Swimmer racing

From recreational participant to international competitor, these supersets are applicable and will lead to gains for anyone. You can alter the load, sets and reps accordingly.

Most of these strength or power exercises are great to use with a low number or reps, plenty of rest, and several sets e.g., up to 5 or so. Depending on lots of aspects of your session or training week or stage of the season these variables should be played around with to keep you fresh or push for some fatigue.

Injury reduction also happens through getting stronger; as well as getting more robust. Specific mobility and flexibility for you should be included in a program alongside these exercises for the qualities needed in your sport or hobby.

Learn what competition masters swimmer Matthew Lewis did on NDM’s indoor rowing program, which not only led him to PB both his 5k and 2k ergo scores, but also get back in the pool after a lockdown and go faster in the water… and medal in national short course champs. Welcome to some insights into this 5-week 5k indoor rowing by Nick Moffatt.

PB your 5k ergo: Hit a personal best on your 5k indoor rowing machine – Try this program of 15 uniquely progressive sessions now:

5-week 5k race indoor rowing: Training by Nick Moffatt in TrainHeroic


Matthew Lewis is a lifelong competitive swimmer, mainly competing at masters swimming events now.

Main event/s: 100m Breaststroke and 50m Breaststroke.

Usual weekly training schedule: 2 x 1hr swims and 2 x 30-minute weightlifting sessions, often supplemented with a 5km parkrun or equivalent training run.

After purchasing a rowing machine in January 2021, Matthew approached NDM to provide a rowing plan targeted at improving his fitness during the lockdown.

The issue: Returning to swimming training after the first lockdown, Matthew’s level of cardiovascular fitness was noticeably lower (15 seconds slower when swimming 100m repetitions on 2 minutes). Why? A poor work/life balance during the pandemic and ineffective adaptation to training without access to a swimming pool.

Nick’s solution – NDM ergo training plan

My plan for Matthew focused on laying the foundation for his return to pool training and his long-term target of personal best times in 100m and 50m Breaststroke competition.

First step: Improve aerobic capacity, endurance and target a challenging 5km rowing time. The Initial plan fit Matthew’s diary best over 4½ weeks, as 5 sessions each fortnight. After that, focus turned to the 2km distance, which I knew was really his bigger goal – a sub 7min 2k, (was it possible around his busy work and family life and focus on swimming?! The opportunity ofcourse was that we were in lockdown and pools weren’t accessible).

I knew that whatever Matt developed on the erg he would be sure to gain some transfer, especially utilising plenty of sprint intervals, so that he would get back in the pool not just fitter than before but with the potential to swim faster! – Due not just to elevating his energy systems specifically to his event, but also having increased his aerobic capacity in the first block, which is important to support recovery during hard training as well as the component swimming, even sprint distances.

See background About Nick Moffatt coaching work in strength & conditioning for swimming and poolside here.

Matthew’s training notes – some sessions from 15 session 5-week to 5k erg PB program

25th Jan. 5000m row: 19 minutes 13 seconds.
This was challenging and set the standard for me to beat at the end of the training block. Enjoying the challenge of rowing at a rate of 28 and starting to think about putting more power into each pull.

Intervals 3 x 2000m row aiming for faster than my 5k pace (around 1:54/500m). Managed it for 2 of the 2km intervals (1:52 and 1:53 avg for 500m) but added 6 seconds avg/500m on the 3rd one. Lack of fitness showed here but again, really enjoyed this challenge and trying to keep the stroke rate down to 28 was again a good exercise for me.

6000m row, at 20spm (strokes per minute, also referred to in programs as @rX  The intent was just for RPE 6. (Rating of perceived exertion). A 25-minute row at a steadier pace is something I really wouldn’t have chosen myself but again I enjoyed keeping to a lower stroke rate and focusing on more power in each stroke without pushing too hard. Tongue pic
RPE graphic


Mid-distance Intervals (hard!)

Feb 4th. 5x1000m aiming for under 1:54 pace.
Accidentally started aiming for 1:44 pace (achieved 1:47) and then really paid for the mistake! Averaged high 1:53 for the remaining 4 1000m intervals giving an average of 1:52.6 with stroke rate of 27 (actually 28 average for all of the appropriately paced intervals).  Other pic with speedo clock in background.


By now in the plan the foundation for a better 5km was already feeling promising, and I enjoyed the variety in the sessions as well as how effective they had been in building my fitness.

At this point in the training, I was adding in weekly 5km runs if possible but wasn’t lifting any weights at all due to time constraints (work).


