Ah the mighty sciatica, a sometimes lovely pain that can come on for no other reason other than “Hey, why not! There’s nothing better to do“. I’m not going to do one of those “rest, painkillers and chiropractor” articles as I remember reading each and every one of them thinking “and this fucking helps me how?“. I’m not saying don’t read them or heed their advice, but I am a proactive kind of person and if I can be actively doing something to fix a problem, I will.

There are a few extremes to sciatica ranging from a constant annoyance that ruins your life because you can’t think about anything but how sore your back or butt is, right up to not even being able to put one foot to the floor without screaming in agonizing pain, and in some rare cases… both legs can have the symptoms, I cannot even comprehend how painful that would be.

Remember, I am not an expert, and if this is your first experience with sciatica then getting a professionals opinion is a good idea to make sure there is nothing structurally wrong, but, chances are if you are reading this you are a long term challenger of the mighty sciatica and you’re getting pretty fed up with it!

 

WHAT ARE THE CAUSES?

A lot of terms like degenerative disc disease, nerves being compressed, protrusions and slips can be thrown about and they sound scary, but you really need to constantly remind yourself that pain it goes away eventually. The body heals and adapts all the time, one of the major realisations I had when studying was that if someone can be in a car accident and have their spine smashed to bits and be fine, then how is a “wee bit of nerve pain” not able to be helped? (Super Secret Sciatica Tip 1: Belittling pain is a good place to start, attitude and the way you think about your pain is your first step.)

So how about these:

Reason 1: you’re hips are subtly not aligned, so your spine or nerves are being pissed off on one side because of compression.

Reason 2: your muscles are overly dominant to one side so that side is either too tight and causing pain or the other side feels weak and unsafe so it’s causing pain.

There may be something wrong with your structure, or you may have internal damage but you can’t change that. If you focus on fixing Reason 1 and 2 you may get rid of the symptoms anyway, so why worry? (Super Secret Sciatica Tip 2: Getting stressed about things you can’t change just makes pain worse.)

Hit this test to start getting some body awareness:

If you find all your weight to one side or even visually notice that one hip is higher than the other then that could be the cause.

 

WHAT ABOUT THE PHYSIOTHERAPIST/CHIROPRACTOR?

A click can provide relief temporarily and if it is a recent injury and you’ve only just had the knock that could be all you need. However if you have been suffering for a long time then your muscles are pulling your skeleton and that is MUCH harder to fight against, any realignment could be redundant by the time you get back to your car. A good physiotherapist they will look at your ENTIRE body and not just your back or where the pain is, they will be able to do a good job of getting the symptoms to ease of so that (and this is the key thing) YOU CAN GET BACK TO MOVING! The issue with getting external help is you only have maybe 30 minutes to an hour with this person, at the most once a week… what about the other 167 hours?

SO WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO?

You need to check how your hips feel yourself. In the video below, I am moving around in a position called the 90/90: one hip is in external rotation and the other is in internal rotation. You don’t need to know the names of muscles or any fancy terms to be able to do this, just sit on the floor and see if you can replicate it. While in this position sit up as tall as you can and see if you can take your hands off the ground and rotate your body side to side unsupported. Does it feel more challenging on one side than the other? If yes, then this could be your problem!  (Super Secret Sciatica Tip 3: Get excited when you find an imbalance or a “problem” – this means you can actively work on fixing it)

You’ll probably notice I was doing quite a few different things in the video, quite literally I am moving and testing what different things feel like side to side:

I was seeing how far I could get my legs apart in the position, squeezing my butt as hard as possible for 15-20 seconds in each position then relaxing as much as possible, lifting the legs up and trying to maintain the torso position, bending and straightening the legs to see how my hips react, putting pressure into the floor with either my knee or foot to create tension…. I was playing, I was testing, I was getting curious and I was educating myself. (Super Secret Sciatica Tip 4: The more you know about your pain and it’s triggers the more power you have)

So here it is, my advice: do that for one solid hour!

Not 5 minutes and say, “that’s quite hard that”. Not a few reps each side and say “I don’t notice any difference”. Sit in that position changing sides for… ahem “ONE SOLID FULL HOUR” while paying attention to what you are doing, see how many cramps you can get, notice what is different from side to side, and keep doing big deep relaxed breaths the entire hour, yes, that’s right, HOUR! FULL HOUR!!!!

See how you feel after that hour and take a note of what you noticed, do you feel like you can move better now? You may feel like you are aggravating things more at the start and if that’s the case don’t push things too far, but from personal experience getting past that and getting moving ALWAYS brings me relief, even if I have to cry for a few minutes at the start in pain.  (Super Secret Sciatica Tip 5: Video yourself and take notes. Sometimes progress seems slow, or nonexistent – you need to constantly remind yourself of your improvements)

Don’t let back pain rule your life. If you want to make a lasting change in your hips, do it every damn day! When your symptoms start to ease you won’t need to do it as often or for as long, but don’t forget to continue to do it to keep symptoms at bay.

If you think this blog would help anyone you know please share it with them! And if you are interested in more of my advice I have a full body mobility method available here.

It’s a commonly, positive, quoted thing: never accept second best, break through your limits, destroy fear, don’t limit your challenges, challenge your limits, limits only exist in your mind… all that good stuff.

