Deconstructing the Deadlift

I like deadlifting…. Mainly because I am good at it. This is a common thing for a lot of people who lift weights or perform any form of structured exercise. We tend to master the things we are better at, be it squatting, bench pressing, sprinting or marathon running. We develop excellence by specialization. First we decide that we want to achieve something (such as picking up and deadlifting your own body weight) achieving a target before repeating this task to replicate the successful behavior  Twinned with that we may not prioritize that exercise and forgo other more challenging exercises. People usually say that they do yoga or run, rather than stating that their exercise programme is a multi-layered fusion of a number of training styles that will unlock their physical potential.

I am interested in strength training. It helps you maintain lean muscle tissue and mobility if performed in the right way,  it enhances your metabolism and ultimately makes you look good. From a physical potential point of view it is also a facet of fitness that can translate to the development of other- flexibility training doesn’t make you stronger and cardiovascular training doesn’t enhance lean muscle mass whereas strength training can help the performance of both of these. This means for time poor people it is a great way of training and developing a well rounded physique in line with a bit of interval and aerobic work depending upon time restraints (another post).

Deadlifts are perhaps the king the free weight domain along with squats and the bench press. Indeed these classic exercises have survived for decades as many a gym can testify. While other forms of training have come and gone there is an old school approach that highlights picking up heavy stuff is generally good for you (if done properly) and if done constructively in the right way may turn you in to an elite strength athlete (possibly).

Deadlifts are what I am going to focus on today. After teaching the basics of any exercise you may consider adding some weight. This can often be the first issue as adding additional resistance changes the whole movement pattern of the exercise. With the deadlift you teach the movement by hinging at the hip, keeping the back straight and driving through the hips. See below….

Often though people don’t have the mobility to get in to that position, what you typically see is back flexion and forward bending. You may see lower back flexion- this is an inability to maintain a neutral lower back position and may be related to poor hip mobility and poor torso strength. You may also see upper back flexion in the thoracic area. This will be seen if people are weak in their thoracic/ back extensors. It is important to distinguish between the two as for individuals who move a large amount of weight may see a degree of thoracic flexion. Lumbar flexion needs to be avoided at all costs as it is potentially injurious. Individuals who deadlift in this manner should in the words of a great American rapper “check themselves before they wreck themself.”

But what to do if you lack hip mobility in this situation? Should you continue to deadlift? Well there are a number of options. Step one is to hammer hip mobility pre- session in your warm ups as well at every opportunity you can during the day- if that means telling your work colleagues you are now an athlete it is fine, though they may never understand. Step two is to ingrain the movement with lower threshold alternatives so that you can maintain a strong torso position while hinging at the hips. Kettlebell swings are a good alternative as are Rack Pulls.

Both of these should be undertaken while adding in to the mix a lot of hip dominant single leg exercises. Hip dominant single leg exercises are those where we can emphasise a strong torso while developing strength and mobility in the glutes and hamstrings. The humble step up is a good start point. Rear foot elevated split squats are perhaps a progression but are a great prelude to building up to deadlifting.

The next step is to deadlift from somewhere between rack pull height and full deadlift height. Typically this may be of boxes or a couple of plates. A lot of the time if someone has long legs, lifting from the floor provides too much stress on the lower back and form cannot be maintained. Indeed for a lot of our trainees at Results FAST it is smarter way to deadlift.

Full deadlifting as you see is a progression not a start point. While it is earmarked as a primary exercise it should only be done well in perfect form. If it isn’t then there are two things wrong. You are not mobile enough to achieve the correct form or the weight is too heavy causing you form to degrade. Mobility tends to shut down when you are not strong enough to maintain correct joint position- it usually means drop the weights a little as your back will thank you the next day.

Fat Loss- It’s Not Just About Cutting Carbs…

In continuation from my previous posts on hormonal influences on fat loss it is important to state that keeping carbohydrates in your diet can still invoke fat burning.

