Lessons in pain

This was written a few months back, only posting now.

Pain

Neck

I woke up at 3.30 last night with tears streaming down my face. I had more pain in my neck than I ever thought was humanly possible. If it was constricted to my neck alone I wouldn’t have been that worried…the worrying part was the shooting pains down my arms, the numbness in my hands and the tightness across my chest.

At 27 years old the first thought that went through my head was “this is it, this is how I go out.” I thought I was having some sort of heart attack on both sides of my body (3.30am and that level of pain is not conducive to rational thought).

After 2/3 minutes of crying like a little girl and panicking, I managed to calm myself down, I wasn’t dying but something was seriously wrong. So I did what any rational person would do, raided the medical cabinet, swallowed a fist full of whatever pain pills I could put my hands on and started thinking. If I thought I could have driven I’d have been straight to the hospital.

Earlier that night at rugby training our usual S&C coach wasn’t there so one of the other coaches did our “warm up.” Real old school, loads of wrestling, push ups and sit ups…like a literal fuck ton of them.

Now, sit ups and me don’t get along at the best of times, I always end up with a sore lumbar and neck. Once I realised that I was half way to figuring out what my issue was. Did some stretches for my neck and upper back and started to feel better, lay back down and felt OKish…5 minutes later, agony again.

Back to the drawing board.

I had a lacrosse ball in my car, shuffled out to the car in my boxers, grabbed the ball. Came back inside and tried some trigger point work on my lower traps…nothing. Fuck, what now?

Ok, so we did loads of push ups so I stretched out my pecs…INSTANT RELIEF!! The type of overwhelming relief that you couldn’t even imagine. Spent 20 minutes stretching my pecs at 4am, in my boxers with no lights on…a terrifying image. Got back into bed, threw my pillow away and slept flat on the mattress…with that I managed 3 hours of sleep.

There’s a few reasons I’m telling you all this.

  • Waking up at 3.30am in agony is one of the most terrifying things that can happen to you.
  • Everybody has ideals about things until they’re in pain. I hate pain killers, hate taking them, hate my clients taking them etc. But when I was literally crying with agony I started throwing those bad boys back like the Wolf of Wall Street.
  • Where you feel the pain is never the source of the pain. I had pain in my neck and down my arms. Stretching my neck did nothing. So I thought outside the box and stretched out my chest and everything felt better.
  • Not stretching enough day to day will fuck you up if you’re training hard. I preach mobility and stretching all the time but neglect it myself. Now, I’m paying the price for not looking after myself.
  • Joint pain is caused by muscular imbalances most of the time.
  • Dan John says it all the time “stretch the tonic, strengthen the phasic.”

lumbar

There are certain muscles that over time become tight and immobile and they cause heap loads of issues. These are the tonic muscles. There are other muscles that over time grow weak and slack, they also cause heap loads of issues. These are the phasic muscles.

My clients will know that there are areas I’m always harping on to them about stretching: calves, hip flexors, upper back and pecs. When these muscles tighten up, bad things happen: lower back pain, knee pain, neck pain etc. The cause of the pain won’t hurt (my pecs didn’t hurt but judging by how tight they were and how quickly the issue resolved itself I’m guessing they were the source) but making the source of the pain relax will have instant effects on where the pain is felt.

As a general rule of thumb here’s what I look for straight away.

  • Lower back pain – tight hip flexors and glute med and/or hips are out of line – stretch hip flexors and glutes, traction the hips
  • Knee pain – tight calves and/or hip flexors – stretch both and foam roll IT bands
  • Neck pain – traps and pecs are tight AF- trigger point work on traps, doorway stretch for pecs.

knee

Sometimes that’s not the answer, but 90% of the time it does the job. The other 10% of the time you need to go see a physio or chiropractor.

Yours in agony,

Ben “crack my spine doc,” Harrison

Posted in bodybuilding, fitchick, Fitness, gym, Health, instagram, mobility, muscle, pain, powerlifting, rehab, Strength, stretching | Comments Off on Lessons in pain

You diet sucks. Here’s why.

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The problem with almost all diets.

