Monday, 14 December 2009

How is your posture holding up?

I would say that every person/client I come across has a defect with their posture. I now assume that every new person that I work with will have a problem with his or her posture; it is just a matter of how much is wrong with it. I look at posture as not only being the make up of the spinal area, but also how a persons arms hang, their neck and head position and their foot position.

I undertake a magnitude of different tests to get a picture of what is wrong with the person’s structure. Tests I use differ from simply looking at the person while standing and how they walk to such tests as dynamic exercises like reverse lunges with overhead reach and squats to static tests such as the Thomas test.

These simple tests help me assess the posture of my clients and allow me to see what needs to be done to help correct their situation. If they have little or no defect to their posture, then I will continue to help strengthen up their postural muscles and posterior chain as well as help them achieve their goal e.g. fat loss, improved strength, sports specific.

Being less active and leading a more sedentary lifestyle I have found to be a fast track to incorrect posture. When I ask what people do for jobs, the majority of them either are stuck behind a desk all day or stuck behind a wheel of a car all day. They then get home and sit in non-supportive chairs and watch television, read, or go on the computer.

This can lead to many changes in the posture of the people I see. The most common sights I see when working with new clients are:

• Forward tilt in the shoulders

• Internal rotation of the arm

• Rounding of the upper (thoracic) spine

• Head and neck protruding forward

• Flattening out of the lower (lumber) spine

• Forward tilt of the hips (pelvis)

• Hips, knees and ankles out of alignment

• Externally rotated feet

Alongside working in exercises that will allow the client to reach their goals, I will work in exercises that will work in exercises that will strengthen up the posterior chain. Major muscles of the posterior chain are:

• Upper back (upper Trapezius, Rhomboids and Rear Deltoids)

• Middle back (mid and lower Trapezius and Latissimus Dorsi)

• Lower back (Erector Spinea)

• Buttocks (Gluteus Maximus and Gluteus Medius)

• Back of upper leg (Biceps Femoris, Semitendinosus and Semimembranosus)

• Back of lower leg (Gastrocnemius and Soleus)

We want to work on improving the strength of these muscles depending on the problems each client has with his or her posture. Our main aim is to get them back in to correct posture, which would be to have:

• Shoulders pulled back, not excessively

• Head and neck pulled back

• No internal rotation of the hands

• Spine to be in the correct position

• Hips to be level, with no forward or backward tilt of the pelvis

• Hips, knees and ankles in alignment

• Feet facing forward

I will be following this article up with the implications poor posture can have on the your health and what exercises I use with my clients to help correct and maintain good posture.

Beachle, T.R., and Earle, R.W. Essentials of Strength and Conditioning, 3rd ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. 2008

Zatsiorsky, V.M., and Kraemer, W.J. Science and Practice of Strength Training, 2nd ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. 2006

Friday, 20 November 2009

WDFPF World Powerlifting Championships

I have finally come out of my self induced hypoglycemic coma from all the crap I have been eating to write this report on the champs.

We got up to Milton Keynes on Friday afternoon to give me time to relax and chill out and prepare for the next day. I was certain that I would make weight as the Friday morning I had weighed in on my scales at 81.5kg, or something like that. The Friday was spent eating salads and grilled chicken breast with olive oil. I had come accustomed to the taste of it, having eaten like this for pretty much 4-5 weeks. I was about 7% bodyfat too. Saying that, I was looking forward to having a box of Coco pops on sunday morning.

I was nervous on the Friday night, not due to the competing, but by the weigh in. I didn't want to go through the hassle of having to try and lose the last bit of weight. My nerves were unfounded though and I walked on the scales at 7.15am at 80.8kg (12 stone 10lbs). This is the lightest I have been in probably 10 years.

It was time to eat and I wanted something quick and easy to consume. I had a bottle of gatorade and a meal shake (150g ground oats, 25g ground linseeds, 6 scoop meal replacement powder). This gave me a total of 1250 calories in about 5 minutes and a massively bloated out belly. I had this by about 7.30am.

