Beat the Beep Test Updates

Over the last month I’ve been doing a lot of work on the website.  The renovations are in their early stages but I have started to upload more articles and we have shot and are in the process of editing a series of 1-2 minute tips on the beep test that will also get expanded into longer tutorial videos to go with the E-book.

The aim is to make the blog and website a definitive resource for information on not only the beep test but all of the common fitness tests used by emergency services and militaries around the world.

If you’ve got suggestions for content or specific questions you want answered please send me an email at

Anyone whose suggestion gets used to generate content will get a copy of one of my DVDs for free!

Fitness Trends for 2014

Fitness Trends for 2014

2014 will mark the tenth year since I first started working full time in the fitness industry and during the last 10 years I’ve seen a lot of good, bad and just plain silly training methods and trends come and go.

So here are my predictions for some of the things good, bad and ugly that might happen over the next 12 months.

Crossfit will continue to expand – Way back in 2005 when Andrew Cattermole and I started Crossfit Sydney in my garage and some local parks there were 72 affiliates in the WHOLE WORLD.  Now there are more than that in metro Sydney alone and last time I checked globally there were over 4000 affiliates.  Crossfit will become a standard part of the fitness industry and you will start to see more and more big gyms like Fitness First and the YMCA etc setting up official or unofficial Crossfit programs.


Crossfit will continue to be controversial – The amount of bickering online about the pros and cons of Crossfit makes a fight over a doll by 3 year old girls look intelligent and civilised.  If you want to get fitness people riled up just find out which side of the Crossfit fence they sit on and then espouse the opposite view.


There is a strong second wave of anti bodybuilding/aerobics gyms coming – Crossfit was the first wave but this second wave of gyms is almost a counter movement to the counter movement that is crossfit.  Where Crossfit preaches high intensity and an almost random approach to conditioning these second wave gyms are more tightly focused first on building strength and then on doing systematic conditioning through kettlebells, sprinting and strongman events but without the randomness of CrossFit.

In Australia there are a heap of independent strength gyms opening up such as Adonis Athletics and Shire Speed and Strength as well the first group of franchised strength gyms called PTC or Performance Training Centres.  For serious athletes these gyms offer great facilities, supportive coaches and members and a lot of flexibility in how and what you train.

The general public will continue to believe that professional and Olympic sports are mostly drug free – They aren’t, not even remotely and the fact that there aren’t dozens of positives in the news is a testament to the lack of money spent on testing and how good the dopers are.  Hand in hand with this people will continue to get outraged over sports stars that do test positive without understanding that from the athletes perspective there is no down side to doping.

Don’t dope = bugger all chance of becoming a high earning pro, earn virtually nothing and live in obscurity.

Dope and beat the system = money and fame.

Dope and get caught = money and fame while it lasts and then a slap on the wrist and back to where you were if you had never doped or you just fire your drug guy and get a better one and come back after 2 years.


Despite the increase in popularity of serious strength gyms most people will still avoid leg day because it’s too hard and people will still curl in the squat rack.

The Paleo diet will still be popular – People who talk about the fact they are doing Paleo will still be unpopular and if you point out that actually going paleo involves eating a lot of gross, bland foods and killing things yourself you will be even less popular.

The problem with Paleo as of 2014 is that everyone wants to go “Paleo” but no one wants to give up their favourite foods like chocolate.  So there is now a full industry devoted to making Paleo versions of non Paleo foods, ironically half of these things end up in plastic wrappers and look just like the processed food that Paleo people are meant to hate.

Basically for me unless you are growing your own vegetables (none of which are the same as those eaten by our ancestors), shooting your own animals (then eating the yucky bits like the contents of their stomachs), living in filth and disease and dying at 35 you aren’t being Paleo you are just a Paleo hipster and have committed the “Full Retard” of fitness.

The truth about all this diet stuff is probably somewhere right in the middle of every extreme.  Is a little bit of sugar bad, no.  Will too much sugar over 30 years kill you, probably.  Is a bit of butter going to cause your heart to explode, no.  Will eating sticks of butter wrapped in bacon make you weigh 300kg and die of a heart attack, more than likely.