Everywhere you look these days there are crazy diet plans that will help you “lose 10lbs in a week,” yeah…powerlifters and boxers have been doing that for years, it’s called a watercut and you’ll put all the weight back on as soon as you go back to eating proper food.

So what do we do? What’s a “real diet?”

In my mind a real diet is something sustainable, something that can be maintained an monitored for a long time, over the course of months, years or hell even a lifetime.

So how do we do that? Well through the magic of flexlible dieting.

 

CALROIES IN vs CALORIES OUT

The first thing to understand is that when seeing the weight on the scales go up or down, the most important thing by a long shot is the total amount of calories consumed vs the total amount of calories burned (we lift weights when we lose weight so that your body burns more calories while at rest btw).

So if in a typical day your body burns 1500 calories…then if you eat 1200 calories a day you will lose weight. At the core of it it’s that simple.

Now you might have heard people say “you can eat more food and lose weight on this diet,” and you might very well be able to. You could eat a literal ton of cucumber a day and take in fuck all calories. You’ll be stuffed and you’ll lose weight…you’ll also lose crap loads of muscle mass and end up looking like a smaller, equally as chubby version of yourself.

Clean eaters be like...

Clean eaters be like…

 

So let’s break this down.

 

CALORIES IN

Calories in is simply the amount of energy your body gets from the food you eat each day. If you take in more energy than you use, you put on weight and vice versa.

Every successful diet in history has in some way manipulated caloric levels, that doesn’t mean that you have to count your calores. Things like “clean eating” work because “clean” foods have less calories than “dirty” foods.

Now, your body adapts to fucking everything, that’s one of the reasons staying in super low calories for a long time won’t work. Eventually your metabolism will slow down so that your body doesn’t burn that many calories any more…then you’re up shit creek son. This brings us neatly to our second point.

 

CALORIES OUT

Calories out is the amount of calories that your body burns during a day. Bear in mind that the amount you exercise has alot to do with this but so does the type of exercise you do. If you exercise for an hour a day there’s still 23 other hours a day where your body is burning calories. So how do you get your body to burn more calories while you rest? Simple…lift weights.

Muscle is more metabolically demanding than anything else, meaning your body needs to burn more calories simply to maintain the muscle you have. So, you do an hour of cardio, you might burn 400 calories (just for arguments sake) and if you lift weights for an hour you might burn 200 (these numbers aren’t exactly right but they illustrate a point). So with an hour of lifting you’ll burn less calories than with an hour of cardio…however, cardio increases cortisol levels and actively discourages your body from gaining muscle. You lift weights for an hour and (depending on how much work you do in that hour) your metabolism stays elevated for anywhere between 24-48 hours depending on who you listen to. Meaning that after an hour of lifting, your body will burn more calories while at rest for up to 2 days after training.

 

PROTEIN, FAT AND CARBS

Protein, fat and carbs are the macronutrients of your diet. Any diet that tries to completely eliminate any of these is destined for failure as all three of the macronutrients play a vital role in your health, energy levels and fat loss.

Protein – builds muscle, allows you to recover from workouts, has a higher thermogenic effect than the other macros (it takes more calories for your body to digest protein than fat or carbs)

So thermogenic

So thermogenic

Fat – maintains joint health, slow release energy, plays a huge part in brain function and energy levels.

Carbs – energy, energy, energy. If you’re training hard you need carbs in your diet. Anyone that tells you otherwise needs a slap.

Now, because fat is a slow release energy (takes longer to digest) and carbs are a faster release form of energy (faster to digest) you don’t need as many carbs on days where you’re not training but you need more fats. On days you do train you need less fats and more carbs in your diet.

Protein should remain constant whether it’s a rest day or a training day.

 

SIMPLE TIPS TO MAINTAIN FAT LOSS

  • Every meal should contain protein. Every goddamn meal!!
  • On training days eat leaner meats and more carbs
  • On rest days eat fattier meats and less carbs.
  • Make sure 80% of your calories come from natural, healthy food sources, the other 20% you can have fun with.

