Smart Programmes V Stupid Programmes

At Results FAST we consider that we write programmes not workouts. What I mean is that you always should have a plan that relates to what you are trying to achieve be it to get stronger, lose weight or rehab an old injury.

Smart programming therefore is a product of best possible result with the least possible effort. Therefore, anything that you do that is not goal driven is in effect a waste of time. The average fat loss plan is a good example. Get stronger, enhance your mobility, build steadily in to cardiovascular training and most importantly follow a nutrition plan that dictates that the result will be fat loss then you will be in a good space. Simply said this doesn’t happen a lot of the time.

You see a lot of the time a training programme is dictated to be being good by the severity of the session. Indeed the harder the better.I have seen a lot of trainers boast that they have broken their clients, I have watched videos of individuals exercise form fall apart as they engage in high repetition exercises. It is interesting in the fitness industry that harming clients can actually be what people boast about.

Do you really think that people like this? What I mean is that boasting that you make your clients sick or indeed break them is not smart. Anyone can make someone tired and fatigued.

What is funny though as well is that the client often doesn’t understand that this isn’t necessarily the best way to get the result they desire. Though in some cases they have an unnatural desire to be punished. Typically you see this happen in a variety of ways. The average bootcamp is probably the prime example. After all when you perform 200 burpees in a session it’s unlikely that anyone could run or sprint maximally without harming themselves. Indeed do 200 of anything and where do you go? More repetitions? More breakdown in form?

Strength and mobility are the fundamental components of  most sensible workout plans. Do you want to lose weight? Get stronger, develop your range of movement, eat properly and you will lose weight/ get fitter/ perform better it is relatively simple. Don’t fall in to the trap of thinking harder is better.

Harder is only better when it is achievable and form does not fall apart. Think about what you do in the gym and what people look like when exercising.

Fascia, Pain and Corrective Exercise

A recent study has found that individuals with recurrent lower back pain have 25% thicker fascia in the lower back area than those with no pain. This was also reproduced in the neck area where increased fascial thickness of the scalenes (front of neck) was found in those with neck pain. Also it has been seen in the Achilles tendon as well.


Your first question is what is fascia? Fascia is basically connective tissues that encapsulates the muscles, supports organs and transmit movement of the bones in the body allowing movement to occur. Fascia is in effect the clear, cling filmy substance that on a piece of chicken seems to wrap the main muscle tissue (preparing and cooking chicken is after all an anatomy lesson). For effective movement to occur the muscles must be able to glide past each other. If there is not clear movement then there may be a lack of proprioception, poor coordination of muscle function and possibly pain. Fascia is reactive to stress- place more stress on it and it will start to build up. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it will enhance the tensile strength of the body. However, excessive build ups clearly cause pain.

From a training perspective this highlights two things:

1. Fascial thickness is related to pain. Training on it’s own does not correct fascial thickness. The main way to remove these tightness’s is to increase the body temperature of these areas of fascial thickness. The major way of doing this is by deep tissue, high friction massage.

2.Postural issues related to fascia thickness that cause pain need to be helped by reducing the amount of cumulative stress to the thickened area. This may be termed corrective exercise as it highlights that the tissue is overworked and therefore surrounding and supporting muscles and tissue needs to be picking up the slack.

You typically see this in individuals with forward head position developing shoulder and neck pain as well as in those with flatter back postures. You can also sometimes see what is called a Dowagers hump develop on the upper back as a protective mechanism. What happens here is that the neck is in a forward position and as the muscles of the upper back try to hold on to the head extra stress to that area means that as a protective mechanism the body lays down more tissue to provide stability. Interestingly you can sometimes see this on the Achilles tendon where as a protective mechanism the body will lay down more tissue if the joint is under excessive stress. Sometimes this is seen as a bit of a lump next to the heel.

You can tend to see poor movement in a lot of things, knee alignment in particular can be affected by tight fascia down the outside of the thighs. This doesn’t mean just pain in the knee- it can also relate to lower back and hip issues. No amount of cueing or form adjustment will really help if structurally the tightness’s are caused by excessive tissue. In this case a more holistic approach of soft tissue work and strength exercise will be key.

In summary, what to do if you know posture is poor and painful even on occasion. Strength train in an organised fashion to correct any strength imbalances and restore tissue quality by deep tissue massage.

Land Training for Swimmers

We work with a lot of good junior swimmers at Results FAST.

As we tend to specialize in shoulder and back care with these individuals it’s not surprising that of each of the junior athletes we have seen have some form of back or shoulder complaint or injury.

Simply said if your out of pool programme is not complimenting your swim programme and you are still in pain after 6 weeks either you could be on your way to surgery and you are not getting better.

