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!!!

 

 

I do apologise but I may have peaked too soon, there is no other article I could write that is going to top that title… A goal of mine is to be the Conor McGregor of the fitness industry, run my mouth off at everyone and hopefully I get the win.

As largely competitive as I am, when I feel the health of my joints or muscles are at risk, hands down I’ll stop early every time…… nowadays anyway…

This is partly a result of a long learning process, but also from observing older successful trainers and athletes: they don’t really do all the dumb shit they used to do as much. It’s not that they’ve got boring or lost strength, far from it in fact.

They’ve got smart.

So…. I’m saying don’t have fun?

Not at all!

I am the first to push people into trying new things and pushing themselves, but we have to remember everything has a shelf life. If you’re going to punish your body every day for the sake of gains you better make sure you’re doing it at a pace you can recover from with training partners you can work with.

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If I wanted to pursue a more powerlifting side of training, it would be ridiculously stupid of me to go to a steroid infused gym and try to compete with those guys day in day out! I wouldn’t recover from the workouts and would eventually break, and what for? To not bruise my ego?

If you can’t train at that level, you don’t, simple.

Going at your own pace is so important. The benefits of group training is a motivational environment and also that little push – and that’s great, but if you’re going to start whipping out the “big lad” act when you’re having a bad day and someone else is having an awesome day you’re going to come up short.

Knowing when you need to take a step back is the main thing. Obviously, this is not just an excuse when you can’t be bothered, it’s a genuine, if you feel you’re going to hurt yourself, stop. If you’re training too often, when it comes to having a bit of fun competition you’re going to be wrecked.

 

What about long term?

If you think you’re going to have the same strength and recovery in your 40’s and 50’s as you do now… I’ve some bad new for you!

Right now where I’m at, throwing heavy weights around and doing a bajillion pull ups for time is ok for me now physically, and so I am going to enjoy it for a few more years yet. When I feel like I can’t keep up the intensity I will start to take more rest days so my body will recover, or even scale weights if needs be.

I’m really enjoying CrossFit training at the moment. This is partly because I can actually do all the movements now without getting hurt, but also I’m loving the extra drive and effort I’m putting it at the right times… plus my gym is the best gym and I’ve amazing training partners.

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I’ll never worry about trying to keep up with younger athletes in their prime, who do I need to prove anything to? As long as I am doing my best and getting better at other things I will always be happy. What will I move on to when I can no longer keep up with constant high intensity work? I’m not quite sure, but a more intense hand balancing practice is quite appealing to me!

The great thing about having a long training career is that you’ll ALWAYS have something you’re better at than someone else. Maybe it’s fancy gymnastics moves or something as simple as your deadlift and kettlebell technique being better than most people’s – your EXPERIENCE will always be something you can fall back on. For instance, I’m not really that great at anything BUT, I am quite good at a lot of things making me cooler. And thats what training for longevity is all about. Gathering as much experience as possible over a long period of time whilst having fun.

Holding on to trying to compete with other people when you’re just not feeling it is silly. I will have no issues changing from a competitive athlete to a recreational one when I feel I want (or need) to, I’ll still do CrossFit and still do the classes and want to get better times, but I’ll be doing MY CrossFit for ME, not anybody else.

So if you’re going to whip out your swamp monster, make sure you have a peek in the showers first before comparing. Always remember, size doesn’t matter, your dongle is your dongle and that’s the only one you should focus on.

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If you follow me on social media you’ll know that for some unknown reason I decided to challenge myself to wearing a 10kg weighted vest whilst covering extra gym sessions a couple of weeks ago. I accumulated 39 hours in it over 5 days. The rules I set for myself were that I had to put it on first thing in the morning for all classes, demonstrations and any of my own training, strength work, workouts, anything. If I was in the gym, for any reason, I was wearing the vest.

On Monday of course the novelty level was high. So, I ran the 6.00am class, before proceeding to my own training of back squats and pull ups. Cool thing about the back squats was that the weight on the bar was nicely disguised by the thickness of the jacket AND the weight on the bar was 10 kilos less than what I was actually squatting – strange sensation but interesting nonetheless.

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I finished up with my upper body stuff and it was 8.30am…… the novelty wore off. I’d finished training and just wanted it off, for those of you that follow me I generally like to train with my top off, for two reasons: 1. I’m a sexy bastard, and 2. I overheat because of my skin.

Deadlifts were on the agenda for Tuesday. Putting the vest on again at 6.00am was alright, demonstrating animal movements proved a little more awkward, but nothing I hadn’t done before. I managed a good few sets of handstand push ups before resorting to easier movements like farmer carries and bottom up presses, I was really starting to fatigue quickly.

Wednesday was probably the first day it started to really feel like a chore, my enthusiasm for training took a drastic dip… so I did dips (see what I did there?) but getting home at 11.00am I was asleep by 11.30 and didn’t wake up until 3.00pm – the challenge was starting to affect my daily life, which is a massive no-no.

