A morning routine to win 2016! 

Happy new year everyone, let’s start as we mean to go on…literally…. every morning!

I listen to a lot of podcasts and read many articles about health, fitness, productivity and life hacking in general. One theme that continues to pop up is morning routines. It seems that many successful people have daily routines and habits that they do, most often in the morning, that contribute to their productivity, health, wellbeing and ultimately to their success.

“Win the morning and you will win the day” is a saying I’ve heard many times. Start every morning right and you will win the year! It all adds up.

Not a morning person? Neither am I really but I’ve been experimenting and this routine has transformed me in to one. Check it out and try it for yourself.

The aim of the routine is to wake the body and its systems up PROGRESSIVELY. Waking up to the shock of a loud alarm, stumbling round the house bleary eyed, slamming down a coffee then throwing on your clothes before rushing out the door isn’t progressive and isn’t a great way to start the day in my opinion. Although the following routine is based on progression, luckily that doesn’t mean it takes hours and hours.

My new fancy alarm clock that wakes me up naturally

lumia alarm clock pic instagrammed

Recently I’ve been waking up to my new Lumie bodyclock light alarm clock. If you haven’t seen one before, it essentially acts as an artificial sunrise. 30 minutes before my alarm is due to go off it slowly starts glowing until it fills the room with golden light. So far every time I have used it I am completely awake before the alarm sounds, yet I never feel that I have been woken abruptly or that I even want to snooze, it’s great! Light stimulates our body’s natural wakeful mechanisms and the gradual exposure to light causes the release of wakeful hormones. These hormones then start to circulate around the body to wake you up gently, which is why you never have that awful, dive back under the duvet feeling of the light being snapped on sharply in the morning.

A healthy hot beverage to turn up my digestive system

Next, I go downstairs and put the kettle on for a healthy hot beverage. We all know it’s important to drink plenty of water in a morning. Lately I’ve been having hot water with lemon, ‘turmeric tea’ (hot water with a dash of turmeric) or a green or white tea.

lemon and tumeric hot water pic

The health benefits of hot water, citrus fruits and green tea are well documented so I won’t go on about them now. Turmeric is also becoming a more trendy spice and I particularly hear a lot about the compound found in it called curcumin for its anti-inflammatory effects and other health benefits. I actually quite like the taste of a teaspoon of it in a mug of hot water, too.

Whatever you choose, any one of these is a great option for getting some fluids in you and gently turning up your digestive system.

Progressive exercise – EMOM’s

bw squat intagrammed

Although I love and live for movement, I never used to be one who likes to exercise early in the mornings, until now! After, or as I’m finishing my healthy hot beverage, I begin what I refer to as my progressive EMOM’s. The aim of progressive EMOM’s is not to better my fitness, but to progressively awaken my energy systems until my metabolism is roaring.

EMOM stands for every minute on the minute. Basically I start with a certain number of reps of an exercise to complete within the first minute, once completed I rest the remainder of that minute. When the clock rolls on to the next minute I do the same but add another rep or few. I continue to build for typically anywhere between 5 to 15 minutes. It’s quite simply just an interval training format, but lengthening the work and shortening the rest periods as you go along.

I generally use bodyweight or mobility exercises, resistance bands or a light kettlebell, nothing too heavy or intense. I’m just trying to promote some blood flow, raise my body temperature a little, loosen off stiff joints and generally turn my metabolism up a few gears by the end of it. The aim is to feel physically stimulated not annihilated!

A typical gentle progressive EMOM for me might be using bodyweight squats. Minute 1 – 10 reps, minute 2 – 11 reps, minute 3 11 reps and so on until I reach 10minutes and I am doing 20 reps. This is generally comfortable for me and leaves me feeling physically activated by the end as well as with the added bonus of those exercise induced ‘feel good’ endorphins!

Breakfast

After my EMOM’s (about 15-20 minutes after waking) I have my breakfast. I cannot go without breakfast! My typical breakfast is a vegetable egg scrambler cooked in coconut oil (you can check these out on Hannah’s blog here) I may also have, or instead have muesli or porridge and a hemp protein shake if I’m particularly hungry from the day befores training or I know I’m going to be having an active day. I usually have this with a cup of Yorkshire tea and a glass of water. You could have a good quality coffee here though if that’s your thing.

scrambler montage

The James Bond shower

Next I hop in the shower and do it James Bond style! No, not always with a naked lady… I’m referring to finishing the warm shower with a blast of cold water for about 1 minute. It’s always a hard mental effort to turn the temperature knob down but it feels great afterwards! Invigorating is the word! I’ve never actually seen Bond do this himself, I think I just read it somewhere and my thoughts were: if it’s good enough for Bond its good enough for me!

After jumping out of the shower I put my clothes on, and off to work I go feeling fresh as a daisy!

I hope you can pick something up from this and implement it into your own routine or at least think about how you can better set up your own morning routine up to win the day!

