Training From Another Continent  – 7 Things an Aussie learnt in Canada and the US

Well, what can I say? I travelled 24 hours by plane to go to a Charles Poliquin’s seminar and train at Muscle Beach in California (Venice Beach). Every muscle heads dream right?

First stop, Canada, more specifically its capital, Ottawa. Poliquin has seriously come up with some cool shit and has great people supporting his vision. Case and point, the course instructor, the intelligent, witty and former Olympian, Clarke Flynn.

Clarke was hilarious whist teaching the course. From making fun of “The Cross Fit Guy” to his outrageously funny story about Michael Owen (soccer player), there wasn’t a dull moment. However, I didn’t travel for 24 hours by plane, drinking nothing but rice protein shakes for a couple of laughs with the boys. I came to learn, fortunately, Clarke and the team (Danny, Brad and George) came packing the goods!

(far left) George Chiappa, Clarke Flynn, Me (in blue) and Bryce Coad

So here it is, my top 7 things I learnt abroad:

1. We live in an interiorly rotated world

And no, I don’t mean just us Aussies!

Every sport and movement for the best part is done internally rotated. Very few people spend time doing the tedious externally rotator exercises such as “Knee supported dumbbell external rotation”. Or when they do, they fear that the other guys who quarter squat will make fun of them for using the pink dumbbells!

Using the analogy, “you can’t fire a cannon from a canoe” helps understand the function of the shoulder. If your shoulder capsule is weak, it will send an inhibiting message to the brain shutting down the shoulder, thus not allowing you to press and perform at your potential. Basically it comes back to the saying coined by strength coach Louie Simmons, “your only as strong as your weakest link.”

So to drum this home, lets say your bench is 100 kilos, your pecs can handle a load of 120 kilos, but your weak pathetic external rotation threshold is only 100 kilos. If the nervous system registers that 100 kilos is the external rotation threshold- guess what? You will never bench more than 100kilos no matter how strong your pecs are, the nervous system will simply send a message to the brain to shut the movement down.

You have to remember, the body will never purposeful allow harm to come to it. So if at the end of the day the untrained external rotators (in most cases) determines how much (or little) you can press. This is the very reason why your presses can go up without even training the press. (Press –Bench press, Incline, military presses, push presses, Dumbbell or Barbell)

In a nutshell, train your weakest link. More often than not in your presses it will be the external rotators.

2. I’m a fast twitch guy!

This was massive for me… Fibre type testing

Testing your fibre typing will ensure:

a)    If you’re an athlete you pick the right sport or position in that that sport best suited to your genetic make up

b)   You maximise your training – training in a way that is suited to your fibre make-up/character

c)    You don’t over or under train

I’m a fast-twitch guy! Ok, ok, I just really liked this photo and wanted to include it!

Whilst I am not going to write a protocol on how to test your fibre type in this article, all I’ll say is find yourself a good PICP coach to test your fibre type if you have been training over 2 years. When I look back on my training programs and progress, I always made the most progress when I trained heavy and low reps, and the reason for that is I am predominantly fast twitch machine.  Though for any of my friends who know me (and trained with me) ill superset until the 20th rep!

In a nutshell, know your fibre type and train to suit it. Note: Theirs no point doing this test if you haven’t been training seriously for about 2 years.

3. Another reason why cardio sucks balls!

Cardio sucks balls. You should know that if you have read or spoken to me in person (and just to be clear I am talking about steady state cardio). Though this realization is nothing new, I did learn another cool reason not to do cardio in that manner.

Steady state cardio trains your nervous system to be inefficient. Think of it like this, Australia rowers can do 12 reps at 97.5% of their 1 rep max. We could estimate that aerobic instructors could do 20 plus reps at loads closer to their 1 rep max. This is not a good thing from the aspect of the nervous system working more efficiently.

You would have to be a Milhouse to do steady state cardio!

Most powerlifters and Olympic lifters are good for nothing over 3 to 5 reps. They are neurologically efficient, and there’s quite a big difference in loads from 1 rep max’s to 5 rep max’s in these athletes.

In a nutshell, if your number one concern is strength – for the love of God, don’t do steady state cardio. Steady state cardio dulls the nervous system through repeated low intensity movements. Heavy lifts on the other hand make the nervous system optimal.