Feb 11th. 10x 350m with 90s rest

Nick was able to join live online for this which made me extra motivated. I managed 2 really fast reps for me at 1:38 and 1:39 but then hit a 1:47 average afterwards. It felt really tough especially after the 2 sprints at the start but I loved it. I really enjoyed the RPE being at 9/10. It was satisfying to start playing with and demonstrating more speed even though I couldn’t keep up the pace of the first 2 reps.


Feb 19th. 10 x 350m, 90s rest.
Really pleased with moving under 1:44 avg for each rep on this. A huge improvement on the previous attempt at this, partially due to aiming for consistent pace rather than going all out at the start.

Several more unique ergo sessions in the program in a tapered week and I felt prepared for the test…

18min 23s. PB for 5km row. About a minute off the January 25th time! Managed average of 1:50.2. Felt ok but a great PB! Motivated to do more so the next focus is the 2km distance…

More background – About NDM Sports & Personal Training

Next step: 2km: focus on sub 7min…

2000m fast 7m 9 seconds. A new PB off the back of the 5k program but need to drop 10 seconds to nip under 7 minutes.


5th March. 2000m 7m 7s. 1:46 avg/500m pace.

10 bespoke training sessions later in Nick’s next program and Matt PB’d his 2k…

April 29th 2021. 2000m PB and target achieved 6:59.9!


I thoroughly enjoyed following the plan for the 5km and 2km distances. The 5km plan took me on the journey from being unfit in the lockdown to feeling much fitter and stronger (without my usual weights regime which had fallen by the wayside due to work commitments).

The variety in the overall plan gave me what I needed, from the longer, slower-paced rows to the sprints, which I favoured. Nick’s help with mobility exercises meant I could really make the most out of each session and the whole programme. I benefited particularly from using a glute bridge to improve a niggle in my leg/buttock (a long-term issue which resurfaced during the training). The area certainly felt better activated for each rowing session and gave me the confidence that I wasn’t going to be limiting or missing sessions with injury.

Post 5k PB

By the time I’d achieved the 5km PB after the first part of the schedule, my fitness was clearly back. I then really enjoyed focusing mainly on the 500m and 350m interval sessions to target the 2km time, whilst still managing a couple of the longer distance rows. Now that I’d practiced and learnt some of the different sessions, I enjoyed the increased flexibility of the 2km plan which gave me more responsibility whilst still guiding and supporting me to achieve the end result.

I was really pleased and saw it as a great personal achievement to reach a sub 7-minute time for the 2km. I felt secure with Nick’s planning and advice and he allowed me to effectively and efficiently reach what for me was an ambitious target after the lockdown.

My return to swimming evidenced the great rowing work I’d done because when I returned to training I was faster in each 100m repetition by over 10 seconds on average in comparison to the swims (on 2 minutes) after my last return from a lockdown.

This programme from NDM was tailored exactly to my needs after the initial consultation so it was hugely satisfying to work through the different sessions and achieve my goals. Firstly, the 5km training schedule put me in the position to gain fitness quite rapidly, and soon achieve a significant personal best over the distance. Then, the 2km schedule started me working closer to my strengths in the pool, not only helping me achieve a pleasing 2km rowing time but pushing me towards a successful return to sprint swimming. I was pleased with my first competition back after months of relative inactivity prior to the rowing; the rowing sessions made it feel like I hadn’t really been away from racing in the pool.

I now feel better equipped to train effectively without access to a pool and I’m eager to make rowing a regular part of my training, probably in place of running or alternating with it each week. Rowing, particularly at speed, seems to support my Breaststroke races in particular, with the arm and leg actions being very similar.

NDM gave me the confidence and structure to create my own rowing plans in the future tailored to my needs, and I know the support will always be there if I need further guidance or fresh ideas. I’d recommend an NDM rowing programme to anyone from a beginner to a more experienced athlete in another sport because Nick can cater for your needs and support you to unlock the improvements you are looking for.

Thanks to NDM for giving me a love of rowing and a desire to keep beating my personal bests on the Erg!

PB your 5k ergo: Hit a personal best on your 5k indoor rowing machine – Try this program now:

5-week 5k race indoor rowing: Training by Nick Moffatt in TrainHeroic

Featuring 15 unique ergo sessions, weekly bespoke core workout, 3 sets of strength exercises for warm up, 3 sets of key stretches for indoor rowing, all progressive leading you to your best! Click the screenshot below to check it out.

Once you’ve signed up to Nick’s ergo program on the Train Heroic app, See one of Nick’s most popular blog posts, which gives the sports-science explanations on how/why we get fitter/stronger… Applying the principle of Super-compensation – NDM Coaching

Where are you at with these plank progressions? Here are 3 progressive options to use with instructional video, photos and tips on building the time under tension for each.

