Feb 23


New lifters come to the gym and explain how they feel that they are having trouble with their lifting technique and skills.

My usual reply is, “you’ve come to right place.”

Quackery is everywhere however, and I have recently considered how things might work if I used homeopathic remedies to fix problems in barbell training.



Basically, what I would do if you were having problems with your squatting would be to file off some metal from an old barbell, mix it in some distilled water, slosh it around to dilute it, and then have the person drink it.



The exposure to a small sample of what is supposed to be giving you trouble is a like cures like concept that seems to want to borrow off of immunology theory in some bizzare way.


It might work if barbells were growing out of you perhaps. In short, people, don’t go drinking water that has metal filings in it okay? You need to train instead.

Feb 05


*** This is a re-write of an old post from the old gym website from several years ago.***



There are warning signs all around us; not of impending doom from the perceived sheer danger of a weight room, but rather of individuals and how they may do themselves a disservice from the poor habits they have developed and the way they look at gym environments. In another article we warned you all of ‘The Battler’.

A good place to start for everyone coming to SSS is to take a look and see what sort of habits they have developed already and what sort of baggage they are bringing from other gyms. There may be some excellent ingrained skills that are not worth tampering with but usually there are a multitude of problems, and tell-tale signs abound of what those problems may be; both mechanical and philosophical.


Remember, there is always a bias against new lifters to any gym in that in many cases the reason they are looking for coaching and a new gym is because they detect a problem that they can’t fix themselves.


This is pretty much how happy they look too.


* The lifter stretching out their anterior shoulder, before during and after some sort of pressing variation. The unfailing indicator of residual pain and inflammation from a mechanical issue with his pressing mechanics.


* The lifter who almost hits their head on the bar when they lay back on the bench. If left to continue on their normal progression, it will only be a few moments before you’re pulling the bar off of their body as their legs flail like a squashed insect because they have too much on the bar.


* The person who when asked to go through their normal warm up routine, launches into a 25min body-weight calisthenic program that ‘gets their heart-rate up‘ and ‘activates the ________ muscles‘, but leaves them still unable to achieve basic terminal mobility positions.


* The skinny guy who throws a plate on each end of the bar before even warming up at the squat rack. A squat intervention is about to happen.


* The ‘Mixer’; the guy mixing up supplements before, during and directly after his workout and has it all laid out everywhere. Usually we can do something with ‘The Mixer’; at least they’re committed.



These warning signs don’t just occur immediately in front of you; the dead canary can be found any time you read an article, watch an interview or listen to a podcast or presentation.


This is what they mean when they say, “we don’t what do be like weightlifters here.”


* The statement when talking about the use of barbell lifting in the preparation of other sports, “we’re not training to be weightlifters here”, as if there were some sort of non-weightlifting way to lift a barbell efficiently.


* They double down when talking about running, “we’re not trying to be Olympic sprinters here”, as if there were some non-sprinter way to run faster. These same people then proceed to start executing a series of running drills just as a competition sprinter would except with no attention to detail.



* The ‘Tyre Kicker’. They usually come in to check out the gym and ask a question like “So are you guys a gym?” As if the view of the gym from the front door could suggest anything else.

The ‘Tyre Kicker’ may also announce themselves via the request for some sort of discount, “is there any movement on that price?” They haven’t lifted at the gym yet, their number #1 consideration on choosing a gym is price. They over look the fact that SSS hosts countless Exercise Science graduates and undergraduates looking for skills as well as Personal trainers and Coaches. They are oblivious that the going rate for a Personal Training session at a commercial gym is $60 for 45minutes and at Shire Speed and Strength, members pay nothing extra than the fortnightly rate to learn new skills daily in a one on one setting.

The ‘Tyre Kicker’ will be impressed with a gym keyring, a free towel and ‘atmosphere’. Those things will be good accessories to the lifting problems that they may never learn to solve.


Are you guys a gym? What else could this place be? Seriously, I have nothing.



