Archive for June, 2015

Age is just a number. It is our attitude that makes us young or old. It is a fact that our body will eventually reach its age when it will start to have a decline in its abilities. But it is also a fact that our body, even if it is already old, will still respond to training and it will become stronger and fitter. The effects of ageing can be minimized and reversed. We just need to be open minded, execute a well designed training program, and be optimistic.

Doing regular strength training is a very effective way to stay young. What it offers that may not be in other physical activities is that it can be easily monitored. Variables like intensity, volume, and rest period are easily controlled and the variety of exercises and routines is endless. A study published on 2011 found out that training with weights and calisthenics in a circuit fashion reduced blood pressure during the first 60 minutes after exercise in the elderly with treated hypertension. The exercise routine with the highest volume reduced blood pressure in the next 24 hours following exercise. This suggests that implementation, monitoring and supervision by qualified and experienced professional is important for elderly individuals when performing exercise. A good written record of each training session would easily show the training volume. Blood pressure may be monitored before and after the training session. Good planning of activities along with good training monitoring would indicate an appropriate training volume and intensity. This maximizes training benefits.

An earlier study conducted on 2009 was done to determine the effects of strength training on physical function. The subjects were 50 inactive adults aged 65 years old and above. Their strength, power, body composition, and physical function were measured before and after 22 weeks of strength training. Physical function was measured using movements similar to that used in Activities of Daily Living (ADL). Examples of ADL are walking, ascending stairs, and getting up from a chair. These activities may seem insignificant to young and healthy individuals but they may be challenging to older individuals. After 22 weeks, the same tests were done on the subjects. Test results showed that the women improved significantly in walking test times (flat and ascending stairs), the men improved in stair climb test, and all subjects had improvement in functional tasks which are very important in their ADL’s. The study demonstrates that there are measurable effects of strength training to the quality of life of people aged 65 years and above.

A similar study was conducted on the same age group of men. It was done to determine the relationship between their muscular strength and economy of movement during aerobic exercise. Results indicate that cardiorespiratory capacity and economy of movement are associated with muscular strength during aging. Stronger individuals had better cardiorespiratory capacity and can move better. Moving better means they can avoid falling down and hurting themselves. They would be able to walk up and down the stairs with more ease and safety as compared to individuals with lower muscular strength. A good investment in strength enables them to enjoy their retirement years without depending on care providers for their hygiene and in going to places where they wish to hang out.

But why wait to reach 65 to start improving your quality of life? We better start now if we have not yet invested much in our health and well being.

bench press senior athleteI am lucky to be training 55 year old athletes. One is a sailor  just 7 weeks into the training program as of the writing of this post. The program started with 2 weeks of general conditioning and we were in the 5th week of strength training. He initially started with lighter loads and it took some time for him to learn how to lift with efficient and safe posture. Now he can deadlift a barbell as heavy as his bodyweight and bench press 60kg with ease. Not a lot of 20 year old guys can do that! But what is more interesting is this: as I was asking him about his friends, he said they also sail but they are not as fit as him. It is because they just sail with no desire to be better while the the 55 year old athlete really wants to be better. He always wants to improve himself. That is what makes him want to do strength training. And strength training makes him have the abilities of people less than half his age. His attitude is basically what keeps him young. Now he is not the oldest athlete who trains with me. There is another amazing guy about the same age who races with guys half his age in the Asian games and he beats them. He also desires to improve and overcome obstacles. These gentlemen are really amazing. Their mindset put them in situations wherein they were able to get other people to help them improve physically given their age.

These observations along with personal experience has shown me that strength training is a very good investment. I am now 40 years old but I feel like 28. Some say I look younger than my age so it is not just a subjective feeling. But to be honest I feel that my ability to recover is not as fast as before- but then again, it does not matter that much since I know more now than before. What I know now enables me to lift a heavier load than when I was a lot more muscular 14 years ago. If I knew then what I know now, things would be different in a great way. But what is more important is I can use my knowledge and skills to train a willing trainee to be stronger and fitter individual. It does not matter whether they are young or “old”. What matters is that they are willing to be coached how to Train Better, Live Better!

Time is gold so when you go train in a gym, train smart. What you do should have a sound basis and should contribute in your improvement. A lot of things are plain common sense but nowadays vanity made common sense quite rare. So here are 5 things to avoid so as not to look like a fool in a weights room:


  1. Dropping dumbells on the floor

– dumbells are meant to be gripped and no matter how tired you are, you can always hold on to the dumbell until it safely rests on the rack or floor. Rare exemptions may be dumbells weighing more than 100lbs but again, treat the equipment properly, if they are not meant to be dropped, do not drop them.

– some dumbells are secured with screws and constant dropping loosens them. The plates may fall on somebody’s face hopefully on the one who likes dropping them.

