An Effective Bullshit Filter

Over the years I’ve been heard to give out the following advice when it comes to training, motivation, exercise selection, even dietary choices.

It goes a follows:

Find the “WHY” and the “HOW” will star to become clear.

If you stop and think about that it gives a powerful filter to look through.

And if you properly applied, that filter will save you from having to endure a whole load of meaningless bullshit.

Here’s a simple one to get you started:

If you understand WHY progressive overload works,then the how is to gradually do more work. Simple eh?

If you understand WHY mobility is important, then how to implement it into your day become clearer.

If you understand WHY coffee stops you hurting other people, you’ll figure out how to keep yourself topped up…..

Ok, that was three.

And the last one may not have been true.

But you get the basic idea.

So now to the inspiration behind today’s post.

Next month I’m running the 1 Day Self Defence Skills workshop, but you knew that, I mentioned it in yesterdays blog post.

Someone who’d read the post asked me about the course content, which is fair enough.
But when I explained that the course is only a toe in the water, it’s a springboard for you to go out and start training by yourself or with friends. That the emphasis on the course is on not getting into trouble in the first place but to utilise heavy impact if you do.

This seemed to put the person off.

Their argument seemed to be based on what they’ve experienced at other workshops.

ie: Faux hard man, special forces, super black belt ninja tactics.


We’re talking:

  • Eye gouges
  • Arm bars
  • Wrist locks
  • Kicks to the groin
  • Pressure points
  • improvised weapons
  • and so on and so on….

I’m going to use a strength training analogy here.

That list you’ve just read is like going to a strength & conditioning workshop and learning about tricep kickbacks, pec flyes and grapevines.

Yes, these things have their place, but not in the real world of performance.

And lets face it, if you or a member of your family is being attacked you want to fucking perform!

So performance based training is based on the “big rocks” of training.

ie: multi joint exercise performed at a high intensity. Think Squat, Deadlift, Clean, Swing, Pull Up, Press, Jerk, Turkish Get Up, Lunge Variations.

So how does this relate to self defence?

Well, the “WHY” of self defence should be easy.

Why? – To get home safe and sound to have dinner with my family.

So, HOW?

  • Avoid getting into trouble in the first place, after all, if you never have to fight, you’ll never lose a fight
  • If I do end up in a fight, end it as fast as possible, best achieved through impact.
  • Do what is necessary to end the conflict, no more, no less.
    This is where things get fuzzy for most. The most efficient way to stop someone is to knock them out, the most efficient way to do this is heavy impact to the head. It’s not sexy, or tactical, or fancy. But it works and it fits our WHY

So for those of you who want to wear combat pants and boot, carry a tactical flashlight, never sit with your back to a door and learn 372 ways to hit someone in the nuts, this isn’t the course for you.

If you want a common sense, systematic approach to self defence, click here.


Dave Hedges

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2 Dates to Put in Your Diary

We’re howling through the year, burning up the days like there’s an endless supply of them!

It’s hard to fathom how we are now looking at the arse end of March when it seems like only a few days ago my kids were ripping the wrapping paper off their presents!

So I’d better let you know what’s going on over the next month or two.

I have two dates that should be in your diary.

The first is for my 1-Day Self Defence Workshop on April 19th
The second is for the ever awesome Mr Steve Cotter returning to Ireland.

Self Defence Skills:

I run this a few times per year, and will continue to do so for many years.
As much as I may have transitioned from full time martial artist earning a living working nightclub security to full time s&c coach, I still hold the concept of being able to defend ones self and ones family in the highest of regards.

My training always revolved around this, I took martial arts in the first place, not to be cool, or to get a black belt or to win medals, but because I’d just had my arse kicked from one end of the playground to the other and back and really didn’t want it to happen again.

In the lifetime that has followed I’ve had the opportunity to train under some of the best around in a variety of martial art and combatives methods, and as a “bouncer” I got to witness and participate in many real life encounters.

Does this make me an expert?

No, not when compared to some of the people I train under. But compared to the “average” person, yes.

So in the 1 Day Workshop, I aim to teach what I consider to be the mist fundamental, core topics and skills that a person needs in order to give themselves the best chance of protecting themselves.

1 day will not make you a ninja, but it will give you the tools to take away and sharpen into real skills.

You can get more details here:

Next, it gives me great pleasure to be welcoming Steve Cotter back to Wild Geese.

It’s been a couple of years now since we last hosted him, but he’s been in touch and told me he’ll be in Ireland and would love to come to Dublin and run a workshop.

I hold Steve in the highest regard, he is the real deal.