Moderation is the key and getting all twisted up and obsessing about your diet is probably almost as bad from a stress point as eating half the stuff that “experts” say that we shouldn’t.

paleo-dietSugar will be the new pariah of the diet game – Fat will breathe a sigh of relief and be thankful that it’s prayers for an end to persecution are over.  Of course because selling moderation isn’t cool or popular people will go way overboard getting rid of sugar in their diets and eating fat.  Sometime in the year 2525 people will finally reach a consensus on diet or they will have gotten sick of the arguments and killed and eaten all the paleo people even though they taste bland and gross.

Marketers will continue to sell “easy” and “fast” solutions to peoples emotional insecurities about their weight and muscle mass – All of these gadgets, pills and potions will continue to be utterly useless without the one thing that the marketers neglect to mention – EFFORT.  The current crop seems firmly focused around exotic plant extracts for womens fat loss and similar products for mens muscle gain.  The pictures and testimonials being used to sell them are shameful and it’s a pity that governments don’t do something about it!

Hard work and consistency will continue to be the only sure fire methods of achieving results – In the general population they will be about as popular as a chocolate salesman at a paleo convention.

Olympic weightlifting, Strongman and Powerlifting will continue a steady increase in popularity – Poor management and internal politics will ensure that their success is limited until people pull their heads out of the bottoms and start working together.  Until that time the currency of strength sports will remain ego but since ego isn’t worth as much as Bitcoin you won’t see these sports on TV in any major way.

Raw powerlifters in non drug tested federations will continue to redefine human performance and show exactly how good drugs can be – Not everyone in tested feds is clean and not everyone in untested feds is using but holy crap have you seen the weights that the top guys are putting up!!!

So there you have my predictions for 2014!

2014 Kettlebell and Olympic Weightlifting Workshops

It has been a while since I have done a regular series of workshops but in 2014 I will be running a series of Kettlebell and Olympic Weightlifting workshops for military personnel, Crossfit boxes and coaches.

The current plan is to run a series of 4 hour fundamental and 1 day instructor training sessions in Sydney and then organise workshops for the rest of the country for later in the year.

If you have a group of athletes, military personnel or coaches/trainers then I am happy to organise custom workshops for groups from 3 to 30 and with custom content from 3 hours to 3 days.

In case you are wondering why you should choose one of my workshops here are a few reasons.

1. In 2004 I was the first full time trainer from Australia to train under Russian Kettlebell Master Pavel Tsatsouline and was the first person to run instructor courses in Australia including courses for SAS personnel, Federal Police and the the Northern Territory police as well as hundreds of PTs and coaches and I have been training with kettlebells and coaching others in their use longer than anyone else in Australia.

2. I am a Level 2 Weightlifting Coach and have been coaching Weightlifting since 2006 including 4 years of coaching with the NSW team as head coach of the junior team and assistant coach to the senior team.  I have presented and assessed the AWF Level 1 course on numerous occasions and I am currently the competition coach for Cinder Weightlifting Club based at Crossfit Sydney.

3. In the last 5 years I have a virtually 100% success rate in helping people achieve their military fitness goals including numerous people who have passed selection into police tactical units, the Australian Army Commando Regiment and the US Special forces.

Octogen Workshop Calendar 2014


Saturday 8th of March  – Olympic lifting introductory workshop  4 hours – $150.00

Sunday 9th of March  – Olympic lifting for trainers  8 hours – $300.00

Saturday 19th of April – Kettlebell introductory workshop – 4 hours  – $120.00

Saturday 17th of May  – Olympic lifting introductory workshop  4 hours – $150.00

Sunday 18th of May  – Olympic lifting for trainers  8 hours – $300.00

Call or email for multiple booking discounts or for custom workshops for 3 to 30 athletes or instructors!

To book and pay email

New Years and all that Rubbish

2013 has been a pretty big year for me and I am happy to say that in many ways I’ve achieved more than I could have imagined 12 months ago.  This is not to say that everything was perfectly plain sailing and there are a couple of goals I really wanted to achieve that are going to have to wait until next year but overall I’m pretty happy with how things went with my training and I learnt a lot of valuable lessons.


Pulling 240kg in April

So here is a summary of the good and the bad from 2013 and some lessons that you might be able to apply to your 2014.

1. Competing in powerlifting turned out to be lots of fun and a great challenge.  Focusing on a specific sport and not worrying about trying to achieve a dozen different fitness goals gave me a lot of focus and helped immensely when life got in the way or when training got tough.  I think over the year I missed only a very small handful of training sessions and those were simply unavoidable due to illness or overseas travel.  In each case I got back to training as soon as possible and kept heading towards my next comp.  The result was that in my first comp of the year I totalled 555kg and in my last comp I totalled 610kg and I hit all time personal bests on Squat, Bench and Deadlift.

