Masterclass with Scott and Alberto

meandalbertomeandscott

Wednesday 1st May and the venue is the Field Training Lifestyle Centre, Marylebone, London. I was privileged enough to attend a master class with two awesome trainers who understand movement and practise what they preach. They have a system of training that is unique and innovative, yet still makes sense. A system that is always developing and just gets more and more interesting.

Number one was Scott Sonnon martial arts expert, fitness coach, and wellness speaker. He has worked with movie stars as well as Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed martial arts fighters. Scott Sonnon was voted one of “The 6 Most Influential Martial Artists of the 21st Century” by Black Belt Magazine in 201o and was named one of “Top 25 Fitness Trainers in the World” by “Men’s Fitness Magazine” in 2011. His fitness system, Circular Strength Training, has been adopted by members of the United States military and law enforcement community. He is also a published author, a public speaker, and an advocate in the fight against childhood obesity.

And number 2 is Alberto Galazzi, who recently featured in Men’s Health Italy. Alberto is an ESI approved protection agent, and head of the European wing of Circular Strength Training.

Learning from these guys is always an amazing experience and what gave me immense satisfaction is how much more I understand from Scott and Alberto compared to 18 months ago when I last saw them. Where other fitness related courses teach us how to perform conventional exercises or learn how to use the latest gimmick, sessions with these guys involve learning and refining the art of movement. We learn how movement is the manifestation of life. When movement is good, the quality of life is good. Perfecting movement does more for anti-ageing then any magic cream or pill. During the masterclass we covered three key areas of the body where movement becomes impaired; shoulders, hips and core. Remember, when our movement fails us in these areas we compensate by overusing other parts of the body.

Shoulders

When getting shoulder problems people turn to this nonsense to rectify it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EY2tNBOmvGs

These cable or band rotations are unbelievably stupid. Shoulder problems are invariably a result of poor shoulder mobility so strengthening is the last thing we need. The dynamic duo taught us some amazing mobility exercises to encourage more rotation at the shoulder joint making sure that all four joints of the shoulder complex get the right amount of attention. Some basic examples of rehab exercises are in the following video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tri0MtGdbvs

Hips

When we have knee problems we turn to this

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5BDi8Oj5eM

Strengthening your VMO the tear drop muscle again is a bad move as this is the thing usually pulling on the patella in the first place. The knee is slave to the hip and ankle so restriction in hip mobility, in particular internal and external rotation plays a big factor in both knee and back problems. The solutions to encourage more mobility in this area are quite simple and begin with the Russian shinbox.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wYBZ6Sn55c

 

Core

As for when we have back problems that are blamed on weak pelvic wall muscles we are told to do leg raises.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ix5h6zAUTNs

I love Pilates but this is where it well and truly loses my vote. The pelvic wall is inactive in many of us that have an anterior pelvic tilt (where the ass sticks out) so the solution is to work on this position.

hollow

Scott and Alberto showed us some innovative exercises incorporating this ‘Power Chamber Workout’. The basics of it are detailed in the following article:

http://www.rmaxinternational.com/flowcoach/?p=827

It was an amazing day and my clients are already enjoying the new instructions they are getting from me. I look forward to learning more from these guys.

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Fitness Resolutions: Turn wishes into reality

movbolt

And as we slowly drift out of our slumber, recover from our pulsating headaches and realise it’s the 1st of january the aim of many is to get into shape.  Perfect time for wannabee writers like myself to impart their words of wisdom on the subject.  If I had to give one unique tip, it would be this:

Get the fitness routine in place and ignore the diet

Yep, I said it.  Don’t throw away the Chrimbo treats just yet.  It’s a gradual process but improving your wellness and wellbeing through fitness is a marathon not a sprint.  Fitness resolutions are mere wishes and only become reality through realism.  The January surge in gym attendance characterises this mindset and the subsequent lull and decline exposes the lack of willpower in fullfulling this wish.  So we need a plan in place that we are capable of following.  If Usain Bolt dreamed of becoming a double long distance gold medallist he would have failed after a few training sessions because the target was unrealistic.

buddy

The goal: Find the fittest version of ourselves

Forget all that ‘get buns of steel’ and ‘lose the manboob’ bullshit.  A simple generic goal for all of us that we can guarantee through our training is to find the fittest versions of ourselves.  Therefore, intially diet doesn’t really matter because we are just trying to get fit.  Hell, we can eat chocolate and still get fit and we can feel less guilty about a chocolate bar after a spin class.  So put the plan in place; look at your class timetable and see what appeals to you and what fits in with your work schedule.  Make sure one of those classes is a pilates or yoga class, invest in a session with a trainer.  We (at least I am anyway) are more than happy to see some clients once a fortnight where we learn new routines for them to use in their own time, thus maintaining that consistency  and guaranteeing an upward curve of progress.

