What’s in your Program?

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 8.47.20 pm

No matter the goal the variables below are a must in your training program.

Instagram: @ascension_performance_labs / @cam.j.burnside

Facebook: Ascension Performance Labs

Here are some of the most common terms in S&C defined.

This is how much work you have done or about to do for a specific exercise, session, block, or year. It is usually defined as sets and reps for a specific exercise, group of muscles, or session. Weight/tonnage is also factored in. For example, if you Deadlift 100kg 5 times, the volume for that set is 500kg. If you do that for 5 sets, the Volume/Tonnage would be 2500kg.

This is defined as the amount of weight you can lift in relation to your 1-rep max (The maximum weight you can lift on a particular exercise). E.g. If you can Squat 100kg for your 1-rep max, and you lift 75kg for your first set, the intensity for that set is 75%.

This is an essential component to program design and implementation. Without this data you are exercising and not training.

This describes the timing of three different phases of a lift/rep. Eccentric, Amortisation, and Concentric phases. This is expressed as three numbers.
E.g. 4-1-2. To perform a squat with this tempo, you would lower yourself to the bottom of the squat over 4 seconds, pause for 1 second in the bottom of the squat, and then stand up for 1 second.

Absolute Strength
This is the maximum amount of force that your muscles and produce in single contraction under involuntary conditions. It is extremely difficult to achieve in normal settings, including 1-rep max attempts. Absolute strength usually appears in life or death situations.

Maximum Strength
This is the amount of force your muscles can produce under voluntary conditions. This is most commonly measured through 1 rep max testing.

Relative Strength
This is the maximum amount of force your muscles can produce under voluntary conditions in relation to your body mass. E.g. you have two athletes. One weight 85kg the other weighs 77kg. The 85kg athlete can squat 200kg, the 77kg athlete can squat 190kg.

The 85kg athlete can more weight showing that they have more maximal strength (squatting 2.35 times their bodyweight) whereas the 77kg athlete squat 2.47 times their body weight, producing more force relative to their body weight.

Rate of Force Development
The speed you can reach max strength/force production. The faster your RFD, the more powerful you are. This is crucial to almost every sport.


Note: Obviously these may not always be present in every training session but these are some foundations that training is built upon.

LAB REPORT-365 #64 Sleep is for the weak (and the strong).

🎓 📝 LAB REPORT-365 📝 🎓
#64 Sleep is for the weak (and the strong).


Proper training and nutrition are two well-known requirements to achieving athletic success. A key aspect of exercise often overlooked is SLEEP! Believe it or not sleep is essential to effective training and many say we should consider sleep as important as an actual workout. Muscle growth, fat burning ability and athletic performance are all diminished by sleep deprivation.

We know that muscles do not grow during a workout, but during the repair that occurs throughout the recovery period. Recovery doesn’t just involve a simple post- workout protein shake. After a workout, your muscles need rest to repair. Specifically, you (and your muscles) need sleep! A proper nights sleep is vital in muscle development and in order gain strength – largely due to the fact that growth hormone (GH) is released naturally during sleep. Although the production of this hormone declines with age, it is still present in adults and 50% to 70% of daily GH secretion occurs during the deepest sleep cycle. Depriving the body of sleep means that this opportunity for growth is lost.

With this in mind, it’s important to remember that you can have too much of a good thing – and oversleeping has its downsides too, such as drowsiness. So exactly how much sleep is the right amount? Studies have found that in adults, between 7 – 9 hours of sleep optimises the benefits of your z’s and promotes the natural production of GH. Additional benefits of a good night’s sleep include improved cognitive function (focus and attentiveness), regulation of ghrelin and leptin hormones (improved appetite control), and improved memory. With the right amount of z’s, you can get more of these!

E-Dawg (Elvin)

LAB REPORT-365 #60: The Art of Coaching.

🎓 📝 LAB REPORT-365 📝 🎓
#60: The Art of Coaching.


As a young strength and conditioning coach I made my fair share of mistakes as I made my first forays into the professional world. A trap that many new university graduates fall into is thinking that being the most technically adept and knowledgeable person is the best measure for success in their role and an indication of expertise. I myself got caught up in this line of thinking and spent most of my time post-university reading and absorbing every single piece of programming based knowledge I could get my hands on. At this stage of my career I was primarily working with the general population, and my thought process was that providing my clients with results through the most up to date and cutting edge programming/training was the best possible way to provide service. What I realised later was that this was ignoring one of the fundamental aspects of training/coaching: the person. An important realisation for me recently has been the understanding that I am first a coach and a sport scientist second. To do this you need to suck up your pride and accept that you need to go back to ‘school’ and rethink most of the way you go about your work. It is important for your work to deliver results (at the end of the day our job is to enhance performance). However, this cannot be the sole focus of your ‘coaching’. There were a few resources that had a profound influence on my coaching and really changed the way that I thought about my role as a strength and conditioning coach. These books are: Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman Quiet – Susan Cain Mindest – Carol Dweck (all available on audible.com.au)

Understanding out emotion can effect physical state, how the manner and focus of praise can change behaviour and how each athlete requires a different coaching approach created a massive shift in my perspective. So how has this changed how I coach?

