Goal setting

Whether you’re training for health reasons, sports performance or to feel/look good, everyone has a goal in mind that they would aspire to achieve. In a perfect world, it would be a straightforward path to this goal, however, there will be ups and downs and setbacks along the way. Having an effective method of goal setting can help you stay focused and keep you on track. Using our modified SMART target system, you can measure your success in order to achieve your results.









Your goal must be clearly defined in order for you to progress. As coaches, you hear a lot of people say they want to burn fat, build muscle, improve their fitness, fix an injury, get ready for an event….the list goes on, but these people are the very same people that are stagnant in their journey. You must have a specific goal you want to achieve, I.E. I want to reduce my body fat percentage by 5%.



Your goal must have a value that can be measured. You’re essentially conducting a science experiment with multiple variables involved. Your outcome must be measurable against your input. There’s no point just simply saying ‘I want to reduce my body fat percentage’ if you have no means to record the data needed to quantify your results. QUICK TIP: Don’t try to change too many variables at once (we’ll come onto this later)



Don’t set goals which are so extreme that you set yourself up for failure. For example, losing 5% body fat is more than achievable in say, a 3-month program designed specifically to do so. Saying you want to drop 5% in 3 weeks, however, is a bit extreme and you will fail.



This is where our modification fits in. Repeatability in fitness ultimately boils down to controlling your variables effectively. You need to know what change resulted in an adaptation. I.E. If you did, in fact, drop 5% body fat how would you tell what worked best if you changed 8 things at once? How would you isolate that dominant force in your change so that you can become more and more effective at achieving your goals? You need to gradually implement change so that you can assess what works, what doesn’t work and what you need to include more/less of in the future. For example, if you are just starting to work out, do 3 total body training sessions/week and don’t change anything else. When you are comfortable with that, begin to introduce some healthier options in your nutrition and see what effect that has, etc etc. Gradually layer your changes on so that it becomes a habit rather than a chore.



Placing a timescale on any goal is really important in achieving it. Without that timescale, you can make excuses for yourself that it won’t affect your goals that much, but that’s how you end up stuck and not achieving anything. Setting a goal of losing 5% body fat in 3 months will help keep your focus, especially when you break that down into smaller ‘sub-goals’ which will break down into months/weeks. It’s a lot easier to say no to that pizza when you know you’ve only got 4 weeks left to achieve your goal.


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Coaching Couch – Bang for Your Buck

In a world where complicated training systems and ‘new’ exercises are popping up every day, how do you know that your training is effective enough to guarantee results? In this week’s blog, we discuss the concept of ‘bang for your buck’ so that you can get the best out of your own, or a clients training program.


What Does Bang For Your Buck Mean?

Bang for your buck simply means to get the most output for a minimum input.  In short, it’s a process where you optimise the expenditure of your resources to attain the highest possible yield. In regards to exercise, this basically boils down to spending more time/energy on the exercises/movements or training systems which give you the best progress for your specific goals. Exercises that work multiple large muscles (compound movements) are a great place to start as a general rule.

Squats & deadlifts are classic exercises which can be used for a wide variety of training goals and many pressing/rowing movements can be used effectively in the right programs. Whilst programming and periodization is a complex subject, ensuring you have the ‘best’ exercises included is a solid foundation to work from.

The easiest way to visualise this is if you have an empty jar. This is your total capacity for a single training session. You have 3 different sized balls which you can put in the jar; large, medium and small. The large balls represent your compound lifts, the medium balls represent your accessory exercises and the small balls represent everything else you could include in a training session. So the idea is that you fit as many large balls in the jar as possible, then as many medium balls and then as many small balls in the leftover space. What you are left with is a training session with the key components as the main focus (squats etc), your accessory exercises next (RDL’s) and finally, everything else (bicep curls, calf raises etc).

Use this thought process when you’re planning your own or a clients training programs and you’ll be well on the way to producing an effective training program.


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Coaching Couch – Training Movements Over Exercise

As a coach, it’s important to remember that all exercise and training essentially boils down to selecting specific movements and loading them appropriately to achieve the desired outcome. Whether that’s hitting a new 1RM on your back squat or jumping as high as you can, they can be broken down into a finite number of open or closed chain movement patterns. These movement patterns can be assessed, analyzed and from there you can select the appropriate exercises and loading schemes. Without that initial analysis, you will be limiting your progress as one exercise isn’t always going to be appropriate for everyone to include in their programs. A classic example is a high bar vs low bar squat; picking an exercise based on your own anatomical efficiency is very much advised and while (in theory) everyone should be able to do both, it doesn’t mean everyone should do both. Don’t try to knock a square peg into a round hole.


