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Why you need to be patient in training and do more reps

The following is from RKC Team leader Shannon Scullin, our PT manager at Read Performance Training.

Three hundred get ups and counting…

A couple of weeks ago I started a new training program that included one hundred get ups as my recovery day. The goal was to use a light weight and focus solely on technique.

I often include get ups in my workouts but I usually slot them in as the warm up, along with all my mobility work, never use anything lighter than a 16kg kettlebell and very rarely have I used them as my main workout to build strength. Occasionally I may change it up by drilling a particular movement pattern in each stage of the get up, such as the bent press, as a precursor to my main strength/skill session or for a bit of variety on a rest day but never really thought of them as a strength building exercise.

Although a “recovery” day on paper, the one hundred get up session has turned out to be the most beneficial session of each week and the strength, stability, mobility and coordination gains I have made while doing get ups has been a real eye opener for me.

My first recovery day started with a 12kg kettlebell. Although an extremely light bell, I was rather daunted by the task of doing one hundred get ups. I planned to do one get up on each side on the minute, every minute, focussing on perfect technique each time.

Prior to commencing this training program my PR for get ups was a 28kg kettlebell. But I could only get up with it on my right side. The same with the 24kg kettlebell, I could get up on my right side. The roll to elbow was a piece of cake on my right but I just couldn’t get off the ground on the left. This was really frustrating for me. Clearly I had the strength there to do the get up but my body just did not have the coordination to move efficiently enough to lift the weight on my left side.

Within the first  five to ten get ups of my session I began to notice some pretty amazing things happening in my body. All feelings of intimidation dispersed and I felt myself falling in to a zen like state of bodily awareness. I stopped thinking about how many reps I had done or how many I had left to go and focussed solely on my body and what it was feeling.

The first thing I noticed was that my planted foot became “suctioned” to the ground. With each new repetition, without even trying, my foot naturally planted itself without me having to think about it. After a further few repetitions I noticed that my shin was vertical, like a flagpole imbedded in cement. A few more repetitions down the track and my glutes started simultaneously switching on as my foot suctioned to the ground. The more repetitions I did the more I felt my body becoming synchronized, my shoulders flattened out in to the ground, my lats automatically switched on, the roll to elbow became smooth and effortless, my straight leg remained straight, on the ground, toes pointed to the roof and this beautiful movement that I was performing was just as perfect on my left side as it was on my right!

With more than seventy repetitions down  I noticed something else – I wasn’t fatigued, not even the slightest little bit of lactic anywhere in my body. As a matter of fact I felt amazingly relaxed. Like I could do get ups like this all day long!

With the first one hundred get ups done and dusted I was feeling amazing. No, really. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! But I couldn’t help but wonder if I had gone a little too light and what would happen if I went one bell size heavier? So the following week I set out to do the same workout with a 14kg bell. One get up on the minute, every minute. Five to ten get ups down and the same process of bodily awareness enveloped me, only this time it happened a little quicker. Rather than taking five to ten reps to feel each adaptation it was taking two to three. This whole experience blew my little mind wide open!

Two hundred get ups down and some eye opening results I wondered what would happen if I went up a bell size and completed the workout with a 16kg bell? Almost immediately my body fell into the synchronised state it had been in during my previous sessions, until I passed the sixty mark – lactic and fatigue had started to develop. I felt my body start to compensate to keep the bell up. I felt myself pushing the bell away rather than letting the muscles simply contract to hold everything in its place. I began focussing on the weight and what it was doing rather than my body and how it was functioning.  Clearly I had gone too heavy too quickly.

On Friday, my training program changed slightly so the one hundred get up recovery day is no longer included in my training, however I decided to do a few get ups as a warm up to one of my sessions and just for shits and giggles thought I’d see if I could build up to using the 24kg. To my astonishment not only was I able to execute a get up on both my left and right sides using the 24kg bell but I was able to do it multiple times! You bloody ripper!

To build strength and improve on technique we need repetition.  But not just any old  “get the bell up there any way you can” kind of repetition. The weight must be lifted with good form, allowing muscle fibres to become synchronized. Once your muscle fibres are coordinated you can focus on lifting heavier. Adding load allows for maximum activation of the motor neurons used to contract the muscle fibres. The more often we lift the load with good form, the stronger the impulse sent from the motor neurons to the muscle fibres becomes, resulting in an increase in strength.

