Author Archives: strongerandsmarter

Harnessing the power of EPOC for faster fat loss

As we all know, fatloss requires a calorie deficit to be created, burn more calories than you consume and you lose weight. Maintain adequate protein and fat intakes to ensure muscle mass isn’t lost and you regulate the hormonal activity optimally, and drop the carbs to necessary levels (since its usually an excess of carbs that has added the body fat you’re trying to get rid of…just don’t go too crazy with the cut!)

So if diet is the overriding factor when it comes to fat loss, how can you speed the process along?

By tapping in to an effect known as EPOC – Exercise Post-Oxygen Consumption, sometimes referred to as afterburn.

This effect is what happens to your body after higher intensity exercise, the higher the intensity, the longer the effects of afterburn last.

Depending on the type of exercise done and the intensity of that exercise, the level of the oxygen debt to be paid back will vary. Low level cardio such as walking, jogging, cycling (at a leisurely pace), group exercise classes create a relatively low level of oxygen demand and little in the way of muscular demands. Therefore, shortly after the exercise finishes, breathing returns to normal (assuming your fitness level is in any way reasonable…) and your body returns to burning the same number of calories as before.

At the start of exercise, regardless of intensity, there is a moment of higher energy production than your standard amount, as exercise continues, you require more oxygen to help with energy demands and your breathing rate climbs to provide it.

Your exercise intensity will fall over time as your endurance energy systems are slower and can’t maintain higher energy outputs, but there is still the initial oxygen deficit to “pay back.”

o2 debt

With higher intensity exercise such as lifting heavy things off the floor and putting them down again, sprinting, high intensity body weight circuits etc create a much bigger oxygen debt, as well as muscular damage

When you do intense exercise, you overload your muscles, helping stimulate protein turnover, protein building, and an increase (or at least maintenance) of muscle mass.

In the post exercise period, oxygen consumption (and therefore calorie burn) is elevated.

After an intense workout, it’s necessary for the body to metabolise additional fuel, replenish energy stores, and reload the depleted oxygen stores. Further, oxygen consumption (and remember from above that oxygen consumption is related to energy use) is boosted due to:

– Higher body temperature

– Increased activity of the cardiovascular system

– Higher levels of hormones that increase metabolic activity

– Energy pathways and the conversion of things like lactate into glucose (for energy replenishment)  or amino acids (for protein       synthesis)

– Recovery of muscle damage

So, with intense exercise, more oxygen is being consumed (and energy being used) during the exercise, after the exercise, and pretty much all day long. In fact, depending on the intensity of the exercise, the afterburn effect has been shown to last up to 36 hour after exercise! And interestingly, there is a higher level of fat burn post exercise too.

During high intensity exercise, the rate of fat breakdown is high. However, fatty acid entry into the bloodstream is limited, but on finishing your exercise, this limitation subsides and the fats enter circulation for transport to be used as fuel during recovery.

So, how can you start using this effect in your training?

1. Use full body exercises such as deadlift, squat, bench press variations done for sets of 5 to 12 reps with loads suitable for the rep ranges chosen.

2. Keep your rest times appropriate. sets of 4-6 get 90 – 120s, 8-12 reps get about 1 minute. For fat loss your next set should be started with slightly higher heart rate and your breathing should still be slightly elevated.

3. Higher intensity circuits as your conditioning of choice, or as shorter standalone workouts.

Here is a great way to build a conditioning circuit to help switch on the afterburn effect:

Pick an exercise from each of the lists, put them together with the time options below and voila! great conditioning, increased work capacity (fitness) and boosted fat burn for hours after the workout ends!

Exercise A Exercise B Exercise C Cardio
 Pushup  KB swing  Roll outs  Sprint (treadmill or outdoors)
 Hindu pushup  Goblet squat  Leg lowers  Bike
 Reverse hindu  Frog squat  Reverse crunch  Rower
 DB press  Bodyweight squat  TRX pike  Skipping
 DB shoulder press  Reverse lunge  Plank

So for example, 20 seconds of hindu pushup, 10 sec transition to KB swings for 20 sec, 10 sec transition to reverse crunches for 20 sec and a final 110 sec transition to 60 sec treadmill run. Rest 60-90 seconds, then repeat for a total of 3 rounds, lie on the floor and try not to die…

If you find the 20/10 work to rest split to challenging to begin with, this can be dropped to 15/15 or even 10/20 before you start to build up again. Equally the cardio component can be as low as 30 secs and built up over time to a max of around 90 seconds.