Planks (most often just the 4-point plank) are widely adopted for ‘training the core’ but the role of the trunk – imagine a cylinder from the glutes upto the ribs is really what we’re thinking about.

Helping the lumbar spine by resisting rotation, flexion, or extension when desired, it also needs to serve as powerhouse to the limbs in running and in all sports.
All of the planks are working ‘anti-extension’ in terms of the shape of the back.

Including these as part of your trunk robustness work, which is usefully done in the end stages of a workout, or as part of your warm up for ‘Activation’ where we fire up the neuro-muscular system, readying our brain-muscle motor unit connections.

8-point plank; Progression 1

8 point plank short instructional video

4-point planks and 8 point planks are often done badly, for example, the spine not in anatomically neutral, the shoulders not centrated, or random tension elsewhere with other shapes of the body out of whack!
There is something that the 8 point plank gives beyond the 4 point plank – greater feel and awareness for getting neutral pelvic tilt, a connection ‘ribs &hips’ by aiming to pull down through the ground forearms to knees. This engages the whole region around your lower abs.
You could increase time under tension here, to build up endurance of your core, while maintaining the quality of the shape needed.

E.g. you can hold the shape well for 40s.
Do this two – three times per week and try to add 10s /week.
When you get to two minutes, (perhaps with a mini break in the middle if you need) go to the next progression!

3-point plank; Progression 2

3 point plank short instructional video

Anti-rotation: The ability to resist the body twisting under changing demand; again useful in general life, and needed across most sports.
Ensure we can do everything well in the 8-point plank, from the high press position.
Adjust the width of the feet according to the demand you can tolerate- i.e.. Resist with minimal ‘drift’ of the ‘hips-level’ position.

E.g. you can do 1 minute of alternating 5s holds
Build up to 2 minutes, 5-10s holds

2-point plank; Progression 3

2 point plank short instructional video

As above, and now with more anterior chain (‘front’ of torso into front of hips) demand again to hold the shape and resist extension from neutral, and resisting rotation, we’re really into hard work which is used by athletes.
Maintaining and regaining scapular control each time we move an arm, and keeping the hip in neutral and as level as possible, we’re cross bracing and working diagonally shoulder to hip, again useful in all sorts of general life scenarios as well as most sports.

Starting off with 5-10s holds is reasonable, increasing to longer holds, and progressing the continuous work from 1min to 2mins.

Ofcourse this is not at all exclusive in covering planks, variations or core training, there is a lot more!
Any questions drop me a line, I’d love to hear where you’re at with these in the context of everything else you do and your needs. Happy to help further.
Let me know how you get on!


PS Check out my free 30day lower body strength-stability program,
or my online kettelbell training program with workout video

Adapt and survive – Brave new world, NDM Spring update (part two)

Firstly, I hope that you and family members of yours are well.

I believe that many of you out there will get a vast amount out of my 30-day Lower-body free strength-stability home program. I hope I’ve struck the balance of high detail/high progression value vs simplicity and ease of access. There is something in it for everyone – various challenge for all levels.

Who is it for?

-Those who need to offset the negatives of a sedentary lifestyle
-Those who can’t strength-train with the barbell at the moment
-Those who wish to increase their range of motion in squat and hinge patterns
-or to increase their proprioception
-Maintain lower body strength and athleticism
-It should potentially increase mobility and flexibility

There is a lot more guidance and instruction in the pdf file.

Please direct friends/colleagues to my website main page to subscribe to receive my 30-day Lower-body free strength-stability home program.
Here for the youtube exercise demonstration video playlist.

A lot changed day by day since writing my first Spring update blog just over 10 days ago. The phrase ‘Adapt and survive’ comes to mind which seems pretty cruel to say to myself! Even though it was on the cards, it is still a shock dealing with not only the gyms being shut but also offering 1-1 outdoors then also ceased to be an option.

I wish the NHS staff all the best, as they are heroes. I hope we overcome this crisis and I’ll look forward to when measures can be softened.
Ofcourse there are lot more important issues going on, but I am still coming to terms with that neither of my jobs can happen anything like normal for while i.e. The face to face coaching work which I love, and uncertain finances.


While most of us having to work our jobs from home, I’m excited to convert what I do into online offerings, working out from home with quality programs.

If I could have lent you my equipment I would have , but ran out of time to get it out of the gym.

With all the challenges people face I decided I wanted to offer something free of the highest quality I could put together, which you can take away and develop with. While I created this in Autumn ’19 it’s taken a lot longer than I first envisaged to put together and finish!

