Bar work: introducing the power clean

The power clean (pulling the bar up from the floor and racking it on the front of your shoulders) is a beautifully intense exercise that puts mind and muscle to work with big rewards. Definitely one for the front-end of your workout when you’re feeling fresh and full of energy.

Sally Moss from Ultimate Performance demonstrates the move in the clip below –

If you’ve mastered the deadlift then you’re well on the way to getting to grips with the power clean. Give it a go – you’ll need some weight on the bar so that there’s enough resistance to work against, but as always start light and explore the technique before attempting to break any records.


What to wear to the gym: style secrets part 1

Merrell trail gloves with socks to match (credit to DoTheFashionMaths for photo styling)

Merrell trail gloves with socks to match (credit to DoTheFashionMaths for photo styling)

If somebody tells you that they “just throw anything on” before heading to the gym, don’t you believe it. I’d venture that there’s nothing accidental about most of the outfits being worn on the workout floor. My contribution to the collective consciousness on this most important matter is…wait for it…to wear socks that match your trainers. I know, you’ve probably had to pull up a chair and sit down to take the full scale of that comment in, but it’s something to bear in mind ; )

Workout diary: Thu 23 Jan 2014

I’ve got a 3 hour company meeting tomorrow, which is a lot of sitting down time! Not good, unless I’m recovering from a workout ; ) Quick, let’s bring Friday’s session forwards and get to the gym!

Here’s how this evening’s workout played out –

First up, deadlift, beginning with a light warm-up set and then increasing the weight. It’s a whole body exercise, recruiting large muscle groups, so I place it first on the list and hit it while I’m fresh. Rippetoe’s tips on deadlift stance are spot on. As you begin the move, it might feel like you’re leaning too far forward over the bar, but the setup works a treat. Deadlifts build great forearm strength and will improve your grip no end.

Next, some lateral pull-downs (wide grip). Nothing heavy, the motivation here is mainly to stretch-out the back after those deadlifts.

And now onto shoulders, which I’ve decided will be the focus of this evening’s workout. First up here – seated shoulder press machine. I want to lift fairly heavy, and make sure that my shoulders are doing most of the work, which is the thinking behind picking a machine in this case over free weights. For the sets, I’ll pyramid the weight up and down, aiming to peak for the heaviest set.

After the shoulder presses it’s back to the lateral pull-downs, again to stretch out the back.

From here, it’s onto cable lateral raises to work the medial (or middle) deltoid, hitting the exercise one arm at a time. Then I switch to front cable raises to work the anterior (or front) deltoid, again doing the move one arm at a time. I’ll run through these exercises one after the other until my shoulders are well and truly cooked.

Now, time for some cardio in the shape of a light run. I’ve got some 10k races lined up starting early summer and so it’s time to progress up the training curve. The plan this year is to work first on running duration and then build up the speed. At the moment I’m running for 20 mins at easy-easy pace and will up this 30 mins over the next couple of weeks, before speeding things up. My PB is 39m51s (or something like that), so my body needs to be happy for running for 40 minutes at a time (at least).

Finally, it’s over to the rowing machine for a go at the O’Neill test to lay down a marker (you can see my result in the updated section of yesterday’s “how to row” post).

Workout summary
• Deadlifts
• Lateral pull-downs (wide grip)
• Seated shoulder press machine
• Lateral pull-downs (wide grip)
• Cable lateral raises (front)
• Cable lateral raises (side)
• 20 mins treadmill (easy-easy pace)
• Rowing machine (O’Neill test)

60/20/20 and 1(2,3) = perfect formula for rowing

Welcome to this evening’s post, where Jay Blahnik and Josh Crosby are going to talk through the finer points of how to row – tips that apply both to the popular Concept2 design as well as the whizzo WaterRower pictured in the clip. The rowing machine is a brilliant piece of kit, and much easier to master than you might think. Plus, it delivers a whole body workout, which can be a great antidote to a day spent in the office sat stooped over a desk.

Look out for the following teaching points from Jay –

“Get the order right – legs first, then core, then arms”

“Get the power right – 60% (legs), 20% (core), 20% (arms)”

“And then get the timing right – 1 count out on the drive and 2 counts back in on the recovery”

Now that we’re up to speed on technique, it’s time to find out what kind of shape we’re in via the Four Minute O’Neill Fitness Test !!!

Protocols such as the O’Neill test or the Cooper test, which relates to the treadmill, are useful ways to track your progress or assess your current condition, and for me make the aerobic segment of a workout more engaging.

I’ll update the post with my latest O’Neill result when I’m next in the gym : )


Distance rowed in 4 mins = 1045 m
Protocol = Concept2 rower, damper setting (5), start from rest
O’Neill verdict = above average (but not by much!)


More Flex Lewis wisdom to follow yesterday’s post on the specifics of the dumbbell chest press, this time we’re looking at different moves for training the triceps –

I did a circuit of the first four exercises (sequence ends 5m07s) –

20 reps, wide-grip rope
20 reps, close grip
20 reps, bar underhand grip
20 reps, bar overhand grip

at the gym this afternoon, and Rich Gaspari sums it up best – “nice burn!”

No pain, no gain ; )

Note that pain=discomfort in this sense, if you feel acute pain then STOP.

Dumbbell bench press – part 2

Now that we’ve mastered the basics of the dumbell bench press thanks to Joe and Hide, it’s time to talk warm-up sets and mind-muscle connection with Neil Hill and Flex Lewis

Warm-up sets are a great opportunity to focus on the movement before you give 110% in the working phase of the exercise.

Neil’s point about stopping short at the bottom of the movement (with the dumbbells 3-5 cm above your chest) is a good tip if you want to keep the load off your shoulders and zone in on your chest. And, as Flex does in the clip, if you want to develop the upper chest you can achieve this by performing the exercise on an inclined bench.

Chest flyes (6m06s in the clip) are an opportunity to work the pectorals from a different angle, and Neil’s teaching points about keeping your knuckles parallel and not going too deep, are sound advice.

Also, I like their addition of machine chest presses (9m24s in the clip) to close out the sequence. Your chest will be fatigued from the dumbbell moves, but there’ll still be some fuel left somewhere in the tank and a machine will make it a bit easier on your body, while still extracting the best of what’s left in your pecs.

Have fun with it : )

Dumbbell bench press – part 1

Ok, now that we know a smart way to pick up dumbbells, let’s head over to Gold’s Gym, Venice Beach, and do some bench pressing with Joe Tong and Hidetada Yamagishi.

As Joe points out in the clip, there is a lot of scope with the dumbbell chest press to execute the exercise in relative comfort by adjusting the position of your hands and elbows. With heavier weights, I really notice discomfort in my left shoulder if I keep the dumbbells horizontal at the bottom of the exercise. To fix this, I tilt the dumbbells slightly towards the chest, which reduces the stress on the shoulder.

Another benefit of using dumbells over a bar is that the separate weights help to balance your strength gains on your left and right sides, which is beneficial to posture. Finally, please note Joe’s closing comment – “make sure that you have a weight that you can control – don’t let the weight control you.”

If you are unsure about any strength-training exercise, start light and rehearse the technique.