To visit the Vegan Bodybuilding website click here

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

So have we any new year resolutioners out there?

I don't really set goals at new year that much.  Most of my goals for 2012 where already set earlier this year (I'm aiming at increasing my deadlift & squat by a reasonable amount over the next year- actually in the case of the squat it's the high end of reasonable as I am a rubbish squatter, but there you go might as well aim high!).
Anyway, have you got goals to set for 2012?  If so let's have them.  Here's some ideas to help you reach those goals.

Write it down:

Put it somewhere you can see it regularly.  I'm aiming at 185Kg squat, which is my toughest goal as I'm not a natural squatter & it will be about 2.5x bodyweight lift for me so it may take more than 12 months to get there?  Anyway to 'remind me' I've redesigned my wallpaper on the computer, I went & grabbed a load of guys squatting big weights, wrote a big, red 185 in thumping HUGE numbers over it, so everytime I look at the computer I see the number 185 & squats, but you could put something on your fridge, put something by your bedroom lamp, whatever, but somewhere you'll read it.
Also make sure you keep your goals, your goals (I stole that line from Dan John), if you are trying to lose fat, then suddenly trying out the latest powerlifting training from Eastern Europe may not be the best thing in the world for your goal- if you are anything like me I get excited when I read new stuff about training & yes I want to try it out..but you can't reach your goals if you are swapping stuff up all the time, sticking to a plan is the best method.  Before making any change go back to that thing you wrote out (your goal), does this change move you towards or away from your goal?  Answer that before you make any change (yes this is a tough one to do, I know!).
Here are some quick & rough rules for achieving your goals.

If you're looking to lose fat then 80% of the effort should actually go into the food journal, 15% into training & 5% recovery (prehab/rehab, recovery etc).  That's right, you will get better results by really focussing on what you're eating & writing everything down, then seeing how things affect you.  This % is the starting place of your diet, I don't think you can (or should) keep a food journal forever, but this gets you going correctly & you can actually see what you eat, calories etc, it leads you towards a decent eating plan.  If you have a lot of weight to lose (say a year or more of dieting) then look at returning to a food log once a quarter or every 6 months at least & write out a week & see where you are.  This is actually good practice for everyone, just to see the amount of junk you are eating & ways to tidy up your diet to move towards those goals.

Mass gainers:
70% should be focussed upon eating more & trying to keep those calories as clean as possible, again only 20% should be on your training.  Many people can train hard, but many fail on eating enough to grow, especially on a vegan diet which can be less calorie dense than a typical meat eaters diet, the rest fail on the other 10% which is recovery, so sleep, stretching, self myofascial release, massage, pre-hab/rehab etc, they simply don't do it or enough of it.

80% sports specific skills, so playing the game, practising specific skills etc, 10% strength training, 10% other (recovery planning, rehab/prehab, massage, self myofascial release etc).  Yes 80% should be doing something directly related to your sport.

Goal setting:
Goal setting is important.  You need to set some numbers & dates for goals if you can.  Do not just say  "I want to be slim for the beach this year".  That is not a goal, it is a vague dream.  A goal is "I want to lose 10 pounds of fat by June 1st 2012".  Now you have a goal, you can work backwards & set up a plan to hit that goal.

Obviously these are rough guidelines as there will be some athletes who need to gain muscle mass, or dieters who are trying to hit a weight class in a contest, those are outside these general guidelines, but I thought I'd write some very rough outlines about how you should be thinking about those goals right now, so you can plan them, not just waste your time with vague dreams.

One final tip is announcing your goals makes them MUCH more likely to come true, so why not pop your goals up on here right now (I did, so how about you?), then you will be loads more likely to hit that goal in 2012...if you can't do that then consider - Is the goal realistic?  Do I REALLY want it?  Because if you can't even say it out loud, then you're unlikely to have the mindset to achieve it!

With all that said get your goals set now, have a great holiday season, then get on that plan when the clock chimes 12 on the first day of 2012!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Rob Bigwood: Vegan Arm Wrestler - the interview

I just noticed that the Vegan Society have started to put their older stuff online.  You can download it here
or read it below.  For those who don't know Rob is the best vegan Arm Wrestler in the world (& in my view one of the top arm wrestlers period!).  Don't forget to support the vegan society & show your support by joining them or at least subscribing to their magazine.
Hopefully you'll enjoy this interview I did with Rob back in 2009:

Rob Bigwood-Vegan Mag Article

REVIEW: Easy Strength seminar by Dan John & Pavel

This was a L-O-N-G view.  It was 14 DVDs!  If you've viewed Dan Johns DVD set Intervention, then you will have seen some of the Dan John stuff before, that's not necessarily a bad thing as I think he uses quite a basic, understandable approach, but if you are thinking about getting one or the other this covers a lot of the same ground & includes Pavel as well.  I liked the theoretical stuff, & just about all the training hints they have are going to be useful to someone.  It's a shame they didn't have an 'average' trainee to use as most of the people doing the lifts were pretty good (not your typical people turning up in the gym), but you can only show what you can show, but bare in mind that you yourself or your clients if you are in the business will not be so proficient at the lifts & will need a lot more coaching & time to get things right.  I did have my doubts about one aspect of the DVD set & that was the 'Even easier strength' section.  This was picking 5 lifts, done at a very low percentage of your maximum (say half what you could normally lift) & doing 3x3, 5,3,2, 5x2 or 10x1 (reps first then sets, so 10x1 is 10 reps/1 set) up to 5 times a week for 40 days.  They didn't seem to cover 'accommodation' into the example.  Accommodation is where you actually become more efficient at doing a movement, so you can lose muscular size & absolute strength by doing the same weight over & over.  As an example think of the guy at the gym you saw doing the same weight 12 months ago as today, often you'll see they look worse than they did 12 months ago when they first started doing that weight, this is because the body has adapted to that weight & actually working LESS to move it than when they first did it.  I don't really follow how NOT progressing could be better?  It is progression that leads to positive adaptation that lead to greater strength &/or size.  Maybe for an in-season athlete it may kind of keep them ticking over, but I can't see where the claimed big strength increases would come from?  Maybe I just don't know the science enough, but all of my training career the basic idea of progressive overload has been the cornerstone of my training routines.  I couldn't follow their arguments, they didn't make sense to me.  That was my one gripe with this DVD set.  It was only one piece of a really big DVD set, so I can't complain as most of it was pretty interesting.

This set is a lot of cash, so you might not be interested in getting it unless you are an athlete or train athletes or really like Dan John &/or Pavel, but for an athlete who isn't into lifting sports (so not a powerlifter or O-lifter) this will give you some idea how to structure your training for best results.