The sole focus of training is that it is practice to get better, land training is no different and provides an accompaniment to the work being done in the pool. That doesn’t mean imposing a more vigorous approach to training- it means using knowledge and the art of coaching to know how to programme, when to push and more importantly when to step back.


Out of the pool we want to maintain sufficient mobility and strength to aid performance and maintain structural strength and the avoidance of injuries.

Simply- it is not about stroke correction, it is not about sport specific training drills.

It is about creating the best framework for athletic performance in the pool.

Broadly speaking when we see new athletes they exist in four categories.

1. Long but tight muscles and existing in a fatigued state. Poor structural stability at the shoulder and lower back. Not recovering well from training volume, chronic injuries or constantly aching backs and shoulders.

2. Mobile with poor stability, often weak on gym tests. On the edge of injury if training volume increases and they do not have the structural strength to deal with the increased training load.

3. Mobile in the right areas but with slight issues related to their posture dependent upon their dominant stroke.

4. Breast strokers- simply their postural issues in the lower body and lower back are different to those who do not do as much training volume in this stroke.

So how  do we deal with each case?

Often it’s not a straight in to train approach as assessment will determine programme. Initially there are two goals establish safe range of movement and improve tissue quality. Now this can be an issue if someone is in the pool for 16 hours a week so a lot of the time some individuals may need more out of pool work than others.

Once we have a suitable range of movement (which often in the injured we do not have) which is pain free we can look to create stability through movement. Again not usually an issue for those with no injuries but with those who are moving poorly or who indeed are coming back from an injury then this is tantamount to future progress.

At the last point we consider loading the athlete- strength in essence is the last thing we add to the mix. Why? When someone has high training volume then adding more strength and repetition in on top of training can be counterintuitve to the overall goals.

We need to clean up and educate correct movement before loading. This really has little to do with pool work but ultimately the postural cues and strength work in the right areas feed back in to swimming form and will help remedy any poor movement patterns.

So each individual is similar in the pool work that they undertake but the methods to support consistency in the pool are personal.

Tissue quality, joint range and strength training are prescribed as neccesary and as an accompaniment to enhanced performance- if one is compromised in one then performance decrements will be seen. 

5 Ways to Break a Training Plateau

The following post is specific to those who have got to a point in their training and are looking to progress that little bit more. Progress in training is rarely a straight line of success, especially as you become fitter and stronger. As I say to a lot of our clients at Results FAST “You will never be more efficient than when you start a new training regime!” This is fundamentally due to the law of diminishing returns where as you become more expert extra gains are tougher and require more effort to achieve greater results from your training.

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1.Decrease high repetition training and specifically work on your maximal strength levels. This is where we often find that a lot of people stay in bodybuilding/ toning (hate the word) rep ranges and cannot work out why they are not improving. Lift heavier, drop to between 3 to 5 reps and find out what strong feels like.

2. Drop your number of sets and try to get a few extra repetitions out. This is where we commonly find the “strength athlete” who is strong but struggles with anything over 3 repetitions as they have poor conditioning levels. Cycling in moderate loads of 5 to 8 repetitions when you have been training maximal levels at 3 repetitions and below is useful for de-loading joints and connective tissue which will take the brunt of a maximal phase of training.


3. Change the order of your training. Although 95% of the time we recommend that you partition strength work closer to the start of your workout than at the end it can be a good thing to mix things up in order to change the training stimulus and avoid staleness. Sometimes we do this with movement drills which can be misinterpreted as a extra conditioning but it works quite well to fix this at the start of a session. It also works well with our fat loss clients who always appreciate that little bit more pulse raising work.

4. Look for small improvements. It has been said to me before that a great gym will have more small plates than large ones. Why? As you become more advanced with your training it becomes harder to illicit improvements. Therefore every small improvement is a step forward. For example adding 5 pounds to a 100 pound bench press is a whole lot different to adding 5 pounds to a 200 pound bench press. Don’t force improvements just find small ways of adding load or advancing the complexity of the exercise.

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5. Use ballistic methods of training. To often people get caught in the weight room without developing their athletic potential. Jumping, kettlebell drills and medicine ball work are accelerative in nature. Two things recruit muscle mass- load and speed. So rather than just trying to add more weight try adding more acceleration and impetus to your exercises by decreasing the load and moving quickly or by using more acceleration dominant exercises. Don’t get carried away though if it goes well (as seen below).


Pressing Progressions

We get asked often how and why we pick an exercise with our personal training clients and place it in a certain place in a gym programme.