Jan 23


Periodically, someone will ask me where I have learnt most of my knowledge, what publications do I read, seminars that I go to, youtube channels do I watch, places I have studied and coaches I have been mentored under?



The truth is always very underwhelming I think; not just to me, but to the person asking as well. Its flattering if someone thinks you’ve added value to their training that they care at all to know what your background is, but in particular, its when the question comes in the form of advice that the REAL answer needs to be unpacked a bit.


“How can I become a coach?”


You don’t need to know what these books are yet; you need to go out and start experimenting with people for free by trying to solve their training problems.
That’s what sport is doing constantly, and no one is paying the U/13B Betoota girls netball team coach.

My observations on becoming a coach….


* The simple act of repetition will improve you as a coach. Like everything, so do a lot of it.

* If you’re worried that coaching takes too long to get good at, but you care about it, see this as a positive thing. It will make it harder for all the terrible people from following through with it and giving coaching a bad name: Or in some cases a worse name.

* You are valuable to people to the extent that you can provide things for them. Assessing yourself as a coach shouldn’t just be a case of listing bad things that you don’t do. “Not too expensive” and “At least I’m not as crap as that other guy and into P90X“, should be off the table as descriptions of yourself.

* Time within every sport you’ve played, in fact pretty much most of your life, is spent consuming things that other people have produced. A good coach produces something for someone. It doesn’t matter if the coach is ‘really nice’ (it helps) but they have to produce improvements.

* The only thing that matters to the athlete is what you can get them to do. Education, accreditation, personality: none of it means anything until it is validated by an improvement in the person who is acquiring your service.


Your training knowledge is not found inside this folder of accreditation certificates. Your knowledge is taken with you everywhere you go and you accumulated it in real time by solving problems.
Your athletes are your validation.


So there are a few cold harsh realities there. And notice I am differentiating between financial success and actual coaching success. If the question is, ‘How can I become a financially successful coach/trainer?’, then you’re asking the wrong guy. The question I am responding to is, ‘How can i become a better coach?’


You need to uncover problems. If you uncover problems you now have a great motivation for solutions; those solutions will germinate into experiments, innovation and knowledge. We are surrounded with under-skilled people who want to gain some physical skills. What ever image you create in your mind of what a great coach looks like, surrounded by uber-awesome physical specimens; if it truly isn’t just a case that they have just recruited better talent, then they have gone through a long process of solving problems for people.


How do we actually know if a coach is any good?



It may sound counter-intuitive to say, ‘go out and find some problems to solve’, because it would appear at first glance that our goal in life is bliss and efficiency and fulfillment. But frankly, humans don’t really enjoy bliss that long. They love to pick at consensus, cause conflict, disagree and stand out: They like to have some power and control.


Those athletes you start with, they’re valuable to the new coach. They provide great experience, it might be for free but its invaluable. Yes, yes yes; publications on coaching and training people are extremely valuable. But there is way too many people asking questions on what to read and listen to, and not nearly enough people asking questions on actual real problems they are trying to solve.


Acquire problems THEN read about solutions.


Dec 22









FRIDAY DEC 26TH.             CLOSED


SATURDAY DEC 27TH.       6.30AM-2PM




MONDAY DEC 29TH          6AM-9PM








FRIDAY JAN 2ND               8.30AM-9PM

Nov 20


X is a composite of the best athletes that I have coached. When I say ‘athletes’, I mean sportspeople who are training for their sport. They play their sport, they train for their sport and they train generally; that makes them an athlete. Someone who plays sport and just goes to the practices and games is a ‘sportsperson’, not an athlete.


It comes as a surprise to most people that being an athlete is an extremely rare phenomenon. Being an athlete is not restricted to people who are professionals or high-level amateurs, it is a mark of commitment, not just talent. Indeed, there are many high level sportspeople who aren’t really athletes. Most sports do not actually provide a structure so that their participants CAN be athletes. Most are participatory focused, their idea of ‘development’ usually consists of special ‘camps’ or representative teams, where the most naturally gifted players (or ones with the money to attend) are herded together a few days at a nice facility. By the time that I meet X, usually they have already attended several ‘camps’, sometimes in multiple sports.