For full details about the DVD click here

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

REVIEW: Jason Ferrugia's Renegade Recipe Guide

There are a couple of points about this book.  First off it is not vegan, there are recipes with eggs & honey that I have found in it.  I know at the time of writing Jason was supposed to be a vegan (I'm not sure about now?), so I was hoping for something without any animal products, but there are plenty without, so it's not too hard to find plenty of good recipes.  The second thing that might affect you is that some recipes use ingredients you may not have, not ultra-weird, but unusual like buckwheat flour, that you don't usually have & would have to make a trip out for if you wanted to use the recipes as written.
I got the negatives out of the way first, but apart from those gripes there are a lot of things you might want to try out in here.  I'm not a great one in the kitchen, so cooking isn't really the top of my 'fun things to do' list, but I do like to eat, so having a few new options is always good.
This is simply a recipe guide it isn't like a planned eating system like say the latest precision nutrition plant based eating section, so you will still need to plan your eating using some common sense, but the choices are varied & you are bound to find a few things you like in the collection of goodies available.
Just to give you an idea here's the list of recipes you get:

Breakfasts & Shakes… Page 7

Banana Berry Blast Protein Shake… Page 8
Apple Pie Protein Shake… Page 9
Banana Nut Bread Protein Shake… Page 9
Mocha Rocket Fuel Protein Shake… Page 10
Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Protein Shake… Page 10
Chocolate Chip Mint Protein Shake… Page 11
Tropical Fruit Protein Shake… Page 12
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Protein Shake… Page 13
Orange Creamsicle Protein Shake… Page 13
Pumpkin Pie Protein Shake… Page 14
Pina Colada Protein Shake… Page 15
Almond Butter Cocoa Protein Shake… Page 15
Sweet Potato Pie Protein Shake… Page 16
Vanilla Macadamia Cream Protein Shake… Page 16
The Hardgainer Cure Protein Shake… Page 17
Our Favorite Protein Shake… Page 18
Spicy Tempeh Scramble… Page 19
Southwestern Style Eggs… Page 20
Breakfast Burritos… Page 21
Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes… Page 22
Banana Oatmeal Pancakes… Page 23
Protein Oatmeal Pancakes… Page 24
Almond Butter Cup Hi-Protein Oatmeal… Page 25
Apple Cinnamon Hi-Protein Oatmeal… Page 25
Raisin & Nut Hi-Protein Oatmeal… Page 26
Almond Butter Cup Hi-Protein Oatmeal… Page 27
Apple Cinnamon Hi-Protein Oatmeal… Page 27
Vanilla Blueberry Hi-Protein Oatmeal… Page 28
Frozen Bananas and Strawberries… Page 28
Breakfast Potatoes… Page 29
Almond Butter Toast… Page 30
Breakfast Quinoa… Page 30
Brown Rice Pudding… Page 31
Mint Lassi… Page 32
Trail Mix Bowl… Page 32
Fruit & Nut Bowl… Page 33

Side Dishes & Snacks… Page 35

Sitto’s Hummus… Page 36
Escarole and Beans (side dish)… Page 37
Roasted Root Vegetables… Page 37
Collard Greens… Page 38
Brown Rice and Broccoli…Page 38
Basil Walnut Pesto… Page 39
Paper Bag Roasted Red Peppers… Page 40
Cashew Cream… Page 41
Red Pepper Cashew Cream… Page 41
Steamed Kale with Tahini Dressing… Page 42
Yellow Split Peas and String Beans… Page 43
Mjedherra (lentils with wheat germ and onions)… Page 43
Roasted Spiced Cashews… Page 44
Chickpeas with Wheat Germ and Tomato… Page 45
Baby Bok Choy with Cashews and Ginger… Page 45
Roasted Garlic Toast… Page 46
Kale Chips… Page 46
Roasted Beets with Orange Slices… Page 47
Black Bean Dip… Page 48
Spinach Dip… Page 49
Collard Greens with Slivered Almonds… Page 49
Wild Mushroom Quinoa… Page 50
Fresh Guacamole… Page 51
Yam Fries… Page 52
Creamy Pumpkin Brown Rice… Page 52
Mango Salsa…. Page 53
Italian Spicy Potatoes…. Page 54
White Bean Spread… Page 55
Hummus Quesadillas… Page 55
Artichoke Hearts with Cherry Peppers… Page 56
Vegan Garlic Mashed Potatoes… Page 57
Artichoke Hearts with White Beans and Tomatoes… Page 58
Spicy Brown Rice with Crimini Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions… Page 59
Egg Salad Sandwich… Page 60
Mashed Cauliflower… Page 60
Roasted Tomatoes… Page 61

Salads… Page 63

Vegan Caesar Salad Dressing… Page 64
Quinoa Salad… Page 65
Raw Kale Hempseed Salad… Page 66
Artichoke Heart and Pea Salad… Page 66
Eggplant and Lentil Salad… Page 67
Raw Fennel Orange Salad… Page 68
Tabouleh (Parsley Salad)… Page 69
Warm Chickpea Salad… Page 70
Spicy Watermelon Salad… Page 70
Carrot Almond Salad… Page 71
Broccoli Apple Salad… Page 72
Balsamic Mixed Bean Salad… Page 73
Arugula & Mango Salad… Page 74
Fattoush (Middle Eastern Salad)… Page 75
Summer Cucumber Tomato Salad… Page 76
Warm Black Bean Salad with Oranges… Page 77
Soups & Stews… Page 79
Lentil Soup… Page 80
Yellow Split Pea Soup… Page 81
Spinach Soup… Page 81
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup… Page 82
Curried Red Lentil Stew with Chickpeas and Quinoa… Page 83
Chickpea Soup with Brown Rice and Escarole… Page 84
Barley & Bean Soup… Page 85
Black-Eyed Pea Soup with Lemon and Sage… Page 86
Portobello Mushroom and Swiss Chard Soup… Page 86
Arborio Rice Soup with Cabbage and Beans… Page 87
White Bean Soup with Kale… Page 88
Kale Chowder… Page 89
Cold Cucumber Avocado Soup… Page 90

Pastas & Entrees… Page 91

Spaghetti Marinara… Page 92
Brown Rice Penne with Spicy Tomato & Spinach… Page 93
Pasta with Olive Oil and Sage… Page 93
Brown Rice Pasta with Peas and Mushrooms… Page 94
Eggplant and Kale… Page 95
Spaghetti Marinara… Page 96
Cauliflower with String Beans in Coconut Curry Sauce… Page 97
Roasted Cauliflower Spelt Wraps… Page 98
Tomato Avocado Sandwich… Page 99
Pizza Marinara… Page 100
Brown Rice and Beans… Page 100
Sweet Potato Topped with Black Beans and Kale… Page 101
Portobello Mushroom Steaks… Page 102
Quinoa Burritos… Page 103
Baked Eggplant with Tomatoes… Page 103
Black Bean Soft Tacos… Page 104
Raw Flax Burger… Page 104
Black Bean Burgers… Page 105
TLT (Tempeh Lettuce & Tomato)… Page 106
Gluten-Free Eggplant Parm… Page 107

Desserts… Page 109

Raw Chocolate Pudding… Page 110
Sugar Free “Almost Raw” Chocolate Pudding… Page 110
Hi-Protein Chocolate Mousse… Page 111
Vanilla Mousse… Page 111
Vanilla Cream… Page 112
Sweet Potato Pudding… Page 112
Dessert Butter Bars aka “Cut ‘em & Eat ‘em’s”… Page 113
Raw Pineapple Cheesecake… Page 114
Raw Almond Butter Chocolate Cake… Page 115
Vegan Chocolate Cake… Page 116
Baked Bananas and Raisins… Page 117
Blueberry Pudding… Page 117

If these sound like the kind of thing you want to cook (the pancakes tend to use egg, so they are no good for you - I have been told you can swap in something like gram flour..but what do I know?) you can get the ebook by clicking here

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Monday, 21 November 2011

Dusan Dudas - Vegan Bodybuilder & author

New write-up on the author & bodybuilder Dusan Dudas on the main VBB website - Click here for the full story!

Monday, 7 November 2011

REVIEW: Gym boss interval timer

This is a nifty little device I got a couple of weeks ago now. It isn't perfect, but as a decent, basic interval timer it does the job.

Ok, let's get the bad stuff out of the way. First off it is not that intuitive to use, I've had it several weeks & I still need to read the instructions to set it up (hee hee that might just be me though!), second point is you can only set one work time & one rest time - so you can have up to 99 intervals, but each of those must have the same work times & rest times, for example you could do 2 minutes work & 1 minute rest, but every set will have the same 2 minutes work & one minute rest, so you can't have, say different times for each work or rest set, if you wanted to do for example a 90 second front plank, then a 45 second side plank with one minute rest each time you'd be out of luck.