Another hormone Lipoprotein lipase (LPL) is moderated by insulin levels. Increases in insulin (due to carbohydrate consumption) increase LPL and elevated levels of this hormone are seen in line with elevated blood triglycerides. This is because LPL’s role is to break down triglycerides in the chylomicrons releasing free fatty acids which are then available for energy metabolism or indeed to be restored by the body as fat. If it was all about high insulin equals no fat burning and low insulin levels equalling fat burning it would be a simplification.

This highlights that even during carbohydrate consumption and elevated insulin we will still metabolize fat- a good reason not to exclude carbohydrate from consumption as standard in the long term as a lot of “dietrary extremists” suggest.

There has been tentative research in to the importance of Acylation Stimulating Protein (ASP) which plays a role in the breakdown of triglycerides as well as the transport of glucose. This enzyme which is stimulated by insulin is also stimulated by high numbers of chylomicrons in the blood stream indicating again that high insulin is not the sole mechanism for fat storage.

So what does the science behind fat burning tell us? Well there are a range of factors that influence the rate of fat breakdown and storage.

It is clear to see that focussing upon one part of this process would be ineffective as a mechanism for fat loss. This also highlights why if you over eat on carbohydrate or indeed fat you will convert excess fuel to be stored as fat regardless of food combinations, timings or amounts.

Taking one supplement may help one part of this process but it may also limit another process in the body over a period of time.

Current obesity research highlights this point in that eating excessive calories from one food source or indeed all the major macronutrients may not be the sole cause of obesity and fat gain:

“…Obesity can arise in the absence of calorie over consumption. In addition, opposite models can show how obesity can be prevented by increasing expenditure to waste energy and stabilize body weight when challenged by hyperphagia (over consumption).”

(Rampone, AJ, Reynolds, PJ. Life Sci. 1988; 43(2):93-110).

“The regulatory systems (of the body) control both energy input and output so that for a given steady state, compensatory changes on the input side are made if expenditure is challenged, or on the output side (expenditure or efficiency) if intake is challenged…Realizing human obesity is caused by the interaction of an obesigenic environment with a large number of susceptibility genes, successful treatment will require uncoupling of these compensatory mechanisms”

(Jequier et al 2002).

“The critical issue in addressing the problem of alterations in body weight
regulation is not intake or expenditure taken separately, but the adjustment of one to the other under ad libitum food intake conditions”

(Buchholz et al 2004).

In the end, as these papers suggest, understanding the relationship between “energy in” and “energy out” requires a more complex energy balance model than currently espoused by the media and health authorities, again this is an example of where there has been an oversimplification (and where a calorie may not necessarily be a calorie) of the science behind not weight loss but fat loss.

Training Programmes- Critical Non-Essentials and Finding 5% Extra

Training by it’s general nature is the repetition of something to get better at a given task. This often can lead to a lot of repetion of certain exercises or types of training which can lead to staleness, boredom and sometimes a loss of motivation. In our training centres we pride ourselves on having an innovative approach to training.

Often changing or tweaking the way you train with subtle changes can provide a whole new training stimulus, indeed trying something different although not a wholesale change can give a good training effect. That is why I term some methods critical non-essentials. If anyone has read Sir. Clive Woodward’s autobiography on how England won the world cup then you will understand that sometimes little things can be the difference between a good and a great result- he discussed this with it’s merits towards winning a rugby match but the same thing can be applied to your training..

1. Go Barefoot… Dropping your footwear or buying a minimal shoe such as a Vibram Fivefinger or a New Balance Minimus can have a profound effect on your training. Though not necessarily for everyone and not necessary for those who run large distances the effect of trying a change in footwear can have a great carryover to balance, proprioception and strength. The concept revolves around training the foot to do it’s proper job helping strengthen your arches naturally- something that modern supportive shoes do not necessarily do very well. By performing your gym based workouts barefoot it can help develop foot strength and ankle stability with exercises such as walking lunges before moving on to low level running for those with suitable strength and good posture.