I got up from having a lie down and we headed down to have breakfast at 9am. This gave me about 2 - 2 1/2 hours for my breakfast to go down before I started lifting at 11.30am, or what I thought.

I started consuming my plate of full english breakfast and see Rick Meldon the organisor. I say to him 'so the 82.5kg category will be on about 11.30 yeah?' to which he replied, 'no, they are on now, or about to start'. I throw my knife and fork down and go and see if they are. They are, so I go and run and grab my lifting gear and start my warm up on a half eaten full english breakfast. I had basically lost a notch on my weight belt as my stomach was full, I just hoped that the full stomach would give me extra lumber support.

Luckily, the competition, like always, started late and we didn't start lifting until about 9.45am, so it gave me about 20-25 minutes to warm up. This rushing around though had not only completely thrown me out physically, but mentally too. In all it just made me more pissed off. The gist of the situation was that I was originally told I was going to be the last flight to lift in platform 1 (11.30ish) instead it was moved to the first flight on platform 2 (9ish). I should have checked on the morning after weigh in. I never like to keep things simple, miss the weight at the British and the timing at the Worlds. O well.

I got under the bar to squat 170kg, which I was pretty confident in lifting before my having to rush, now there was a bit of anxiety in whether I would lift it. This got to me and I didn't get low enough (the crease of the hips have to be below the knee) on my 1st lift. I returned with 170kg on my 2nd lift and got the depth and the lift, happy days. I put the weight up for 175kg on my 3rd lift, which would have been a PR if I got it, unfortunately I didn't, I will though.

That was the squat done and I was still in the competition. I was able to witness Paul McCaffery set a new world record in our weight category with a 241kg squat, 3 times his bodyweight. He made 220kg look like he was lifting a broom handle. Bear in mind, these are not half ass half squats, these are below parallel and it was unequipped so no lifting suit or knee wraps.

Next up was the bench press. I opened with a 120kg bench. With the bench press, you have to pause the bar at the chest and it has to be still and wait for the call from the judge to press it back up. If the bar is not still, the judge will wait, which in some instances was 1-2 seconds before calling for it to be pressed.

I went up to 125kg for my seconds lift and pressed it out and then went up to 130kg for my 3rd lift. Getting this would equal my PR. I didn't get the lift. I got the bar of the chest ok, I just couldn't lock it out at the top. More triceps strength needed.

Going into my final lift of the day, the deadlift, I was adamant that I would get all 3 lifts. I opened my deadlift account with a 210kg lift, which went up pretty easily. I then moved up to 220kg and pulled that, which seemed like I was trying to lift a house. I knew then that setting a new PR would be out of the question. I put 225kg on the bar for my 3rd attempt and it seemed to come up easier than the 220kg. Maybe the smelling salts had more of an effect on this one.

The most impressive deadlift of the day came from Stuart Ford. At a bodyweight of 67.3 kg (10 1/2 stone) he picked up 253kg setting a new world record for his weight class. This was just under 4 times his bodyweight. That would be like me pulling 320kg. Incredible.

As soon as I had done my last lift on the deadlift, we left the arena for the drive back. Sitting in a car for an hour straight after lifting, with no cool down or stretches does not go down too well with the body. Everything seized up and my deep tissue massage therapist had a field day yesterday. I feel a whole lot better for it now though.

So the final total was 520kg and 7th place overall. Once I looked past my personal disappointment of not setting any new PRs and not lifting to my potential, it was great to have made it the world stage in my first year of competition. I am very grateful to have been there and to have seen some amazing feats of strength. What is in hold for the future? A year off and then come back and compete in the 90kg category in 2011.

Time to get big and strong.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The story of my powerlifting journey so far

I thought I would open my blog account, considering it is 3 days out from the WDFPA world powerlifting championships, with an article on how I got into powerlifting. This in turn really turned my attention to strength and conditioning and the state of the commercial fitness industry. This though is for another article.

I came across powerlifting when this new guy, strength and conditioning coach, Will Wayland (check out his blog started working at the same gym. I started to take on information, a lot of information and decided it was time to take a change from my conventional bodybuilding body part split to a program designed by Will. I was working towards my August 2008 bodybuilding competition and doing this, what Will called it, a hybrid Westside Barbell regime. This was a mix of max effort and repetition effort days for the lower and upper body. I was thinking what the hell is this Westside Barbell stuff.