The takeaway – Train for SOMETHING and make sure it is a big enough goal that you can still focus on it when little obstacles get in the way.

2. Training with great specificity turned out to be a double edged sword.  Toward the end of the year I started to realise that my lifting was becoming limited by a lack of basic back and core strength and that even though I was getting quite strong in the powerlifts I was reaching the limit of my potential with my current technique and was starting to suffer from some aches and pains.  To this end I have now had to take a big step backward and have embarked on a program to rebuild my lifting technique and base of strength from the ground up.  To be honest this kind of sucks.  I’m using weights that should be easy but doing them out of position and sticking to perfect technique is making it a very humbling experience.

The takeaway – If I had kept training the way I was training in 2013 I am pretty sure I would have hit a wall in mid 2014 and may have hurt myself.  I had to swallow my pride and take 2 steps back so that I can try to make 3 steps forward this year.  Now is a good time to evaluate your program and figure out if there are weak spots that are holding you back that you can fix.

3. This year was busy but that was no excuse not to train.  I worked a 9-5 job, wrote a new book, trained clients, sent newsletters, bought a house, went to Europe on business, looked after 2 kids and still managed to train on average 7 times per week.  To achieve this I split my training between lunch time sessions of a single main exercise and evening sessions of all my accessory work.  Getting up at 6:30 training at lunch for an hour then coming home and training again for another hour makes for some long days but I got it all done.

The takeaway – If you want it bad enough you can find a way to do it.  I don’t watch commercial TV (I only watch one episode of something a couple of days per week and we watch pre recorded stuff to skip the ads), I cook in bulk on weekends to save on meal prep time, I have my own home gym and I have someone to kick my ass if I don’t train.

So, when you go to plan your new years resolutions keep in mind the following.

  1. Have a big goal that motivates you.
  2. Shit happens, life gets in the way, figure out how to work around it.
  3. Be prepared to analyse where you are and what’s holding you back, then figure out how to fix it.
  4. Proper preparation prevents piss poor performance.  Order your supplements and stuff in bulk, write out a plan, get a coach to kick your ass.
  5. Have fun with your training.

If you need a coach for military fitness goals you know where to find me (probably in the garage training)


Olympic Lifting Snatch Progression 1

The Olympic lifts are one of the most utilised methods of developing power and explosiveness for athletes and military personnel.  With the explosion in popularity of Crossfit Olympic lifting has become more and more popular and there are now more people practicing Olympic lifting than at any other time in history.

As a huge fan of the sport of weightlifting and as a coach who has worked with athletes up to the national level I am excited about the growth of Olympic weightlifting but at the same time somewhat concerned with some of the technique that I see when people are learning to lift.


The Olympic lifts are far more technical than any other lift performed in a gym and require high levels of speed, flexibility and coordination to complete successfully.  Coaching the Olympic lifts takes a LOT of experience and is not simply a matter of taking a 2 day course or a couple of workshops and then getting stuck in.  I coached 3-4 hours per day 4-5 days per week for about 3 years (just Olympic lifting) before I considered myself to be a competent weightlifting coach so it amazes me when I see other coaches with a few weeks or months experience trying to coach the full Olympic lifts.

In theory the Olympic lifts shouldn’t be that difficult.  Approach the bar, pull it off the ground as hard as you can and then catch it on the shoulders or overhead.  The positions used for Olympic lifting are familiar to anyone who has been involved in fitness training for a while since they involve deadlifting, front squatting and overhead work.

The complexity arises because to perform the Olympic lifts you have to transition through these familiar positions at the maximum speed possible and during the movement there is not enough time to adjust your position or force production dynamically if you start to get out of position.  There are also a large number of cues and positions to remember and experience shows that at most a lifter can focus on 2 or 3 cues during a lift and that anything else will get lost.

The key then to learning the Olympic lifts is to break them down and practice each part of the lift in such a way that only 2-3 key points are being practiced at any one point in time.  Repetition of these drills will lead to the key points becoming ingrained and instinctive so that as the lifter progresses they do not have to actively think about the previously learned points and can concentrate on learning the next steps of each lift.

To illustrate the point imagine trying to concentrate on all of the following the first time you tried to do a snatch.

