There are few exercises that just make me happy all of the time, but, I love deadlifts. I love doing deadlifts, I love seeing deadlifts and I love teaching deadlifts. For creating hip to spine awareness there are few exercises that measure up to its simplicity.

Over the years I have been taught how to deadlift by many different people, watched hundreds of videos and obsessed about how to teach it better. It always bugged me that it is punished for being a ‘dangerous’ exercise by many, when in reality it is usually their fault due to lack of education and correct execution.


Some reasons why you should avoid deadlifting:

People pick up bad movement habits all of the time. If you or your athletes have issues like those listed below, it doesn’t matter how good someone’s technique genuinely is, you need to get them addressed before you can get your deadlift gains!

 

 1. You have an upslip or downslip of your pelvis

This will mean that you will drive through one leg more than the other, you may only feel one hamstring working properly and if you continue to do this over time without fixing it, you will seriously aggravate your lower back most likely on one side. Lateral chain stretches can make a difference but if in doubt, visit a physiotherapist.

 

2. You have an excessive anterior pelvic tilt


This can come from a lot of different reasons: tight hip flexors, sitting for long periods, lazy abs, lack of proper core training, etc. This can cause constant compression on your lumbar spine, by “tightening” it even further with the deadlift, (thinking your protecting it) you can actually make the issue worse; adding load to a hyperextended spine is NEVER a good idea.

 

3.Your internal or external rotation in one hip is severely different to the other


Keeping your hips as balanced as possible is extremely important, most people are going to have a slightly more dominant side which is fine but if it is starting to have an effect on how muscles feel and perform then it can really hinder your ability to deadlift correctly.

 

4. You have a core issue


If you are lacking in anti rotational strength then it will be easy for you to be pulled out of position when under a heavy load. That is why devoting time to separate core work as often as possible is so important: you are only as strong as you core allows you to be.

 

Having a better idea of how your own body works and knowledge of the areas that you personally need to work on goes a long way when choosing exercises for yourself. For a trainer or coach, it is paramount that you are able to spot these things – if you can’t then a movement and mobility course is something that you should definitely invest in, something like FMS or FRC would be a great thing to look for if any courses are near you.

So all of the boring stuff out of the way, how do we actually start to train for a better deadlift?

Relatable core strength!

At one rep max time when you need to be able to grind out a lift for longer than normal, you need your core to be strong enough. If your core gives out, you won’t make the lift. If your spine feels under threat it will shut you off and hopefully make you drop the weight – the alternative is you’re pulled out of position during the lift, causing an injury.

Some of you reading this will switch off now, “Oh, it’s another one of THOSE articles that yap on about core strength” – but I want to express how important it is to relate the feeling of tension to your lifting ability, otherwise yes, just holding planks is genuinely useless. To connect everything in your body together you need to teach it how to move as one unit, the only way to do that is knowing how to create tension through correct positions.

When you are doing your standard elbow plank what you should be aiming to do is create tension through your body by taking a breath in and squeezing everything together as if you were bracing to do a one rep max attempt. Three sets of ten seconds like that is far more beneficial than holding that plank position for minutes at a time – less plank, more gains? Yes please.


After you have the fundamentals of tension down, then you want to relate it to your deadlift position. Try going in to a deadlift position without a bar and see if are aware of your hamstrings in that position. Next, stand back up straight and recreate the plank tension. Keep this tension and lower into your deadlift position again – you should feel more tension in your hamstrings and it should be challenging to even hold that position.

If you can teach yourself or a client the correct position through a feeling, you shouldn’t even need to use the sentence “keep your back straight”, they will just know.

Once you are able to create tension without weight, then the deadlift itself can become your core exercise!

 


Changing the dynamics of the exercise goes a long way to your overall program. People just think that adding kilos makes you stronger, but also try experimenting with the tempo of your lifts, adding pauses, slower negatives, get creative as it’s all beneficial!

If you want smooth beautiful boulder shoulders that look good, you have to think about how they function first – if you just do the things that you WANT to do and never do the “incredibly boring Tom Morrison stuff” you’re going to run in to problems. Everyone has had a cranky shoulder at one point in their training career, probably more than once – but you know what? It is completely avoidable. If something is so bad that you cannot even lift your arm – you need medical attention. If you just have an on and off cranky shoulder? That’s up to you to fix it.

One of the most basic elements of The Simplistic Mobility Method is your POSTURE. If your joints aren’t stacked correctly then all of your training will suffer AND you are putting yourself at risk of injury. If your shoulder is sitting too far to the front of the socket, you will experience pain and weakness. I like to use the diagram below to explain this:

If your shoulder is sitting comfortably in the centre on your socket you can overhead press, do dips, do press ups – do whatever you like! If your shoulder is travelling forwards however, anything apart from bench press is going to aggravate you… and just because you can bench a lot of weight, it does not mean your shoulders are healthy.