Dieting can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. But the above tips should keep you going for alot longer than “don’t eat any carbs,” or “eat less than 800 calories a day for 5 weeks.”

Bacon seeds are so cute

Bacon seeds are so cute

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Big Benching 101

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Wanna bench big numbers? Better get working on some technique son.

Benching is the lift that I see most people mess up badly (whether that’s because more “bros” bench than squat or deadlift probably has something to do with it but either way they suck at it) despite it’s obvious popularity.

Firstly some bench press history. The bench press was invented by Arnold Schwarzenneger in the film “Pumping Iron” before that people never had chest and arm muscles and everybody was puny and weak. Since then every bro in the world has tried to bench press to look like Arnie because “aesthetics,” and that thing about the pump being better than orgasms. Unfortunately, most of you bench press badly and eventually get crappy shoulders, painful elbows and hunched over shoulders that make you look more like Quazimodo than Frank Zane.

So let’s fix that.

Firstly, as with everything, getting stronger at benching is freaking important ok? How many people do you see in the gym doing the same weights for the same reps day in and day out, year in and year out and they never look any different or they never get any stronger? Loads right? Also, these guys seem to take lots of selfies…just an observation. So, quit the messing around with baby weights for sets of 10, man up, grow a set of nuts, put a few wheels on the bench and hit some heavy triples and fives ok? And don’t give me the “but reps are what makes muscle grow, heavy singles and triples won’t trigger hypertrophy,” bullshit. Ever seen someone that benches 3 plates per side with a small chest and arms? You might find one, you won’t find two.

How to fix your shitty bench press.

Firstly I’m going to talk you through some moronic things I see people do when they bench press every day.

  • The flat back
Flat backedlike a little bitch.

Flat backedlike a little bitch.

This look familiar? Legs out in front somewhere, back flat on the bench, elbows pointed out, it’s every gym douches idea of how a bench press should look. Well, here’s the thing. If you bench like this number 1) you’re going to be weaker, number 2) you’re going to wreck your shoulders, number 3) you don’t know how to actually bench press.

My shoulders hurt just looking at this

My shoulders hurt just looking at this

Look how far below the bench my elbows are in that photo. Now, imagine how much my shoulders have to move to get into that position. That’s not “forcing the pecs to stretch” that’s “wrecking the ligaments and tendons in your shoulders.” People aren’t allowed bench like this in my gym, mostly because I don’t want people to hurt themselves but also because I want people to actually be good at bench pressing.

 

So how should you set up?

Well I’m glad you asked. Let’s build this from the ground up.

Firstly, in that previous demonstration your legs are doing nothing…and they should be.

The best bench press advice I ever got was “squat the weight up” so if your legs aren’t contributing to the lift then you’re leaking energy between you and the floor. Bring your feet back and to the sides so you can drive through them. Whether you’re on your toes or you keep your feet flat is entirely up to you and the federation you compete in (if you’re a powerlifter).

Secondly, squeeze your damn shoulder blades back.

Ed Coan said it to me at a seminar I was at a few years back “put your right shoulder blade in your back left pocket, and your left shoulder blade in your back right pocket,” this does a couple things.

  • If your shoulder blades are pulled back while you lift it “packs” the shoulder joint. Basically stops all the movement coming from your shoulder when you bench and keeps them safer
  • It shortens the range of motion. If you wanna be stronger or want to be a powerlifter then limiting the distance the bar has to travel is key to lifting heavier. Dave Tate said that when he started training in Westside Barbell with Louie Simmons his bench press range of motion was 11 inches…after a year there it was 7. Guess when he was stronger.

Next, when you bench, don’t be an idiot and flare your elbows way out to the side like you’re doing the chicken dance, tuck them in and touch the bar just above the top of your sternum. When your press keep them tucked until half way up and then flare them out. If you want to press in a straight line or a J curve is entirely up to you. Some prefer one way, others prefer the other. Do what makes you better.

Here’s the good setup, legs are tense, elbows tuck, shoulder blades pulled back.

Ignore the power belly.

Ignore the power belly.

Tuck your elbows

Wrist over elbows, shoulders packed, touching lower on the chest.