His strength, flexibility and athleticism are only matched by his enthusiasm for passing it on to the people he trains.

He’s a wealth of knowledge, a constant student and a prolific teacher.

Recently he’s been working with BJJ legend Xande Ribiero preparing him for an upcoming competition. He’s also been working on a “flexibility for athletes” program. He’ll be showing elements of both these when he drops into us in May.

You can read more about it, and book your spot here:

Places must be booked for Steve, last time we ran a workshop like this we sold out in a heart beat, so I’ll not be taking walk ins. It’s a case of “If you’re names not down, you’re not coming in!”

So incase you missed it, here’s the link to the Steve Cotter Dublin workshop once more:


Dave Hedges


Can You Get A Solid Workout Done in Under 30minutes?

It seems yesterdays post on functional training ticked a few boxes, I’ve not had as many page views or shares on a post so quickly in a long time, so thanks to all who did share it.

For those of you who missed it, here’s the link.

And if you did miss, get on the email subscription list so that you never miss again!

I’ve some cool posts planned, a detailed breakdown of the kettlebell windmill, with detail I don’t think anyone’s ever gone into before and also a look at stretching as it’s been a bit of a hot topic around Wild Geese recently with me banning several folks from doing any stretching whatsoever!

Anyhow enough teasing about what’s coming up in the future, what about today?

Today I want to talk about time.

How long should a workout take?

I’ve had a few people drop into my lunchtime sessions where we aim to have people complete a full body workout in around 30 minutes, and leave feeling cheated.
Cheated by the fact that they weren’t there for over an hour, cheated because we use very little equipment and cheated because if they’re new in, I INSIST they go light enough that they can ensure form is as close to perfect as possible.

How can you get a good session in in so little time?

Here’s the answer.

Intensity trumps duration.

This is true in every case except for the training of specific endurance.

You have to make a deal with yourself if you’re going to get a good session done in a short space of time. You have to commit, no excuses, just balls out focussed effort.

Pick big bang exercises, ie the basics ( you know, the shit those “functional” guys like to diss because they’re too basic or just plain hard!)

Use moderate reps, multiple sets and be careful of the order you put them in.

For example, yesterday we had a nice workout that hit used a favourite pairing:

1A: Turkish Get Up x 1 L/R
1B: Pull Up x 5
x 10 minutes, increase weight each round.

2013-06-18 12.01.55

This was followed by a conditioning set, but more on that shortly.

The Turkish Get Up hits pretty much the entire body, it’s great for the shoulder, helps develop pressing strength and anterior core control.
The Pull Up is an upper body bent arm pull that also asks a lot from the core.

A good pairing. 10 minutes should see you get about 3 – 5 rounds in, depending on how heavy you go on the Get Up.

Follow this with:

2A: Split Squat x 5L/R
2B: Cleans x 6-8
2C: Mountain Climbers x 8-12L/R
15 minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible)

Now we get the heart & lungs kicking while working the lower body.

As much as I like lower body strength training, I feel strength endurance is a better option than simple all out power. So the Split Squat is a hip & knee extension strength focus, the clean a hip extension power focus and the mountain climber opposes them in that it’s hip flexion based.

Simple workout, but not easy.
You can go flat out into this and really leave yourself wiped out should you choose to.
The lift selection and the order in which they’re placed leaves the entire body stimulated in pretty much all the key movement patterns (Push, Pull, Hinge, Squat & Core) and has lifts that can be loaded up enough (all but the mountain climber) to elicit a serious hormonal response, yet the whole thing has only 25 minutes of work.

We put all our lunchtime workouts on the WG-Fit facebook page, usually after the guys have done their training, so as not to spoil the surprise for them. So feel free to join us there (HERE)

Or better yet, if you’re in the Dublin 2 area, drop into us, details HERE


Dave Hedges



But, is it functional?

I’m on the functional training warpath again.

Over the last day or two, each time I’ve had a few minutes to waste on facebook I’ve been confronted with videos.

Video’s of people demonstrating “functional training”

Video’s of people doing stuff.

With words that sound like they mean something but are essentially bullshit.


Yesterday morning I had a client in who asked about one such video he’d seen, so we had a little fun with it.
While he performed an exercise I gave him, I explained it to him in the kind of terminology he had heard on the video.

He looked at me like I had two heads, yeah I sounded impressive, to the point where he wasn’t sure if I was serious or joking, but he also had no idea as to what I was talking about.

But it sounded good.

Yay! I'm being functional!

Yay! I’m being functional!

And this is my problem.