Those are the bad points, but the good points are that you can set it up to beep & if necessary vibrate (useful for louder gyms or headphone wearers), most often you won't even need different timings, so one rest & one work time is usually ok, you can get handy arm or wrist straps (you can also attach it directly to your clothes if you prefer), once you've set it up it is easy to actually start & stop, you can do up to 99 work sets, for stuff like planks, kettlebells etc it is really great for keeping you honest about time & allows incremental increases in duration, or you can do various forms of density training as you feel the need. In use I found it to be a pretty useful tool when doing timed stuff, the beep is loud enough to hear over music (or if you have ear buds in adding the vibration can help). I've tended to use it mainly for planking work & for timed kettlebell stuff, but I'm sure as time goes on I'll find other uses for it. If you are into any sort of density training it would certainly help with that. It could also just add a little variety into your training if you've not worked in timed intervals before, whether using bodyweight, barbell, or other training tool.

So far I've found it a very useful tool that I'd recommend. It may not be useful to a powerlifter so much, or probably a few other selected sports, but for the average gym goer, or someone looking for a change, or someone presently doing stuff under time, but using a clock on the wall, this is a vastly superior way of doing it in my view as you don't have to compromise your position to check your timing.

Final points are that I have only had this a couple of weeks, it seems to be working fine, but it's obviously not 100% proven durability yet (I need to to knock it about a bit more), oh yea it does have a stopwatch, but I've not used that yet so I'm not sure how well that works (I suspect it will do the job, but I rarely time things like that so I may not be using that for long while, if at all). Oh yea & be warned it comes in several colours including pink for all you guys who don't to be seen with a pink timer, so check what colour you are getting before you buy (mine is black just like in the picture).

Amazon is probably the easiest place to get hold of it, just go to their site & do a search for 'gymboss' & loads will come up, I found buying the wrist band & arm band added a couple of pounds sterling to the cost, but it was a free shipping item, so it was worth buying them all at once for me (although I've found I've not really needed either of the bands it is nice to know I've got them if I do need them.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

West Midlands Vegan Festival 2011

I've done a full write-up of our day on the VBB website so simply click here to read about the full adventure!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

REVIEW: B-extreme DVD

This video had a lot of moves on it, it showed versions of many dips, pull-ups, flag variations & other bodyweight exercises all performed out doors in a park playground.  It did stop & show you a few moves.  Four moves to be precise; the push-up, the pull-up, the dip & the incredible (a form of muscle-up).  The DVD also gave you a taster of the warm-up they do before they start training, but most of the DVD was clips of moves.
To be honest this was not the sort of video I like.  When there are fancy moves I want to see progressions, how did the person get from a basic dip to a fancy swinging round the bar with a flip style of dip.  Obviously they didn't just master the basic dip, then rush off & do the fancier moves, they progressed slowly from one move to the next, & it is this progression that actually interests me most.  I'm sure people already into this 'playground training' idea will find some useful additions on this video, some ideas to try out & experiment  with, but for a beginners I can see problems as they have no way of moving from level one to master, they don't supply a plan of attack.

The DVD had a lot going for it.  The camera usage & the way it was edited was good, it really gave a 'street' feel to the production, I also did think the music worked ok (although I'm more a metal head myself), but I think what it did lack was a decent progressive system.  Maybe that was not what the video was aimed at providing, it was more a motivational piece, but in this era of youtube you get find motivation easily, but decent instruction is still a rare thing & something I hunt for everyday.
So, if you're after a motivational video with some quite fancy bodyweight moves being done on everyday playground equipment, then this will be a great buy, but if you're looking for progressive training on how to achieve those fancy moves, then this may not be the place to look.

To get hold of B-extreme Click here

Training as play

Here's an important point that many, many trainees & trainers miss.  For the short term anything goes, if you have to drop a dress size in the next four weeks for a special day, then yes working at things you may not like is fine.  However, if your goal is long term training, with long term results (& it should be), then what you're doing must be fun for you!

Look into the average gym & what do you see?  You see lines of cardio machines with TVs or other things to distract you from what you are doing, why?  Let's be honest trotting along on a treadmill is boring, we nearly all hate it (obviously women like Robyn Flores are the exception here as she chooses to do 24 hour treadmill runs!). 

For long term gains you need to find something you like doing & are actually willing to program into your life.  There are so many options, from Olympic to power lifting, from bodyweight callisthenics (which can be very challenging), through to swimming, biking or jogging.  You can have the best exercise in the world, but if you aren't enjoying doing it, then you simply will not stick to it, so find something that fits you.

Here's an example of what I mean.  Think of something you did as a child that was hard, it could have been learning a handstand, riding a bike, learning to whistle with your fingers.  There must have been something that you found really hard & so decided to shut the door, or go into the garden (whatever) & stick at it until you mastered the skill?  Maybe it took you a few days work, maybe a month?  Even if it took just a few hours, what you did was hard work, just because you wanted to get that was FUN to do, even though it was hard to do.  Training should be like that, often it's pretty simple, but it shouldn't be easy.  That's a pair of terms that confuse people.  'Simple' & 'easy'.  No, you can't get the body of a Greek god(ess) with 5 minutes on the latest infomercial piece of junk, no it won't be easy to lose your fat, no it won't be easy to add that muscle.  What it can be is simple, but to stick at it, then you have to find something you actually like doing.

Hence I think workouts should be play.  Look at a bunch of guys powerlifting, sure they are loud, rude & kind of competitive, but you will soon see they are are actually having fun!  The same can be said with many athletes, making the workout fun is a vital attribute to achieving compliance from a trainee.  If a type of training, no matter how good, bores a trainee, then they will find every way under the sun to avoid doing it, but if you can find something a trainee finds fun, then you've got a consistently training person & so they will be much more likely to achieve their goals.

So, my advice is to find a type of training you enjoy to do & find a challenge.  This is not an excuse to go easy on yourself, it should actually be a way to make you work harder, as reaching new heights in your chosen training arena should become the challenge.

Keep training fun & you should keep coming back for more!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

REVIEW: Staley/Pavel Strength seminar

This is a seminar from 2006, but I only got the chance to see it recently. It's a pretty expensive buy from the US, but a friend found a cheap copy in Oz & so I finally had a chance to see this 2 DVD set.

If you've got any interest in training & are vegan or veggie you may not like Charles Staley's nutritional view. When he was with Iron radio he was a member of PETA (Please Eat The Animals, not the other one) & some of his more controversial out bursts may have tainted your view on him. That being said, I'd suggest you open your mind his training views.  His 'big idea' EDT (escalating density training) is a very useful way to train many clients (or yourself) if you are looking for physique changes. The basic premise is pretty simple, so as an example lets take a kettlebell snatch (as that was used in the seminar), you do sets of 5 for fifteen minutes, once you can no longer do sets of 5, drop to sets of 4, then set of 3 when you can no longer do 4, down to sets of 1 rep if you have to. You rest as much as you need between sets, but stop at 15 minutes. The idea is to do more reps each time you repeat that 15 minute workout over the weeks. Obviously there's a lot more to it than that, but that is the framework. You must keep the form tight, but that's really it, doing more in a set time frame. He also teaches Olympic lifting (I will be reviewing another Staley seminar, this time on Olympic lifting quite soon). Staley is a clear speaker & has quite a few training ideas you might find useful...I just wouldn't ask him any nutritional advice or he might annoy you a bit!