2. Intensity Ahead of Volume… The efficency of what you do has a direct corelation with the results that you want to acheive. As you become fitter you develop the ability to do more- in effect you acumulate training volume. The key to really taking your fitness levels up to the next level is working on developing your training intensity- not just how much you do. The benefits of interval training are pretty well documented so rather than using steady state cardiovascular exercise mixing periods of high intensity work with active recovery is a more efficent way of working. We have found (escpecially in women) that aiming to improves someone’s top levels of strength translates well to helping improve their conditioning gains once their general conditioning levels have plateaued. Dropping your repetitions per exercise to 5 for bigger exercises such as squats, deadlifts, press ups and pull ups will help lift maximal strength levels and can give you training the kick it needs to take you on to the next level.

3. Turn the Session Upside Down… From time to time we get stuck in a training rut. Turning things on it’s head from what you normally do can have a great effect. For example, do you normally stretch at the end of your session? If you do it may mean that you have not been prioritizing flexibility as part of your training. Moving it to the start of the session may help give this facet of fitness a push as well as give a slightly different emphasis to your training. Do you normally train your abs at the end of a session? If you do place them at the start, it will switch your abs on and mean that you core muscles are ready for the session ahead instead of justing throwing a bit of ab work together at the end of the session.

So why not try this three methods and let me know what you think!!!!

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Ian King

Last Wednesday I attended a lecture by Ian King on Athletic Preperation Strategies for Elite Athletes given by one of the worlds best strength and conditioning coaches Ian King. Now Ian King is not a name that you may not have not necessarily heard. He isn’t quite as media friendly as a lot of other “expert” coaches as he more often then not speaks very straight and tells it as it is. No fads just the combination of 30 years of experience with a number of world class athletes and Olympians means that this guys opinion should be taken seriously. I first stumbled upon his work over ten years ago and put it this way- it is now just as relevant as what it was then.

A lot of the time it takes a duration for an industry to catch up with good practice, however the fitness industry tends to struggle with one major issue “over marketing” and the use of loose facts to drive fads and products. To say the focus of the day was on critical thinking of the “getting results” process was an understatement. Indeed by lunchtime I had started to scratch my head- in some sort of matrix style conundrum it was if everything was not as it seems. Now I could cover a large amount of detail from micromanaging squat form, basic core activation, trigger point release techniques but fundamentally the ultimate question was based around how do you know what you are doing is working and effective.

When you have a track record of 30 years at the top preparing international athletes who have taken medals at World Championships and Olympics you sit up and take notice. Indeed if you were looking for a coaches coach ahead of an ace marketeer then Ian King is your man. He isn’t a fan of vibration plates, high training volumes, standard gyms and the education the current fitness industry provides. He is a fan of reviewing what you do constantly and maximizing your results with simplification before advancement- indeed equipment wise it highlights the point that barbells and dumbbells will do most things well.

Without giving the whole talk away (as there are too many points to raise for a blog post) I will highlight my top 5 take away points:

1. Doing things in the right way at the right time are important. Maintaining your professionalism and your own personal ethics are key to being a good coach.

2. Flexibility is more imporatant for trainees (not just the elite). It is the most underlooked assett of fitness as it is the most undersold (you can’t sell too many £2000 treadmills that enhance flexibility). Joking aside flexibility is important and adding more repetition and strength on to already tight movements is what most “exercise” programmes do. Take a step towards flexibility and mobility and prioritze it in your workouts if it is lacking in certain areas.

3. As a follow on from that Ian emphasised the main components of “physical fitness” as flexibility, endurance, strength and speed. Most programmes emhaise strength inspight of the necessity of the other factors of fitness, indeed most training centres are set up this way. Having a better understanding of what constitutes balanced development whatever your goals are is the key to progression.

4. Every push exercise should be followed by a pull to balance the body to avoid postural dominance. Not exactly a ground breaking revelation for the way I have always written programmes however I just wanted to mention it to put another nail in the “chest and triceps” split programme that still dominates a lot od the fitness industry. Old school rules is not always a good thing!