  1. Feet hip width under the bar
  2. Hands on the outside of the rings
  3. Elbows turned out
  4. Hook grip
  5. Back extended, chest up
  6. Shoulders over the bar
  7. Controlled break off the floor
  8. Shoulders remain over the bar
  9. Keep the bar close
  10. Accelerate the bar at the knee
  11. Get as tall as possible/hips through
  12. Keep the bar close
  13. Elbows high and outside
  14. Fast feet under the bar
  15. Tight core
  16. Stabilise in the bottom position
  17. Recover

These are just some of the cues that a coach may use to emphasise different stages of the snatch technique during a lift and within each point there are a number of more subtle cues to adjust position to optimise the lift. Attempting to keep all of these points in the front of your mind while performing a lift that takes maybe 2-5 seconds from lift off to dumping the bar is an impossible task!

Imagine instead that for the first few weeks you broke the lift down into stages and practiced no more than a handful of these cues and positions at a time.

For example to work on the set up and first pull of the snatch you can practice a snatch grip deadlift and focus on only the first 5-7 points above with only 2-3 of those happening during the dynamic portion of the lift.

After practicing the deadlift you could then choose a different exercise such as a snatch pull from the hang to work on the maximal upward acceleration of the bar without having to concern yourself with the set up and first pull.

For a detailed set of training progressions for the Power Snatch check out the link below and if you would like coaching in the Olympic lifts for athletes or trainers I am available for workshops from 3 hours to 3 days all around Australia by appointment.



Walking the Line

Walking the Line

Regular readers of this blog and my newsletter will know that I deal with a wide range of clients from people just beginning on their fitness journey through to military personnel and athletes who are looking for peak performance in their chosen sport or for special forces selection.

For beginning trainees progress tends to come fairly quickly and with sensible programming  improvements in fitness can be sustained for a period of up to a couple of years with minimal risk of injury.

Unfortunately once past the intermediate stage of fitness training progress tends to slow dramatically and it becomes necessary to add complexity, volume and intensity to programs to see further results.  The knock on effect is that this increased load can lead to overtraining, overuse and even acute injuries.  Ask any elite athlete (particularly in strength sports like weightlifting or powerlifting) and you will find that they are constantly walking the line between training hard enough to make progress and training so much that they break down.

I have become acutely aware of the need to monitor recovery and overtraining status this year as my training for powerlifting has increased in volume, intensity and complexity so I want to share with you my experiences and some steps that you can take to avoid becoming a casualty of your own enthusiasm.

So how do you know when you are “walking the line” and what should you do about those times when you it feels like you might just have put one foot over?

First lets identify the criteria for needing this advice

  1. Anyone with less than 2 years of consistent, serious training is not going to be at this stage yet.  If you have been doing 3 sessions a week of running, some pushups and a few weights for the last 6 months then you are still a novice and no matter how hard an individual workout is you will still recover in a day or two.  This advice is for people who are training 4-6 days per week and normally with some 2 a day sessions or high volume sessions that they can’t completely recover from with just a day or two of rest.
  2. You must be training for a specific goal.  Powerlifting nationals, special forces selection or ongoing service, run a marathon under 3 hours etc.  If you aren’t training for something then your program is likely to be a maintenance program and is unlikely to keep you on the edge of overtraining.
  3. You have noticed that your progress has slowed significantly in the last 3-6 months and that peak performance can only be achieved after a taper period or recovery that lasts more than 2-3 days.
  4. You have noticed that you are not fully recovering between sessions.

These factors indicate that you are training hard enough to need to monitor your recovery and take steps to both proactively manage recovery as well as monitor for signs of overtraining and take remedial action when you start to push the limits.

Proactive recovery program and preventative steps

Having determined that you are working hard enough we now need to implement a set of pre-emptive measures to maximise your ability to recover and minimise your chances of injury.

  1. Physio screening – I highly recommend getting a good sports physio to screen you for weaknesses, lack of mobility and faulty movement patterns BEFORE you embark on a serious training program.   A couple of sessions with a physio and a few weeks of corrective exercise can easily save you from a serious injury in the long term and can also greatly increase the benefit you get out of training.
  2. Program in periods of reduced training intensity – Planned back offs are one of the most vital parts of any training program.  For some people it might be every 4 weeks for others every 8 or 10 weeks but if you try to train hard for very long periods of time I can virtually guarantee that something will go wrong and you will get hurt.
  3. Sort out your nutrition and supplementation – Ensure that you are getting enough protein, good fats and trace nutrients like vitamins and minerals to support your training efforts.
  4. Plan in recovery methods – Include activities such as foam rolling and stretching, contrast hydrotherapy and massages.