The answer we often give relates back to the individual. It isn’t just a programme thrown up on a whiteboard in a random order. Every different person may have different levels of strength/ muscular balance that denotes a certain exercise may be unsuitable. Below directs the hierarchy of pressing exercises that we  work with at Results FAST:

Level 1

Now I look at a lot of peoples early sessions as a rolling assessment. That said taking someone straight in to a full press up or bench press without correct muscular balance is often inappropriate. Often what you will see is a lot of dominance from the traps (neck) as someone struggles through their reps. Now this is great if you wanted a massive neck, most people don’t want or need this- twinned with the issues it can give around the scaplular shrugging while pressing is a massive no no. Typically you will see this with flared elbows (that means out wide rather than 70’s fancy dress) rather than being tucked closer to the rib cage. You tend to see this on high rep style workouts in strong individuals and highlights why form needs to be maintained in these type of sessions and is why I often favor lower rep protocols for conditioning.

Entry exercises are often teaching the basics of stability during pressing. We often start with neutral grip incline chest press and raised height press ups (sometimes from the knee). We look to teach scapular control by keeping the elbows tucked- I am happy to work with lighter loads at this point to make sure everything looks right.

We would also use floor presses at this point as well- often in beginners it is good to contol range of movement- going straight to a flat bench without stability may be a little too much range for unstable shoulders.

Level 2

From here we look to progress in to single arm variants of incline pressing and we may go to a flat bench protocol. Often we will start to integrate full press ups as well as press ups from an incline. Often performing press ups from an incline can be a better start point for trap dominant movement patterns. Although most people consider this exercise as more advanced it promotes a moving more similar to incline pressing. The difference is that as with press ups it dictates that there is a suitable level of strength in the torso area. Often this is the point that limits pressing strength. Simply said if you have poor torso strength the lower back will sag and it will be hard to provide a stable base to press up safely from.


Level 3

Standing pressing is my next progress point. Pressing from a standing position again challenges the torso’s ability to stabilize while performing a pressing movement. It also varies out the stimulus of pressing and often can be used in conjunction with other forms of pressing. In general we often use this as more of a supplemental exercises rather than a primary strength developer as form often falls apart under heavy loads.


Level 4

At level 4 we bring in barbell bench press. Often referred to as the king of pressing exercises it often gets prioritized way to early in a lot of peoples training programme. While being one of the most efficient exercises for force development it also highlights that unless proper form is utilized the trap dominant movement will be utilized. We find that if we have encouraged good form using an elbow tucked/ more powerlifter style/ narrower grip pressing action then cheating on the bench press will be less likely.

Often newbies will come to you and want to bench straight away. This can be okay but be realistic with loading and understand that coaching here is paramount. I would advise that someone can crack out perfect form DB chest press and press ups first.

Pressing from an unstable surface as a supplemental pressing exercise can be incorporated. Single leg press ups, feet on swiss balls and press ups from vibration plates (unstable surface training in my experience works well for the upper body but not necessarily very well for the lower body).

Rather than re-write bench press technique set up and hand position, check this out from the guys at Cressey Performance.


Level 5

Overhead pressing is an contentious issue. With poor shoulder stability it can place the shoulder joint in a range of motion where it is most unstable. My background is also with tennis players and swimmers who indeed spend a fair amount of time with their arm overhead and who ultimately end up with a range of shoulder overuse injuries. The issue with overhead pressing in these populations is that do you want to spend more time exposing the shoulder joint to unnecessary stress when the shoulder should be being trained to be more stable. Indeed a lot of work away from the court or pool should be spent balancing out the postural issues associated with playing such sports not compounding them. For the general population overhead pressing will work well, other people simply may have symptomatic shoulders that don’t need overhead work or indeed previous injuries that may cause instability or pain in movement.

Level 5 could also progress in to different types of pressing such as band pressing, pressing with chains and board pressing with heavier loads. It may also be where I add in supplemental work which challenges torso strength as well. a good example would be the below that Dean Somerset demonstrates well but again this would again be more of a supplemental exercise.

Does Exercise Order Matter?

This is a common theme that I wanted to briefly discuss as a new study has emerged that hormonal markers of post exercise recovery which need to be elevated to get stronger and build muscle (IGF-1, growth hormone and testosterone) are elevated regardless of exercise order. This is interesting because it means that for muscle growth and maintenance that picking your exercise order may not matter. In contrast though the following review highlights this in a common-sensical type of way that exercise order depends upon your goals.


These pieces of research show two things. You can prove anything with science in fitness, reading a scientific paper highlights that in theory you could do things in a random order and still see a hormonal response. Secondly, this is all fine in new exercisers who seem to be the sounding ground for  most modern research. If the sole gain is deemed to be a hormonal response then indeed as how the human body works most adaptive changes occur very quickly- be it strength, hormones or flexibility. Ultimately the stimulus needs to change in order for adaptations to progress.