Pavel Tsatsouline (generally just called Pavel) is someone who knows movement. He's best known for kettlebells, but he's worked with powerlifters, sports people, fighters etc., basically everyone out there. He does have 'his style' which is stories about Russia & thankfully doesn't use the whole 'comrade' term as much as he used to (I find it a little off-putting). He has some very insightful thoughts on training & fixing training issues (I wish I was as fast, for me I often have to sit down & think about things before an answer comes to me). Some of the ideas like "Same but different", that is instead of doing a whole pile of different exercises find a few & try variation. So, using deadlift as an example, you could do conventional deadlift, sumo, rack pulls, standing on blocks, using bands or chains, using a trap bar, using a Jefferson lift or hack deadlift (I didn't even think of the last 2 myself & I've thought about deadlift a little!) can improve your lift, as they work the same motor pathways, but are different, so SAME motor patheways, DIFFERENT exact movement, so you will continue to improve, without risking overuse & not risk boredom either, the important point is not to pick just any movement, but one that works a weak point in your lift. Even hand position (for example a snatch grip), or foot position (sumo, conventional, close stance) also can be used just to make things a little different & so you can reap rewards.

There was a lot in this seminar. I will be watching it again I suspect as it was an information dense product. I enjoyed it quite a lot & learnt quite a few things I can put into practice in the near future.

You can get hold of the seminar at Dragon door (or you can do like mate & search about for a cheaper copy as they are out there).

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

REVIEW: The Naked Warrior by Pavel Tsatsouline

I read this book in a day! That’s not because it’s especially short, but it was a compulsive read! I’ll start with the one annoying feature. Pavel’s sales pitch is being ‘the Russian’, so selling to the American market, he uses words like ‘Comrade’, & has phases like ‘the Party line’, a play on the old USSR communist ideology (which was actually about as communist as ex-British Prime Minister Margret Thatcher!), but I digress. Yes, he does do a lot of that ‘commi-talk’ which I don’t enjoy really & actually made me take him less seriously than I should have for a long time.

With that said on with the book. The idea sounds almost overly simple. Take 2 bodyweight exercises & focus on those to build strength. In this case he uses the one arm push-up & the pistol (a pistol is a one leg squat with the non-working leg stuck out in front – you kind of look like a pistol, hence the name). This doesn’t sound like it would be a very long book, nor would that many find that interesting (unless you want to do those specific moves), but it’s actually not about those moves as such! What it’s actually about is how to display strength using various techniques of breathing, body tension & movement cues. This is why this book will work for many athletes, whether they are weightlifters, powerlifters, athletes or fighters. Yes, you are learning 2 movements in this book, but you can apply this knowledge to ANY lift & many athletic endeavours (any that require strength). It is a technique book, not an exercise book & so the rules found in here can be applied to a whole range of strength-related activities.

I read convict conditioning only the other day & this is another bodyweight book – in this case whereas Paul Wade was against the use of external load at all, Pavel has the view that you can & probably should mix both weights & bodyweight to get the best of both. I think I agree with this idea. Also Pavel is focussed upon building strength for the word go with low rep work, Wade starts with more high rep & works towards strength, a view that Pavel thinks is incorrect ‘you can’t build strength from muscular endurance exercises’ sums up Pavel’s view of training. I do tend to side more with Pavel than Wade on this, but that is purely my personal preference rather than absolute knowledge. I know that harder low rep stuff is more exciting to me than pumping out 50 reps of something, so accept I am biased & I do know some people who can do both high reps & high strength moves (like many push-ups & some strict one arm push-ups), but did one build the other or did they learn one, then learn the other? I’m not sure?

So, if what you are after is learning a one arm push-up (or you could even try the one arm/one leg push-up) & the pistol (with bodyweight or weighted both are covered) then this book will be for you. If you want to learn some of the tricks that allow you to display maximum strength in your sport then this will be the book for you.

The book is called the ‘Naked Warrior’, so it is saying you can do it anywhere, anytime & need no equipment, but given the choice I would have added the one arm chin-up to the mix. I know that ruins the whole ‘no equipment’ rule as you need something to chin from, but then you’d have a more rounded out program in my view. That is the ‘big 3’ of the bodyweight world, yes, there are harder exercises, but everyone understands that a one arm chin is hard, a one arm push-up is hard & a pistol is hard, if you can do them with good form then you have got to be considered ‘strong’ by any honest standard of strength. Hence I think you are missing something without the hard pull that a one arm chin-up gives you. That is my only gripe really, I’d have included that as well.

I did enjoy the book (barring the whole ‘comrade’ stuff I mentioned at first), as I said I read it in one day & found it a clear guide to some techniques we can all include into our training whatever our field.

That’s about it, it’s a good read, it’s useful & you will probably learn a trick or 2 that will increase your strength if you add them in to your training.

If you're interested in the book you can pop over to dragondoor & get yourself a copy.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

REVIEW: Power DVD by Jimmy Smith & Joe DeFranco

I've just watched the new DVD from Jimmy Smith (of diesel crew) & Joe DeFranco. Their first product together was the amped warm-up DVD Both DeFranco & Smitty are what I think of as motivational trainers. They often don't offer too much that is astounding or new, but they are really good at getting something special from their athletes. If you are new to developing power in your own workout or in people you train then this will be an eye opener. If you've studied training for a while you will probably pick up a move or two. Mainly you get a whole lot of motivation & drive to get to the gym & train yourself or your athletes! I think both DeFranco & Smitty share that same gift of firing up their clients & this comes across in their DVD presentations as well. The DVD is broken down into upper body, lower body, full body & it does really cover a wide range of movements quite quickly with the minimum of fuss. If you're looking for a Gary Gray style explanation of movement patterns this won't be the DVD for you, but if you want a decent list of movements that will develop athletically usable power on the field then this might be the tool for you. I really enjoyed watching this product as I sometimes like to turn off the more cerebral portion of the brain, just get down to to the "Here's some moves that will make you flipping strong!". You don't need to know what muscle inserts where, what tendon is attached where, just pick up the big thing & carry it, throw it or lift it over your head! You will learn how to do all that as safely as you can with this DVD. Basically this is a blue print for building a big 'Mofo' with the where-with-all to run at you & knock you over like a freight train! If you're interested in the Power DVD you can check it out at:

Vitashine vitamin D3 spray

I've just received my first batch of Vitashine Vitamin D3 spray a few days ago, so I thought I'd give you a quick write-up as this is (to my knowledge) the first vegan D3 available in the UK. I know you may have several questions. First off what is the difference between the vegan vitamin D that you can get now (D2) & this newer product which is D3. I won't get all technical as these days you can look up details like that on wikipedia, but the basics are that D2 is a type of vitamin D available from some plants (like mushrooms exposed to UV rays), this is not identical to the vitamin D you have in your bodies; it is close, but not identical, whereas vitamin D3 is identical to the vitamin your body produces. Some studies have pointed out that vitamin D2 may not be as efficiently utilised as D3 in the body - the studies are mixed in this regard. I know there are some people making big claims about the "dangers" of D2, these are false judging by most of the research out there...but most studies that show a difference tend to show that vitamin D3 works much more efficiently in the body because it's the same stuff you make yourself, so it is going to be used in the best manner.

