Masterclass with Scott and Alberto


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.


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

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.


When we have knee problems we turn to this

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.



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

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.


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

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.


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.

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

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.

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

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



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

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:

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.

Purposeful Training, Part 4: Don’t be Gimmick Specific

Any new kit that finds a home in our gyms is immediately seen as another gimmick or fad.  Then you just have a hot guy or girl using it to let people know that this is the next big thing.  While a trainer can benefit you through providing variety it is important that a trainer knows the purpose of using a new gadget.  I always think to myself, could this exercise be achieved through a conventional method.  With the kettlebell for instance the swing enables us to exert huge power through the use of our posterior chain of muscles.  For many this is such an under-recruited area in the body that even on a swing there is a likelihood that the quads are the dominant drivers.  A good trainer should realise this and explain the importance of redressing the balance and provide exercises where the hamstrings are specifically targetted like the swiss ball curl.

The TRX is a huge gimmick.  Valid for home and outdoor training maybe but in a gym?  Can you not perform bicep curls with a dumbell?  But wait, then we realise that it is a great way for girls to get use to performing proper push-ups.  The bicep curl on a TRX engages the core more and the squat allows people to learn proper form and recruit the posterior chain more.  So only use the fancy stuff if you know why, otherwise stay conventional.

Another problem with one-trick pony, gimmick specific trainers is that they expect everyone to perform an exercise in the same way; we all have different bio-mechanics and levers, differing levels of flexibility.  Hence, a good trainer adjusts and tweaks to find the right method for each individual.   Better still, a good trainer provides the mobility drills that allow one to perform an exercise correctly in the future.  Kettlbell gurus keep shouting at us about how to rack properly but fall short when explaining the limitations when trying to execute this position.  Not Scott Sonnon though, check this video out:

I could actually watch this video all day.  Tight arms lines are endemic in society and a result of typing, pen-pushing, texting, gaming, steering and too many bicep curls.  Coach Sonnon has addressed this while teaching kettlebells.  This is where a gimmick becomes a PURPOSEFUL tool and training becomes PURPOSEFULL.

Hope the concept of purposeful training is getting clearer.

Purposeful Training, part 3: Stop being so Pushy!

Ok so updating my blog from my mobile so a little tricky this time.

So first we had the 80s obsession with aerobics and Fame, then the 90s obsession with cardio equipment. Then the naughties and the emerging concept that weight training helps burn more calories so c’mon girls get involved and you won’t bulk up; let’s do body pump. I did body pump for my first time and found it really tough. It even left me feeling that this is more of a bulking up routine.

So cardio involves a lot of repetitive movement creating excessive oxidative stress. Weights involves a lot of pushing and pulling, exerting a lot of metabolic energy and leading to distortions in length-tension relationships if not done in a balanced fashion.

A key missing link is the use of elastic potential to load the body ready to explode. If ever a concept was more suited to toning it would be this. How ironic that the best way for a girl to tone her arms is to perform a ‘manly’ exercise, boxing. Franchises like Boxercise involve the safe use of boxing gear to perform in the form of fun workouts. Good for all ages and levels. Click on the relevant link to find out more. Needless to say I am a certified Boxercise instructor, at least I will be once I renew my registration (ooops).

Other examples of exercises that adopt the same principle include ball slams or kettle bell swings.

An even more exciting form of training is club bell training. Weighted clubs are believed to be the oldest exercise tools. Ever watched the Flintstones? I am privileged to have trained in this discipline under Scott Sonnon who demonstrates his skills in this video

So purposeful also refers to the deployment of eccentric training. Better for mobility and more conducive to toning.