Hand care for athletes!

The truth is that the state of your hands says a great deal about you as a person. It is common knowledge that if you take part in the strength game that you are going to end up dealing with callused hands, torn skin, and being a little rough around the edges. However, this doesn’t need to lead to you having a sandpaper handshake for the rest of your life.

Chalk can only get you so far!

Chalk can only get you so far!

So what exactly is a callus, and what causes them? Well calluses are very similar to blisters i the way that they are simply a separation of skin layers due to friction, with a subsequent fluid build up underneath them. Once they have dried and hardened then they become full blown calluses. They are caused by friction against the skin by another surface. Calluses are common for workmen, rock climbers and strength athletes given the amount of resistance activity they have to undertake with their hands.

Short of a world record, nothing is worth this.

Short of a world record, nothing is worth this.

The fact is that skin trauma to the hands is an inevitable part of strength training, but while many like to view their calluses as marks of pride, the truth is that there is nothing beneficial about having hands like a cliff side. If calluses tear, they are actually pretty messy and can cause you to develop some mega rips in your hands. Tears to hands are some of the most common and most easily avoided injuries in lifting, and Rebellion Strength is going to teach you the secret of having strong, yet healthy hands.

1.Wear Gloves –

HA! Just kidding! Sort of…

If overly manly man says it, it must be true!

If overly manly man says it, it must be true!

2. Train your grip –

The truth is that the movement of the bar against the skin that causes a shift in the hand that leads to skin being stretched. The harder you squeeze the bar the harder it is going to be for the bar to move around in the centre of your grip. The fact is that a great number of lifters that I have seen in my time as a PT simply don’t understand how much force is actually needed to have a strong grip. More often than not I find myself having to use the cue, “choke the bar” to actually get my clients to engage their grip fully. Add more time under tension by adding in pause reps to help develop your grip and above all else – squeeze the bar!

3.Use Straps –

Ok, this time I am not joking. While straps get a bad rap as an easy way out of lifting big weights ‘correctly’, just like anything else if they are used appropriately then they can save your hands a great deal of stress in your workouts. I like to cycle the use of straps in and out of my workouts in order to give my hands a chance to recover while still getting in enough work to develop my lifts. People tell you that straps are cheating, but as far as I am concerned they are just a tool to help you get towards your goals faster and with healthier hands.

4. Actually take care of your hands –

Ladies are pretty good at this. So chaps, stand up and take note! There is nothing sexy about hands that can snag a pair of your best gals tights, so sort it out. Sack up and go into boots and buy a pumice stone. Then go into Lush and get a hand moisturiser than will absorb into the skin and help your skin stay strong. Bad moisturiser sits on the first layer of skin and isn’t absorbed into the other deeper layers of skin, these are what you wan to avoid, so go in and ask the Lush ladies if they can help you. Once you have these essential items get home soak your hands in water and use the pumice stone to smooth out your calluses. From there wash of what ever lose skin has been worn away and then moisturise your hands to make sure that the skin heals cleanly and smoothly. If the site where the callus was is jagged its just going to tear again.

The final form of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” – Anne Frank

Train Strong.

Live Strong.

Be Stronger.

The coach’s responsibility

I feel like I need to get something out in the open, I am sick of hearing about ‘movement mechanics training’ or ‘sports specific training’ when it comes to athletes because more often than not, these terms are misunderstood and misused by strength coaches at large. Sports Mechanics is a very unique field and should be left to specialists. The simple fact is that while I am very much in support of making each and every athlete better at their sport, that is not the job of the strength coach. That is the job of their sports coach, so do your job and make them better athletes!

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We are in the business of making athletes strong!

Too many of us in the coaching field are trying to be more than we are by attempting to move our knowledge in to fields that we are not qualified to speak on. If I take on a rugby player as a client, I am not going to start putting them into sports specific positional drills. Those muscles are already being worked in training and I sure as hell can’t teach them better than a qualified rugby coach. All your doing is exacerbating the issue at hand and not fulfilling your job description. Sure, your working towards making sure that the player snaps the ball marginally faster, but can they run faster, jump higher and change direction quicker? If not, then no one is going to care how fast he or she can offload the ball because the monster at the other end of the field is already closing in on them with a torpedo like pace.

TAKE THAT!

TAKE THAT!

