How do build your own training routine-Part one

Long before I was fitness professional, I’d follow training programs from glossy men’s magazines because I thought

  1. They knew what they were doing.
  2. I was hoping it would transform me from a geek to a freak.

And like Dr. Phil used to say, ‘How’s that working out for you?’

Men's Fitness

It didn’t, Dr. Phil, it didn’t.

What I didn’t consider is what works for the guys on the covers doesn’t necessarily work for you or me because we all have different starting points, different genetics and different reactions to exercise.

The people on the front covers are probably in great shape to start with and most likely didn’t do the program they’re advertising.

They just rocked up to the photo shoot looking awesome.

However, having a training program ripped out of a magazine is better than having no plan at all because going to the gym without a clue is not the best idea and can lead to some unusual behavior

No idea 3

Nonetheless, you’re better than that. You don’t need to blindly follow the masses. All you need to do is read this, put your thinking cap on for a minute or two and then you’ll be writing programs that will get you great results without the need for google or me. ☹

Note- Writing programs is a mixture between science, guesswork and good judgement.  This article will be keep it as simple as possible so you will not get lost in the details and can concentrate on getting great results.

Please consult your doctor if you’re starting exercise after a long break or have any health or orthopedic problems.

The questions

Before you get into the nitty gritty of program writing, it’s time for you to answer a few questions honestly.

1. What is your goal?

You’ll start by sticking to one goal. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make is chasing too many goals simultaneously.  You’re more likely to have more success if you stick to one goal, so decide if your goal is

  • Fat loss
  • Muscle gain
  • Getting back into shape

So, take a moment to decide this before you read on. This has a huge bearing on the program you will write for yourself.

2. How many days a week can you exercise?

 For best results, you need to set aside 2-3 days a week for exercise. Exercising 3 days a week gives you a little more leeway than training 2 days a week.

3. How much time can you dedicate to each training session?

 You have a busy schedule like a lot of other people. You need to look at your week and decide of much time in your day you can dedicate to the gym because this is going to dictate the length and the intensity of your program.

 4. How advanced are you?

 You don’t want to pick exercises that are too hard or too easy for you because the point of going to the gym is to get better, not to stay the same or get worse.

If you’re unsure on how advanced you are, err on the side of conservatism and go with a regression of the exercises below before moving on to a more advanced version.

Answering the above questions honestly will help you stick with your exercise program and allow you to get the results you deserve. Now, let’s move on to the exercises you will be using in your programming.

The exercises

A coach called Dan John has broken down exercise into 6 fundamental human movements which are

  1. Squat
  2. Pulls
  3. Pushes
  4. Hinge
  5. Carrying something heavy
  6. Groundwork

Although there are many other exercise movements, these are a great place for you to start on your programming journey. Click on each link to familiarize yourself with the regressions and progressions for each exercise.

Wrapping up

You have a little ‘homework’ to do before Part Two, which will come out next week. Take a pen and paper and write your answers down and become familiar with the exercises above. This will make your program writing experience a successful one. Stay tuned.


Power up your training….

Have you ever dreamed about hitting a walk-off home run in the World Series?   Or maybe you have had to sprint to catch the bus, or you’ve tried to show your friends up on the basketball court.


In our imaginary and real lives, you need the ability to do things powerfully.

But what is power? Power is determined by Force and Acceleration (P = F x A). Think of force as a push or pull from the object’s interaction with another object, such as the pull of gravity on us or the push phase of a push up.

Acceleration is the rate at which an object changes its velocity, like sprinting to catch the bus or a car moving from a dead stop.

As we age, we lose around 1.5% of our strength per year after the age of 50. More alarming, we lose twice that, around 3% of our power or the ability to move quickly every year after the age of 50.

However, even if you’re not 50, it makes perfect sense to train for power. Training for power is not only fun, it will incinerate calories and help you become fat burning machine and stronger.

Insert one or more of the following power moves at the start of your training, just after your warm up. Make sure you rest two minutes after every set to recover fully.

1. Jump squats- Perform three to five sets, five to eight repetitions per set at the start of your training. Be sure to jump has high as you can and land softly after each repetition.