5. The internet is a minefield of misinformation- choose your sources of information well. A lot of information is now very brittle in if it is actually fact. Many fitnss pro’s relay this informaton back to their clients with a definitive spin on the issue without necessarily knowing thay what they are saying is true. You see this more than often in nutrition as well where a certain food is demonized or prioritzed without looking at the bigger picture. Information now has the ability to travel quickly though it does not necesssarily this information is right- apply a filter to this and you will be in a lot better place.

Overall it was a great day hosted by Graeme Marsh and the guys at The Foundry so thanks to them for organizing.

Strength is a Skill…

In any physical endeavour the ability to perform at your best is oftren desirable. In fact challenging yourself to hit new goals be it pull ups, press ups or any exercise is pretty much the driving force of all the programmes I write. Even for those with the goal of just looking better if you are performing better and getting stronger then you are likely to be looking a lot better!

As a coach I always highlight to my clients that being involved in the process is the key. What I mean is that turning up, giving your best and being accountable for your own success (and failure) is the name of the game. Often people get too tied up in the process of overly focussing upon the result- a coaches is job is to worry about the results because as a trainer if we don’t get them then we can get the sack and are eating beans out of a can for the next month.

When it comes to strength training and developing your physical prowess then turning up for each session, focussing upon the process of mastering your goals and maintaining the motivation over a period of time will drive you to acheive your goals. Just with anything in life it takes practice to get better- indeed this is mentioned  in the books Outliers and Talent is Overrated that one of the fundamental driving forces behind success is hard work and commitment beyone what other people give over a period of time.

So if you want to master pull ups, press ups or run an ultramarathon the key to success is turning up and consistancy over a period of time. Rarely are there short cuts to long term low body fats or a “secret” way to remove your back pain. So when you assess your training goals remember that beyond anything you are mastering a skill and to do that you have to invest time in the process, if you do this the results will happen (Of course a focussed, motivating environment with coaches who have a track record of success will also help the process as at Results FAST!)!

10 Years, 10 Lessons…

A decade of training a variety of individual’s for a variety of goals starts to teach you a lot of things. I have had the luck to work with some great personal training clients, focussed fat losers, developing athletes, rehab based physio’s, teams and coaches who have gone on to great things. Most importantly I have worked with some great trainers who have helped me develop my career. This post is basically a celebration of this and lists 10 of the most important lessons people can learn when looking to get stronger, perform better or simply to just look great.


1. Nutrition is 75% of the “fat loss” battle…

You cannot out train a bad diet. Food is abundant in western culture and forms an integral part of our daily routines. The truth is that although activity levels can be increased if it is not supplemented with a focussed nutrition plan then the results you will get are going to be limited. The everything in moderation crowd will disagree with this but if you want wholesale change and great results you have to “buy in” to the process. When it comes to nutrition it also means you can play the “fast fat loss” card or take it steady over 6 months- different strokes for different folks. Consistency over that period though is vital and therefore the nutrition plan can vary. That in effect explains why there are so many different weight loss plans. There are certain ways that we believe are most effective and that’s how we support our clients goals at Results FAST

2. Conditioning is only skill specific…

Whatever you do, be it running, biking, high intensity circuits, olympic complexes or even Zumba (yes, Zumba). Your ability to resist fatigue is only comparable to the task. Different people will need different levels of conditioning but as conditioning is only specific to the energy system you want to train. There are a variety of facet’s of conditioning to train from strength based conditioning with methods such as circuit training, to high intensity intervals such as sprints or spin bike based work or even including aerobic base building common in a lot of endurance athletes. The truth is short high intensity “intervals” will not always cut it, training has to be varied for progression too much one way and progress will be limited hence why programming needs to be changed often and varied for progression. This is a practice that we follow changing up our clients programmes from month to month.



3. There is no such thing as a training “system” just “philosophies”…

If someone says they have a system of training it means they have basically closed the door on new methods or being able to react to an individuals specific needs. A good coach will listen and add new styles of training if they see it a useful for improving their trainees results. Training is quite simple- anyone can write a programme or a workout with rudimentary knowledge, the internet is awash with experts. The key though is good coaching and long-term programme design where you have to roll with the punches sometimes from a session to session basis. It’s the difference between someone who is just there to motivation to someone who will help you achieve your training goals.