 

Other stupid bench press things I can’t understand.

  1. Feet up bench press. Some people should do feet up bench press. These people are people with lower body injuries that can’t bench press properly.

    Stupid stuff

    Stupid stuff

  2. Over tucking your elbows and ending up with your wrists behind your elbows. Your wrists should always be directly over your elbows.

    Keep your wrists over your elbows

    Keep your wrists over your elbows

 

  1. Telling your spotter you’re going for another rep after having him heave the last one off your chest. If you do this in my gym I will leave the bar on your chest so you can learn your lesson about being stupid.

The bench press is awesome, for a number of reasons. It builds a huge chest and arms, it makes you stronger, and finally (but by no means least) it scares the shit out of gym douchebags in their gymshark singlets when you bench 140kg for reps while they rep out on the unilateral chest press machine.

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How to be an instagram “#fitfam” fitchick.

starter-pack

Want to become a famous instagram fitchick? Well if you aren’t genetically blessed with a tiny waist, great ass and pretty face then there’s no hope for you. But if you do, the following tips will get you exactly where you want to be.

1. You have to put the word fit/fitness in your username

You want to be “instafamous” in the fitness world eh…well you’d better make sure everybody knows it by putting it right there in your username. If your name doesn’t involve one of the following words:

  • fit,
  • fitness,
  • journey,
  • glutes

then do you even really fitness? People need to know straight from the outset that your page is actually about your fitness “journey” and not just advertising for your softcore pornography website…and what better way to differentiate that than by including one of these words in your username?

 

dont-know-what-your-doing

2. Use every piece of equipment in the gym as a glute exercise.

“know what? I think that’s probably enough work for your glutes,” said no #instafit chick ever. There’s no such thing as Maximum Recoverable Volume when it comes to glutes. Every instafamous fitchick knows that.

Also, there’s no need to do anything involving a barbell to target your glutes. Things that lifters use as a warm up are totally acceptable to do for an entire session. Banded glute activation warm up drills? Goddamn it that’s a main lift for you.

Every day, no matter what you’re training in that session you need to upload pictures of your ass. What better way to tell people your training shoulders and back than by uploading a picture of yourself in your underwear with “back and shoulders today” as the caption?

You also need to claim to be an expert on glute training because after all, your ass does look great in them lulu lemons right?

3. You want to “inspire”everybody

You need to let everybody know just how much you truly want to inspire and help them. But don’t give useful, meaningful information…that’s for boring trainers that don’t even upload semi naked selfies. Nope, all you need to do is upload photos of your Kale and chickpea salad, your pink protein shaker and several times a week upload pictures of yourself in a thong.

But don’t worry, none of this is narcissism, you’re not doing this because you crave the attention and the likes make you feel good about yourself because really having 20,000 followers is more important than having real friends, no, you’re doing this because so many people are just so inspired by what you’re doing.

I know when I see a new pair of nikes, a sports bra and a pink protein shaker that I’m the most inspired I will ever be.

starter-pack

4. You don’t have to have a clue about training or dieting and to call yourself an “online coach.”

This one’s really important. Real coaches will use words like

  • Progressive overload
  • Periodisation
  • Macronutrient breakdown
  • Maximum recoverable volume
  • Hypertrophy
  • Technique

But those words are for boring people that don’t have the ass you do. So don’t worry about learning anything about training or diet. You know what works for you, despite the fact that you’ve been training less than 2 years, always had a tiny waist and big ass and have never really trained with a specific goal in mind. And don’t worry about the fact that you have an eating disorder, train 3 times a day to feel good about yourself, and punish yourself with endless hours of cardio, people will see that as dedication and a “healthy, balanced lifestyle.”

So don’t worry about all that education nonsense, your qualifications are somewhere between your lower back and your hamstrings and that’s more than enough to be an “online coach.” Don’t let your lack of knowledge about safe, effective training hinder your business as a coach. People will flock to you because you’re pretty and have an ass so screw them more knowledgeable people.