So, with that said I chose the move to vit D3 as it seemed to me that using a vitamin that replicates the bodies own vitamin (rather than a near copy) might give me better results in terms of assimilation & utilisation. Vitamin D is not like a creatine, or a stimulant; you won't get an immediate buzz or gain 5 pounds of muscle weight in a week, although if you are very low you might get some strength gains. Vitamin D for the athlete does everything it does for 'normal' people, stronger bones, stronger teeth, etc, but some other factors also come into play a little more than the average person. The main asset, in my view, about vitamin D is immune normalisation. Many studies have shown that vitamin D can boost lowered immune systems & as athletes one of our problems is we do compromise our immune systems by training very hard, very frequently & in some cases we diet on top of that! I don't care how 'fit' you are, fitness & health are not identical terms & often to get fit for our chosen activity we are forced to compromise on our ability to fight off infection. Vitamin D is great for aiding the immune system in 'bouncing back' & so could aid you in fighting off that infection, also in some studies it appears that diseases like influenza (real flu, not those sniffles you had the other day) could be harder to catch with a higher level of vitamin D than is average today - that 'could' also work with other viruses, I've not found studies, but it would make sense. Other factors are low vitamin D can affect cardiovascular health, so bear that in mind as in some studies many people in the UK & US have been found to be low in this vital vitamin. You can have a test if you are particularly worried, but for the vast majority taking between 1-2,000 IUs a day will keep them at a reasonable vitamin D level.

So, for a few squirts of this vitamin D you'll get an improved immune system response, improved bone & teeth, as vitamin D can affect on your hormones you could get an improved hormone profile, so I'd suggest you take it if you have any concerns about your vitamin D levels.

Let's get to usage of the product - it was pretty easy to use, just open your mouth & squirt. Even I couldn't go very wrong with that one! It does have a very slight taste of oil that lasts for a few seconds, if you really can't stand the taste of oil I suppose you could squirt it into a fake milk or onto food, I've not tried that, but I can't see why you couldn't. I actually liked the product quite a bit & asked them if they'd be interested in giving us a few of their products to give to the winners of our contests which they agreed to do. As I said you won't take one squirt & then be ready to step onto the bodybuilding stage, but it could help you get less illness, so train more consistently, so make more gains, so achieve your goals more quickly, it could also affect bone & teeth health in a positive way which again can only be a good thing. All in all I'd say it was worth at least giving it a go if you have any concerns about your vitamin D levels. Right now (in the UK) you are at your highest levels of vitamin D if you've been out in the sun WITHOUT sunscreen (sunscreen blocks the bodies ability to produce vitamin D), but even so from here until summer 2012 your levels will be falling unless you take some action right now & keep those levels nice & high. What's more it may mean less illness over the winter months & so by summer 2012 you'll be looking pretty awesome with 6 months of consistent training under your belt!

If you're interested you can check out vitashine at

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

REVIEW: Convict Conditioning by Paul Wade

I’ve just finished reading the book ‘Convict conditioning’.  It was an interesting read...but....the author had some unfounded views about both using external weights & bodyweight exercise.  Let’s look at some of his views (I am paraphrasing his views below):

VIEW: Bodyweight exercise makes ones joints stronger & healthier for life, whereas weight training destroys joints.
RESPONSE: Well, not necessarily, if you’ve known any gymnasts then you will realise that they are more often than not suffering wrecked joints & most use ONLY body weight exercise, they also suffer unbalanced development between muscles pretty much universally, so using bodyweight alone will not guarantee healthy joints.

VIEW: Body weight is a natural way to move ergo it is superior.
RESPONSE: SOME body weight exercises move the body in a natural way, so something like a squat would be a normal way to move to the body, but would the same thing be true of a walking on the hands?  When in nature did a human walk on their hands, or do a planché push-up, or do as the author has done a one hand handstand push-up.  In nature these things are not done, so if only move done in nature should be done, then these should not be done.

VIEW: Weights are not used in nature, so as you are never exposed to them in nature you should not be exposed to them in training.
RESPONSE: This is false.  Let’s give some examples.  I want to move a big rock, it’s in my way.  I pick it up!  I meet an awful guy who comes into my house & wants to abuse my family.  I fight him, throw him about a bit, lift him up & chuck him out of my home!  My friend falls off a cliff, he’s hanging on for dear life, I grab his arm & rescue him.  I’m a hero!  In nature you carry children, sick people to safety, food & supplies...the list is endless & humans have done it since we first became upright.  Carrying stuff, moving stuff, even heavy stuff is as nature to a human as moving their own body.

On the plus side I would say he is right about the need to be able to display strength & being able to use the body is important.  I would say if you can’t do push-ups, full squats & pull-ups at the very least, then you need to spend some time learning to use your body.  I have seen massive guys who can’t do anything, sometimes they can’t even lift their arms over their heads as they have damaged their bodies so much through improper weight training over many years (often they focussed on the ‘T-shirt muscles’).   I do believe that you build a decent physique using bodyweight alone, but I believe you can also do that by including weights as well (yes even the odd machine if you wish to).
So, to sum up I found the book useful in terms of which exercises you can do, the progressions & methodology, but on the other I found it a little too zealot, he was certain he was right & everyone else was wrong, his was the only right way.  Well in truth anyone who says that is actually wrong.  Not every athlete today is a steroid user, I know many who are not, but are as good, if not better than any old-time athlete in their field as they combine modern nutrition, with modern pre-hab, screening & training to produce a better result than they knew how to achieve years ago-I’m sorry but it is true!   Most, if not all use weight training to achieve strength, then skill training to attain maximum performance.  Could you use body weight training & skill training to achieve the same results?  Maybe in some cases, but some of the progressions would be no good in some cases, it depends on the sport & the movement in question, so the answer is not as easy as it sounds.  The idea of building strength, then displaying strength is not new.  The author states that’s body weight exercise was around when the Greeks where training.  Well so was lifting external weights!  In fact the most famous story in weight training is about the Greek wrestler Milo.  He was unbeatable (by all the other wrestlers who I presume just did calisthenics), his secret?  He carried a baby bull everyday on his shoulders around an arena & as it slowly grew, so he became stronger, yes he used progressive resistance with an external weight!  I know that’s not a very ethical story (using an animal), but it does demonstrate that the Greeks understood that external loads where important.  Further more in every culture where strength is admired they tend to use external loads as well as body weight movements.  In Japanese martial arts they use heavy club-like tools, in Indian wrestling they use heavy maces, in colder climates lifting ‘manhood stones’, in other cultures heavy stone throwing for distance, the list goes on!  I did a quick google search as I seemed to remember that even in ancient Egypt they practiced a form of weight lifting & sure enough it seems there is evidence that they did!  So my view is that both body movement & weights make the best combination of exercises for a human & have done at least as long as we’ve had methods of recording information!

To prove my point himself the author on page 26 talks about John Grimek.  Yes John did do some bodyweight movements, he was very gymnastic.  He was also a World class weightlifter & bodybuilder.  He was in fact known to practice “1001 exercises”, from the old time bent press (yes ‘bent’, not ‘bench’), to Olympic weightlifting, to curling a barbell & was even deadlifting a decent weight well into old age, he could also walk on his hands, tumble & do other gymnastic feats.  So, the author actually proves the point that weights plus learning to use the body correctly is actually a good method to achieve results.  The other example is Doug Hepburn who again started lifting weights & went on to Olympic fame as a weightlifter, so it was the bodyweight/weights combination that appeared to work best for him as well – as a side note Doug later in his life set some records for lifting when over 70 years old as a strict vegetarian that as far as I know have yet to be beaten.

Having said all that I do think the book is worth reading.  You do not have to swallow the dogma of the author, but you can use the exercises, progressions & ideas in your training!  Plus let’s face it, doing a one arm chin, a planché push-up or walking on your hands does look pretty cool to most people!