– it is just my theory that people want to be noticed and the noise that the dropped dumbell creates says “hey! look at me! I am working out! yohooo… please look at me….”


  1. Reading or watching videos on the phone while doing leg press

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– The leg press exercise requires some concentration, and for strength training it is loaded with heavy weights. Even when trying to improve local muscular endurance, the weight used is heavy enough to require some effort. You cannot expect to execute it safely when you are distracted with your phone.

– Training in a weights room, if done well, can be a very focused experience wherein distractions are set aside and you face yourself and exert a bit more effort. Effort may mean more weight, or more sets, or more reps, or more focused technique, or compound exercise as opposed to isolated movement. It is a chance to be better than your previous self.

– If your goal is to relax and watch videos, that can be done at the convenience of your home, while saving you from being looked upon as someone who wastes the space and oxygen in the weights room.


  1. Doing plyometrics on a thick Airex Foam

– Plyometrics exercises are done with a quick stretch to the agonist, followed by a forceful concentric contraction. The amortization phase, the time between the eccentric to concentric should be short so as to take advantage of the reflexive properties of the muscle-tendon series. Using a foam to cushion the fall would dampen the “shock” that stretches the agonistic muscle. This prolongs the amortization phase thereby rendering it ineffective to elicit the reflexive powerful contraction.

– If the objective is to strengthen the intrinsic foot muscles, towel pulling exercises with the foot (see related post) and simply walking barefoot over a grassy lawn for a few minutes would do the trick- and this is not a plyometric exercise.


  1. Using the foam rollers before training and having a massage later on.

– the foam rollers are a great tool in facilitating relaxation when the services of a masseur are not available. A massage is a lot better. Foam rollers, massage sticks, and similar gadgets are for those individuals who need to stretch and relax their muscles but cannot avail of massage due to some reasons. But if you can have a massage after training, save yourself time. You do not need to do foam rolling prior to having a massage.

– time is precious so the limited time in the gym can better be used to perform your main lifts. After your main training, then you can do foam rolling if you really need it.


  1. Posting “selfies” after every set.


– You do not need a psychiatrist to tell you that individuals who post photos of themselves every hour of the day have some disorder.

– Instead of just taking “selfies” with those labial like lips, it would be a lot more productive to ask someone to record a video of you doing any lift that requires technique. Ask that the video be taken from the side, yes, your face is not important in this one. It should show the start of the lift until the moment when at least one repetition is completed. It should show all of your bodyparts and the barbell or kettlebell. This will help you identify areas that need improvement. Better yet, show it to a Strength Coach knowledgeable in those lifts and ask how you can improve your lift. Or you can send your video to your “online coach” if you a have one. Only then can you post your video. It will help you and others, instead of becoming an hourly annoyance.

Think about it. Do not make a fool of yourself. Train Better, Live Better!

Many athletes, sports coaches, and administrators have a wrong notion of what a Strength and Conditioning Coach is. This makes them set wrong expectations when working with a Strength and Conditioning coach. Here is a personal point of view on the description of what a Strength and Conditioning Coach is NOT. Of course there are always personal differences and some are due to institutional policies. But whether or not I am working for an institute or as a freelance Strength & Conditioning Coach, I do not agree with providing services beyond the scope of my specialization. I respect my profession and that of others. I expect other professionals to do the same and stop trying to be a strength coach if they are not qualified with credentials, skills, and experiences.


Usually here in Asia, only scholarship athletes  in a sports institute have access to the services of a strength and conditioning department. If you are one, make the most out of your training time. Learn everything you can since only a privileged few are given the chance to train and learn in sports institutes. You would be lucky if you can avail of the services of an experienced strength coach. Others would have to hire their own Strength Coach and this would be short term arrangements depending on the goals and their paying power. Some fitness enthusiasts who can afford will benefit much if they hire a Strength Coach to work with them in their lifting skills.


Related Post: Strength and Conditioning Coach…  What???


To have realistic expectations, here are 14 descriptions of what a  Strength and Conditioning Coach is NOT:


  1. I am not your personal trainer

I am your Strength Coach. My job is to coach you in lifting barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells, and your bodyweight so that you will be stronger, more powerful, and less prone to injury compared to your previously untrained self. My job is not to make you look good although you will have that chiseled look as a training by product in some instances.


  1. I am not a salesman

In the Sports Institute, I train athletes. They are not clients. I do not get paid by the number of athletes I work with. I get paid the same amount even if I train 0 or 100 athletes in a day. I was hired because of my professional qualifications, knowledge, attitude, skills, and experience working with the best athletes of a country preparing for top level competitions. I would do my job as efficiently as I can and, depending on how the management runs the institute, I may be decked with one athlete on any given time or 30 plus junior athletes with varying levels of athletic development. This makes me change training approach so as to cope with the load but being decked with too much athletes to coach at a given time lowers my attention time for each athlete. So remember, I do not need to sell my services to clients. So do not expect me to go chasing after you so I can train you. You chase your dreams as an athlete.