Live Kettlebell classes!

It’s been great hearing back from lots of my members already , I miss running my face to face work as much as you miss the training in person at my
I have been practicing at home and can’t wait now to roll out the first of my online live Kettlebell classes!
Please see Schedule.
There is some detail on my booking platforms – booking happens in mostly the normal way as before.


A link to this short easy survey about any equipment you have at home, and what online classes or training you might be interested in is on my Facebook , Twitter and Instagram pages. Also here.
Please do give you me your thoughts when you receive this survey as it will really help me with planning and how to offer my USPs online to likeminded people out there…all over the country now!
And any recommendations to your friends and colleagues – I would appreciate them now more than ever.

Sign up to my newsletter (main page) to receive your free copy of my lower-body strength-stability home program.

Best wishes from me for now through these challenging times, and I look forward to seeing you online very soon!


It’s been a busy, productive, challenging and exciting time. During Autumn 2019 I put together a 30-day Lower body mobility & strength-stability free program – I’m finishing it up and will get it out asap!

action photo from the ground and side
Demo photo single-leg Glut bridge, part of NDM Sports & Personal Training 30 day lower body mobility & stability-strength challenge

Rowing – Managing coaches, collaborating on projects and coaching pupils

Alongside what turned out to be my dream job, starting NDM in 2016, In October 2019 I started another dream job: Director of Rowing at a school program. I also have a strength & conditioning role to play, not just with my rowing squad and coaches, but whole-school wide as I assist the Head of S&C and sports science department with delivering new sessions across all of year9 in the performance gym.

In what has turned out to be a biblical winter, with flooding, wind, and now Covid-19, its been brilliant to still get vast development of the College Boat club and its pupils underway. My public group Kettlebell, personal training clients and Youth GB Fencers have all been going strong throughout. I feel grateful and lucky to have been able to build up to this point. The learning never stops – continually developing my programs with you – my clients, monitoring and ensuring your progress and development is always immensely motivating!

Girl Power!

With international women’s day last weekend, I want to celebrate some serious girl power that has been going on (…week in week out!)

A couple of photos here on twitter at the start line at Gloucester Head race (time trial) 5km.

Also here for some examples of athletic development work for Bristol Blades Fencers, Jade and Tabby, who compete for Great Britain at U17,U20 and U23 in the Foil discipline.

Coming up to two years ago The fencing club asked me if I would work with these two girls, as their fencing level obviously is extremely high, and they were starting to show imbalances and get niggles, due to the significant demand of the sport. The girls have greatly benefited from building greater foundations, building their underpinning physical capabilities and robustness , key in youth /long term athletic development. They are also now unrecognisable in the gym from when we started! – confident and competent to train independently.

A training camp -Easter 2019- at Millfield was a great opportunity for me to work with large groups of fencers, watch them train and in match practice, picking up more insight from the UK’s coaching scene, also learn of and utilise work that the EIS (English institute of Sport) did with GB fencing pre Rio 2016.
The girls have increased strength and power and progressed steadily through various exercises. We continue to build ‘Brilliant basics’. (as put by Graham Williams Head of S&C Millfield, as the focus principle of youth training).
It is a privilege that the club and these girls and their parents elect to train with me instead of other proposed options from outside.

group kettlebell training action
group kettlebell training action

NDM Kettlebell Training

See here for quick nugget of recent NDM group Kettlebell work.
We have now completed two blocks so far in 2020 – The first was ‘capacity’ rebuilding our aerobic engines and base fitness through a greater variety of exercises again, increasing the volume each week. The next was a strength emphasis block, with the Single Arm Strict Press as our emphasised exercise, where the opportunity is built in the progressive program, to lift a heavier kettlebell than before!
With 2kg incremental steps across all my many kettlebells, and a maximum of 10 people in the group, everyone has several they can use.

1-1 Strength & Conditioning work

See here on instagram for my recent work with personal training client, Sophie (and her first ever barbell cleans).
Sophie is a member of a well know gym chain but elects to train with me, an S&C specialist, which is rewarding and good positive feedback for me to know that I’m on the right track with the ‘why’, ‘what’ and then ‘how’ to develop my clients. Being able to slam medicine balls in multi directions, drop weights on the floor/platform, and space to safely do loaded jumps helps too…
The space at Berkeley fitness also provides that limitless feeling of being able to utilise any tool without waiting.
Olympic lifting is next for Sophie, and the dedicated platforms and racks at BGS Sports Centre are a comfortable space to use.