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Thursday came and I had several workouts to hit, I repeated one workout that I actually did in the vest the previous month and performed slightly worse than the first time I did it, my body just felt wrecked, my neck and shoulders were crazy tight and it just wasn’t fun anymore. Turkish get ups were probably the only thing I could really bring myself to do, I did enjoy the dynamic of the vest pulling me back down though.

On the last day I just maxed out on pull ups as much as possible; if I could hang on it, I pulled up on it. Serious lat cramps came later that day but it was the last day! Finally! I took it off and my sense of relief was just a sense of: “that was stupid” and I vowed never again.

I planned to take the weekend off as I was going to another gym to do some mobility assessments, but I still ended up sneaking in a few heavy clusters. It was awesome to be back under a bar again, and not having the vest on felt awesome! Sunday was a no go for training at all, I felt completely drained so decided to eat everything.

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Monday came and I felt incredible! I decided to sort my neck and shoulders out in the morning and train in the evening. I retested everything, pull ups, dips, handstand push ups and all had major improvement! The biggest thing I noticed though was my recovery, were normally it would take me 2-3 mins to recover from maximum effort sets, I was ready to go again for everything in just over a minute. I didn’t feel lighter, I just felt crazy strong! And the pump I got was unreal! Later I did the 7 minute burpee challenge and bested my all time score.
Cardio and recovery gains!

Would I do it again? Yeah, probably. But next time I would only use it for my actual training sessions, not all the time. I do feel the sessions I did that week would have been far more productive if I hadn’t wore the vest the entire time before and after. When something you’re doing for fun starts to make you want to sleep all the time you have to kind of reevaluate your opinion of fun.

Maintaining the short burst of gains will be the main goal, I imagine the adaptation is short term, so now I will need to keep training with the new rep ranges I have achieved to make it worthwhile.

Verdict:

Not quite super saiyan but a nice boost to bodyweight exercises, fitness and recovery. Only really worth trying if you have the time, there are definitely more productive ways of training that are less soul destroying..

 

With the popularised trend of “functional fitness” and “movement” training, everyone is jumping on the bandwagon of doing moves that your body was “meant to do” and “designed for”. I am here to tell you right now: your body was designed for fuck all. It is just a sack of bones that learns what you tell it. If you never cause the stimulus for an adaptation then it’s going to get pretty immobile. Whatever state you let it get in to is the state you are going to have to work with when you decide to start burning some calories or doing some fun stuff.

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So, that being said, deciding at 25 that you are going to do handstands because they are “functional” is just dangerous. If you have never required any overhead reaching ability in your younger years, the chances of you having the prerequisite shoulder mobility to be able to cope with the stresses of a handstand are very slim. And on the topic of slim, if you are grossly overweight, gymnastics movements are definitely NOT the best thing for your joints. That’s not insulting, that’s just physics.

You should always, in my opinion, get a coach to get started with anything. We just don’t know if we have the capacity to do something, and the only way to find out is under an experienced eye. What becomes dangerous is when you decide to crack on anyway assuming you’ll be fine. People’s inability to be patient astound me, I would classify myself as pretty carefree and stupid sometimes but I do always have my body and its long term health in mind…. only through functionality though, not sweeties….

Squatting isn’t for everyone at the start and it takes years to perfect a squat, people just see it as ‘up and down’ but it is something that can ALWAYS be improved and made better. Same goes for jumping, running, landing – everything that you do can always be better, and it’s only through focus that you will grow. Don’t just do things, do them.

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It is hard to float in between perfectionist syndrome and having fun. The main thing is not to become scared of anything, or avoid stuff and live in a bubble. Think: can I do that exercise? Should I do that exercise? Will that exercise be beneficial to me long term? And if the answer is no to any of those questions, then find a way that can lead you getting a yes; if it is mobility drills or losing some weight first, or even gaining some weight. You have to think of what will put you in the best possible position to do something you really enjoy and not get injured.

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This is a private mobility session I had with my good friend Liam, he had a few issues holding back his squat and overhead pressing. Over the course of an hour we had ironed them out and he walked away knowing exactly what to work on, now he is back doing most of the things he loved to do before years of nagging injuries:

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In my experience, really wanting to do something or really wanting to be good at a certain skill really motivates me to do the boring stuff. For my squat I had to try everything to make my hips feel comfortable and make my knees feel like they wouldn’t explode, yes it took some time but now I just squat and can simply maintain it through squatting. I still do a fair amount of hip mobility because it makes me feel stronger for weightlifting and I want to lift heavy ass weights – NOT because I feel weak or scared.

You are an individual and you have to look out for your own best interests. There are always other options for everything and paths to lead you towards anything you want to do. Be a legend within your own capacity and always look to improve and get stronger.