Archive for December, 2013

2014 Kettlebell and Olympic Weightlifting Workshops

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

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

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

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

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

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

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

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!