Total time for 30 sec cardio rounds would be around 10 mins (with 90s recovery between rounds) and up to 12 mins for 90 sec cardio segments and 60s rest time.

Have fun, stay strong


8 minutes to a better workout

Warmups are boring. Warmups are a waste of time. Warmups are going to get you ready to train and might just save you from avoidable injuries.

One of these statements is true… (If you picked option 1 or 2, then we need to have words…)

A good warmup should get you ready to move the way you are about to train, as Dan John said, “The warmup is the workout.”

Got an hour on the cross trainer scheduled? Great, warm up on the cross trainer. Then go consider handing back your gym membership and get outside for a walk instead.

Your warmup should address any flexibility and mobility issues, fire up your muscles that have shut off after sitting on your rear all day at work, get your heart rate up and get you in the zone to train well.

Here is a simple guide to getting yourself going in the gym.


The general rule for stretching is stretch what is tight, but if it stays tight after a couple of weeks of consistent flexibility work, then it’s more likely to be a stability/ mobility issue. The main areas I see that need to be stretched are:

Hip flexors:

Sitting all day wreaks havoc on your hips, your hip flexors shorten to adapt to the position they find themselves in most often (sitting on the commute to work, at work, home from work, in front of the tv). They need to be opened up.


Keep your abs tight and squeze the glute on the trailing leg side.


Glutes: Sitting in one position all day tends to leave you more than a little tight through your glutes, given the multitude of joint angles and hip socket depth variations, you need to find where you get the best result from the stretch position.

Glute stretch


Hip: Hip mobility or lack thereof, is a big issue for a lot of people, feeling all tight and jammed up through your hips isn’t going to help you move well and perform well in your training session. 2 great drills for this problem are:

TRX Cossack squat

Deep squat hip opener


Keep your back straight, use your elbows to push your knees wide.


Tspine: Your thoracic spine is basically the area of your spine from the top to the bottom of your ribs, this is where most of your spinal movement comes from (rotation, extension/ flexion), unfortunately due to the hunched over position most of us get into, we can end up losing a lot of that movement, this simple drill can help you get the range of movement back –


IYT: Your shoulder blades should have the ability to slide around your upper back, allowing your arms to work through a full range of movement, however due to curvature of the upper back and weakness in the mid/lower traps this becomes difficult and range of movement is lost. This 3 part drill helps you get it back. Focus on feeling the shoulder blades move around the ribs as you reach out, and squeeze them down and back as you pull in.

Bird dog: All the movement here should come from your glutes and not your low back, before you begin you need to brace your abs with a big belly breath, then breathe out with each movement, working to maintain a neutral spine throughout. To begin with, I usually have clients start with the leg only portion of the movement, only adding in the opposite arm component once they can maintain good position and have the leg drive come from the glutes.


pushup variation:

These options on the pushup/ hindu pushup give you a great full body movement, building shoulder stability, upper back mobility, hip mobility, and a little stretch through your lats, hamstrings and calves.

Option 1: Straight arms throught, this helps you learn the movement and begin to build the strength needed to progress to option 2.

Option 2:


A good quality bodyweight squat focussing on keeping the heels down and chest up position. Aim for parallel at the bottom.

Glute bridge  – focussing on squeezing your glutes hard at the top. Imagine levering up from the bottom position and squeeze your glutes hard at the top. If you feel your quads or hamstrings doing all the work, adjust your foot position and lift your toes off the floor to find a better position to get your glutes working.

Glute bridge

Left: Single leg option, Right: double leg option.


While there are other good warmup options available to you, you want to keep your warmup short and effective, and I feel that these options get the job done really well.

