kettlebell single arm swing snatch technique

Thoughts on Stretching, also Tone! Cool down, and the RAMP warm up!


Try it at home before sleep, it promotes relaxation.
Stretching is always under debate and is continually researched but the many pros of static stretching include: increase of flexibility; and post session, the stimulation of regenerative and restorative processes; useful adaptations of the muscle fibres.
Con: a joint can feel less stable afterwards. (There can also be a reduction in maximal force produced but hey if we’re not about to compete in an elite competition at that minute then it’s not worth worrying about!)  Stretching can be great to release restricted areas and allow more fluid movement around a joint, and allow greater activation. Eg. stretching hip flexors can then allow glutes to be fired more, as they are then less hindered. A dynamic RAMP warm up should always be used at the start of activity; stretching itself or myofascial release (think massage) doesn’t fire the system up ready to launch.

A big ‘pro’ of our classes- working in balance around the body, it should reset the tonicity* closer to an equilibrium. When this is achieved it can give you a feeling of not necessarily needing to stretch, particularly those who are flexible and some may need need more stability (included in what we do).
Stretching is useful individualised -listen to your body- certain areas for you may be more useful to stretch than others, ie. Areas that have been worked more! eg. if you’re not used to working quads as much, stretch them. If you’re not used to working hamstrings and glutes as much, stretch them.
If you’re aiming to increase your flexibility you may even want to stretch for a 20 minutes or half an hour! It can really be done any time.

Muscle ‘tone’ is about tension. We all have a pre-set amount of tension transmitted through our musculature. There is an optimal amount of tension that works well for the individual. If we’re overly tight, or lax, we may notice it.
Imagine a series of ropes holding up a ships’ mast, we don’t want them too tight or too loose, we want that amount of tension to ‘balance out’ around the system.

If we have an unbalanced increased tension somewhere – lots of typical areas if we’re sat too much- then aiming to increase flexibility in that area can be good.
If we have any laxity or are very flexible, it may likely be good to work on stability more and we may not need to stretch certain areas.
We need both mobility (think joints) and stability (think muscular control around the joints), as well as flexibility (think muscle lengths).
Sometimes a ‘tight muscle’ is compensating for another area, or feels weak and needs to be worked!
Often a tricky aspect is that when we stretch, the weakest or loosest -or area of least tonicity- gives first , and the tightest or stiffest muscle fibres we want to get to stretch last!

Also ‘Toning up’ doesn’t exist!
There is Strength – roughly: how much force can be produced by those fibres, a neuro-muscular process.
and: How many fibres make up a certain volume of muscle,
and then: body fat%
This composition outcome is really what people mean or are looking for, not ‘tone’.

Cooling down

A few benefits: Blood flow; removal of waste products, resupply of nutrients to muscles and other cells. It’s good to keep the blood pressure from dropping too quickly too. The simple act of walking around for a minute and then the walk out of the building for a few minutes is sufficient cool down.
Making a comparison back to my rowing coaching work – There is research showing that walking post-race has the same ‘cool-down’ benefits of moving on the ergo or bike at a recovery heart rate (and with far more waste products and lactate to remove!)

RAMP warm up

Raise heart rate
Activate muscles
Mobilise joints

Next session have a think about which aspects of our warm up cover each part! The RAM elements don’t have to be in order, but the P is last, as we potentiate the training with movements more specific to what the training/activity/sport/race will involve.
It should be dynamic and work muscles and joints through their full lengths and ranges.
Activitation-getting muscle fibres to fire is as much a neurological process and stability work can be used here too.

I’ll do another post in more detail on the RAMP warm up!

September exercise thoughts and tips – mindset

I always find that the new academic year and start of the new rowing and swimming seasons can be tough! If we take a ‘glass half-full’ approach the mental side of this can really be the thing that makes the difference with coming out of it and into October in a month’s time in style.

What’s harder…?
Naturally, with slightly less warmth from the sun, typically cooler air and more rainy windy stuff, work and life commitments can seem that touch harder.

Those who exercised regularly throughout July and August will be reaping the rewards of staying fit! Those who exercised well during May and June would have been feeling great for it during the summer!

It is easier to maintain a raised state of fitness than to increase it.

It is worth keeping this in mind, for example if setting out on a new routine. If we’re striving for more, it’s going to feel harder, and the body will need more fuel and more recovery. Prioritise early nights and do things that promote quality sleep.

With the glass half-full…
Keep the above in perspective, and take the satisfaction from completing those exercise sessions!
Having had some rest over the summer, we can feel recharged, refreshed and ready to get stuck in again with renewed energy!
Making gains during September should therefore become very evident, acheivable and exciting.
Less number of hot days makes staying hydrated easier, and training more efficient.
Maintain what we gained during and before the summer. Approach the month with all the time and opportunity there is for development of new skills.
Make small adjustments, aiming to only change one thing at a time in an exercise routine, for example that new session in your timetable once/week. Keep the other good stuff going and don’t change those things at the same time.
Maximise the daylight hours and make the most of the outdoors.
Enjoy being motivated by each other during group exercise.