Be a winner in 2016!

Dane

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A super healthy lunch I eat every single day!

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First of all, I realise that this post doesn’t quite fit under the remit of All Things Movement, but I thought it would be good to share with you something that fuels my movement every day.

Although it’s not my area of expertise, I do have an interest in nutrition and in my job it’s important to recognise how nutrition can effect and enhance an athlete’s performance and development. I’ve got some knowledge of biochemistry and physiology in general and the couple of nutrition modules I took at university have definitely helped me to give a little advice to an athlete when they ask. It has also helped to ensure I know how to eat well myself and fuel for performance and health. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that although I’m not a nutritional scientist (i’m not well qualified enough to talk about antioxidants, polyphenols, flavonoids and catechins and all those fancy words), I know that this lunch is nothing short of magical for your body!

I swear by it and It finds its way into my six pack bag (see below) every day I go to work!

six pack bag pic for super salad post

So what is this magical dish? Drum roll please………

It’s just a salad.

But wait! It’s no ordinary salad and let me tell you… salads DO NOT have to be BORING!

There’s no particular recipe to this salad, it’s the baseline of ingredients that make it such a special, flavoursome, nutritional wonder! The beauty of it is that you never have to have the same one twice if you don’t want to.

super salad pic stitch 1

Just follow these simple rules for a nutritionally dense super salad that you can tailor to your own taste!

  • A lean protein source – e.g. salmon, chicken, beef, tuna, eggs, prawns….. (preferably non processed and from a healthy animal that has lived and eaten how it was supposed to) e.g. grass fed beef, line caught wild fish, corn fed chicken etc)
  • Leafy greens of some sort- eg. Spinach, kale, rocket etc.
  • Some kind of nuts / seeds – almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, walnuts, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds etc (unsalted and preferably organic).
  • Another healthy fat source – drizzle on some high quality olive oil, include some avocado etc.
  • At least another couple of portions of vegetables – I like things like beetroot, pickled onions, peppers, broccoli, baby sweetcorn, asparagus, sundried tomatoes, olives, sprouts (salad doesn’t just have to be lettuce tomato and cucumber!)
  • A portion of fruit – for some sweetness , contrast and to really jazz up your salad add things like grapes, sliced apple, pear, pomegranate or dried fruit like raisins. This also adds to the array of vitamins / anti-oxidants your getting jam packed into one Tupperware bowl!

 

Don’t particularly like things like nuts or many green vegetables? Well combine them with loads of other healthy ingredients you like and you will hardly notice your eating them. Try flavouring ingredients with healthy, pure spices such as cayenne pepper, jerk seasoning or even throwing a chilli in to the mix. I find that strong and tasty things like sundried tomatoes and olives mask the taste of other things and together it usually tastes great!

On days where I know I’m going to be really active and doing a lot of training I often add a healthy starchy carbohydrate source such as sweet potato, quinoa or brown rice.

super salad pic stitch 2

As long as I’ve eaten this, I feel confident knowing that if I don’t eat anything else particularly healthy that day at least I will have given my body a massive boost with an array of different nutrients, not to mention a decent dose of protein, healthy fats and fibre. The nuts, starchy carbohydrates and healthy fat source add some extra calories to turn a side salad / starter into a meal that will fill you up and fuel you for a long time.

Oh and one more tip…Your mum will always make it better than you can! If I make it I will just throw all the ingredients into a box and sometimes miss out a few. If my mum makes it she will lovingly cut all the veg to the perfect size and take the time to add just the right amount of each ingredient.

Thanks for making me healthy mum!

So my message for today is: STOP BEING A SALAD DODGER and START MAKING YOUR SALADS EXCITING!

Have a healthy day!

Dane

My top 5 favourite free or cheap Yoga resources

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I’ve been doing yoga occasionally for years now but lately I’ve found myself doing more and more of it and in fact I’m beginning to really crave it daily!

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been super busy and tired with daily 5am alarms and staying up late writing programmes, heavy weights sessions or high intensity conditioning sessions have not felt that appealing lately. Or maybe it is the fact that my outlook on training and goals are a little different at the moment. Work, my athletes and family life are my priority at the moment and I’m not competing seriously in a sport anytime soon so I’m training just to keep healthy and because I enjoy all things movement.

handstand in front of berlin wall

Yoga really does make you feel good. Some people may not be able to channel the full psychological, therapeutic and calming effects of yoga but I think the physical benefits of yoga, the feeling of being supple and un-restricted have great effects on your mood and confidence anyway.

Some guys lift weights to get massive because they think being hugely muscular will make them feel good and confident. But does it really??!! These are often the guys who need a 30 minute warm up just to get into a squat position, can’t itch their own back due to their cranky shoulders or would pull a hamstring if they had to burst into a run to chase someone or catch a bus. Surely that doesn’t feel good?! I have more confidence knowing that I’m ‘ready to go’ at any time; that I could put 130kg above my head at any moment without worrying about ripping my shoulders out of their sockets.