Full warmup

Hip flexor stretch – 15-20s per side

Glute stretch – 15-20s per side

T-spine rotation – 4-6 per side

Deep squat hip opener – 3 or 4 15s holds at the bottom

IYT – 5 per movement

Bird dog – 5 per side

Hindu pushup variation – 4-8

Glute bridge – 8-10

Squat – 8-10

TRX cossack squat – 4-6 per side

Try this out before you train and you’ll feel, move and perform better.

Stay healthy


Cake versus icing

When it comes to training and nutrition, people have a tendency to get caught up in the minutiae, the little details that they are convinced are going to make a massive difference. When in fact, these are the little dot of icing on top of the cherry, on top the banana slice on top of the icing on top of the cake.

In short, most people are missing their cake.

For most of us, being consistent with 90% of the important stuff will give us the results we want. The last 10% is what gets you in stupidly good shape but usually isn’t maintainable in the long term.

Let’s look at the order of importance in training and eating when it comes to achieving the body you want:



Compound movements. The cornerstone of your training, these build strength and add muscle. Deadlifts, squats, pullups etc work multiple muscle groups, burn more calories and generally increase your awesomeness more than any other exercise.

Accessory exercises. These are the exercises that help improve your performance in the main exercises you do, Rdls, single leg  variations such as lunges and step ups, dumbbell presses, pull downs etc are usually multi joint exercises to help improve stability and strength. Generally these are going to be performed with  higher reps than the big lifts.

High intensity conditioning. Short, brutal, effective. While this type of cardio burns calories at a reasonable rate, predominantly using glucose as fuel, when it’s over, the oxygen debt created help the body burn fat for several hours after the exercise finishes through the wonder of EPOC (Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption, also known as afterburn).


Low intensity cardio. This is the long walk, half hour+ on the treadmill or bike, walking to work etc that burn calories while you do it but doesn’t create the afterburn effect. There is no oxygen debt to be paid off so calorie burn returns to baseline levels very quickly after exercise.


Isolation exercises. These are the cherries on the cake. Everyone likes a few sets of biceps curls now and again, triceps extensions, lat raises, leg extensions and the rest give you a pump and in some cases can help out with the bigger stuff if programmed in correctly (bicep curls to help with a pullup for example).

Unfortunately in training, especially for fat loss, (low level) cardio and crunches are still seen by many as the route to a beach ready body, but inevitably this doesn’t work.

Focus on getting stronger and I’ve yet to see many folks who can deadlift and squat 1.5x bodyweight and crank out a few good pullups who aren’t in really good shape.



Total calories. This is the foundation of of your weight change. At its most simple, calories in v calories out still counts as the major factor in fat loss or muscle gain. It is of course a little more complicated but if you dont get this right, the rest doesn’t matter.

Macros. The ratio of protein, fats and carbs that make up your diet is important too. For me, Protein is the most important of the 3, since it’s responsible for so many  processes in the body and most people are barely getting enough in their diets to hit their minimum necessary intake. Fats and carbs make up the rest but this takes a little experimentation as some folks handle slightly more carbs better and some prefer a little more fat. Track, assess and adjust as needed.

Hydration. You are made up of a lot of water, you need to drink lots to maintain adequate levels. You probably don’t drink enough. Drink more water, tea, coffee.


Meal timing. As you get closer to low body fat levels, meal timings begin to count a little more but the difference this makes is less than people think. If you are on low carbs, book ending them around training makes sense, getting 20-30g of protein in every 3-4 hours has a good effect on protein synthesis, but beyond that most of us don’t need to worry about meal timings if the previous 3 points are being met.


Supplements. They are called supplements for a reason, they supplement your diet, making up for any short falls you have nutritionally. A good protein powder, a multivitamin and a good fish oil will help. If you are dairy free, then maybe a calcium supplement will help. 99% of the rest are a waste of time.

For most of us who are training to move better, get stronger and look better naked, points 1-3  on both lists are going to give you 80% of your results, if you have time for the rest and you are consistently getting the rest done, then go for it but don’t rely on these to get the changes you want!

