Finding Purpose on the Platform

Posted: January 19, 2012 in Our Philosophy

When I first came to university, I participated in a forum discussion about what people used as motivation to train. Many posted pictures of successful athletes or stereotyped images of Ali with associated quotes. What a joy I must have been when I threw up this self-made contraption:

What you see above were my motivations at 17 years old. Aside from the aforementioned stereotyped quotes, there’s my family crest and pictures of myself from years beforehand, where I had been successful in challenges or, as you can see, just liked the way I looked. Note: even women of powerful conversation and imaginative mind can be overcome by muscles if you are younger than 18. If the same goes afterwards, you’re chatting up a nympho with Daddy issues – RUN.

If I were to attempt to create the same thing now, the image would be entirely different. Sure, a lot of that I still find interesting, but back then my motivations were gripped by the social scene, my dreams of becoming a super hero, my desire to fight. I don’t think I understood what I was going through at the time, I doubt anyone ever really does. That picture is less of a motivational jpeg and more of a story of my life up until that point…family, sport, a desire to succeed, bravado, creativity and super heroes.

Now, the image of motivation in my head is simply a red silhouette of myself imposed on a deep black background. It’s less so an image I want to draw, but more an imagined pictorial representation of what it is I experience when I exercise. Exercise for me has become the ultimate form of expression and investigation, where all decisions are made and all stresses allow me to be reborn after every single session.

The only similar experience I can help explain this feeling with is, as absurd as this may sound, the act of prayer. I grew up in a Catholic household, attended Catholic education and was invited to pray often. Often I did, alone. It was there, lying in bed or at the chapel, where I experienced that feeling of enlightenment for the first time. Like I was having a conversation with God, a guide of some kind that was present within me at that time, allowing me to discover things about myself I had never known before.

As a disclaimer, I hold no religious belief, that’s not what this was about. But through my youth, I did learn that the purpose of prayer is not simply to give “Him” glory, but to ask questions and think about the answers…to gain clarity amidst stress…to reflect. (and of course, as a Catholic, to apologise profusely for everything you’ve ever done, ever, period)

I always assumed I knew what people talked about when they said exercise was a “way of life”. “I love to exercise, I do it all the time” – ergo I must live that way of life…but that’s not the full story I believe I understand now. I often believe my obsession with exercise is perceived as bravado or arrogance, I guess you can think about it whatever you like, but when I’m training, the last thing I’m thinking about is your impressions of what I do under the bar. To describe this feeling as “good” doesn’t cut it. Exercise has gone from being “good” to being a seemingly celestial necessity, where the bar either hits the mark or it doesnt – there is no gray area. I train every day of my life that it is possible for me to train because now, deep inside of me, there is a liberating truth aching to get out that claws itself that little bit closer to existing in this world every time I force myself to overcome resistance.

I don’t know what that truth is yet…but I’m going to keep on praying.


More good news!

Posted: December 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

Wednesday’s effort:

Sleep deprived, meal deprived and frustrated, I cranked out a new bench 1RM of 97.5kg, narrowly missing 100kg.

As of next week, I should hopefully be in the 3-digit bench club.

I have been taking every precaution possible in order to prepare for a Deadlift re-test this Saturday…let’s just say that come Saturday, I’ll be loaded with glycogen and overloaded with testosterone. (See Reddit’s “No fap challenge) for details)

Leud conversation aside, I simply cannot wait for the next opportunity to blast the Deadlift. On Friday, some plyometrics will be performed and on Saturday, the aim is 200kg.


This is just a quick update to say that the higher 1RM% work has brought forth benefits – another box ticked in this kick ass regimen.


Over the past 3 months, the combination of Sadiv and Speed sets have served me rather well.

Just this week, I decided to fly on and try for a new Deadlift 1RM and can quite happily report that I clocked 185kg, an extra 5kgs compared to my last 1RM attempt. However, the difference is that it shot up like a rocket and I gladly could’ve done more.  Not only that, but I completed my Sadiv’s immediately afterwards. There’s much more to be lifted, so next week, I’ll be attempting this again.

This new 1RM has been gained practicing only once per week and never lifting over 170kg, just once about a month ago. The work has been stable since the start – 12 reps, 1 every 60 seconds starting at 60% 1RM and adding 2.5kgs every week. The focus was on applying as much force to the bar as possible, as should be the focus when attempting to improve your ability to improve force production. As standard, it’s about recruiting motor units maximally and as quickly as possible.

This regime has gone to show that for increases in 1RM, it is perhaps not necessary to operate at lifting %’s higher than 90% of your 1RM, given that you are applying force maximally at lower weights – perhaps a safer way to train!

Currently, I am at the stage where old 1RMs are being lifted as part of each Sadiv set. This is immensely satisfying given that these were previous maximal efforts requiring prolonged recovery, which now require a mere sixty seconds. In two weeks time, I should know a few more 1RMs, though I believe these will not be maximal as I do not plan on taking a complete week of recovery. However, this may not be the case if enough recovery time for each lift is given in its’ “speed” week.