* Being more responsive to athlete emotional state – this has meant spending more time getting to know my athletes and then attempting to match their mood and body language to make them feel more comfortable. Using this knowledge to make an informed decision on when to push or when to pull back in sessions.

* The actual delivery of my coaching – praise is focused on process and effort. Centring our praise around a result subconsciously directs our athlete to believe that it is their inherent talent that has allowed them to achieve their goal and not hard work and commitment. Indeed, in early training years this may be the case though as the requirements of training and competition become increasingly demanding it is that latter that is going to have a more direct impact on their performance.

* Individualisation of the coaching approach – Understanding that people fall on a spectrum from highly introverted to highly extroverted and as such will respond differently to training stimulus and situation. Extroverted athletes are going to thrive in a high energy environment whereas this is potentially detrimental to your more introverted athletes. A high energy and socially demanding training environment will drain these athletes of the energy they require to train. This means you need to think about who you pair your athletes with in sessions and what the actual environment your creating is.

As coaches we deal with people and fundamentally you can put the most perfect program together but if you are not creating a training environment that is conducive to peak performance for the athlete/s then your program may not be successful. The most successful training program is the one that the athlete buys into and commits to.

Simple programming with attention to detail will yield results.

-Jon Danaher
Valkyrie Strength Performance

LAB REPORT-365 #59 Box Squats – The How and Why

🎓 📝 LAB REPORT-365 📝 🎓
#59 Box Squats – The How and Why


So what is a box squat? You might have seen this variation of squat in your local gym or facility – a squat where the athlete or client descends until their glutes and hips reach a stable surface (generally a bench, jerk block or plyometric box), at which point they may pause depending on the variation, before ascending and completing the movement. Simple enough, right? While it may appear that is all there is to it, there are important factors to consider when both programming a box squat, and actually completing the movement.

Generally there are 2 types of box squats used in our programming at APL:

Squat to Box

This is simply a traditional squat, with a box (again, just a bench / jerk block / plyometric box) set up behind the athlete or client in a position that they can comfortably squat to at the bottom of the movement. The main use of this variation is to simply provide the athlete or client with a depth marker, so that they know where they should be squatting to. This is particularly handy when depth consistency is an issue (their depth of squat varies significantly, usually shifting between below and above parallel), or when there is a confidence issue reaching the required depth. Having a physical surface that they can squat to not only allows for the athlete or client to hit the desired depth consistently on every rep, it also provides them with a ‘safety net’ of sorts.

Some important cues to remember when coaching a squat to box:

1. The athlete or client should not ‘sit’ on the box at the bottom of the movement – instead they should simply stop when they reach the bench / block / box, ensuring they retain tension and continue to hold the load, before ascending and completing the squat movement as per normal.

2. The height of the bench / block / box should be appropriate for the athlete or client. For the majority of people with no mobility or injury restrictions, you should be aiming for below parallel to maximize the benefits of the movement. Have the athlete or client squat to the surface without any load (i.e. bodyweight squat) prior to beginning any reps to ensure the height is correct. The same obviously applies if you are specifically restricting depth due to a mobility or injury issue.

Box Squat

This is the variation we more commonly use at APL, and is one of the core movements we program for a lot of our athletes and clients. Made popular in particular by Westside Barbell, this variation of the squat aims to specifically load the athlete or client’s posterior chain (think glutes and hamstrings in particular) and eliminate or minimize any forward knee slide and in turn anterior chain loading. It retains the benefits of the squat to box – consistent depth in squatting, as well as incorporating a ‘safety net’ for less confident athletes or clients – while also addressing those people with posterior chain weak-points.

Some important cues to remember when box squat:

1. Set the athlete or client up in a wider than normal squat stance. A stance width similar to your sumo deadlift set-up is generally a good guide, but adjust accordingly based on hip mobility.

2. Ensure the athlete or client follows the normal squat cue to generate external rotation through their hips (screwing their feet into the ground), bracing through their core, and breathing in prior to beginning the movement to increase inter-abdominal pressure and tightness.

3. Ensure the athlete or client sits their hips back as they begin descending, aiming to maintain vertical shins throughout the movement. You will need to allow for the torso to shift into a slightly more forward position than normal, however ensure this is a smooth transition – the hips should continue to descend as the torso moves forward, so that the athlete or client does not end up in a good morning position.

4. Similar to the squat to box, ensure the athlete or client does not ‘sit’ at the bottom of the movement – a pause is ideal, however they should retain full tension and continue to hold the load themselves, using the box simply as a physical cue as to when to stop the descent.

So in a nutshell – if you are simply looking to help an athlete or client struggling with squat depth or confidence, a squat to box might be what you are after. If you are looking to address weak-points in someone’s posterior chain strength (particularly glutes and hamstrings), while also ensuring consistent squat depth, box squats would be more appropriate.