4. Trainers are not here just for “motivation”…

Seriously- motivational quotes are the cliché of personal trainers and fitness coaches which makes us all look like Ben Stiller’s character on Dodgeball. Motivation has to be internal as well as an external thing to achieve a goal or at least to keep going forward. A good coach is someone who provides support but not someone who’s role is so integral that the person cannot exercise or train without their presence. The truth is though most people want to have some form of accountability e.g. someone designing your programme, helping with organisation and giving you the motivating push here and there. A trainer does not need to become a crutch to lean on. While feeling “accountable” to a trainer the motivation has to be partly internal, you have to want the goal enough yourself in the long-term this is more important for getting results.

5. Turn up, consistency counts…

Over a period of time turning up more often gets you to your goals than not turning up. Sometimes when you don’t fancy training it’s those sessions which will keep you going forward. Simply said but probably one of the most important concepts. Consider your own training, if you are not achieving your goals how consistent are you at turning up be it training or/and nutrition?

6. Intensity is key for the plateauing exerciser…

Repeating the same programme over and over again without improving is sort of like replicating a hamster on a wheel. You are working hard but going nowhere. Intensity is the key here- taking your programme in a different direction is key for changing things up. You have three things you can mix up intensity (how hard), volume (how much) and complexity (what you do). Changing complexity too often does not allow learning and mastery of the skill so it should be changed month to month. Volume can be changed by doing more which can be useful at certain points though excessive training volume can be tiring and counter productive. Intensity though allows you to push yourself to new heights especially if you have been working at the same consistent level. Training volume often has to be dropped when taking intensity up but for the person who needs that extra push it can make all the difference.

7. Your weaknesses are often more important than your strengths…

It surprises me when people remark on how lean they are or how much muscle they have. Also a lot of people think they are strong because they can bench press xkg or are a great runner because they have a 35 minute 10km. A lot of time we are good at the things we practice more. Most of the things I find that people need to add to their programme are the things that they preferentially avoid. For instance, most guys avoid training their legs. Most females avoid lifting heavy weights afraid of bulking. Well for both sexes getting stronger and improving your weaker points will have a better effect on improving your strengths in the long run.

8.  Environment is key to success…

Where you train and the people you train with are vital for success. It’s probably the seminal difference between getting a good and a great result. In my mind an atmosphere where you are not judged, receive positive social support with an accountability factor that keeps your training consistent is key to goal achievement. Be it getting stronger, rehab or weight loss where you go to train and the standards set by the people around you be it your coach, friends or trainees will often govern the results that you will achieve and continue to achieve. It’s something we take great care of at Results FAST in Ware as we feel it separates us out from the competition.

9. Movement skills and integration doesn’t happen in isolation for the lower body…

From a corrective and rehab perspective I am lucky enough to have worked with some great individual’s who have taught me a lot. A lot of rehab protocols in my mind though tend to work on muscles in isolation. Although in some cases this may be relevant in others it means their progress to full exercise can be hampered. With a lot of trainees they need to reintegrate in to exercise quicker and start to build up basic movements so that they do not become completely deconditioned. I have seen people with knee pain lie on their side doing hundreds of glute exercises followed by stacks of glute bridges because glutes are good for stability. Did anyone consider that quads and hamstrings are good for stability as well? Simply said if it’s the right time to progress get on to two feet as quickly as possible and start developing the base movement patterns even through limited range initially.

10.  Education is experience, experience is education…

This one is for the fitness professionals in the crowd. It doesn’t really matter how long you have been training people as a coach. It does not really matter what qualifications you have. What really matters is what happens in between those points. Everyone is so concerned with being specialist they forget that all specialism starts with a great general rudimentary knowledge. Brain surgeons don’t just become brain surgeons it takes quite a few years to get through medical school before that level of specialism happens. It’s the same with training people, if you have worked with fat loss clients predominantly step outside the box and get some practical work with a physio or nutritionist or another allied health practitioner. If you work with athletes get out and work with the general public. Which ever direction you are coming from improve your “frame of reference”, it will make you a better trainer in the long run.