055

This notion of ‘finding the fittest versions of ourselves’ is something I have embraced through our unique training system of Circular Strength Training (CST).  I met Mattia (above) in a CST seminar in Florence (sorry Firenze) and realised how with the right dedication and subsequent effort as well as the proper guidance we can do things  that were never possible before.  With CST we cover all angles and take the best elements from a multitude of disciplines including Pilates and Yoga.  Just look at Mattia in action here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89-xEHmf9iE

The result : Fitness becomes part of our enduring culture

You get gym addicts that train hard but don’t necessarily train smart.  They forget about the enjoyment, the connection with one’s inner core and breathing and the need to remain injury-free.  The result is a series of compensations through one-dimensional training methods which they just work around with the help of analgesics.  Few can sustain this especially when conventional training does not teach you the most efficient joint-sparing movement patterns demonstrated by CST head coach Scott Sonnon here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdWUUVTkQ-E

True the moves are advanced but the application here is for special opps; we can perform simpler versions of these moves with the application being to simply navigate around the workplace or kitchen where a lot of back-pain is experienced.  Had a great time teaching my little pregnant sister how to move around the kitchen of her new home in a more efficient manner to spare her all that pain.

2012-12-14 17.51.00

So as usual I have rambled on in order to open your eyes on what fitness is to me but it all begins with that first step of putting a plan in action.  Have a happy 2013.

Healthy regards

Saaj

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKE1LS930P0

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.

The Myth of quick-fix transformations

Bit of a contradiction in that this is a two-month photo comparison for one of my clients.  Truth is, he started with me in January and took some time before really seeing the aesthetic benefits of his training.  We see bilboards and other  adverts talking about this 60-day body transformation and my belief is that this is all a load of nonsense.  When we search for aesthetic benefits to our training we look at celebrities and athletes, people who are naturally beautiful and fit who back it up with hard-work.  Please tell me one person with an amazing body or an amazing level fitness who hasn’t been training for years.  That is what it takes peeps. years yes years.

Of course, those who have been training since a young age and have the good genetics, they can get back into training and see quick results.  These people hold a position on the opposite side of the spectrum.  They can see results in weeks, yes weeks.

Luckily, people are now realising this and don’t get fooled by such ads because they know all about photoshop, instagram and bullshit advertising.  I just want it to be known that ‘get results fast’ will not be a motto of mine.  As part of CST I will try and uphhold more profound mantras like, longevity, ageless mobility and pain-free health with the promise that aesthetics will come as a bonus.  I will not make people dependent on a personal trainer but keep my position as someone standing in the backgorund, monitoring your progress, keeping you interested through using varied methods of training.

I have been working in this one gym for over a year now and have seen three types of people.

1. The usual amazing looking regulars who keep coming to do the same old boring thing in fear of losing what they have.  The only progress they monitor is, if anything, how much they are lifitng.  There is no variety in what they do and any improvements in strength are likely to be just neuromuscular which is great if you are entering a powerlifitng competition.

2. Those that come for a few weeks then stop.  Probably because they don’t see results.  Then they see their bank balance and realise that they are still paying for their gym membership so quickly pick up their gym kit.

3.  They keep coming and try to do the same as the first group but get nowhere, absolutely fuckin nowhere.  They can’t accept that they don’t have the right genetics so need to train more intelligently.  Worse still they just lift heavier and heavier each time but still look no better.

So for group 1 keep at it but don’t spend so long training.  You have good genes, so shorten your sessions and go out and enjoy yourselves.  However, as you get older you must think of an alternative way to train.

For the other two groups, read my motivations tips and start monitoring your progress and when you don’t see changes get a professional opinion.  Maybe find a way to train which isn’t so boring.  Join a Crossfit box or something.

Above all you need to make fitness for life.  That could mean being a gym-rat but for me a holistic approach to fitness is better.  In our CST training programme we have a tri-ring approach to fitness explained in the following page

http://www.rmaxi.com/cst/

Hence, there is always something to do.  There is a way of working-in as well as working-out.  This way we can take a break from weights now and then and work on our mobility.  We can switch to circuit work or even adopting a sport or other outdoor pursuit, maybe even just walk the dog.

Train for a reason, Train with reason

My good friend John Bass from Bass Planet TV produced a lovely little video for me so thought I’d post a link to it in my blog.

Also feel the need to explain the reason behind preparing such a video without it looking like I’m showing off 😉

For a start we have the one-handed push-up.  Here’s a great tutorial by Nick Tumminello, one of my favourite coaches, on this exercise

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzkDI0_4I2g&feature=related

Now, on my video you’ll see me struggling a lot more on my left.  This is partly becuase of me being right-handed but that is not the full story.  My shoulder stability is a lot weaker on my left.  I find it harder to squeeze that shoulder down and create a firm and stable foundation.  Hence, the one-handed push-up is about combining strength and mobility which is why I call this training with reason.  Now I can wait until I get an injury and pay a fortune on physio or I can address this now which is why I perform those shoulder mobility exercises at the beginning of the video.  I can even find an exercise that will help improve my shoulder stability and work my core at the same time.  Enter the hammer swing as pictured below

This basically involves swinging the club in a clockwork motion round and round.  An amazing core exercise that tests your cardio and trains you to maintain the connection between your shoulders and torso.