Wouldn’t you rather be supple as a leopard and strong as a bull, not as big as a bear and slow as a sloth?

The beauty of yoga is that it can probably help you whatever your goals are and whatever your preferred form of movement is. There are very few sports or movement activities I can think of think of that a few doses of yoga wouldn’t benefit. There’s a whole host of other benefits to moving your body through various yoga poses (Asana’s) and the conscious breathing techniques used, from improving mobility to reducing your stress hormone levels, but I won’t list them all now.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe yoga is the best or only form of movement you should be doing. There are also lots of false claims and exaggeration to its benefits and lots of wooey wooey rubbish out there. Don’t for one second believe daft claims like doing yoga will totally cleanse your liver so you don’t have to worry about all that alcohol you’ve been consuming. If you’ve any common sense I’m sure you can identify claims that are absolutely baloney.

In addition to all the baloney though, it’s important to remember that yoga does in fact have many benefits, even if they are often exaggerated. If you’re looking for maximal strength, explosive power, high levels of cardio-vascular endurance, fat loss or better bone mineral density, yoga may offer a small stimulus but truthfully it is not the optimal prescription for developing these physical qualities. It is however a very complimentary activity to other physiologically stressful movement activities and sports that better develop the physical attributes listed above. I use Yoga predominantly to improve my movement quality, aid with recovery and as a form of moving meditation!

I often design many of my own yoga routines and in fact many of the dynamic mobility exercises my athletes do in their warm-ups are yoga inspired. Sometimes however I will just roll out my mat with no plan and just flow between various poses for 15-20minutes or so until I feel loose, relaxed and know that i’ve stimulated some change in my body. Other times I enjoy letting someone else do the coaching for once so I can relax my brain and all I have to think about is my breathing and matching my body positions to theirs. I’d like to share with you my Top 5 favourite (mostly free or cheap) resources for times like this:

Yoga by Candace

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I’ve been following a lot of Candace’s video’s lately and I’ve enjoyed every single one of them. I love her style of yoga, her relaxing voice and the structure of the sessions. She’s got hundreds of routines on her channel for people of all levels and for those with different needs.

Yoga studio

yoga studio app screenshot

I’ve tried many many yoga apps but yoga studio has to be my favourite one. It costs less than you would pay to physically go to one yoga class and you can use it forever. There’s loads of ready-made yoga classes on there for you to download in HD for free. You can also very easily create your own unique routines even if you have no experience of yoga as each pose is conveniently categorised according to its difficulty level and movement purpose. There’s also an option in which the app automatically links your chosen poses together in case you are unsure of how to transition smoothly and safely between poses. Great app!

Pocket Yoga

pocket yoga app screenshot

Pocket Yoga is one of the first yoga apps I used and I still use it occasionally to this day. It gives you 3 choices of practice which each have different objectives for the session- Mountain, desert or ocean. You can then choose the duration of your session and the difficulty level. Its super simple but great!

Tara Stiles

tara styles channel screenshot

Tara styles is a pretty trendy yoga women and her style of strala yoga is getting really popular around the world and can be considered more ‘modern yoga’. She’s got lots of short videos you can follow along for a great session.

Kinoyoga

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Kino is another big name in yoga, she’s awesome at what she does and is always super happy, smiley and chilled so I really enjoy her sessions. She’s got loads of videos on her channel for people of all abilities to try. Check her out!

That’s all for today guys, I hope one of these resources inspires you to get some yoga in your life. You’ll feel better for it I promise!

Have a good day and get your body moving!

Dane

A woodland workout

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woodland workout me and hannah shadow pic collage

Last weekend I went and trained in a commercial gym for the first time in…. a long time. I won’t say it’s name but it was one of those cheap ones that is open 24 hours a day. It had loads of machines, a reasonable amount of free weights, one lifting platform with rubbish barbells and what they call a ‘functional rig’ in the middle. I got a decent session done but really did not enjoy it!

As soon as I walked in my enthusiasm and intentions of smashing out a big training session just fizzled away. Sounds a bit dramatic I know but it felt like I’d entered a factory, that I was an animal entering a battery barn to be bulked up ready to be sent to the slaughterhouse.

The lighting was dim with only one window letting in a small amount of natural light into the corner of the huge warehouse type room. People were plodding away on row after row of treadmills, steppers, exercise bikes and cross trainers like hamsters on wheels, only training with much less vigour. Men with big arms, big chests, terrible muscular imbalances and poor posture where sat in the free weights section hunched over their phones texting between sets. Nobody was talking, nobody was smiling and nobody seemed to be pushing themselves or having any fun at all.

No wonder the nation is fat, unfit, unhealthy and resorts to alcohol and other unhealthy habits every weekend to have a good time I thought as I was getting funny looks doing a bodyweight dynamic mobility and a barbell complex warm up. People were there for the totally wrong reason!