So, now we’ve established it’s important to remember that exercises correlate to a specific movement pattern, how do you then decide which exercise is correct for your training goal? This will come down to your needs analysis. When you’re selecting exercises, whether you know it or not you’re analyzing your needs and selecting exercises which you deem appropriate to achieve your desired outcome. For example, we’ll take a winger in rugby and analyze their needs for performance. These will be entirely focused on the physical attributes of the athlete and will be far from an extensive list.

A needs analysis can be done in a number of ways, but a spider graph is often the easiest way to do this. These can be done by both the coach and athlete so you can discuss the training rationale and get that all important buy-in. Using our example of the winger in rugby, I’ve listed 3 physical attributes, which are:

1) Speed
2) Agility
3) Core strength


So now we’ve got our training goals, we can start to look at the movements associated with these attributes. I’m going to focus in on one movement per example to keep the post relatively short.

1) Speed – When running at near maximal speed we have large amounts of hip and knee flexion/extension.
2) Agility – When changing direction in relation to an external stimulus you can recruit a ‘side-step’ movement to avoid a defender.
3) Core Strength – When sprinting the athlete will need to maintain a strong pillar so that their force transfer effectively throughout their body (not so much movement, but stopping movement).

So, now we’ve identified movements associated with our physical attributes we can begin to look at exercises which fit the bill. Again, I will provide one exercise per example, however, there is an extensive list of exercises that could be used.

1) Hip & Knee Flexion/Extension – Dumbbell Step Up: This exercise not only utilizes the desired hip & knee movements, it also provides us with a unilateral exercise. This means that it is a single limb exercise, which is perfect for running as you will never have 2 feet on the ground whilst when sprinting.
2) Side Step – Lateral Lunge: When the athlete is avoiding a defender by side-stepping, one of their legs will move laterally so that it moves away from the centre of the body. The lateral lunge trains the same movement in a controlled environment and will help strengthen the quads, hamstrings, glutes and hip abductors/adductors. This will help avoid injuries in these muscle groups.
3) Stability whilst sprinting – Resistance Band Anti-Rotations/Palof Press: This exercise will provide a resistance which will try to pull the athlete out of a centred position and will, therefore, train their core stability.

So now we’ve established the exercises we’re going to utilize to achieve the training goals we’ve just got to decide on an appropriate load and volume for the athlete based on their current condition. This is probably another topic for another day so keep an eye out in the coming weeks for a follow-up blog on the coaching coach.


Why group training is the key to health in under 500 words.

Group training is becoming an increasingly popular way to workout. Classes included in your gym membership, a bootcamp or semi-private PT session all provide people with the opportunity to follow a coach led session at a fraction of the cost of a 1-on-1 session. Here’s a quick post on the main benefits of group training and why you should start today.


Blueprint for success

Everything about group training is designed for your success; the fun, social environment created by working out as a group is a major component of this. Everyone attending the session has the same goal in mind so you can all push each other to succeed and, make a few new friends whilst you’re at it.


Not only do you have your amazing coach, you’ve also got a group of like-minded people who want you to achieve incredible results. You’ve learnt new workouts, pushed and supported each other so everyone gets it done. Group training offers comradery and a support network so you can count on your peers to keep you accountable.


Group sessions are normally 30-45 minute classes which have a specific outcome such as fat loss, conditioning, and core strength. The shorter, more intense classes are a lot easier to fit around a busy lifestyle and can help you stay on track with your fitness goals. More and more people are sticking to group fitness classes and are reaping the rewards for doing so.


Beginners welcome

Group exercise is great for people who want to start but aren’t quite sure where to begin. We can’t all be ‘fitness fanatics’ and finding a good coach will really empower you to better yourself. A good coach will understand your goals, take the time to teach you new exercises and make you feel comfortable exercising so you can get the best out of their expertise.

Yeah! Science b****

Any good exercise program is based on key scientific principles, without that, we’re just getting out of breath and not really doing anything useful. The science doesn’t just stop there; it’s the music, the warm-up/cool down, the exercise selection and more. Exercise science is an innovating subject and any coach worth their salt will have a solid grasp of what’s current.



