Category Archives: General Training

Measuring performance without focusing on the weight

It’s very easy to become completely consumed by how much weight is on the bar. Even me, although I’m not an ‘ego-lifter’, I still care about the amount of weight I am lifting. Although I don’t compare the weights I lift with the weights other people lift, I do compare the weight I am lifting to what I was lifting before. My big focus is actually what I am lifting now compared to what was I lifting last week, last month, last year… etc.

The problem is, lifting isn’t as simple as this! You can’t just go up and up in weight for every exercise, every workout, every single time. Here I provide some other strategies you can use to measure your performance and have peace of mind that you are improving, even if the weight isn’t necessarily going up. Continue reading

Squats – can you push your knees too far out?

One of the most common and widely discussed fixes for a person who shows knee valgus (knees coming in) in the squat, is for the person to “push their knees out.” The opposite of knee valgus is known as knee varus which means knees going outwards. However, just like knees going inwards, knees outwards can be undesirable as well.

Knees being out is far less of a problem and far less common than knees coming in. Continue reading

My experiment with Smolov Jr – week 3

Facing Week 3 is a bit like the last couple of miles in a 10k race. You can see the finish line, the brain lets go of its reluctance to supporting your body in this physical effort and there is even enough energy left for the sprint finish! From my experience of running 10k that is how it felt to me. Apparently, there are two key different approaches people can take to physical and mental challenge. One is to at the whole thing with an “I’ve got this” attitude and race all out from the
start, and another is my more cautious one. Break it down into separate challenges and coax myself through stage, one at a time. Whatever works for you! Smolov Jr definitely favors the former approach – 4 sessions, 31 sets, 133 reps each week to be exact. In Week 3, I would be front squatting a total of 7776.50kg!! Continue reading

My experiment with Smolov Jr – week 2

I expected week two of Smolov Jr to be tough. The first week I had ridden the wave of enthusiasm and motivation for a new strength stimulus. The second week would be a test of commitment and belief – could I love front squatting this much!?

I had originally calculated 5kg as my increment each week. My recent 65kg for 3 reps had allowed me to predict a 70kg max rep for week one. However, Alis wisely reminded me that each rep has to be achievable with correct technique. Failure is not an option. At a 5kg increment each week, could I see myself lifting 70kg for 10 sets of 3 on day 4 of week 3? No! Indeed I had never front squatted that weight before, ever, and definitely not at that volume. 2.5kg increments would be intensity enough! Continue reading

How do you load your 5×5?

The 5×5 is a common set/rep scheme, for squats in particular. I really like to use the 5×5 for my front squat training as I tend to make good progress on it as well of course the low(ish) amount of reps being good for front squats.

I have come across a lot of queries on forums about how to load the 5×5. Many sources state that the load for a 5×5 should be around 80-85% of 1RM. There are a few variations on how we can work the 5×5 with this percentage range, which I will discuss below: Continue reading

My experiment with Smolov Jr – week 1

Do I even Front Squat? My experiment with Smolov Jr.

I cannot lie. When I first learned about the Smolov Jr. squatting programme, I
was only impressed by its promise that I would have to eat more and sleep more
deeply. Oh yeah, you have to go in the squatting pain cave. Isn’t that what proper
lifters are supposed to do? BUT, what has squatting with such volume and
intensity four times a week got to do with Olympic Lifting anyway? At my age, a
lot!

Why Smolov Jr.? The simplicity of the programming; the chance to focus on
improving volume, intensity and quality of my front squat, not to mention
strength. Why NOT do it?

So here are my reasons for starting this programme. Continue reading

Tip: Use bands to get better at pull ups

Are you able to do a pull up? If not, do not worry, it’s very common to find pull ups really, really hard (especially women).

You can use Pull Up Bands to get better at them. Pull Up Bands come in varying resistances so you can use as much support as you need and progress to less support until eventually you are able to do without one!

Bands are the best way to get good at pull ups as they train the motion near exactly (as opposed to assisted pull up machines and lat-pull down machines). Continue reading

Fixing elbows up in the front squat

Many people – myself included – struggle with keeping elbows up in the front squat. This is an extremely important part of front squat technique however and needs to be learned, improved and executed at all times.

There are a few problems that can arise when our elbows drop in the front squat. All of these link to each other:

Your back rounds

If your elbows drop, your upper and mid back will round and your abs will no longer be able to support you. If the back rounding is excessive, the bar will fall off your shoulders and you won’t be able to complete the rep.

Something more important to be aware of though, is that allowing your back to round like this can really strain your back muscles and your spine.  Continue reading

What shoes for which exercises?

I wear different shoes depending on what exercise I’m doing. Here is a brief breakdown of what shoes I wear for which exercises and why.

Weightlifting shoes – for snatches, clean and jerks, squats and overhead work

I use Olympic weightlifting shoes for most exercises. It goes without saying that I use them for the snatch and clean and jerk and their variations, and I use them for squats and overhead work as well.

I prefer weightlifting shoes for anything overhead (not just the jerk, but also the push press and strict press). I use dumbbells or a barbell. Weightlifting shoes feel solid for pressing and help remind me to use my glutes. I like having my heels raised for overhead work, it seems to help me activate my glutes more. Whenever I press with a barefoot shoe, I don’t feel I am able to generate as much power and my body/core doesn’t feel as solid.  Continue reading