Now… I don’t want to be a buzz killington or anything here but… certain limits are a good thing, no? Say like, a speed limit? Probably a good thing. You push past that and bad things may happen, you push past it too often then, yeah, bad things WILL happen. I feel like I’m lecturing, but there is a message is here and hopefully I don’t lose you too soon…

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So, when we apply this to training methodologies – love that word, always makes you sound smarter, could of stopped at the word “training”, but didn’t – we have to understand that everyone has limits and it’s only when we discover what they are that we can really start to build. If you push past them, you’re not playing by the rules of the persons body you’re working with: the risk/reward factor is too high.

An example from a mobility perspective, if someone had a limited range of motion that inhibited them to squat correctly and they continued to heavy squat without addressing that issue, they are constantly breaking the proverbial speed limit and something is gonna give. The worst thing about these negative consequences is that they don’t happen over night, you could go for a year before your joints start to feel like pepper grinders, and it all could have been avoided by discovering your Most Important Limiting Factor (MILF).

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Putting it into a fitness perspective, if you are wanting to go all in, jump into the deep end and exercise till you boke, good luck too you! If your body can hold up to your enthusiasm then I genuinely am pleased for you! Most people I have met though, can’t do that. Building your fitness progressively is the best way to go. A major symptom of “overtraining” is lacking motivation, that’s why the one hundred million people that go balls to the wall at the start of January drop off – they couldn’t maintain that drastic change to their lifestyle and their body put an end to it very quickly.

Your body learns “limits” as a way to keep you safe, the only way to “push past” those limits is to first find where they are and gradually nudge over them by sensible training (methodologies). Try putting that quote on a photo of beautiful landscape and use it as motivation. For the large part, you’re already stronger than you think you are, it’s the magic “beginner gains” where you PR every lift almost every week. It’s not that your coach is the best in the world, it’s more that your body is finding out that training is relativley safe, and as you learn more about the movements it allows you to access more of your true strength by expanding the limits it had put on you. I experience this all the time, if I don’t do something for a while it’s almost like my body puts the breaks on a little when I come back to it, it’s not that I’ve lost strength or gains, just my familiarity with the movement has reduced (check out familiarity concept) so my body auto-regulated itself to force me to take it easy. It’s fascinating and frustrating at the same time.

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Limits are a good thing and it’s only when you accept them and work with them that you can really progress. If you are constantly hurting your shoulder, you have to figure out why, if you’re always joining a gym and packing it in two months later you have to take a different approach, listen to your body and what it wants to do. All motivational thoughts in the world aren’t going to get me the side splits in a week! In order to achieve them I have to accept where I am at now, and how much time I am willing to devote to the skill – if I simply start stretching to the point I am ridiculously sore I am either going to give up or get hurt.

From a performance aspect, by moving better you’ll perform better, that’s just the way it is.  Surely I can’t be the only one to notice that the fittest, most talented athletes out there seem to move flawlessly, like they were only meant to do what they do and nothing else? Practice skills in slow motion, own your squat, own your lunge. Get OCD about how you move and perform and analyse everything, use your limits as your threshold to work in and push past them slowly and consistently!

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Tried everything to get flexible? Do more mobility work than a monk up a mountain and still nothing? No you’re not a special case that just can’t get flexible, there is something you have to take into account:

Variables

Just like you have days that you feel great and motivated to do anything, your flexibility can alter on a day to day basis also. We don’t take this into account any more than “Oh, I feel a bit stiff today”, but sometimes there are other factors that need to be taken into consideration.. and sometimes, you can get hurt by ignoring warning signals.

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First of all lets talk about the more common one that everyone knows – Fatigue and over stressing your muscles.

I and many of my friends are chronic “over trainers” – literally we love moving so much that if we could squeeze three sessions in a day we would. The accumulated effect is that primary mover muscles start to take a back seat due to fatigue, and all the small little stabiliser boys have to do more than they want to. Then, when you have exasperated them, the joints step up to take the brunt of your heavy ass. When a joint gets pissed off it will basically send signals to your brain to either hurt you, or switch you off: you’ll be launching for a backflip and your hamstrings will literally say “Fuck you buddy” pop, snap, WADOOSH.

The lesson to learn here is: when you’re too sore from training, recovery is key! Light cardio, dial back on the high skill movements and let your body reset to zero again.

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Number 2? Am I going with numbers? Think I might, I’m sure Jenni will edit this bit out anyways and you’ll never see it – Dehydration, drink water.

Drink more water than you think you should then drink some more, then do calve raises while you have to pee thirty times an hour. I don’t talk much about nutrition as I just don’t deem myself smart enough to educate others about it, BUT I will say that I notice improvements with EVERYONE across the board when they up their water intake.

We all know we’re made up mainly of water, so the quality of your tissues do rely on it. Build habits: make it a goal to have 3 massive glasses as soon as you get up. When you arrive to work, when you go to the bathroom, just set triggers that will make it an automatic response. If you’re having a pure mobility session, every time you take a break have a massive drink. Don’t buy small bottles, only buy massive 2L ones and always have a reserve.

The takeaway: Always keep well hydrated, drinking water will make a big difference to your mobility.

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C) Illness.

I was recently talking to someone with diabetes and they have struggled with their flexibility also like me. I have an auto immune disorder that causes me to have symptoms similar to severe eczema, only none of the treatments for eczema work… it’s a bit shit. That major full body dehydration will cause me to not be able to move my neck, bend my knees or elbows properly and reaching overhead would cause my armpits to rip (see Number 2 point). This puts my body under tremendous stress and pain (see First point) therefore making it feel threatened. It will actively decrease my range of motion, assuming I am injured and create tightness for no reason.