NDM Training online – The home kettlebell program

Check out my home kettlebell program. While I’ve had some stunning feedback from those who’ve hit it, perhaps I can do a better job of explaining its USPs to reach out to more people it could help?
All the info you need here really www.ndmtraining.online

image of kettlebell product
description of kettlebell home training program product

Upcoming could be a pretty good time to plan for some quality home training eh…
It’s never been easier to buy a kettlebell and have it delivered. (Often I have to buy a few heavier ones for my clients..!)
If you get stuck give me a shout… If you live in the Bristol area you could always rent or buy one off me.

image of kettlebell product
new kettlebells

A key feature about the training program and guide

One key point as to why you should buy this training product is that it is a guided progressive programme, accompanying the follow along training video. Rather than just use whatever free workout video you find around, use this to progress your levels of strength of endurance, session after session, week after week. I spent a lot of time using what I’d learnt from the masters out there, combined with my personal training and group work with hundreds of people over recent years, to create this, and it’s been so good to hear how much better people feel for doing this.

Also on my youtube site I have few demo videos, move by move.
silent demos with ‘how to’ captions

And teaching demos with audio:

I’ve gone on… But as I said at the top, I do have this free training program to give away. As soon as I have uploaded the edited clips for the 30-day Lower body mobility & strength-stability free program, and finished off the accompanying programme, I’ll post about it and you can have it!

Also, I’ve developed several athletic warm up protocols, general work applicable for most sports, this one filmed and photographed by 1-1 S&C client , pro windsurfer and friend, at The Wave, Bristol. (And we had lot of fun surfing it too ofcourse! Without the running down the beach etc you would normally have, warming up is even more important – This is a sure-fire way to ensure you are ready to jump in there.
Research shows that we reduce the risk of injury not by static stretching, but by activating the neuro-muscular system, stabilising, and increasing proprioception. This also improves performance.
Whatever your level of surfing, use it adapt it make it yours, it will help you.
I’ll get it posted asap!

Current Schedule and updates

My schedule continues as planned, and both gyms couldn’t be a safer place to come and train, with private or small groups and minimal time in proximity, alco gel at BGS entrance, clean bathrooms easily accessible. And ofcourse maintained hygiene around the equipment used. We’ll move to ‘shaka’s or thumbs ups instead of handshakes or fist bumps!

I was supposed to get away on holiday snowboarding in a week’s time, but that’s scuppered! Next year..!

Nick snowboarding
Nick snowboarding

Our College rowing training week the week after is also now off.
This coming week NDM work in person is off as scheduled due to one school race competition still on. Looking forward to the open air and river.

If you would like to subscribe for updates, do drop me a line through the chat bubble, or give me a call with any questions. Look forward to hearing from you.

Keep calm and carry kettlebells!

Best wishes,


carrying exercise with two kettlebells
High -low kettlebells carry

 “Bad back? There’s a back-pain epidemic – Most treatments make things worse – Here’s why and what you can do” (All of which I’ve happened to have been through myself). My comment on an article in New Scientist, all references where not otherwise stated to the author Helen Thomson who’s article presents important research and great actionable advice for us all.

The main article cover text reads:  “Bad back? There’s a back-pain epidemic - Most treatments make things worse – Here’s why and what you can do”
The Cover of ‘New Scientist’ August 31st.

Expertise already in action

 Luckily, for me and many others, there is a lot of expertise in the UK who are already very aware of all of this and the good and the best medical practice has already changed.

 For instance, my consultant was part of a leading group of researchers looking into potential harmful impact to do with chronic pain of seeing your MRI scan on of your back, as “once you start to look for abnormalities, you will find them”. Doctors are then more likely to prescribe painkillers, steroid injections or surgery. Most of us over our life develop minor issues in the spine.

 I’m aware of lots of people who’ve dramatically improved their lifestyles again from necessary interventions, but for the vast majority, the above may not help and may make things worse.

“People say they can tell you what is wrong from a scan. They can’t. It’s not possible”

 There is an interesting point made about evolution and variation in our vertebrae which I won’t go into here.
New Scientist website link below:

 There is also a lot in the article about lifestyle factors which now “cost the US $635 billion per year in medical bills and productivity”.

 “Backache can also be caused by accidents, sports injuries or a congenital disorder, but lifestyle factors such as obesity and smoking are the biggest problem as a society…being overweight places greater mechanical strain on the back and decreases mobility, a precursor to disc deterioration. Smoking probably increases risk due to the clogging of arteries and reduced blood supply to the spine.”

 “Most people fall under the category of ‘non-specific back pain’ which usually improves in a matter of days or weeks”

The graph title reads: Disability related to lower back pain has increased dramatically around the world in the past few decades.
A graph showing ‘Disability-adjusted life years’ with Age group.  
The biggest aspect I believe the article points to is the increase in hours seated and office work culture, along with obesity and smoking.