And the one everyone loves the most…

Group training is incredibly cost effective so you can exercise more for less. Where else can you get coach led structured exercise designed for your success for a fraction of the price of a 1-on-1 PT session. As long as your coach prioritizes safe and effective practice within their sessions then you are onto a winner!



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Why consistency isn’t the key when it comes to fitness training.


The Problem(s)

   If you’ve been following fitness blogs for a while, you’ve probably heard the saying “consistency is key”. When it comes to setting goals and smashing them, its pretty good advice for the most part, however, it’s not strictly true. Now this isn’t to say you can kick back and take it easy and still achieve some incredible results, far from it, but you just have to be a bit smart about it.

   The problem with consistency is that people try to obliterate themselves day in day out, for weeks, and months on end with high intensity training sessions. This coupled with little to no recovery strategies will inevitably lead people down 2 paths; path number 1 is injury and path number 2 is overtraining & burnout (potentially leading to injury).


   Injuries aren’t uncommon when it comes to physical exercise and there’s always a risk that you could pick up an injury at any given time. This can be a freak accident, or something that could be avoided. Where there are risks, there are risk factors and the job of a coach is to minimize these so that you can train in the safest environment possible; another great reason to hire a coach for your training sessions.

   When it comes to training, a major risk factor is that the body hasn’t fully recovered from the last session or even a block/period of training you’ve completed. This means that the body isn’t ready to exercise and as a result you could be exposing yourself to a higher risk of injury. Now most of the time this is something minor like a slight muscle pull, however injuries like muscle tears or snapped ligaments aren’t uncommon and can cause some long-term problems for your exercise goals.


Overtraining & Burnout

Overtraining & burnout can actually be a hell of a lot harder to overcome than an injury. When you’re injured you can at least focus on your recovery to get back into it, however, when you’re over-trained you probably couldn’t think of anything worse. Battling your mind is a lot harder than just simply saying “I’m going to get motivated now”, it’s a condition which has built up over a long period of time as a result of training too hard for the recovery strategies you employ.

When you’re over-trained you feel tired, lethargic and often dread going to the gym. This is your body’s way of telling you to take it easy and not listening can lead to burnout or injuries. Now, overtraining isn’t what you experienced when you simply “can’t be bothered” this is a chronic state in which you really struggle to motivate yourself when normally you’re fine and enjoy exercising.

The trick is knowing when to take a step back and let your body have a bit of a rest and not beat yourself up about it. If you imagine your body as a car engine, if you drive constantly at 100 mph it is going to break down eventually and cause more problems than if you just ease off the throttle for a little bit.

The solution

So, you may ask, if not consistency, what should I be aiming for in my training? Well, that is what I would call sustainability. If your goal is to run a marathon, you don’t want to burn out half way through because you sprinted at the start and progressively got slower as the race goes on. No, you’ll want to keep a good average speed, potentially with periods of higher intensity and lower intensity running.

Taking the example of a marathon, this is what we look for with fitness training. Overall we want to maintain a certain level of intensity, however this doesn’t mean it always has to be high. Sustaining an effort is as much about managing your energy and time as it is about putting yourself through grueling workouts. Allow your body a bit of time off and it will reward you with the results you desire.

A great way to visualize this is your bank account. If you spend more than you have coming in, then eventually you will end up with no money. To have a positive bank balance you will need to regulate your income/outcome balance over the course of the year. This may mean that you have periods of higher expenditure, but then you will compensate this by having periods of lower spending.


In Practice

It should go without saying that not being able to train due to injury or not wanting to train due to burnout are probably the two things you definitely don’t want to be doing, so how do we avoid them? The answer lies in a well structured, periodized program including proper recovery and nutrition strategies.

This is when we take your goals, and make a systematic plan of how we will hit them in the next year, 6 months, month week and even individual sessions. With a periodized program, a coach can effectively monitor and track your workouts, prescribe adequate loads and intensities, whilst also being able to plan appropriate ‘de-load’ periods. Monitoring can range from just assessing your mood/ability to train intensely to the super advanced tracking systems used in elite sport like GPS trackers, sleep tracking and psychological assessments.

So in short, if you’re feeling run down and dread training but fear not going, give yourself a week off, or a week of planned lower intensity sessions. Your body will thank you so much and will be ready to smash it when you back to it. Sustainability is the key.


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