A Unique Combination Of Science And Experience Based Pre-Contest Advice

Hey Everyone,

NCC is back and we are starting with a very interesting piece written by Layne Norton and published on bodybuilding.com. A great combination of science backed theory with his own personal experience thrown in. Its a great tool for anyone thinking of getting into figure competitions.

Please Enjoy!


A Unique Combination Of Science And Experience Based Pre-Contest Advice.

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Signs That You Should Look For a New Trainer/Coach

We have all seen it, a man dressed in way too much spandex standing over an unsuspecting but eager client. The client is attempting to jump from atop a medicine ball and land with one foot on the handle of a kettlebell. “This is great for core stability the spandex man says with the utmost enthusiasm”. The poor soul concentrates…braces…. and lands himself straight in hospital…

Ok maybe that is an exaggeration, but a quick google will show you all kinds of horrendous ideas trainers come up with for their clients. This post is for the potential client, maybe you’re looking to start your New Years Resolution early or maybe you’re not happy with your current trainer… if you’re currently in the market look out for my list of top trainer faux-pas.

Please enjoy!

1. Overcomplicating the exercises – Fitness is sometimes an epic battle between function and entertainment. You want to feel like you’re working towards your goals and making progress, but sometimes the gym can just get boring. Trainers are constantly faced with the challenge of making effective workouts while keeping the client on their toes. A good coach will mix things up just enough to keep things interesting, but will not stray far from the main goal; and they should never put the client at risk of injury. Simple tip, if your trainer wants you to stand on a med-ball, run away…fast.

This should never be happening... ever...never ever never!

This should never be happening… ever…never ever never!

2. Winging it – I guarantee you that every trainer out there has, at one time or other, made up a work out session minutes before their client comes in. It happens, life gets in the way and sometimes the session planning is a bit rushed. It’s not the end of the world, but if your trainer is giving off the impression that they have not prepared a workout for you for weeks on end, you need a new coach. Clients pay top dollar to work out with a personal trainers and even more to work with a strength coach. If they cannot be bothered to spend the time personalizing your program then don’t waste your money.

I would be pretty excited if this guy asked me if I wanted to be a client of his! Arnie at his best!

I would be pretty excited if this guy asked me if I wanted to be a client of his! Arnie at his best!

3.Being a screaming yeti – As a former military fitness instructor, I know how to yell and use my voice. I like it and am quite good at it. I will quickly have you climbing a rope at top speed after I light a fire under your backside. However there is a difference between using your voice as a motivation tool and just being a screaming imbecile. If you’re stuck with someone who is blowing out your eardrums while you are trying to hold plank, you’ve got two options. Earplugs, or get out.. I know I value my hearing over my abs.


4. Confusing and complicated sessions – Training isn’t rocket science (contrary to what fitness companies want you to believe). It’s simple, and does not need to have 100 different exercises and ideas in one session. You should be able to take your trainers sessions and repeat them on your own without many questions. If your trainer has you doing workouts that require your reading glasses maybe look somewhere else.

5. Not looking the part – A trainer is their own product. If you are willing to pay someone hard earned money to help you transform your body it’s only fair to expect that your trainer have some self-respect and professionalism in their appearance. And that they walk the talk! This is not a reflection on their knowledge or education but if a trainer isn’t practicing what they preach do you really want to follow that person on your journey? Your coach does not need to be Arnold however an above average level of fitness is a reasonable expectation.

Man I love this movie and these pants!!!

Man I love this movie and these pants!!!

Those are just five easy signals to look for when searching for the right trainer or coach. A big part of your decision will come down to personal preference. You may want someone who is more subdued but has really well thought out sessions, or you may want the typical drill sergeant who is going to stand over you and “motivate” you after every push up. In the end the choice is completely yours, remember you as a consumer have the power to choose. There are literally thousands of PT’s and coaches all with different strengths and weaknesses, so take your time before investing.

Here is a final message for all you trainers starting out (or a reminder to you experienced coaches). Every exercise has a risk/reward ratio, every time I am about to give my athletes an exercise I always ask myself why they are doing the exercise and what is the risk associated with this movement, equipment, environment etc. If you constantly assess your workouts with this principle you will tend to keep yourself out of sticky situations. As a great strength coach once said, “Why stand on a swiss ball when you can stand on one foot”.