 Dr. McGill (I’ve read and apply things daily from his book) talks about there being no such thing as non-specific as there is always a mechanical reason. He explains superbly all the notions of back-hygiene.

Back pain Research and advice

 Pain is discussed in detail, specifically the signals and messages sent from the brain.

 “Not all pain is bad – It is key to our survival… But chronic pain serves no purpose and can seriously harm our health”

 Often there is no identifiable mechanical explanation.

 “It isn’t necessary to stimulate these cells to feel pain, nor is their activity always directly related to our experience of discomfort.”

 I’ll jump in here with some personal examples:

 I overcame a L4/5 nerve end compression due to a tiny disc fragment, the instance of which could have been an aggressive surfing wipeout in hyperextension, but was likely set up from an accumulation of ‘niggles’ in that area over time, from rowing competing nationally over 12 years total, surfing and my time Pro-Windsurfing (with not enough S&C at that time!!) On one day I’d warm-up and then get on the rowing machine, with an anticipation that I might not be in the best place that day and I’ll feel pain.

 On another day I’d do the same warm-up and rowing machine session and feel no pain, or very different things. Perhaps this is because even just warming up, I might be worried about the possible effects of not being able to do what I love due to back pain. Sometimes there has been the common psychological side of anticipating pain having overcome a significant injury – the site is healed but the movement pattern may not be back in full, natural, efficient.

  On the other hand, on another day when I only had the positive side to things in mind or had some great positive interactions, the same warm-up does its job and I feel ready and better and without pain.

 Perhaps the reasons why post-rehab, going windsurfing, surfing, snowboarding again, and also when I’m weightlifting or doing other focused gym or athletic work, these are challenging activities which I enjoy, I just get in the zone and focus on that, there is no space to worry about my back. This is the sort of thing my chiropractor, osteopath, physio, consultant, all wanted me to embrace. Their advice has been invaluable to me in dealing with my chronic back pain. Bit by I sorted the mental side of it.

In the gym with clients

 Working with clients in the gym post-rehab, to increase their robustness, mobility, basic strength & stability, finding the right level of challenge for them and building back up their physical literacy, it’s up there with the most satisfying things I could ever imagine doing, seeing someone’s confidence come back to move well again in every plane and lift load again and enjoy their sports or activities again.

You have to consider the whole body – it’s a complex system. A lot of the time the back pain is the result of other stuff going on elsewhere.

For more insight into my coaching work, background and client stories, check out

“All the circuits can be triggered or suppressed”

 Therefore, there are examples of studies of the effects of images, music or film altering brain activity, subduing or increasing pain.

Back pain – research and advice

 Other studies show that it matters that clinicians acknowledge our pain.

Buchbinder suggests ‘The best way to prevent long term disability from back pain is to ditch the drugs and promote wider international adoption of a mix of increasing physical activity plus mental retraining’.

 So, other top tips of my own and from the article include NOT taking bed rest – which has been the typical outdated advice.  “When young healthy male volunteers spent eight weeks in bed their lumbar multifidus muscles, which keep our lower vertebrae in place, had wasted and become inactive”. None of this, of course, is a surprise to an S&C coach.

  • Walking regularly
  •  Moving regularly
  •  Standing desk – don’t sit all day, which reduces mobility and can accumulate one setup of load in one position on discs.
  •  Ergonomic chairs “don’t work”.
  •  Pilates
  •  Standing still for some can be as hard as sitting still, so being able to vary positions is key.
  •  Loaded work keeps muscles, ligaments, and tendons strong, and keeps up bone density. There is no substitute for some loaded work, for everyone, ie. resistance training.

 “Nobody expects to get through life without a cold, and they don’t visit the doctor when they do”

 I guess with all of this, the trick must be understanding for works for you, but there are certainly some common themes and there is evidence that the above can help the majority of back pain.

That list seems straight-forward but chances are high that most of us dont do enough of some of these activities, and therefore doing more of that or better improves back pain!

If you deal with back pain drop me a line – i’d love to hear your thoughts about all this – what works for you and what challenges you face.

Charlie mid-season match play 2018

Charlie at Cotham Park Rugby Football Club.

He loves his sport, loves power and came in with a good awareness of his technical strengths and weakness in his game, which fed into what we felt he needed more of ahead of his upcoming season.
He wanted more power, more acceleration from a stand-still, and to be able to repeat these efforts throughout his match play. ‘Power endurance’

I have always admired the intent and commitment with which Rugby players have to apply.
We discussed aspects of his game; his own needs in relation to the demands of the sport, and increasing his capabilities in these areas:
In terms of Force production, including e.g. accelerating, driving, tackling,
and Force absorption including e.g. change of direction, resisting or taking a tackle,
and scrums and malls in both.