4. People have confused cardio to mean energy systems training- VO2s are meaningless! (In anaerobic based sports)

These two things have entirely different meanings. Cardio is not energy systems training. Energy systems training when done correctly will be specific to the athletes sport, and will be indicative of the work that is required to improve the athlete. I’m probably not making sense, so here’s an example,

In the AFL (Aussie Rules Football) some drop kick trainers think their players should run 5 km’s to build an “aerobic base” for the game. HOWEVER, if we were to analyse the game with the players wearing a heart rate monitor, we would find that it’s a game of repeats. Or as Clarke puts when he was giving the analogy of soccer (which still holds true for the AFL), “it’s a game where a player gets the ball, has a fit for 15 to 30 secs, then gets rid of the ball..

In other words it’s a game of repeats. Coming back to point 3, training aerobically will make the players neurologically inefficient, therefore, there”s no reason to use a VO2 test as a ‘standard or measure’ for athletic performance in anaerobic based sports. To drive this point home just look at NBA players, they have an average VO2 of 47 which is barely above Joe and Jane’s average of 42! V02 in sports of repeats are not justified indictors of performance levels.

One final point about AFL, the game is injuring more and more players. Its not because the game is becoming too fast (as some argue), it’s because the players training and prep sucks. To the AFL footballers that are getting injured – Your training sucks. There, I said it! Its not the players fault though, it’s the trainers.

5. Muscle beach sucks balls

Since I was a kid I always wanted to go to muscle beach and train. Well May 17th, 2010 I realised that dream, and let me tell you, it was about as anti-climatic as the third instalment of the Matrix.

Not sure if it was the luck luster trainers, the nonsense machines or the walking chemical labs who… well could train for shit!

I trained at muscle beach after attending a Poliquin course, and if you have heard or know anything about Poliquins courses, you MUST squat heel to arse. Whilst I was in fine form squatting roughly 125 kilos for triples (275 pounds), the very clearly unnatural guys next to me where squatting 140kgs for a quarter of the motion! To put this in perspective, go on youtube and watch the video of me quarter squatting, last time I did this I loaded it up to 300kilos… (On YouTube I’m doing 250kgs here’s the video:

Maybe I can wear this T-Shirt next time I ¼ squat…

These guys have a good 20 to 30 kilos on me (not to mention the anabolics). Muscle beach is supposed to be “The Mecca of Bodybuilding”.  How far this is from the truth. It seems Gold’s has come a long way from ‘Pumping Iron’ in the 80’s.

On the other hand I did see Lou Ferrigno, the incredible Hulk. He seemed a bit sad, I was tempted to go up to him and give him a hug, though I don’t think he would have appreciated that so I held myself back (as hard as it was).

Then I walked in to room 3, and I saw the thing, Jay Culter filming a DVD. No wonder why no one wants to be a bodybuilder these days, ‘the main guy’ is enough to make small children and bears cry. Back in Lou’s day, men wanted to be him and girls wanted to be with him. Not quite sure if the same is true for the Pro Bodybuilders of today.

6. It is 100% completely natural to Squat knees over toes

I will be the first to admit, I normally teach the squat to clients in the powerlifting style with hips being the first thing to move. (Though I have never had a problem with knees coming over the toes.)

I was sold on the idea squatting more like an Olympic lifter (with knees being the first thing to move) after seeing a classmates back locked up in the L4, L5 region. If that wasn’t enough evidence to change my squatting style, George Chiappa presented a beautiful presentation on the function of the knee in sports. He clearly showed that in almost (if not all sports) the knee will naturally travel over the toe.

The take home point is this, to improve an athletes ability to run, hop, skip, jump and kick, get them performing movements the way the would on the field. As I always say, practice like its real.

Excuse me madam, your not allow to bring your knees over your toes, don’t you know its not ‘functional’…

7. The Klatt Test, The Wobble Board, The Dura Disk and The Rockerboard

I always though these contraptions were in the same category as Paul Cheks Swiss Ball.

How wrong I was, they are EXCELLENT tools at assessing dysfunction in the lower body. It also drummed home just how to spot, assess and correct dysfunction and weakness in specific areas when individuals perform other compound movements such as squats.

To all my international friends, come visit me in Oz soon!

The team gave each of us a book that should have been made of gold. In it described and showed how to spot dysfunction and exactly what it meant and how to correct it.

Well worth the price of admission. Thanks to Clarke, Brad, Danny and George!

Till next time,

Train Strong, Eat Healthy,

MaXimus Mark

Got to to grab your copy of Marks books, The Truth About Health Supplements (foreword by Jonny Bowden) and The Truth About Sports Supplements

Oh Canada!.... ey!

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