 

So Tom, how do I know if my shoulders are good for anything other than benching?!

The first thing to check is – how your shoulders naturally rest, do they round, does one sit differently to the other? Stand in front of a mirror or your phone and just look at yourself, seeing where your shoulders rest. Try jumping up and down a few times and completely relaxing your shoulders and arms before you judge, it’s natural to try and fix your posture when you’re assessing it. If the back of your hand is visible; more than just your index finger and thumb; then your shoulders are slightly protracted (rounded forwards) which will affect how you press and pull.

After checking, if your shoulders are sitting in a good position – great! Although it never hurts to do maintenance on the shoulders every now and again. If you notice your shoulders are rounded, from a subtle tilt to fully forward, it’s great that you now know if there is an issue, now is a good time to start implementing GOOD exercises!

 

Improve Thoracic Mobility

Your upper back mobility is essentially the key to fixing a lot of shoulder mobility issues. Getting stuck into stretching your shoulders directly could actually cause more issues by creating instability. Using effective thoracic openers like zenith rotations is much better place to start!  The main focus of zenith rotations is improving thoracic rotation, which will improve thoracic extension allowing your entire chest to open up and help your shoulders to sit in a more optimal position.

Start in an all fours position and place one hand behind your head, sit back slightly and lock your hips in place then start to rotate yourself with you upper back so that your elbow points to the ceiling, 3 sets of 10 each side.

Improve Shoulder Retraction

After working on your upper back you want to work on the muscles responsible for retraction of your shoulders. Batwings are a phenomenal way to do this. Lie face down on a bench and grab a couple of light weights. Roll your shoulders back and down then draw your elbows back as far as you can while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hit this for 3 sets of 20-30 second holds.

 

Improve Shoulder Function

Next thing you want to start incorporating is shoulder rolls in various positions. Let’s briefly get in to the scientific elements about your glenohumeral joint and scapular rhythmic stabilisation:

Your shoulders go:
UP
DOWN
FORWARDS
BACKWARDS
AND MAKE CIRCLES….

You can either pull or push and that’s it.

The better you can become at MOVING your shoulders the better you will become at controlling them, scale the exercises in the video below to whatever level you’re at, but generally I would aim for sets of a million…

Disclaimer: This stuff is not an overnight fix. It can take several weeks for someone to change how their posture rests, or even months for some people. But it is a more permentant fix.

 

Create lasting strength

Once you have the basic elements mastered and have noticed improvements in your posture, two of the best exercises you can add to your training are the bottom up kettlebell press and Turkish get ups. Or even a combination of the two! Challenge your shoulders in as many different angles using as much different stimulus as possible. They are designed to do great things, but only if you look after them.

 

The Simplistic Mobility Method covers these elements and a lot more for your entire body, it is a video tutorial and guide that you can follow along to and will get you in the way of thinking about your body before strength training – which is the secret to longevity.

If you think for a second reading this “Ugh, how are these exercises doing to make me stronger they’re dumb and simple” you deserve every injury you get. If however, you decide that you want a body that functions well and gives you the capacity to actually do squats, deadlifts and strength programs without causing imbalances and pain? Then keep on reading.

Let’s build a common scenario that I get all of the time:

Athlete A is strong as anything, can move mountains but is plagued with constant back pain when not training or even having to take time off regularly with constant injuries. I give them a few simple coordination drills to do, they can’t do them, become frustrated and then refuse to practice them because the drills are “stupid”. They then fall into the “train, pain, rest, foam roll” cycle.

Athlete B is also strong as anything, gets no pain when not training and gets niggles very rarely – if they do it’s usually due to training too much. I give them the same list of exercises and they don’t struggle with any of them.

 

What does that tell us?

People that move well are generally better at avoiding injury, regardless of strength.

So what things do I test? Is it how fast someone can sprint? What someone’s 1 rep max percentages are based on 6 reps? How fast they can throw a ball? What their vertical jump is?

No, too fancy.

I want to know: can you differentiate left and right, do you have spine to hip connection awareness, can you create tension in your body and can you balance.

In a lot of cases, people with agonising back pain will fail some of these when testing. Using careful exercise selection, fixing those issues relieves pain without having to go through a muscle by muscle stretching and rolling routine, plus much less chance of aggravating things further.

