Pain isn’t necessarily the problem

skeletal-alignmentI’ve  a very interesting client in at the moment.

He contacted me after his physio told him that his back was sore because his core was weak and he needed to strengthen it.

Now this particular lad is a bodybuilder and bodybuilders typically have pretty well developed muscles. Especially the abs.
But he took the exercises the physio gave him and started doing them, gaining relief, albeit temporary relief.

So he gave me a shout as he knows I know a thing or two about core training.

I took a look at him though my Anatomy in Motion eyes and immediately saw that the problem had fuck all to do with his core.

His hip was hiked up on one side.
His weight was held predominantly in one leg.
He had very little pronation or supination in either foot.
He struggled to internally rotate the hip.
When he walked he never accessed any rotation.

We’re working on undoing all this, it’s not easy, but he’s doing it.
Yes we’re working on the core too, we’ve been doing Turkish Get Ups, crawling patterns and single leg work, but these are all secondary to the real work we’re doing, ie restructuring his posture to improve his movement potential and reduce his likelihood of pain.

The point I’m making here is that there’s little to no point in working on pain symptoms if you first haven’t looked for a root cause. <—- TWEET THAT!

This is why I use Anatomy in Motion to assess all my private/semi-private clients before we start training. We even use it with my group clients to a degree, although we’re limited for time.

If you need to get yourself assessed, drop me a line and we’ll see what we can do for you.

AiM Postural Assessment & Correction


Dave Hedges

Ask Dave: What do you think of Zoo and Animal Movements?

“Hi Dave, quick question..zoo training or animal movement training or whatever it’s called! Are you a fan of it? I know you have a video of it up on your channel of it from a few years back. It’s the latest craze to hit commercial gyms although it has been doing the rounds for a number of years! Just want to know your opinion? Thanks Dave!”

Hello Mate,

I just recently heard about this thing called “Zoo” so had a wee look and am afraid to say I wasn’t terribly impressed.

Here’s why:

Animal type movement is great, I use a good deal of it in my place and follow the work of people like GMB, Ido Portal, Dewey Nielsen etc who all advocate this type of work.
If you look at all the names mentioned, you’ll see a level of fluidity and control in their movement that is lacking in the Zoo method.
This is because Zoo is taking these movements and using them solely for metabolic conditioning and going at them hell for leather. The idea seems to be that faster is better.

However, with animal and bodyweight flow type training, slower is actually better.
Initial progress in these drills comes by first smoothing out the movement, this can only be done with conscious practice and a moderate to slow pace. True skill is demonstrated by moving very slowly but incredibly smoothly, this shows that there are no weak links in the chain which can be hidden by speed.
With crawling patterns I will on occasion test people by having them freeze at particular points, I stand behind them and issue a loud bang as the freeze signal.

Only when the movement can be performed slow and smooth do we allow it to be accelerated or move to the next level of difficulty.
Then we look to link the movements through whatever transitions. The transitions must be as controlled as the main movement.

We should adhere to the maxim, “Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast”

Zoo is (from the little I’ve seen so far) to animal movement what Kettleworx is to Kettlebell training.
That unfortunately also means the truism that the lower quality something is the more money is thrown into marketing it and the more people actually end up doing it will probably hold true.


Dave Hedges


Kids who don’t break their toys……..

If you read this blog it’s fair to say you like to train, like to play sport, you push your boundaries and explore your mental and physical limits.

And if you play hard, there’s a damn good chance that you’re going to get hurt.
Injuries are par for the course, we don’t want to get hurt, but it’s an undeniably inevitability. Kids who never break their toys aren’t playing hard enough.

So my mountain bikers are going to stack it on the single track.

My runners are going to go over on their ankles or pull a.hamstring.

My grapplers will land badly from a throw or tap a little too late.

My boxers will test their timing, and get it wrong.

My lifters will do that one rep too many or add one kg too much.

It’s a part of who we are and what we do.

When we’re in our teens and twenties, we’re bulletproof. We bounce. We get injured and are back in the game in no time.
In our thirties we get downgraded to bullet resistant. It takes a little longer to heal, our old injuries come back with interest, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

All we need to do is be aware of our bodies and learn to train accordingly.

Spend more time on mobility.
Do more single leg work.
Focus on training from the core out to the extremities.
Get the rotator cuffs jacked.
And know when to push and when to back off.

There’s almost never a reason to not train.

I’ve trained around many injuries and work with a lot of injured guys. Most of the time we.come back stronger as we take the time to systematically work on our rehab while also targeting our weak areas with targeted training.

Train smart and you can train for life.


Dave Hedges

On not letting your mind control the show

The mind and how powerful it is is never far from my, well, mind.

Things like the placebo effect, which is very very real.

The Nocebo effect, which is its opposite.

Things like will power.