Once you have these measures in place you can commence your training program and start to monitor for the signs of overtraining.  Keep in mind that on any serious program you will have muscle soreness, tightness and fatigue and the trick is in determining when you have stepped over the line from normal fatigue into overtraining.

Some signs that you are right on the edge and may need to back off or modify your program include the following.  A single incident of any of these is no cause for alarm but a combination of 2 or more factors particularly if they persist over several consecutive days

  • Disturbed sleep
  • Soreness in your joints that persists after foam rolling, stretching and warm ups
  • Irritability or a lack of desire to train that lasts more than one day
  • Inability to reach prescribed training loads in several consecutive sessions
  • An increased incidence of minor illnesses

If you do start to suffer from these signs consistently then it is imperative that you take some time to assess whether or not you need to scale back your training and by how much.

The key here is to make an honest assessment as to whether you are just having a bad day or two that will resolve with a little rest or if you have overcooked your program and need a more significant reduction.

If in doubt I recommend taking 1 day off training and then reducing the intensity of the next 1-2 days of training by about 50%.  If you don’t bounce back and feel like training after this point it’s time for a longer back off of about 1 week and a focus on extra recovery work before you hurt yourself properly!



Beep Test Blunders

Beep Test Blunders

I train and consult with a lot of people about passing the beep test and over the last several years I’ve come across a lot of people who without realizing it are making their lives more difficult than they need to when it comes to passing the test or who have an issue that could be fixed quite simply and which is preventing them from reaching their goal.

So if you are training for the beep test or another fitness test and you are struggling or stuck have a look at the list below for some common problems and see if any might apply to you.  The difference between a pass and fail could be a matter of a few minutes rather than weeks of extra training!


Basic Nutrition and Supplementation

This one has come up so many times in the last year alone that its now one of the first things I ask anyone who is struggling.

Your body is a big bag of chemicals made up entirely from the foods you have eaten since the day you were born.  These chemicals do everything you can think of and a thousand things you can’t even begin to understand without a PhD in Biochemistry. Despite this many people who embark on a training program don’t pay the slightest attention to analyzing or fixing their diet to make sure it is helping rather than hindering them.

One good example of this is people who really struggle with aerobic fitness tests like the beep test who turn out to be deficient in iron (and sometimes B Vitamins).  Iron is used by the body to make haemoglobin, the protein that oxygen attaches to in red blood cells and which transports this oxygen to the working muscles and heart.  If your iron and haemoglobin levels are low then your body is unable to get enough oxygen to keep up with demand and essentially you suffocate at the cellular level.

Certain groups such as vegetarians and women are more susceptible to low iron levels but even if your iron levels are within the “normal” range it may pay to increase dietary iron through red meat consumption (or the lowest dose iron supplement from a chemist) when you are training hard and trying to achieve an optimal score.

Likewise with B Vitamins which can have a profound impact on general energy and alertness.  A simple blood test at your doctor can determine if you are lacking in any areas that may hold you back (ask for a full blood count, vitamin B, vitamin D and if you are male, testosterone levels).

Once you get your results check them against the provided reference ranges.  Keep in mind that if you fall in the lower end of the reference range you may have scope to improve your performance through simple supplementation.

Making the test longer than it needs to be

If I asked you to go and run a 2.4km time trial and record your result it wouldn’t make sense to go out, run the 2.4km and then add on an extra hundred metres would it?

Believe it or not though many people are making just this mistake with the beep test and fixing it can easily be the difference between a pass and a fail in less than 15 minutes of practice.

Here is the problem.  The beep test is run on a 20m long track and the rules of the test are that you only have to touch the line at each end with one foot.  Therefore every centimetre you step over the line you are adding distance to the interval and over several levels this starts to add up.

If you were to overstep each end of the shuttle by half a metre (which is easily done) then each shuttle is 21m instead of 20m, a 5% increase in the distance you have to travel.  To put it another way if you were running 2.4km in 10:00 then adding 5% means running an extra 30 seconds and 120m just to pass the test.

