Monthly Archives: June 2014

In the beginning…

Warm ups, the misrepresented little brother of the the workout. Viewed as not necessary or treadmill for 5 mins is fine, or worse, nothing at all…



5 mins on a piece of cardio equipment is fine if your work out is going to be on that piece of equipment  but your warm up should be representative of your training session, preparing your body for the demands it is about to have placed on it. Furthermore, if you have spent the day sitting on your ass then you definitely need to attack that issue before you train.

      “The warm up is the workout.” – Dan John.

I’m going to out line the basic warm up I have most of my clients do and some alternatives if you need to regress anything.


1. Foam roll – any and all your tight achy bits can be eased out with the foam roller, a tennis ball or a golf ball. Here is a great guide.

foam roll final

2. Kneeling hip flexor stretch – most people spend waaaay too much time sitting, the commute to and from work, work, sitting in front of the TV all have a shortening effect on the hip flexors, as well as a range of other detrimental factors on your health. Step one of the warmup is to start opening the hips again.

3. 1/2 open thoracic spine mobilisation – From your hip stretch, on your right side, move your left foot out to 90 deg and place your right hand down on the floor. Put your left hand behind your head and reach it back and “open” your chest up. Then rotate inwards to reach your elbow in towards your other elbow feeling for a stretch in your lat. Repeat. Don’t let your knee collapse in…

4. Bird dog – gets your core working a little and your glutes firing. Regression – slide the foot out and back along the floor.

5. Prone I,Y,T – Puts the shoulder and shoulder blade through a full range of motion. Focus on the squeeze on the way back in.

6. Push up to downward dog stretch – The push up is a fantastic exercise when done well, when it’s not it looks like your dry humping the floor. Tight midsection, elbows below the shoulder line, don’t face plant the floor… When you get back to the top of the push up, lift your butt into the air keeping your legs straight and aiming to look like this –


Return to the top of the push up position and repeat, gradually trying to work further into the stretch.

Regressions – pushup on your knees, maintain a straight line from knees, through your hips to your shoulder.

7. Glute stretch. This flows straight from the push up combo, bring your right knee up in between your hands whilst in the pushup position, your right foot should be outside your left hand, sit down onto your right hip and ease into the stretch, repeat on the other side.

glute stretch


8. Glute bridge  – Get your glute going a little more, keep you abs tight and lever up onto your shoulders, try not to roll your hips back and curl up in to the top position. squeeze your glutes hard at the top before lowering. Progression, single leg.

9. Squat – up on your feet, basic body weight squat – go! Initiate from your hips, sit back and down, chest up, squeeze your glutes at the top. Progression – squat to stand.

10. Cossack squat – My descriptive abilities failed me on this one.

I hadn’t considered the ankle mobility work possible in the video!

Total time should be around 8 minutes, including foam rolling. everyone has time for that…

Stay strong


Illness, injury and other inconveniences…

Everyone gets ill, injured and otherwise inconvenienced at some point in there training lives.

It’s a fact of life, that just as things are going well and progress is being made, the universe comes along and throws a spanner in the works! When this happens you have 2 options:

1. The “suck it up Princess, get on with it and quit bitching” option, or

2. The smart option.

There will always be a percentage of folks, mostly guys but not exclusively, that go down option 1 and suffer through whatever it is, coming out the other side a little more broken that when they went in. Long term losses in strength and movement quality but at least they kept going. Not so clever.


The rest of us, those that take the smart route, work round the issue and figure out the right fix. This is, in my opinion, the tougher of the 2 options to do since it calls for more discipline and dedication.

So, you have got an issue, what do you do?

Illness: everybody gets a sniffle or worse now and again, to train or not to train, that is the question!

Nobody wants to see a snotty, dribbling mess in the gym, looking like death and coughing and spluttering from exercise to exercise!

If you can’t breathe properly, have a temperature or feel dizzy, lethargic and weaker than a new born kitten, go home. Seriously, go home, have a lemsip and go to bed and sleep it off. Use what energy you have to get better and come back to training when you are ready.

Note: this is not a get out of jail free card for every time you can’t be arsed training. For sickos only.

Injury: sh!t happens. Deal with it.

Unless the injury is catastrophic and potentially life changing in its nature, you can almost always train around it. Barring Dr.s orders to lay off training completely for a short period, there is always stuff you can do to move things on.

Injured your arm? Train legs. Sprained ankle or broken foot? Train upper body, mostly pulling movements and some pressing.

Take the opportunity to work on weaknesses.

I’ve had clients break bones and suffer other injuries but due to their work ethic and commitment still get into the gym and together we figured out a suitable way to work around their issues and continue to make progress. You can too.

Other inconveniences: Life gets in the way sometimes. I know that there are a million and 1 things all vying for your attention and energy. From home life, to work and social engagements, there just aren’t enough hours in the day right? I would argue, no. Given 168 hours in the week, 4 x 45 min sessions make up a total of 3 hours out of the week. Or just under 2% of your week.

Everybody can and should make time for there own health and well being. It might mean getting up a little earlier to get a quick session in before work, or being prepared enough to get a lunchtime session in. Wherever you can, block out some time for you and get it done.

Trust me, you’ll feel better for it.

The 3 Ms of success

Success, particularly long term success, in your fitness is often difficult to achieve. Fat loss, muscle gain, better movement and any other facet of fitness takes time, effort and consistency. Sure, we all know someone who, or have experience ourselves, of short term quick success only to stall, or worse, regress in our achievements.

Even without the quick success, finding the route to our goals is often a challenge, that when success isn’t forthcoming, we view it as failure.