OK let’s get to the good part of the book.  The exercises & progressions!  First off these are all pretty good.  Even those in post rehab should be able to do most of the easier progressions (as normal check with your medical advisor first) & you can move on to some really advanced progressions that will challenge just about anyone.
The exercises are broken down into 6.  These are the push-up, the squat, the pull-up, the straight leg raise, the bridge & the handstand push-up.

The progressions are broken into 10, so each of those 6 exercises start with a dead easy version that most people can do, then each of the 10 variations get slightly harder until you reach a REALLY hard ‘Master step’ (as it’s called, the hardest version possible).  So in the book you get 60 exercises fully explained with photos & written descriptions, along with that you get a whole pile of variations to do if you feel like a change & also some variations to go beyond the ‘master step’ once that is mastered.  So, basically you get a LOT of information for your money.  In the end the author does the pragmatic thing & does include details about how to add to bodyweight moves to a program using weights.  This is great as most of his audience will be iron-heads so it makes sense to include that even if the author does not agree with their use.

Overall, if you ignore rhetoric & focus on the training it is a good book.  I know you seem to need a ‘hook’ for products these days, so I suggest you ignore the title, ignore the rhetoric , but take the training seriously as it could be useful for you.  Finally if you are looking for a bodyweight exercise program, then this would be a good option.  For those who train with weights it gives you a reasonable ‘game plan’ for adding in some bodyweight stuff that will challenge you over time.
My final point is do what the book says & start with level 1 even if you can do more & spend say at least 4 weeks on every level before moving on (as you progress you may need more than 4 weeks before progressing up a level,  but probably not for the first few levels if you are healthy).  I think the program is pretty good & you should get good results. You’ll also be able to impress your friends with some fun bodyweight ‘tricks’ like 1 arm chins, 1 arm push-ups & other cool stunts!

On a (kind of) unrelated point it's also good to support vegans if they end up in prison (easily done with the draconian laws they have these days), so pop over to the Vegan Prisoners Support Group & help vegans in prison get ethical food choices, toiletries, clothing etc.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

REVIEW: Dan John's Intervention DVD set

Check out Intervention for yourself here (or if you're round my way & have 4 hours spare we can sort out a viewing for you :-)

I thought I’d try something a little bit different as I thought that maybe you’d like to see some of the training-related products I buy or people I know have purchased & I get to see. These products range from bodybuilding, powerlifting, strongman & related subjects, through nutrition & recovery therapies. I try to spend about an hour a day either reading or viewing something from the above subject (often more than one as I swap from product to product as the mood takes me-I’m a little ADD when it comes to training stuff!).

So, for my first review of products I think I’ll do Dan John’s DVD set called “Intervention”. This isn’t a vegan product, but a training product. Intervention is a 3 disc set where Dan first explains his philosophy then puts selected people through some movements he believes are especially important. To sum it up Dan repeats himself a lot, he preaches pretty basic lifting & he doesn’t blow your mind with a fantastic Latin vocabulary as he talks about muscles & movement. To put it into one sentence I like Dan John a lot! All his training ideas make sense (to a basic guy like me anyway), his ideas can all be backed up with common sense (if you haven’t picked up something heavy & carried it before then do that, you WILL get stronger & become a better athlete). A lot of vegans won’t like his dietary ideas (I don’t) & the velocity diet is not the most nutritional sound idea I’ve ever heard of, but it’s his training ideas I like. So, who should get the Intervention DVD? If you want to get strong I’d suggest you get it. It may not be the best fat loss package as you’d need a dietary side covered in more detail, but the training would benefit a lot of ladies & gents looking to lose fat.

I think even athletes like runners, cyclists etc will benefit from this (yes even you need to weight train as well I’m afraid). This would be ideal for any sports person, any beginner strongman or lady, or a beginner in any strength activity. It could also be useful as a change of pace for those into specific strength sports like powerlifting, Olympic lifting etc if you need a change for a cycle during your off-season. As I said also those wishing to lose fat could be helped if you included a whole food vegan diet into the mix as you’d lose fat & add muscle which would make you look awesome!

You can see if you like Dan’s style by nipping over to & seeing if he’s the type of guy you want to hear speak for quite a few hours!

Anyway, as this is a little bit of a expansion of the blog including some reviews let me know what you think? Do you want more of the same, less? Let me know below! Assuming people don’t demand I stop doing reviews I’ll keep adding them as I finish watching/reading them so you can keep up with what’s new & exciting in the way of information in the training world.

Oh yea as a final side note I’m doing these off my own back. To keep things real & allow me to be ‘cutting’ when necessary I do not intend to affiliate or get any inducement from any product reviewed. They will all be stuff either me or my friends have bought so any view I express will be my true feeling on the matter- if that upsets some people then so be it (as I’ve seen some dire products out there – shake weight anyone!). So just to be clear I will make nothing from any review, ever, period! Just so you know.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

London vegan festival 2011 write-up

Click here to get the full write-up of the days events & the results of the shoulder press contest(you might even find out how Matt lost his clothes :-)

Below I'd like to highlight the main sponsors of the shoulder press contest. If you're looking for these types of products go & check them out as they are helping to build our community!

Viridian vitamins - top quality vitamins & other supplements, one of the best around

Fitness Superstore - for all you training equipment needs

Good Hemp Nutrition - UK grown hemp protein powder

V-pure - makers of an algae-based DHA/EPA pill (great for cell repair & recovery)

Friday, 5 August 2011

CONTEST! London Vegan Festival

The latest news is we have a last minute event at this years London Vegan Festival 2011 We have a dumbbell shoulder press contest with females lifting an 8Kg dumbbell for repetitions & males lifting a 16Kg dumbbell for repetitions. The winners will be the one's doing the most repetitions. The contest will be at 2.45 in the main hall.
Main sponsors of the event are:
Fitness Superstore
Good Hemp Nutrition
Viridian vitamins
& as usual we'll try & get everyone who enters a prize on the day!
So hopefully I'll see you all there on Sunday 21 August at Kensington Town Hall W8 7NX pop along to the stall & either enter the contest or come along & cheer them on at the main stage 2.45!


We've just had confirmation of the exact prizes we are getting from fitness superstore

So, for the male & female winner to share we have:

pull-up bar with handles

65cm pilates/stability ball

That's along with a choice of 1Kg tub of either choc or strawberry hemp protein powder from Good Hemp Nutrition

A bottle of DHA/EPA pills from v-pure

& some selected supplements from viridian

Those are for the male & female winners - we will try to make sure everyone who enters has a prize on the day!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Post rehab at last!

Finally I'm ready to return to training that's not pure rehab. Unfortunately, I've run into a few issues. I've had to deal with - The main issue is training enthusiasm, it's hard to keep the weight on the bar down! At the moment my strength is still well above my stability in both the shoulder & the back, so although the prime movers can lift the load, I'm basically begging for a injury if I let things loose & heave up the old iron. So (for a change) I've decided to play it a little bit smarter & focus on the issues at hand.
As I said my stability was an issue so I've decided I can limit the amount lifted & still work up into quite challenging training by adding instability to my training for a cycle, I've also decided that in my core work I will return to adding flexion moves into my training (crunches, sit-ups etc). I haven't done them for ages due mainly to reading the work of Stuart McGill & others who put forward valid arguments against them....but despite the logic it seems in practice (for me at least) that a wider, less tight gut & it coincided with my only back injury ever, after going the best part of a year without any flexion for the core area, so they are back in the mix. This doesn't mean the planks, roll-outs, bird dogs etc are gone, they just share the spot-light & I'll be monitoring flexion reps, so intensity over repetitions will be the key, keep those reps low & the intensity high.
So, on with the show...