That’s it for today everyone, take care!

Chris R

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Why Real Men Cook

Its the dawn of a new era, the age where man does not fear the hellish heat of the kitchen oven or the gruesome burns from boiling potatoes. It’s the time of the ‘Man Cook’, and boy am I sure glad this time has come. I have to admit I haven’t always enjoyed cooking but as soon as I broke my first proverbial egg,  I was hooked. It has opened up a new world for me, has given me new challenges and helped me to understand what goes into my body. I am now a proud ‘foodie’ and I want to tell you why I think it’s in your best interests to jump aboard the gravy train with me. So without further adieu, this is why I think real men cook.

1. You control exactly what goes in

When you cook for yourself you can control exactly the type and amount of macro and micro nutrients going into your system. Even healthy options at restaurants are often cooked in oily marinades or have had sugars added to them for flavour. If you want to be truly calculative in your nutrition regime you need to prepare the food yourself.

2. You get to play with knives


This is pretty manly if you ask me. Have you ever seen a chef go nuts on a carrot or quickly debone chicken with a razor sharp knife? I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pretty awesome. Cooking gives you lots of exposure to knives and taking a preparation class will teach you how to properly handle a blade. This is personally one of my favourite reasons to cook a good meal. All of the knife work makes me feel like a secret agent. Although it also has made me a knife snob and I will quickly snub a dull blade.

3. Girls dig it

We are not in the 19th century any more boys, women are looking for a guy who can fill multiple roles. Not just as a provider for the family but also a carer and nurturer. I guarantee the girl of your dreams will be more impressed if you can whip up something delicious at home compared to taking her out to the local tavern…again. So aprons on lads, lets whip up that soufflé.

If The Rock cooks, you cook. Got it?

If The Rock cooks, you cook. Got it?

4. It’s the fastest way to a six pack of abs

As mentioned earlier learning to cook for yourself allows you to prepare all of your meals yourself. With that preparing usually comes some conciencous meal planning. This actually forces you to think about what you are putting in your body instead of zombie munching on the first thing that falls into your hands. Planning meals and cooking them yourself is an absolute must for sustainable heath and fitness.

5. You will save money

This isn’t rocket science, restaurants up-mark their meals to make a profit. They are businesses, not a charitable society. If you want to eat out or buy pre-packaged meals prepare for the up-mark, it’s usually around 200%. By creating your own meals and doing your own shopping you’ll save money and most likely eat a higher quality of food in the end.

Those are just some of the reasons cooking is a great hobby for the modern man, but a question I get a lot is “where do I start?” Beginning to cook for yourself can definitely be intimidating for us blokes. So here are some quick tips to get you started and keep you motivated.

1. Plan out your weekly meals

Check out Fitmencook on Instagram and Pinterest.

Check out Fitmencook on Instagram and Pinterest.

Sit down on Saturday or Sunday (which ever day is comes before your weekend shop) and write down exactly what you want to eat during the week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I usually include snacks in my planning as well. Once you have your meals planned out it’s easy to look at the recipes and figure out exactly what groceries you need. This makes shopping  straightforward and eliminates silly impulse buys… dam Pringles.

2. Plan to eat leftovers

Planning 5-6 meals a week can be difficult even for us cooking enthusiasts, my advice is make meals large enough for at least one night of leftovers. Leftovers give you a ‘night off” from the kitchen and keeps your nutrition on the straight and narrow. This takes cooking six nights a week down to a much more manageable three. As long as you’re making meals that are tasty, you won’t really mind having the same meal twice in a week.


Keep It Simple Silly, don’t think that just because your learning to cook you have to learn french techniques. Cooking for the most part is very simple, cooking healthy is often even more so. You don’t have to be a genius to marinate some chicken in garlic, pepper and lime for an hour and bake some sweet potato. Start with a few easy, healthy recipes and build your skills from there.