Here are two examples of testing left and right with balance, I highly recommend that you video yourself doing them, as you will not look how you think you do when you try them, especially the marching drill:

Missing any of the above elements is just a recipe for disaster especially when you start talking long term. You are building a body your entire life, yes you may get fat or lose weight, squat more, bench less and all that, but how it moves should always be a primary concern of yours. If you don’t do something correctly for long periods of time you’re going to start breaking things down. How do I know this? It happened to me and many other people I know. Normal people? No, people at the top of their game.

I have done a good few articles on my own back injury and dealing with it after it happened, but how about why it happened? This is more important for people to take heed of: I did that shit so you DON’T have to experience it! As much as I’ll say experience is a great learning tool, it’s not very enjoyable at the time. I have written a ebook on my journey leading up to my back injury, what I did wrong and how I ended up fixing myself when no one else could, if you’d like to check it out, it’s in my online store here.

In my book you’ll see that I had the hinge mastered, I could deadlift till your face came off, every week was PR or near PR. When I decided to start working on my heavy back squat I just decided I had that nailed straight away, after all, deadlifting never hurt me… the problem was I just didn’t like squatting right?

Wrong.

Although I did have the hip capacity to hinge correctly, I did not have the capacity to squat correctly. I had severe hip and ankle range of motion issues, my squat was “better” with weight than it was without weight – I had no idea how to brace properly without weight, and this is something I see with people on a weekly basis.

What this lack of control caused, was the famous “butt wink” term that gets thrown around; a small amount of lumbar flexion at the bottom of every squat. I got zero pain whatsoever when squatting heavy, I’d say for around 2 years. My numbers were going up fine, as they should when doing any strength program. Little did I know I was stressing my spine every session and eventually it gave up during a 3 rep max test. This was not an unlucky injury, or a whoopsie, it was years in the making.

How does all this relate to warm ups? I could clean and jerk over 100kg at that time but I could not even hold my own chest up: I could not do a bodyweight squat! Every day that I didn’t work on that I was shooting myself in the foot.

I am such a party pooper these days; the people that I train will tell you. Even when they hit a PR or get a new movement, yes I congratulate them but they are also rewarded with a list of what could have been better and what they need to work on next before testing again. Sorry, but that is the job of a coach in my opinion. Yes I encourage people and I get damn proud, but my first and foremost interest is your long term health and making you better at whatever you want to do, not stroke your ego.

Bear crawls, bird dogs, crab walks, duck walks, footwork drills, standing marches, hopping and planks should be mandatory warm ups. Then we want to involve your hamstrings and lats. Do you know how to create tension and stable positions without weight? Do you know how to prime yourself with anything other than a foam roller? (Yeah, mash those tissues…)

This is the foundation to The Simplistic Mobility Method knowing all of this stuff is like your phones factory operating system, as long as it is there running in the background – your new apps and games all work fine, delete that essential software though? Well nothing will work, you’ll be lucky if it even turns on.

Get better at the simple things and then you can enjoy shifting weight and getting crazy strong.

 

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.

Do I need to apologise for the title again? Well…. truthfully I just want something to grab people’s attention so that I get more views and more people love me. Plus I do always feel uncomfortable giving “advice” about how to live your life, preferring to keep things purely training based…

So, let’s throw some perspective on this! Young people always look at old people like they don’t have a clue, as if they’re never going to get old. And older people look at young people with the same attitude: that they don’t have a clue, they don’t know what it’s like to be older or they’d be doing things differently. The key thing is that eventually they will know, they’re just not there yet, and you can’t deny someone their own mistakes. Before we really get into this, I think that young people should support older people to keep up training, and older people should encourage young people to not give it up; it is such an easy thing to lose for each and every stud in the gym right now – even me, even if I am an extra sexy stud – but such a had thing to reclaim.

Life happens, it just does, and it’s a silly thing to even enter into your thought process: it’s a variable you can’t control. Priorities change and your attention can get taken elsewhere, especially now I have started a family (even though I’m only 16 in my head) I am finding it harder and harder to fit in all the “me” time I would like because I am drawn to spending time with my beautiful baby girl.

The funny thing is, the “old person” attitude can come at any age, I’ve met 25 year olds thinking they’re “past it”. Your perception of yourself is purely an attitude, you’re only as old as the woman you feel… and I married one the same age as me…. fuck.

What’s key to remember is that your life is your own. If you say to yourself that you want to do something that will benefit your health and the others around you, you do it. There are no opinions or whispers that should ever, EVER influence your decision on anything, especially your health. If you’re the fattest, oldest, least fit person in the gym: you’re an inspiration, and you’ve just as much right to be there as anyone else, more in fact, as it’s easier to get fit when you’re already fit. We’ve all seen the clips of the crazy 69 year old Grandads and Grannies doing bodybuilding shows, pull ups and handstands and they only started 5 years previous. The only difference between you and them is they had a thought, they used their experience to be smart and made gains faster than any little twerp that was “already strong”. I can make any person with no previous injuries or stress strong easily, taking someone that’s been through wars and making them feel strong, though? That’s so much more worthwhile.