The solution to this is simple.  Make sure that at each turn you only place the ball of your foot on the line and don’t overstep every time.  Saving 5% might not sound like a lot but I have seen this make the difference between a pass and a fail on more than one occasion.

Too much of one type of training

This one is pretty common for people new to training for the beep test and generally takes the form of trying to train for what is only a 6 – 15 minute test by running marathon distances.

Here is a HUGE tip.  If a test of physical fitness lasts a certain amount of time (say 7 minutes to complete level 7 of the beep test) then your training sessions should not extend past about 3-4 times that length of time.  If you need to get a level 7 on the beep test the longest run you need to do is about 20 minutes or 4km.  Need a level 10?  Stretch it out to about 7-8km in 30-40 minutes and for goodness sake only do that kind of run once per week!

A base level of aerobic fitness is required for the beep test but you also need to train at higher intensities to deal with the increasing pace of the test.

By the same token however constantly hammering away at practicing the test will also lead to less than optimal results.

To continue to develop a high level of fitness for the beep test (and any other running test) it is important to combine shorter, faster interval work, race pace/test work and some longer slower sessions.

For a complete guide to the Beep Test go to and pick up a copy of the worlds most comprehensive guide to the test as well as bonus material on diet and a new bonus of our 2 week emergency preparation program.

Testimonials and Personal Progress

Over the last couple of months I’ve been training pretty hard for my next Raw Powerlifting comp and have FINALLY set some all time personal bests.

I’ve got a powerlifting meet coming up this weekend where I hope to improve on these marks a bit further but for the time being I’m pretty happy with an all time PB of 265kg on the deadlift and 140kg on bench press.



In other news I’ve continued to receive some great feedback on “Beat the Beep Test” and “Couch to Commando”

Here is one recent testimonial.

“BTW, I’ve been following your nutrition program and adapted your pushups program to situps – in the last four months I’ve gone from 108kg to 90.5kg, from 8 situps to 50 situps, and from 8 pushups to 34 pushups.

I’ve also just started doing the same thing for pullups and have gone from 1 pullup to 4 pullups in the last three weeks.  So kudos to your material; I’ve been able to transform my lifestyle because of it.”

R.A – Sydney


Busting Plateaus

Busting Plateaus with Specialisation Routines

One of the most common things to happen during a prolonged period of training is that you will reach a plateau. A plateau can be in your strength, endurance or body composition and is second only to injury is probably the most annoying thing to happen to any serious trainee.

Oftentimes the causes of these plateaus are fairly straightforward and can be fixed so lets get them out of the way before we look at some methods I use to crack the really entrenched plateaus in programs.

Common causes of plateaus

Lack of progressive overload – I see this one all the time at the commercial gym I go to. It’s the guy who has been training for months or years and who isn’t making any progress simply because they have reached a level of strength or endurance and then haven’t challenged themselves with more weight or more challenging exercises.

If you have actually reached a level of fitness you are happy to live with for the rest of your life then that’s fine (not that I think anyone reading this blog falls into that category!) and you can continue to use the same loads pretty much indefinitely however if your progress has stalled just because you aren’t trying to add load on a regular basis then you need to perform a reality check and slap another plate on the bar.

Lack of variety in programming – Now, this does not necessarily mean that every 4, or 8 weeks you need to change every exercise in your program however if you are doing exactly the same program with the same exercises, sets and reps as when you started 6 or 12 months ago then you can’t expect much progress. For the record my own programs tend to be hideously boring. I squat, I bench, I deadlift and I perform a handful of accessory exercises like pullups, rows and kettlebell stuff HOWEVER what I do every 8 weeks is vary the sets, reps and loading parameters for the major exercises and I will rotate specific exercises such as the snatch grip deadlifts described below, in and out of my program to achieve specific goals.

If you’ve been doing a 5km run on Mondays, pushups and some 400m intervals on Wednesday and a 10km run on Friday every week for a year you might want to consider mixing things up and seeing if you can get some progress in your fitness.

Lack of effort and diligence – easy one this one. If you are not putting in a serious effort to train hard at least 3 times per week or if you are missing sessions and being sloppy with your diet then you will never make progress.

Solution? Harden up and get stuck in. If you can’t do it yourself recruit a friend, pay a trainer etc.

So with the straightforward stuff lets look at some more advanced strategies for dealing with plateaus.

Note that once you’ve addressed the issues above you will only plateau after you have moved from being a novice and intermediate level athlete to being an advanced athlete.

