Strength Training Fundamentals


Anyone looking to start strength training whether for your sport or an active lifestyle you should commit some time to learning the correct technique.

For me there are two major things (the programme itself excluded) that are going to go some way to dictating your progress from a strength training programme:

1)      The individual knowing the correct technique for the major exercises – squats, pushes, pulls, deadlifts

2)      The individual having the flexibility/range of movement to perform the major exercises – squats, pushes, pulls, deadlifts

Something I pride myself on as a coach is being a stickler for good form and quality movement through all exercises. The main reasons being:

1)      If you put the body in the right position for the exercise you will see much better progress out of it

2)      You are much less likely to get injured if you perform the exercise well


The biggest limiting factor to training for strength development I see amongst young athletes and a lot of older ones too is a lack of flexibility. Without flexibility it prevents them putting their body in the correct position to perform the strength exercises safely and effectively.

Aside from that some people just don’t know how to do the exercises properly, or having too much pride whilst training with someone of a much higher level than them and getting sucked in to lifting heavy loads before they are ready for it.

There are other factors such as injury history that may rule out certain exercises as well but that can’t be helped and you’ve just got to learn and adapt your exercise selection accordingly.


I always tell the people who train with me that you earn the right to progress to more advanced training by demonstrating competence in the fundamentals.

Especially when working with young athletes the emphasis should be on establishing technique, but this is something I apply with older populations too.

Bottom line is if the technique isn’t good enough through an exercise, I’m not going to be loading it. I’ll have an athlete work at it unloaded or use an alternative that can be loaded until the technique is at the required standard.

Once the technique is sound the load can be progressed gradually.


When it comes to improving performance and people’s functional fitness the fundamental movement I like people able to perform well is the squat.

Strength Training Exercises Squat

Sometimes there are the quick fixes to a poor squat just by adjusting the stance width to wide (heels at shoulder width) and toes turned out at 5 to 1 on the clock face opening the hips.

Strength Training Exercises

Or using 5-10 sec holds in the bottom of the prisoner squat or overhead squat (low load) if you’re looking to improve squat range of movement to be able to get your hips below the level of the knee so you can get the real performance benefits.

Sometimes though you’ve got to put the hard yards in and tackle those problem areas head on with some flexibility work. If that’s what it takes that’s what it takes. Earn the right.

If you can’t squat for any of the reasons mentioned above, get yourself in touch with a decent coach – I’d suggest checking out the UKSCA Accredited members list for your area on – who can help improve your technique and possibly help resolve any flexibility issues limiting your progress.

I use a squat facilitation system put together by Bob Wood of Physical Solutions, it is a great programme for improving most people’s squat, there are some that seem immune to it and destined to cause me sleepless nights as I try to unlock the movement puzzle, but generally it works well in getting athletes where they need to be in order to start strength training.

Learn more about fundamental training principles with Nick Grantham at his Physical Preparation for Performance Workshops & Speed Clinic 21st & 22nd February 2015. Nick will be covering 5 major areas: Programme Design, Core Training Concepts, Metabolic Mayham: A Modern Approach to Energy System Development, the Art & Science of Coaching and Speed, Agility and Change of Direction. For more information & to take advantage of the incredible Early Bird Discount Bundle >>CLICK HERE<< 

So you don’t have time to train?


OK…this is something I’ve heard many times over during my time as a PT and S&C coach – I don’t have time to train.

I’m currently reading Dan John’s Never Let Go – he’s a man that has an incredibly busy schedule between work, coaching, training & of course his family.

I can definitely identify with him as I have a similar level of commitments to maintain each week!

Bottom line is, if you want to achieve something with your training you’ve got to put some time in.

BUT you don’t have to grind out hours and hours in the gym to get results, IF you train at a high intensity (with planned recovery of course) and you are on point with your nutrition you can get great results.

One of the things I love about the book is Dan’s simple approach to training. Some times just hitting a single lift for 20-40 minutes is all he’ll do if that’s all the time permits, an approach I’ve used in my own training with some decent results.

However, in the book he outlines one session that I think could be the ultimate high intensity short duration work out, for the person who claims they don’t have time to exercise.

The 4 minute Front Squat Tabata

I tried it out today and my thighs and glutes are still aching 6 hours later, and at the time I was absolutely gassed flat on my back on the platform immediately after.

Here it is if you want to give it a try:

Do make sure you have warmed up – I use this sequence every time

Load a bar with 50-60% of your Front Squat RM (you may want to air on the side of caution first time out) – I’d definitely stick with the Front Squat as when you fatigue it’s easy to drop it back in the rack.

Here’s the programme:

20 sec Front Squats

10 sec Rest (put the bar back in the rack every time)

20 sec Front Squats

10 sec Rest

20 sec Front Squats

10 sec Rest

20 sec Front Squats

10 sec Rest

20 sec Front Squats

10 sec Rest

20 sec Front Squats

10 sec Rest

20 sec Front Squats

10 sec Rest

20 sec Front Squats

10 sec Rest

That’s it.

4 minutes of high intensity quad burning and lung busting work – I’d recommend using a HIIT timer available on most android / iPhones and keep it strict on the rest.