The good guys, the guys that know their shit. The guys that train actual people, maybe work with athletes, who get the results their clients want by applying tried and tested methods, usually backed up by some sort of scientific literature or at least by a stack of experience.

These guys who are well read, be it classically educated or have gone out on their own volition to read, learn, analyse and test.

These guys talk sense.

They talk plain English, they drop in big words and scientific language but usually also explain it in laymans terms so that the user can understand what they’re saying.
The reason they use the scientific or proper terms are so that the client can also learn, understand and if they go to another coach, they won’t be lost if these terms are thrown about.
It’s a way of getting everyone on the same page.

It’s not about sounding smarter than everyone else, it’s about raising people’s knowledge.

But I’m starting to digress here.

What makes training functional?


Ok, lets look at like this.

Two words.

First word:  Functional

Second word:  Training

  • The action of teaching a person or animal a particular skill or type of behaviour:
    in-service training for staff
  • The action of undertaking a course of exercise and diet in preparation for a sporting event
  • (see the Oxford Dictionaries full definition here, opens in new tab)

You can see the two words have a few cross over points. Functional a special purpose and Training denotes as particular skill or behaviour.

Both terms are quite specific.
Put them together and we have “Undertaking a course or exercise designed to impart a specific skill”

That’s not a bad definition, I could work on it and make it better, but I reckon that’s good enough.

One word sticks out.


And there, right there is the problem.

So few people can say what is so specific and magical about their training in a manner that the lay person will understand or the researchers will give a thumbs up to.

You can’t break down human movement into training protocols, it’s too vast.
Anatomy in Motion is far and away the leader there, and that is because it focusses around the gait cycle, the human animals most primary and basic of movements.

Mr Anatomy in Motion himself

Mr Anatomy in Motion himself

Everything else we do in the gym environment is just an exercise.

Each exercise should have its own function.

The function of a bicep curl is to train the elbow flexors, in most cases to stimulate hypertrophy. And for big arms, that’s as functional as you get.


The function of a bench press is to overload a horizontal pressing pattern. The problem with horizontal pressing is that gravity is uncooperative and only works vertically. So we have to lie on our backs to press weight out.
Or we go face down and perform a push up, we will need to load the body to bring the intensity high enough that we stimulate the central nervous system.

The squat is hugely functional. It trains the three main joints in the lower body (ankle, hip & knee) to flex and extend in a coordinated fashion through their full range of motion.
Do a stack of bodyweight squats and we stimulate a cardio-vascular effect, load up and we massively stimulate the central nervous system and elicit some real strength and hypertrophy through the entire structure of the body, primarily the legs and spinal extensors.

Is the pistol squat more functional than a front squat, is a front squat more functional than a back squat?
Define the function you are looking to fulfil and we may be able to answer that question, until that function is established, it’s nothing more than in internet flame war waiting to happen.

Pistol Squat, lower body strength without the spinal compression or sheer from an external load

Pistol Squat, lower body strength without the spinal compression or sheer from an external load

If the goal is to move the most amount of weight, back squat.
If the goal is to train the lower body with an emphasis on the quads and/or anterior core, front squat
If the goal is to improve mobility, proprioception and hip/core stability, pistol squat.

Three differing squat movements, non of which are any more functional than the other. It’s a case of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Everything trumps everything else in the right context.

And that my dear readers is what functional training should be all about.

The exercises you use in the weight room don’t have to bear the slightest resemblance to any movement you will make in the outside world, but they do have to elicit some form of training response that will serve to increase the potential of the body to perform in the desired manner. Be that to look huge, to run fast, to hit hard, to jump high, whatever.

Getting stronger is almost universally functional. And you need to perform high intensity lifts in a stable environment to achieve this. Think Squat, Deadlift, Press, Pull and Carry.


Building Endurance is almost universally functional, who wouldn’t want to be able to train longer and recovery quicker? How you develop this can depend on your specific needs.

Mobility is almost universally functional as it allows us to move freely, to be strong at end range. And when is that ever a bad thing?

Bodyweight training usually functional as it helps develop proprioception, burns a stack of calories and builds coordination. But it’s limited when it comes to maximal strength.

Lisette Krol - demonstrating ridiculous body control & strength

Lisette Krol – demonstrating ridiculous body control & strength

Barbells are functional as they’re highly adjustable, from massive loads to build maximal strength to light loads for endurance.

Kettlebells are functional in their ability to develop power endurance particularly in the posterior chain and are great for challenging core and shoulder stability.

