Monthly Archives: July 2014

Enjoy the process, don’t fixate on the goal

Goals are important. They are hugely important when it comes to achieving anything of value:





Without a goal or set of goals in any given venture, you can’t achieve much of anything.  A clearly defined goal allows a clear path to be followed and progress to be made. The challenge, I believe, is in setting a goal that scares you a little, that isn’t easy to achieve and that pulls you out of your comfort zone enough to create a change that lasts.

I also believe that the process of achieving that goal is  possibly the most important part of the whole thing.

When I started at the gym I work in, I had a mighty deadlift of 140kg (about 308lbs i think) for 3 reps. I was reasonably happy there but I knew I wasn’t anywhere near what can be considered strong in deadlifting circles. I wanted more. So I set myself a target of 200kg, not sure if I could manage it or not and I gave myself a year to get it. So I broke it down to smaller steps, adjusting my programming to find what worked for me and what didn’t,  worked hard and eventually got it.

Once I hit it though, it was, dare I say it, an anticlimax. No balloons, no celebrations, no high 5s from everyone in the gym. It happened and now I’ve just hit 225 on my way to 250kgs.


What I did get from training for that target number was more valuable:

The sense of achievement was minimal, but the lessons learned on what works and what doesn’t have been huge.

Knowing that bad training sessions happen once in a while but its not the end of the world and you bounce right back the next week.

Sometimes you just need to take a week off.

You can always push beyond what you think of as your limits.

That the process of achieving is often more important than the end result because the lessons learned can be used to fuel your journey towards other goals.

People often seem to get caught up in a final result, an ideal body, a perfect weight, a performance measurement or whatever but never give much thought about what it is that gets them there or, at any rate, on their way there.

Without getting too philosophical about the whole thing, learn to enjoy the training process, test your limits, take a week off from heavy lifting now and again, celebrate milestones and have some fun with it all.

Enjoy the process

Stay strong



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4 simple changes to improve your health, fitness and body composition

This Thursday past I was lucky enough to get a trip to a special FitPro event put on for Virgin active Personal Trainers. An awesome opportunity to hear the top speakers of the weekend event presenting to us and to get a preview of the full event. Unfortunately I won’t be at the main event but I intend making sure I do next year!

My favourite speaker of the day was John Berardi of Precision Nutrtion, I intend doing the PN certification when it next rolls around in September so I was pretty excited to hear him talk.

Amongst other things, metabolic flexibility, what is the best diet, diet adherence (long story short – every diet works, adherence and metabolic flexibility being the key to success…more on that later in a separate post!)

Today I want to share what the guys at PN have found to be the most glaring deficiencies in the 30000+ clients they have coached.

The most common nutrient deficiencies that are seen are:

  • Water
  • Essential vitamins and minerals
  • Protein
  • Omega 3 fats

Energy, appetite, strength and endurance, and mood all depend on getting enough of these essential nutrients.When you are deficient on any or all of them things start to break down and you feel crappy. Fixing these 4 areas will quickly have you feeling better, gaining mucsle and dropping body fat.

Your 4 steps are as follows:

1. eat more protein-rich foods to help support and grow lean body mass:

2. drink more liquids such as water, milk juices, teas etc as improved hydration improves performance and recovery;

3.take in more essential fats (through the use of fish oil); and

4. eat more foods rich in the vitamins and minerals needed most, or take a good multi vitamin.

In the case of number 4, I would always recommend that you get those vitamins and minerals from whole foods, but as your diet is likely deficient in these anyway, then a multivitamin takes out the guesswork and ensures you hit you targets!

Now trying all these things at once is a recipe for failure, studies have shown that trying to start or change 3 habits at once has a success rate of all 3 being successfully changed or started at around 10%, 2 habits 35% and if you do 1 habit at a time, your success rate is around 90%.

Pick  the one you can do the easiest and start there, after a week of success with that one add another, building your good habits slowly and ensuring success.

4 simple steps to better health, getting started is really that simple.


Stay healthy!


Supplementary, my dear Watson…

I thought that this week I would have a look at my top  5 supplements available to help your progress, recovery and general health.

What we need to remember when it comes to supplements is that they are just that, supplementary. In other words, they are there to increase the levels of the desired nutrient when there is a deficit in your diet. If you can get everything you need from your diet, then supplements are unnecessary, but on occasionally there are deficits in your diet or extra boosts are required and that’s where supplements come in handy.


steroid protein

erm… no.

Whey protein: Protein supplementation is useful when you can’t make your protein intake through a whole food route, needless to say that the whole food option is always best.

Protein needs for a reasonably active person looking to maintain lean body mass (muscle) whilst losing body fat is around 1.5 – 2 g/ kg of bodyweight.