If I am working for myself, I would not train everybody. I would train people who will benefit with what I have to offer.


  1.  I am not your masseur

I can show you how to stretch yourself but I won’t stretch you. It is an insult to your abilities if I would treat you like a baby. You can seek the services of the masseur if you want to be stretched or want a massage. They do it a lot better than me since that is their specialization, that is where they are trained and most of all, that is their job.


  1. I am not your psychologist

If you are having a bad day, or fought with your boyfriend, or is simply not in the mood to train, do not let it affect your training. It will only make things a lot worst. You are given the rare opportunity to be a representative of your country in the sporting arena and it is your responsibility to train on your training schedule and be the best that you can be. You are also being given a lot of support including the services of qualified and experienced professionals who expect that you, at least, have the character of someone willing to improve. Act like a responsible person who people depend upon. So do not come to me expecting me to listen to your personal problems if it is time for you to train. I am here to show you the way how to train for a certain goal and it is up to you to follow. I expect a lot of professionalism from you. If you come to the gym just for compliance, I would notice it and it does affect my attitude too. I do not like wasting my time with people who do not value my time or theirs.

You might say I am impersonal but I learned my lessons: people take advantage of you when you are nice. And they always expect you to bend and accommodate their tardiness and lame excuses because you are simply nice. I would not want to act like a parent to you but I hate tolerating bad behaviour. If I let you go away with it without a word, it simply means you were successful in destroying my interest in figuring out how to help you perform better.


  1. I am not your nanny or your maid.

On our first training session, I would orient you to put the things that you used back to their proper place. Initially I would help you load up your bar so you can learn the proper way of doing it. But it is your responsibility to clean up your mess. I know you will see a lot of other athletes who are just so lazy, irresponsible, and vain who would go across the gym to pick up a dumbbell just to use it in front of a mirror and then drop it after each set. It is your choice if you want to follow their example. If you do, you will give me the impression that you are a lazy stinking a____l_. If you want to keep dropping the dumbbells, please aim for your toes. Thank you.


  1. I am not your secretary

Prior to our first training session, I would have informed you or your sports coach our training schedule and we have agreed on it. I understand that if you are not a full time athlete, you may not be able to comply with all the schedules. But if you are training full time, there should be no reason to be late or absent from training. Be late or absent often and I would lose interest in coaching you the best I can. I would be happier if you just don’t show up…ever. I will still get paid anyway, while you will remain weak and ugly. It is also your responsibility to keep your training log and to record your training. Do not expect me to remember all your previous loads.

  1. I am not your genie even if you call yourself Alladin

We will try our best to maximize the expression of your genetic potential. But remember, trying to be what you are not takes a lot of effort, determination and luck.

If you are not born with predominantly fast twitch muscle fibers, do not aspire to be a sprinter. Anyway, talent identification systems, your coaches, and honest observation would tell you if you have a great potential in your sport of choice. You and I should be pragmatic and work with your weaknesses so that they are minimized while we try to achieve small goals at a time. Ask your sports coach how to adapt a certain sports skill or technique for your condition. Do not expect to walk in the gym, tell me your wishes, and walk out biting your gold medal if you do not even have the determination to sleep early and get up early.


  1. I am not your sports coach

No matter how much we train in the gym if you do not practice your own sport, you will not improve your sports skills unless you are a weightlifter, a powerlifter, or a kettlebell athlete. Strength Training and Conditioning is supplemental training and not your main training. Do not use me as an excuse to avoid training with your sports coach either.


  1. I am not your spotter

Do not get into the habit of having a spotter all the time. Try to work on your lifting confidence. I will spot you if you are new and still learning or if you are lifting near maximal to maximal load. Other than that I would spot you if I don’t trust you to know well enough to lift safely but I won’t lift the weight for you for the whole set.


  1. I am not your personal assistant

A soldier who goes to the battlefield but forgets to bring his gun with him is as good as dead. Come to the gym well prepared with proper training attire. If you forgot your access card or your training attire, go get them. Do not ask me if I have spare shirt or shorts, I do not want somebody’s sweat soaking my clothes. You can use and keep my toothbrush too if you want.

  1. I will not be the one to compete for you

This is a hard fact: you are ultimately responsible for your life. Other people will not live your life for you. Same in strength training: you are shown the way but it is up to you to follow. Passing all the responsibility to me won’t make you a better athlete, it only makes you an irresponsible person undeserving of respect.


