Sunday, January 31, 2010

21st Century Core Training Part 3

Because the function of the core is based integration during other movements, the core can be trained from any position.

In my up coming video I will run through core exercise variations performing the following:
  • prone stability hold position variations
  • push up position variations
  • swissball variations
  • deadbug variations
  • pallof press variations
  • roll out variations
  • side stability hold variations
  • medicine ball variations
  • full body exercise variations

From that lost you will have over 60 variations at your disposal and you can even build your own off these basic positions.

So If I ever hear of sit up been performed again, I'll literally come around to your house and tear you a new one!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

21st Century Core Training Part 2

Remember the days of sit ups? Oh, the memories.

The once staple exercise for the 'abs" is outdated and in it's place has come a new wave of core training.

In the 90's it was found that the deep core muscles were the one's that we should focus on but as the years went by it went to far and ended up with idiots standing on swissballs on 1 leg doing a single arm shoulder press while holding their first born with the other.

There are more ways to skin a cat and there are many ways to train the core. Instead of training the core with specific exercises in mind, train the core with specific functions in mind.

As mentioned in my last post, the most important function of the core is to stabilise the lumbar spine and to stabilise is to keep rigid. Basic exercises for this include prone, push up and side hold variations.

Before producing movement you must be able to resist it so enter anti rotation exercises, or the ability resist rotation. Anti Rotation exercises teach the core to stabilise the spine irrespective of any rotation or transverse forces coming through it. Exercises for this include pallof press, landmine and cable chop variations.

A lot of reason why core training is so popular these days is because of the increasing amount of lower back pain in the general population and especially, athletes. There are numerous reasons for lower back pain which I will detail in a future post but an important one is lumbar hyperextension. A lot of athlete's postures and movement patterns reinforce anterior pelvic tilt of which lumbar lordosis is a result of.

We can actually train anti extension too using exercises such as overhead medicine ball slams and roll out variations where our arms come above our heads but we must be able to resist going into lumbar hyperextension by squeezing our core, squeezing out glutes and re-training our motor patterns to stay out of that harmful range of motion.

Tomorrow I will hopefully post my latest video which will basically a montage of various core exercise variations form a prone hold position, a push position, a side hold position as well as pallof press/cable variations, roll variations, swissball variations, deadbug variations and full body exercises that all train various core functions.

Stay tuned and please leave a comment.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

21st Century Core Training

With the positive comments coming from the warm up video, I will aim to do 1 each week on a different topic and obviously this week will be training the core musculature.

The core is the engine room of the body and provides the power to your movement. I went into it in the How Much Ya Bench? series but I'll reiterate.

The job of the core from a postural point of view is to stabilise the lumbar spine through resisting rotation. From a performance point of view it transfers force.

Taking jumping as an example. When you jump you 'dip' into a half squat position where you are attempting to produce force by pushing your strength down your legs and into the ground. That same force is then transmitted up the legs and into the core and hopefully distributed into the upper the body to complete the jumping action with maximum force.

If your core is not strong enough to handle the force, then it will dissipate half way through your jump and you'll lose power. This can be referred to as an energy leak so what you need to do is to strengthen up your core to handle the stresses going through it and out to the extremities.

Core Activation

At Full Circle Fitness teaching core activation is part of our initial assessment and it is constantly cued during all exercises and with all the lower back pain getting around, we'll keep doing it.

One way of teaching it is to lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground. Now we want to place our fingers just above the hip bones on the front of the body (the top of the iliac crest for you geeks) and cough. What you should feel is something firm push out against your fingers. Cough again. Yep that is your core muscles activating.

Intrabdominal Pressure

Back in the early 90's it was thought that the best way to activate your core was to draw your belly button into the lumbar spine and a lot of trainer's still do this but what's the first thing you do when someone goes to punch you in the guts? Yep, you push out. But pushing out is only half the battle won.

You need to be able to keep a level of this activation constantly but a lot of people will simply lose this activation when the breathe out and this is where injuries can occur during activity. Now lie down and assume the same position as you did for the activation test and breathe all the way in through your nose.

This is where explaining gets hard.

What you want to do now is exhale through pursed lips over 7 - 10secs but only exhale about 70% of that breathe with the remaining 30% being 'pushed' into the stomach, creating the same pressure as you had when you tensed up your guts before getting punched. This is what you should do before each exercise and the more you do it, the more natural it will become.