This weekend however was much better training wise. On Saturday Hannah and I stuffed my gymnastic rings, a suspension trainer and a few drinks and snacks into my rucksack, laced up our trainers and ran to the woods with my dog Kia. Warming up in the sunshine and the fresh countryside air felt great. We found a tree, hooked up our rings and suspension trainer, swung around, used our bodyweight for resistance, did some sprints through the adjacent field and threw sticks and wrestled with the dog in between sets. We smiled the whole way through, it was great fun! Such a contrast to those plodding away in the stuffy factory like gym I visited last week.

Have a look at some of the exercises we did:

woodland workout pic stitch collage one

woodland workout hannah on suspension trainer collage

woodland workout rings collage 2

Looks fun right?! But I can hear your scepticism. You’re probably thinking one of the following:

  • That’s all well and good for the occasional session but the novelty will wear off after a while surely?
  • Will swinging from a tree and gallivanting round some woodland really help me reach my training goals?
  • Bodyweight? Pfftt….You need weights if you want to grow big muscles right?

My response:

Firstly, wouldn’t you get more bored jogging on the spot on a treadmill or laying down on the same weights bench with the same scenery, with all the same miserable gym goers for company day in day out?

Secondly, if you know the progressions and regressions, you can keep challenging yourself forever with bodyweight training and hit every muscle in your body. Using leverage and range of motion to your advantage or disadvantage can dramatically change the difficulty of an exercise and cause it to stimulate the desired adaptations.

Thirdly, have you ever seen the physique of a male Olympic rings gymnast? They have very impressive levels of muscularity even though that is not their desired goal. They train to be strong and to be as skilful on the rings as possible but imagine how muscular they would be if they tweaked their rings training to focus on muscle growth. If they did things like drop sets, more isolation work and used bodybuilding style sets, reps and rest periods they would be massive!

In fact I would go as far as saying that if your goal is just to have an aesthetically pleasing physique then all you need for your upper body is a set of gymnastics rings or some parallette bars!

Another plus is that bodyweight training can also be done pretty much anywhere. Here’s me with my tongue out concentration face mid way through a set of dips whilst on holiday in Italy last month:

bodyweight dip picture from italy hol 2015

My message for today is this:

Get outdoors, be creative and have fun with your workouts.

Get a good training partner – A dog or a good friend is a much better training partner than an iphone. Dogs radiate energy and contagious enthusiasm and your human companion will keep you accountable and committed.

Movement should be a pleasure not a chore. Find something that excites you. I love to rock climb, mountain bike, do some rings work in the woods, hike, sprint up hills and do coastal runs. Try these things and you may never look back.

Enjoy the weekend!

Dane

Pre-season leg day with the rugby union lads!

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rugby box squat spotters

The university rugby union team are well into their pre-season and things have been hotting up in the gym! Today was #legday (lower body and trunk strength emphasis) and the atmosphere in the gym was ELECTRIC! The sounds of clattering iron, 40 deep fiery voices and heart pumping music could be heard reverberating around the campus early this morning as people arrived for work. I kept having to turn the music down slightly to avoid complaints only for it to then creep back up again when I wasn’t looking! There’s no question that the monster speaker system the lads wheel into the gym each morning (bought through their club funds!) is having a great impact on the training atmosphere and even a deaf person would find it hard not to stop their adrenaline pumping in that gym! I’m sure that even standing outside the gym you would be able to feel the testosterone and smell the sweat and protein shake farts wafting through the open windows!

belly RDL

At this early stage of the pre-season the lads are doing 3 gym sessions per week in addition to 4 rugby skills sessions (a few of which involve conditioning), a weekly wrestling session and a swimming recovery session. In the gym we are doing a lower body and trunk strength emphasis session, and upper body strength session and a full body and assistance strength session. In the next phase the 3rd session of the week will have a full body power emphasis as we get closer to the season.

On paper today’s #LEGDAY session is very simple: a squat variation, a hinge movement pattern and a unilateral split stance exercise with some core work sprinkled in amongst it. However if you attack these fundamental lifts with the physicality and intensity that the forwards group did today, then it becomes one hell of a strength session!

Todays #LEGDAY! Session:

rugby pre season leg day session

Just like a trusty leather jacket you can’t go wrong by choosing squats, romanian deadlifts (RDLs) and split squats. They’re tough and will never go out of fashion! As strength and conditioning coaches we like to say that these are exercises which give you the most ‘bang for your buck’. You can shift a hell of a lot of weight with them, they demand a huge surge of power from your nervous system, recruit a huge amount of muscle tissue and have great transfer to the movements that occur on the sporting fields!

