My trip to Tuscany

Now onto why I was really sunning it out in Tuscany.  I am priveleged to be part of something called RMAX International, a ‘Global Peak Performance community of teachers and students’.  Naturally, I am more student than teacher but our founder Scott Sonnon developed a system of training known as Circular Strength Training (CST) which reflects elements of a whole range of other more traditional fitness systems like Yoga, Thai Chi, Russian Sambo, Indian Club Swinging and many others.  As a fitness professional I was getting involved in Clubell training and my search led me to the great man, finding out that a whole set of bodyweight exercises also formed a large part of his training.  I came to realise that there were some UK-based RMAX coaches around so in the summer of 2011 I attended my first CST seminar in Marylebone at Diego Core’s Field and Training Clinic.

In this course I learned what was required of me to become CST certified.  Only 100 repetitions of three exercises known as the ‘TRIAL BY FIRE’

with 15lb clubs.  Check this demo out

After months of practise I attended the first UK certification in Slough UK, attended by people from all over Europe and beyond at Vik Hothi’s centre IMAS UK.  Thankfully I passed this gruelling fitness test and felt a great sense of honour and achievement.

It was also a great honour to meet Scott Sonnon as well as European head coach Alberto Galazzi

One year on and I have benefitted greatly from being a CST instructor.  I understand human movement so well now and have a good idea on understanding proper human biomechanics. This is particularly important when deciding what kinds of exercises to give to people.  The actual exercise programme resulting from CST is TACFIT where the aim is to condition ourselves physically and mentally for the challenges we face in life.  An integretive programme where there is a lot of emphasis on breathing, recovery and mobility and where the exercises do not comprmise any of the aforementioned, unlike with other systems where the actual exercises can involve a higher than normal level of good mobility which does not suit most 21st century desk-jockeys.

So my journey took me to Florence where there was a convention for all European based instructors.  I was thoroughly impresses by the Italian boys and girls who look very committed and enthusiastic about what we are involved in.  My aim is to now prepare for my Tacfit certification and my CST retesting, hopefully ending with attending the TACFIT bootcamp in Capri this time next year.  I am excited about this journey and know that in following it I can find the fittest version of myself so I invite all readers to do the same.

Tacfit classes are held every week at Diego Core’s Centre the link for which is above (like on his name).  So come along and try something different and do things you never thought you could do.


Advanced Bodyweight Circuit

Continuing with the bodyweight feature, I decided to make the most of the London sunshine (yes London) and my newly waxed chest by performing a bodyweight workout for the more advanced.  Workouts like this kind of prove a few things:

  • There is never any excuse not to train.  Even you bodybuilding freaks can build serious muscle and insane core strength with these exercises.
  • There is a bodyweight workout for everyone.  If you look at the basic workout performed by my client in the following Youtube video there really is no limit.  Even on a really basic level you have things like the flowfit and intuflow which form some of the core drills in Circular Strength Training.
  • Those of you into your yoga the half-crow exercise is the marker for you to see if your strength has been compensated by excessive yoga practice.  At some stage the strength developed through yoga needs to be taken to the next level and this is a really good exercise to help you with that.

So here are the four exercises

  1. 1.       One legged squat

Just stand on one-leg and squat as low as you can.  Use a tree-stump or pole for support if you’re not there yet

  1. 2.       Half Crow

Assume the down-dog position then take one knee to the corresponding elbow.  Keep the elbow tight then go into a quasi-handstand

  1. 3.       Rocking eagle

Starting in a forearm balance position go straight into a headstand.  Come out of it into the forearm balance and repeat.  Admittedly I cheated a bit by not coming out of the headstand properly but I was under pressure to do one take.

  1. 4.       One-handed push-up

Get on one hand and push up, simple.  Nick Tuminello gives a great tutorial on this.

So excuse the poor quality and enjoy the video

Bodyweight Training: the dangers

So it looks like bodyweight training is really becoming more and more attractive to fitness enthusiasts.  Not so fast though; before you start doing jumping jacks and burpees in the park make sure that your body is ready for it all.  All that high impact stuff is great for improving athletic fitness and staying lean and agile but I do cringe when I watch people performing any variation of jumping exercise and then landing on the ground like elephants.

If we cannot land on the ground with almost pin-drop silence then that is a skill we need to learn.  There are two steps towards this, mobility and stability:

With mobility, the aim is to be able to swing your leg from the hip like a pendulum, forward and to the side.  The knee should also have a good degree of freedom being able to easily bring the heel to the butt.  The traditional ‘butt kick’ is often used as a warm-up but quad-presses are also important to train yourself to close that range of motion between heel and butt.  Check this video out for a tutorial in the quad press

So this not only is a great bodyweight exercise that few people practice but it helps encourage better mobility at the hip and knees in preparation for high impact jumping exercises.  Basically, good hip mobility allows you more ‘hang-time’ before you hit the ground, allowing you to use more elastic recoil to absorb energy.

Such hip mobility may be compromised by tight IT bands, the band of connective tissue going down the side of your thigh.  For this, only foam rolling seems to work.  Brent Brookbush gives a great demo on this and a whole heap of other stuff:

Make sure you view the accompanying videos on this subject.

As for stability then you need to train your glutes to perform their job of being the first line of defence for your knees.  Not all leg exercises are created equal and if you are quad dominant, no matter how much you squat or lunge your upper hams and glutes will not get enough work.  So practice step-ups with an upright shin or box-squats, perhaps even TRX squats which will help shift emphasis to the posterior chain of muscles.

Swiss ball curls and glute bridge exercises will really target the back line as well.

At some stage I will provide a more image-based article on going through the above progressions.  Until then be careful about your bodyweight exercises.  I still stand by my view that CST instructors have the best knowledge regarding which bodyweight exercises are best for you.


Newly updated; head over to the workouts section and read the article step before you squat with a video tutorial.

Bodyweight training, the next big thing

So this is definitely no gimmick.   Due to a number of factors like binding gym contracts and the growing popularity of bootcamp exercises bodyweight training is now becoming more and more popular, especially when you have people like Zuzannah demonstrating them on Bodyrock TV

Working with our own bodyweight means that we become relatively strong managing our own bodyweight, we enhance core strength and encourage greater mobility as we are no longer so restricted to specific angles and directions.  On that note, I do believe that circular strength straining has the best array of bodyweight exercises.  Others seem to be so last year with nothing much more than burpees and press-ups.  Look at how our Singapore friend demonstrates some of the exercises from Circular Strength Training:

These are the best moves because they are circular movements.  Look at all your joints and you’ll find that they articulate some sort of circular movement.  Scott Sonnon’s aim behind our training system is to restore the movement we had as kids.  The foundation to our system is the FLOWFIT the progressions for which are demoed again by our singapore colleague

Another version demoed by Aussie coach Donna Eddy

The more advanced bodyweight exericses involve holds, hand-balances, pull-ups, muscle-ups etc.  A great rundown of this, known as ‘bodyweight isometrics’ is provided in the following article which for some reason is only opening on mobiles:

Or you might be partial to something like this from the calisthenic kingz

Bodyweight training enhances one’s athletic fitness, the type of fitness which doesn’t get lost very easily.  The type of fitness that keeps a person lean.  It’s almost like your body now knows it has to stay lean because of what you have conditioned it for, dynamic movement and agility.