We often use a heavier kettlebell for our get ups just because we can but how often do you think to use a lighter bell, and I mean a MUCH lighter bell, and just groove technique? In my case, multiple repetitions with the lighter bell not only resolved my issues with coordination but it enabled me to lift that heavier bell and further understand the intricacies of the get up which I will now be able to share with anyone I teach.

Am I going to do get ups with the 24kg bell from now on? No. Am I going to train using a lighter bell, grooving perfect technique and occasionally test myself with a heavier bell? Yes.
Don’t ever be afraid to drop the weight down and increase your reps focusing on your technique. Because when it comes down to it, under load, your body will always revert back to the technique it has trained the most. So it makes sense to groove perfect technique with a lighter load and test that heavier load occasionally, doesn’t it?

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How you're not being a good customer and ruining your training

If you’ve ever read the Celestine Prophecies you’ll remember that one of the big tenets of the book was learning to recognise when the universe is sending you clues. Call them coincidences but when you see or hear the same thing a bunch of different ways in a short time you should act on it. Like last week when I had the same exact dream about winning $40 million dollars twice, and Powerball was set to jackpot at $40 million dollars. So I bought a ticket. Sadly, this isn’t a post to say ciao as I jet off on a global tour, but I will say that if you get the same message multiple times you should pay attention. (And this week it goes up to $50 million so I’m still in with a shot).

So when I had a client who is also a trainer act like a bad client, as well as clients acting like bad clients, I figured I should wise up and talk about it.

Here’s what good customers do:

Record their workouts. Every rep, every time. Not when they go home, not when they remember to bring their diary and not when they did something spectacular. The diary is a bread crumb trail that allows me to figure what works for you and what doesn’t. If you remove it then it makes my job that much harder. It’s only by having a clear path of where you came from and the route you took that it becomes crystal clear to me what you need to be doing right now to head into unknown territory. Those records create a stable base for me to build the next level of your fitness onto. Without it I could be laying a house of cards instead of bricks and mortar functional strength. If I ask you “what did you lift for five the last time we did X?” and your response, instead of being “let me check my diary” or “I hit five by five at 60kg”, is something more like “well I don’t really remember because that was a week ago and I did some sets with 40kg and some with 50kg, but I can’t remember what was what and the earth hasn’t lined up with Venus and my elbow is sore today so I’m not sure I can repeat that anyway…” Enough. Record it, review it pre-session so you know what you should be doing and let’s get after it.

Smart customers understand that what we do in the gym is only a third of the battle. The other two thirds is won at the dinner table and in bed. (Get your minds out of the gutter you perverts, I’m talking about sleep). Without having a solid recovery strategy – food and sleep are our primary means – then the body will never show what it is really capable of as it will be operating under a permanent fog of fatigue. If you want to actually see your fitness increasing you need to address recovering between workouts. This article here is a great explanation.

You’re not special. Sorry, but you’re not. My test for special athletes is simple – if there’s an Olympic medal around your neck then you’re special. Everyone else isn’t, so quit acting like it. I don’t care that Randy Couture was doing MMA at forty – you’re not him. I don’t care what Kobe Bryant does for plyometrics – you’re not him either. Nor do I care what the SEALs do, what the Spetznaz fitness tests are or even what elite Crossfitters do – you’re none of those people so quit trying to train like them. If you do decide to really step up (and congratulations for trying to find your limits) then make sure your recovery strategy is improved too. Work and rest need to be equal so if work is increased then recovery needs to be increased too. At the very least you’ll need ice baths and weekly massage if you start looking at two sessions daily.

Listen. It’s an under rated skill. If you’re paying for advice then take it. Why accept that someone has more knowledge than you, give them money for advice, then ignore it? And, just like the coincidences from the Celestine Prophecies, if you hear the trainer say the exact same thing over and over again then act on it. I don’t speak much during training unless I have to – I still believe in lifting etiquette and don’t interrupt people training unless I have to so I’m not just flapping my gums to fill the air with some noise.  The corrections I’m giving you are to prevent you getting hurt, or in the case of diet, when I say don’t eat X then I mean don’t eat it (which certainly doesn’t mean don’t eat it once a week, don’t eat it as a treat or feel free to eat it on weekends. Show some damn restraint and just don’t eat it). And if this pertains to being a student at an instructor event, I don’t care about why you do things the way you do. If I’m correcting you it’s because it’s wrong and you will fail if you don’t listen up. Be coachable.