  1. I am not your physician

If you are sick or injured, go to the Sports Medicine department and consult the doctor. Then show me a note from them when you resume training with me so I know how to direct your training. Do not consult me when you are sick, consult the right person. Only assholes pretend to want to train when they are sick yet they would be late or absent from training when they are in good health.


  1. I am not your cheering squad

You are the one who should motivate yourself to train, if you cannot motivate yourself to train, better think of a different career. But expect positive and negative feedback from me regarding your lifts. The person more interested in training for your improvement should be you, not me, not your parents.


  1. I am not your magician

Adaptation from training takes time. Learning a lift takes time. Positive results do happen but not like as if it were effortlessly done by magic. My magic wand is a 20kg bar with revolving sleeve and my magic ball is made of steel not crystal and it has a handle. Most people call it a kettlebell. Rub the magic dust on your hands, it will make you do wonderful things. Its called magnesia or simply chalk.

Learning what to expect from a Strength Coach helps you avoid unrealistic expectations. It also lets you maximize the services and you will know how to Train Better, Live Better!

When you set a goal, you have to define it first before you can move forward. Convey your goal to your Strength Coach so that an appropriate assessment or monitoring and plan can be made. Being physically strong is a noble goal. But what does it mean? Strength is the ability to produce maximum force. It is the ability to lift or push or move heavy objects. But I realized that the word “Strong” is sometimes incorrectly used to describe someone big and muscular.


Strength can be described by the weight of the object you are moving, in a certain exercise or movement. It is measurable and to be more accurate, it is best measured in as few reps (short for repetition) as possible. The reps should be low (5 or less) because the load is simply too heavy to move or lift many times. For example you can full squat 50kg for fifteen repetitions but cannot complete the 16th rep. You add 40kg for a total load of 90kg and you try to full squat. It feels a lot heavier but you were able to do two reps and was not able to get up on the 3rd rep. You were then able to do two reps maximum of 90kg for the full squat. That is the maximum load that you can lift with 2 reps. When it comes to the full squat, 90kg is a closer measure of your strength than 50kg. 50kg is the load that you can lift for fifteen reps. Increasing the repetitions means moving towards endurance and moving away from strength. Therefore, if you want to improve your strength faster, train with heavy loads that you can control and move for around 5 reps or less. If you train with ten reps or more, you will still become stronger but not as fast as when you train specifically for strength. You develop your maximum strength by lifting near maximum loads. You develop strength endurance by lifting a load that you can lift many times by- that is around 8 reps and above.  This follows the concept of specificity.


Standard exercises are used to measure strength so as to give feedback on how much a trainee improved. Most Strength coaches would use the squat and bench press. The deadlift and bench pull are also used. It basically depends on the details of your goal and what you and your strength coach can do. A training log can also be used as a reference for Strength improvement and it shows what you actually did. It makes a very good feedback. Make it simple, just write the exercise, the load, how many sets at how many reps. This also gives the Strength coach a hint of what you may be able to do in the near future.


But what does strength mean in our daily life? For a contact sports athlete, it may mean the ability to push, to pull, lift, squeeze, or throw your opponents around with seemingly lesser effort. For a mother, it may mean the ability to carry her child with ease. For a father, he should be able to carry the grocery bags up the stairs, move furnitures around, play with his kids, or simply be able to open a stuck jar cover so that his wife can make sandwiches. For a lady, it may mean being able to carry her own stuff, or maybe go through a trekking activity without being at the mercy of guys especially if they are not her type. For a guy, physical strength may mean you can be of help to yourself and to other people. For some of us, it may mean our livelihood.


It is understandable that the word “strong” for a lot of people would mean big. A bigger and more muscular person should, theoretically, be able to lift more than a smaller and less muscular person. That is true if they are trained to lift. There may be some big guys who workout in a gym but may not be able to lift as much as a smaller but properly trained athlete, especially in certain lifts that require technique and mobility.


It can be fun to be able to tap into your physical strength. There was one time I went to a workshop. I was one of the smallest guys – I am not that muscular. Other participants are big, muscular guys. Some of them are looking at me like they will eat me! But I know myself and I have confidence in the way I trained myself. So I just let my lifting do the talking and during our break the big guys seem to try to shrink themselves when they pass in front of me since they cannot lift the weight I lifted. It was an amusing experience.


Some of the athletes I train are not that big too. Since they have a certain weight category, they should not put on a lot of muscle mass to avoid getting heavy. The patient and consistent athletes make the most of the training. There is one guy who is not muscular, but he beats a lot of guys heavier than him in the Clean. He can also Squat heavier than guys bigger than him. That is what you call strong for his size.


So if you want to be Strong, train to be strong. If you want to be big, train for hypertrophy. But what is more important is that you Train Better, Live Better!