They get to wear new shirts when they attended these camps. That indicates that they are elite, and new shorts too; and they get a water bottle that has a cool logo on it. Yes, going to a camp is a big deal, and evidence of attendance is collected like merit badges.



X no longer attends development camps. X has many trophies and an entire wardrobe consisting of shirts and shorts from development camps and squads that they have previously attended and been ‘selected’ for. Those clothes now just work their way through the regular clothing rotation while real work is done; far from anything calling itself a camp or development squad.


In the past, X’s parents were told that X has talent and might have a big future. They were told there’s a coach coming to a camp soon who’s really good and worked with all the best players. X should definitely attend. X also needs to work on _______ and ______ and ______. The coach is vague on both the problems, and how these could be improved or solved; over-used maxims about how, ‘they’ve got to wanna do it’ are plenty. Importantly, these vague deficiencies that X has, will be relied upon in the future to reason why X did not succeed and ‘take the next step’.


Its important to lay the groundwork for both success and failure.


X has visited the sports chiro. He was told that apparently he’s got this thing, can’t remember the name of it, anyway he has to wear these orthotics. X is also allergic to _______.  The initial early picture of X is that he is naturally good at his sport, identified as such (as if being dominant is difficult to identify) but there hasn’t been anything done to make any improvements. With the knowledge that X is good at their sport the next move has been to continue to do the sport over and over, any problems are treated with the consultancy of a specialist who can put a label on a problem. Solving any problem that couldn’t be over come with just going around it is not on the table.


It takes a period of time and some great detail of explanation to X and X’s parents what training for their sport actually is. Eventually it makes sense that doing the sport over and over was not helping X get better and that they need to adapt to a much higher level of general athleticism and efficiency in the skills that make up their sporting task: along the way addressing any fundamental inefficiencies and pathologies in the process.


When X is in the off-season of his sport, X spends around 12 hours per week training. This is a mixture inside and outside the gym.


Quickly it ceases to occur to X that spending less than 12 or so hours per week on preparation for the sport that they are dedicated to would be consistent with being ‘heaps keen’. X has 168 hours in the week just like everyone else. X spends around 55-60 hours sleeping, works or studies around 55 hours per week, then there’s a bit of travel time here and there, that can be 8-14 hours per week. Actual training time is in effect quite small by comparison. When X is questioned why their peers cannot come up with even 6-8 hours per week to train in the off season, X is incredulous. “I don’t know; its not actually that much time is it?


Because X trains, X quickly gets better. Their peers do not make a link better training and competitiveness so they do not mimic the behavior. X’s peers think X is lucky. They use the same language they would use to describe a lottery winner. They also usually think that X is superior as a player and so mistakenly think that their continued progress is a result of the original competitive advantage.


X’s peers also disregard that serious athletes, ones much more dedicated than X, train much longer and harder than X. X only seems superior by comparison to their immediate competition; a competition also not made up by athletes. They disregard that there are people out there in the world who combine high level sports with serious high-level academics and professions. There are Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, Architects and Scientists who seem to be able to combine 8+ hours a week of training with all of their academic requirements.



X sometimes succeeds, sometimes fails. X has both gone far, and also failed to meet goals. But X has given themselves a better chance by at first allowing themselves to be a part of a plan, and then making that plan their own. Stressing to X that both the planning and the skills within that planning need to be efficient, has given X the best chance to take care of themselves as they participate in whatever organizational sporting model awaits in the future.


Fundamental though, is that X makes time for the sport that they say that they are ‘heaps keen’ on. Funnily enough though, those words never pass X’s lips, they’re already doing it. The only ones that ever say ‘heaps keen‘ are the ones who in fact in reality are not: ‘heaps keen‘ is the mating call of Coach Pete rolling his eyes.

Oct 30


It’s not enough to say that because high rep Olympic lifting is absent from the highest competitive levels of the sport, that therefore it is a bad idea. That would only be a case of phenomenology.