If I ignore the tightness and try to crack on anyway and I generally get hurt. This can be applied to a lot of conditions and a lot of people, if your body isn’t 100% happy it will react and no one really takes illness or gut health into account. If your body is in pain it doesn’t want to move, no matter how many motivational videos you watch. Sometimes you have to listen to your body. Focusing on managing whatever illness you may have is your best bet. A lot of times you’ll get setbacks, or feel like you’re getting nowhere but my advice to you is: tough shit, work harder, rest when you need to, then work even harder. We can’t all have perfect training backgrounds and perfect health and I’ll be damned if I ever let it stop me.

Remember: Always listen to your body – there’s a difference between pushing through and being stupid.

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  • Bullet point…Ha! Past Injuries and Pain Memory:

If you have hurt something before, there will be a pain memory. When we get hurt our body adapts to assist the healing process, muscles reorganise to take the strain off the affected area. In a lot of cases people don’t retrain the joint after an injury has “healed” leaving themselves open to a relapse. Even if you have worked on your flexibility since an injury, hurting that same area again will revert your body back to pre-rehab state: you hurting your elbow a second time could affect the flexibility of your hips! Then what happens? You decide to start squatting until your elbow heals now all of a sudden your knee hurts, and you just start to feel incredibly unlucky.

In conclusion: Any time you hurt something don’t assume that because the pain is away that the joint is functioning correctly again.

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5. Hormones and feelings.

This is a weird one. Obviously if someone is highly stressed they’re going to be tense, being tense affects your mobility – it’s why drunk people can fall sometimes and not get hurt; they’re too wasted to tense up. I use it as an example all the time, you get pissed off at work, your husband/wife annoys you, you need training more than ever and you’re overhead pressing and hurt your neck… it wasn’t the press’s fault, you were just so tense and stiff something had to give.

Hormones in general are a bitch. If you’re not balanced properly then even despite you thinking you’re happy enough, your body could be feeling a completely different way. Keeping stress out of your life, getting enough sleep and downtime are all ridiculously important when your flexibility is concerned. Even weirder again, it’s possible to TALK people more flexible, literally by explaining how something works I can get instant improvements, it still amazes me. Professional athletes jobs are basically to not have stress anywhere in their lives so they can max out on stress through their training. There are supplements that help with stress, and tests that will tell you what you are lacking in that are definitely worth researching into.

My advice: Without trying to give out life lessons, if something is pissing you off consistently, get rid of it.

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F) I’m actually going to message Jenni now and say she is not allowed to change these as it will ruin the feel of the blog (**Editors note** he actually did)

Inflammation.

This is a killer, like my skin condition, people can be dealing with low levels of inflammation and not even know it. Your diet has a massive influence on how your joints and tissues act. If I have bread and milk my skin will instantly tell me I messed up and the joint pain will happen. Most people will maybe have a bit of a bloated stomach, not think anything of it – and later think they have random joint pain.

Just because your body doesn’t look unhappy on the outside it doesn’t mean there is nothing wrong inside. Inflammation can be caused by so many different foods and allergies it’s definitely worth looking into. Everyone should work with a professional nutritionist at some point, just to learn this stuff.

What to do: If you keep having unexplained pains and your training is on point, go after your gut.

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* Breathing.

The key to everything. If your breathing is dysfunctional your body will follow. I have made people fitter by simply teaching them how to control their breath when moving, practice is all it takes. But even more simply, next time you’re sitting in a stretch or doing a mobility drill, just take a deep ass breath in and a long breathe out, you’ll notice a difference straight away.

So: As often as you remember, focus on your breathing.

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**** Last one – Shit happens.

Truthfully you can eat Paleo, have no job but unlimited money, amazing flexibility and still get hurt, life just kicks you in the balls sometimes. I have only touched on a few things I have experienced over the years in this blog, and I am still meeting new people that don’t follow regular patterns or documented “issues”. No two people are the same, and personally as a coach, having as many tools in your basket as possible is essential for working with people. Every now and again you can meet someone you can’t help, and that is when you refer out! Never be scared to say that you don’t know. Even the greatest experts in any field admit, the more you learn the less you feel like you know.

Never forget: Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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Build new skills using the Familiarity Concept:

  1. Have you done anything BEFORE that resembles what you’re trying to do now?
  2. How often are you trying?
  3. What do you practice already that is similar?

I’ve just had the most amazing weekend! I can’t believe that my job now is meeting tons of new people and getting to share my training methods. To say I’m loving life right now is a massive understatement.

People wanting to latch on to “the answer” that “one exercise” that will make everything better

I do love mobility work, yet I’m constantly trying to remove mobility work from the pigeon hole of  mobility work… as pretty much everything you do is mobility work… apart from Zumba, that shit is just nasty. One of the things that I am very wary of when teaching is people wanting to latch on to “the answer” that “one exercise” that will make everything better, put their performance through the roof, the skeleton key to skill gains. In the vast majority of everything there is no “one thing” that anyone should be doing; there is only what you’ve done, what you’re doing now and what you’ll do later.

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What you have already done: that is your baseline, which is pretty much your foundation for everything. I started with martial arts, that was the first thing I started to take an interest in and also the first thing that I ever started to learn anything physically. My Sifu always said during the classes: “to get a training adaptation, or a training effect, you have to train the movement as near as possible to the movement. This is not as near as possible, this IS the movement“. I heard it a million times, but what it really means is IF YOU WANT TO GET BETTER AT FIGHTING, FIGHT. Yes there are general principles for developing explosive power, speed, reaction times etc, but sparring and practicing the movements that you actually do in the fight will make you a better fighter. Being able to do 300 clapping push ups unbroken won’t really increase your skill level of punching a moving target that’s punching you back.