All these things never stray far from my thought process for long.

Why am I writing this now?

Well a week or so ago I playing with one of our BJJ lads, helping him get an entry through a barrage of punches and kicks.

After a while he succeeded in getting in without taking too big a shot and affected a double leg takedown.
Now he wasn’t handed the takedown, he had to take it.

We went down, I pulled him with me and his shoulder landed with pretty much all his bodyweight into my upper chest. I felt a wee pop.

We rolled a bit and he got an armbar.

About 20 minutes later i had searing pains in my chest around where he landed.

A visit to the physio and I was told I’d probably subluxed or dislocated my clavicle (collarbone) from its joint with the sternum.

I’m fairly tough (read: stoopid) so the pain isn’t too big an issue, but the restrictions in range of motion and the fact that my performance is negatively effected until we sort this annoys me.

But now the point to the post.

In the hospital when I went to get Xrays and see the orthopaedic, I was in more pain and discomfort than either at home or in Wild Geese.

Top is before, bottom is after a bit of manipulation, you can see the clavicle on the left isn't the same as the one on the right.

Top is before, bottom is after a bit of manipulation, you can see the clavicle on the left isn’t the same as the one on the right.

Movements in the consultation room with the Doc hurt more than when I was anywhere else.
Sitting in the waiting room was more uncomfortable than sitting anywhere else.

Same body, same injury, even the same day.
Different mind.

You see in the hospital I was the patient, I was there to be treated. At home or in the Gym I’m the Alpha and in control of my environment. But in the hospital I let that go and surrendered to their environment.

And in doing so my symptoms got a whole lot worse, when they told me that they weren’t going to do anything about it, I got upset, not a happy bunny at all.

Now today, writing this, I don’t give  a fuck. I’m back being the Alpha and so I’m doing some training according to how my body feels, I’m working on weak links, bringing up neglected areas and being productive.

Instead of suffering through an injury, I’m working around it.

By the time that SC joint is fixed and as my physio would say “rugby ready” I’ll have gotten my pistol squat back to at least as good as it ever was, probably better. I’ll have built my rotator cuffs up to near bulletproof standard and my core will be like iron.
I’m even considering doing some work on the ol’ gun show to keep the missus happy.

All productive stuff, all stuff that I usually don’t do as I’m training for other things. But as, for the time being, hoisting heavy iron, or lifting kettles overhead is firmly off the table, why not play with bodyweight and isolation stuff?

We all have good and bad days. We all have times where shit happens and things aren’t going our way.

I’ve had plenty of those, and I’m sure there’ll be plenty more to come.
But using this shoulder injury as an example, we can still find the silver lining to the problem. We can find the wiggle room in which we can still work.

Don’t let your head beat you.

what are you made of

Look for the little advantages, there’s always something.


Dave Hedges


“This’d Be Great For Building That Monkey Strength……”

“…….You know, getting Monkey Strong, not Powerlifter Strong”


This was the sentence uttered by Peter,  a private client yesterday when I had him doing an unfamiliar exercise.

And yes mate, I know exactly what you mean.

Monkey strong.
We know our closest relative the chimpanzee is many many times stronger than us poor Homo Sapiens.
But not only that, the Chimp is fast, agile and can cover fair distances over a variety of terrain and do it pretty fast.
I don’t have exact figures, pretty much everything I know about chimps comes from the Planet of the Apes movies and David Attenborough shows.

David Attenborough and the Rwandan Gorillas.

David Attenborough and the Rwandan Gorillas.

But they’re strong.

And this seems to be what Peter was getting at.

He’s been around, he’s done the gym, he’s done BJJ and now he’s dealing with an ageing body that no longer wants to do all the things his mind thinks it still can.
His shoulders are bollixed and his hip is fighting off the arthritis.

But he’s determined to grow old disgracefully. My job is to help him.

So we had him working some pressing strength. Not easy with shoulders like his.

But there’s an exercise that may not build absolute maximal strength, like the type displayed by power lifters, but will build “monkey strength”

It’s called the Half Kneeling Angled Barbell Press.

Jam one end of a bar into the corner, or a landmine jobbie or as I do, an old car tyre.
Load the other end.
Get down on one knee, the loaded end of the bar held at that same side.
Squeeze your glute for all it’s worth, lift the chest up, anchor the shoulder down and press that bar out.

Here’s my Canadian buddy Adrian Crowe doing some Angle BB Pressing:

That’s the angle barbell press.

It’s easy on dodgy shoulders if you’re strict while still allowing significant loading.
It asks a lot of assistance from the abdominals and glutes.
It puts some length into the hip flexors.

It pretty much ties together the entire torso, training it to act as a unit. Which is where the “monkey strength” reference came from I guess.