If you are going to make a critique of a methodology then by definition it can’t just be contradiction.


The sport of Olympic Weightlifting is contested as a totalization sport of restricted efforts and time. You get three attempts to successfully lift the most amount of weight according to the motion rules.


The training for this has evolved in order to create the greatest competitive advantage and result. A precise sequencing of the skeleton, connective tissue and musculature is needed for the best use of leverage and most efficient recruitment of contractile potential to move and fix the greatest amount of weight overhead.



Of all the capacities of fitness, energy system development is a long way down the list of importance in Olympic Weightlifting. Alactic development is enhanced as training volume and frequency are increased. Aerobic and lactic capacity are after-thoughts, in fact not thought of at all. They’re just not needed.


So, if you are going to make a case for high rep Olympic Lifting then the ‘Why?’, has to be addressed. A high tempo and locomotive style of lifting is going to do nothing to enhance your competition (if you compete) or 1 rep max lifting. In fact it will put it at a deficit, the skill has such fine detail and precision, as do all sport of such a small magnitude of time; locomotive efforts in lifting will miss the little details of the maximal effort. In fact, its a heck of a lot faster to move a light bar in different ways than is necessary for maximal effort lifts. You just dont need any conservation of pendulum momentum when throwing up 50 muscle snatches of 40kg the way you do when snatching 110kg for a single.


If you make the claim that it is for energy system development, then you have crossed over into a complex solution to a simple problem…… aerobic capacity/power, or left ventricle strength, does not need to be trained using the same movement pathway as the competitive task. It can be trained using any modality. The development of oxidative fibers is not necessary to Olympic Lifting. Lactic energy system development DOES need to be trained using the same modalities, BUT, we don’t need lactic development in Olympic Weightlifting and alactic development is already being done with regular training systems.


So, quick summary.


* Olympic Weightlifting has already evolved its training to prepare the lifter for the best competition results. This does not include aerobic or lactic energy system development.

* High rep lifting is deleterious to those competition maximal results.

* If the reason for high rep lifting is energy system development, then that can be achieved in other ways that do not negatively impact on Olympic Weightlifting.


**Oh, and one more thing. Don’t call it “Oly Lifting”. I shouldn’t have to explain why.**

Oct 02


The gym sits within a short distance of a very popular and well-known place for exercise and training.


The Wanda sand hills, accessed north of Wanda beach through the Green Hills carpark at Cronulla, are a traditional migratory ground for pre-season sporting teams, weekend exercise warriors, dog lovers, families, various athletes and various wanna-be-athletes. The report of sporting teams attending the sandhills for pre-season training has a decent chance of filling a page of the sports section of the local paper.


Have someone friended on Facebook, or follow on Twitter, who wants to ‘fitspire’ you with some of the sessions that they can’t keep to themselves; sooner or later the likelihood that they will post something about the Wanda sandhills reaches a probability of 1.


So it’s seen as an axiomatic conclusion that running the sandhills, or attending a sandhills ‘torture session’ is a good thing. We must punch that sacred cow.



We could write with great detail on the quality of speed; and we’ll define that quality in this context in terms of  locomotive bipedal expression. Running speed.


We’d talk about horizontal forces and then vertical forces, we’d talk about the biomechanics and shin angles, pushing, contra-lateral coordination, amount of dorsiflexion, why stride length is a phenomena not a coaching point, heel height recovery, position of the hands and arms, on and on. Only some of that is relevant in relation to why trying to develop speed at the sandhills is a bad idea.


Surface contact time is a phenomena in running fast. I say that it is a phenomena rather than a coaching point because it would be a mistake to say that the pursuit of the shortest contact time would be a fix-all for speed training. Clearly there are methods of locomotion where this pursuit is achieved but that would not mean that it has exclusivity of other important elements. Short surface contact time is a result of efficient running and speed training, not the origin of it.


I point it out for the reason that running on sand fails to satisfy both the phenomena of fast running AND mitigates the training of qualities of speed development and maintenance which you could be using that time and energy for.