Stay healthy



Lessons from my attempt to get leaner

About 4 or 5 months ago, not exactly sure when, I decided that come January this year I’d see how I’d get on getting lean. I’m not talking 5% body fat, ready to step on stage lean, but 8 or 9% whilst maintaining as much mass as I could. Why? Well, for 2 reasons:

1. A colleague was going to start prepping for his first fitness competition of the year and I thought it would be fun to see what I could do, and more importantly,

2. 90% of my clients are trying to not only get stronger, but also trying to lose weight and drop body fat.

The second of these reasons is the big one for me, my own strength and fitness goals are ongoing and I have no issue with motivating and challenging myself to chase them down. But I have never really had to think about my own diet and nutritional strategies. My typical thought process on food goes something along the lines of:

  • want food,
  • find food,
  • eat food,
  • repeat as necessary.

A fortunate combination of genetics, lifestyle and having an active job means I get away with a lot more food freedom than a lot of people. Yeah, I know, sucks to be me…

Over the course of the last few months I’ve learned a few things, I want to share those with you guys and give you my 5 factors I’ve found to be most important in getting leaner.

Generally, I sit around 12% bodyfat most of the time. my weight stays relatively steady at around 100kg. ( I wasn’t always like this, imagine if you will, a 6’4″ guy carrying about 65-70kg…)

My goal was 8 or 9% maintaining as much weight as I could, this is way more challenging than I thought!

1. It takes time, consistency and a few failures to figure out calorie numbers.

I can comfortably eat 3500cals a day and maintain body weight and bf%. cutting those cals down takes time and consistently hitting macro targets and adjusting to what’s happening. That means you can’t just starve yourself for a few days then go back to eating “normally” and expect to see results, unless the results you are happy with are muscle loss and still having a crappy bf%.

2. Hitting your protein and fat targets each day is vital.

Carbs, make up the rest, but you have to be within your cals for the day. If you want to maintain, and indeed build, muscle, protein is a must. If that means topping up with a protein shake or 2, so be it, but you need to get it done. Since your carbs will be lower, getting adequate fat in your diet is necessary, not only for nutritional and health purposes, but to keep you from going nuts. On lower carb days, if I didn’t hit my fat target, I wanted to throw the nearest person to me through a wall. I got grumpy, not many people realised this, since I look generally grumpy anyway. Always smiling on the inside though! When I hit the fat target, everything was golden, and, more importantly, everyone around me was safe!

3. With a calorie and macro target, I had to think about my food choices more.

I’d rather eat my calories than drink them in a shake, so I needed to think more and prepare accordingly. When I didn’t, my numbers were way off. Once in a while, thats fine, long term is a disaster. Making sure I had enough good protein sources such as chicken, beef, eggs, greek yoghurt and salmon, as well as plenty of fresh veggies, available was huge.

Half an hour shopping each week is all that takes.

4. A cheat day, once a week, keeps me sane.

I plan it for whatever day we are going out, or maybe getting a takeaway meal in. Thats right, you can lose bodyfat and still indulge every now and again. I am happy to spend a whole day eating whatever I want, often doubling my normal 3500cal intake for the day. And I enjoy every minute of it. For some people, a single, indulgent meal can be all thats required, some find an increase in carbs for the day whilst still hitting protein and fat intake is good. Whatever it is, trial and error is necessary and not going completely nuts is important.

If a whole day makes it tough getting back on track the day after, try a single meal. If thats not quite enough, increase carbs throughout the day.

Be honest, and adjust as needed.

5. Exercise is important.

You’ll notice at this point, that it’s all been diet related. That’s because your diet is the key to body comp success. Exercise does come into play though, building or maintaining muscle mass helps drive your metabolism and obviously burns calories. Simple advice for this is train hard, work up a sweat and beat last weeks total on something. In a slight calorie deficit, you aren’t going to set any powerlifting records, but you can maintain your muscle mass and most of your strength.

Squat, deadlift, bench and pull ups, some accessory work to address the weaknesses, and some short, high intensity conditioning at the end of each session is on the cards.

Work hard, rest adequately, repeat consistently.

Stay strong




Increasing your comfort zone, bit by bit.