I use angle barbell work a lot with my fighters, their shoulders need to be taken care of and integrated “monkey strength” is far more important than simple, bilateral maximal strength like in a bench press. In fact I feature it in the Fighting Back eBook aimed at the BJJ community.

Click the image for more info

Click the image for more info

I highly recommend you try this lift.


Dave Hedges

If you’re interested in my classes / private training, CLICK HERE

Kettlebell and other workshops, CLICK HERE



Yesterday I was fortunate to once again host the Irish Movers Group for a movement class.

This is new group that hopes to introduce the idea of “Movement” to a much wider audience.
Each month it is hosted by someone different who teaches their own interpretation of the topic, look up the group on facebook and come join us for a play.

The conversation at the end that I’m referring to was about the value of individual drills or exercises.

You see i grew up in the martial arts community before I became a fitness coach. During my time in Martial Arts i travelled a lot and trained in many different clubs covering many different arts. But one thing was always present.

Outside of the full contact ring sports (Muay Thai, Judo, Kickboxing, BJJ) many of the martial arts seemed to place a greater value on performing drills than actually being competent in a fight.

And that seemed to defeat the purpose in my mind. Why spend hours training drills that were never applied during the sparring part of the class?

Similar things happen in the world of fitness.

Fitness training was always meant to improve a persons athletic performance. To make them run faster, throw further, hit harder, jump higher.
These events were the application of the drills practised in the gym.

Successful training was measured not by the weight on the bar, but by the performance in the field.

In other words the training had a true and proper purpose.

These days people train to replace the manual labour we used to perform, or they exercise because they think they should.

Wouldn’t it be better, both physically and mentally, if we went back to attaching our fitness training to a grander purpose?

We don’t need to be competitive athletes to go to the gym. We don’t even need to play a sport.
But we all age.

Maybe our gym time can be spent working to slow down the decline of our physical health?
To ensure our muscles, bones and connective tissues are kept strong (read THIS post), to ensure our heart & lungs keep pumping and to stimulate the brain.

When I see regular gym goers who can’t lift their arms overhead or squat full range it bothers me. When I see people who attend fitness classes walk with their knees buckling on every step, it bothers me.
When I look at other dads of my age who can’t chase their kids up and down the slide or show them how to climb a tree, it bothers me.
To me it says their efforts are in vain, they are practising skills but failing to reap the benefits, just like our martial artists who spend hours drilling techniques but still can’t fight.

"The Daddy Bear is going to eat you!"

“The Daddy Bear is going to eat you!”

The human animal is supposed to be a well rounded, adaptable creature.
Train to keep it so.


Dave Hedges

Join the Movement

Working on specific mobility & postural imbalances

Working on specific mobility & postural imbalances

I got moving on my mind.

Movement is the new hot topic, and rightly so.

For too long the bodybuilders ruled the training world and everybody trained like demons in order to look great while standing still.
Then we had the “functional training” craze which I’m still trying to block out from my memory.
Nowadays it’s mostly a combination of Olympic Lifting, Powerlifting and high intensity intervals. Which is cool.

If we look at most athletes and what they do, it’s usually something from Oly lifting, something from powerlifting, a but of interval work and then a shit load of their actual sport.

So the current “model” that fitness is following isn’t far from the what ought to happen.

The problem lies in that the vast majority of the training takes place purely in the saggital plane, ie front to back.
We squat, we deadlift, we snatch, we press, we pull. All in that front to back plane.
We always maintain good form, use the same routine each time we approach and set up the lift.
We are still training and moving like machines.

So this is where the rise in popularity of “Movement” comes in.

Guys like Ido Portal, Dewey Neilsen, MovNat, Primal Move, Animal Flow, GMB, Andreo Spina and the rest are encouraging you to get out of the saggital plane and into utilising all three planes at the same time.
Yes every one of the above mentioned guys still uses the saggital plane for basic strength development, and so should you. But you also need to get out of position, you need to change from one position to the next, you need to explore ranges of motion both loaded and unloaded.
You need to stimulate the central nervous system with physical conundrums. Take it places it really has to think about to get out of.
The joints thrive on challenge, take them to your safe end range under smooth control and then bring them back.
See how many ways you can get into and out of that end range.
Discover where that end range actually is. You can’t know centre until you’ve found the ends.

All this adds up.

Martial Arts guys, Gymnasts and Dancers do this already in their training. Contact sports guys like Rugby players will do a good bit of it in their sport.
But if you don’t take part in a sport like this, when will you ever explore these ranges in your daily life unless you put it into your training program.

So move.

Google the names I mentioned above, watch their videos.

Drop into WG-Fit on a Saturday morning for the Motion is Lotion class or attend one of the monthly Movement Classes hosted by the Irish movers Group.
The next one of these is in my place on Sunday 25th Jan, 1000-1200.
All are welcome.

Now, get up and move.


Dave Hedges