The core exercises aren’t ‘namby pamby’ exercises either. They are all progressively and almost infinitely loadable, meaning that the resistance can be continually increased so they will never be too easy for anyone! They are chosen because they are teaching the trunk / abdominal musculature to brace hard, to flex and to resist rotation and extension. The squats, RDLs and split squats take care of the rest of the core work.

banded pallof hold

You may also think that 4 sets of 5 reps isn’t much but I’m not talking about adding a little bit of weight each set until it gets reasonably tough, I’m talking about 5 maximal effort reps that leave you doubting if you will be able to do it again. Then manning up and attacking that weight or an even bigger weight for 3 more sets!

You may also think the session looks abit boring but when you’re competing with your training partners, fighting your own fatigue and bantering and dancing with your teammates between sets it is anything but boring!

Have a watch of the video below for just a taste of the atmosphere, the physicality and the intensity of today’s session:

That’s all for today folks! Stay tuned for more updates on my other athletes and to see how the rugby lads are progressing.

Dane

Meet freestyle skier Rob Machon and watch him train on and off the slopes!

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I thought it was about time I introduced you to another of my athletes. This time it is the super cool freestyle skier Rob Machon.

Rob machon double collage 1Rob machon double collage 2

Rob has been on the TASS (Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme) programme for a few years now and it has been great to see him develop. I had worked with him on occasions for a few years but properly took over his strength and conditioning coaching about 11 months ago. When I first met him he was a skinny teenager with loads of courage for throwing himself off ski jumps, with a bit of raw athleticism but with not much strength, control or true power. Now he’s a strong, explosive athlete, an experienced competitor and a fine skiing coach too!

Rob has been skiing since the age of three! He started his now preferred discipline of freestyle skiing at the age of 13 and went on to represent Great Britain for the first time at the age of 16. His older brother is also a freestyle skier and competed in the Sochi winter Olympics. They are clearly a talented and hard working family!

Check out Rob doing his thing:


As you’ll see freestyle skiing is basically gymnastics on skis. Rob does a lot of land based gymnastics and trampolining to complement his strength and conditioning and skiing. His gym programme is therefore tailored towards developing strength and explosive power in his lower body and a strong core that can hold positions as he twists, turns and flips through the air. We focus on movements which involve an explosive triple extension of his hips, knees and ankles in order to develop his jumping ability. If he can jump higher he will have more time in the air to execute his tricks and the stronger his legs are the better he will be able to absorb the high forces of landing in a more controlled manner. You know what that means…more points from the judges!

I like to make sure that his gym training always involves ‘skiing the curve’…. the FORCE, VELOCITY curve that is! By this I mean we do both heavy weighted strength emphasis movements which tend to involve high forces but at slow speeds while also training movements with lighter weights but which he is able to move at higher velocities. We vary the loads through the training cycles to ensure we ‘ski’ all areas of the force velocity curve shown below. Our aim is to shift the whole curve upwards and to the right. Rob needs to be able to produce higher forces at faster rates!

ski the force velocity curve

To put this in context you’ll see in the video below that many of the exercises are jumping movements using various different weights and from different positions.

To ‘ski the curve’ you’ll notice we do a lot of contrast sets (a heavy strength exercise followed by a lighter power emphasis exercise of a similar movement pattern). This ensures we’re always providing his body with a stimulus to produce and absorb a lot of force whilst also teaching it to produce it rapidly. Contrasts sets also give you the benefits of a phenomenon known as post activation potentiation. This basically means that by doing a heavy strength training exercise in a low repetition range so not to induce too much fatigue, it can actually enhance your ability to produce higher levels of power output with lighter loads shortly afterwards. I won’t get into the science of it now but I do love a contrast set! They’re fun, time efficient and damn effective when used in the correct way with an athlete that is ready for them.

Hope you enjoyed meeting Rob and getting an insight into his training. He’s a great lad and a pleasure to work with!

rob machon double collage 3

If you want to learn more about Rob you can follow him on Twitter here and on Instagram here

Dane

Move more, eat more – reverse dieting on my Italian adventure!

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I’m currently on a two week holiday travelling Italy and I’m having an absolutely awesome time! I’ve sailed down the beautiful canals of venice, strolled through the incredible sights of ancient Rome, visited the picturesque towns along the pastel coloured Amalfi coast and seen many more famous sights, attractions and hidden gems along the way so far. 

Right now I’m on a sandy beach on the volcanic island of Ischia looking forward to relaxing in the natural springs, hiking up mount Epomeo and more bumming around on the beach over the next few days.

The food in Italy really is unbelievable and is a major reason why we decided to holiday here. Luckily Hannah is a massive foodie too so if you head over to her blog here I’m sure she’ll be writing about it.

But here’s just a few snaps to wet your taste buds (though I must warn you if you’re hungry, flick through quickly and read on!)

 Seafood  Pasta
Pizza
  Fish

 And it tastes even better than it looks!

In addition to the food, the culture and visiting such amazing places, another reason I’m having such a great time is that I’m managing to fit a bit of exercise in. Movement really is part of my happy pace so why should I miss out on something that gives me enjoyment, all those feel good endorphins and so many other benefits whilst I’m on holiday? Are holiday’s just excuses to become fat, lazy, gluttonous slobs for a week or so? I think not! 

