What’s in your Program?

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

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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.


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Lift Like Jess- Strength Performance Coach

Most of us have probably experienced this struggle along our fitness journey. We’ve gone on holidays, came back to training and pretty much sucked. This is called DETRAINING or DECONDITIONING and it is frustrating as hell. I’ve experienced this many times in the first couple years of my career so here’s some facts to help you make an informed decision about the breaks you take!

Many physiological changes start to happen once you stop exercising. Your hearts ability to move blood more efficiently begins to decrease as does your muscles improved ability to utilize oxygen and your body’s ability to metabolize carbs for energy (decrease in fitness). You’ll start to loose gains in muscle fibre size as well as other neuromuscular adaptions (strength and hypertrophy). Any improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar that were brought on by training will begin to disappear also.

How quickly detraining happens once you stop exercising depends on many factors such as age, how fit you are, how long you’ve been training, what type of training you had been doing and at what level. This is referred to as your “training age”. People who train intensely and have been quite fit/strong for a number of years will experience a much slower process of overall decline in comparison to someone with a younger training age.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, not training for as little as two weeks can cause complete detraining in some individuals. It can take up to 8 months for people with a higher training age. Most people saw a decline in fitness before strength. How quickly this happens varies from person to person. I’ve seen people that had been training for almost a year, at a recreational level, completely detrain after a 5 week holiday with no exercise and a fair bit of alcohol consumption. I’ve also seen clients that have been training less than a year come back after 5 weeks with noticeable fitness losses and only small strength losses.

The moral of the story is if you’re new on your fitness journey, plan to include some sort of exercise on your holidays if you want to minimize the effects of detraining. The longer you’ve been at it the less you’ll lose. It seems like it takes forever to make these strength and fitness gains and no time at all to lose it. Really, in the first few years, it’s true. Once you’ve put in your miles and converted to a healthy, active lifestyle for a couple of years you will start to reap the benefits more and more and actually NEED the breaks from training whereas people with a younger fitness age generally aren’t lifting at a high enough intensity or frequency to require deloading or breaks from training. Just to clarify, I’m not saying deloading needs to take the form of a flat out break from training but that is another topic. What I am saying is if your goal is to get super fit/strong and maintain it then you better be willing to put in the work. Particularly in the first couple years!

Lift Like Jess- Strength Performance Coach

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

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#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.

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#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 #55 1RM Testing – When and how should it be used?

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#55 1RM Testing – When and how should it be used?


With the rise in popularity of ‘functional’ training – defined as programming based upon core compound lifts such as Squats, Deadlifts and Bench – has come an increase in the use of 1RM Testing amongst trainers, coaches, and even athletes or general gym goers who train themselves. While 1RM Testing is a valuable tool for measuring progress and developing a baseline for certain programs, there are a few key things to consider before throwing yourself or a client under a bar and pushing them to a max single repetition.

Who is it you are testing, and what are their goals?

Probably the most important thing to consider when testing is your client themselves:

* What level of experience do they have?

As an example, a novice client who has limited or no strength training experience is not an ideal candidate for 1RM Testing; they will (in most cases) not have the required skill to move well under load, let alone significant load, and will often struggle to execute the desired movement patterns with just an empty bar. These clients will require their initial programming to be focused on skill acquisition and developing a base level of strength before any sort of official testing is carried out. Once they are comfortable in the movement and can carry out the programmed number of reps in a correct and consistent manner, a 3RM – 5RM Test might be carried out; if a 1RM is required for programming purposes, it can be extrapolated from this 3RM – 5RM Test.

On the other side of the coin, an athlete whose training age is significantly advanced and can comfortably execute the desired movement will obviously not need to hold off on testing in order to develop their skill acquisition or base level of strength. You will obviously still want to screen their movement to ensure there are no issues they themselves might not be aware of, however providing they move well there is nothing stopping you from carrying out a 1RM Test on Day 1 if time permits.

* What are their goals, and where do you intend on going with their training?

Be mindful of your client’s goals. For example, someone who is only interested in general strength development will of course have very different programing requirements than someone whose training goal is to increase their squat from 1.5X Bodyweight to 2X Bodyweight, as well as different testing requirements. For a client who is just interested in general strength development, there may never be a need to carry out a 1RM Test. In this case, a 3RM – 5RM Test would be more than adequate to determine progress / assist in programming (if your programming requires a 1RM figure to determine submaximal loads). Such a client may also not be comfortable performing a 1RM Test, with the thought of carrying

out a single repetition at significant load at 100% of their capacity too intimidating.

For a client whose specific goal is to increase their strength and numbers in a particular lift (or all 3 of the core lifts), 1RM Testing is in most cases a necessity to determine true progress and current levels of strength. 3RM – 5RM Testing still has its place – for example, in non-standard lifts in which the client might not have as much experience – however 1RM Testing will need to be carried out to determine a baseline initially, and at appropriate intervals throughout their training.