But where do you start?

FLEXIBILITY:
Firstly finding out how much flexibility you currently have is a big thing, if you have not moved for a number of years – or just never moved – well then squats and deadlifts could be the absolute WORST movements you could do. Does this mean you should never do them? No, but your initial training ‘phase’ should be to give yourself the adequate mobility to do those things. Yes you may be having to start even further backwards than everyone else, but something I learned when I was injured was patience and intelligence, yes it’s slow now… but it won’t be that way forever.

Have a go at some of these movements, yes you may struggle with them – anyone would at any point, I couldn’t do any of them when I started training at 24, but the more you work at them and find ways to get better at them, magical things start to happen! Back stiffness goes away, you walk better, you feel taller and sex gets better.

 

LUNGES:
To start building strength, lunges are your safest bet! There is a chance you could have balance or core issues so squatting may not be for you, yet!. The magic of the simple lunge is that it “accidentally” sorts a lot of that stuff out! You may have to hold on to something at the start but always remember when you’re new to something it just takes time to become familiar with it! You WILL get better at it! Keep with the standard forwards and backwards first of all but a nice thing to work towards is clockwork lunges, this challenges your balance more but also strengthens your hips at some wonderful angles which are crucial.

 

CORE STABILITY:
Next up is corework! If you see a Pilates class just sign up right then and there! Working on planks and leg lifts in those positions have so many benefits for keeping you strong and coordinated! Yes you may feel like you’re horribly weak and embarrassing yourself but… if you’re going to train anyways why not do something which carries over to real strength and stability rather than low resistance machines that teach your body nothing?

 

RING ROWS AND BODYWEIGHT:
Upper body wise, anything that requires you to pull is stupidly important, most people will eventually end up with rounded shoulders so opening up your chest and strengthening your rhomboids is essential to good posture and avoiding neck pain! Having a TRX or a set of gymnastics rings is a great idea for training, you can’t do enough of these type of exercises! A good goal to shoot for is to make bodyweight exercises so easy you don’t rate them as an exercise anymore, like, I could challenge you to 20 push ups at any point in the day and you’d just say “Let’s go!”. Devoting 5-10 minutes every evening to push ups and rows/planks/lunges will add up over the weeks and months and you’d be surprised how fast your body adapts!

 

JOINT BY JOINT APPROACH:
At the end of the day no matter where you are at you can ALWAYS improve your mobility. Assessing your joints day by day and challenging them ever so slightly will have SUCH a big payoff in years to come! Plus if any of the younger ones are still tuned in, I am finding keeping my joints happier is far more beneficial than any strength program for actually building strength. Not being in pain all the time means I can actually move more and practice better! You don’t have to get overly complicated with it, and you don’t have to go full yoga, just see how your body moves and what feels different from side to side, is your balance better on one leg compared to the other… etc!

 

Lastly as a side note, have more fun, if you want to learn how to dance, go dance. If you enjoy trees and shit, walk up a mountain. Challenge your partner or kids to a race up the street. Never just sit wishing you could turn back time or be different, be the change you want to be now! It’s a MINDSET!! Plus… You deserve it! You sexy beast.

Thankyou for reading!
Tom

 

 

I’m busy recently, like very very busy. I don’t have as much free time as I would like to and so my plan is to automate as many things as possible, so I can stay the same amount of busy – or even more busy – but still have my free time! Because let’s be honest here, I like a good scratch! (HA! That’s actually hilarious due to my skin condition! If you don’t get it… I have a skin condition…. that makes me very itchy)

Is that laziness? Or is it wanting to get everything done with smarter processes to have the potential to get more done? Bit of both! Training in my opinion, should be viewed in the exact same way. I don’t mean the usual “Need to shake things up“, “Keep the body guessing” “Do what you’ve always done and be what you’ve always been” kind of shit, I mean:

“Are the structures and methods you have in place still doing what they are supposed to be doing?”

For instance, when I am working with someone that is looking to make significant changes to how their body naturally moves, there are certain exercises that they will need at a certain point. Over time with proper devotion to the exercise and “mastery”, for want of a better word, the adaptation from that exercise becomes less and less, therefore the exercise is rendered less useful and more of a maintenance tool. Using a squat as an example, if someone cannot squat at all and we run through a program of lunge variations and end range mobility drills, when they have attained the squat (which they will) then the squat itself becomes the “pattern” that needs to be trained and the progressions are now less useful. This is not to say to do them, but more time should be spent with the new skill over something you have already worked hard with. Your focus needs to change as you have level up, your training and exercise selection needs to change with every improvement and skill aquired.