Comfort zoneEach side of the square is influenced, and influences, the others. As strength improves, so does conditioning (or work capacity if you would prefer to think of it on those terms), nutrition needs to improve to support both, as does recovery.

Strength is the easiest improvement to make if you are new to training, with early improvements in strength largely coming from getting better at new movements and your body becoming more efficient at performing them. This is why, as you get stronger, adding strength becomes a slower and slower process.

Nutrition supports everything. Without good nutrition, recovery is inadequate, muscle building is poorly supported due to insufficient protein intake and conditioning is tougher without the fuel to drive it. Get this side of the square growing and the rest becomes easier.

Recovery ties in closely with nutrition and allows the adaptions training forces, to happen. Adequate sleep, rest time between sessions, massage, foam rolling and mobility work, as well as good nutritional habits, all help you recovery from the stresses of day to day life and training and allow good things to happen.

Conditioning is the “just want to get fitter” part of the equation. What most people say to me when I ask them why they are training is, ” I want to get fitter.” Part of the goal setting process, is to start to define what that means. Most think it’s getting better at plodding out miles on the treadmill with no intention of actually using this to run a race because the long boring run has been pushed as how to get slimmer. Whilst low intensity is a valuable tool, it doesn’t really help with what many people actually mean by getting fitter. The ability to get through your day, lifting, carrying and moving for the whole day without feeling like your gonna keel over from exertion.


For each of these sides of the comfort zone square, progress has to happen, some are easier to deal with than others, but the process for each is the same.

Making small improvements consistently, will over time, add up to massive improvement.

Strength gains come from a few extra reps over the course of your sets, or a couple of extra kilos on the bar. For example, you have 3 sets of 12 on a goblet squat at 16kg. First time at this weight, you go 10, 8,8, the next time you go 12, 10 8. The next time it’s 12,12,10. Thats almost a 33% increase in volume on your first attempt, and you are now at the top of required rep range and the process begins again at a higher load.

Conditioning improvements again come from the same process. I remember a new client starting with me, really strong but no real conditioning base, the first attempt on a simple conditioning circuit took them to pieces and we had to break it down to an easier version. Gradually over time, the loads used increased, more reps per round were added, and more rounds were added until conditioning levels improved to the point where anything can be thrown at this guy and he handles it as he has the base to support it.

Recovery is a tough one for a lot of people to get to grips with. The more is better idea of being in the gym all the time must lead to better results is widespread, unfortunately this only ends up with a lot of people being unable to maintain the impossibly high amount of gym time and then inevitably dropping off completely. 3 – 5 sessions per week for 45 to 60 minutes each is enough for most people to achieve 90% of the goals they have. Endurance event training will take more time each week due to the nature of the event.

Improvements in sleep quality and length, as well as the other tools mentioned above all will help in this area, make small improvements in 1 area at a time and make them habits.

Nutrition is the big one. The area most people struggle with. The over reliance on processed foods, serving sizes that are too big, poor ratios of protein, fat and carbs, all result in poor energy levels, shoddy recovery and weight gain. I could do a whoel series of posts on this topic but for this one, I’ll give you 3 tips to improve your nutrition:

  1. Eat protein at every meal. Higher protein intake supports better protein synthesis, resulting in higher metabolism, better body composition and better satiety, making you less likely to snack due to hunger pangs.
  2. Cut down on cardboard carbs. That is anything that comes in a cardboard box. These tend to be highly processed carbs with little or no nutritional value. Great for filling you up, but with the lack of energy demands, these carbs just get stored for future energy demands that you are unlikely to provide, and they get stored as fat. Swap the processed carbs for whole food sources, which will provide vitamins, minerals and fibre which will mean the sugars are processed differently and as a whole will be of more use to your body and it’s functions.
  3. Monitor your total calorie intake, at least for a while. You’ll probably be surprised. In order to drop body fat, you have to be in a calorie deficit. It’s a simple matter of calories in versus calories out. (Except there is more to it than that, but at it’s heart, this is what fat loss comes down to, again I could do a series of post on this topic…) You don’t need to track forever, but until you get a handle on the amount of calories that work for you, are at a a maintainable level in the long term, tracking is a must in my opinion.