4. Buy Spices

This is a little bit of an initial cost, but it will be well worth it in the long run. Spices are not only delicious, they are full of health boosting properties. They offer a ton of flavour without having to rely on salt, sugar or fat.  So get out to the grocery store and spend the 50 bucks to get your spice rack going. I promise you will thank yourself for it.


5. Mix up your proteins

The best way to tire out your tastebuds and turn you off cooking is to eat boiled chicken breast 6 nights of the week. Plan to have a different protein for every meal you cook and it will keep you motivated to try new things. The natural flavours in each protein source can be enhanced and played with by adding a basic combination of fresh herbs or spices.

6. Use the internet

You know that thing… you know the one that has all of the information in the world on it? I get asked often for recipes and I am more then happy to pass on some of my favourites to my clients and friends, but guess where I got them! A quick google for your favourite dish will show dozens of different recipes. Most of which are very simple and easy to follow, throw in a bookmark and start building your database. It really is that easy people.

Eventually you start to learn what ingredients go well together and when you get really brave you might try coming up with your own version of your favourite recipe!

Well that’s it for todays advice blog, I really do believe that everybody should know how to prepare and cook a meal for themselves and for their family. It’s the best way to control your nutrition and stay on top of your health. Remember to start simple and plan your meals in advance. Good luck and happy cooking!

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Five Things in The Gym That Dont Need to Exist

Hey guys sorry about the lack of content last week, we were sorting out some logistics for the business and most importantly designing our t-shirts ;). Super excited about these as we have an amazingly talented designer working on the art, we should have the designs up on the website in the next few days so stay tuned.

Well it’s that time of the month again, time to drop the serious face and have a little fun. Today we are discussing gym equipment that really sets me off, so strap in because it’s going to be an angry ride!

Number 1 The Swiss Ball or Gym Ball.

These bouncy blobs of colour have been responsible for more emergency calls than probably all of the heavy lifting injuries put into one. One of my favourite strength and conditioning professors  once said to me that “Swiss balls were good for one thing, giving the gym colour”. Ok that may be a bit harsh, but something about a bouncy bright ball just brings out all the worst ideas in people. Don’t believe me? Check out this guy below!


Number 2 The Bosu Ball

At some point someone decided that a normal swiss ball wasn’t lame enough, so they cut it in half and slapped it on a backboard. The best thing I can do with the Bosu Ball is use them for really uncomfortable seats while I give a presentation. Once again I’m being harsh, I have actually seen some really hard exercises being created with these little buddies, but you will look very silly doing them. It’s just a goofy piece of equipment that has very limited uses. Oh and by the way they are impossible to store neatly, if you have ever worked in a gym with them you will immediately understand.


Number 3 The Elliptical

Designed to simulate cross country skiing and failing miserably, the elliptical is the most used piece of cardio equipment in the gym. No coincidence that it is also the easiest piece of cardio equipment in the gym. I cannot tell you how many people I see slipping and sliding their way to minimal calorie burnage. Ok, if you crank the resistance up and go to town you can get your heart rate pretty high, but lets be honest 99% of us keep it on level two…..and go backwards. Unless you have difficulties with impact you should not come within one kilometre of the ellipticals….just stay away, alright?


Number 4 GHD’s (Glute Ham Developer)

Ahh the name was so dumb that they had to make it into an acronym. The GHD wouldn’t bother me so much if it wasn’t part of a great Crossfit hypocrisy.  It has about as much functionality as a lying hamstring curl, but for some reason the Crossfit gods (which are the epitome of functionality) decided to embrace this piece of equipment making it way more popular then it ever had a right to be. Listen, I know Swedish Hamstring Curls have been attributed to less posterior injuries, but if you want to do them that badly just hook your feet onto a bar or get someone to hold you down. You don’t need a 300kg apparatus to do it.


Number 5 The Recumbent Bicycle

Ok so having a bit of a pop at cardio equipment in this post but the recumbent bike drives me mad. Really… you’re too lazy to sit up straight and pedal so you have to lie down? Again if you have a severe back problem and leaning forward sends spikes up your spine then fine, you can use it. However for most of us its just another excuse to make that work-out a little more comfortable. You might as well just bring along a chocolate bar and soda while you hit a 5km downhill. Cycling is supposed to be a hard, grinding workout not a relaxing cruise in a hammock.