In short, we need both production and absorption of force qualities in abundance to reduce the chance of injury and maximise performance!

Charlie had an interest in the Olympic lifts.

He and came in with good all round levels of strength, more than enough with his Barbell Deadlift, Squat, good shoulder mobility, control and strength, good Hip and Thoracic mobility and lumbar stability.

Setting about learning the full C&J, rather than only derivates, seemed valid, especially with time out of competition season,

We found some areas where some bespoke targeted myofascial release and flexibility were helpful – he had an inkling he could do with more flexibility in places. Charlie learnt and employed these exercises and methods with good results as part of the training block.

Through learning the C&J, there were several ‘bonus’ areas where Charlie felt the results and was visibly stronger, which he knows can now feed into his game:

-Grip strength up – grappling opponents.
-Learning new movement patterns – a lot to process. So, using drills, developing stages, then trusting in the whole movement…as it has to happen quickly, without time to think through every stage!
-Fine tuning – thinking and feeling, where is the weight in relation to base of support, i.e.. front/mid/back of feet.

As well as increased power, what also comes with Olympic lifting is further confidence and precision, due to the high level of neural demand /movement mastery aspects.

I love the transfers this will bring Charlie going into pre-season and then competition season!
It was cool too, seeing Charlie’s (pleasant!) surprise as to the energy system demands! …High metabolic conditioning aspects…

I also wanted to make sure we gave Charlie at least a bit of time on accelerating in free-sprints, also getting some reactivity demand in, all the while aiming to make use of some PAP (Post activation potentiation) and allowing him to feel some transfer there and then.

Some training video snapshots on Instagram & Facebook…social media links at bottom of page…

Post-script: Some of my notes and reflections

  • Within the training, I programmed a bespoke RAMP warm up, including plyometric progressions
  • We tested out Charlies movement, and his main lifts,
  • Barbell complexing was utilised – such good work in so many ways including as extending warm up and preparation for loading up and progressing the lift.
  • We utilised several methods to increase power, including other loaded jumps, Kettlebell, barbell and hex bar jumps of various loading, and explored the differences,
  • As in match play having variety of motor patterns and ways to problem solve and to draw upon are useful!
  • He was no stranger to the sled push and lapped this up, aiming for a high % for him of high speed running.
  • It also gave me the opportunity to look at his leg and trunk mechanics and have a ponder.
  • The video clips also and importantly are my opportunity for reflective practice, ‘What was the aim, the focus, and on seeing the movement, what to get into, what to leave, which cue…when/why… was the outcome what I wanted… why/why not’
  • And the results by the session , by the week, were they good enough by my and Charlie’s standards etc. etc. And How did it inform my programming…
  • Towards the end of the block we evolved the session , going from power (with near full recovery) to power-endurance (decreasing the load he got to with his lift, and doing relatively extensive reps) including with explosive med ball throws.

…Awesome to see the levels of intent from Charlie – beneficial for his team not just himself! Brilliant to know he has stacks of ability to continue on with his development in his own training now over the rest of this summer.

Charlie’s testimonial

“ Nick was really flexible in his approach to training and we had a long discussion at the outset to discuss my aims. He’s knowledgeable, personable and very encouraging. In 6 weeks of weekly sessions, I was really pleased with the outcomes, starting as a complete novice in the Olympic lifts and saw quick progress in the clean and jerk. Recommended!”

Shout out to Thomas Stringwell and Gary Hutt for the initial Olympic weightlifting training and assessment, and Jez Birds for the training and mentorship…2017 was just the start!

For pre-season team training enquiries and bookings drop Nick a line.

Nick has tried and tested methods for team sport preparation in the BGS gym, which he can rent out exclusively for you and your team in which he will program, lead and direct your training for success.

I love this article from Jason Brown / Dr Rusin!

It’s well presented and communicated, its sits well with all the ethos of what I deliver and what my clients experience, in whatever resistance training setting.


My blog post commenting on this is for those curious about CrossFit, ‘functional training’, Olympic Lifting, Barbell & dumbbell work, those who may be training for health but also those training for performance.

There are many facets of the use of the kettlebell as another tool in which I see marked benefits and results which my clients see, do and feel!

The majority of my clients always laugh or question when I answer them with how I want to be training myself much better at the moment, that I can get a lot stronger/fitter/athletic, that in fact I am serious!