Generally this process takes at least 1 full year and may take several years of consistent training.

Typically if you are serving in the military you will be at an advanced level of fitness suitable for Infantry service and you may run into plateaus in the transition to SF preparation training. If you compete in sports then chances are you will be at the state rep level and competing at the national level.

At both these stages progress is slow regardless of how much effort you put in so be aware that no program at this level will have you improving 10 or 20% in a matter of weeks. As an example elite weightlifters are happy with gains of 2-3% per year once they get to the national/international level.

Plateau buster #1 – Specialised Specialisation.

This method is pretty simple. Fundamentally if you want to get good at something the most logical thing to do is to do it a lot. This approach works well for most aspects of training and assumes that currently you are probably doing quite a lot of different exercises or training methods in your program and that each exercise or method is only performed a limited number of times (say 1 – 3) each week.

Essentially what we want to do here is pick one thing you are stuck on and vastly increase the volume of training on that exercise or method. So say in a typical program you might only perform bench press or squats once per week in this kind of program you would increase this to 4, 5 or even more sessions of one of those exercises while holding the volume of other exercises constant.

This method is often used by people when they get stuck with a plateau but they end up with the opposite effect as they confuse “doing more” with “doing so much you get worn out”. This means that instead of doing one heavy bench session a week or two hard interval training sessions per week they add progressively more maximal sessions until an injury or overtraining stops them dead in their tracks. The key therefore is to increase the volume of training but to moderate the intensity of most of the sessions and cut back accessory work for the duration of the specialization you also need tounderstand that just doing a large volume of training will have a positive impact on performance even if the training is not all maximal.

This method works best if there are no major technical flaws or weak points in your technique.

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Strength training

You’ve been training for a solid year and you are now pushing some respectable numbers in the basic powerlifts but after your last 3 months of training none of the powerlifts are budging.

Your program might look something like this

Monday – Bench press 5×5 with 75-80% of your max + core and lower body accessory work.

Wednesday – Deadlift 5 x 3 with 80 – 85% of your max + core and upper body accessory work.

Friday – Squat – 5×5 with 75-80% of your max + core and upper body assistance work.

Each day consists of 4-5 exercises in total and the assistance work comprises things like dumbbell bench, rows, overhead pressing, pullups and lunges etc.

Now deciding that you want to focus on your squat for a cycle here is what you might do.

I’m going to pick a classic powerlifting specialization program here called “Smolov”

Smolov involves squatting pretty hard 4 days per week so basically everything else needs to be backed right off to the minimum volume and intensity required for maintenance!


Monday – Squat 4 x 9 with 70% of your max + Barbell bench press 3 x 5 + 1 core drill

Tuesday – Squat 5 x 7 with 75% of your max + Pullups for 3 x 5-10

Thursday – Squat 7x 5 with 80% of your max + Overhead press for 3 x 5 + 1 core drill

Friday – Deadlift 3×3 with 60% of your max + 1 core drill

Saturday – Squat 10 x 3 with 85% of your max

Repeat this cycle 2 more times adding 5-10kg to each set of squats in week 2 and 3.

No fancy squat variations here just lots of volume on the core lift.

After 3 weeks take a light week, retest your squat and then switch the volume focus to another one of the core lifts.

Recently I used this approach with my bench press and added 7.5kg to my competition best in 4 weeks (a substantial gain considering how long I’ve been training)

The same approach can be used with something like running where you add more running sessions but vary the pace and length.

Running program

Monday run 5km

Wednesday run 5km

Saturday run 8km

New program

Monday – Run 4 x 800m maximal pace

Tuesday – Run 5km moderate pace

Thursday – Run 2 x 1.6km fast pace

Friday – Run 6 x 400m maximal pace

Saturday – Run 10km easy pace

With the second program the volume of running has increased but the addition of some harder and easier sessions means that burnout will be avoided.


Plateau buster #2 – Varied Specialisation.

The second method of busting a plateau calls for a similar increase in the volume of training but adds a lot more variety of exercises.

There are a few good reasons for doing this.

1. Sometimes different exercises are needed to target weak points in a movement such as the lock out of a bench press or the start of the deadlift.

2. Using more variety can avoid overuse injuries that might be caused by doing the same thing 4 or more sessions a week

3. If you are used to standard exercises then more variety can provide a novel stimulus which can have a significant effect on breaking through a plateau.

Here is an example from my current training plan.