Well that’s it for this months edition of five fun things. Once again I would like to mention that this post is in every way a joke. I have personally used all of these pieces of equipment and there is a time and a place for all of them.

Next week I will finish my discussion on the core and my recommendations for getting the most out of your training. Until then, take care.

Chris R


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Core Stability vs Core Mobility – The Building Blocks

A few weeks ago I posted an article written by Grey Cook and Mike Boyle called ‘The Joint by Joint Approach”. It’s a great little read about the purpose of our joints and the relationship stability and mobility have to chronic pain. If you have not read the article you  should check it out!

This week I am going to elaborate on what the article discussed, specifically focusing on the lumbar region of the spine and the core muscles surrounding it.


First of all we have to dispel a myth that marketing companies wish to keep over you for as long as they can. No amount of crunches, plank, or machine abdominal exercise will give you a six-pack or make your waist look thinner. The only thing that will get those abs popping is reduction in body fat. Doing an exercise in one area (otherwise known as spot training) will do nothing for you body fat percentage. It will make your muscles really really conditioned, but hidden away under a layer of fat. If you want to see your abs, drop body fat, the best way to do that is through consistent exercise and dietary modification. This is not a post to show you how to get six pack abs, this is a post to explain the correct way to achieve maximum effectiveness out of your core musculature.

Muscular Gymnast

The core is an area of training that has mesmerized the fitness industry for decades. Not only is it the area most clients want to improve on, it is widely remarked that with out a “good” or “strong” core, our performance in activity will be affected. Fitness experts often have varying opinions on the best way to approach core training. In the next two blog posts I will attempt to explain my approach and give my prescriptions.

For me the true core is any part of the body that assists with limb movement and stabilization of the spine. That sounds like a lot and it is, but if we are going to accredit the transverse abdominals as a ‘core’ muscle because it stabilizes the lumbar spine and assist with kinetic movements then how can we leave the trapezious out of the core when it does the exact same thing just higher up the spine?

Ever since the bodybuilding boom of the 80’s abdominal exercises jumped on trend in full force. Who hasn’t been tempted by magazine covers screaming “whittle your waistline in five easy steps” or “six back abs by Sunday”. It is the most marketed area of the body and has had more exercises developed for it than I care to count. It all started with sit-ups, then came, crunches, bicycle crunches, legs raises, high towers, and about one thousand other varieties that were modifications of the same exercise. After that came the plank, along with side plank, back plank, one legged plank, one armed plank, side star plank, plank push ups, plank knees and a whole host of variations on isometric abdominal training. Now I am not saying either of those exercises are bad, just that sometimes we need to trim the fat and go back to basics. So many variations on the same theme can lead to confusion, poor technique and either lack of results or even worse, injury.

Crunch bad

What I want to focus on today is the best way to condition the core while avoiding injury using the “Joint by Joint Method”. First thing’s first, to reiterate, the core is designed to do two things: 1. assist with functional movement and 2. stabilize the spine against external forces. The five vertebrae of the lumbar spine are big and bulky. They are designed to be stable and  support a great deal of our body weight. The lumbar spine allows for flexion and extension, some lateral flexion and minimal rotation. Training this part of the spine and its associated musculature should focus on targeting the muscles that act as stabilizers, which will help to protect the spine in our everyday, sedentary lives; as well as during heavy lifts like carrying children, schlepping groceries up the stairs or moving furniture. Alternatively the thoracic spine has 12 vertebrae which articulate with the rib cage. While the thoracic spine allows for rotation it is limited by the rib cage and the exact degree varies considerably between the upper, mid and lower thoracic column. It is most freely mobile in flexion/extension as well as lateral flexion. Training the thoracic regional musculature should focus on both stability and spinal protection as well as mobility and functional range of movement.