It could well be that greater improvements will occur in lifts such as the bench/OHP compared to the Deadlift, as these were performed at a weight greater than 90% of the previous 1RM. Of course, it must be taken into account that these are less neurologically taxing lifts as they require less muscle mass to perform, therefore it may not have been possible to carry out Deadlifts at such a high percentage without causing detriment to other lifts. Time will tell!


I’d been frustrated with Deadlifting recently as something hadn’t been feeling right. The solution was simple = back to basics. I re-assessed my lift from bottom to top and discovered my foot position was a few inches closer to the bar than I had intended.

It was a pretty clear reminder that no matter how long you’ve been at it, you might see benefit from returning to square one, even if it’s just for a day.

Even if you don’t think there’s anything wrong, go have a re-check and you might surprise yourself.

My Deadlift technique checklist:

– Mid-foot under the bar (from heel to toe)
– Feet appropriate distance apart (I perform a vertical leap to determine this – you will automatically set your feet apart at a distance which allows for maximal force production)
– Hands on the bar (quick pull on each side to ensure each side will lift an equal amount of force – is your hand applying force symmetrically?)
– Shins to the bar
– Head up
– Chest up and forward
– Arms at 90 degree angle to the floor
– Bar passes knees = HIPS FORWARD!
– Tall posture at top



I’ve fallen in love with squatting again. Recently, I’ve approach this lift simply:

10 reps at 50% projected 1RM
5 reps 15ks short of day’s maximum
3 reps 7.5kgs short of day’s maximum
1 rep of day’s maximum
10 rep Sadiv set

This is performed twice a week, with the weight increasing by 2.5kg on the second session.
This has now reached the point where I will lift more than my old 1RM of 140kg as part of a standard training session.


Again, before I sign off, I’ll echo the following:

The best lifting methods:

– Appropriate challenge (mental and physical)
– Appropriate recovery
– Gradual increases in resistance

This regime delivers all three, with enough practice to improve movement path efficiency and enough variety to prevent boredom.

Eventually, I’ll hit a lift I cannot complete. Quite simply, I’ll retry the following week and if it fails, I’ll scale it back 2.5kgs and smash it later. If that doesn’t help I’ll perhaps consider another lifting method. Until then – I’m loving this too much!

Go train, folks.


Can’t Stop

Posted: November 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

I haven’t posted in two weeks with good reason…

I’ve been getting on with it.

I realize that I had previously been using CS as an outlet to pass on information that had begun to swell in my brain over years of physical training as, except for my own use, it was going nowhere. However, now coaching at Dundee University Boat Club, I’m able to pass on and use this information in a more relevant format. It’s one thing to simply suggest how people may wish to train over the internet – it’s another to put it to use in order to make someone’s physical performance improve.

The coaching experience over the last few months has been stellar. I’ve learned a few important things:

– It’s not about pushing someone, it’s about teaching someone to push themselves.
– Personal anecdotes, if appropriate, can be a fantastic teaching tool/motivator. It can also give athletes faith in their coach.
– When you think, you’re just thinking, when you act, it’s happening. No progress is made if you simply think about what would be best for your athletes, it’s your own responsibility to put it into action despite an athlete’s resistance.
– Related to the above, it’s important that you not only sell yourself to your athletes, but that you sell the work they’re doing – it must be worth doing or people won’t do it.
– You can’t please everyone.
– You have to be OK with being disliked in phases, appreciated in others.
– You will not be right 100% of the time.
– Coaching is not simply passing on knowledge, it is a skill to be learned as some people learn differently than others.
– Talented people should be told they “may have potential”, not that they are talented – over confidence often = lack of effort.
– Listen to your athletes – be scrutinizing. “I’m tired” can mean any number of things and may indicate anything from a lack of nutrition or motivation to over training. Ask “why?”.
– Furthermore, be confident and knowledgeable in method – if an athlete asks “why?” and you don’t have an answer, you’d better find out.
– Lastly, don’t be afraid to get pissed off if someone with potential is slacking off – let them know about it and let them know why. It’ll make the difference between being perceived as a disappointed guide (motivator) or a furious dick head (de-motivator).


As for my own training, the Sadiv method is serving me well. Time is going by, lifts are improving and confidence is growing. Adequate amounts of time are being spent recovering and, quite frankly, I’ve never enjoyed lifting as much as I am under this method.

All I can really suggest here is that you research this method and smash it – so far, there has been nothing but improvement.

I’m currently working on a personal exercise project outside of my standard lifts…but that is something I cannot reveal until a few months have passed!

Stay tuned,
Do work,
Go train.