I also demonstrate a pistol or one-legged squat; the photo shows how my thigh is touching my chest in the bottom position

Again a good balance of strength and mobility is required.  If my lower lats, or more specifically, my thoracolumbar fascia, are holding on to my pelvis too tight this position would be more diffcult.  Likwise if my glutes  and IT band were tight or I had a lot of capsular tightness in the acetablum where the thigh meets the pelvis.  Getting very technical now but in a nutshell, a one-legged squat isn’t all about mere leg strength.

Even the muscle-up combines strength with mobility as I have to go through quick, smooth transitions from pulling-up to pushing off.  If I were obsessed with weights and tightened up all the muscles and tendons (rotator cuffs) crossing the shoulder joint the muscle-up would become about brute strength which is not what you want for long-term health.

I hope readers can appreciate the value of this vision on fitness afterwhich I can only attribute it to one man in Scott Sonnon and his great team of coaches at RMAX international.

So here’s the video and I hope a more dignified reason has emerged for putting it up.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5g5d6onZ6pk&feature=plcp

Clubbells? What do they do?

So as if the picture above isn’t enough to answer the question.  Since taking up and teaching clubbell training I am often asked what these tools do.  I suppose it’s a valid question.  After all, we all know side bends get rid of love handles right? (As if).  More on that in another post.

So I have criticised ‘Arnie-style’ training as being time-consuming, boring, with the potential to ruin posture, knees, lower back and shoulders, defo in the long-run.  Clubs however are obviously more fun because of the variety they provide.  Club training allows greater and more liberated movement at the joints to keep them healthier especially when a certified trainer like myself can make sure you have the right mechanics suited to the relevant exercise.  For a more detailed look at clubbell training check out the following link

http://www.clubbell.tv/

For girls, working with lighter clubs will tone your arms a lot quicker because the basic pressing and casting movements load the arms muscles eccentrically, meaning that they strengthen whilst lengthening.  They will even help you perform some of the advanced yoga moves involving hand-balances as you work more on stabilising the clubs using your core and shoulder girdle.  Bodypump on the other hand is just another Arnie workout separating the body into individual building blocks, when we are actually an integrated system.  Scott Sonnon teaches us that we are in fact one muscle and one bag of connective tissue with different attachments.

Clubbells in a gym may look strange but look who else is training with them:

The US

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeoaKaU9VjQ

Norway

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3AbyWCRNVE

Italy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=becwzuNv5DU

So you’re not alone.  This is the clubbell revolution and allow Cesar Clavijo to explain a bit more

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1JSnBulaVA&feature=plcp

This video makes me proud to be part of the CST family.  Tomorrow is when I start getting back into my club training, aiming to get as proficient as Cesar in the video.  You will also see the aesthetic benefits I will have aquired through training like this.

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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJO-nUueZqY

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0U_mmNmNBwA

Another version demoed by Aussie coach Donna Eddy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPn4XDSSREU

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:

http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/bodyweight_isometrics_for_improved_strength

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9QeitaeBrY

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.

Functional what?

So if you’re in the fitness industry you have probably bastardised this term ‘functional training’ (or you continue to do so, tut tut). If you just attend the gym then you may not have even heard this term. Gym management staff are now calling it ‘freestyle’ training. Sorry, but I am calling it Gimmicky training. Yes, yet another attack on gimmicks.

So we have people standing on BOSUs (the half ball) or even swiss balls and squatting crazy weights and calling this functional. In this industry the term has become very cliche. Those calling this functional can only be forgiven if they have just come out of PT school. If there was a proper definition of functional training it would be one that acknowledges how the body manifests movement through the collective working of muscles, tendons and ligaments, proprioceptors, bones, joints etc. You end up with a science that is quite vast. Every movement then can become an exercise. People out there that are said to specialise in this kind of training are affiliated with a company called FASTERGLOBAL. Their work is interesting and I did a two-day foundational course in it with a trainer called Ben Cormac and learnt a great deal. My only jibe with it is that it didn’t give me a comprehensive programme and template to work according to like Circular Strength Training does.

So as a gym regular how do you make your workout more functional. For me you have to address pitfalls of your daily activity. We sit down alot so we should perform exercises that encourage us to really pop out those hips, in which case you get off that bloody treadmill and use the rower. I would say prefer step-ups over squats and lunges. When you shoulder press, make sure you start with your elbows stabbed in and not flaring out. Then get a proper extension of your arm to stretch out the arm line. Too many of us are training in a way that compounds the postural defects acquired from our sedentary lives. This is why many yoga and pilates entusiasts frown upon conventional training and I don’t blame them frankly. As trainers we should be striving to help people achieve that balance between strength and mobility.