Practice this during week and hopefully I can get a video together with various core exercise and progressions for you to use in your own training.

Please leave a comment.

Friday, January 22, 2010

21st Century Warm Up Part 2

Well it's taken me 3 days to work out how to do it but I've finally got it.

Here is a dynamic warm up that you can use prior to training or playing footy and it evens works well as a gym warm up replacing your tired 10mins exercise bike routine.

The sound isn't the best but I think you can see what I'm trying to do with each exercise.

Please feel free to send this to your teammates and coaches if they need some idea's and as always, comments are encouraged.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

21st Century Warm Up

If you want to avoid injury, then a thorough warm up is what you need.

The aim of a warm up is to increase core body temperature and to warm up various movements that you'll be using in practice, or during a game.

It is also a great opportunity to stretch out tight muscles, open up restricted joints and activate dormant muscles to give us optimal range of motion to move through, allowing us to play at our best.

Unfortunately a lot of teams are still going through the static stretching protocol of the 80's which can actually decrease the one quality we want above all others, force output. Not a great thing to do when you want to be at your most explosive!

Tomorrow I will attempt my 1st youtube video with a full dynamic warm up geared towards Aussie Rules Football which can be used prior to training and playing.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow to check it out.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Repeated Speed Test

Another test from the AFL Pre Draft Camp is the repeated speed test.

This involves you doing 6 x 30m sprints every 30secs.

For example if you take 6secs to do one 30m sprint then you have the next sprint starting in 24secs.

Each sprint is timed and an average of your sprints is then determined.

This is very specific to Aussie Rules Football, which can require multiple and continuous 100% efforts where the ability to sustain your speed and power is vital to staying in contest after contest.

In the past, sprint training has been a miss-trained where the distances being sprinted have been too long (50 - 100m) which isn't really a sprint test after the first 2 or 3 sets as fatigue sets in, and the pace gets a lot slower.

To train this quality is easy and can be done anywhere at any time. All you need is a stop watch.

1 option is to basically "train the test" where you would do what the test actually is, 6 x 30m sprints every 20secs.

You other, and my preferred option, is to "over reach" where you might sprint over a longer distance in the same time frame, or the sprint over the same distance on a quicker cycle (every 15secs).

This training, providing you're keeping it over short distances, won't induce a lot of soreness post workout (lactate build up will almost kill you during it though) so you could train each option 1/week with at least 3 days of rest in between each session.

Your sprint speed session lay out might look like this:

Week 1 Monday - Train the Test

6 x 30m sprints on a 30sec cycle

Week 1 Thursday - Longer Distances, Same Rest

6 x 35m sprints on a 30sec cycle

Week 2 Monday - Train the Test

6 x 30m sprints on a 30sec cycle

Week 2 Thursday - Test Distance, Shorter Rest

6 x 30m sprints on a 15sec cycle

Retest and adjust accordingly.

If you can, then have a partner time each sprint to get your average as data collection is the only way to know you're getting better.

Please leave a comment.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Making The Kicking Test More Effective?

Yesterday I discussed the kicking test developed by Nathan Buckley for the 2009 draft camp.

I found a video of it here where you can see it action and it goes into the scoring a little bit more too:

What I would like to see is some in traffic decision making included into the test.

This could come from either pressure on the kicker from the front, back and / or side, targets being on a lead and kicking to advantage.

This is only the first year of the test which is "a work in progress" and I have no doubt that it will be improved in the coming years.

This is also a handy test that can be performed at at training or as an extra session during the week if you have a couple of mates, you don't need all of the markers and you could simply run away from the targets and pick the ball up off the ground and whoever calls for it, you kick it to them.

Athlete's look good sometimes (Jarred Brennan) but without football know how and the actual ability to perform the games basic skills, they can get left behind very quickly.

Please leave a comment.

Nathan Buckley Draft Camp Kicking Test

The draft camp is full of test measuring athletic ability and from that, there has been a steady stream of 'athletes" being drafted in the hope that they can become footballers (anyone remember Daniel Bandy?).

I think the trend is on the way out with the drafting of more actual footballers this year, especially with the introduction of Nathan Buckley's Kicking Test.

The test involves 6 targets ranging from 20 - 40m with kicks performed on both sides of the body. You are also scored on speed, accuracy, ball spin and trajectory. The highest rating you can get per kick is a 5 and the lowest score you can receive is a 1 with different criteria for each score.