Again small changes, maintained over time, are the key to success.

The simple rule to making these changes is this:

Be consistent, and do a little better than last time.

Stay strong,


7 rules for getting the most out of your gym sessions!

Getting the best out of your training sessions isn’t always easy, but follow these rules and it’ll be a little easier.

1. Focus

You’re in the gym to get some work done. Sure, you have a bunch of people you want to chat to, but that’s for after. Right now, you are in training mode. Don’t be an asshole about it, but get your work done!

I find having earphones in and my training playlists on and turned up (combined with my generally grumpy look, honestly I’m smiling on the inside…) usually stops most people talking to me. I also use my warmup to get “in the zone” and ready to go.

2. Be consistent.



Training once a week just isn’t going to get the job done. It will help minimise loss to an extent but inevitably there is going to be a drop off in all areas of fitness. Your body reacts and adapts to the stimulus you provide, regular training allows you to increase the input (load/reps/ sets) to get better output (muscle gain/ recovery/ strength/ body composition). Once a week isn’t enough, you should be aiming for a minimum of 3 solid sessions a week.

3. Follow a plan.

How many people do you know or see in the gym with a plan in their hands to follow? I’d guess at about 5%. You know what? That 5% will make more improvements in strength, muscle building, power development or any other measureable area than the other 95% combined. A well thought out plan, building towards a goal or goals, will  lead you through the minefield of mindless wandering bullsh!t you normally see in the gym.

Find a plan, follow it.

4. Aim to set a PR in at least 1 area every single session.

It doesn’t have to be a massive increase in your deadlift or squat, just aim to improve somewhere in the session. You managed 3×8 on your goblet squats last time? Great! Go for 3×9 this week. Building gradually to whatever you top of the rep range you are working to. I generally prescribe rep ranges for that reason, it gives you an opportunity to build from a minimum rep total to a maximum at which point you are ready to increase the load and repeat the process.

5. Listen to your body.

Most of you know the difference between pushing through tired and achy muscles, and trying to push through actual pain. Do the first, don’t do the second. If you feel the second, back of, get it checked out and come back ready to go.

That doesn’t give you an excuse to quit all together. Most of the time with an injury, you can work your way around it, still get a great training effect and aid the healing process. Just don’t be a dumb ass about it!

6. Get smarter about recovery.

Results don’t happen during the training sessions. The results happen in between the sessions, during your recovery time. This is your rest time, time to work on your mobility, get out for  a walk, get a sports massage, whatever else you like to do outside of training.

Tempting as it is, don’t squeeze in all your sessions back to back at the start of the week and go out and have a wild weekend, then go again at the start of the week again. You don’t have enough time to recover between sessions and get the best out of the later sessions.

Spread them out, no more than 2 in a row, at least a day in between. Don’t over think it.

7. Stop comparing yourself the the guy or girl across the room.

You’re in the gym training for you. That’s it. not to compare yourself to Billy Biceps or Brenda Buttcheeks. Youre build is different, your training stage is different, your goals are different. Comparisons will do nothing for you.

I realised this a while back and am reminded often, there are plenty folks in the gym who outperform me on a daily basis, I could worry about not being as strong/ fast/ explosive/ able to down a protein shake as quick as them, but I am stronger and in better shape than i was 6 months ago, so that’s all I care about. And it’s what you should be focussing on too.

stop comparing



Ab solution Part 2

In part 1 of the ab solution we looked at a few anti extension exercises that can help give you the strength and control you need in one of the directions your abs work in. In this section we will look at the rest. (Part 1 has now been updated to include video demos of the exercises, go check it out, again!)

The ability to resist rotation through your torso is as important when it comes to protecting the spine as being able to resist bending movements. Keeping your hips and ribs pointing the same direction and having your torso move as a single unit also helps with power transfer and stability. Rotational power (think golf/ tennis/ throwing etc) is also improved by the increased strength of your obliques from being able to resist movement.

Anti rotation exercises

Pallof press – keep your knees slightly bent, quads and glutes tight and your shoulders back and down. You should be able to keep your elbows in close throughout, not have them flare out wide.