We need to look at each individual sports requirements and make sure that we are tailoring what ever strength and conditioning that we are putting our athletes through directly corresponds to the demands of that sports. If your sport requires rotational force such as golf, make sure you stabilize the midline and work on the capability of the body to generate rotational force. If you’re a thrower, take it ones step further than work on the ability of the body to rotate and extend during the production of power.

Does your sport require agility and power, great! Lets work on the physical attributes that allow you to have agility and power, but lets make sure that we are doing this in a well thought out and methodical way. The aforementioned issue that I have with the way in which some strength coaches are training their athletes is that it is inappropriate not just in terms of the coaches primary function, namely as a strength coach, but also because its working on the top end of the ‘athletes pyramid’ model that I have discussed in previous works before.

To recap, if we think about ultimate athletic potential as a pyramid, we want to build the tallest, broadest pyramid possible and to do that we need to bare in mind that a pyramid can only be as tall as its base is wide. If we break down the pyramid into three sections we have general physical preparedness (GPP), special physical preparedness (SPP), and sports specific physical preparedness (SSPP).

General physical preparedness would be maximal strength, conditioning and bodily composition of the athlete. Special physical preparedness would be applying the athletes GPP within the context of either the time demands of the sport, the context of a movement pattern, or a set physical attribute that the sport requires. For example, max back squat for a wrestler would be GPP. Zercher squats, sand bag carries, or farmers walks would be SPP. Finally, the act of wrestling would be the SSPP, and this relies on the expertise of the wrestling coach, not you.

Zach Even-Esh has made a career taking kids who know how to wrestle, and making them wrestlers!

Zach Even-Esh has made a career taking kids who know how to wrestle, and making them wrestlers!

The long and short of this article is that you need to remember what your priority is when dealing with athletes. It is your job to make sure that your athletes become harder, better, faster, stronger, not to make them better at there specific sports skills. If you are doing your job right then everyone of their physical attributes that you develop will carry over to their abilities within their actual sports. Don’t try and teach a rugby player how to tackle, make them tackle harder. Don’t teach a runner how to run, make sure that they can physically withstand the mileage of their endurance training.

We as coaches have a duty of care, by not fulfilling our job description we are not just endangering our athletes but our reputations.

To find out how you can get strong and realise your inner athlete just click the link below.

http://bit.ly/1rvbFHQ

Train Strong.

Live Strong.

Be Strong.

Simple Speed – Everything you ever wanted to know about getting fast!

Speed kills!

This is a simple fact in the world of sports, the wilds of the Savanna, and in your training. Speed is the key to athletic success, or to be more precise, power is. However, those of you who paid attention in school understand that force, or power is the sum of speed and mass. Simply speaking what this means is that the greater the weight we can move at the most maximal speed possible, the greater the total power output of the body. Now, this has a number of considerations. First, total power output is relative to the source of the force, i.e. the body. It is a well-known fact that the relative strength (total strength in relation to mass) of an organism decreases as the size of the organism continues. This means that if we take a bar loaded up to 150kg and we get two lifters to squat it, with lifter A weighing 100kg and lifter B weighing 60kg, the total power output of lifter B would be greater as 1) his relative strength is greater due to his lesser body weight and 2) because a greater amount of force production is required to move the weight, regardless of the fact that the bar path would move slower due to the requirement of a maximal effort to move the weight.

I know that this has gotten confusing, but bear with me, it will all make sense soon enough. I know I said that speed kills, and as I said, lifter B would have to move slower to move the 150kg squat that lifter A, so lifter A would be moving faster yes? Well yes, true at that weight the larger lifter would move the weight faster but that does not mean that there is a full recruitment of all the bodies’ musculature. What we need to bare in mind is that while a maximal effort lift is moving slowly, it is moving as fast as humanly possible given the parameters of the lifters strength and percentage of neuromuscular recruitment. If the lifter couldn’t generate maximal force in the most minimal amount of time he would fail the lift. Told you speed was important.

Speed... it's kind of a big deal.

Speed… it’s kind of a big deal.

Now, speed obviously has greater implications than just your ability to lift bigger weights. We as a species rely on our speed to think faster, evolve faster and generally be faster than our adversary in order to survive. While Paleolithic man could not have out run many of the predators of the primal wilderness, he could change direction faster, think faster and climb faster, all of which has lead to me being here writing this article for you now. Even now athletes of every kind are trying to get faster. Faster in their ability to get to the end zone, try line, goal, ball etc. first and developing this killing speed there needs to be a three-fold focus on speed development.