2.Medicine ball overhead throw– Perform three sets, six- twelve repetitions per set. Take a strong step forward, release the ball as quickly as possible and alternate legs.

3. Medicine ball squat toss- Perform three sets, six to twelve repetitions per set. Ensure proper squat form, imagine the ball is a hot potato and keep your eye on the ball at all times.

4. Incline plyometric push up- Do this on a padded weight bench to ensure a soft landing for your hands. Perform three sets, five to eight repetitions per set. Ensure proper push up form and explode off the bench.

5. Medicine ball twist throw- You can either catch the ball or take in on the bounce. Perform three sets, eight repetitions on each side. Take the ball to your hip on each rep and release the ball as quickly as possible.


These will have you sweating, smiling and catching your breath, which is a sure sign of a good time. Because exercise is fun……right?

The 10 Best Exercises You Can Do With One Dumbbell

Imagine this scenario for a moment.

You walk into the gym ready to get it on and it’s packed and most of the equipment is taken. What do you do? Panic?

I have a suggestion besides panicking. Instead grab a dumbbell and doing the following exercises below. These dumbbell exercises will work your body from head to toe with a minimum of fuss or fanfare and you will look awesome.

Trust me, I’m a trainer

1. Goblet squat

A. Hold the underneath of a dumbbell with each hand and holding the dumbbell close to your chest

B. With your feet, a little than wider than hip width apart (or whatever is comfortable for you) squat down aiming your glutes at your heels while keeping your chest up.

C. Squat down until your elbows are touching the inside of your thighs.

D, Stand up by pushing your feet through the floor.

2. Suitcase carry

A, Hold a dumbbell on side of your bodyweight that is approx. 25-50% of your bodyweight.

B. Check in the mirror that your shoulders are even

C. Keeping your shoulders down and chest up walk for 20 steps and swap hands and then walk back.

3. One arm floor press

A. Lie on the floor with one dumbbell by your side. Roll to your side and grab the dumbbell with both hands and roll on to your back.

B. Press the dumbbell towards the ceiling.

C. Slowly lower towards the ground until your elbow touches the ground. Keep your elbow close to your side.

4. Sumo squat

 A. Hold one end of a heavy dumbbell between your legs with both hands. Widen your feet for a comfortable squat stance for you.

B. Keeping your chest up and shoulders back, squat down and touch the dumbbell to the floor.

C. Squat back up, squeeze your glutes and stand tall.

5. One arm row

 A. Stand in front of a bench. Have one hand on the bench and the dumbbell beside you.

 B. Bend your knees and make sure your spine is in a straight line from head to glutes.

C. Reach down pick up the dumbbell, row your elbow towards your hip and slowly return back to starting position.

6. Pullover

A. Lie down on a bench, face up while holding the dumbbell above your chest.

B. Breathe out, flatten your back against the bench and lower the dumbbell behind your head with a slight bend in your elbows.

C. When you feel a stretch in your lats, breathe in and return to starting position.

7. Goblet split squat (Advanced)

A. Hold the dumbbell the same as the Goblet squat.  Set up in half kneeling position, back knee underneath hip and front ankle underneath hip.

B. Rise, pushing your front foot through the floor and slowly return to starting position.

Note- You back knee doesn’t have to touch the ground after each rep. A slight hover is okay.

 8. Dumbbell twist

A. Sit on the ground nice and straight with your knees bent, heels on the ground and holding a dumbbell by your sternum with both hands.

B. Twist dumbbell to the outside of your ribcage, alternating sides.

C. Twist as fast as you can for 10 seconds and rest for 10 seconds. Do this for a total of 3 rounds.

9. Lying two-way triceps extension

A. Lie face up on the floor, holding one light dumbbell facing towards and above your head. Lower the dumbbell down to your ear and extend your elbow.

B. Then with the dumbbell facing away from you lower the dumbbell to your opposite shoulder and then extend.

C. That’s one rep. Do eight-twelve reps on both arms.

tricep extension 1


tricep extension 2

10. Seated one arm shoulder press

 A. Sit up straight on a bench while holding one dumbbell in front of your shoulder.

 B. Press the dumbbell towards the ceiling until your bicep is by or behind your ears.

 C. Slowly return to the start and repeat.

Training example


Do the five-exercise circuit one exercise after another with minimal rest in- between the exercises. At the end of each circuit, rest for 90 seconds and repeat for a total of four-five circuits.