The Shrug bar

This is my shrug bar (trap bar, parallel grip deadlift bar or whatever else you'd like to call it). It's got 2 sets of grips, so you have a normal 1" grip or you can turn it over & it has a 2" grip handles if you prefer. I also have some bits you can add on & make it 7 foot, so it fits nicely into a power rack.
This is the first type of deadlift I'm doing. As you don't need to do that 'bar wiggle' to get the bar around your knees like you need to with a straight bar & the weight is more centred it makes for an easier lift. I've also been doing upright shrugs with it as well on a rack.

I've found some unusual ways to use the shrug bar as well. One I'm going to be using for a while will be the unstable shoulder press.

My training area is kind of small, so these pictures can be a little hard to make out, but in a nut shell the shrug bar has the talons added (that extend it to 7 feet), then it's put on the safety squat rack, then you add some weights to the bar, but the weights are hung from resistance bands

The band is double knotted - yes I was starting off with 1Kg on the bar, embarrassing, but add a little every week & starting extra light are the best idea when coming back from an injury.

I find using the 2" grip handles of the shrug bar are good for this one as it sits comfortably in the hand & makes the height perfect for me.

Other stuff

You have to watch your shoulder rotation while you get back that strength/stability you need, so I tend to use a safety squat bar for anything that involves the bar on the back. For a cycle or 2 this will be my main bar for any work where the you put stuff on your back

This is my safety squat bar, some bits that aren't obvious are where you add the weights is set slightly forward, so as you add weight the bar 'locks' onto your shoulders. You do not even need to hold the bar for it to stay on your back!

Note, in the picture above how the 'prongs' that go over the shoulder naturally dip downwards. The more weight you add the tighter the bar 'grips' the shoulder. For anyone with shoulder issues these bars are a god-send!

On the picture above you can clearly see that when the weights hang straight down the prongs are dipped.

This bar is great for anything where you need a bar on your back. One think to bear in mind. As the weight is slightly forward of a normal back squat position, if you squat it actually feels more like a front squat (or maybe mid-way between a front & back squat feeling?). For stuff like calf raises you can hold the uprights for extra safety if necessary, for split squats you can grab a side rail or the upright if balance goes. You can also do a modified form of eccentric training by going down using only legs, but using legs & an arm pull to aid the standing portion of the lift.

As well as relying heavily on those two bars I'll be experimenting with other ways to lighten the load & focus on the stabilisers rather than the prime movers for a cycle or two, so unstable push-ups (on low gymnastic rings, stability ball or other unstable surface), sand bag work (so shoulder & squat, shoulder & press, maybe even curl the thing, who knows?), I'll be testing out some thick bar work to see if I can develop the same intensity as a heavier weight on a normal bar (I have got the hand size of a young girl, so we'll see how that one goes!). As I recover maybe even unstable bench press (adding weights similar to how I loaded the shrug bar above, so hanging from elastic resistance bands - or I have some ultra-hardcore looking chains I could hang from those). I've also been doing a load of shrug variation to improve scapulae function, so traditional upright shrug, bent over (Kelso) shrug, chin bar shrug (various grips), push-up shrug (shrugging in the push-up position - the chin & push-up style can be done with a weight vest for a fun variation or a dip belt for the chin versions add resistance as necessary) & I'm trying out some other stuff for this week before I settle on a cycle to really dig in & get some rewards from a strong stabilising system, then begin the real work of getting my strongest ever for 2012!

I don't think you need to do this to get well. Doing l-flyes, some band/strand style pulls & some other classic rehab stuff will work the shoulders, planks, bird dogs, moving up to Turkish get-ups will certainly help rebuild the back. I'm basically adding this in for variety & to keep things interesting. Having to juggle light shrug bar where the weight is bouncing around on bands is somewhat challenging when you have a shoulder stability issue on the mend, whereas pushing up a light shrug bar can be a real de-motivator. So this is a fun exercise, I'm going to enjoy. I just thought you'd be interested in some of the less usual ways I'm approaching the recovery from my setbacks I've had this year.
Any questions, ideas or anything else then post below

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Vegan Strength Nutrition

OK, just in case you've missed them (as I'm asked quite a lot) on the VBB website there are several guides. I'm including some here. Bear in mind that this is a starting place, from there you monitor your results, as obviously you metabolism, your activity levels, your exact goals etc will all play a part in your overall results. So these are not exact formulas you have to follow to the letter, they are guidelines, or to be more accurate guesses based on scientific research, some variation is to be expected, so monitor to make sure you are heading towards your goals.
Anyway I'll put up the eating program below, this won't get you into contest shape if you're a bodybuilder, nor get you to the powerlifting finals as those require a more personalised approach, but they will get you going towards your goals of more muscle mass or less fat.

Vegan Strength Nutrition 2
You can download your own copy to keep or print out here

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A Slightly unforseen logo design gaff :-)

First off I will say we did have the design way before this product came out...but someone pointed this out to me.
First look at the VBB logo:

Focus on the letter "I"

Now look at this:

or for how you'd really look:

That's right the VBB logo appears to have a 'shake weight' on it! :-). Is that kind of ironically cool, or just plain silly, I'm not sure? (but I now have some idea what my 'friends' will probably be buying me next xmas :-)

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Nutrition for activists

I've written a few flyers for talks I've done.  I thought you might be interested in reading them.  The first was a basic guide to eating for hunt saboteurs (but could be used by many activists).  It was given out during a talk a did earlier in the year.  To view the short piece below you need a browser that can read HTML 5 (so if you're having issues download the latest version of MS Explorer, Firefox or whichever browser you prefer), it should also be readable by most phones using android or similar
Nutrition for Sabs

If you cannot read the above or want to download, but are finding it hard you can download a Word version of the document here (right click & 'Save file as')