It has been a while since I’ve been able to report anything from training. I had attempted to train through an illness and ended up well and truly empty of vigor – it was time for some down time. I took two weeks off to get my head back in the game.

Energy – real energy – isn’t defined purely by glycogen stores and oxygen availability, there’s a lot more to it than that. Call it what you like, but everyone experiences it at some stage…you’re sapped, dead on your feet, but you’re still moving forward. I’ve always had an awareness of this force and often think back to times when it became apparent in the past, so as to attempt to use it again.

However, my recent realization has been how much emotionally taxing events can sap you of your energy. Much like those unreal moments when you’re unstoppable despite immense physical pressure, there are times where despite adequate rest and re-fueling, you barely have the energy to stand.

It’s times like these I’ll re-read old posts or read some of Martin Rooney’s “Rooney Rules” with hopes of finding some inspiration – a spark to ignite that seemingly limitless intrinsic energy.

In short, I’m just trying to highlight how precious energy is. It’s not just physiological, it’s psychological – it has to be trained just like everything else. In the end, you have to rely on knowing in your heart that somewhere inside of you, there’s one more rep, time and time again.

You’re not tested at the top of the mountain, you’re tested on the climb. Every bad thing that has ever happened to you, every mistake you’ve ever made and every time you’ve fallen down is an opportunity to learn. I can’t remember the exact quote, but life is basically 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it. If you don’t see the lesson in the error, all you have is a mistake.

Live and learn.


Thankfully, it’s not all bad. As per usual, the body’s ability to adapt brought forth some improvements in lifts. Two weeks off and some super-compensation later and I’ve added AT LEAST 5kg to my OHP 1RM, as well as hitting Sadiv’s which were well above expected numbers with a greater RFD than previous lighter lifts. This evening, I’ll be able to tell if the benefits have been similar in the bench.

As usual, it’s full steam ahead. Squats are improving in RFD, much due to the high velocity work that has been carried out over the last few weeks. In time, I’ll be able to see if 1RMs have also improved.

Deadlift is showing similar increases in RFD.

Proper 1RMs will probably be tested around Christmas time.

Go train, folks.



Life is currently kicking up a shit storm – my hons project is taking up a disproportionate  amount of time, but alas, it’s interesting.

I’m working with amateur golfers, investigating the effects of blind somatosensory training on club head/ball speed – I’ll keep nerds posted and very likely post my dissertation up here come February.

Recently illness and university work have been an issue. Illness has meant more sleep, which has meant less time, which has meant less time for training which is unfortunately not essential. That said, at times like this, I remember Dave Tate’s concept that I harp on about often – training should be a constant. As such, I make time for it as often as possible.

We’ve kept up with the Sadiv/Speed work method but are roughly a week behind. Despite this, I’ve put 2.5kg on my 1RM bench ad 65kg on my 1RM OHP.

I can honestly say that this training frequency/intensity is seemingly perfect for us at the moment.

The Sadiv sets let you spend an ample amount of time at a high intensity and with my own program design, it appears a sweet spot has been reached. Earlier, I was able to say that this was certainly a method of returning to a better form. I can now honestly say that working Sadiv’s and speed work as we have is ample motivation to improve your lifting numbers. Furthermore, considering I have increased my caloric intake and put on 4kgs without putting in much effort, I can personally vouch for this regime’s ability to promote hypertrophy.

As for enjoyment, it is by far the most fun Ross and I have had in the gym since CommonStrength began. It’s challenging, you’re operating at a high relative weight consistently and it has a thrilling daily variation to it. It is also very easy to modify as you progress…

Lifting at 80kg for 10 then 82.5kg for 5 and 80kg for 5? Did that 82.5 feel easy? Do it for ten. Was it hell? Do it for two, 80kg for 8 then try the 5 reps next time. It’s easy to manipulate and the effects are so far startling. You simply up the reps at a given weight or decrease them. No worries about how many reps in sets, sets all together, just hit a single weight, once a minute, ten times…when it’s easy…take it up!

I can only hope someone out there tried it as we’ve detailed in the beginning.

It works.

Currently nothing more to update with the lifts, I’ll detail them as days done, but I don’t think the Sadiv/Speed method will stop for some time.

For now, CommonStrength will focus on improving performance outside of the regime itself – a more specific look into exercises themselves, nutrition, motivation and progress.

Go train, suckas!


Recently, have asked me to write an article on the effects of Glutamine on health and performance.

” There is no denying that glutamine is involved in preventing illness and the loss of muscle mass/gain of lean body mass, but there is still much confusion over whether or not it can enhance sporting abilities.”

Do you think you could benefit from a Glutamine supplement in your diet? Read my rather honest article HERE!

In other news, I was forced to take a week off due to a rather debilitating case of the man-flu. I got back on it yesterday and cranked out a new OHP 1RM before speedwork – updates ASAP!

There is much to do this week – uni course gone wild – I’ll update when I can!