First there needs to be a focus on the physics of strength. I know that we have been over the physics behind it, but let me put this into practical terms. Picture a box. Now jump on it. Then jump on it as fast as you can. Then picture a taller box, a box that you can’t jump on to. Now while you can jump up to this box with lesser speed and greater speed, the fact is that if you don’t have the strength to propel yourself onto that box, the truth is that you are just not going to get up there no matter how hard you try.

The fact is that without strength it doesn’t matter how fast you are, you simply don’t have the base on which to build power. Now, building strength, while not easy, is relatively simple and there are 1001 programs out there on the net that will help you get strong. I would recommend anything that is based on full compound lifts and is very squat focused. From there just keep getting stronger!

This doesn't happen without speed. Speed doesn't happen without strength.

This doesn’t happen without speed. Speed doesn’t happen without strength.

Ok, so lets move further down the line. You have been training hard and getting strong for a few months now and in the process you have gotten faster. Your lifts have shot up and as such your total strength output has increased and as such your ability to ability to produce force is greater. What this has lead to is a greater ability to propel your self forward, upward and any other which way you want to go, but, with that being said, speed has not been your primary focus. While every rep of every lift should be as fast as you can humanly make it, the fact is that you cannot move 98% of your 1RM as fast as you can move 50%.

Louie Simmons, head coach/owner of Westside Barbell, arguably the strongest gym in the world focuses a great deal of his Conjugate training method towards speed and force development by the incorporation of specific speed sessions where 40-70% of a lifters max squat, bench or deadlift, depending on the focus of the day, will be taken for no more than 2 reps over 10-20 sets with very short rest periods varying from 30seconds to a minute in length. The whole point of these short rep ranges is to work the fast twitch fibers of the bodies’ musculature.

The muscles of the body consist of three different muscle fiber types. Type 1 fibers that are slow twitch oxidative. Type 2A with fast twitch oxidative, and Type 2X that are fast twitch glycolytic. These fast twitch fibers are exactly what they sound like, fast! As such, when we want to be fast we need to focus on the development of pure, unadulterated speed that can only be developed under loads that are sub-maximal. As such we need to focus on the activation of these fibers using a load that will cause a development of potential force generation. This force development is due to increased neuromuscular connectivity and firing rate. This leads to an athlete being able to engage their strength at a greater speed. This in turn relates to a greater expression of total power and as such speed.

This leads us on to the last section of speed development, practical application. This is where you train the application of speed within the context of your sport. Common examples of this are 40 yard dashes, change of direction drills, target sprints diamond runs etc. the list goes on, but the point is that you need to look at what the demands of your sport, or playing position, have on your speed. In regards to sports like Rugby or American Football heavier players such as forwards or linemen need the speed to get off the starting line fast and make contact first, where as players such as running backs or wingers need the speed to move in-between opposition players and make sure that they can change direction quickly. As such the practical speed training for each player would have to be unique and targeted towards his or her personal needs in regards to their position.

Matthew Stafford

Different size athletes, all moving with as much speed as possible.

This ladies and gents is a brief overview on how one can approach the subject of speed training. My disclaimer on this is that there are many ways to skin a cat and that this is by no means the only way to approach speed training, however it is a concept which has worked well for me in the past and has worked well for others as well. If you have any questions you would like to ask on the subject of speed training, or anything else regarding training for that matter, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

To find out how you can get strong and realise your inner athlete just click the link below.

http://bit.ly/1rvbFHQ

TRAIN STRONG.

LIVE STRONG.

BE STRONG.

The Daily Rebel!

10/12/14 – Playing just the tip

So this is going to be a really quick post to just give you a quick insight now that I have taken a step back into the world of Olympic lifting. After taking time off from any sport activity or movement pattern it is always worth playing just the tip rather than going guns blazing back into something that your body is just simply not prepared for. I have stated my opinions on submaximal training in a previous article. In my case, today was a day spent focused primarily on the snatch. I have not snatched in nearly two months due to having to work commitments at a gym which is not set up towards weightlifting as it lacks the space or equipment necessary in order to perform the lifts as they are intended to be done. Needless to say I was super rusty and had to ease myself back into the game by focusing on getting a large amount of training volume in at lighter weights.