Similarly, if you want to get better at running, run, if you want to get better at weightlifting, lift, if you want to get better at dancing… dance.

The familiarity concept is a great way for you to pick up skills faster

But, back to the topic at hand, the familiarity concept is a great way for you to pick up skills faster. You hear it all the time: someone does something, it looks like another thing, and some people even go as far as to say they are ripping someone off… which is bullcrap. There is only so much good stuff to go around, no one knows where anything really originated from and why does everyone care? The great thing about all this move-stealing is if something looks like something you’ve done a bit before, you’re going to be more confident trying it!

When you are approching a new skill, or if you are pursuing a new goal, read through these points first and relate them to your own activites.

Familiarity Point 1: Have I done anything BEFORE that resembles what I’m trying to do now?

You really don’t need to over complicate this one. One easy example is have you held something heavy above your head with both hands with your elbows locked out? Well, a handstand is just that but upside down – no need to freak out! Looking at it like that will make it far less daunting, so just give it a go!

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Familiarity Point 2: How often are you trying?

The more you work at something the more FAMILIAR it becomes to you so your body will adapt to make you better at that skill. Any time I pick something to develop I go all out: minimum 4 times a week (depending on what it is). Putting yourself under a sole focus can be boring, but if you have a dead set goal that you want it is actually pretty easy to do – and it is by far the best way to make gains. Just know that other skills may have to take a back seat, last time I went full weightlifting mode I couldn’t even do a muscle up by the end of it.

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Familiarity Point 3: What do you practice already that is similar?

I can maintain just below my 1 rep max barbell strict press just by doing handstand push ups regularly: they are both an overhead press, but personally my focus is more towards handstands for pressing so that’s what I want to spend more time with. Understanding that the attributes are the same (Upper Body Push) I know full well if I did want to up my barbell press, I would only have to do a few sessions to familiarise my body with that movement again. Despite my strength noticeably increasing, not using a barbell for that movement might cause my brain to struggle giving me the extra strength on the bar for a short time until I put the practice in again. Personally, any time I do go heavy above the head it is a snatch or a jerk anyway so practicing that middle part is time I just don’t need to spend according to my goals.

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I actively encourage everyone to think about the all things they do, get obsessive about it! The more thought and the more goals you set the more likely you are to succeed with anything. Remember, you can talk yourself in to things just as easily as you can talk yourself out of them!

Overcomplicated theories and people that want to make money are probably the most dangerous things to a beginner, hell, sometimes when I read some stuff I almost second guess myself. When you start strength train, everything is awesome, there is only the lifts and working on technique. When you start becoming more interested and start to find where your strengths and weaknesses are that’s when stuff gets… interesting… Especially if you have managed to pick up an injury.

Whatever you have picked to do, you’re going to get stuck at some point, and it’ll come down to a few different things:

1. Time invested
2. Mobility
3. Strength

Yes, they are in order.

Number 1: Time.

If you’re not putting in the work to get better at something, don’t expect to get fucking better at it

If you’re not putting in the work to get better at something don’t expect to get fucking better at it… I do feel I need to be blunt with that one. Often I’ll see that someone’s “expectations” and “effort” give out mixed messages: if you want a 300kg deadlift and you’re only deadlifting once a week, your expectations are exceeding your effort, you HAVE to work for things.

Number 2: Mobility.

If you lack the range of motion to replicate the positions needed for your chosen practice then that is what you need to invest your aforementioned time on first: how can you practice something you physically can’t do? Sensible progressions that are going to give you the prerequisites to be able to train safely are the best way to go. You can jump into individual joint mobilisations, or you can actually practice skills that encourage good movement and mobility. The latter is by far more fun, more sustainable, AND your body can learn from that as a whole. If there really is one thing that is particularly holding you back, then yes by all means focus on it, but I would always integrate it with some sort of progression that will bring you closer to your goal. Mobility can be very tedious if you let it.

Number 3: Strength.

Handstands are just balance… piss off. It takes strength and coordination to balance and handstand push up and walk on just your hands. I can’t recall a time I’ve ever thought “Oh, I wish I didn’t have this strength” being stronger makes EVERYTHING better. Proper application of that strength is even better. If you build up your endurance gradually you’ll be able to have amazing productive sessions practicing really cool things. If you lack strength then you’re going to have to supplement your movements for less exciting things, which is ok to begin with. It again comes back to time investment; if you’re pushed for time you want your sessions to be as productive as possible!

Back on topic, why are corrective exercises bullshit?

Depending on who you follow or what you read, you’re going to be drawing on someone else’s experience. I know a ton of people that are really good at what they do but even they have a “favourite muscle” or “favourite core dysfunction” that they will give to/label everyone. This is absolutely fine BUT, often if you notice an improvement after “this thing” it can lead you down the path of thinking you are dysfunctional, which you’re not; you are just always figuring out how to move.

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Keeping your joints happy and moving well more consistently and frequently is just more sensible.

This mindset shift can cause you to start playing “preventative catch-up”: you need to activate this before X,Y and Z, you need to mobilise this before doing windmills with your cock – time wasting stuff. More focus on how you move all the time as well as devoting more time to studying how you move all the time, keeping your joints happy and moving well more consistently and frequently is just more sensible. Going down the route of automatically blaming your Psoas for everything, or getting insoles because your Soleus doesn’t like Gluten on Thursdays is just such a waste of time and research. Save that shit for the physiotherapists and trainers.