Be on time. I get only a few hours per week to help you. In contrast you get over a hundred and sixty hours per week to mess up everything I’m trying to help you with. I need every minute I can get. If you’ve got phsyio exercises you are supposed to be doing then turn up early and get them done before we start training. Don’t swan in when you feel like it. If you can’t get here on time then leave earlier. Take responsibility for all facets of your training, including being on time.

If you’re one of the trainers out there who we happen to train don’t think this doesn’t apply to you too. I can hear you all nodding your heads and saying, “preach on” but you’re often even more guilty. No, you can’t out train your poor diet choices. You are held up as role models of fitness so act like it and show some restraint. With long days and early starts your recovery is even more important. That means you need to book massage right now – fumbling around on your roller and a ball isn’t the same thing no matter how hard you try to convince yourself it is. And when it comes to your training don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because you passed a Cert IV course you’re something special. (Check for medals and then get back to me). Quit ruining your results and be one hundred percent accountable. I’m here to help, but you need to do the work, not me.

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Get fit to go fast

Success leaves clues. If you want to be among the best in a field the best way forward is to look at what the top performers do and mimic them until you make it.

Looking at racing sports one big thing stands out to me – the top performers are incredibly fit. Let’s look at some motorbike and car racers and see:

Mark Webber – hosts his own 5 day adventure race. he used to complete the entire thing, but now skips some sections due to injury risk after a mountain bike accident left him with a broken leg and shoulder only weeks before the start of the season.

Fernando Alonso – spends a lot of training time on swimming, riding and running along with playing other sports to stay fresh like table tennis, soccer as well as coordination and agility drills.

Nico Rosberg – rides and runs along with performing core, reflex and coordination drills.

Ben Bostrom – completes Ironman triathlons.

Mick Doohan – trained with former triathlon world champion Miles Stewart during his dominant years and actually had an exercise bike on his private jet so he could train even when flying to races.

Troy Bayliss – fanatical cyclist. Has even said that if he wasn’t a professional motorbike racer he’d have liked to be a professional cyclist.

Jenson Button – came 4th at Oceanside 70.3 only weeks ago, actually qualifying for the world 70.3 championships (too bad that’s an F1 race weekend).

This all shows me one thing – physical fitness is a prized quality for those who wish to go fast. The favored way forward is a multi-pronged approach to avoid overuse of a single pattern and help develop the kind of all round total fitness that high stress racing places on the body. I find it very interesting that these guys are essentially training for triathlon as their fitness training. It’s no coincidence that I’ve recently gone down this path too and am using triathlon as the basis for our Zombie Apocalypse program.

The fitness world has gone mad over the last few years on HIIT and how you can use a bare minimum of training to get massive results. Unfortunately it’s hogwash. There is no hack or short cut to real useful fitness though. I’ve seen many times what happens when people think their thirty minute HIIT workout of complexes and a couple of intervals will get them through a real challenge. They fall short.

Real fitness and strength take time to develop. Even if you start early in life and never get out of shape it takes years and is a lifelong process. If you’ve sat on the couch for twenty years and now want to “get in shape” at age forty it’s certainly not going to be an overnight process. And if developing a useful, athletic body capable of displaying many different aspects of fitness is your goal then you’re going to need to treat it that way. Many people come to me and say they’re serious about getting in shape. Serious, that is, until I tell them it means training daily and often twice a day. Serious until I talk to them about diet and alcohol. Three sessions per week and a hit and miss diet isn’t going to make you fit.

Take a leaf out of the books of pros – treat fitness as a serious pursuit, as if it were a second job and watch the rest of your results come with it. Extra aerobic fitness will give you many benefits for the rest of your life. There is a very good reason why most elite athletes begin their training plans with base fitness – because it causes long lasting adaptations that allow you to build more strength and speed later on. Anaerobic work is like the icing on the cake and aerobic base layers are the cake. Unless you fancy eating the icing out of a bowl you need to get some cake first. In addition to the many fitness benefits that this kind of base training gives you’ll find that your brain is clearer and you’re more resistant to fatigue – very important skills in racing and the rest of your life.

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The Playground

As children we spent a lot of time exploring our environment the only way we could – via movement. From our very first moments we used movement to learn about our body and our surroundings. From turning our head to rolling onto our stomachs, then to crawling and finally walking and running we moved and we grew stronger every day.

