Saturday, 24 June 2017

Ladies - get yourself to a bench press! STAT!

I believe that the bench press is the one lift that will mess with a woman psychologically more than any other lift. The foundation of my training comes from the three big lifts – bench, deadlift and squat – and without a doubt the bench press is the lift that I find my girls, 1) hate the most, 2) experience the most self-doubt on, 3) avoid the most, and 4) often experience the least amount of progress on.


I used to struggle with it the most to the point where I completely self-sabotaged a competition in 2016 due to my own self-belief and crappy inner talk around the humble bench press.


So why do we need to do it?


Here are my top ten reasons why every woman should bench press (with a little help from my friends):


1. Postural imbalance: Training all your other body parts and excluding the bench press can lead to postural imbalance, which in turn can lead to injury. Trying to perform a functional move, such as lifting furniture, may uncover this weakness as you will need to engage these muscles in addition to the obvious ones like your biceps.
Libbie Rogers whacking out some easy reps at 40kg.
Lib is a coach at Ritual HQ, a client of mine and also
a very good friend of mine. 























2. Bench maketh the beauty: Visually, we see women with beautiful arms, triceps and shapely shoulders and we wonder what their arm workout must look like. To be honest, it is highly likely they have trained these lean muscles onto their frame with a good quality bench press program.

Rebecca Waring, one super strong,
super sassy, mumma bear and
long time friend.









3. Push up the confidence: Brandon Greco, Head Coach and Director of Epic Coaching, says: “Bench press is the easiest way to lift the boobs, by developing the pecs beneath them. Additionally, it is unreal to watch a woman bench a PB – such a boost to their confidence!”









4. The calorie burn: Training chest allows you to achieve a higher calorie burn. We all know that to burn calories, we need to increase lean muscle mass. Given that we are targeting some pretty big muscles in the chest area, why wouldn’t you want to utilise this secret weapon?!

Bodies Built by Braeden
Shameless plug for my girl Braeden's
incredible program - designed to teach
young women about the power
of strength training.
5. The bra-buster: One of my Coaches at Ritual HQ and creator of Bodies Built by Braeden, a program designed specifically for younger women, Braeden Small, says: “Bench press for general upper-body strength for every day lifting. It will help you achieve better lat activation and function for better posture. It will also help achieve a decrease in fat stores in those problem areas such as triceps (tuckshop lady arms) and that little bit that hangs over the bra – we like to call it the hangy flappy bit on your back above your bra.” 







6. To prove a point: “Women should definitely bench press, so that next time a bro tells you that you’re going to hurt your back if you arch like that, you can emasculate him by mentioning you bench more than he does” – Drew Spriggs, Head Coach and Owner of Valhalla Strength, South Brisbane.

7. For the challenge: One of the main reasons I enjoy bench pressing is for the challenge. I have a love/hate relationship with this lift. I know that there is no limit to what I can lift, other than what my mind perceives. So I am enjoying the very slow, but technical process of increasing this lift.
Whilst this can be frustrating, it is also an extremely enjoyable process watching my progress with every little tweak and change implemented. I have invested in several hypnotherapy sessions with Trish Cumming from Trish Cumming Hypnotherapy to help me wrap my head around this concept. It was worth the time and investment. 

8. It’s empowering: Jane Weightman, a wonderful client and member of our Ritual HQ community and Director of Gleam and Sparkle, recently posted on her Facebook timeline: “When your client tells you her dog weighs 55kg and you think, I can bench a ridgeback!” As her coach, this absolutely made my day. To understand the process a client goes through to realise this strength, and the joy she is finding in this new found physical and emotional empowerment is why I do what I do (thank you for inspiring this blog Jane). 

9. Don’t sweat the ‘smaller’ stuff: I spoke to my own coach, Ryan Mayfield from TTC Strength & Powerlifting about this. Ryan has been critical in turning my own bench press around, helping me add almost 10kg to my bench in less than six months. Ryan has a particularly dry sense of humour and a special way with words. But what he says makes perfect sense. “While ‘what's your max bench?’ promptly overtakes ‘what's your name?’ as the modern man's most frequently asked question, women around the globe are scratching their noodle asking ‘but should I be improving my bench?’ Well, in a nutshell, there is a reason the bench press has forged its position as the Mecca of upper body strength exercises. It's a value for time situation. While you can spend time improving your bicep curl, your overhead triceps extension, your supinated lat pulldown, and your little rear delt fly thingy, hypothetical-you has spent time correcting your mobility and stability issues and has, in turn, just out benched your husband. And it's showing. You've created a strong and efficient bench press, and you've developed yourself a strong, shapely upper body. At the risk of generalising and being thrown under the bus for being sexist, most woman aren't looking for overgrown triceps and bicep veins. They want a lean, strong, toned upper body. Save your time isolating every muscle, and instead work on your bench press. You'll save time in the gym in the long run, and your husband will soon feel appropriately intimidated"
Ryan, my coach. Has helped me get my confidence back
in the humble bench press. Pretty much by making me do it
three times per week. But more importantly, by showing me
that my bench press is NOT limited by my size,
but rather by what my mind perceives. 