Heavy windmill with ketlebells, functional? You decide

Heavy windmill with ketlebells, functional? You decide

Is one more functional than the other, again it’s all down to context.

So next time you hear someone talk about some piece of kit that is so functional or some funky exercise that is “functional” ask them to define the function, to clearly and concisely explain the context in simple laymans terms.

Any fancy speak or unpronounceable science speak, walk. Just walk away.


Dave Hedges


A Question of Curls

Over in Facebook land there was a discussion on the Bicep Curl.


Now this was in one of the groups that I’m a member of specifically for the discussion of training amongst coaches and the like. If you aren’t an active coach, physio or nutritionist, you don’t get in the group.

So it’s not your usual bro-science fest of here-say.

The guys in the group are smart, if someone says something, it’s usually from a vantage point of real world experience training folk and very often backed up with some research references.

I don’t do the research references, I’m a bit on the thick side for that, but I have the experience.

And experience I have tells me that this polarising exercise is worth doing from time to time.

Just don’t make it a cornerstone of your training.#

I’ve written in the past, HERE and HERE about how we use the bicep curl, specifically the reverse curl as a way to keep fighters elbows healthy. Essentially we strengthen the brakes so that when their arm extends, straightening out with tremendous force, their elbow flexors (biceps) are able to arrest the movement and protect the joint.

Something I wish I’d understood years ago when my elbows used to kill me after some hard Karate sessions!

But what else are they good for?

Most people talk about the bicep curl as a single joint “isolation” lift for building big gunz.
But they also cross the shoulder and attach onto the shoulder blade.

Strict bicep curls with a dumbbell can assist in gaining control of the scapular and keeping the shoulder healthy.

Again, it’s not my go to option, but it once again shows that as an exercise the curl has more to offer than mere vanity.

So when should you put them into your training?

Simple answer, at the end, when all the big stuff is done. Simple as that.

So in answer to the question, “Are curls functional?”
The answer is yes. If you need to protect your elbow for combat sports, your shoulder for throwing or to fill out your sleeves for posing, yes there are reasons to put a couple of sets in at the end of your training.


Dave Hedges

Now don’t forget to sign up for email updates, so you never miss a post, you also get the Ultimate Guide to the Kettlebell Swing as a thankyou.

Going Green or Seeing Red…….

It’s the day after Paddy’s Day (dear american friends, please note the spelling) and I expect a few of you are suffering with the after effects of over indulgence.


If you are, well fair play, I hope you had a fun, enjoyable and safe night out on the day the whole world turns green.

Personally, I’m no fan of Paddy’s day or other such public piss ups.

When out in public on days/nights like these I turn a very different shade of green and not the type you want to be around.


Maybe it’s just my unsociable nature or maybe it’s got something to do with my previous employment before I opened Wild Geese?

You see from the age of 18 I worked in pubs, bars and hotels.
When I came to Dublin in 2001 I started working as a doorman, a job that paid enough money for few enough hours that allowed me to train pretty much full time.

I worked the doors for over 10 years. Mostly in Dublin, but also in Arinsal, Dubai, Canberra and the Gold Coast.

Thankfully I managed to retire from that life around the time my first born came into this world nearly 7 years ago.

Over that time I saw the best and worst of people. Mostly the worst.
It seemed that the “nicer” or more “respectable” the crowd the more chance of petty violence, fist thrown over stupid reasons and all too often an innocent member of the public getting caught up in the crossfire.
Sure in the less salubrious places we had kick off’s too, but those guys took their fighting more seriously as they understood the stakes a bit better, so from my point of view it never seemed so bad.

But watching and seeing this type of behaviour, especially on public celebrations such as Paddy’s day makes me sad.
When an innocent is caught in the crossfire, or is targeted for no reason, or is targeted as a victim of crime, well that pisses me of. I get angry.

And you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.


So I stepped away and now deal with people who fight for sport, with referees and rules most of the time.

But I still teach self defence training for those that may have to fight without a ref, without rules.

Usually in the format of one or two day self defence workshops, or as private or small group clients.

I’m running once such event on April 19th in Wild Geese. A 1 Day Self Defence course covering the most basic and fundamental self defence skills.
Of course 1 day of training isn’t enough to become truly effective, but it is enough time to give you the start point, the tools to take away and work on, to sharpen and keep handy.

For full details of the course content and for booking information, please click on the image or link below:


Click the image or follow this link for more info:


Dave Hedges



Handcuffs and Heavy Breathing

No, No, No….!!


This isn’t some reference to that 50 Shades nonsense!


No, this is a very educational post talking about the very sexy subject of……..

