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.







Apr 01


If you do not understand the difference between these two things, then read on. If you do understand, carry on as you were.


There are many places to exercise, there are few places to train. Exercising can be done literally almost anywhere, training requires a planned organized environment. Not all environments are what they seem however. A runner may need only an empty bit of footpath to train on but the runner in training has a plan; this is the other significant difference between Exercising and Training, a proper environment and a plan.


Training involves developing a plan, putting that plan into action, crafting coherent strategies within the plan, and ensuring that the resources for the plan are sufficient to see it through.



You do not need Shire Speed and Strength in order to exercise. There are a million gyms where you can exercise. You can boot camp your way around the parks and beaches of the Shire or indeed the entire city if you like. There are pools, 24 hour health and wellness centers galore. There are PT studios and ‘Hard-core’ gyms that you can get sweaty in and be motivated to run-up-a-hill-under-fire with the yelling of inspirational cliches; you don’t need us for that. Luckily for people, getting better than what you are now is actually exceptionally easy, unfortunately its essentially a Ponzi scheme, and its not likely to be training.


Whilst there are a multitude of these kinds of places, there are not many places like SSS. Without conceit I think we can mention that we dont charge $80 an hour for 45min of standing next to you on a treadmill. We encourage and make affordable options to train, be taught, be filmed and programmed; and not in group sessions, seminars and ‘weightlifting-dude-ranch’ weekends. We are an open gym, you train when you want, the more committed you are the more coached up you’ll get. You can come and lift and do your own thing or you can take on programming advice or run some training experiments that you have developed from other coaching resources.


Training involves knowing why you are doing what you are doing. Its never a waste of time to examine if you are really on the right track and whether your plan can withstand scrutiny. “Am I really sure of my own view?”


Let it be known that when someone decides that they want to train, they can do it here. This does not mean that someone is already good. In fact, most gym members here are emerging from novice into low-level intermediate levels of being a lifter. Others are preparing generally in the gym and have other sports outside of SSS that they are concentrating on. Some lifters are very very good. What they all share in common, is that they are training; and either through prior goal or now realized goal, they know where they are going.



Mar 12


When you build a great familiarity with someone’s work over a long period, you are eager to see them finally put together a concise manual that compiles their up-to-that-point sampling of articles and Q&A repertoire, but additionally you wonder if the offering might be redundant in information; have you essentially just bought a souvenir?

Considering what James ‘The Thinker’ Smith, has provided free of charge via his articles and commentary through Q&A over the years, even if this manual were merely a sounvenir, its worth the money.



Smith breaks his manual down into 19 chapters and the justification for the depth and breadth of the manual, and indeed the existence of it at all, can be found in his summary at the end.

‘Sprinting is one of the basal constituents, arguably the most important, in the preparation of most T&F, team based field and court sport athletes. Any coach of speed/power athletes is assured to enhance their competition outcomes via the study and practice of applied sprint training.’

The manual begins with a description of Sprint Speed and the difference between acceleration and max velocity. Smith uses and contrasts the 10m segment sprint times of Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell from the World Record setting race in Berlin in 2009. The Track and Field data in the manual by itself is a great resource and may be unfamiliar to those who have not analyzed it themselves before.

The manual reflects on and gives credit to the work of Charlie Francis. Francis is the late Canadian athlete turned sprint coach who most famously coached Ben Johnson. For that reason, amongst the general public and media at large his enormous efforts to the preparation of sprinters in particular is over-looked. Amongst serious coaches, his work is well respected.

Chapter 2 describes Francis’ ‘Speed Zone’ categorizations and descriptions. These are revisited several times throughout the manual and are a necessary fundamental understanding for athletes beyond just those in T&F. Francis’ model on intensity limits is provided and then Chapter 3 explains the proper coupling.



You’re not buying this manual because of its presentation. A few more edited washes might have ended up combining Chapters 4 and 6. Chapters 5 and 7 might also have been combined, but no matter. Smith explains the considerations for Long to Short and Short to Long methodologies in programming as a part of ‘Speed Development Strategies’. His development exercises and warm ups are spread across 2 chapters.

Tempo Training’ , or percentage-based running efforts, is a simple enough concept in T&F but Smith urges us to consider the programming implications with field sport athletes. In Chapter 5 he also takes aim at the aerobic and lactic testing models that are traditionally used in organized sport and explains Maximal Aerobic Speed (MAS), contrasting examples of a middle distance runner and sprinter; the training that mimics those athletes, what does it mean for the training of the field sport athlete?

The meat of the manual for me comes in ‘Implications for Sport Training Load’ in chapter 8. We look at the training calendar and consider Long/Short and Short/Long block options as well as Francis’ Vertical Integration model. Throughout, Smith gives personal testimony of athletes he has trained and it adds very positively to the manual as a whole.

When it comes to having total program control, (matching the general preparedness with the technical-tactic demands) we must consider the expense of each training session and how they impact on subsequent ones. Smith introduced your author to the ‘High/Low’ method. This method considers the intensity of training sessions, its position in the week, and the corresponding Central Nervous System loading. As he goes into this, Smith isn’t just name dropping when he acknowledges the work of other well known T&F coaches and their methodological training systems. Smith gives examples of how the High/Low model works in both a General and Specific Physical Preparation stage and all the time you are reading this you start to understand the historical development of what has gone on over the last few decades of athletic preparation.

Smith has put great research into this history; this manual is the result.



The ‘Applied Physics‘ chapter, to be honest, was the component of this manual I was most eager to read. Efficient barbell mechanics has been an enormous part of my coaching in the last 3 years in particular and it has unearthed a demand for deep knowledge and understanding, so-much-so that I have returned with new eyes to T&F and Gymnastics; how I coach it, what I emphasize and what I work towards.

Start and acceleration mechanics has been a huge curious endeavour that I have revisited in 2014, asking myself why I coach what I coach and drawing on new resources; this manual has largely confirmed a lot of the new information I have been gathering from the likes of Dan Pfaff, Adarian Barr and Latif Thomas. Chapter 14 deals with both the understanding of the physics involved in linear speed, jumping and change of direction and then addresses considerations of external forces.

Further along into chapter 14, a more in-depth look at the Applied Physiology of the concepts already laid out from earlier chapters. Time motion analysis data is used to explain and prescribe volume and intensity that is coherent with the bioenergetic realities of sport and its training. It dove tails nicely into a more complete understanding of what Francis is talking about in his Speed Endurance categories that we first saw in Chapter 2.

The sample programming in Chapter 18, sure, some readers will no doubt go straight to it. Understanding the justifications for the lay out however are key to properly managing the variables that will occur from athlete to athlete, team to team, and responsibility to responsibility. You cannot understand the programming unless you understand the components.

A good manual can be revisited again and again and this one will be well thumbed over time. It has a simple presentation, and it shouldn’t be needed to be said that you are buying it for the content. The lay out is consistent with Smith’s sober practical observations and analysis. It does assume a certain amount of back ground knowledge so it is not a text for the fledgling reader.


Recommended wholeheartedly to any serious coach or athlete.

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