I rarely comment on CrossFit because I havent earnt the right- I haven’t put myself through a block of training – but this was a conscious decision! CrossFit has always interested me, but we know injury stats speak for themselves. (…So the last thing I wanted to embark on with my injury history) There are plenty of athletic movements I am still working upto myself!
Like anything, there is great coaching & programming practice and not so great practice out there.
It’s interesting observing from the outside how CrossFit is evolving and changing its approach.
I’m aware of the vast number of lives changed for the better, and the remarkable community about it.

Widening the foundations, ensuring enough mobility, stability and strength first, before power, before endurance, progressively building up an order of progressions of exercises first, this is nothing new, just quality training.

When I work with clients looking to increase power , including Olympic lifting, we’ll do it in a highly controlled way.
Whatever we’re doing quality always over quantity, and adequate rest.
If we ever go for strength-endurance or power-endurance, we still have to be sensible and put the weight down and stop the reps before we do a bad one, as past that point and doing a bad rep you’re just not being effective (never mind injury risk) It’s not worth it! Obviously save that risk for that one moment in your season/year/career in the actual sporting race/event if you need to?! We shouldn’t ever get hurt training in the gym!

I will teach someone the barbell snatch if they have ticked off several key boxes first that mean it’s safe for us to do it, and that they’ll get plenty out of it!
There’s no point setting about learning the snatch if there’s more to gain with simpler power exercises first!
The wider the foundations the higher the peak.
If we plateau…widen the foundations
The demands , rewards and adaptations promoted from the barbell snatch ofcourse can’t be replaced! Nor those respectively from the Clean & Jerk.

There are so many benefits to these exercises, so many training principles for safe effective progressive overload which my clients are well aware of and will find in common here!

Always at your own pace… I’m very much used to healthy in-house competition from coaching rowers and swimmers… In the resistance training setting, just focus on yourself! Compare notes of each other’s own progressions after the set!

I dont have many clients who I load-up in overhead squats,
but I do find lots of shoulder & thoracic spine mobility/stability benefits to working people in the overhead squat with a dowel (stick!) We will often incorporate these into warmups before kettlebell or Dumbbell where people are their overhead work, or before Circuits.

You know I love single-sided work…! Be it for working on imbalances or for athletic performance… For most sports you need to be good single sided.

I love how it’s this one…
And I love how the Burpee is the bonus! Come along to any of my sessions and ask my clients if I prescribe anyone burpees… 

If you want to learn or make sure you’re performing any of these exercises correctly, find your current strengths and weaknesses, or want some guidance with how to programme your training effectively, drop me a line, let’s book you in for a session!

Press ups!

Something I find I work with a lot with my clients in the 1-1 setting and the group setting is scapula control and ‘core’ control. Developing both is important to enable you to press effectively, in any direction.

Proper press ups are bloomin’ hard!

(I won’t reveal my small number of personal maximum reps anticipated here currently out of embarrassment for lack of my own training lately!)
To get the most out of a horizontal press, ie. Maximum function, maximum recruitment of the upper body and trunk, leading to maximal strength (think Force), and importantly to maintain healthy shoulders, the scapulae need to be retracted, the elbows should be close to the body, and the trunk region (think cylinder all around from the belly button), particularly abdominals, and transverse abdominals.

Breathe wide and deep and maintain control here to help co-ordinate all around the shoulders, arms and chest area for the pressing motion.

Being able to press with confidence is important in so many ways in daily life as well as in lots of sports, so do them with intent!

Amy, developing a 'good amount of reps' at a 'good height', at Berkeley Fitness Personal Training Studio, BS6
Amy, developing a ‘good amount of reps’ at a ‘good height’, at Berkeley Fitness Personal Training Studio, BS6

How to develop your press!

This is the other major facet I work with you on.
There is no point struggling with poor form, forcing things, giving maximal effort but getting poor results.
Over a period of time, starting with regressed versions/options, we eventually get you to a quality full press up.
There are many ways to do this, but the best way is to use a racked barbell.

Setting the height to challenge you and your form just enough, over many reps total, will then lead you to next session (eg. a few days later) to be able to lower the barbell height, (making it harder, ‘it’s physics’ :) and complete presses here, with fewer total reps until fatigue/loss of form…
Over subsequent sessions increase the number of reps at a given height, and then lower the barbell height again…
Repeat this process well and enough and consistently and guess what… YOU WILL eventually be able to attain a full press up off the floor!..

…For healthy shoulders and a functioning upper body you MUST balance out pressing with pulling!…

If you want to know more about any of this drop me a line!

If you think more detailed guide would be useful let me know and I’ll make one!