You receive the ball with your back to the markers and as you receive the ball you are given a particular marker to kick to such as left short, right medium, left long etc.

Gary Rohan, from down my way in Western Victoria (Cobden in fact) received one of the highest scores. He was also drafted by my beloved Sydney Swans so I'm looking forward to big things from him (as well as a few hangers from what I've heard).

Tomorrow I'll discuss on how I think the test can be improved to simulate actual game conditions.

Please leave a comment.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Treadmill vs Outside Running

I was on a public forum today and a young bloke asked about running on a treadmill as the next few days are gonna be scorchers.

I said run outside, someone else suggested he could go on the treadmill.

I have to disagree.

It all gets back to the SAID principle which states that if a person is put under physical stress of varying intensities and duration, the person attempts to overcome the stress by adapting specifically to the imposed demands.

In english, running on a treadmill will make you good at running on a treadmill, but not necessarily on the field.

It will train the cardiovascular system, but again the demands of running on a treadmill are different demands to running on the field. The energy systems may be similar, but the actual muscular demands are not.

The main for us footy players is the use of the glute muscles. They are the most powerful and also one of the biggest muscles in the human body. As the belt of the treadmill runs under your feet as opposed to you running over grass, you never enter into hip extension, the glutes main function. Even with an incline setting, you still don't voluntarily go into hip extension as the treadmill belt simply "pushes" you there.

Not only do you limit an already underused muscle group, but when you do go back to running on grass, your glutes fatigue very early thus moving a lot of your hip extension range of motion to the lumbar spine. Not cool.

Footy is played in hot days, cold days and in the case of my hometown, windy Warrnambool, hail stones so you may as well go out and train in it although you may need to alter your plan a little.

Please leave a comment.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

How Much Ya Bench? Part 3

So far we've touched on how the bench press transfers over to your on field performance during an actual game and also on how to improve your bench press without actually bench pressing.

Now comes the good stuff, programming the bench press.

Now before I go on be sure to understand that these programs are not for bodybuilding purposes or to 'pulverise your pecs." These training methods are for increasing strength, the foundation of all other strength qualities.

5 x 5

The 5 x 5 method is a tried and true method and the basis of the Bill Starr program of the same name. There are also different ways to manipulate it as you progress in your training.

Initially you would use the same weight on each set and aim to get all 25 reps. If you do get all 25 reps then the next workout you'd increase the weight and go again. At some point the weight will reach a point where you don't get all 25 reps. Don't worry though because this is where the fun begins. Now you're aim is to get at least 1 more rep or reach the full 25 reps the next workout. Again once you reach 25 reps, increase the weight for the next workout. It might look like this:

workout 1 @ 50kgs - 5 x 5
workout 2 @ 55kgs - 5 x 5
workout 3 @ 60kgs - 5 x 5, 5, 4, 3, 3 or 20 total reps
workout 4 @ 60kgs - aim for 5 x 5 or at least 5 x 5, 5, 5, 3, 3 or 21 total reps

As the weight gets heavier, the sets you do with your heaviest weight will more then likely need to decrease so what you can do is use 2 progressively heavier arm up sets of 5 reps then do 3 x 5 at the top weight. It might look like this:

1 x 5 @ 50kgs
1 x 5 @ 60kgs
3 x 5 @ 80kgs

So now you're essentially aiming for 15 total reps with the same weight.

Once you reach your ceiling on the 15 total reps plan, you'd be lifting more then most in the gym, especially if you're at a fitness first gym. What you can do now is to progressively work up to a maximum set of 5 over 5 sets which may look like this;

1 x 5 @ 60kgs
1 x 5 @ 70kgs
1 x 5 @ 80kgs
1 x 5 @ 90kgs
1 x 5 @ 100kgs

Again you can increase each session until you can't get 5 reps on the 5th set and then work back up to 5 reps before increasing and going again.

This could easily equate up to 12mths of training before you plateau, especially if you're a beginner.

Singles Over 90%

Made popular by Eric Cressey, it is exactly as it sounds. To get strong you need to lift heavy weights but unfortunately doing too many of them can put the overtraining brakes on your training quick smart so this works well as you lift maximal weights but you don't approach failure, keeping you fresher for your other workouts during the week.