When you run in sand, the foot sinks into it in varying degrees depending on how dry or wet or compacted it is. This creates a very high surface contact time yes, but the reason this is bad isn’t just because it is, its because it is adapting the lower leg structures away from the specificity needed to create maximal speed on another harder surface when you return to it. And probably with the exception of snow and mud, every other surface is harder and conserves more force in the lower leg structure than sand.



It’s the same reason that weighted balls don’t help pitchers throw faster or weighted clubs don’t make a golfer drive longer; ultimately the speed of the limb and coordinated rest of the body needs to experience and adapt to the maximal exertive effort of the nervous system.


When you swing a weighted bat, jump around with a weighted very or overload a barbell and walk it out of the rack then strip the extra weight off for a subsequent rep and it ‘seems’ like it weighs less, you are experiencing post-activation-potentiation (PAP). This is a temporal sensation where you have exposed the structures, most importantly the nervous system, to an external load greater than an immediate previous exposure. In some cases this is an over-exposure. That is, it’s more than you have ever experienced. This is a technique used periodically and rarely to gain a short-term training effect but should been seen as a training preparation tool rather than a realistic method for global realization of ability. In other words, you use it to help train to realize a performance increase; doing it doesn’t ‘make’ you faster or stronger in and of itself.


Back to the sandhills we go. You are maximally striving to run up the sandhills, however, you are actually moving very slowly. Your nervous system is not being exposed to the speed of contraction necessary to actually run fast. Additionally, you are not exposing yourself to any other quality that would be useful in the development of maximal speed; only speed endurance which I will get to in a moment. (eg in strength training you are not contracting maximally but you are trying to develop the quality of strength)


The lower leg structures are not adapting to the high force conditions necessary for fast running. Go to a track and conduct whatever ‘speed session workout’ you can dream up. Let me know how your lower leg feels the next day if you haven’t done anything like that in a while. That pain you feel? That’s the kind of stress you are going to have to adapt to in volume and also in intensity. To run fast, you’re going to have to manage and exploit those forces maximally to reach your full speed potential. You are not going to be able to do that in the sand as well as you on the track.


Now you may choose to say, “well I run in the sand to lessen the impact!” Ok, I’m with you to an extent, the volume of the track work that someone does, or the field sport that they do may necessitate this. However, you are getting through the volume of work; not the intensity. You’re still not going to be able to sprint maximally or transfer what you are doing maximally at the sandhills; only the volume, only the conditioning. I only prescribe sandhill work as a part of the conditioning element for athletes, with the exception of sand-sprinters (surf lifesavers competitors) because obviously that is their competition skill. A grass track or field would be a much better compromise.


I haven’t even mentioned the poor use of the sandhills for aerobic-alactic athletes by sadistic exercise prescribers who train them lactically, but I’ll have to punch that sacred cow another day.

Aug 26


Your coach will be in Texas for the next 2 weeks.


Its rare that I get to visit athletes from the gym when they are playing overseas but I have decided that these 2 weeks offer too much to miss. Don’t worry, the gym is still open normal times and Scott and Nick will be there to help anyone out until I return on September 10th. Taxiway program coaching will not take place until I return though.


Blake and Sean Muir are some of our longest term athletes at Shire Speed and Strength and they open their season against SMU playing college football for Baylor. You can watch them online next Monday 10am.


You can watch Blake #73 start for #10 ranked Baylor Bears next Monday online 10am.


Jul 22

The Lifting Audit: How a good Strength Accountant can get you a rebate.

You’ve logged a lot of training. You’ve trained at several gyms, attended multiple Weightlifting Dude Ranch weekends yet you’re still shy of a bodyweight snatch and double bodyweight squat. You can’t rack a front squat very well and you miss reps over and over …. ‘but I can pull it high enough!’


A Lifting Audit is not about compliance to a certain style or rule or method. In order to get a rebate on what you’ve paid out, you have to sort through the receipts and make honest claims on what you can now really use and what you can’t in fact claim at all.