Now don’t get me wrong I have not held back on the eating front at all. I’ve had pizza, pasta, pastries and gelato’s every day (in fact on a couple of days in Venice I had 4 gelato’s a day!). 

Small amounts of regular exercise and mindfully trying to be physically active during the day has not only acted to combat the crazy amount of food and drink I’ve consumed but it’s also made me hungrier and able to sample more of Italy’s culinary delights! 

This brings me to my main point and my personal favourite philosophy on food, nutrition and exercise.

Move more, eat more!  

Food is such a pleasure, as is movement / exercise when you’ve found the forms you most like.

“Move more, eat more” is genuinely the approach I take to eating and exercise even when I’m not on holiday. There are however some general rules I follow and mindfulness is key. It really is so simple and intuitive and it can be done!

Firstly by eating more I don’t always necessarily mean more of the bad (unhealthy) stuff. If I’m faced with two foods I really like and I’ve just done some movement then I’ll certainly eat more of the healthier option. Filling yourself with loads of nutritionally dense healthy food after lots of exercise is so much more enjoyable than traditional dieting which is normally eating a small amount of healthy stuff and nothing else.

If I’m to have something classed as pretty damn unhealthy (something really high in sugary carbohydrates fats or which is particularly salty) I will aim to have this almost immediately after exercising. There’s a fair bit of science behind this, I won’t go into it now but doing it this way basically reduces the damaging effects on your body and instead you use the food as fuel for recovery from the exercise (and will store less of it as fat!).

With this is mind I am certainly not promoting binge eating, I am just explaining this is what I do for a bit of damage control when I want to relax my nutritional choices whilst on holiday.

So back to the exercise and this awesome holiday!  

We’ve done a few 30-40minute runs which has been a great way to see the amazing places we’ve visited. This in my opinion is also time better well spent than wasting time, feeling awful, nursing a hangover in your hotel room!   

 We’ve also done a few 20-30minute bodyweight sessions in our hotel room usually before we get ready and head out for an epic dinner.  There’ll be a blog post on these workouts very soon!

We’ve also tried to be physically active during the day by doing more walking rather than taking taxi’s and buses. This again has allowed us to see more of the wonderful places we’re visiting whilst helping to build up an appetite and saving us money that we can spend on more of that incredible Italian food!

Anyway, I won’t rabbit on any longer folks I’m getting abit warm, I think I need another gelato! I just wanted to share this message:

Sensibly and mindfully, move more and eat more. Enjoy life’s pleasures in a healthy way!!

Ciao, 

Dane

How to get the Danepak – 8 pack abs

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6 rashers for a 6-pack, 8 for an 8-pack?

6 rashers for a 6-pack, 8 for an 8-pack?

Now first of all please forgive the vanity of this post. I normally hate it when people post pictures of themselves posing, tensing and showing off although I do think it’s ok on occasions when someone has really worked hard and achieved an impressive, meaningful transformation.

I can honestly say that having a body that looks good is not my number one priority in training; in fact it is probably number 5. My goals have always been tailored towards performance. I train to be as be athletic as possible, to be good at my sport (primarily combat sports), to be strong, powerful, fast, fit and flexible. I train for enjoyment, to be healthy and for fun with friends. The only body part that I have ever given any attention to for aesthetic reasons is my abdominals. Everybody wants an impressive set of lean, defined stomach muscles don’t they?

The problem is most people wanting to achieve this do their abdominal training wrong; or should I say they take the long route to achieving the desired look and often never get there.

If the proof is in the pudding, then the secret is in the bacon!

Just like bacon abs should be smoked, lean and thick cut.  Allow me to explain.

Smoked – The best and fastest way to get down to low enough body fat for abs to be visible is high intensity training. You should feel absolutely smoked after a conditioning/fitness session. Training that leaves you feeling really warm and sweaty, has really elevated your heart rate and breathing is preferable.  A steady moderate pace cardio session that doesn’t leave you feeling ridiculously warm, sweaty and out of breath isn’t sufficient and won’t rev up your metabolism for later. It will take much longer to lose fat this way. For smoked abs you need a powerful stimulus that has a full body metabolic effect!  My suggestions for this are high intensity interval training (HIIT) and metabolic resistance training (MRT). I’ll share some of my favourite HIIT and MRT sessions on my blog in the near future.

Lean – Getting lean enough for your abs to be visible requires good eating habits as well as effective training. Common phrases are six pack abs are made in the kitchen. Or abs are 80% diet 20% training. I agree to some extent but you can change these percentages if you train hard and smart. The basic rules to eating for leanness are: Cut out processed foods and added sugars, reduce refined carbohydrates, reduce saturated fats, increase healthy fats, drink more water, eat more vegetables, eat more healthy sources of protein, lean meats, fish, nuts and seeds. Eat mindfully and in moderation. Simple as that!