Frequency of Testing

For those clients who enjoy the process of 1RM Testing, and derive motivation and satisfaction from seeing their numbers go up, it can be easy to get carried away and conduct 1RM Testing too frequently. While initially you may see your numbers continue to rise even if you are testing weekly (particularly if the client’s training age is not advanced), eventually your strength and numbers will plateau. Sufficient time must be left in-between testing to allow for the programming and training to work, and to prevent your body from adapting to testing the same lifts. For a regular client, we generally will conduct 1RM Testing every 12 – 18 weeks. There are of course considerations to factor into frequency of 1RM Testing; if it is for an athlete (either in-season or prepping for a competition) you will need to alter this based on their sporting commitments. For someone with an injury – be it minor or major – you will need to ensure appropriate rehabilitation has occurred and they are physically ready to be put under the strain and stress of testing.

An important point to consider is that 1RM Testing is not the only way to measure progress. As mentioned above, some clients find a great level of satisfaction and motivation in seeing their lifts go up and may start to lose focus if there is no benchmarking of their strength whatsoever for 12 – 18 weeks. AMRAPs (as many reps as possible), high volume sets (10 – 20 reps) or reps for time are all great ways of testing strength, and can be repeated to measure progress. The advantage they have outside of testing in a different setting to 1RM Testing to help avoid adaptation, is that they are typically carried out a relatively low loads and are therefore more easily recovered from.

Knowing when and when not to push the limits

This point relates to the 1RM Test itself, and knowing when to push your client harder or draw the line and call it for the day. As with everything we do as Coaches and Trainers, our clients’ wellbeing should be our top priority. A 1RM Test in a typical gym environment should not be pushed to the point where there is complete form breakdown, just for the sake of a gym PR. In the majority of cases, your clients will either be general gym goers for whom strength training is just a hobby, or athletes who are carrying out strength training to improve their sports performance. In either of these scenarios, pushing a client to the point where their form

has been completely thrown out the window simply to achieve a lift that is heavier than their last does not benefit them at all. A complete form breakdown means in most cases that the correct muscle groups are not being recruited, which in turn means they are not overloading and strengthening the desired muscles and more importantly are at risk of injuring themselves. That is not to say that your client should not be pushed – in a true 1RM setting they should feel slightly out of their comfort zone, and feel as though they are giving 100%. Some form breakdown is to be excepted and is of course acceptable. At the very least, your client should be initiating the movement in the correct form and only losing technique after the movement has commenced. If significant form breakdown occurs at the very beginning of the lift, it is usually a good time to wrap up the testing.

Consistency in Testing

The final point relates to ensuring that each test you do is consistent, so that the various results from testing are comparable and accurately represent either a true increase or decrease in strength. For instance, if you 1RM Test a high-bar squat in Olympic lifting shoes at the start of the program and wish to assess how much your squatting strength has improved, you need to re-test using a high-bar setup in (preferably the same) Olympic lifting shoes. For a more casual client, you should at the very least re-test the same variation of the lift (high-bar to high-bar, box squat to box squat etc.). Other external factors should also be controlled / managed as best as possible, to ensure consistent testing. This includes sleep, time of testing, training volume leading up to testing, and nutrition.

There are of course other things to consider when testing, and the more advanced your client and their training program, the more thought should be given to the process. The above information however should provide a good framework for testing the majority of clients.

– Callum

Photo Credit: Matt McKillop Photography

LAB REPORT-365#54 Mental Battles of Rehab

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#54 Mental Battles of Rehab


Pre Surgery

Before I tore my ACL in Jan 2016, I was a super active human. I was training for my first Weightlifting Competition in March, I trained three times a week as a Quarterback and Wide Receiver for the Brisbane Blaze. My weekends would involve the swimming in the beautiful Queensland beaches, camping with the family, climbing mountains and we all know I loved to party.

Post Surgery

Within the first 3 weeks after surgery, I noticed a HUGE mental shift. I had myself wishing I could do all the things I used to do everyday, I constantly put myself down for getting injured by saying I wasn’t good enough, strong enough, fast enough, etc. I was angry, frustrated and anxious about almost everything I did. My self esteem was lower than ever. I had no confidence in my self, particularly in the fact that I was an injured coach.

I needed a total change of focus at this stage. So I did. Since coming back to the gym, I’ve found my niche market I want to target for my business and developed a positive and productive routine from the time I wake up to go to sleep every single day.

This is how I did it:

Put myself in a supportive, encouraging and empowering environment.
Set goals. One each for personal, lifestyle, financial, career and relationships.
Make lists. Every day I list what I need to do to chip away at each goal
Got a Mentor. Talk to the people who have what you want.
Healthy eating habits. It’s crazy how much good food has an impact on your mood!
There are a few special people to thank dearly for the continuous support but you know who you are.

In summary, I needed a drive to grow and by feeding off the positive environment around me and believing I deserved to improve, lead me to be able to squat well over my bodyweight seven weeks post surgery, change my whole focus on life and business and improve my relationships immaculately.

Follow my journey further:

Mikaela Briggs – Performance Coach

Photo Credit: Anthony Rap