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) can spend 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 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 not done at 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 a linear locomotive bipedal expression.


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.



Jun 10

Jabberwocky programming and The Hunting of the Snark.

Lewis Carroll’s work Alice in Wonderland and sequel, Through the Looking Glass, are internationally famous. Less so are his nonsense poems The Jabberwocky and The Hunting of the Snark.

Nonsense poems are usually written for children and sometimes carry complex allegories for adults. Think of them as modern day cartoons that are designed somewhat for child consumption but with adult themes invisible to children, nonetheless doubling the size of the market as the child and adult both enjoy the product.


I contemplate the Jabberwocky when I receive questions from new athletes to the gym. Many athletes will present as having wholly deep and narrow adaptions to their sport, obviously, but very poor general level capacities. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the basic lifting skills, strength and mobility of our nation’s professional men’s cricket team.


If nothing else, that footage demonstrates that the most important thing in target and aggregate scoring sports is the very fine skills found within it; batting, bowling and fielding.


So someone like that turns up at the gym and asks me to implement their Jabberwocky program. Why do I call it a Jabberwocky program? Because it is nonsense. A periodized strength/hypertropy/power mini-micro-cycled-phase program does nothing that a conservative novice program can’t do except ensure a job for the person writing it.It succeeds in making me laugh and bringing out my inner snark, but I highly doubt it was designed with that in mind.


If that ‘athlete’ (a person who until that point has not done any general training is by definition NOT an athlete; in future discussions ‘athlete’ will refer to people who train outside their sport) just begins an adaptation in strength and mobility, found with large amplitude movements, then many of these strength/hypertrophy/power problems will be solved.


Power clean from blocks
Backsquat with alternating box jumps
Calf raise
Front squat
Tricep kick back
DBL Shrugs
Push press
Pull ups
single leg squats
* Start every day with robust ‘mobility’ circuit.


The above is usually ‘waved’ in a pattern of undulated changes in rep scheme and bar loading, an attempt at mimicking competitive equipped powerlifters with an internet presence. There are a myriad of skills to pick up here and no chance of acquiring those skills quickly as no lift is repeated within the week.


However, the person doing this program will improve; why would anyone protest against that? Because getting better for everyone except the most elite and already adapted athletes is as easy as opening a bag of chips and your 3 friends present extending their arms for their share. Its going to happen!


The Jabberwocky is fiction, but its presence as a metaphor ubiquitous. Nonsense, giving a false positive, but in this case, having no artistic merit.

May 16


Today we have been open for 5 years. I’m not sure if that is supposed to be of some special significance or not, but I think its safe to say that we’ve made it.


I have to thank the members over the years, the very good athletes who have made me look like a better coach, the very smart members who always ask great questions, the coaches from other gyms who felt like there might have been something worth learning at SSS, the budding Personal Trainers, Physiotherapists and Exercise Science graduates who have joined us in swimming against the current, to my business partner Scott who we couldn’t have climbed to the level we are at now without, and to my girlfriend Su who puts up with not seeing me very much because of the time the gym takes away.


We’ll definitely be in the same location for another year, after that, don’t be surprised if we’re off to something bigger and better.


Shire Speed and Strength will continue, as it has over the last 5 years, to be a place where learning lifting, gymnastic and athletic skills are accessible and affordable. Its still a place where you can just come in and lift if you want or get help with programming or not, do your own thing or be coached as much as you need. People will continue to come here to train instead of exercise, they’ll still come to improve, and ignore the free water bottle elsewhere.

Thank you all very much for making the gym the way I envisioned it to start with.




Coach Pete

Apr 23



#1 Train; don’t just exercise. There are a million places to exercise, but if you are coming to Shire Speed and Strength, you can learn why you are doing what you’re doing, learn how to take care of yourself and transition from being a ‘Battler’.


#2 Value skills over hype. You should train close to home or work and train with friends. But absolutely you should train with efficiency. People don’t come here for a free water bottle and key ring. If you feel it necessary to brand yourself in that way, maybe you’re just exercising. Your time spent mastering your skills and giving full effort is time and money better spent than a weekend Weightlifting Dude Ranch.


#3 Be committed. The more frequently you train and commit yourself to sound skill progressions and programming the easier it is to help you. There is little benefit to the coach or lifter having to re-train skills because you come in haphazardly and are back at the beginning again because you decided to schedule a 6 week vacation for 3 weeks after you joined the gym. Organize yourself.


#4 This is not a tree-house club membership. Understand what you’re doing with your life and your money. You can get a lot done in 3-6 months and, see #3, the more you help yourself the more we can help you.  But this gym provides a lot for less than half the going rate and we’re not driving 4 wheel drive Audis and Porsches here. Standard Crossfit membership is around double our membership and 1 on 1 coaching is also double the price. Be a mature citizen and if you aren’t going to be a member in the future, fill in the paperwork which takes 40 seconds to do. Don’t just drop us a text or an email. Understand that 24 hour Globo fitness pretty much make all their margin on shit members who never attend. We either want you to train, or not be a member. But we’re not going to chase up people who cannot manage themselves and we’re not going to make things a hassle for our administrators.


*** Think of this picture ^ next time you realize that you’ve paid $100 an hour to learn a pre-1964 bullfrog-frankenstein snatch technique.***


#5 Take care of your gym. It’s easier to keep the place looking good when you leave it how you found it.


#6 Understand where you fit in. We’ve come a long way since we opened 5 years ago. We want nothing more than to continue to add better equipment to the gym and hopefully by the middle of next year we’re in an even bigger and better place. You are part of that, and you are making that happen. Better for everyone. This gym is not a mint, largely because we don’t rip people off with $100 an hour no-skill training services (quick fact: 9 owners of their own gyms have trained at SSS, countless certified Personal trainers, Physiotherapists and Exercise Science graduates). We don’t charge top dollar because we don’t want lousy people out there who have attended a weekend SSS course (no such thing exists) to be out there saying that this is where they learned to lift. We want people to train with greater regularity and come in frequently. Your membership helps grow the gym even if we’re not at the flourishing business level yet, longer term members know how much better things are now than in 2009.









*** Actual picture of your author’s car ^ Should probably charge fitness professionals more but then how would they be able to afford to train for the necessary amount of time to actually learn and hone their skills? God knows they’ve already spent enough on their worthless accreditations already. ***

Apr 16


Shire Speed and Strength is a secular gym, so we will be BBQing and lifting at Easter to celebrate yesterday’s Lunar Eclipse. Remember, fish meat is practically a vegetable so we’ll be eating more than that too.







Older posts «