More sedentary individuals would be closer to around 0.8 – 1.2g/kg and if the person has a lot of fat to drop then use the target weight and not current bodyweight to calculate the numbers.

Bcaa:  Branched Chain Amino Acids, a group of 3 amino acids that have positive effects on muscle when taken at the appropriate times. Evidence from studies show an increase in time to reach fatigue and increased fat metabolisation (presumably from the ability to train for longer…)

Daily intake of around 20g is recommended with most of this, ideally, coming from whole food sources, but if you supplement then around 7.5 – 10g 1-2 hours before training will suffice.


Caffeine: Aaah, coffee! At least that is one of the sources, whether it is in coffee, tea or energy drinks, caffeine has the same form. It acts as a stimulant, increasing endurance, strength and general levels of awesomeness.

Long term consumption can lead to tolerances building up and limiting the awesomeness. Not really a supplement as such, but I’ve included it as it is used extensively both as a pre workout and as an alertness tool. If you find yourself doing everything 3 times faster than normal, then you have probably had too much…


Fish oil: The average diet tends to be high in red meats, eggs and dairy and thereby high in omega 6 fatty acids, ideally there should be a 1:1 ratio of omega 3 and omega 6 fats in the diet for health benefits such as healthier blood vessels and lower risk of diabetes and decreased risk of a variety of cancers. To balance out the omega 3 and 6 ratio, fish oil supplementation is usually necessary unless you are consuming a high fish diet.

Intake should be around around 1g daily as a minimum, although if you are supplementing as a way to combat muscle soreness, 6g per day is recommended, spread aver the course of the day.


Vitamin D: The sunshine vitamin, a micro-nutrient essential for good health. Typically vitamin D is produced from cholesterol synthesised by exposure to UV light from sunshine. Since I am in Scotland and sunshine for any reasonable length of time is rare even in summer time, I always supplement.


scottish summer


Most people aren’t vitamin D deficient but are often below the minimum levels for good health, minimum daily intake should be around 800IUs per day, although supplementation of around 1-2000IUs  per day is recommended.

Stay strong




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How strong is strong?

When it comes to strength training, how do you know when you are strong?

I think that too many people get caught up with how much weight is on the bar and don’t consider strength to weight ratio as a tracker of strength gains. Sure, a 100kg squat would be considered a reasonable mark of strength (not power lifter strong, but for general trainees it is a good marker) but what if the squatter was a 110kg guy? Still strong? In my opinion, not so much. How about if it was a 60kg squatter? I’d take a near 1.7x bw (body weight) squat over a 0.9 x bw one any day!

There are a great number of thoughts on this topic, so I thought I would offer my own insights based on my own clients abilities and my thoughts on the general population and the aims I have for the people I work with.

It should be noted that I am assuming a “normal” healthy individual, with no major issues with injury, rehab or other limitations!


Men – Beginner – 0.5 – 1 x BW                Women – Beginner – 0.5 – 1x BW

Intermediate – 1  – 1.5 xBW                            Intermediate – 1-1.25x BW

Advanced – 1.5 – 2 x BW                                  Advanced – 1.25 – 1.75 x BW


Back squat (to parallel):

Men – Beginner – 0.5 – 1 x BW                Women – Beginner – 0.5 – 1x BW

Intermediate – 1  – 1.5 xBW                             Intermediate – 1-1.25x BW

Advanced – 1.5 – 1.75 x BW                             Advanced – 1.25 – 1.5 x BW


Front squat (to parallel):

Men – Beginner – 0.5 – 1 x BW                Women – Beginner – 0.25 – 0.5x BW

Intermediate – 1  – 1.35 xBW                           Intermediate – 0.5-1x BW

Advanced – 1.35 – 1.75 x BW                           Advanced – 1- 1.25 x BW


Bench press:

Men – Beginner – 0.5 – 0.75 x BW                 Women – Beginner – 0.25 – 0.5x BW

Intermediate – 0.75 – 1 xBW                                  Intermediate – 0.5 – 0.75 x BW

Advanced – 1 – 1.25 x BW                                        Advanced – 0.75 – 1 x BW


Hip thrust:

Men – Beginner – 0.5 – 1 x BW                Women – Beginner – 0.5 – 1x BW

Intermediate – 1  – 1.5 xBW                              Intermediate – 1-1.25x BW

Advanced – 1.5 – 2 x BW                                    Advanced – 1.25 – 1.75 x BW


Pull ups/ chin ups:

Men – Beginner – 0.5 – 1 x BW                Women – Beginner – 0.5 – 1x BW

Intermediate – BW x5                                      Intermediate – BW x 3

Advanced – BW x10 +                                      Advanced –  BW x8+

I’ve picked these exercises to give a good range of full body strength measures.

So, where do you fit in on these? What needs more work?


If you have any thoughts on these numbers I would love to hear them, leave a comment below!


Stay strong