 

5. You have to produce more photos of your ass than useful information.

This ties in with point number 4. You really don’t need to put out useful information that will actually help people. What people really need is more pictures of your derriere. This will inspire people to do glute work on assisted pull ups machines and turn the hamstring curl into a hip thrust substitute.

So leave the information to the boring coaches of the world. You know what you bring to the table and that’s all you’ll ever need to know.

fict-chicks-be-like

6. You must upload roughly 11 hours of snapchat stories every 12 hours

If you don’t document every minutes of your day how will people know how to be just as inspiring and full of crippling self doubt as you are. Of course people want to watch 10 seconds videos of you chopping salad and cooking chicken so you’d better give it to them.

Make sure that in these videos you talk incessantly about how awesome it is to be a famous instagrammer and remember you’ve got to push the products that you get paid to push. Skinny teas and herbalife are the real key to fitness after all.

 

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Low Bar squats 101

katie-vs-mark-rippetoe

Last week we put up a video of a 14 year old performing an almost perfect set of low bar back squats…and the criticism and backlash from the people of facebook was insane. Alot of you guys completely lost your shit.

Amongst the feedback we got was

  • “Her back needs to be like a bow,” …no idea what that means
  • “Her back is so bent.” It wasn’t, she just had a perfectly acceptable forward lean
  • “You should coach her on technique before she hurts herself,” Did people honestly think I loaded up a bar and let a 14 year old try to squat it with no technical advice?
  • “Her technique needs work,” Everybody’s does, but nowhere near the amount this person seems to think.
  • “She should look up to activate her core,” That’s not how you activate your core.

So I’m going to clear up a few things here.

Whether these comments were made through ignorance of what a low bar back squat looks like, or whether people were concerned she would hurt herself I don’t know…I’m going to assume a bit of both. So without further delay let’s get into it.

LOW BAR SQUATTING 101

Firstly, let’s discuss why we’d want people to squat with a low bar position and a forward lean while maintaining a straight back.

  • More posterior chain recruitment
  • You’ll be stronger in this position (for most people)
  • Less forward tracking of the knee
  • More hip dominant

Some things to note here: we teach people to squat this way because we use the squat to build strength rather than quad hypertrophy or whatever else bodybuilders do. The low bar squat is used to make the most of your leverages, to allow you to lift heavier weights.

high-bar-position low-bar-position

Images left to right: High bar position, low bar position

 

How to do it.

A low bar squat begins with the bar resting on top of the rear delts, not the top of the traps (that would be a high bar squat). Now, when you squat (if done properly) the bar will maintain its position in line with the middle of the foot throughout the movement regardless of what position the bar is in on your body. That means that in a front squat your torso will remain very upright, in a high bar squat it will remain somewhat upright and in a low bar position (especially if the person has long femurs and a shorter torso) the torso will be leaning forward more. NOTE: a forward lean of the torso does not mean the back is bent!!

 

img_5743 img_5744 img_5745

Images left-right: Front squat, high bar squat, low bar squat

The squat starts with a break at the hips not the knee, ie. You start the squat by pushing your ass back, not by pushing your knees forward. The knees are then pushed out and the hips are moved down until the crease of the hip is lower than the crown of the knee. Upon hitting depth you should drive your hips UP and drive your back into the bar. This does a couple of things, 1. Upon driving out of the hole it puts the shins in a more vertical position, thus engaging the hamstrings more, 2. If your back is driven into the bar as well as the hips being driven up the back angle (torso lean) will remain constant, not become more acute.

hole-position hip-drive torso-angle

Images Left-Right: In the hole, hip drive and vertical shins, torso angle remains constant

This is a very brief overview of low bar squatting and if I thought people would bother reading it I could write 20 pages about it. If you do want to know more I suggest you go read Mark Rippetoe’s: Starting Strength. Failing that, get under a bar do some squats and send us videos. We’ll be lovely and won’t make you feel bad at all I promise.

Oh and just for shits and gigs here’s a photo of Katie’s squat against the actual diagram for Low Bar Squatting from Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength…form doesn’t look too shabby eh?

katie-vs-mark-rippetoe

Yours in Squatting,

Ben “Low Bar fo lyf” Harrison.

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