– Callum


🎓 📝 LAB REPORT-365 📝 🎓

Jessica Stojnic
Strength Performance Coach


We all have those days were we feel a bit flat. Crawling back into bed seems like a much more appealing option than getting up and getting on with our day. Sometimes we get into a rut and these days happen more often than we would like to admit. Fear not! Here are a few helpful tips for breaking through the blues and finding inspiration in places you would have never thought of!

As soon as you open your eyes and you can feel that lack of motivation creeping up on you, turn up the beats! And turn it on a little bit louder than you’re comfortable with at such an hour. After a couple minuets of your head rattling you’ll get used to it then into it! Music is a great way to inspire and pump you up on those down days. I’ve been all about the super epic instrumentals to get me going on my early morning commute. I get to work fired up and ready for the day.

OKAY. Before you blow this one off, I know it seems a bit cheesy, but these things really do work and are actually my #1 go to when I need to light a fire under my ass. I find an interesting one, usually that has some music too for the double whammy, and it’s the first thing that goes into my ears in the morning. I feel like a solider on my way off on a quest to beat something evil but it’s cool. Better then feeling like a sloth and dragging my ass to zombie my way through life ya? Plus Will Smith and Arnold (to name a few) speak some mad deep shit. Love it.

Or whatever kind of social media where you can watch a couple clips to get you excited about the day. Watch anything. Dogs doing silly things, record breaking Clean and Jerks.. Whatever you’re into (clearly I’m into both). Just a couple videos in the morning to simulate the brain and light up that fight in you, the desire to get up and work hard.

This one is a bit of a fun little project to start off but once it’s done and it’s staring you in the face every day its super effective. Think of your biggest dreams, the goals you want more than anything. Start small then add more and more onto the board. You want money? Put REAL money onto the board (We don’t have time for any funny money). You want a big new house? Find of photo of YOUR FUTURE HOUSE and put it in the bored. You want to travel the world? Win gold medal? Stand at the highest point on a podium? Save the fucking world? PUT IT ON THE BOARD. Look at it every morning when you get up and accept it as FACT. This is my life. This is my stuff. No doubt. No fear. Make it happen. Being REALISTIC is the most commonly travelled road to MEDIOCRITY. When your goals are clear it isn’t hard to grind because you know what you’re working for. Only YOU can make it happen and you’re the only one to blame if it doesn’t. Fight fear. Fight doubt and BELIEVE in your ability to succeed.

Click here to return to Ascension Performance Labs.

LAB REPORT-365 #57 Benefits of Strength & Training Weaknesses

🎓 📝 LAB REPORT-365 📝 🎓
#57 Benefits of Strength & Training Weaknesses

Strength is absolutely the foundation to all success in the gym and a huge benefit to all physical activities outside the gym; strength should be your cornerstone. If you aren’t strong, sport performance and even daily activities can be drastically hindered, the chance of injury is greatly increased with basic movements under load and you may find yourself in some rather peculiar position that can cause injury for those who play sport.

A major benefit is that being strong can greatly alleviate pain or eliminate it completely. When performing a lift, running, jumping, basic daily activities or even work around the house, everything should be strong enough to keep you in an optimal position, if not its usually due to imbalances and body parts get into positions that can cause pain. Having the strength, as you would expect will allow you to get the job done (whatever that is) more efficiently without pain and reduce the chance of injury.

Basic physics is enough to understand how it will be hugely beneficial for sport performance as well. If you have a 1RM squat of lets say…100kg to keep it an easy number and you increase that to 150kg it makes perfect sense that you can now apply 50kg more to the ground and if you train with speed you can generate that force very quickly, which means you can now run faster and depending on your sport you will be harder to stop or it will be easier for you to stop someone else. Not to mention you’re less likely to get injured because your muscles are now able to handle heavier loads without you buckling into awkward positions. You will undoubtedly recover better as well because as there is less strain on joints and your muscles won’t work as hard to performance movements.

As we all know the best way to build up some solid strength is to perform the three core movements correctly under load. That is the squat, bench & deadlift we do these everyday a lot of the time without even realising it. As you start getting really strong with these lifts and hitting weights close to your max is when you will start to see imbalances such as weak muscles and engrained movements patterns that are inefficient usually due to the weaknesses. Smaller muscles especially or any muscles that is lagging will be among many other reasons why you plateau and can’t get stronger in that movement.

Isolating those muscles to make the stronger becomes key to progressing further. Glutes & quads in the squat for example, if your gluteal muscles aren’t strong enough at the bottom position your knees are going to want to cave in and if your quads can’t help drive you up you’ll want to push your butt right up as the initial movement to drive forward with your hips instead doing it as a single fluid movement.

Now all if this is okay, when attempting a new 1RM it is to be expected to see some form breakdown. In a way that’s a good thing as long as you aren’t completely overshooting it and becoming a part of the banana family to the extent of injury. It allows you or your coach see where you need to put some more focus in and what you need to make stronger.

If you aren’t strong enough to move the weight the weight will move you.

Travis Evenden.