The big thing with assessments and therapists is that they only see you for an hour at a time, sometimes 30 minutes, and it’s usually after you have been sitting in work all day, drove to the waiting room then went in and sat down… of course you’re going to be “a bit stiff”. A vast majority of people are not willing to build a relationship with their physio and show them how they move WHEN TRAINING, not rested. The worst thing about people that self-diagnose is they’ll try to tell the physio what they need done based on Doctor Google, please just don’t. They do talk about you.

Priming the nervous system, switching on chains, accessing your inner most balanced Kola Bear are all just “things”. Every “thing” is a “thing” and they are all broken down into patterns you can learn individually, what you need to do is locate the similarities between all movements.

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I can train different movements every day but still focus on the same qualities of what the movements provide depending on what I want to do. There are only so many ways you can move, the variety actually comes from the combination of different joint positions. Joints really only stay straight, bend or rotate (…mind blown…). That being said, you can spend a lifetime devoted to seeing how many of those combinations you can try, and probably still not have tried everything.

Not to be a buzzkill, but bear in mind that the more movement options you have available to you and the better you are at moving, the more likely you are to do it more often, thus subjecting yourself to the chance of becoming injured more frequently, sucks doesn’t it? Obviously you can’t live thinking like that but the occasionally “lying on your ass” day might not be such a bad thing.

If you want to get better at holding stuff, hold stuff, if you want to get better at throwing stuff, throw stuff, which is what should make up the majority of your training. Supplementary exercises? By all means devote some time to band work and planks etc but moving and practicing a craft will always win, don’t let the mega smart marketers put fear into your heart! Try stuff, if it helps and you like it, keep it, if you only think it helped and you’re having to do it for every warm up, you need to have a word with yourself. I’m only on this earth for a short time and I don’t want to spend a large amount of time foam rolling my quads when lunges will do…

Why do some coaches and trainers get injured all the time?

It’s the most frustrating thing in the world. You’ve nailed it, you study all the time, you have years of experience, your nutrition is on point, you religiously follow your program and never deviate, you know every corrective exercise there is, but every couple of weeks you end up hurt.

Sound familiar?

It’s a path I definitely noticed myself starting to go down and I’ve noticed it with a lot of my friends and high level trainers I know. Being a coach is one of the best jobs in the world – there is nothing as rewarding. Although, depending on how you do it, you could also be running yourself into the ground.

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I love every second of what I do. I work my ass off too, if I’m not coaching I’m training, if I’m not at the gym I’m writing or learning; I devote as much time to bettering myself as possible. I am a very active “hands on” coach and I am very demonstrative. – and I am often describing very subtle differences in technique. Sometimes I can’t get away with just an empty bar – I have to show what I mean with heavier weights.

What I have learned over time is that when I have really busy “work” days, my own training suffers. I can have all the recovery tricks under the sun but when you have been standing all day demonstrating and talking passionately about what you do, there is only so much strength that 40 cups of coffee can provide.

Being a coach is one of the best jobs in the world – but you could also be running yourself into the ground.

The first thing you have to do is not be hard on yourself, treat yourself almost as you would someone with a physical labour job: they’re already in a fatigued state after work, would you expect that person to always be in a state of optimal performance? No, sometimes you have to alter sessions. Does this mean you can’t make gains? No, it just means that you, of all people, cannot let your ego kick in. Expectations can cause injuries. If your planned program tells you to do 5×5 at 90% of your current 1RM, but to your body that 90% feels like 110%, it’s not really a good idea to grind it out, you only get away with that shit for so long.

So what do you do?

1. Keep Track

Start keeping in the back of your mind what you are doing throughout the day. For instance the other day I was booked solid. I performed a large amount of gymnastics progressions and how to build on them, did some really intense mobility work, demonstrated heavy hip cleans to emphasise speed an position and went through a majority of my seminar progressions and a humongous amount of Cossack squats for some reason…

Keep in mind, I haven’t done my own training yet. That day was unusually loaded with too much, I had to write it off. Again I want to stress, I’m not gonna be hard on myself, I really did do quite a bit even if there was substantial breaks in between things. Beautifully timed too as I got to skip leg day.

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2. Cap your training

On other days putting a cap on how long you allow yourself to train is essential.I used to spend 3 hours at a time mucking around with weights then do conditioning. Now, not to say I’m getting old, but I’ve got a lot more responsibility than I did then. Giving yourself a 45 minute cap to do your training will stop you from overdoing it but also let you be able to demonstrate for the rest of the day without snapping.

3. Adjust your programming

Another way to train on a busy day is simply to alter your programming. If you have programmed 5 sets of 5 reps, then just drop it to 3 sets of 5. This way you’ll still get to lift your working weight and your form won’t suffer. If you then feel like you want to complete the other 2 sets but don’t have the energy, simply decrease the weight! Remember if you’re already in a pre-fatigued state you’re still going to get the benefits with lighter weights, and your technique will remain solid – which is the most important factor in longevity.

4. Have a back up plan

Lastly, have an emergency back up plan. We all know what we’re not good at. Create a set routine with simple movements so that you can work on your weakness. This will be less taxing than you missing twenty snatches and being in a bad mood for the rest of the day… Sensible progressions well within your current ability level are the way to go, your session may not be as enjoyable as grip and rip, but it will be much more productive.

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Coaching comes first, if you’re injured it’s embarrassing, there is no way to stop that thought of “Why should people listen to me when I can’t even look after myself“. You just have to remember that you are human too, it’s ok to get hurt sometimes. When coaching is your profession you have to look after your business – that’s YOU – you are your business. Neglecting your own mobility, massage, ice baths, saunas, or whatever recovery methods work for you is neglecting your business.

