Archive for August, 2009

Emergency Shin Splints Plan

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

I write a lot of programs for military and police guys and give advice to heaps of them on things like running training for fitness tests.

The other day I got a question from a guy who was 8 weeks out from Army recruit training and who had developed shin splints (probably from too much running on hard surfaces) .  Generally I try to limit the amount of running I give to my clients and we take care of their cardio fitness through other means.  This guys wasn’t one of my clients but since he was in a bit of trouble so close to his enlistment date I gave him the following plan so that hopefully he’ll recover in time and won’t suffer too badly through recruit training!!

The only things that help acute shin splints in the short term are the following.

1. Not running
2. Not getting them in the first place.

Assuming you can already pass the required run standards you will be able to give them some time off and maintain your fitness before you hit recruit training.

Try the following.

1. Stop all running and don’t do ANY for the next 6 weeks.
2. Take 2 weeks off any loaded leg movement, swimming and cycling are fine.
3. After 2 weeks get a kettlebell or use dumbells to do all your conditioning. Do loads of timed swings and snatches, do boxing circuits, row, cycle and swim.
4. In the last two weeks before you go down do no more than 2 sessions a week of running, on grass, no more than 3 x 400m to start with and 3 x 800m to finish with.

Running is a skill and you will bounce back with only a few practice sessions as long as you keep your fitness up.

Other stuff.

1. Get your shoes checked and buy new ones
2. Try massage, ice, contrast baths, acupunture stretching etc. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t but they never make things worse
3. Take your fish oil, multivitamin, protein etc and get as much sleep as possible, all very important for recovery.

Good luck with it

Training to Failure

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

One of the questions that I get asked a fair bit is about the concept of training to failure in bodybuilding, kettlebell training and strngth and conditioning.

The other day on one of the forums I post on the following question came up.

It’s always said not to train to failure. What I’m wondering is why?

I’ve done it a little lately to vary it up, and while it really smashes me I at least feel some progress. Learnt the hard way though to do it close to bed time, cause if I go to failure (or beyond with lowered weight) a few times with small break in between I’m absolutely wrecked till I sleep a while.

After answering the question I thought i might as well pu tthe answer up here because i’m sure other people would have the same question!

So here is what I wrote…

This is a fairly complicated subject and depending on who you talk to you’ll get lots of different opinions.

I’ll try to simplify things to the three most common scenarios.

1. Muscle mass – Training to failure is an easy way to ensure progress when trying to build muscle.

Basically a fairly high volume of work with moderately heavy weights leads to a break down in muscle fibres and the bodies response is to build more muscle to compensate.

Due to some quirks of physiology though not all the muscle is contractile fibre (the bit that lifts stuff) so you can get bigger muscles but you aren’t necessarily as strong as you look. You still get stronger but just not the same way that pure strength athletes do.

Bodybuilders who train to failure in the 8 – 12rep range are in the muscle building zone and will often experience delayed onset muscle soreness.

2. Strength and power – strength is more neurological than most people think. When aiming to develop maximal strength and power you need to lift as heavy as possible but not necessarily to the point of failure.

By avoiding failure you recover more quickly and therefore can train more often. Like all skills the more often you practice the better you get.

This is why olympic lifters favour low reps (1-5 and mostly 1-3) and often twice daily training. They never train to failure in multi rep sets and only really “fail” during one rep max attempts when the weight is too high to lift.

Olympic lifters still get DOMS sometimes and initially they often build a lot of muscle mass but then tend to plateau when they get to the body weight they want to compete at.

3. Muscular endurance –
When the goal is high rep local muscular endurance (20+reps) for things like pushups you can train effectively either with multiple sets of sub maximal numbers or you can hammer away at training to failure. Either will work for a while and then it’s probably best to switch.

During long sets or circuits you end up with different types of failure if you push to the limit. You can experience metabolic failure where the muscles don;t have enough energy to contract or a build up in acid levels is inhibiting contraction. When this happens you’ll stop because you are out of breath basically. You can also get the same type of failure as doing bodybuilding type training whereby you might have the energy to do the reps but you’ve run out of nueromuscular juice.

At the end of the day you need to overload the muscles and your energy systems and try to progress every few sessions, once something stops working switch to a slightly different plan and start again!

Kettlebell and Barbell Training Program

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009


In response to a few questions I’ve had recently from clients I’ve written this short
article on combing barbell and kettlebell training and to illustrate the point I’ve
borrowed an example program from one of my online clients.

Barbell Vs Kettlebell – Why can’t we all just get along?

One thing I’ve noticed over the last few years is that within the fitness industry
there are certain people that for one reason or another have latched onto a single
training method and who can’t be enticed to try anything new.
Sometimes the reason for this fanaticism is purely monetary (the person sells
product A or has built their reputation and marketing on knocking everything else
as dangerous etc). Sometimes after years of failure with various training
methods the person has found something that works for them and becomes an

evangelist for that method.
That’s fine for those people but they can be a pain in the ass for the more broad
minded trainer since their fanaticism muddies the waters for people new to

training and it becomes the job of the trainer to straighten the whole mess out!
A classic case in point is the Kettlebell Vs Barbell debate. If you take a step back
and look outside the fitness industry you don’t hear builders arguing about
hammer Vs screwdriver or chefs arguing about oven Vs fry pan. The reason of
course is that it’s quite possible to have different tools for different jobs and really
it’s the application of the tool that makes the biggest difference.
A lot of people I talk to seem reluctant to mix kettlebell and barbell training even if
they have experience with both.

I simply believe that as a trainer you should have the biggest tool box available
and then mix and match those tools to get the job done. Barbell, kettlebell,
bands, chains, strongman gear, bodyweight drills, stretching, foam rollers,
massage etc can all be combined seamlessly to achieve any goal that falls within
the realm of athletic development.

So here are some different ways to combine Kettlebells and barbells followed by
an example program. The program is not something to get too hung up on as it’s
simply ONE example of the application of some of these principles.

Kettlebell + Barbell Programs

Option 1 – For general health and fitness you can cycle 2-4 weeks of kettlebell
training with 2-4 weeks of barbell training.
Option 2 – Along the same lines you may choose to do 2-4 workouts a week at a
gym with predominantly barbell training but then alternate those workouts with
kettlebell training at home.
Option 3 – Mix Kettlebell and barbell exercises in every training session. Use
barbells for the big lifts like squat and deadlift and then “fill in the gaps” with
kettlebell core work and conditioning.

When putting together programs remember that you have to watch the overall
volume of training. If you try to add 5 kettlebell exercises to 5 barbell exercises
each session you’ll end up overtraining. Don’t be afraid to completely drop some
exercises for a cycle and then sub them back in the next month!

As you’ll see the sample program contains a mix of barbell strength work,
kettlebell core and strength work, kettlebell ballistic conditioning as well as some
circuits and runs.