What you would do is work up to a comfortable 1 rep max for the day (not a ball buster though) then perform single rep sets at above 90% of the max you reach that day. You'll also use any warm up sets that you performed leading up to your max, that are above 90% of your max for the day. It might look like this:

1 x 5 @ 50kgs
1 x 3 @ 60kgs
1 x 2 @ 70kgs
1 x 1 @ 80kgs
1 x 1 @ 90kgs
1 x 1 @ 95kgs
1 x 1 @ 100kgs (maximum for the day)

Now you would perform a number of singles with a weight above 90% (90kgs +) of your max for the day (100kgs).

Eric waves his training each week of the month so the number of reps varies each week.

Week 1 - High Volume so 6 x 1 singles over 90%
Week 2 - Low Volume so 4 x 1 singles over 90%
Week 3 - Very High Volume so 8 x 1 singles over 90%
Week 4 - Deload so 3 x 3 easy to rest the nervous system

This works great if you're new to lifting a load in the 90% range as it keeps away from failure which means you're lifting heavy weights under fatigue which can result in injury.


This seems to have taken the training world by storm, including mine. It's so simple and "easy' compared to other methods I've used as the author Jim Wendler (himself a former powerlifter) advocates using sub-maximal weights to increase your maximum.

It also runs on a 4 week block where you ramp up the load for 4 weeks.

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4

Set 1 65% x 5 70% x 3 75% x 5 40% x 5
Set 2 75% x 5 80% x 3 85% x 3 50% x 5
Set 3 85% x 5+ 90% x 3+ 95% x 1+ 60% x 5

The 5+, 3+ and 1+ means to do a s many reps as you can. If you're looking for long term strength increases (and you should be) then this is great.

That just about wraps up the "How Much Ya Bench?" series which I hope you can utilise in your own training.

As always feel free to leave a comment or question.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How Much Ya Bench? Part 2

Yesterday we discussed the importance of the bench press in football and how it transfers to improving on-Field performance.

Today we'll discuss the bench press from a physiological stand point.

The main muscles used during a bench press are the pectorals, the anterior deltoids and the triceps. I think we all know that.

The supporting (and most important) muscles are your rotator cuffs and upper back muscles.


Because the strength of those supporting muscles will determine how much you can lift, not the strength of the prime movers (pecs, anterior delts, tri's).

You're only as strong as your weakness link. An age old quote but one that could not be any more true in this case.

The prominent upper back muscles used for shoulder stabilisation purposes in the bench press are your latissimus dorsi, rhomboids and posterior deltoids. There are also 4 tiny rotator cuff muscles that surround the shoulder that also act as in a stabilising role.

How are these muscles going to determine my bench press you're thinking?

When the body is doing a bench press (or anything really), it does a quick assessment of the muscles being used to see if there are any weak links or a lack of stability. If there is a perceived lack of stability, which usually comes from the upper back and rotator cuff muscles, then the nervous system will shut down the prime movers and not allow the lift to happen for a fear of suffering an injury.

I have not come along any clients or fellow lifters whose stabilising muscles out perform their prime movers, it just doesn't happen. You can also have a weakness during the lift that may be attributed to one or several of the prime movers but until the stabilising issue is corrected, this is not a priority.

Moving to the upper back, it provides a platform of which to stabilise the weight and then to lift from. Think about jumping off a mattress and jumping off concrete. You put the same amount of force 'in" but less force 'comes" from the weaker foundation.

To program for the rotator cuffs, unless there is an actual injury to the area you won't need to isolate them in most cases. Your best option here is to perform push ups of which where there are far too many variations of to go into now. Any exercise performed from a push up position will train the stabilising muscles of the shoulder. Moving your arms and / or your bodyweight in this position will train them harder by shifting more weight and increasing stability demands.

To program for the upper back, rowing variations is where it's at. DB rows, chest supported rows, cable rows, seated rows, t bar rows and inverted rows are your best choices and mix these in with pull ups and chin ups.

In the next installment of "How Much Ya Bench?", we'll discuss different training methods to increase the bench press itself.

How Much Ya Bench?

There was an article that appeared on today about the bench press and it's role in footy.

The bench press is the most popular training exercise in the world. Find me a program without the bench press in it and I'll show you a St Kilda recruit from Essendon who will play this year (i.e. no chance).

It wasn't long ago (is the 60's long ago?) that the standing shoulder press was the upper body movement of choice and the amount of iron you could put over your head, the more revered you were.

Moving into the 70's and the increasing popularity of powerlifting, the bench press slowly took over the mantle and now every Monday is bench press night (or so it would seem if you went into any gym on a Monday night).