It isn’t. It’s just that you haven’t found the way that works for you. Yet…


i havent failed


I believe that there are 3 ingredients to success in your fitness journey,

Motivation: What is your why? Why do you get into the gym and train your ass off 3 or 4 times per week? If you are a runner, why do you go running? No, seriously, Why…?! 😉

What do you get out of your training? And I don’t mean you get slimmer, or better abz or stronger or any other health benefits you get, but what does that mean for you? Confidence? Accomplishment?

Find your why and you are already set up for success!

Method: How are you going to set about making your why happen? I’m a massive fan of strength training, and if you stick around on this blog a while, that will become more and more obvious! But if going in to the gym, maybe for the first time fills you with terror and confidence is an issue, then that isn’t going to be a good starting point for you, simply because you won’t enjoy going and your consistency will fail. Find what works for you.

Find a good coach or personal trainer and get started with bodyweight. Learn good techniques and gym etiquette , progress the weights steadily, strength will develop, as will confidence, progress is inevitable. If you currently do nothing anything is a step forward with consistent effort!

Means: If you decide on a program that calls on you to travel way out of your way to the most state of the art gym in the area, perform advanced lifts 4 times a week, combined with sprints twice a day 2 days a week, eat 7 meals a day to “boost your metabolism” and worship He who should not be Named on your day off, but you can only spare 4x 45min sessions a week and you’re on a limited budget. Work schedules mean that you can’t eat 7 small meals a day, (who you worship is entirely up to you …) then success probably is gonna be hard to get. Keep it simple, work with what you have, and progress as and when you can and stay consistent.

Success will follow. Guaranteed.

Stay strong


Tagged ,

5 reasons women should lift heavy.

I love lifting heavy things, nothing beats a heavy set of deadlifts or some heavy squats! Apart from the awesomeness factor, there are more than a few good reasons you should be lifting heavy.   Screenshots_2014-06-08-21-24-50 1. If you want a great shape,  strength training will get you it, body fat levels allowing. That generally speaking is why most most people train, with the exception maybe of pro athletes who train to be the best athlete they can be and improve performance and consequently earn more, but even they want to look good naked.  Curves in the right places, low body fat, good definition all come from building muscle.

Ladies, if you want those curves, 3kg dumbbell curls aren’t gonna get you them. Lifting heavier weights challenges the body and demands more muscle be built to better handle the loads the next time.

Muscle = curves.

And no, you won’t get “bulky”.

2. As you get older the risk of osteoporosis increases as does a loss of power leading to instability and falls. Putting your body under load in a controlled way following a structured training plan has been shown to improve bone density in trainees thereby helping to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. The associated improvement in power output from strength gains also may help in avoiding stumbles and falls as you get older.

3.  Setting training goals and following a plan to work towards and achieve them is an amazing way to build confidence in and out of the gym.  The real world tasks we all deal with, carrying shopping in from a supermarket trip, playing with your kids, physical activity at work or at home all become easier when you have a good basic level of strength. Confidence blooms as you realise that day to day tasks are “magically” easier.

4. It looks pretty badass 🙂 Screenshots_2014-06-08-21-50-43

5.  I regularly see folks on the gym moving from the 1 piece of cardio equipment to another taking up to 2 hours a night to work up a bit of a sweat. I’ve been seeing the same folks do this over the last year or more and their body shape hasn’t changed 1 bit! Low intensity, soul sucking cardio hasn’t got them any closer to the body they want. Total waste of their precious time.

Now before anyone jumps all over me about cardio bashing, let me say that there is a time and place for steady cardio. Done for the right reasons and at the right intensity it has a place in the training spectrum. However as a fat loss and strength tool its value is negligible. Add in the pounding your body takes, especially in the “run to get fit” crowd and injuries are just around the bend.

45 mins to an hour  of medium to high intensity weight training using weight that challenge you over a variety of rep ranges will build strength, improve muscle tone and get your heart rate sky high. Don’t believe me?

Load up a bar with 60% of your deadlift 1RM and aim for as many good reps as you can in 12 mins.

Have fun 😉

Fitness in 500 words (or less…)

So, I’ll start with a confession…this isn’t my first attempt at a blog. It’s my 3rd. The first was a valiant attempt to track my progress in training and studying and it died a death through poor time management and lack of imagination. The second was a phoenix-like try to restart my blog after starting as a Personal Trainer at Virgin Active here in Edinburgh. Crash and burn. Again.

Third time lucky.

I had the idea of trying to keep my posts shorter (hence the 500 words or less bit!) and forcing me to make sure know the subject well enough to be able to simplify it and deliver to you the best  guidelines I can so you get the most out of your training and nutrition.

da vinci simple



I always figured that given the multiple options for training each movement or muscle group, and the many nutritional strategies, both good and bad out there, that sometimes the best option for most people in most situations that I deal with (general population and in a commercial gym) doesn’t need a complicated, micro managed system to follow. Some clear guidelines on training and nutrition based on sound principles and enough variation in training to keep it interesting and maintain steady progress is, in my opinion, the clearest, simplest way forward.


At its most basic, I believe in training for strength and good movement, and eating for fat loss and muscle gain. There’s no point in having a fancy training program, covering all the variables of sets, reps, tempo, loading, rest periods, in having the most progressive periodisation schemes and a nutritional plan where your macronutrients are planned to the tiniest detail if your lifestyle and out of the gym commitments stop you from actually following through with any of it.

A straightforward program, easy to follow eating guidelines and ample rest and recovery strategies make things a whole lot simpler and easy to follow. Easy to follow leads to easy to maintain which leads to creating good life long habits. This is the route to long lasting changes and a healthier, stronger, more bad ass you!

As I move forward with the blog I’d welcome any comments and questions that anyone reading this may have, you can reach me here via comments or on facebook or twitter and I’ll get back to you asap!

Stay strong