1A. Goblet squat 12 reps

1B. One arm row 12 reps on each arm

1C. Offset Spilt Squat 8-12 reps on each leg

1D. Seated one arm shoulder press 6-8 reps on each arm

1E. Suitcase carry 20 steps in each hand

When the gym is full, don’t despair. Grab your dumbbell and get a great full body training in flash.

Note- A version of this article appeared here. 

The best exercise you’re not doing……

This is a weekly series on exercise that will give you the biggest bang for your exercise buck in and out of the gym. Today’s exercise is the half kneeling ankle mobility drill courtesy of Sons of Strength.

You should do this because– you spend a lot of time in shoes and that’s okay. However, your ankle can get restricted and it’s not able to move as freely as it should.


Makes your everyday life easier because– good ankle and hip mobility will make your knee and lower back happier campers.  Because if the movement doesn’t come from your ankle/hip, you will get unnecessary movement from your knees and lower back. And that’s an injury waiting to happen.

Form tips – This exercise can done in front of a wall too. Get into a good half kneeling position and make sure your front foot stays planted on the floor as you rock forward. Do 8 reps on each side daily.

Why do you exercise?

I had just finished showering after my P.E swim class and I was wearing nothing but a towel, which was around my waist. Then some of the boys in the changing room had dared me to run out and back without “getting busted’ by one of our teachers.

Not being the sharpest tool in the shed, I accepted that challenge and sprinted out of the changing room at the speed of light.  However, little did I realize at the time that one of my class mates was in hot pursuit.

He then caught me and before I could react, he had ripped the towel from around my waist. And there I was, standing outside the changing room, all alone and very exposed.

I quickly grabbed my towel and covered up my private parts while all the other boys were laughing at me about my lack of ‘size.’ That moment I felt a level humiliation that I’d never experienced before.

You bro

Several years following this incident, I was hanging out with one of my good buddies after we both finished high school. We were talking a bunch of smack while laughing hysterically and then out of the clear blue sky, he had a request.

“Lift up your shirt.” He said

“Why” I asked.

The look he gave me suggested I do it or else, so I did.

“Mate, you really need to hit the gym.” He said.


The very next day I joined a gym and began my iron journey because a little ridicule and humiliation does go a long way.  However, that wasn’t my only reason for lifting weights. Some of my other reasons were

  • I was sick of being pushed around


  • I wanted some attention from the opposite sex


  • I wanted to get bigger


  • I was sick of other people fighting my battles because I couldn’t defend myself

And if it wasn’t for those two moments, I probably wouldn’t be a personal trainer and I wouldn’t be helping people to be better versions of themselves in and out of the gym.  Furthermore, I wouldn’t be addicted to coffee and tracksuit pants but that’s a story for another time.

Lifting weights has provided me with a suit of armor that I strap on each morning to face the world. When things are spinning out of control, I always have the barbell to look forward to.

Wrapping up

Exercise has provided me with a profession, an outlet for my frustrations and allows me to be a healthy role model to my clients, family and friends. Exercise has given me so much and has asked for so little in return.

Why do you exercise?




What you should be doing on the gym- Part six – Groundwork

The hard part is over. You made it to the gym and that’s usually half the battle.  Now that you’re there, what are you going to do?  This is where a lot of people get stuck but don’t worry, I’ve got your back.

This is part six of a six-part series that focuses on the exercises that give you the biggest bang for your buck in and outside the gym. If you’ve missed the previous parts, please click on the links below.

Part one- Squats

Part two – Pulls

Part three – Pushes

Part four – Hinge

Part five – Carries

Part six – Groundwork

There’s more to groundwork than just lying on the ground and crunching like a mad monkey. Being on the ground is how we learned to move as infants and returning to the floor can help you reactivate neglected movement patterns such as squats, pushing and hinging.

Pretty good for a monkey, right?