I use and prescribe the bench press frequently. It is a great measure of upper body maximal strength simply as it doesn't rely on any other muscles to do the job except the pecs, the anterior deltoids and the triceps. The only weak links are those muscles and/or the upper back and shoulder stabilisers, so the problem is always in the same area.

As far as being a measure of actual performance, I would probably have to go with the standing shoulder press over the bench press as it is a true measure of full body strength. I don't see a bench press performed too often on the football Field.

The main focus needs to be on how to transfer your bench press strength over into a game situation. The "carpet snake" Fraser Gherig , who was known for his bench pressing abilities, was a prime example of this in a one on one battle. Barry Hall, the new Bulldog, was reported to have put up a 155kgs in the bench press just prior to christmas then went on to to say that he's "not even as big as used to be, yet", is another prime example of putting a big bench to use.

The transfer of this strength is all about core strength and force transfer. When you go to jump for a mark you plant your bodyweight down into the ground through your legs and feet. You then push your usable strength and force into the ground which then transmits back into your legs and up through the body, hopefully ending in a high vertical jump and strong arms in a marking contest.

The key link here is the core musculature. If your core strength is weak, as most people's are, then it simply cannot, and will not, transfer your leg strength/power into the upper body, so all the bench pressing strength won't matter a lick if it can't get past your hips.

Increasing your core strength won't increase your bench press much but it will increase your on field performance.

In my next post I'll discuss bringing up your bench press numbers.

Please leave a comment.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My New Training Program

I'm starting my new training program on Monday and I'm looking forward to it as I'm trying some new things I haven't done before.

531 - popularised by Jim Wendler, the simplicity of this is very appealing. Usually my max effort work takes half of my session time but the way this is set up it should only take 15mins per exercise of which there are 2 performed for each session.

High Rep Squats - if you've ever done these then you'll know exactly why I'm doing them. If you haven't then it's a good thing you're reading this blog.

Perfect Rep Training - popularised by Christian Thibadeau it basically involves doing sets of 3 reps per set, starting at 50% of your maximum weight and increasing the weight each set, making sure to accelerate the bar as fast as you can with each set. So you keep adding weight for sets of 3 until you feel that you can't accelerate the weight with as much speed as your previous set. Once you've dialled this in you won't even do the next set as you'll know from the previous set that you should have stopped. This "ramping" activates the nervous system more and more with each set so a weight that previously might have felt hard for you will be a breeze.

Peri Workout Nutrition - this is basically the time from 90 minutes before your training session to 90 minutes after your training session and it's where you should be dialling in your nutrition to prepare and then recover from each and every training session. A fair bit of work for me initially but once it's settled it will be easy to actually do.

Supplements - anyone that knows me knows that, even though I am personal trainer and train myself, I am not a big fan of supplements, mainly because those who use them (15 year olds doing 4 different variations of bicep curls) rely on them to get results instead of hard work. I have never done a proper "cycle" of supplements so I'm very little intrigued to see how they work for me.

Food - I just came off a 28 day fat loss plan that I finished before Christmas which had me training 100x mote then I was eating so to go into a muscle building phase and being encouraged to eat is a god sent. That being said, I made up for it over the Christmas period.

I have a journal over here with more details:

Friday, January 1, 2010

How Will You Improve In 2010?

I was thinking the other day about my local league back home and how the same teams always seem to be able to remain up at the top end of the ladder year in and year out.

There's usually a surprise packet for the year but they don't have a sustained run at the top.

In my old local league it's basically those with plenty of cash that can top up their lists with players leaving higher level leagues rather then in the AFL, how they actually develop the players on their list.

Sparingly you'll find a local/amateur player who consistently improves their all around game year in and year out. What I have found is that the good runners stay good runners, the good clearance players remain good clearance players and the goal kickers continue to kick the goals.

So basically they improve or maintain their strengths without even a fleeting thought to their weaknesses, let alone improving them.

Now I fully understand that apart from the AFL and VFL, WAFL, SANFL etc, we don't have enough coaches at the one team to get to in depth at improving each and every player.

What I do believe is very doable, is to determine their one glaring weakness and have them aim to improve on that during the off and/or pre season while maintaining their strengths.

Doing this over 3 off/pre seasons will ensure that there is constant improvement from within your club without having to spend up to get new talent.

So what do you need to improve on and how will you do it?

Please leave a comment.