10. Unravelling the misconceptions: Andrew Barton, Director of All Sports Physio in The Gap, talks about the importance of benching for women: “It is often a misconception among women that weights will make you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger! Obviously if you curtail your training to predominantly strength/ hypertrophy orientated you may develop some additional muscle mass, which is not a bad thing if that's what your goal is. However, bench press when performed with correct technique can be a fantastic way to develop some upper body strength to cope with day to day demands of life. Not to mention there are some preventative health benefits:

1. Increasing lean muscle increases basal metabolic rate and thus burning more energy at rest.
2. It increases "good stress" on joints and bones (i.e. to reduce osteoporosis or osteoarthritis development).
3. It strengthens the muscles and tendons around the shoulder to aide in reducing the likelihood of developing upper limb problems such as Frozen Shoulder, rotator cuff disorders and other upper
limb pathologies associated with weakness (note - correct technique is paramount).”



So…in summary. Bench press ladies!


And if it scares the crap out of you, see a coach and get the confidence you need, because it really isn’t all that scary once you have a better understanding of the lift and a little help from a friend. 

Monday, 19 June 2017

Training and Injuries

Training and Injuries

Injuries and illness are a part of life.
This blog comes with an EPIC disclaimer - there are most certainly times when rest is paramount to your recovery. 
However, I would love to explore the EXPERIENCE and our REACTION to injuries. 

There are two things that I LOVE about the experience of injuries as a coach.
1.     The way people react to them, and
2.     The creativity that can be applied to training around them IF the first point isn’t a negative reaction.

I have found there are two types of people. Some people will get an injury, either minor or significant and they will throw the towel in. Exercise will stop. Work will stop. Growth will stop. In fact life comes to a grinding halt. They will use it as that excuse they needed to QUIT. Their goals no longer seem relevant or important because their entire world revolves around this injury. Fear kicks in and suddenly they are no longer capable of even the simplest form of training, long after the injury has recovered. The injury becomes their IDENTITY…

“Hi, I’m John with the bad back,” rather than, “Hi, I’m John and I would love to get strong now that I have recovered from a dodgy back.”



Others will come to me and say…right…game on…let’s find a way to train SOMETHING while my injury heals. Even if it’s my finger, yes, that’s it…let’s train my finger! These people understand that the act of exercise isn’t just the progress they make on each individual day, but the progress they make across their lifetime. And sometimes it’s about the momentum of achieving and maintaining their longer-term goals, not the weight lifted on any given day. They understand that an injury is temporary. They also understand that maintaining regular exercise is just as important for their mental health as it is for their physical health.

What I find myself explaining over and over again is this – with any form of exercise, comes the possibility for an injury/niggle/tweak or pain. Does this mean we choose to live a sedentary life? Or do we rise to the challenge?

I choose rise to the challenge.

What’s the alternative? The myriad of health issues that come with being unhealthy, overweight and fatigued.

I love the creativity that comes with my job. I love knowing that no matter what injury is presented to me, there is a way to maintain activity and strength. And if I can’t find a way, there’s a team of physios at my disposal that share this same philosophy. This attitude is rubbing off on my Ritual HQ team of coaches and I LOVE the creativity that is coming from this team. They really are the team to go to if you want to get strong, fit and healthy, no matter what your condition.

My experience with injuries is fairly extensive and diverse. I do tend to push the limits when it comes to my body and I love it. But here’s my disclaimer – there are going to be those times when rest is the best thing for your injury.

But the mistake I see over and over again is resting for so long that the momentum is lost. So ask the question – what CAN I do, rather than what CAN’T I do!

Over the years I have trained through an ankle reconstruction (you still have an upper body, right?), a hysterectomy (I walked at a speed of 4 on the treadmill every day for three months and got myself through three entire seasons of Game of Thrones) and several back and neck injuries (which I usually hurt outside the gym).

Don't mistake DOMS with injuries. DOMS- delayed onset of
muscle soreness is perfectly normal after a solid session!


The secret to maintaining confidence and momentum in the gym through injury is this:
1.     Be extremely proactive with your injury recovery. Seek the right help and invest in your recovery. Don’t assume that it will get better with rest. The world has physios, chiropractors, osteopaths, acupuncturists, massage therapists (the list is fairly extensive) for a reason – to help you when you are experiencing pain
2.     Do Pilates. It will strengthen your core and ultimately protect your back.
3.     Do Mobility training and stretching – often. Especially before, during and after your training.
4.     Understand that strength training is the foundation to a strong body. If you want to be a runner, dancer, cyclist, gardener, or go on those epic walks, lift weights. If you want to focus on cardio, also do some form of quality strength training to support it.
5.     Find a coach who loves a challenge and will get as creative as they need to during your recovery.
6.     Don’t fear injuries. You are more likely to actually hurt yourself if you pre-empt it.
 
Find a coach who will get super creative with the functional
movements to ensure you progress slowly. Slow progress
is better than NO progress. 
Sadly, what I see more often than not is clients who are just on the brink of extraordinary, and then life throws them a challenge in the form of an injury. Rather than seek treatment, maintain momentum and embrace the challenge – they close the door on their goals and succumb to the cycle of self-sabotage or fear.



I am blessed with an obsessive desire to find a way. I will hunt, seek, research and fight for you until I have found a way to get you strong. I’m not alone – there are many of us who were put on this earth with that purpose. After all, we all deserve to live a wonderfully strong and happy life, so find the person who has the knowledge and the desire to fight for you.