Antirotation hold – Simply holding the end point of the Pallof press, resisting the pull of the cable or band, and keeping your hips and ribs facing forward.

Band alphabet – Building further on the hold, the alphabet increases difficulty by having you move your arms in a controlled way  (writing your name, spelling the alphabet etc) whilst maintaining rib and hip position. Much more challenging than it looks…

Anti lateral flexion (side bend)

One sided loaded carry – Loading up one side of your body and either holding position or walking for distance or time is great for building strength through your obliques, as well as hip stability and grip strength. Go heavy but try to keep your torso vertical throughout.


Loaded carries shouldn’t look like this…



Waiter walk – Similar to the carry above with one teeny little tweak…the weight is above your head. Not for those with dodgy shoulders but great in helping to develop some shoulder stability in those who can get into position with no pain. Prepare for your abs to be well and truly tested!

While these are my favourite ab exercises and I find most clients benefit from keeping it simple, there are a huge number of variations on these, go experiment!

Stay strong





Abs, abs glorious abs!

Whether your goal is a rippling 6 pack or just a strong core that can withstand anything thrown at it, these exercises can help you get it.

Before getting into the exercises, lets look at what your core is. Knowing what constitutes your core will help get the best out of the exercises that follow.

I’m going to keep this simple, it’s everything between your knees and shoulders. Don’t believe me? Do a short, 10 sec plank with good technique and high intensity and tell me which muscles are being used. Quads, hamstrings, glutes, abdominals, lats. All being used to stabilise and hold that perfect plank.

The abdominal muscles themselves act as a bracing system for the torso, helping to create and, more importantly, resist movement. Endless sets of crunches just won’t get the job done…

Your spine is capable of a number of movements, flexion (forward bending), extension (backwards bending), lateral flexion (side bending) and rotation (twisting). Your abs make these movements happen, but more importantly, they resist them from happening. Think about carrying a heavy bag in one hand, your ribcage doesn’t just fall over to the loaded side, your abs on the opposite side engage and hold you in an upright position.

Your rectus abdominis, your 6 pack muscle (or chick pack, or if you have the genetics – 8 pack) attaches to your pelvis and your ribs, effectively tying the 2 together and not letting your top half fall away backwards whilst controlling your rib and hip position.

The exercises:

Anti extension.

Plank: Lying face down with the elbows under the shoulders and toes tucked under, squeeze your glutes, quads and lats (imagine pulling your shoulder blades down towards your butt), then tighten your abs and lift your hips off the floor to make a straight line from heels, through your hips, to your shoulders. Your hips should be slightly tucked as if you are trying to pull your pelvis towards your ribs.

Extended plank: As with the plank but with your elbows forward of your shoulders, more inline with your face. The extended position increases lever length meaning your abs have to work harder to maintain the slight posterior tilt you create.

TRX fall out: The first of 2 “moving” plank options, on your knees in front of the TRX with the straps around 6-12 inches off the floor depending on strength levels. Your body should be in a straight line from knees through your hips to your shoulders, again with a slight tilt to your hips (pulling your pelvis towards your ribs). Under control, fall forward whilst holding the TRX handles, holding the straight body position, going as far as you can under control before pulling back to the start position. Don’t break at the hips!

Ab wheel roll out: A more advanced version of the fallout, using the ab wheel which increases instability and puts you closer to the ground.

Leg lowers. When it comes to anti extension strength, failure happens either at the rib end (ribs flare) or at the hips (hips sag). I like the leg lowering exercise to help develop some control at the hips. Lying on your back, holding on to something solid, roll your hips back until you have a slight backward tilt of your hips, brace your abs, and lift your legs off the floor to around 45-60 degrees, lower them under control, maintaining your low back position throughout. Bend your knees and limit your range of movement if you have trouble holding your hip/ low back position, gradually increase range as you get stronger.

Later this week I’ll post part 2, covering the anti rotation and anti lateral flexion exercises.

Stay strong



Excellence is a habit



Almost regardless of your training goal, your consistency, or lack of, will determine your success. Here are 5 ways to help you get more consistency and become more excellent!