Normally I deadlift 2 x per week, once is heavy conventional (narrow stance) deadlifts and once is a lighter session of conventional deadlifts.

At the moment I am experimenting with deadlifting up to 6 times per week using 4 different variations of the deadlift

Monday AM – Heavy conventional deadlifts 5 x 3 or 5 x 2 @ 85 – 95% of max

Monday PM – Moderate Sumo Deadlifts 5 x 3 @ 65 – 75% of max

Tuesday AM – Snatch grip deadlift off blocks 6 x 6 @ 50-60% of max

Thursday AM – Moderate Sumo 5 x 3 @ 65 – 75% of max

Thursday PM – Heavy band deloaded deadlift 5 x 3 or 5 x 2 @ 90 – 105% of max

Friday PM – Snatch grip deadlift off blocks 6 x 6 @ 50-60% of max

As you can see this is a lot of deadlifting however many of the sessions are sub maximal and are designed to work on things like my lower back and core strength and my lockout.

If you’ve reached a plateau in your training and want some advice on how to bust through it try implementing some of these strategies or, if you want a custom designed solution shoot me an email and I can put together one of my Elite programs to take care of it!


Snatch Grip Deadlifts – Effective Torture

Don’s new most/least favourite exercise

Over the years I’ve discovered a few exercises that have proved somewhat of a revelation in my training. These exercises may not look like anything special at first but their effect quickly earns them a place in my rotation of exercises.

Normally these exercises are supplemental exercises that have had an unusually powerful effect on my performance in the core lifts like squat, bench press and deadlift.

My newest exercise that I love to hate is the snatch grip deadlift off a platform with a slow eccentric.

I’ve shamelessly stolen this exercise from my Powerlifting coach Sebastian Oreb who has borrowed it from Charles Poliquin who probably read about it in some Russian text book.

To perform this exercise.

1. You’ll need a sturdy block or flat plates approximately 5 – 10cm high to stand on. I tend to use a block that is only about 5cm, this seems to be plenty!

2. Warm up with a couple of easy sets of deadlifts and then a set or two of snatch grip (hands outside the outer marks on an Olympic or powerlifting bar)

3. Throw on your straps and then load the bar to about 40% of your best deadlift. If this seems too light then just wait.

4. Strap on to the bar and stand on the plates, get your hips really deep and your chest up and your lower back as extended as possible.

5. Breathe in and lift the bar as you would for a normal deadlift.

6. At the top of the movement breathe out and then breathe in again, get your chest up and your shoulder blades together with your back arched.

7. Proceed to lower the bar with a 4-5 second eccentric

8. As soon as the bar touches the ground lift it again, breathe out and in and repeat for sets of 5-6 reps

By the end of the 6th rep your back and legs will probably be screaming at you. If not then add 5kg and do another set and keep going until you’ve done 6 or more sets.

Here is me doing a set with about 120kg (about 45% of my best deadlift) somewhere inside a workout that called for 10 sets of 6. The form here is not super strict (I need to work on my back extension) but you can get a good idea of the set up and general idea of the lift.

Snatch Grip Deadlifts

I would have posted one of the later sets from this workout as the weight got up a bit but I was also working pretty hard and had removed my shirt and no one needs to see me here in just a pair of tights, kids might be watching.

Evidence from the powerlifters I know that have been using this exercise indicates that you will only get to about 50 – 60% of your best deadlift if you are doing this correctly.

So what’s so great about this exercise.

This exercise is a powerful assistance exercise for both the squat and deadlift and anything that requires a strong and stable posterior chain (so things like running, pack marching etc).

There are several factors that contribute to this effectiveness.

1. The extended range of motion from standing on a 5 – 10cm platform hits your legs very hard. Your quads, glutes and hamstrongs will get a lot of work.

2. Your entire back from your traps to your glutes will get an incredible workout and will bulk up like you started taking something illegal.

3. This will lead to a huge increase in your ability to keep your torso rigid when it is loaded through the arms or across the back.

In my case this fixed my traditional weak point in the squat of folding like napkin in the middle when the loads got high. Now I can keep my torso rigid and instead fail because my legs run out of gas (more on fixing that later on).

So if you like to lift heavy things or you need your back to be strong and tough for your job I highly recommend doing this exercise at least twice a week for 6 sets of 6 with about 50% of your max deadlift. You will hate me for it but your back will thank you!