Shoulder Mobility!

Last week I posted “The Cuban Shoulder Crisis” where I discussed shoulder health and showed an exercise we often use to promote it and speed rehab from shoulder injury.

I got a great response from you lot, many simply saying “thanks”
So it seems shoulders are a problem on a much larger scale than just me and my little gym.


Not really a surprise as the shoulder is one of the top training related injuries.

The shoulder is commonly referred to as a “complex” rather than simple a joint. We also often refer to the “shoulder girdle” in reference to the relationship between the collar bone, shoulder blade and rib cage.

So there’s a lot going on in a relatively small but very busy space.

No wonder there’s so many issues there.

One of the issues that’s almost guaranteed to lead to poor shoulder mobility and greater potential for shoulder pain is poor thoracic extension.

Not just extension, but mobility all directions, but today I want to talk mostly about that extension.

The spine really is what people ought to be referring to when they talk about the “core”
I don’t like the term “Core” and especially “core training” as few ever define what they’re talking about. I personally use three definitions depending on the audience I’m presenting to, but the most fundamental of all definitions is simply, The Spine and Anything that Attaches to it!

Now, without moving, take stock of your posture as you are sitting reading this post.

I’d be fairly confident to say that your upper spine is forward flexed as you’re most likely looking downwards at the screen. The shoulders are probably a little rounded forwards.

This is normal and by itself nothing to worry about.

The problem arises if this becomes our default position. If we become “stuck” in thoracic extension. This limits our ability to flex further forward, to rotate and of course to extend.


And movement in the thoracic spine directly affects movement of the scapula which determines the motion available at the actual shoulder (gleno-humeral joint).

So here’s a wee test for you.

Sink your chest so that you take on that forward rounded shoulder look.
Now, lift your arms up as high as you can while maintaining that sunken chest and flexed T-spine.
How does that feel?

Now, imaging you’re trying to impress the opposite sex and stick the chest right out, now lift your arms. Is that easier or harder? better or worse?

If you couldn’t tell any difference then the chances are you couldn’t lift the chest and create any extension in the t-spine, instead you probably flared out the ribcage as you extended the lower back, which can lead to a pinching sensation and potential for injury there as well.

So, by now we ought to be in agreement that spinal position is a big deal for shoulder mobility.

So here’s a nice drill I like to use in our warm ups that assists with all of the above,

It’s called the Handcuff drill, and no I didn’t invent it.
I first came across this from a physio friend some years ago.

It works like this:

  • Lie face down
  • Put your hands in the bottom of your back, as if being handcuffed
  • Bring them around to the front to touch the thumbs together
  • Bring them back to the start
  • Do not allow the hands to touch the floor
  • Move slowly

This will require you to learn to extend the spine in order to keep the hands off the floor while engaging pretty much the all the rotator cuff muscles as the scaps move across the ribcage.
If double figures of this is easy, well done you. Are you sure you moved slow enough?
If yes, well grab some light weights, those pink dumbbells will do and see how the game changes.

Here’s Conor taking his beard through the Handcuff drill:

These are a standard feature of our Lunchtime Fitness warm ups as my gym is right beside the Irish Financial Services Centre, so all the clients coming to me are deskbound for 8 or more hours a day, many with commuting time either end of that. So a hell of a long time to be stuck in a flexed posture. This drill helps them get out of that posture so that they are safe to train.


Here’s some food for thought that I’ll be following up in future posts.
What about breathing?

If you’re a chest breather, you can forget about having full shoulder mobility!

If you breathe fully utilising the diaphragm, then you’ve a massively better chance.

The video below shows what is known as a positional breathing drill. I don’t use many of these, I feel they’re a useful start point for training breathing mechanics but once competence is achieved, we can put them away.

When we breathe fully, our abdomen should expand before our chest does. And I don’t mean just pushing the stomach out forwards, but also out the sides and to the rear.
In this position we’re getting a stretch in the lats, a bit of length in the pec minor and shortening all the neck muscles to many people use far too much to lift their chest to inhale with.

So when we breathe here, we should feel our abdomen start to move. We feel the abdomen press out against the thighs, the stretch on the lower back (thoracolumbar fascia) and an inability to get full air into our chest.

It’s also helping us re-establish a resting squat, which you know I’m a fan of.
If you need to, prop the heels up on some weight plates, this isn’t an ankle mobility drill.
Have a look at the clip:

Mel learning to breathe:

I’ll follow up the breathing info next week as you really can’t have fully functioning shoulders if you can’t breathe well.

Till next time.


Dave Hedges