3 Proven Fat Loss Tips…

Fat and weight loss is often a lot of our clients main goal at Results Fast. With the volume of misinformation in the media it is hard to find information that is factually correct.


These three strategies are backed up in research as having a positive correlation with fat loss. Now this does not mean they are the causitive factor- it means these three things are associated with getting a positive result.


Strategy 1- Eat more nuts. Nuts get a bit of a bad rap because they are high calorifically, however in research nut consumption has a positive corelation with weight reduction. The calorie theory of weight loss in the sense of “what goes out has to be more than what comes in” is useful as a guide. The fact is though that nuts are packed with quality fats which have a hunger satieting effect and makes them a useful addition to most nutrition plans as a snack food in small quantitites. So take Mr T’s advice and get some nuts!


Strategy 2- Drink Green Tea. The metabolism enhancing benefits of green tea are again well documented. Green tea consumption is a good replacement for calorie containing beverages which may be unnecessaery when trying to burn body fat. There are a variety of mechanisms for green tea’s metabolism enhancing effect, but often it is a case that it may be better than an additive field soft drink or a sugar laden juice drink which may promote fat storage.


Strategy 3- Positive Social Support.  This is probably the most important and is where we excel at Results FAST. Getting the support of your friends and family is vital for getting a great result in your health, training and nutrition. Being in the right environment is a great thing for acheiving your goals and getting motivation not just from a trainer but also your training colleagues. So if you are not getting the support you need ask yourself is your training environemnt conclusive to acheiving your goals and is your trainer giving you the positive support you need.


The New Rules of Circuit Training…

Circuit training has been a mainstay in fitness training for decades, some may even say centuries. With the rise of smarter methods being developed to burn body fat, raise our fitness levels and lift performance to new heights it is important to recognise circuit training for the benefits it can deliver. Most people will recognise a circuit as a mix of a variety of different exercises in a random order. You move from one exercise to the next with an elevated level of fatigue and a heart rate that is rapidly accelerating out of your chest. Now this is where the difference comes between a circuit that has been designed in a smart way compared to a circuit that is designed to knock both legs from underneath you and leave you hoping that you will see the sun rise for one final time. It is important to define at this point the reason why you would perform a conditioning based circuit. Circuits are designed to build your “work capacity” meaning the amount of work you can perform in good form. It is no good lolling from one exercise to the next performing half decent repetitions where your form goes to pot placing unnecessary strain on the joints of the body. Think of it in this way- it should almost be You Tube quality; no one wants to see someone doing something badly. The mistake most people make is that they will fly straight in to a circuit class without any basis of strength. The mistake most personal trainers make is that education comes first before a workout that will leave someone in need of replacement organs.

It is important to develop form and function before invoking any type of fatigue which is why basic strengthening exercises such as squats, lunges, press ups and pull ups should be mastered ahead of going all out on a “death circuit.” Your conditioning level will be directly related to your strength levels- the weaker you are often the poorer your conditioning or the greater the time it will take to bring your conditioning to a great level. Improve your strength levels and the benefits you will gain are twofold.

Structurally you will be stronger meaning better exercise efficiency meaning you can do more. This means in turn that your conditioning levels can grow faster in line with your enhanced strength levels. A circuit should be designed with balance challenging the major movements in the body. The upper body can be paired with the lower body meaning the cardiovascular system can be challenged without causing exercise form to depreciate through fatigue. It also does not need to be high repetition as most circuits tend to be. Remember we are trying to build “work capacity” so repetions can be as low as 4, this is phenomenally useful for strength based athletes such as rugby players. These lifts are not maximal though but exercise form should always be maintained. So for instance you could pair bench press with back squats performing 5 repetions on each with a suitably heavy weight for 10 minutes, lunges with seated rows for 6 repetions each for 10 minutes followed by 10 minutes of a variety of different boxing combinations on a punch bag.

Welcome to smart circuit training….