The Shire Speed and Strength Non-member Taxiway program isn’t really a program so much as it is help in reconciling the enormous amount of background noise in information gym users are exposed to and help them to take ownership of their training.


Classes, weightlifting dude ranch weekends, seminars; what they all have in common is mass production technical ques, and fix-all solutions. YOU NEED to be coached, coaching needs to happen over a longer period than a weekend, and because of the necessity of sessions over a long period; it needs to be affordable.


We leave it up to the fair-mindedness of the lifter. The going rate for Personal Training sessions in the current commercial climate is around $60 for 45minutes. That gets you a gym caddy who will inform you that it is indeed “All you!” . We have coaches and owners of other gyms who come to Shire Speed and Strength to work on their skills yet what they charge for a session runs at a rate of around $100 an hour; 8 former SSS members run their own gyms!


At SSS we charge $250 for 5 sessions which is 6 hours long. It’s the best option in the city, maybe even the country!!!!


Llamas also make excellent gym caddies.


Come along for the first day, you can see how we coach things, and then decide for yourself if you think its worth coming back for the other sessions.

Jun 17


We are 16 months on from ‘The Darkest day in Australian Sport’ and just now ASADA has handed ‘show-cause’ notices to 34 AFL players.

We do not know exactly who these players are but we can guess that they almost certainly are from the Essendon football club. There is no update on the situation for Cronulla players in the NRL.





Your author has nothing to add in terms of the legal dynamics of the situation but rather I would take time now to response as a member of the sports consuming public.


Call it what you like, but when the Federal Sport Minister Kate Lundy, the Federal Justice Minister Jason Clare, the ASADA CEO John Lawler and AFL boss Andrew Demitrou appeared in front of a press conference to announce evidence had been gathered as a part of Operation Aperio through the Australian Crime Commission, that there was severe entrenched doping in sport and links to organized crime, in didn’t feel like a hyperbole. It sounds like the dominos would quickly fall, heads would roll, metaphors would continue to describe the ending of circumstances for known personalities.
However, no less than the Australian head of WADA, John Fahey responded to the press conference, “I would have liked to have seen this dealt with in a much different fashion,” Fahey said. “I never saw any justification for that public announcement.”


                             World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) head John Fahey speaks during a symposium on doping in Lausanne, February 27, 2008 


This was timely in the way that it came off the heels of the Lance Armstrong revelations and admission to doping in cycling; a case that had polarized the sporting public in the way that it went on for so long that it took on the appearance of a witch hunt. Strangely, Armstrong’s admission has not created any of the vindication for USADA that one would think. The hollow victory being that the public recognizes in that case that the competition was as dirty as Armstrong was, and that no replacement narrative has been established that he was, ‘the drug taker of all the drug takers’, grossly going further than any other doper would dare. The total of the case underlined that the whole sport was dirty and how do we feel about nailing the guy who might just have won anyway and in turn led one of the most successful cancer charities in the world.
Armstrong may well have won races because of a superior drug regime, but so long did justice take, that the public are over it. This scenario may well repeat itself here. Entrenched instead, is the feeling of a witch hunt. The tactics of ASADA have resulted in the impossible. That cheats are going to be felt sorry for.


Fans are angry about not knowing for so long and justice being anything but swift. To date just one player has experienced any sort of suspension and 34 threatening letters have been distributed. Contrast this with the salary cap breaches of the Melbourne Storm and Canterbury Bulldogs, where revelations were disclosed and action was taken in a timely matter; the game survived.


The ACC report should not have been disclosed publicly until further investigations could be carried out by the Federal Police, ASADA and the sporting bodies themselves in a cooperative investigation. This fishing expedition has to date failed to establish exactly what crimes were committed and instead just looks like the kangaroo court justice usually dished out by a school Principal. “We know who you are, come forward now and we’ll go easy on you.” Right now instead, we have players and clubs who may well be guilty but are never going to see the proper amount of public outrage directed at them because of ineptitude from those entrusted with justice in sport.



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