Also understanding a “workout” based study does not define a programme- short term hormonal responses may be shown in this study but is this the same every workout over a three month period. A lot of research seems to deal with this more snapshot approach highlighting a pretty interesting title but understanding how to read the research is key to it’s applicability to training.


Energy Drinks… What The Science Says…

Energy drinks are a relatively new phenomena in modern diets. While standard carbohydrate based “sport” drinks have been available for a long time “energy” drinks are perhaps another example of “functional” foods which promise to achieve the purpose of giving you more energy.


Energy drinks in general are misleading. They don’t give you energy, well unless they contain a large amount of sugar. What is often reported on their advertising is a host of herbs, vitamins and other creations that will unlock your physical ability and give you more physical capacity or indeed simply stimulants. Now this is one of those things which I consider mis-selling to the consumer. In fact it is quite similar to the reasoning behind why yoghurt priobiotics cannot be advertised as good for gut health. Quite simply if evidence is not definite should a product be able to be sold with ridiculous claims?


An analysis of energy drinks was carried out by Nutrition Reviews, Often these products contain caffeine, taurine, guaraná, ginseng, glucuronolactone, B-vitamins, and other compounds. Some of these are “involved” in the energy creation/ breakdown process but by their involvement it does not necessarily mean that they stimulate energy production. Indeed with the exception of some weak evidence for glucose and guaraná extract, there is an overwhelming lack of evidence to substantiate these claims.


Caffeine is the only component of these products which contributes to the improvement of physical and mental performance. While this area needs to be investigated further it highlights that these wide claims are related to one active compound. Often these products are targeted at younger markets as well as time busy people. Commonly the variety of caffeine and other compounds are combined with vaste amounts of sugar. Simply said in active individuals who feel like they need a boost pre- training or in just general you need to ask these questions.

1. Do you need the extra sugar- if your diet is healthy enough you won’t, if it isn’t healthy enough a sugary drink will only make things worse. 2 hours later you will be more tired once the energy stimulating caffeine has run out and your blood sugar drops in response to a it being too high.

2. If you are using this as a stimulant to give you a push then why do you need this lift? For time busy stressed out individuals caffeine is not the answer, it is a short term boost. If chronically overused it can lead to adrenal stress which can lead to a host of illnesses, poor metabolic function and generally poor recovery from exercise.

3. Caffeine is safe as a pre-workout supplement, it has been tested, but in turn it can be abused. If you need it pre-race/ training/ everyday to perform then go back to question 2.

What are my recommendations?  Knowing where you caffeine comes from is important. Coffee is as simple as it comes. It is simply not necessary to purchase an energy drink loaded with sugar and other random stimulants with the hope that it will pick you up. Again used in moderation on occasions but never as the part of an “energy drink.”

Below is a graphic on how caffeine works- it doesn’t just make energy;)




4 Key Determinants of Fat Loss at Results FAST

There are plenty of diet books out there telling you how to lose weight but 90% of the time you can draw together common themes of each programme as to why they work. Now this is not to say every approach is healthy. Weight loss diets that focus upon weight reduction as opposed to fat reduction are two different things. One could be considered down sizing your fat burning potential while the other could be described as maintaining or at least improving your ability to resist fat storage. The following 4 points are part of the protocol we use with our clients.


1. A prolonged reduction in energy intake. Now this is contentious but intake has to drop for fat burning to occur. This can be lower fat or low carbohydrate or both but fundamentally something has to give. The other way of achieving this is increasing activity levels which overall is a healthier more productive method of creating a calorific deficit.

2. 2g/kg of bodyweight of protein consumption has efficacy with steady consistent fat loss. This is considerably more than your RDI’s of around 0.8g/kg of body weight. Most plans don’t go this high and commonly on any exlusion based diet where food groups are removed you see bounce backs in weight. This has been well reported in standard calorific reduction plans as favoured by most diet clubs.

3. Carbohydrate intake in and around activity. We tend to put carbohydrates in to peoples diets when they need them. With a large proportion of our clients training in the evening we need them to consume carbohydrates for recovery and to rebuild. Obviously if you are inactive then your necessity for carbohydrates as an energy source is reduced. It sort of blows apart the myth of no carbs after 6pm.

4. Shoot for health and cover your nutritional bases before looking to lose weight. If you don’t eat enough nutrient rich food you are unlikely to lose weight as the body will be under constant stress. We aim to clear up people’s health first. That means ticking the box on hydration first of all. Including a varied array of fruit and vegetables. Noticing if there are any negative effects associated with dairy or gluten consumption. Focusing on quality of food sources is the primary aim. After this we look at amounts and if necessary any supplementation.