It’s up to you to keep the fine line between required rest and you being lazy and having too much rest because “You deserve it”. You have to recognise when you’re busting your balls, don’t be scared to alter the plan and always always listen to your body.

This is a common question for me, what’s the best warm up for weightlifting, workouts, running, deadlifts etc. I’ll fire a couple of ideas out there and then give my honest opinion at the end.

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So let’s say we have the deadlift, it’s a big COMPOUND movement, categorised as a pull, bilateral, that is generally trained with heavy loads. Ok, so we need Glute activation, warm up the hamstrings, and some core activation. That could look like this:

1. Couch stretch 30 secs per side
2. Glute bridge 3×20
3. Plank 1 minute
4. Kettlebell swing 3×20
5. Stiff legged deadlift
6. Side plank left
7. Side plank right
8. Warm up sets

So there is some of the important factors taken into consideration, but what if we have an athlete that was training heavily the day before?? Surely they may need some more attention!! Ok, how about this:

Foam rolling
1. Quads
2. Adductors
3. Hamstrings
4. Calves
5. Lats
6. Glutes

Then:
1. Couch stretch 30 secs per side
2. Glute bridge 3×20
3. Plank 1 minute
4. Kettlebell swing 3×20
5. Stiff legged deadlift
6. Side plank left
7. Side plank right
8. Warm up sets

Ok, stiffness is taken care of, hmmm, what about injury history? Previous knee injury on one side? Glute not firing correctly on that side? Ok we’ll need some single leg work then!

So:
Foam rolling
1. Quads
2. Adductors
3. Hamstrings
4. Calves
5. Lats
6. Glutes

Then:
1. Couch stretch 30 secs per side
2. Glute bridge 3×20
3. Plank 1 minute
4. Kettlebell swing 3×20
5. Stiff legged deadlift
6. Side plank left
7. Side plank right
8. Alternating lunges
9. Banded kickbacks
10. Fire hydrants
11. Banded Crab walks
12. Clam shells
13. Step ups
14. Warm up sets

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And now for Tom Morrisons opinion:

You’re taking so long why don’t you program a fucking twenty minute magic carpet ride while you’re at it.

You can see how when you start some serious consideration, warm ups can start becoming ridiculous and time consuming. It’s partially down to learning more, or the “fear factor” of impending injuries, but honestly, in all my experience the people that get injured the most are the ones foam rolling that tightness out (that they read about so most definitely have). The BEST thing about this is, look back over those example warm ups and start to add pound signs beside them. Don’t even dare disagree that the more shit I write down the more “value” it would seem to have to consumers and eager gym go-ers.

Here’s my deadlift warm up:

1. Single leg deadlift
2. Suitcase deadlift
3. Light deadlift
4. Go.

If it’s cold add “jump about like a clown for a bit”

Why? Because I moved first thing in the morning, I did a routine based on how I feel and took all my joints through their full ranges. I full well know from that point that I am ready to do anything that day. If something does crop up I work it out with an exercise, not poking and prodding at myself with glorified sex toys.

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Overcomplicated fancy things that FEEL like they work at the time eventually become crutches, there is no perfect warm up, working EVERY DAY on a body that moves efficiently and well is the key.

Few are at that point of “feeling” their way through a warm up though… so for now, keep doing your regular warm ups. Just an idea for you to think about.

If you’re going to practice anything worthwhile, that excites you, gets your rocks off, you’re going to get hurt. Just like marriage, I love my wife dearly, but when I’m wrong she hurts me. I accept that I’m wrong all the time and I learn from it…. and become a better person, because she says so. That’s not true, or is it? Is this blog really a secret cry for help?

Injuries happen, they just do. We could all try to bury our head in the sand and live in fear or we can change our perception of what an injury actually is. There seems to be a fad of being proud of your emotional scars, that shape you as a person, what about the physical ones?

You are a product of the circumstances you put yourself in.

Pain is the ultimate teacher, no one gives a crap about their little toe until they bang it off a doorway, what about all the times your toe isn’t sore? Why do you not pay it the same attention then? If you have been training for a long time really try and think back to your first training revelation, when things really clicked, I would bet the majority of you reading this were injured at the time. There is no easier way to feel when your back is straight than when it’s sore.

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An injury is basically a chance for you to experience heightened awareness. I’m not saying run out, break some of your bones and you’ll become the best athlete ever, but adopting this mindset will save you sulking when you get hurt, actually allow you to be more productive and have a great learning experience.

I can say to people till I am blue in the face that “the knee is a slave to your ankles and hips” but honestly it’s only if you have ever tweaked your knee then you will realise how connected they are! The slightest foot movement or hip rotation and you’ll feel it in your knee, you can either say “ouch” or take that feeling and apply it to the other leg, can you adopt that same awareness to the perfectly healthy side? Is that side actually healthy? How did the injury happen? Was it really an accident or has this been accumulating for a long time and the incident just created the result that was always coming?

It won’t happen straight away, could take several months before you even notice the door starting to sit funny: that is wear and tear.

Wear and tear is an awesome phrase, I love it, people say it so carelessly. Moving efficiently significantly decreases “wear and tear”. Let’s stick with knees since that seems to be in my head now. If all of the muscles on the inside of your thighs are “tight” how do you think that is going to affect the inside of your knees? Think about doors and hinges, if I constantly swing on the top of a door with all of my bodyweight – i.e. not using it how it was designed to be used – the hinges are going to get pissed off. It won’t happen straight away, could take several months before you even notice the door starting to sit funny: that is wear and tear. If you apply that tightness to years of squatting and running then hey presto, you get your “unlucky, all-of-a-sudden knee injury”.