If you’re already doing these things then you should back yourself and take on each day of September with confidence!

Being fitter and stronger makes daily tasks easier.

I’m going to aim for consistency, in work, in training. I know that if I get the early nights and eat well the vast majority of the time, then I’m in a good place.
It can seem impossible to keep all one’s plates spinning. Research shows that when we’re feeling exhausted, a light 20 minute jog can increase our energy levels, compared with doing nothing. Getting good at listening to the body when deciding on a need to adjust exercise sessions can be crucial.




Dr Stuart McGill podcast.

How to Get Rid of Back Pain Dr Stuart McGill  – link to podcast

This was such a fascinating podcast!  There is a tip or wise insight for everyone! During this podcast you may notice several ways in which we pay attention to and strengthen our backs in our training. If you ever get any back pain at all, make an hour for this, or skim through it and use the handy contents timeline. If you are pain-free these may help you avoid getting back pain. It is a pleasure and relaxing also simply to listen to Stuart McGill speak!

My Chiropractor recommended I follow McGill as he is world renowned for his understanding of the spine. A lot of the content perhaps makes sense intuitively, or that plenty of common-sense knowledge out there is useful, but I find that it is empowering to have all of this understanding explained as the result of scientific research on a great range of ‘ordinary people’ as well as on elite athletes.

  • Key nuggets I took away:
  • Training and getting results is all about finding the appropriate training load, finding the tipping point, and staying just below it. It’s about not doing too much or too little, and getting the appropriate rest time!
  • Move well! – Any training must always be done with good technique.
  • Wise programming involves not being too greedy-trying to progress too fast.
  • Find the pain mechanism and avoid it (allow tissues to recover)
  • Walking: Taking a break from seated work is great for the spine.
  • Tune the muscles to play an orchestrated song!
  • Stability comes with compression (hence using our light load- kettlebell)
  • Respect variation – we are all individual.

And now I really understand why tennis players grunt! (I always thought it was just for show…maybe for some it is!) Their breathing and engagement allows them to hit harder (and the grunt follows!) I do find this technique applicable for a lot of movements that we do. Try his exercise and let me know how you get on!

Hydration – considerations and my top tips!

Stay hydrated ahead exercise, rather than chasing getting rehydrated following it.

* Heatwave Hydration and Exercise * dont let it stop you! What a crazy weather system, it feels like Australia, but without any breeze!

Some TOP TIPS below that i’ve picked up along the way as well as just what i’ve found works for me, think about what works for you:
Some of it is common sense, but it’s not always easy to follow good habits even when we know we’re better if we do!

– ‘Front loading’ your day with the volume of fluids taken onboard should allow you to perform better throughout the afternoon, at work and during exercise, starting with a pint of water frst thing out of bed! We’re likely waking up dehyrdated…especially this week!
(But don’t drink too much before sleep to help the chances of a fuller night’s sleep without having to get up in the night; sleep is the body’s number 1 recovery process.)

– Always have a water bottle with you; lots of sips rather than later on needing to gulp a load down and catch up. Also downing too much just before exercise can be hazardous.

– Caffeine; research has shown it helps with exercise, boosting the metabloic rate. Depending on how you respond to caffeine, how much you normally have via tea or coffee, and if you need to pee more, you may need to take on further water.

– Having a drink or two with you during class, keep taking small sips.

– Electrolyte /’sports drinks’; A little glucose isnt a bad thing if you’re burning it off, if you are really looking to boost performance…but you don’t want too much and not too far ahead as the body can respond after a spike in blood sugar with a low, which would reduce your exercise performance. (More at the bottom on this ie. sodium and potassium ion replacement)

– Replacing fluids asap from sweating is useful. There’s a couple of drinks I get on with but you can also make your own cheaply; dilute some fruit juice with water, eg. 70:30 water:juice.

– Experiment with damp clothing to help a cooling effect while training! Water your head pre-session!
Had one of my rowers not dunked his cap and his feet in the lake at the weekend’s racing he would have gone into his final in great discomfort and certainly wouldnt have raced as well.

– Bring a sweat-towel but also put it under the tap first and cool off that brow!

– Temperature: I worked at a windsurf centre in Egypt for a stint including a no-wind 47 degC day, and getting jobs done in the shade was tough enough. Taking on water ‘at room’ temperature was important as the body can work towards homeostasis more easily, whereas had we downed a litre of ice cold water we could have caused ourselves problems! The the body senses colder temperatures and works to counter the cooling effect. Perhaps try a herbal tea and see if it refreshes you! The body will work to keep you cool.

“All adults, regardless of how active they are, require at least 3.7 liters, or 125 oz., of water a day” Institute of Medicine.

“Most exercise that makes you sweat doesn’t necessitate salt replacement…as sweat is approximately 99 percent water and less than 1 percent electrolytes” The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.
– And we eat enough (and sometimes too much salt), generally.

Some great detail in this article (just have to mind all the American adverts:)…/498324-do-i-need-extra-salt-wh…/

Hope you’ve been enjoying some sun! stay safe and see you soon