the clincher. He casually told me how he “used to have arthritis”

“used to have”

When was the last time you heard someone talk about arthritis in the past tense?

He said it may flare up in various places as Rheumatoid Arthritis is prone to, but only in times of stress. But it never bothered him.

When I asked about how he beat it, he simply said, “I changed my diet” and left it at that.

On further questioning about the shoulder he thought back to how it may have happened back when he was in  a pretty bad car accident.

So in front of me I had an older gentleman, quiet and unassuming yet talking about how he beat arthritis, survived a car crash and broke his knee as if they were nothing. Minor inconveniences of a day gone by.

I figured this history would leave discernible evidence in his movement assessment.
But no, he moved well. Better than many with almost no injury.

I helped him improve what he has but was left scratching my head by this seemingly indestructible older guy.

His attitude is the reason he’s healthy.
He takes personal responsibility for himself and his health, which is probably why he’s in such good nick.

He demonstrates an attitude that is dying in the modern world. He doesn’t sit feeling sorry for himself, probably couldn’t give a shit about what people think of him and I dare say wouldn’t know an emoticon if it punched him in the face.

He’s old school. A gentleman and a dying breed.

I challenge you to be more like him, I know I’ll be watching myself a little more closely.

Will you?


Dave Hedges


Bullet Proofing the BJJ Player


Sports science has just proven that strength training is key to preventing injuries in contact sports.

The guys at BJJ Eastern Europe published this post the other day which is going round the BJJ circles on Facebook and rightly so.

Click on the screen shot and it’ll open in a new window, be sure to come right back though…..

Click the image to open the article

Click the image to open the article

The thing that most stood out to me was the comparisons to rugby and American Football. Two sports that are known for their levels of contact and also the incredible physical condition of the athletes that play them.

The article then goes on to say how players still pick up injuries even though they strength train, but the injuries are far less sever and take far less time to recover from.

So players from two sports with the biggest impacts become more difficult injure if they undergo a strength and conditioning training program to support their game training.

As a BJJ player, you too are getting slammed around, bent and twisted into potentially dangerous positions as your opponent deliberately targets the bodies weakest parts through the use of leverage.

A rugby player may have his shoulder dislocated by bad luck, he got hit at an odd angle or landed poorly.
A BJJ player may have his dislocated because it was deliberately put in a position of mechanical disadvantage by their opponent.

It’s not a leap of faith to think that a stronger shoulder would resist injury more than a weak shoulder. And if the injury did occur, it would potentially recover at a faster rate.

Amongst the BJJ guys I work with, I see a huge discrepancy in their upper/lower body strength. I also see a lot of low back complaints and knee pain.
This is nearly always a result of one thing.


Ok, sometimes tightness. But some would argue its the same thing……

Most of the BJJ guys I know have broad shoulders, ripped abs and itty bitty matchsticks dangling out of their shorts. They’d make Johnny Bravo proud.


Train my legs?!?!?

Train my legs?!?!?

This impressive upper body and underdeveloped lower body is partly due to the nature of the game, the hips and legs are often used as a guard rather than for propulsion/power development and most of the fight is won by the torso.
And the physiques of the lads reflect this.

Which is why when they come to train with me I have them Deadlift, swing kettles and learn to squat deep.

All upper body work, other than the inverted row, is secondary to the Deadlift and squat.
Most of the time I’m not interested in them squatting heavy, but I want it deep.

As a BJJ player spend most of his time in a fully flexed position, hips and knees bent. I want them able to sit and be strong in this position, hence the emphasis on a deep squat over a heavy squat.
In that deep position we are stimulating the VMO (knee muscle), the Glutes and also asking a lot from the deeper muscles such as the pelvic floor and diaphragm.

The deadlift is all we need for the extension pattern. It’s pretty much all we need to load the nervous system and develop brute force. But for the fine tuning and range of motion, we squat.

I’m a fan of the Goblet Squat, Barbell Front squat and the Pistol Squat for just about everyone, but especially the grappling community.
Goblet squat as it’s accessible and difficult to get wrong.
Barbell Front Squat as it’s the Goblets big brother and easy to load up for when the athlete is ready to go heavy. Still hard to get wrong though.
Pistol Squat is one I had almost forgotten about until our Physio friend Andy Watson put Seb on a daily routine of Box Pistols. Now these are a common feature of many of my programs, especially if knee pain is an issue.

The pistol squat gets some flack in other circles, and to be fair their arguments are valid.
The spine is rounded and it is easier to maintain neutral spine in other single leg variations.
The leg outstretched to the front causes a flexibility issue for many.

I fully agree.
However, for a grappler flexibility should be good, and the pistol often highlights a weakness to work on.
The rounded low back is not much of a problem as the lift is generally performed with an unloaded spine.
BJJ is played with a posteriorly tilted pelvis, which the pistol squat works into.

On most other single leg variations the loaded side of the pelvis rotates posteriorly (relative to the spine) while the unloaded leg, being below or behind often rotates anteriorly. This is perfectly relevant to an upright athlete, someone fighting on their feet, but for our “Butt-Scooting” friends, is less relevant.
Developing strength in this bottom position is vital for the hip and knee health as a fighter progresses in both training age and real age.
There’s a lot more about the knee and how we can apply the pistol squat in THIS POST

Once basic strength and mobility have been established we can add in some power work with Heavy Kettles and Olympic Variants of barbell lifts, we may even do some jump training.

Of course there’s more to it.
But this is as much as you need to start in your journey towards insuring your joints against injury.


Dave Hedges


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.


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.


Dave Hedges

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.


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.


Dave Hedges

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.

Everything You Need to Know About the Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is the only exercise you need a kettlebell for.

Yes, there are a multitude of other exercises we do with the kettlebell, but really the swing is the foundation, it’s the core, baseline movement that all the other kettlebell lifts (as opposed to exercises using a kettlebell) grow out of.

So this post is the top posts all collected into a single place.

Bookmark it, share it, enjoy it and feel free to leave your feedback.


The Tutorials:

Kettlebell Swing Tutorial part I – the Basics

Start here. This is method that I’ve used and refined since the inception of WG-Fit and has successfully taken hundreds people from zero to successful swinging, some even further onto kettlebell sport or RKC.
Click HERE for more


Kettlebell Swing Tutorial part II – Common Errors

Building on the first instalment of the series, here we take a look at the most common errors seen when people learn the swing and how to correct them.
Click HERE for more


Kettlebell Swing Tutorial part III – the 1 Handed Swing

Now that we’ve mastered the 2 handed swing we can up our game with the 1 hand swing.
Click HERE for more


Kettlebell Swing Tutorial part IV – Personalising the Swing

By now you should have the basics of the swing down. In this instalment you get to look at how we can adjust the swing to make it better fit our individual strengths, weaknesses and goals. Does that mean we don’t have to adhere to any one style or dogma?
Click HERE for more


Kettlebell Swing Tutorial part V – Double Kettlebell Swings

So you swing like a champion but that’s still not enough for you. Well, lets double the intensity by swinging a pair of kettlebells
Click HERE for more

and finally a couple of posts regarding specific aspects of kettlebell swing practice, this first post is one of the most read and shared to date:

So How High Should you Swing Your Kettlebell?

Ever since the inception of Crossfit and the “American Swing” there’s been a debate on how high a swing ought to travel. This is post will provide the answer to that debate.
Click HERE for more

Ask Dave: Should I Prevent My Body Rotating During Swings?

This is a damn good question, especially as we hear so much about spinal stability and preventing movement at the core. So what’s the case with the kettlebell?
Click HERE for more