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Xmas Back Injury 2010

This is a very personal post about my Christmas injury.  On the 27th December I bent over & suffered a bad back trauma.  This was the second time in as many months I’d suffered an injury to the back.
I began digging into the research & resources all about back issues, the causes of back pain & possible corrections for my condition (NOTE: I’m not a medical professional.  I am a qualified massage therapist & personal trainer, so any actions I use to correct my perceived issues may not be suitable for you.  Always run any exercise program past your medical adviser before you use them).
First off I discovered an interesting fact.  In an acute injury, the injury often recovers at the same rate whatever protocol you use.  That is whether you go to a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, or just use pain killers & bed rest; many acute injuries (one’s that clear up quickly) tend to take the same amount of time to recover whatever you do.  So, the person who said to you “Wow! I went to this person & I was better within 2 weeks!” is just as likely to have improved at the same rate with no intervention at all!  You can get pain relief by using other protocols, but not improved healing on an acute injury.  Chronic injuries are different (injuries lasting 3 months or more), these do seem to be affected by manipulation, possibly acupuncture & several other protocols. 
The real issue with an acute back injury is what you do after recovery as re-injury is much more common if you do nothing.  So, what are the issues that arise in acute back injury - that is a back injury where the pain goes within a few weeks- we are NOT talking about chronic back injury here.  Although some of the advice below may help a chronic back sufferer, see an expert & run it by them as some conditions can be made worse by inappropriate exercise.  First off are the multifidus muscles that run up the spine.  There is some speculation (with research to back it up...but not absolute proof) that these muscles can be oddly affected by injury.  In the area of an injury the fast twitch muscle fibres of the multifidus appear to shrink (the fast twitch muscles are the ones that react quickly & strongly to any change), the muscle also begins to get hyper-stimulated & so are more activated than they need to be (again ONLY in the area of the injury).
For those who don’t know what the multifidus muscles are.  They are a whole group of muscles that run up each side of the spine, they kind of grip one vertebrae to another all the way from the top to the bottom (sometimes they cross two or more vertebrae).  They are one of the main groups of muscles that facilitate spinal movement.  You can only really feel them down by your waistline (& a little above), they are bands of muscle each side of the spine, but as they go up other muscles sit on top of them, so you cannot feel them directly anymore.  So think about it, if these guys are ‘gluing’ your spine together & helping to support the skeletal frame & they only cross one or two vertebrae, then what happens when one gets injured, shrinks & get’s hyper-stimulated?  It will be pulling inappropriately when it doesn’t need to & it will not be able to react to a sudden movement like bending over, twisting or even reacting to a sharp change in balance.  Also remember this will happen on ONE SIDE of your spine only, so what does the other side do, what do the structures immediately above & below do, what happens to the whole spinal support structure?  That depends really on where it is, how bad it is & what you actual do.  There is worse to come.  Apparently the multifidus muscle has this weird atrophy that shrinks the fast twist muscle & it does not appear to rebuild very easily without specific work, which is bad...but it CAN be rebuilt, which is VERY good news!
As well as the multifidus you have to look at the other muscles of the body.  So, checking out glute & hamstring strength (especially left to right asymmetries), hip flexor tightness, adductor tightness, internal-external hip rotation, quadratus lumborum (QL) tightness (again left to right differences can be common here).
In my own case I found the following:
  •          Tight right QL
  •          Weak right glute
  •          Weak right Hamstring
  •          Some anterior pelvic tilt
  •          Some multifidus asymmetries (my bird dog had gone to pot)
So, that’s what I found when I was able to test myself after the second incident.  I believe the first back issue (caused by a poor deadlift) actually caused some multifidus issues, but prior to that I had been developing some left to right asymmetries for some time, pushing much more on the left side than the right.  This was mainly due (I believe) to some nerve damage I have on my right big toe that makes balance a little harder that side & so the body is shying away from fully committing to that side during the big lifts?
So what exactly happened on the 27th December?
OK I will bare all (literally) in these pictures below.
In both pictures I am attempting to stand up straight without flexing.  The pictures are taken on the morning of the 28th Dec & the 2nd Jan. Within 6 days I am back to near symmetry!
Here’s what are you seeing on the 27th December photo?  The right hip is being raised by an ultra tight QL, you can’t see this so clearly, but the spine is completely flattened when seen from the side (no I’m not putting up side shoots as I was naked!  You’ll just have to trust me), the lower spine lost all extension all the spine looked completely flat when seen from the side top to bottom.  The spine took on a scoliosis-like look as it literally appeared to snake up my back, the left shoulder & scapula are raised.  The glutes ‘disappeared’ (again seen better from the side, but I think you can see this well enough here).  The whole back lost any muscle tone, the lats switched off as well – this is the first time I’ve actually witnessed muscles being visibly inhibited & structure being visibly altered in such a drastic way through one injury that took mere days to right itself.  For comparison I’ll put the 2nd Jan photo up, so 6 days later I was nearing total symmetry again, the back has regained its natural curvature & the scoliosis-like effect is gone, the glutes are back, the scapulae & shoulders are near level.
So, everything’s ok, right?....WRONG!
I put myself through a pretty extensive screening once I was able to move correctly.  I found my ability to do a bird-dog on one side had become problematic (that may be a multifidus issues), the weak glutes & hamstring on the right, tight right hand side QL, some anterior pelvic tilt, limited internal hip rotation (worse on the right), tight adductors on the right, I’d also developed a tendency to ‘tail tuck’ at the bottom of even a bodyweight squat.  Obviously I have a lot of work ahead of me!  Looking at the issues it becomes clear that I’ve been developing these issues for some time & only now are the ‘symptoms’ starting to show.  So, this probably isn’t going to be an overnight fix.  So, what are my plans?
Well first off I bought an inversion table.  It seems like that will help with the immediate symptoms while I try & deal with the ongoing problems & hopefully aid in warding off another back issue while I work on the problem. 

Enjoying a first go on the inversion table (there's 
even the box it came came still in the background)
Next up I began a rehab protocol, that consisted of:
  •          Plank
  •          Side plank
  •          Bird-dog
  •          Hip Hiker (standing on a step & raising & lowering the hip)
  •          Internal & external hip rotation (you do external hip rotation as tight external rotators can sometimes stop a hip internally rotating)
  •          Glute bridging
  •          Bodyweight squat (working on keeping the form super tight)        
  •          Hip adduction
  •          Hip abduction
  •         Leg curl on stability ball
  •     Self myofascial release on the back, glutes, hamstrings & hip flexors (try using a tennis ball down the back.  Start with the ball at the top to one side of the spine, arms by the side, raise the arms first above your head, then across the body, wiggle a little.  Now move the ball down a cm & repeat – do that down both sides of the spine to experience some real pain!).  Check out a quick guide I did on self myofascial release (SMR) at pdf version (right click & 'save as') or MS Word version (right click & 'save as') for  some details on how to do simple SMR.
That along with the inversion was the foundation of the rehab, but as things move along I will start to introduce some unilateral lifting (like split squats, suitcase lifts, one arm overhead pressing etc).  Why unilateral? Well think about it, I have a left to right imbalance, if I just ‘work harder’ on the bi-lateral squat or deadlift for example I’ll just reinforce the improper movement dysfunctions I’ve already developed.  I have to learn to strengthen both the left & right hand sides on their own, until the right can learn to ‘keep up’ with the left.  I suspect that due to the nerve damage in the right big toe that I may need to revisit unilateral lifting a few times a year to make sure everything stays in balance.
I’ve suffered a setback, that is very true.  I’ve had to re-evaluate my goals, set some things I had planned for 2011 onto the back burner for this year...but, I’ve found an issue, I have found a weakness, which begs the question “If I fix the weakness, how strong will I get?”.  If I fix myself right will 2012 be a really record year for lifting & gains?  How much have I been held back by being imbalanced?  These are exciting questions that I hope to answer over 2011.  Let’s hope I can rebuild a more symmetrical strength that translates into much better lifting & much better results.  That’s my goal for 2011.  I don’t want to just get back to where I was before the whole ‘back issue’ started, I’d like to soar beyond it, using the new knowledge I have discovered about myself to really improve beyond what I would have been able to if this issue hadn’t come up.
If there is sufficient interest I don’t mind putting up stills or even short youtube clips about my rehab adventure, let me know below if you’d be interested in following the adventure?  But do bear in mind, this is NOT a prescription for back injury recovery.  I am not a doctor, nor am I qualified to diagnose.  If you intend to incorporate any exercise or rehabilitation protocol (even chiropractic work or acupuncture etc) then always run it past your back specialist first as each condition is unique & each person is slightly different, so always check first & even if you get the go ahead NEVER work into pain.   You cannot beat a bad back into submission, it will always have the last say if you try to go head to head in a ‘suffering contest’.  So, be sensible, take things slow, & aim at slowly returning to full physical function (or as ‘full’ as your condition allows).  Any questions, ideas or anything else just write below.
Finally this was a pretty hard post to write.  Baring your all (in the case of some of these photos it was pretty damn close!) & confessing your own mistakes is quite a hard thing to put up online & let the world read.  Hopefully you’ll all take some time & not just post a comment, but to check your own bodies out, fix any asymmetries or other issues before a problem rears its ugly head & puts you onto the sidelines for a while.  Prehab should be an issue every athlete or lifter takes seriously.  Hopefully I’ll be taking a lot more care of the ‘little things’ from now on as by doing that I can keep lifting & hopefully still keep making gains for many years yet!