One of the issues I have with the commonly prescribed core training exercises out there is that the choice of exercise is often not specific to the client, for example toes to bar is probably not suitable for someone with abdominal obesity. Not only will they not physically be able to get their knees beyond their protuberant abdomen, it’s not functional for them. Someone carrying a significant anterior mass, such as in obesity, pregnancy or for occupational purposes requires posterior isometric stability before they go flinging their legs around a pull-up bar. The other thing that irks me is that the choice of exercise may be appropriate, but the technique and cueing is off the mark. Russian twists being a common offender. Done correctly, i.e., with the weight at chest level and controlled rotation focused on the upper thoracic column, it is a great exercise. Done poorly and you may end up with a back injury or just looking like you have ants in your pants as your legs flail back and forth while you chuck a medicine ball from side to side.

The solution is quite simple, we need to figure out a way to train the core that keeps the lumbar region relatively stable while mobilizing the hips and the t-spine. To keep things as simple as possible I have broken the exercises down into three categories:

Flexion/Extension – Exercises designed to flex and extend the spine as well as the hips.

Rotation – Exercises designed to rotate the spine in a safe and functional way. These exercises often mimic sporting movements

Stabilization – Exercises designed to stabilize and protect the spine from external forces.

In order to have a strong functional core, you need to have a combination of the above. The three categories work together and one is not anymore vital then the other. They all work together to achieve functional movement. When we lose one the others over compensate, leading tightness, muscular imbalance and the potential for chronic back pain and loss of performance.


So in conclusion like all aspects of healthy living, moderation and balance are key to long term sustainability and injury free training. I hope this has provided you with the building blocks for developing a safe and specific core training approach for yourself or your clients. Next up I will be providing example of specific exercises that I feel provide the greatest benefit and lowest risk in your core training.




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Five Life Lessons I Give to Clients

Hey everyone, just a short one this week. I have been asked many times by clients and other trainers to describe my training philosophy. The truth is I do not have a specific philosophy that I apply to everyone. Each person who comes to me gets an individualized approach. However there are some key elements in my training approach that span across all of my clients. The five lessons listed are incorporated in every one of my conditioning programs. Have a look…

1. Technique of functional movements – There are a few movements in life that we will repeat time and time again. These are the first movements I teach and we never stop doing them even at the top level.


Dead-lift – How to pick something up and put it back on the ground safetly

Front / Back Squat – How to move a load that is chest height from low to high

Lunge with load – As I have mentioned in earlier posts, unilateral movement is crucial to maintaining functional movement. Most movements we do naturally are unilateral by nature

Push/Pulling Exercises – For upper body function it is most important that we are able to push and pull our bodies in different planes of movement

Core bracing – How to protect the spine with our core musculature

There are many other great movements that I have not listed, these are just five that I find really important and try to hammer down with my clients before moving to any more complex forms of training.

2. The ability to move your bodyweight – So many people make the mistake of spending 100’s of reps on bench press, shoulder raises and leg extensions when they should be focusing on moving their body appropriately first. Obviously exceptions to the rule apply, but unless you can do ten pushups off of your toes there is very little benefit in doing three sets of 5kg on your chest press. Learn to push your body first, then when that’s not heavy enough we can add weight to your movements.

Muscular Gymnast

3. Learn to eliminate your ego – I usually have to stress this to my male athletes the most. Many times the one thing that is holding us back is our own perception of our ability. We want to feel accomplished so we cut corners and skip reps in exchange for heavier weights and bragging rights. For example, strict pull-ups are just that, there is no excuse for keeping the elbows bent just to bang out ten instead of eight. Take what you think you should achieve out of the equation and just focus on what you can do in the now. Trust me, nobody is paying attention or cares.

Bolt may have a huge ego on race day, but he is where he is because of the hard work he has put into his training.

Bolt may have a huge ego on race day, but he is where he is because of the hard work he has put into his training.

4. Eat clean and stay away from labelling your nutrition – This one frustrates me, I have a hard time with people following a set form of nutritional guidelines created by complete strangers working for a profit. One of the constant topics I am asked about is the “Secret of Nutrition” so here you go (warning, big let down incoming). Individualization is the secret. One thing will not work for everybody. Yes there are definitely some great guidelines to follow, but as far as what to eat and when, you have to work it out for your own lifestyle. Adopting rules that exclude food because of some flimsy science that someone has stretched for money does not make sense. With me you will definitely learn things to avoid, but mostly you will be educated on how to make decisions on what to eat and when yourself, without a no-no list.