Aim to get 8 reps per 20 seconds

Now you can never claim you don’t have enough time for a good work out!

Enjoy! 🙂

If you want to check out Dan John’s Never Let Go – Here it is on Amazon –

A wheat-free option for Pancake Day



Enjoy these Pancakes made with coconut flour are just as delicious with a pat of butter and fresh berries as pancakes made with wheat flour.


Inspired by a recipe from Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint Cookbook, with a few of my own optional extras added in!


The ingredients:


3 eggs

3 tablespoons melted butter or coconut oil

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons coconut milk

½ teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup coconut flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ cup or so water



Optional extras: fruits, berries, flakes of coconut, cinnamon, almond butter, sweet freedom


This mixture will make approx 10 small pancakes, with this recipe it’s better to go with smaller diameter pancakes e.g. 3-4 inches as they break up when you go to flip them!




1) Whisk together eggs, oil, coconut milk, honey and vanilla.


2) In another bowl, stir together dry ingredients then add the wet ingredients, stirring until smooth.


3) Add the water to thin the batter out until it reaches your desired consistency.


4) In a well-oiled or buttered frying pan, cook pancakes until browned on both sides (approx 3 minutes per side).




Check out the other great recipes in the Primal Blueprint Cookbook – a solid investment if you are looking for healthy recipes to get leaner


Athlete Monitoring

Following the article I posted on The Importance of Recovery I’ve been working on an athlete monitoring system to use with my athletes to track their wellness, nutrition and training load for various components of their training/playing schedule (calculated using Athlete’s session RPE x duration).

I’m sure there are mobile apps out there to monitor all of these variables but sometimes you can’t beat the simple pen & paper option!

I’ve seen & used a number of different diaries and templates in my time as an strength & conditioning coach but I thought it might be useful to plot everything on to a single chart to make it easier to identify patterns and links between the different areas.

In particular I wanted to be able to clearly highlight to athletes links between poor nutrition and inappropriately loaded training and their wellness scoring.

The wellness and training impulse (TRIMP) is a system I learnt whilst interning at Bristol Rugby under Tom McLaughlin (now Head of Physical Preparation at Connacht Rugby) it was a system he employed with great effect monitoring planned vs actual TRIMP scores.

I’ve adapted this system to include nutrition as some for some of the athletes I have worked with this is a problem area. I think it’s use could be combined with a regular jump test (e.g. drop jump, standing broad jump or vertical jump) that could be monitored over time to get an objective measure of their physical preparedness to undertake a specific training session when compared to their previous best jump recorded.

Below is the chart template  – this particular template was put together for a group of young tennis players – but I’d be interested to get feedback from anyone else. If anyone would like a copy of the excel/PDF files to try this out, you can download it.


Proformance Rugby Camp – Early Bird Discount Extended!

The spaces have been filling up super quick on the Proformance Rugby Camp for the 13th February.

We’ve decided to extend our Early Bird Discount until Friday 8th February so everyone has got an extra week to take advantage of this great deal!

There are a limited number of places left for the day so ensure you book now so you don’t miss out! Click the link below for more info & bookings:





Proformance Rugby Camps Confirmed – Wed 13th Feb 2013


Following the first camps that ran in 2012 we are really excited to announce that the Proformance Rugby Camps are back for 2013!

The camps are aimed at young rugby players aged 12-15 who want to improve their rugby skills and to learn how to train safely and effectively to improve their fitness and take their performance to all new levels.

The next camps are running during Feb Half Term Week on Wednesday 13th Feb 2013 with a morning session for Under 12s & 13s and an afternoon session for Under 14s & 15s.

Our specialist Rugby Coach, former England Sevens, Gloucester & Bristol Rugby player Jack Adams is delivering the rugby skills and sharing his knowledge and experiences from elite level rugby.

On the Strength & Conditioning side we will be focusing on the development of fundamental strength training techniques appropriate for young athletes!

As with all our programmes the workshops run with small groups (maximum of 8 per coach) which means that you get a lot more time working with our coaches than on some of the larger camps out there. This means that places are limited.

Until the 31st of January you can sign up for the Early Bird Discount price.

For more details and booking please check out our Workshops page!



Olympic Lifting Workshop @ Trimnasium Fitness Centre 19/01/2013

Yesterday was the second workshop in conjunction with Trimnasium Fitness Centre in Cheltenham and it was a real success again.

The group were superb in terms of their work ethic and desire to learn and there was good progress shown by everyone in the group. This particular workshop was focused on the Clean and Jerk and the first work shop before Christmas was for the Snatch.

The Olympic Lifts are a tremendous tool in an athlete’s tool box for the development of explosive power. So if you have time on your side it’s a worthwhile investment of your time to learn them.

The primary goal of the workshops is to improve the athletes understanding of the correct technique & their ability to execute a safe and effective lift.