Thick cut – Now this is the juicy stuff, my favourite thing about training and about bacon! To get abs that are visible all year round you need to make sure they are always thick cut and strong. A thick, bulging set or rectus abdominus muscles (the six/eight pack part of the stomach) will create larger crevices and more obvious ‘lines’ on your stomach even when you are carrying a little more fat. Hypetrophy (muscle growth) can be a very complex topic but put simply to grow a thick set of abs your training needs to include 2 main things:

  1. A high amount of mechanical tension to be placed on the abdominal muscles.
  2. Metabolic stress in the abdominal musculature.

This means you need to use exercises that provide these 2 stimuli and ideally this requires training in the 6-15 repetition range. I see so many people who train their arms like this so have huge arms but then have very unimpressive abs because they do ‘nancy’ exercises for 30+ repetitions until they feel a burn, but they haven’t placed enough mechanical tension on the muscle to stimulate significant growth. I also see the opposite. Some people think they do enough heavy compound strength training movements to get a strong core like deadlifts, squats, presses etc. But they neglect the metabolic stress stimulus required for hypertrophy (growth) of the abdominals. With this in mind here are a few of my favourite abdominal training exercises I use to get the Danepak:

These exercises are great because they can be progressively loaded or changed to alter the leverage to place more mechanical tension on the muscle. I also use supersets and drop sets after a heavy strength sets for a greater metabolic effect stimulus. Here are just a few of my favourite supersets:

  • Weighted aleknas + bodyweight v-ups
  • Weighted rollouts + hanging leg raise
  • Weighted aleknas + hanging leg raise
  • Weighted hanging leg (with ankle weights) + bodyweight hanging leg raise
  • Weighted rollouts + bodyweight rollouts + bodyweight V-Ups
  • Candlesticks + V-ups
  • Windscreen wipers + hanging leg raise
  • and many more!

Before you rush off and blast your abdominals it’s important to understand that the positioning of your pelvis and spine is really important and must be controlled by your trunk and hip musculature throughout each rep of every exercise. For anterior core exercises like the ones shown you should aim to keep a hollow body position, like seen below. This means that you should tilt your pelvis posteriorly (tuck your tail bone under) by squeezing your abs and glutes. So first practice this – lay on your back on the floor with your legs and arms out extended slightly off the ground. If you are engaging the correct muscles, your lower back should be touching the floor. Ask somebody to try put their hand underneath it, they shouldn’t be able to. Your lower back should NOT be arched!

The hollow body position - Keep that posterior pelvic tilt during ab exercises

The hollow body position – Keep that posterior pelvic tilt during ab exercises

Arching your lower back and anteriorly tilting your pelvis (sticking your bum out) during these exercises puts unnecessary strain on your spine as you are not supporting it properly with the surrounding muscles. If you cannot maintain this hollow body position during these exercises you’re not ready for them. I will show some regressions and progressions of these exercises in future blog posts. The exercises shown in the video are very tough but let me tell you once you’re able to do 6-20 repetitions of the weighted variations you will definitely have a set of thick, strong abdominals that will protrude even through a thin layer of subcutaneous belly fat. Get reasonably lean and you’ll have all the ingredients for an impressive mid-section that is attainable all year round.

There’s many more exercises, variations, progressions and combinations I use but again I’ll have to save them for another blog post or you’ll be reading all day. And yes I do eat bacon, quite often!

Get the Danepak!

Have a great day

Dane

Leeds Force basketball in the gym

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basketball session pic

Just thought you would be interested to see what my basketball lads are up to in the gym at the moment. Leeds Force are a professional team who play in the British basketball league (BBL) which is the top basketball league here in the UK. The team is made up of some home grown talent and some foreign players from the USA, Spain and even Croatia.  They’re a good group of lads, committed to their training and it’s always good banter when they are in the gym!

As well as keeping them away from the netball girls it is my job to make them jump higher and move around the court quicker. I also need to get them strong and robust enough to cope with the physicality in the supposedly non-contact sport of basketball (which it really isn’t in the BBL as they have to contend with 7ft tall opposition trying to push them around the court!)

It’s getting towards the end of a long, tough and busy season but we’re still going strong in the gym and touch wood everyone’s bodies are holding up – apart from one of the players Will who was born with a back made of chocolate, but he’s ok now 🙂

In-season, I do 2 sessions per week in the gym with them and they train on-court 5 days per week sometimes twice per day. They play most weekends, often having more than one game.

Our Tuesday session in the gym has a strength emphasis and we do a lighter more dynamic power emphasis session on a Thursday as this is nearer to game day. The Thursday session is therefore lower volume, will produce less muscular damage, soreness and fatigue than the Tuesday session and acts as a bit of a primer for game day.