The ground provides you with stability, balance and feedback and is an ideal place to start your warm up before you crush the weights. Or you can incorporate this into your resistance training for some added spice and sweat.

Groundwork exercises cover a wide spectrum that includes core work, rolling, crawling, rocking to the Turkish Get -Up. It’s beyond the scope of this post to go into all types of groundwork exercises. However, the moves I’ve selected below are the ones I program for my clients on a regular basis.

These exercises will help improve your technique with squats, hinges, pushes and pulls as well as improving your stability/mobility and your ability to burn fat. These moves may get you some strange looks on the gym floor but you’ll be the coolest person in the gym.

Trust me, I’m a trainer.



1. Deadbugs

With all the big compound movements (squats, pressing pulling, carries etc.) you’ll require good core stability and the ability for your core to resist movement while lifting weights. This is where the deadbug comes in. The low back and your anterior core should remain stable as your moving your opposite arm and opposite leg. This is a must in most people’s exercise programs.

2. Push up plank

Planks are not the sexiest exercise and are usually avoided by gym goers at all costs because they suck.  Experienced exercisers often think they’re “too advanced” for the plank because they feel that there are other core exercises that are more effective.

However, before brushing this exercise off, here’s a little challenge for you. If you can hold this plank for 2 minutes, then go ahead and train your core with all the other cooler exercises. If you cannot, you’ve still got some work to do.

3. Six-point rocking

This exercise is like a squat with your toes, knees and hands on the ground. Therefore, it’s great to include in your warm up before you squat. And if this feels great, then squat to your little heart’s content. However, if it doesn’t, you should reconsider your squat workout and dial it back.

4. Crawling

Although crawling on the floor makes you look like a baby, this movement ties together your hips, core, shoulders and helps in grain our natural contra lateral movement (opposite arm/opposite leg) pattern that you need for walking, running and sprinting.

You must really work to be able to breathe, keeping your head up while keeping the contra lateral pattern of crawling. It’s tougher than it looks because it is a subtle form of strength training.  However, just brush off the weird looks you’re bound to get because you’re too cool for school.

5. Rolling

This is how we used to move as babies but rolling has real benefits for grownups, too. Rolling combines the use of the upper body, core, and lower body in a coordinated manner to move from your tummy to your side and to your back while being safely on the floor.

There are many movements that require the coordinated use of our arms and legs, which is why this is a great movement to include in your warm up. Furthermore, rolling will help improve your shoulder/hip mobility and will help roll out those sore spots without the use of a foam roll.

6. Getting up and down

Here is a little test for you. Stop reading now and sit down to the ground and then stand back up without using your hands or knees. Don’t worry I’ll wait. It sounds simple but there’s a catch. You will subtract a point from 5 each time you use a hand or your knee during this test.

For example

Get down  (- 1 for each hand/knee from 5)

Get up       (-1 for each hand/knee from 5)

Total         (Your score, up to 10)

If you get a score of 8 and above, you’ve got nothing to worry about. If you score 7 or below, you have some work to do, so please keep practicing. This exercise is great to insert into your warm up or as an alternative for traditional cardio. Don’t believe me? Do it for 2 minutes straight and then check your pulse.

Wrapping up

Rolling, rocking, crawling and deadbugging on the floor may seem a little nuts to you. People may look at you funny and you may feel like your one-year old without the diapers and drool.

However, none of that matters because you will be improving your strength, mobility, stability and your cat like reflexes. Move over Cat women.



The best exercise you’re not doing……

This is a weekly series on exercise that will give you the biggest bang for your exercise buck in and out of the gym. Today’s exercise is deep squat belling breathing. Thanks to Tony Gentilcore for the video.

You should do this because–  Breathing correctly ( belly breathing, not chest) can mean less pain and less stress on the muscles that usually pick up the slack if  (or when) you’re a chest breather.

Less stress is always a good thing.

Makes your everyday life easier because–  spending time in this position can help with your hip and shoulder mobility which can mean better movement  in and out of the gym.

Form tips –  Watch the video below. Hold on to something sturdy at around hip height and sink into your squat and get your head in between your arms and your belly against your thighs.

Breath in through the nose and breath out through the mouth for 5 deep breathing reps.