It really is important to research this stuff if you care about longevity. I started coaching CrossFit because I wanted to teach people how to lift correctly and help them get fit and enjoy themselves. What I quickly realised though was that very few people have the movement capabilities to actually do CrossFit. We basically had to change everything for everybody, because if they just jumped into full on CrossFit they would literally snap. People get concerned with not being able to get a good front rack position or an overhead squat but it goes much deeper than that.

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Teaching your body how to move is just as important as listening to your body. Just like a big argument in a relationship, generally things have been building for a while and it’s only when a specific problem is brought to the surface that things really get resolved. If you don’t communicate with your body how do you expect it to learn by itself?

If you put in the preemptive work now you may be able to pick up less injuries over the years, but when injury does happen, take a proactive approach: learn about the limb or area, use the extra sensitivity and make it stronger and smarter. Don’t be boring, do fun things and don’t accept that you’re a delicate little flower. We are all capable of amazing things if we just listen and try.

Firstly I do apologise for the title, but I do want as many people to read this as possible as it is a subject very close to my heart. I needed something to catch people’s eye, even if it is at the risk of sounding like an inconsiderate ass…

I have an L4/L5, S1 disc protrusion with nerve impingement, I also Olympic lift four times a week and do advanced bodyweight training for fun. I have no pain.

Secondly, I am not a doctor, and do not make any claims to be a miracle worker or expert, but I have helped a great deal of people in the same position I was in: PETRIFIED OF MOVING. It didn’t just get better by stretching and strengthening. I have to say that “getting over it” was, mentally, one of the most challenging things I have ever done.

I was the master at keeping my spine neutral, I could explain how to brace until your eyeballs fell out.. I was a complete form nazi. I was already making a bit of a reputation for myself for helping people with injuries, after all, getting people pain free and moving well was pretty rewarding coaching-wise. I always sympathised with people with chronic lower back pain, I realigned my pelvis once and I thought it was the worst pain EVER! Two weeks of agony. Also had torn fascia one time too! That’ll harden you. So I had a fair idea of great stretches and exercises and what areas to foam roll to get people back to training well and kicking ass. But nothing, and I mean NOTHING can compare to the pain I felt one day that stayed with me for months.

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I can’t even say it felt like I had been shot, I would actually imagine being shot is a lot nicer than this.

I was more stressed out than I ever had been in my life: working two jobs, just about to have my first baby (her name is Roxy, she is absolutely beautiful) but I didn’t think I was ready to be a Dad!! I still find farts funny. I was so tense all the time. I didn’t care though, I could foam roll it out. Looking back now just about every warning sign was there, but I ignored them all. I needed my training, more than ever. I felt a bit of a twinge doing back squats, nothing out of the ordinary I thought, probably have to book in for a massage.

I’ll never forget that morning. I woke up and felt so stiff, I tried to rotate out of bed and could barely tense my abs without my back going into spasm. Finally making it to a seated position I tried to stand. My legs came from under me and I hit the floor screaming. I can’t even say it felt like I had been shot, I would actually imagine being shot is a lot nicer than this. It felt like the nerves in my left leg were being pulled out from the base of my spine, the pain was shooting up and down, up and down, burning, twinge after twinge, spasm after spasm, I would of been sick if I could breathe. I was biting down on the blanket as my wife was crying asking me what to do. I made an appointment with my physio – I knew that he could help me, but the stairs were going to be a problem.

I stood there in silence as he told me that no, he couldn’t help me. I felt like I was standing outside myself listening to someone else talking. I couldn’t understand why. He had fixed me so many times before, my shoulder, my knee, my back those other two times, what can be so bad now that he won’t even work on me? Knowing more now it is actually a testament to how professional he is. With the symptoms I had it is best not to tamper until getting a scan.

So, off to A&E I went, greeted by an unsympathetic doctor that just lifted my leg about 3 inches saying I had “good range of motion”. Normally I can put my palms flat on the floor with straight legs, but I couldn’t even look down without my back hurting, let alone try bending. So a big box of painkillers it was. No answers, no exercises, no do this or don’t do that. Nothing.

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Lying flat wasn’t helping, the more I stayed still the more pain I was in. I decided to apply my own principles to myself, for thirty minutes every morning I woke up and preceded to do corrective exercises and activation drills, if I did this I could move a bit for the rest of the day, I could work. If I skipped it or decided to stay in bed for a bit longer, well, I’d spend the rest of the day high on painkillers. Months went by and I was being told I would never lift weights again and I’ll always have a weak lower back and more. Phrases I would always avoid and knew they were talking nonsense, but the pain was still there and I couldn’t help but start to let their negative words creep in. I was in so much pain one morning I wished I was dead.

What I was doing wasn’t working for me any more. I had to start researching into other methods, I refused to believe I couldn’t be helped. I started reading about car crash victims and extreme case studies on pain triggers and injuries. Turns out, the top experts willingly admit we have no idea how we are wired. I started changing the routine I had in the morning, taking bits out, adding bits in, soon I was able to get myself moving in the morning a lot faster, AND my flexibility was starting to actually improve. After a few weeks, I actually had no pain at all, I couldn’t believe it, the first morning being able to wake up and just get out of bed made me cry. I still wasn’t happy though, although I had no pain, I still felt weak, I hated that feeling.

I spend my life telling people not to be afraid and help them get stronger – where the fuck was someone to do it for me!?