Check out a quick snippet of their gym training in the video below:

If you haven’t seen a game of professional basketball before I’d really recommend going to one, it’s a superb evening out! Elite basketball is a super fast paced, dynamic game, full of skill.  It’s generally very high scoring as teams battle back and forth over 4 quarters. Huge leaps, slam dunks and lightening like interceptions makes it a really exciting spectacle. Just seeing how tall some of the players are is a spectacle in itself, the tallest Force player was over 7ft tall!

Check out some highlights below of what was a great game for Leeds Force, beating London Lions earlier this season:

The Force boys have got 2 games left this season, one at home in Leeds. If you can get to one you’ll really enjoy it but if not be sure to look out for them next season in which they will be an even stronger Force in the BBL!

Hope you enjoyed meeting the players, check out their website here or follow them on Twitter for regular updates. Also, please feel free to leave a comment or get in touch if you have any questions or would like to know or see more.

Dane

My favourite alternative to the bench press (and you’re probably not doing it like this)

partner weighted banded press ups top portion

Don’t get me wrong the bench press is an awesome exercise, one of the big 3 (powerlifts) and without doubt a king of the pushing exercises. It’s a staple for many athletes like rugby players who need good upper body strength and for those with physique goals, let me tell you that most decent male bodybuilders or fitness model in the world will have a bench press variation in their programme.

The problem with the bench press is that it can soon irritate your shoulders if your technique isn’t perfect and you aren’t doing lots of prehab / assistance work alongside it for the shoulder complex / rotator cuff. Believe it or not there’s a lot of technique for pushing a barbell away from your chest. If you aren’t projecting the bar along the right path, keeping your elbows at the correct angle, sufficiently engaging your latissimus dorsi muscles and so on, then a heavy weight pinning your shoulder blades to a bench is eventually likely to result in shoulder pain, rotator cuff impingements etc.

My solution is the humble press-up / push up! Too easy? Add a strength band and then additional weight.

I give you the banded weighted press-up!

The press-up allows your scapula (shoulder blades) to move freely around your ribcage as your arms move in the way nature intended them too. Even with a heavy added load and strong bands I’ve never felt any discomfort in my shoulders with it.  It’s a real shoulder saver!

Although elite powerlifters will use their trunk / core musculature very well in the bench press, the press up generally works these muscles to a greater extent than the regular bench press. Particularly with added load it becomes a great abdominal exercise as the whole of your anterior core has to brace to keep your body stable, it’s like doing a weighted plank and a bench press all in one. Even more bang for your buck!

I’ve always liked weighted press ups but found that when you get pretty strong it becomes hard to fit any more weight on your back so progress becomes haltered. However by adding the bands you can really increase the difficulty of the exercise, particularly at the top few inches of the movement which often don’t get overloaded in the regular pres up or bench press.

I also love this exercise because you can vary it depending on your goals, by changing the weight your put on your back or by using different strength/thickness bands. Here’s what I advise:

  • If developing strength is your goal I would recommend using a heavy weight on your back plus quite a thick, strong band and do approximately 1-6 repetitions per set.
  • If power is your goal use a light enough weight (or no weight at all) so that you can move fast. Add a band so it adds a bit of resistance at the top of the press-up which otherwise would have just been completed with momentum from the initial push. You can also do explosive / clap press ups without the band for power if you are able to do them. Multiple sets of 1-6 explosive reps are generally optimal for power development.
  • If hypertrophy / muscle size is your goal use a medium weight and a medium strength band and do between 6 and 15 repetitions per set. Drop sets also provide a great hypertrophy stimulus and are very convenient to do with the band. Watch the video below where I do a double drop set:

Of course the bench press can also be manipulated to provide a power, hypertrophy or strength emphasis. You can do banded bench press (but it’s a real faff to set up and still could aggravate your shoulders).

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Banded bench press to start the morning

A post shared by Dane Mitchell (@danemitch) on

You can also do smith machine bench press throws for power development. These act similar to the explosive / clap press ups but the bar path of a smith machine is again horrible for your shoulders and you’d still be pinning your shoulder blades to a bench which isn’t good!

The banded weighted press up is also much safer than the bench press, you don’t particularly need a spotter. If you fail a rep all you have to do is lie on your stomach and slip your hands out of the bands and either slide the weight plates off your back or take your arms out of the back pack. So no worrying about a heavy barbell crushing your chest or landing on your neck!

You’ll notice at the end of the video above I’m pretty much doing a 1 rep max banded weighted press-up. There I used 35kg additional weight plus two medium strength purple bands. No spotter, no danger. Two bands add some serious resistance because my equivalent bench press 1rep max at the moment is about 120-130kg @ 75kg bodyweight so they’ve provide great potential for progression.

I realise some people can’t do a bodyweight press up so a band + weight would be way too much. Don’t worry, if you can’t do one just yet keep a look out for my next blog post to see what I suggest. Here’s a clue, it’s not doing them on your knees or even by elevating your hands.

Hope this was helpful, give it a go and let me know what you think.

Have a great day!

Dane