Then, about the time we turned six, we were sat down and told we had to “learn”. We were taught a bunch of stuff that was supposed to help make us more productive members of society. But we stopped moving and when we stopped moving we stopped getting stronger. For many of us, after our initial period of movement at the start of our loves we never ever again spend time exploring movement and our universe. Di you know what it is called when an animal stops moving?


There’s a growing tribe of experts who believe that modern fitness has it all wrong. Fitness should be synonymous with movement. It may look impressive to be able to lift a large weight at the gym, but does your gym performance match your outside the gym abilities? Let’s imagine we have two types of strength – functional and gym. Our functional strength is our real life ability to lift, stabilise, run, jump and do any other athletic feat. Our gym strength is simply our ability to lift weight. While you may show an increase in performance inside the gym is it actually improving your abilities outside the gym in the rest of your life? Because that is what functional fitness and strength is all about. Locking ourselves into a two-legged stance and hoisting a weight up and down may make us better at functional tasks , but it may not either. Even when the numbers in the gym go up you’re still not guaranteed success outside the gym. The only thing that can give you better movement and athleticism is more movement and a higher focus on better quality movement.

Modern fitness is based on quantitative training – it’s all about how much or how fast. It should instead be focused on qualitative training – how well we move. This is why we employ a variety of training methods at Read Performance Training – no gimmicks or fads, just tools that have been around for centuries. Between the barbell, kettlebells and your own body weight we can teach you how to move better and rebuild your ability to explore. A lot of this training doesn’t look like “training” in the way modern gyms would have you believe is necessary. Much of this looks like play. Thinking back to our childhood and we learned, grew and gained strength and movement this should be no surprise. The thing is that the modern fitness world wants you to believe that you need expensive tools and gadgets to get in shape. You don’t. You were given the greatest fitness tool in the world the day you were born. using it daily is the best way to stay in shape, retain your youth and explore the world.

Remember to get out and play today.

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Rebirth of the Predator

Back when we trudged out of the primordial ooze man was the apex predator. Sure, we may have had a soft hide, no claws or fangs and we couldn’t poison anything but we had one trick up our sleeve – we could sweat.

Over time man can out run any other creature on the planet. See, when animals overheat they have to stop to cool down and pant. Not us though, we just start sweating and our amazing evaporative cooling system takes care of the rest. No matter how big, how dangerous or how fast in the short term, sooner or later our caveman ancestors could out run anything.

Somehow the modern fitness world has lost sight of that. We focus on the short term, on getting you the best possible result for the minimum time spent. The problem with doing the MED or Minimum Effective Dosage is you get the minimum result. This kind of training may work well for aesthetics but the moment it comes to actually do something those muscles you’re displaying you’re going to melt faster than ice cream in the Australian sun.

At RPT we don’t care about training for looks. We’ll leave that to the Guidos and other fools who think you can have only performance or aesthetics. The truth is that if you train for performance you will get a better looking body as a result. Look at any sport you admire – don’t the athletes have pleasing physiques?

The secret to the way athletes look is one thing – movement. While all serious athletes spend time in the gym the vast majority spend far more time training for their sport by playing their sport. It is the movement involved in their sport that gives them their physiques. If you’re looking to create the same kind of body you also need to make sure that your week is filled with movement.

An ideal tool for this is the kettlebell. The results from hardstyle strength and conditioning are far from ordinary. And when they’re combined with our system of progressive calisthenics, FMS, Primal Move and barbell work the results are nothing short of amazing. And when you add some kind of sports training into that – whether it be a competitive event like martial arts or a fun event lie Tough Mudder – the end result is always far greater than someone who just stood still inside the gym all day long. The key to super star fitness is to be active every day.

Read Performance Training is all about rediscovering our roots as primal athletes. Our method of training is a first in this country because simply no one else has the same background as our trainers. It’s time to throw off the shackles of the modern gym and regain our long lost movement and become the apex predators we are meant to be.

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Get the Horse Behind the Cart

Imagine your body as a race car. When tuned up and treated right it is capable of amazing feats. But, when the tires are bald, the brakes are bad and the chassis is twisted it will barely go in a straight line let alone go with any speed.