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I am a firm believer in auto regulation i.e. the use of your own common sense in dictating how hard you train. I built up the intensity over a series of triples, doubles and eventually a technically challenging single which was just hard enough that I felt if I stuck at the weight, which I did, that I would get progressively better over the course of multiple quick sets. You don’t need to go balls to the wall every time you step into the gym, nor should you.You need to ease back into training rusty movement patterns and honing your technique. Now, I am by no means an expert at Olympic weightlifting, but I do know that pushing the envelope for no other reason than to satisfy your own goddamn ego and sense of personal expectation is nothing other than a sure fire way to get your self hurt, or worse get yourself into a training rut in which you never take the time to step back and re-evaluate your goals and technical faults.

With all that in mind, here was todays workout:


Snatch

– 3RM

– 2RM

– challenging single: 8×1 (I stuck at this weight till it felt smooth)

Bench press-

– 2RM

– 6×3

Dips

– 5x max reps

Pull ups

– 4 x max reps

Face pulls

– 1×100

Lateral raises

– 4×10


So remember Rebels. Sometimes it’s safer to play just the tip.

To find out how you can get strong and realise your inner athlete just click the link below.

http://bit.ly/1rvbFHQ

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Train Strong.

Live Strong.

Be Strong.

The Daily Rebel!

6/12/14 – 4 tips for a bigger Bench

So today was my first trip back into competition style benching in lieu of setting up to make my return to the platform in the new year, and all in all it went very well. I worked up to a paused set of 3 with 105kg and continued on with my workout, but it got me thinking. I have taken a number of big steps in order to increase the numbers on my bench and I wanted to share with you the my top four tips for a bigger bench.

Now that is one hell of a bench!

Now that is one hell of a bench!

1. Improve your set up – 

While I am still not a real advocate or fan of the dramatic arch used by many powerlifters, what I am an advocate of is getting as tight and set into the bench as possible, regardless of what weight is on the bar. Taking time to make sure that you are properly set on the bench press will be the foundation upon which you can build a monstrous bench. Take time to make sure that you have grounded your upper back into the bench, that your glutes are driven down and are firmly set with your feet acting as anchors and power generators on the ground. Making sure that you are as physically tight and immovable as possible is key. If you get a bit uncomfortable – deal with it. As Louie Simmons, owner of Westside Barbell says, “purple equals strong.” Louie has also said that why have a tan when you can have high blood pressure… I guess he cant be a genius all of the time. The level of tightness your generate with your start position should be the same whether you are benching with the empty bar or your max.

2. Break the bar in half – 

The minute the bar comes out of the rack make sure you set your shoulders by attempting to bend the bar into a horseshoe. By making sure that your shoulders are in an externally rotated position during any time that the bar is out of the rack is going to be key to making those weights fly up. The act of externally rotating the shoulder tightens and secure the musculature of the shoulder girdle and allows for a fuller recruitment of the muscles, thereby increasing shoulder stability and power generation throughout the lift. That being said, it also helps to create a stable bar path due to the limited range of motion of a fully externally rotated shoulder when attempting to ‘bend the bar’.

3. Turn your lats on – 

Have you ever seen a great bencher that doesn’t have big lats? Cause I haven’t. It is a simple fact that the more muscles your recruit, the greater your power output. In essence, without recruiting the lats during your bench press you are a eight cylinder engine using only four cylinders. The lats help create greater stability throughout the bench, especially in the bottom positions with the bar across your chest, but what it also does is trigger a stretch reflex that will help to propel the bar upward. Whether the bench is touch and go, or with a competition pause, never forget to turn your lats on by setting your back and externally rotating the shoulder, pulling them down towards your hips. If you struggle to activate your lats increase the level of upper back accessory work that you are doing. Pull ups, straight arm cable pull downs, single arm rows and lat pull downs are all great options.

4. Triceps are king – 

Besides a big upper back do you know what the best benchers in the world have? Well developed triceps, and I don’t mean a nice lean horseshoe shaped tricep, I mean something that you could unzip and smuggle a watermelon in. Seriously though, the tricep is such a small muscle but plays such a crucial part in making a big bench that they cannot be ignored. Tricep strength in many instances is the make or break muscle in the kinetic chain of events known as a bench press and if they give out, well, then you my friend better trust your spotters. Throwing in lots of close grip benching, as well as accessory work such as dips, tricep pull downs, pushups etc is only going to help develop the musculature of the tricep but also your bench.