1. Priorities, priorities, priorities. If you want to change your body for the better, then it has to become a priority. There can’t be excuse after excuse as to why you don’t do what you know needs to be done.

Obviously, most people have to work, have family commitments, want to maintain a social life etc but at some point you have to decide that amongst the big priorities,  training and making time for good nutrition habits have a place. Everyone has the same time constraints, we all get the same 24 hours to use as we choose, and it’s not a case of finding the time, you must make the time, otherwise it just won’t happen.

Everyone can find 30-60 minutes, 3 -4  times a week to train, it might be at home, in the gym or outside. Schedule it, then do it.

2. Take some time at the start of the week to plan and buy for the bulk of your meals. It doesn’t take long, and it creates a habit of thinking about what you eat. Creating a meal plan for the week that takes into account your work/ family and social schedule helps you avoid potential pitfalls of getting hungry and reaching for the first, usually crappy, choice that comes your way.

3. Track what needs changed. Think about what you want to change about your diet or body composition, then measure it and see what changes occur over a 1-2 week time frame, assess then adjust as needed. Sometimes the simple act of keeping an honest food and sleep log will help you make better choices and improvements are an automatic result. Sometimes, you need to look a little closer and look for more specific areas that need to be addressed.

4. Remember you are an individual. What works for me, or your best friend or that celebrity in the magazines may not work as well for you. You need to honestly look at what is working and what isn’t. Your diet is great? If you aren’t energised and your body shape isn’t what you want it to be, then I’m afraid your diet isn’t right. Training hard but not getting stronger/ faster/ bigger? Then your training needs adjusted. Finding the right plan may take some experimentation and will undoubtedly end in failure occasionally, but by making adjustments to 1 thing at a time, you can tweak as needed to get the result you desire.

Remember, making time and building good habits that fit in and compliment your lifestyle is the only way to achieve and maintain the fitness and strength levels, and body, you want.


Stay strong



Short circuits

There is a place in the world for low intensity, steady state cardio. There, I said it. It can build a strong aerobic base and help you recover faster from higher intensity training. The problem is, it’s so damned boring. And time consuming. And boring.

I think short circuits for fat loss and conditioning are a more efficient way of doing both. Now don’t get me wrong, if you are training for an endurance event or for a sport like football, basketball or rugby then you have to put the miles in, but for fat loss and general conditioning these are a really good option.

I’m going to share a really simple way of building circuits, all you have to do is to take 1 exercise from each group and use the appropriate rep ranges to get the best out of them.

Group 1:

Performed fro 6-15 reps

Deadlift (40-50% max)

KB swing


DB shoulder press/ squat and press

Pull up


Group 2:

Performed for 20-30 secs or equivalent distance

Walking lunge

Bear crawl

Frog squat – for those who haven’t done these before –

Farmers carry

Treadmill/ woodway curve treadmill/ deadmill




Group 3:

Body weight exercises done for 6-15 reps


TRX row

Reverse lunges

Bodyweight squat

Mountain climbers

While these lists are by no means exhaustive, the illustrate the types of exercises and reps they can be done for. You notice that the heavy exercise is first, then a high intensity conditioning exercise is next, then you finish with a bodyweight exercise where load is taken out of the equation and technique is more easily maintained.


Deadlift x 6-12 reps -aiming for as many good reps as you can

Frog squat x20-30 seconds

Push up x6-15 reps

Rest 60s and repeat for 3-5 rounds.


Pull up x3-10 reps

Bear crawl x10m forwards and backwards

Mountain climbers x 10per side

Rest 60s and repeat for 3-5 rounds.


KB swing x10-15 reps

Deadmill x 20secs

Bodyweight squat x 12

Rest 60s and repeat for 3-5 rounds.

While I use a 60sec rest and 3-5 round format as it fits in nicely with my training plans, you can change the rest time and number of rounds to suit your needs. For example, increasing both rest and number of rounds can help you build a better aerobic base. You could also see how many rounds you can complete in a set time period, 10/ 20 or 30 mins as a stand alone conditioning session.


Have fun, and stay strong