The modern fitness world is filled with ways to make your body seem capable of extraordinary feats while simultaneously removing any hope of actual performance. Any exercise machine will destroy performance because they work in a fixed plane and often from a seated position. This removes any real need for the body to develop a sense of movement awareness – essential for athletic success.

Along with machines most training plans push being strong first. This is despite all the top authorities in the world pointing out that on the training continuum the order should be – mobility/ stability – > endurance -> strength/ power. So why do these trainers advocate getting stronger above all else?

The answer is simple – strength is a very easy target. If your client lifted more today than yesterday you proved your worth as a trainer. Clients like feeling that kind of progress and that’s how you stay in a job. But when someone comes to you and they don’t stand up straight, or they walk with pain – won’t it make far more difference to their lives getting them out of that pain?

Let’s go back to that analogy about the car – how useful is it to put a bigger engine in a car that won’t even go in a straight line? That’s the equivalent to what goes on when you walk into the gym with a sore back and the trainers sit you down on a machine and start trying to make you stronger without fixing those underlying alignment issues.

When it comes to mobility and stability training there are two things that stand head and shoulders above the rest – FMS and Primal Move. The FMS system was designed by Gray Cook to be a thorough assessment of your movement ability. When the NFL, Marines and the AFL and Australian Federal Police start to use this system you know there’s huge benefit to it.

Primal Move is an interesting new addition to our work at Read Performance Training. As the national director here I have spent more time with this training method than anyone and what I’ve seen is nothing short of amazing. Primal Move attacks the deficiencies most commonly seen in the FMS and does so in a way that almost tricks the body into better movement.

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Setting Fitness Goals

Sooner or later one of the question you need to ask yourself when it comes to your training is what you’re training for.

Many initially go to the gym or a trainer to lose some weight. If you’re trainer is actually one of the rare competent ones in Australia then within six months you’ll have lost that weight and that’s where the trouble starts.

Most people are very good at short term goals like weight loss. They’re able to focus intensely and change their bad habits for better ones. However, what usually happens is that as soon as they reach their weight loss goal it becomes evident that they haven’t really changed their behaviour at all, just avoided them for a short period. If you were a glutton before you started training, unless you modify your thought process during the training period, you’ll remain a glutton meaning that whatever weight you lost will come straight back.

And this is why many struggle. To them the idea of fitness and health is merely one of fat loss. That same Western needy mindset that has developed the rampant consumerism of our world. The thinking is that “If/ when I am a certain weight, then my life will be better” is no different to “If I have an iPhone 5 I’ll be happier”.

Just like new technology though the buzz of achieving a goal weight is short lived. Worse, in many cases because the diets used to get people there are starvation-dependant and carb-depleted; when people return straight back to normal eating they blow up like balloons and the cycle has to start all over again. Although this time it has an additional negative vibe as yet another failure to achieve this goal weight has occurred.

The biggest problem most people have is they think don’t enjoy exercise. This started during their school years when they were press ganged into playing sports they found neither enjoyable or entertaining. As relative beginners to all these games they were led to believe that they weren’t sporty – as if coordination is an inbuilt genetic gift rather than a learned skill. With this self-fulfilling prophecy in place they remained on the sidelines of games, and of life.

Fast forward to their late thirties when most realize they need to do something to get back in shape and seek out a trainer. Most trainers are simply awful and can’t get results with personal training. Others have never realized that their own prejudices are actually holding their clients back. But maybe this person strikes it lucky and finds one of the few good personal trainers in their area. They lose some weight, but then what?

A good personal trainer will know how to challenge and inspire you to new heights of physical ability. The training you should have been involved in won’t have just been to lose some weight but to make you a better human athlete. This is the definition of functional fitness. Tire flipping and standing on a ball doing circus tricks isn’t functional necessarily. It only counts as functional if it helps you perform other tasks.

Good training allows you to enjoy many different physical activities from rock climbing to swimming to running to events like Tough Mudder. That’s what our program is all about – develop really high levels of general physical preparation so that you can go out and have some fun. But we’re not Crossfit – we haven’t tried to turn working out into a sport. We just train hard so that we can enjoy life outside the walls of the gym. And because we train hard and eat well we have bodies that match, without killing ourselves starving on a diet.

So set a goal that has nothing to do with weight loss and everything to do with enjoying being fit. Whether it is a game of tennis, a fun run, Tough Mudder, the RKC or a trekking holiday, setting this type of goal will ensure long term success with your health and fitness goals.

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