Constant reassessment of goals, and how you react to certain movements is a valuable thing to do. Imagine if you were intensely stretching your hip flexors every day and stopped for a month and felt no different? What does that tell you? Were they ever really tight? Or was the intense stretching combined with moving well actually a rewrite for your body, so they don’t get tight any more because you actually move better? Should you stop stretching them altogether? Probably not, but unnecessarily stretching something half to death every session can have repercussions also… you’re not always “fixing” something, sometimes over stretching can cause you more issues.

The simpler you can keep your training the less chance you have of becoming overwhelmed. This is especially common in CrossFit and callisthenics, you have to be so good at so many different things that your overall training can turn to shit because you just don’t give enough attention to one thing to get adequate gains from it. Yes there are benefits to being well rounded but the gains be slower, and this is where your exercise selection comes in!

For example, if I want to increase my strict press one rep max and also get better at freestanding handstand push ups, would it be more productive for me to train with the barbell more often or the handstand?

That’s right! Both!

Don’t worry if you answered just handstand, I would have said the same a few months back, and still would depending on the person. Having more time spent on developing the handstand push up will certainly carry over to the strict press BUT your familiarity with the barbell will decrease so your nervous system will turn down your power output. So, your training may look something like: practice your freestanding handstand push ups until you burn out and not able to do any more, that’s when you go to the wall to take the balance element out, then when your head is turning purple you go to the barbell and start working your strict press. If it’s a one rep max you’re training for, then you can’t be doing 5 or 10 reps up and down, you need to do your sets with dead stops in order to train your set brace position for every rep.

If your goal is to get better at two movements then although the handstand is your higher skill movement, the barbell technique isn’t any less important. However, if you don’t care about strict presses then the strict press becomes nothing more than an assistance exercise for your handstand push up.

Generally, all exercises are fantastic, there are no “best” exercises – questioning your reasoning for using them is where the magic happens. Always wonder what something will do for you long term, that way you can stay motivated to do it consistently for a long period of time… like drinking, if you stop you’ll get a hangover, so it’s best to just keep going… don’t actually do that….. and if you do, I’ll see you in Vegas.

Most importantly… if you can’t figure out what you want to do, or don’t feel like you know enough to choose, just do anything! Learn by doing! It still works. Here is an example of progression based training, the great thing about training this way is that you can always feel like you are working towards something!

 

 

On things I have touched before (haaa, that’s what she said), core comes up ALL the time. It really is true that your core is the key to everything, so much so at one point I even stopped using the word completely because it became so bastardised. Just another marketing selling point. If you just do planks and sit ups you’ll have a rock solid, indestructible set of abs and be impervious to injury…. no, no you won’t. That’s a bad way to think.

Everyone is different and there is no “normal”. It is so frustrating when people read one article and decide to label themselves with every slight dysfunction it explains because the language fits how they felt once. I keep talking about mindset these days, make no mistake I don’t mean artsy-fartsy: “You can do it!” stuff, I mean are you genuinely THINKING that you are weak!?

I will slap you silly.

So that’s two bad ways to think, what should you think?

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What I have found to be the best is thinking that you’re training your core ALL of the time, and to notice what movements are similar. There aren’t that many differences – think about it, you’re either maintaining a position, moving between positions or reacting to a stimulus…. that’s it. You can get fancy with different angles and crossovers but are they all really necessary? Plus, here’s an interesting hypothesis – the more your body learns the better it becomes at instantaneous reaction and adaptation. We all know those dicks that seem to have never been introduced to the word “clumsy”, able to effortlessly accomplish any new physical challenge that’s thrown at them.

I have taken the most blocky, rigid people to people more floppy than fish and tested them all with stability drills they have never tried before (seriously, I know a lot of weird stuff) and for a large part they all do fine. The people that fail generally don’t even have to do the test, they tell you when you meet them: “Oh, I have a weak core, I’ll suck at this”

How does this mindset creep in!?

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I honestly can’t believe how often I hear it, and what is absolutely heartbreaking to me is seeing the people that have held this belief for ten or twenty years! Think of all the things they have actively avoided, the painkillers they’ve taken, not playing with their kids and fucking agony they have went through!? For what?? Because no one took the time to educate them better? Very few people understand how debilitating chronic back pain and fear can be, it can literally change someone’s entire life and attitude. Without being too dramatic, it can ruin it.