Both lifts are very technical compared to the majority of exercises you see being performed in the gym and my advice for anyone wanting to get in to it would be to seek out a good coach to get you started. To demonstrate the technical nature here are the phases of the Clean & Jerk:

1)      Start Position

2)      1st Pull

3)      Transition Phase

4)      2nd Pull

5)      Catch

6)      Front Squat to Standing

7)      Split Jerk

If there are phases in that list you’ve not heard of there’s a good chance you’re missing something in your lift and you could be putting yourself at risk of injury.

As a coach there are a couple of things I’m looking for before I start anyone on the Olympic Lifts.

1)      For the Clean – Can you Front Squat with excellent technique?

2)      For the Snatch – Can you Overhead Squat with excellent technique? (i.e. full depth squat, able to maintain neutral spine and bar above the crown of the head)

If you can’t do either of those, in my eyes, the full Snatch or Clean & Jerk aren’t for you yet. You need to be able to execute the Front & Overhead Squats well as they are the positions you will be catching the bar in during the lifts.

If you’re good at those lifts under load, you can be sure you’ve got the strength and stability to catch effectively in the lifts.

We’ve been lucky that both groups that have joined us at Trimnasium have been good squatters so we’ve been able to get into some Olympic lifting.

Throughout the workshop we have coached the proper execution of the individual phases of the lifts & then linked the different phases of the lift together as the athletes demonstrate technical competence.

It was great to see by the end of the session that we had some of the guys executing full lifts with good technique. Whilst other guys in the group still needed to work on some other aspects before they could progress, the main thing was that everyone left with a clear idea of where they were at currently, what exercises they could do safely and what they needed to do to improve!

If you’re keen to involved on the next workshop keep an eye on our Workshops page, check out Trimnasium Fitness Centre on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @proformanceteam

Four Steps to Lose Weight

This quality poster came through to my email this week from Matt Lovell, a nutritionist right at the top of the game working with the likes of UK Athletics, Manchester City FC and England Rugby.

I love the simplicity of this graphic he’s put together so I had to share it!

As it says stick it to your fridge and follow the four steps to successful fat loss!

Matt’s website Four Week Fat Loss is well worth a look for more information about his methods.



Mobilise your hips to reduce Lower Back Pain

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During his presentation at the UKSCA 2011 conference Bill Foran S&C Coach for the Miami Heat presented a concept I instantly liked – Joint by Joint. It originates from Gray Cook & Mike Boyle check out this link for a full explanation of the concept.

Essentially the primary needs of each joint are as follows:

Joint — Primary Need

Ankle — Mobility (sagittal)

Knee — Stability

Hip — Mobility (multi-planar)

Lumbar Spine — Stability

Thoracic Spine — Mobility

Scapula — Stability

Gleno-humeral — Mobility

For this post I’m just going to focus on the importance of hip mobility, the impact on the body when we have lost mobility and some practical exercises to improve it.

As above in an ideal scenario the hips are mobile and the lumbar spine is stable.

But when we lose hip mobility, we get lower back pain because the lumbar spine becomes unstable.

So this is the symptom you may see in yourself or your clients/athletes along with hamstring strains.

Without getting into too technical and complex terms for the non-scientists reading this the problem starts because when the muscles in and around the hips become immobile, it is the lumbar (base) spine that begins to bend and extend to produce movements due to the fact the movement is no available through the hip.

So what can we do to get more mobile at the hip?

Here are just a couple of suggestions for exercises to improve mobility to the hips and take some of the strain off the lower back.

Full Hip Lunge Stretch



  • Start in a press up position
  • Bring your left foot up to your left hand
  • Keep the rear leg extended, chest up and glute firing on the trailing leg to force hip extension
  • Keep your chest up so your back stays straight hold in this position for 1 minute 
  • Then drive the left elbow down to the instep of your left foot and hold for a further 30-60 seconds
  • Repeat on the opposite side

You can also add in rotational movements to the stretch to get get a more three dimensional stretch through hips. I’ll add some pics for this at a later date.

Split Squats

I love split squats for a number of reasons but one of the main reasons I get people to use them is for the dynamic stretch they provide through the hip of the trailing leg as you lower into the bottom position.

As well as increasing strength they help to either improve flexibility in clients/athletes who are tight through the hips or as a strategy to maintain a good range of movement along with static stretches such as the one above.


  • Standing feet hip width apart, take a long stride forward
  • Keeping your front knee above or behind the ankle, drop the back knee down to just above the floor
  • Keep your torso upright through out
  • Drive back up to the start position, repeat for 10 reps, then change sides

There are lots of other exercises out there but these are two I’ve found to be very effective & I’ll add some more exercises into this post as soon as I get chance, but let me know if you find they make a difference for you. If you’re a coach and you’ve got some other good options get in touch, I’m always keen to learn.

Follow us on Twitter: @proformanceteam

Semi-Private Training Packages are launched!

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We are very excited to have launched our new Semi-Private Training Packages offering high quality personal training on a small group basis (max 3-4 people per group).

By training in small groups we can give you a lot more training for the same price of your normal 1 to 1 personal training sessions which will give you better results! For the same price as 4 x 1 to1 PT sessions and your monthly gym membership we are offering 3 Semi-Private coaching sessions per week, that’s 12 coach led sessions per month!

For more info about Semi-Private Training check out the 3 new monthly package options on offer!