Taking all of that into consideration, here is what I did today.


Paused bench press

– work up to a 3RM

– 4 x 3 @ 90% of 3RM

– 1 x max set @ 60kg + pushup AMRAP (As many reps as possible)

Dips

– 4 x max reps

Pull ups

– 4 x max reps

Straight arm cable pull down – 

– 4 x 8 + 1 strip set


Take these tips away with you, try the workout, and get one step closer to building a world class bench press.

To find out how you can get strong and realise your inner athlete just click the link below.

http://bit.ly/1rvbFHQ

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Train Strong.

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Be Strong.

The Daily Rebel!

27/11/14 –

This is going to be the first of what I know is going to be a successful article series. Taking a page from the Barbell Shrugged Crew I have come to realise that the fitness communities thirst for top quality information, training programmes and trainers that they can trust is deep and never ending. To that end I hope that the Daily Rebel – daily training programs, meditations and a personal insight into my personality – will do something to quench that thirst and allow you to become more connected to me and thus I to you.

Today was a great day! I am in transition at the moment from the gym that I am currently working at to a new facility where I will be working on a fully freelance basis, as opposed the salaried position that I currently hold as a Personal Trainer come Leisure Assistant. This has been a huge leap for me and, if I am honest, has terrified me to no end. Until the moment I handed in my notice at my current employers I was filled with a sense of dread! “What am I doing?!”I thought, the echoes of my friends and families concerns over the free lance nature of my new position and its lack of a salary, which is of course marker of a ‘good career transition’ More money does after all equal more success and prosperity… depending on your definitions of success and prosperity that is.

In any case, there I was, terrified. I was worrying about the future. Thoughts like – “is this the right decision?”, “what if I can’t make rent?”, “what if I fail?” – flew around my head like harpies picking at the heart of my dreams and ambitions. But then, suddenly I was struck by a bolt of realisation, failure was no longer an option. Even if I had to sell my belongings I would make rent, and the only reason to think that moving that one step closer to my dreams of being the best Strength and Conditioning coach and entrepreneur that I can be was fear. And, as we all know dear friends, is that there is nothing to fear but fear itself. With that thought, and the feeling of relief as my fears melting away, I handed in my notice and never looked back.

Since then my training has been spectacular! I am stronger, sleep better and over all recover better. One could say that its because I have finished my ten weeks of German Volume Training (10×10) and had a full bodily de-load, but I truly believe it is because of the change in not just my mental state, but also my position in life. True I am taking a risk, but I am also taking a huge step forward towards my dreams and there is nothing that can take that away from me.

Any way, enough of my personal ramblings. Let’s get to the meat and potatoes of my training for the day. Today was a Bench Press day, and I was feeling strong. I worked up to a new PR Bench of 115kg. Not massive by any stretch of the imagination but a big milestone for me. After that I took my time with my accessory work and really had some ‘me time’. I finished the session with some L-Sits as, not only do I believe that full body awareness and use is a key part to being an athlete, but my core has always been a weak point in my bench press and squat, so I take the time to work on it as much as possible.

So here it is:


 

  • Bench Press:

– 6 x 1 (I worked up to a heavy single @115kg)

  • Close grip bench

– 3 x 3 @100kg

  • Dips

– 4 x max reps + 1 burnout set of push ups

  • Pull ups

– 4 x max reps

  • Barbell row

– 3 x 12 @60kg

  • L-Sit

– 3 x max time


 

This was all followed by a good stretch and a foam roll. I have really been attacking my accessory work during my sessions as I am easing myself back in to a more strength focused cycle of training and just generally getting after that jacked and tan lifestyle. Right now I am not following any kind of strict programming other than following a upper body / lower body split due to the fact that my personal and professional life is going through so many changes at the moment. Will I switch back to some kind of formalised training at some point, of course. But, as it stands right now,  after finishing my ten weeks of GVT I have lost 7kg in weight, (95-88kg), put 10kg on my max front and back squat, 10kg on my bench and my deadlift is finally back to 200kg. However for right now I am simply enjoying the process and making gains in one way or another every day, and at the end of the day getting stronger everyday in one respect or another is all that matters.

If nothing else Rebels, remember to enjoy the process of training.

See you all tomorrow!

Train Strong.

Live Strong.

Be Strong.