From the general population perspective, the disconnection from your own inner strength and confidence can really throw a spanner in your training. I talk a bit in my article injuries are awesome about how injuries and pain are one of the best learning tools. You aren’t unlucky, you’re being given a chance to learn. The same thing applies if you find certain core exercises “challenging” it doesn’t mean that you’re weak, it just means your body is currently learning. Think about it this way, the gains you’re receiving are tenfold compared to someone that doesn’t struggle with it, just because you find something hard it doesn’t immediately make that a bad thing.

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One of the things I do encourage people to watch out for at my seminars is alignment. Knowing if your hips are in the right place when you’re resting and training is the start of your “core” training. If you aren’t aware of your hips, you can do all of the anti rotational exercises in the world and all you’re just ingraining that bad position. In the video below is a great example of that with Dee, if we had’ve jumped in to training when he was offset, his body would have just gotten stronger in that bad position. This position had been progressive and where there was no pain in the beginning as he has started getting stronger, pain has started presenting itself, one side is doing more than the other, one knee is annoyed, the other hamstring is annoyed… and this is all coming from his pelvis.

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Your core isn’t weak, it’s just doing what you’ve given it to do, if you give it wonky hips and constant lack of variety it’s gonna get dumb. Yes I called your core “dumb”. Imagine if you stopped talking to new people, or reading – what would happen to your brain? It wouldn’t work the best would it? Your body is no different, but as the weird happy yogis say, the mind and body are connected… or something like that, and it’s true, your body has a consciousness, it thinks and can get better at thinking but you have to give it the material!

Your core is not weak, you just aren’t exploring what it can do AND you’re overthinking, never do that, no one is smart enough for that. Stand on one leg and try and turn your head left and right fast with your eyes closed, that’ll be a start.

 

 

 

 

Sitting here with a cup of pointless decaf coffee (I know right!? My skin plays up if I have too much caffeine and I like hot drinks, STOP JUDGING ME!!) I’m wondering what it is that I actually do. I am a very “go with the flow” kind of person, but it highly stresses me out sometimes. I hate wasting time, and I really need to feel that I am being pulled in a direction that makes me and others around me feel good.

One of the best things I have found out about myself and many others is the sadness and demotivation that comes from holding on to something you feel you’re not progressing with. It’s so easy to become caught up with a draining habit, routine or situation that you created, you forget the reason you started it in the first place.

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So what do you do when this happens?

If you have only been doing something for a few weeks, chances are you just don’t like it and it’s not for you, which there is nothing wrong with. If you have gave it a good honest try and showed up with a good attitude but still leave feeling a bit disappointed then maybe it’s time to let it go for now. Leaving something like that will leave you more open to retrying it in the future rather than grinding on until you eventually hate it so much you never want to do it ever again. There are many things I tried that didn’t want continue with, but when I became a more competent trainer I felt like I understood the value in it, so I was a lot more motivated to try it again.

What about other hobbies? Remember that you are allowed to do as many things as you can fit in – if you end up having only one thing for “me” time then that is going to eventually become a chore itself. For example, when coaching became my full time job, my training suffered slightly. That is not a boo hoo statement, it’s simply a normal repercussion of being in your ‘place of chilling out’ too often: it becomes less of a getaway and more like a home. My ‘rushing home from work with excitement to get to the gym as fast as I could’ was gone because I was already at the gym. Despite loving every second of my job and the things I do, EVERYONE needs an outlet…. So I do handstands…. outside, like….

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This is easy to say, but it’s the hardest thing in the world to take your own advice, especially if you have friends tied up in a particular hobby or location. But social encouragement can only get you so far if you’re just not feeling something. Sit yourself down and have a chat with yourself as if you were someone that you cared about (weird, I know). Ask yourself: are you happy? What do you see yourself doing in a years time? And then ask if what you’re doing now is taking you towards that goal, AND are you ok with that?

I have an overwhelming urge to explain myself here…. I am not an expert at life and have nothing figured out…. but I have had that conversation with quite a few people including myself and they have all seen the benefit in it and are much happier now, so I do feel a need to share the thought.

I think I feel better now…

Getting stuck in a monotonous habit and doing things just for the sake of doing them is a fast track way to limit your potential in my eyes. As much as nutrition and sleep can be blamed for someone’s performance, you cannot deny no matter how bad all those things are, if you REALLY fucking love something you will have energy. People that have a great sense of purpose always do shit better and have the best time.

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Could it be that we are just scared to admit that maybe we weren’t right about something? Could it be that it’s easier to follow a herd than lead your own charge?
Could it be that without constant attention to what we do we just start existing and not living? Or could it be that sexy Sarah keeps using the adductor machine right in front of the preacher curl…. who knows.

Don’t do stuff you don’t enjoy, but make sure you’re not just being a miserable sap first.