If you’re told something enough times you start to believe it. I was shit scared to go back near weights again. Being constantly told by professionals and doctors about how my life had to change now, and that I’d always just have to live with it was burned deep into the back of my mind. I spend my life telling people not to be afraid and help them get stronger – where the fuck was someone to do it for me!?

A pain trigger is just that – something which “triggers pain”. If there is a movement your body deems as unsafe, the pain trigger will be activated to hurt you in order to protect you. Because people that have had back injuries are subjected to so much pain, these triggers can become crazy strong, even after an injury is healed the trigger can remain. In a way, this means that the pain is “in your head” (but obviously there are exceptions).

The problem then arises when you avoid these triggers, then they get stronger. All the time you are assuming you are getting weaker. What I have started doing is finding the trigger, and working WITH it. Having a “conversation” with your body may seem ridiculous, but if you notice someone that is hurt you tell them that it’s going to be ok and you comfort them – your back is no different. Don’t forget that when you go through a traumatic experience, your body goes through it too.

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Picking exercises that are similar to positions which cause pain, but that you can work with will start to send positive signals through your body, telling your triggers to back off a bit. With enough persistence I have found that you can completely rewrite that trigger and get back to moving again without fear, and also having an increased sense of proprioception.

It’s hard, I will not lie about that. You may have set backs and feel like you are getting worse at times, but if you really decide that you are not done then you owe it to yourself to try, and try anything. One tip I would give you is to not take pain killers, you want an accurate reading when you are doing things.

Learn how to breathe properly and don’t be scared of any movements, remind yourself it’s silly to be scared to do normal things: the more you convince your body that moving is safe, the more it will start to believe you. No one should have to live their life in pain. You should try everything you can before considering surgery or being on medication forever.

The week I got my MRI scan I deadlifted 200kg just for fun and I had not had any pain for months. It still showed the protrusions, and I am still waiting on being shown a single exercise to help me.

Don’t let people tell you what you will and won’t feel, be your own judge.

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When making drastic changes to your own range of motion there is only one person you can trust: yourself.

No one knows you better than you and I’ll be damned if I ever think that I know what’s best for anyone. I can only teach off experiences that I have had myself and the people that I have worked with. I am STILL learning new stuff and tinkering with things that are effective and things that are more enjoyable but still give good results.

The main question you’ve got to ask yourself is: Where are you starting from? Are you as flexible as a steel post fixed in concrete, or are you a rubber band flowing in the wind? Generally most people are the steel post, that doesn’t make the rubber band the goal: they both present different advantages and disadvantages. You have to think, what do you want to be flexible for?

Certain disciplines actually rely on a lack of flexibility

For me and the people I train, I want us to have the movement capabilities to have MORE OPTIONS to do different things. However certain disciplines actually rely on a lack of flexibility – creating forced stability in situations requiring crazy amounts of strength or power. This comes down to what I talked about in one of my previous blogs, trade off. If you want to specialise, something has to suffer.

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Back to where are you starting from though. If you are still a wee nipper and haven’t been too banged up from years of eager training, you just might be lucky enough to be able to make quick adaptations and go on your merry way. If on the other hand you have been stiff as a board for twenty plus years and then tried to get fit, you’re going to have a bit of work to do to get back to neutral. Oh yes, there is minus flexibility points, I invented them.

I have noticed a trend with personality and flexibility: if you are a highly stressed, over-thinker with breathing dysfunctions, chances are you’ll be a tad tight. Jimmy the stoner though? Not so much. I bring it up at my seminars all the time. Do you ever notice that when you do happen to get an injury or niggle it’s always when you’re having a really shit time at work, or really stressed out? It’s like it’s the LAST THING YOU NEEDED TO HAPPEN when you want your training to go well more than ever. Your ability to move is directly affected by how you feel. If you want better mobility, you also need to learn how to relax and breathe, then your efforts will be twice as effective.

Starting off slow is the key, little bits every day of self policing is the safest way to go

If you are going to make dramatic changes to your own flexibility then I would structure your programming around that, make it your sole focus. There is no real point doing a wee bit here and there and keeping on doing what you have been doing, your body will get mixed messages. It isn’t hard to research how much range of motion is ideal for most body parts – provided you don’t look up “How to be a contortionist”, you should be ok.

Starting off slow is the key, little bits every day of self policing is the safest way to go. If you have been working with a specific area for a ten to twenty minutes one day then wake up the next day with a bit of pain in that area, then you know to back off a bit. If you are ok and feel awesome, then you know you can push it a bit further. Depending on how well you react to neuromuscular training, you may keep a good amount of the improvements you made over that session or you may only be left with a slight improvement – key word there in both scenarios being improvement.

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If you have been weight training or active in any way with any limitations then you MUST scale back your training. For example increasing your squat depth or your shoulder flexion and then continuing straight into using the same weights as before is a recipe for disaster. Taking the time to rebuild your new found range of motion and refine your technique will do you no harm and if anything, make you a better athlete. It won’t take you very long to get back up to your old numbers and you’ll be very pleased when you surpass them easily. A little bit of extra body awareness goes a long way.

Whatever method you pick to work with to increase your flexibility, do devote some time to “playing” with your newfound range of motion. For exmaple if you are working with your ankles, do drills with your toes and rotations; see what happens when you block off your knee or increase the amount of flexion. As silly as it may seem, it is those things that will build up how well you can stabilise yourself and keep your newfound range.

Pick a body part and say to yourself “What do you do?” And see if it does the same as the other one, if not, can you fix it?

Happy moving.