The training was great, my strength went up and up and up. At the start of april 2008 I was struggling to get a 100kg bench press, by mid june 2008 I was benching 120kg. My squat had got deeper and I was lifting heavy on my deadlifts again. This change in outlook had a negative effect on my bodybuilding contest prep as I was now more interested in getting bigger and stronger and didn't really do my best with my pre-contest diet. I didn't place in my bodybuilding competition, which I was not too bothered about, I was already contemplating stepping on stage at my first powerlifting meet.

September/October 2008 rolled around and I had been reading a lot on both strength and conditioning and powerlifting. I had found and had been directed to sites such as, and authors' sites who wrote on these website.

I begun a full Westside Barbell routine, which took me up to xmas 2008. This consisted of training 4 days a week:
- Monday: Max Effort Method Upper Body Day
- Tuesday: Dynamic/Repetition Method Lower Body Day
- Thursday: Dynamic/Repetition Method Upper Body
- Friday: Max Effort Method Lower Body

For more information go to

I found this new style of training great, enjoyable, intense and super heavy, which I liked. Not only did I get stronger, I became bigger and more dense looking. The days of single body part training were now long gone. Around this time I had also cited a regional powerlifting meet with the British Drug Free Powerlifting Association (BDFPA) in February 2009. I wanted to compete in a drug tested meet, to make it as fair as possible. I now had a goal to hit, get as strong as I can in 5 months.

The start of 2009 brought a change in training. I switched to a 3 day week schedule, which was designed by the former Russian powerlifting coach, Boris Sheiko. This was done on percentage of your 1 rep max. The split was:

- Monday: Squat and bench
- Wednesday: Deadlift and bench
- Friday: Bench and Squat

For more information, check this article out:

This allowed more time to recover and took a bit of getting used to due to only lifting on 3 days instead of 4. This program led me up to the Southeast of England meet and British qualifier. I was competing in the 76-82.5kg body weight class. This meant I needed to drop some excess body weight to get to the weight.

Southeast of England:
I walked on the scales at 82.5kg. I then had a major feed and re-hydrated as much as I could. I totaled with a 510kg (165kg Squat, 125kg Bench and 220kg Deadlift). This placed me 2nd to my surprise and got me an invite to the British championships in April.

I took a week off and ate my ass out. I had 6 weeks after that to prep for the British. I went of my eating a bit too much though and I paid for it come contest time. I had gone up in weight to 87-88kg and had about 4-5 weeks to lose it. I continued with my Sheiko training and my strength was good and going up.

British Championships
At 8am I walked on the scales at 83.7kg, 1.2kg over the limit. I had 1 1/2 hours to lose the weight and there was no sauna. I was dehydrated, so going to the toilet was out. I had to run it off. I headed outside onto a near by playing field, with about 4 layers on and proceeded to sprint about 70 meters and then walk back 70 meters. I did this for about 45 minutes and re-weighed, 82.9kg. Still 400g to lose, so it was back outside for another 15-20 minutes. I re-weighed with about 5 minutes to go and hit the 82.5kg.

I had plenty of time to eat and recuperate as I was the last flight of the day, lifting about 4.30pm. I totaled with 532.5kg (172.5kg Squat, 130kg bench and 230kg Deadlift). My goal was to qualify for the Worlds. I came 4th in my age and weight category, missing out on the 3 spaces for the British team. I was told though that the English don't have their own championships like the Welsh, Scottish and as the 3rd place guy was from Scotland I placed 3rd in England. I got my invite to the World Championships, representing England.

I am now sitting here, 3 days out from the World Championships weighing 82.5kg with more weight to come off, just to cover myself. It has been an interesting journey, considering 20 months ago I had never even contemplated doing powerlifting meets, let alone be about to step on the world stage in my rookie year.

I will keep you posted on the antics of the World Championships this weekend in a review, which I will post next week.