 

 

Ok, this one has the potential to get a little weird… and deep…. which is what “she” said. Once again, I will state that I am not an expert in human psychology, or a life guru – far from it. In fact when I first started my Coaching website & facebook Page I always said I wanted it just to be a source for training techniques and demonstrating movements, but lo-and-behold here we are a year later on and I’m doing side planks in my pants and pistol squats with sledgehammers…

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As a coach I suppose it’s hard to not develop an intricate set of people skills that make you come up with the weirdest explanations to relate to people, allowing them perform a certain way. From: “Stop snatching like Michael Jackson” to “Imagine your feet are shotguns” if a cue helps someone to do something better, you are doing your job right. No two people react the same way to words and one great cue for one person might be the biggest roadblock to another.

A coach is generally in charge of the atmosphere of a session. You have to be able to invigorate people, diffuse situations, inspire, set fires up asses, console, discipline, the list is endless – especially interesting if you are doing a guest session somewhere else you don’t know and have no control of the surroundings. Teaching beginners is often the most rewarding, most exciting and in many ways, the easiest. But what happens when you get past the “technique” phase of training? What happens when you have the moves nailed and you’re getting stronger? What happens when you have passed beginner?

Well….

Things get harder.

Let me introduce you to “yourself”

You are a mess, you’re full of doubts, wandering thoughts, needs for cookies, you hate your job, you wonder what people think about you… you don’t want to get up in the morning, can’t be bothered, want to watch twenty box sets in a row, scared to speak up about things, have bad days all the time, unsure of your opinions…. the list goes on, how the fuck could you even lift? Especially that heavy ass weight? That’ll break your bitch ass!

How do I know you so well?

Because we’re all the same. We all have thoughts like that, but the wonderful thing about it is – if you’ve created all of those thoughts, you can create more! Different ones! Better ones!

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Think about it, you have a bunch of personalities. You do not act the same way with your parents that you do with your friends, you don’t jump around the same way at school as you would when you’re at a club drunk. When you’re by yourself you are completely different to what you are like when you’re with your lover. Try to be glad about everything you have and resentful about everything you don’t at the exact same time – you can’t, you can only focus on one feeling at a time.

So how does this apply to training? If you watch your favourite athletes, do you really think they are the way they are on Social Media 24/7? I’ve lost count of the amount of times people I know who have met their favourite weightlifter and have came back saying “They’re actually really nice!!” Like they’re surprised! What did you think was gonna happen? They were going to shout in your face and throw you over a mountain? The most down to earth, chilled out people you’ll ever meet are big ass strongmen and Powerlifters.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ronnie Coleman actually lift a “light weight” it’s the persona he created that shouts stuff because it gives the internal feeling of confidence and strength. It’s not something to laugh at or think of being silly, it really works. Watch the best lifters screaming before lifts and slapping the shit outta themselves, look at their eyes, genuine belief in what they’re about to do, is it put on? Yes, and no.

Read any successful trainers progress posts, what do they all say – not only have they lost inches, weight blah blah blah but their confidence levels are through the roof and they’re doing things they never imagined themselves doing. That mindset of wanting to be better and actually accomplishing little goals every day is the personality shift that makes the new person, the body just happens to adapt too – because of the new habits.

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When heavy lifting is concerned, you have no room for doubts, no room for thinking about the spaghetti you didn’t finish on Thursday. The beast that you create doesn’t have time for that shit, it lifts, it destroys, it conquers. It may feel like acting at the start but with a little work you can have a secret tool that does the scary stuff for you. A lot of people don’t think they have it in them, but imagine if you were a parent and some random person smacked your child for something… you would END them. I’m telling you now there is an uncontrollable monster inside you that you can tap into.

I used to laugh at “visualisation” techniques years ago. Like, I was a big strong boy, I don’t need to pretend to be strong. But in the back of my mind there was still a self conscious Tom. Being a little bit cocky or imagining you’re a fire breathing dragon are two different levels of strength, being just little bit cocky doesn’t cut the mustard when you get to a certain point.

Whatever makes you feel amazing, you never need to tell anyone what it is, but if it gives you an intrinsic feeling of strength it will work for you. I used to get really nervous public speaking so something I used to do was put the “man of steel” soundtrack on, clear my mind and imagine I was Superman for 10 minutes in the morning before a seminar. Sounds really silly when it’s written down but it really helped me stop freaking out for 10 minutes which made calm the fuck down. (Notice how I use swear words when saying something personal, silly embarassed brains)

When going for max lifts it depends on the lifting personality you create. Some people need a clear head and have no emotion and others need to think about decapitating their boss….. again, we’re not here to judge. The big thing to take away from this article though is that nothing is stupid, seeing what works for you and what doesn’t is supposed to be what training is about, finding yourself, experiences and all that. You are in charge of the person you create so why not add some badassery into the mix? Just because it seems forced at the time doesn’t mean it won’t become a cool part of you and something you enjoy!

