Archive for March, 2013

Intensity, Pain and Reward Part 1

Monday, March 11th, 2013

Intensity, Pain and Reward Part 1

As humans we seem to be instinctively driven to avoid pain and seek reward in the easiest manner possible.  In the modern world this has become a chronic problem of people who expect the world to deliver to them all the benefits of work without doing any work themselves (any parents of teenagers will know what I’m talking about).

In fitness this trend is obvious with the proliferation of products promising quick and easy results.  From pills and creams to miracle ab machines millions of people are looking for the shortcut to a great looking body and amazing fitness.

CT Fletcher knows about intensity


Well, as most people who read this blog would know, in fitness there are no shortcuts.  This is one of the things I like about training.  You can steal money or have it given to you.  You can lie your way into getting a hot girlfriend (for a while) and your friends or parents can gift you a great job or a nice car but in fitness there are no shortcuts, even if you use steroids you’ve still got to get in the gym and bust your ass to get results.  No one can do it for you.

Of course this means that to achieve a high level of fitness you have to do something unnatural.  You have to overcome your instinct for avoiding pain and you have to actively seek out pain in order to achieve greatness.

If you have a specific goal in fitness, whether it is achieving Special Forces Selection, fighting in the UFC or pulling a triple bodyweight deadlift and you have a good enough reason for wanting it then keep reading this post for my tips on achieving them.  If you are just here to learn how to get a wicked pump before you go clubbing this Friday then you may have opened the wrong blog.  Please go back to your globo gym and look at yourself in the mirror for an hour.

  1. Set your goal and get clear on the why.  Anyone can set a massive goal but if it’s not backed up by a GOOD reason then when the going gets tough (which it will very early on) you are going to quit.  Make sure you write down your goal and the reasons you have to achieve it.
  2. Decide what you will need to do to achieve your goal.  If you have to buy a bunch of supplements, get up early to get in a second session or get some expert advice then figure it out and write it down.
  3. Figure out what you might have to give up to achieve your goal.  I’ve got news for you, guys training for SF selection or shooting for the UFC are not watching 3 hours of Jersey Shore a day or looking at pictures of cats on facebook they are spending that time in the gym or humping a pack up and down mountains.
  4. Get a training plan. Get it off the internet, out of a book, write it yourself or get a coach but have a plan that details every rep, set and workout. Write down when you will eat, when you will sleep and when you will train.
  5. Get a training diary and record every rep and set.  Record some of your training efforts and check that you are working hard enough and doing things with technical excellence.
  6. Every training session you have to ask yourself if you are working hard enough.  This is not to suggest that every set has to be balls to the wall but on the days when you are going to push it hard you have to take a long hard look at yourself and see if you can give a little bit more.

Ok so that’s part 1 of this series. In part 2 I’m going to lay down my current training plan, developed by my powerlifting coach and I’m going to share ongoing updates including videos and reports on how it all goes as I work toward setting lifetime personal bests in the 3 powerlifts.

The Octogen Philosophy

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

The Octogen Philosophy

With the relaunch of my blog and websites I want to take a minute to define a simple training philosophy so that everyone here is on the same page.

Training philosophy is one of the most contentious issues among exercise professionals and enthusiasts today.  True professionals and knowledgeable athletes understand that there is no one “Way” to achieve fitness and they constantly seek new knowledge to refine their methods.

Unfortunately for many people a lack of deeper understanding leads to adoption of dogmatic principles and a rejection of other methods and philosophies because they have been told by a guru that such and such a system is bad for one reason or another.

I’ll get to some of these dogmatic groups in future posts but for now let me lay out my current (and I say current because it is always open to change based on new evidence) training philosophy.

  1. You can be whatever you want but you must be Strong First! – Ok I have shamelessly stolen this line from Pavel Tsatsouline and his new organization StrongFirst but for me this statement captures what I’ve been trying to tell people for years.  Strong is a relative term and the level of strength that person requires is different depending on their goal but a foundation of basic strength prevents injuries and allows for more sophisticated and complicated fitness qualities to be developed.
  2. Training must have goals – If you don’t know where you want to go then how do you know what methods might be helpful to get there.  The best training plans I’ve ever seen have a specific goal at the end that motivates people to apply the correct methods and deal with the discomfort to achieve that goal.  In the last few years my best clients have been without exception military members who are attempting Special Forces selection.  These guys will do 12 workouts a week and don’t blink when I tell them to do a 7 hour long workout (yes you heard right, your 40 minute workout is nothing)
  3. Unless you have a very good reason to do it don’t bother doing shit you hate.  It took me 15 years to figure this one out but basically if you hate doing something and don’t have a great reason for doing it then you are going to do a half arsed job of it and miss half your sessions, you’ll get demotivated and then your plan will fall apart.  I had this for over 10 years with running.  I always did some running because its part of fitness but honestly I fucking hate running.  It’s boring, it hurts my knee and it interferes with my strength gains.  This year I resolved that I’ll never run again as part of a fitness program unless I absolutely have to.
  4. Only do as much as is necessary to continue to progress.  If you only need to do basic barbell exercises, a few bodyweight drills and some cardio to continue to improve your fitness and move toward your goals then don’t complicate your life with every latest and greatest gadget and exercise.  It ends up being distracting and leads to what I call exercise ADD where you do a little bit of everything and suck at them all.  As you get deeper into training complexity will inevitably increase but don’t jump the gun.

That pretty much covers it for my overall philosophy but of course this says nothing of methods.

Here is a list of the general methods that I utilize on a regular basis to help my clients achieve their goals.

Powerlifting – In keeping with the theory of being strong first I believe that everyone needs a good basic barbell program.  Squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press, rows and their variations cover this.

Kettlebells – Good for strength (up to a point) and great for making a body bullet proof against injuries and also the single best tool for fat loss and conditioning I know of.

Olympic weightlifting – for athletes Olympic weightlifting teaches the transfer from strength to power like no other modality.  When I say Olympic lifting I am NOT talking about throwing 40kg for 20+ reps.  I’m talking reps under 5 and weights close to 1RM, anything else is stupid.

Crossfit – having just taken a swipe at Crossfit above I have to admit that some of the basic principles of crossfit such as functional movements at high intensity have some merit.  I just don’t subscribe to the theory of flogging yourself senseless every day and honestly some of their exercises are just dangerous and look stupid. (kipping handstand pushups WTF)

Strongman – If you want to get strong in a practical sense then do some strongman.

Running and all that crap – single mode cardio is my least favourite form of exercise, both to participate in and to program.  Long periods of that stuff inevitably lead to overuse injuries through postural imbalance which then takes ages to fix.  My opinion is that if you need to run then you can get most of your conditioning through doing kettlebells and other stuff and you can then practice the skill of running in a limited number of sessions a week.  In particular I hate military programs that have people out pounding the pavement 5 days a week, it’s just asking for shin splints and knee issues.  If you look like a concentration camp victim (ie like most great runners) then you can get away with that.  Normally muscled people are going to break.

Ok so now that we are all on the same page we can get down to looking at different training methods and programs for various goals!