For many people that hour at the gym is somewhere for them to escape from themselves and their worries, so why the hell not imagine your sick pump is you turning into the incredible hulk or your max back squat is you escaping from a trap room with a ceiling that’s trying to crush you. That max deadlift is a gigantic fallen tree that’s crushing your friend and you have to save them – whatever makes you FEEL strong.

Express yourself more and don’t ever be afraid to put yourself out there! If you can’t do something, invent a you that can. You will still be that you when you’re back to being you, because you came from you… you see?

If you enjoyed this blog I would really love to hear some things you tell yourself before going for a max lift! There are no rights and wrongs, everything is perception and we can all learn from one another.

 

 

 

 

When “movement” became a fitness “buzzword” it was an exciting and sad day. The world was plummeted into a stream of overthinking, overcorrecting, forced “play” and deep Instagram posts. People started trying to be the next innovative genius to revolutionise the fitness industry and change everyone’s way of thinking….

Like me.

But I’m different you see, because I say so.

My standpoint on dorky “movement” based drills and sequences is that you gain enhanced proprioception for PERFORMANCE – not just to be a better one legged, wobble board juggling, man bun wearing Jedi wannabe wearing sandals and socks at the same time. Not that there is anything wrong with that… but other than work I do to remove and retrain pain, I just like lifting and enjoy training people that want to push the boundaries of what they can do.

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A cool conversation I had the other day was about the single leg deadlift. It is a fantastic diagnostic tool AND a great corrective exercise, but is it something that is valuable for a beginner to train? At such an early stage it’s hard to say if it is a hip stability or trunk stability issue, or simply a “new to training” issue. Will training the persons ability to react and rebalance in ridiculous situations actually be more beneficial than spending time progressively loading a movement that they find challenging? Getting some damn good training in whatever way possible that “fixes” along the way is probably the most beneficial thing for people that can only donate a few hours a week to training.

These days I’ll always pick playful exercises that correct dysfunction that the person doesn’t even know they have, so they can get the most gains from the stuff they CAN do rather than focus on what’s “wrong” with them. Says the guy with a website page is full of scaremongering for injuries…. Tom Morrison, the walking hypocrite!

I think a lot of people are getting confused with the way some people train, for instance here are some examples of “playing” with a sledgehammer. It’s a bit long but you can get the idea (that’s what she said):

Is that my entire training session done? FUCK NO! You crazy?? I’ve just warmed up my shoulders and “woke up” my core …for want of a better description. I’m gonna snatch or lift heavy shit! I’ll put another video at the end too.

The reason I like to play around with what a lot of people would say is “dumb” or a waste of time is for neurological adaptation. I need to warm up anyways and as I have stated before that there are no perfect warm ups, your mobility is what it is, your active ranges are what they are. Spending 5-10 minutes doing something ridiculous (and fun) is going to make your body think AND make it better at reacting.

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I like to break it down to my Olympic lifting athletes like this, when you do a heavy ass clean and catch at the bottom, what kind of core strength is that?

REACTIVE

If you brace too soon you’ll not get under, brace too late and you’ll be crumpled and lose the lift. Your BODY has to know when to switch on, you don’t have control over that shit, it happens in a millisecond. Will juggling balls and hopping make you better at Olympic lifting?

No. Olympic lifting makes you better at Olympic lifting.

But can you train an element in a safe non taxing way that makes your muscles react better and therefore smarter?

Yes.

Is that beneficial?

In my eyes, yes.

In my experience, everyone that I train that comes on board with doing silly things and joins in on games and having fun, seem to pick up more advanced movements faster. It’s like doing crosswords, I suck at them, but if I stick at them for a few weeks, they get easier. Did the crosswords make me smarter? Or did I just get more efficient at remembering information that was already in there? (food for thought)

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So for a glimpse into the way I train now, which I am not saying is the right way or the best way, it is just my way is:

  1. Warm up with “silliness”
  2. Train properly with weights, conditioning, old school methods that have stood the test of time.
  3. Cool down with experimental movement stuff or “really bad break dancing” as I like to call it

I am really enjoying my training more than ever and everyone that I meet seem really intrigued and interested it what I do which is awesome! Will I change what I’m doing someday? Probably. But am I happy? Yes! And that at the end of the day my friends, that is all that is important! Now go enjoy some gains and THRUST YOURSELF UPON THE WORLD LIKE THERE IS NO TOMORROW!!!