5. You’re not made of glass – Most of us are too comfortable in our lives, it’s just a simple truth. Technology has allowed us to stay within a very small bubble of comfort for most of our days. I’ll tell you right now, with me you will work harder then most other trainers, but you will also work smart. It’s important to realize that you can push yourself right to the edge if done correctly and in the right time frame. If we learn to leave our comfort zone in physical training, it will translate to other aspects of life. This is the only way we change for the better, no animal ever adapted to become faster, stronger or smarter because their surroundings were nice and comfy. If you want to change you’ve got to push the envelope a little.


That’s it for today guys, let me know if you have anything to add or  if you disagree with any of the points that I have made, I am always interested in your opinions.


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Diets – My Personal Experience and Opinion Of Some Of The Trending Diets Out There

Here is a great post from Healthy Happy Me(d), she is the part owner of North Coast and handles all of our nutrition counselling. Please have a read!!

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Five Signs You’re Drinking the Crossfit ‘Koolaid’

Its that time again folks, time for me to give you five things that get my blood boiling. The target for this month is my beloved Crossfit. Now before you think this is a rip on Crossfit or the community it represents, if you follow my blog and my Facebook page you will know that I work and teach at a Crossfit gym. In fact I have been doing “WODs” for close to ten years. I like a lot of things about Crossfit work outs and the community that comes along with it. Most people are super inclusive, friendly, and down to earth, but all communities have their bad apples, people who just can’t enjoy the hard workouts without adopting the annoying habits. So with out further suspense I give you my top 5 signs that you may have had too much of the Koolaid!

I do NOT think this is a good idea. Eye catching though ;)

I do NOT think this is a good idea. Eye catching though 😉

1. You use ‘wod’ as a verb – for those of you who are not so Crossfit inclined, W.O.D. is an acronym that stands for Workout Of the Day. A fairly harmless sounding one in itself, but put in the wrong hands it can be twisted into horrible and slightly disgusting sounding phrases such as; “How was your wod last night?”, “What changes did you  make to your wod?”, or my personal favourite “Oh man I woded so hard last night!”. First of all it sounds like you’re speaking about something inappropriate in public. Secondly, is saying wod really that much easier then just saying ‘work out’? It’s a vain attempt to separate yourself from the ‘globo gym’ goers who you think just aren’t cool enough.


2. Posting Facebook videos of your workouts –  Don’t get me wrong I love hearing about gains and I do love to watch the occasional 1RM bench for giggles. However if you are posting a video every time you add 5 kg to your back squat, stop it. It’s boring, we are all happy for you but nobody wants to watch you perform what is, lets be honest a boring movement. If your going to post something, at least have the decency to make it entertaining. Sing a song or something first.

3. Chalk, kneepads, and those stupid sock things – I love my Crossfit gym (yea i don’t call it a box), one of the main reasons I love it is the lack of goofy clothing I see. Its nothing but t-shirts, shorts, and the occasional headband. I know there are times when you need chalk. Knee wraps might be required if you’re at a competitive olympic lifting level; but I see way to many “woders” (see I got another use for it) chalking up heavily and wrapping their knees when they should just be getting on with it! Oh and for those damn socks, I still have not heard a viable argument for wearing them apart from wanting to look cool….. which they don’t, you look ridiculous.

crossfit neck ring push-ups wtf

4. Preachers – This one really grinds my gears. Fitness can be achieved in a hundred different ways. There is no optimum way to see results and thats the hard truth. Sure there are rules that apply and Crossfit definitely ticks a lot of my personal boxes, but I cannot stand elitists who go around speaking about the greatness of doing some squats and pull ups like it was the long lost testament. Crossfit is great if it works for you, that doesn’t mean you need to spread the word. Its not a religion (although some keeners would probably argue that it is), its’ survival is not hinging on you converting other unsuspecting bystanders. So chill out, be happy that you are in a workout environment that you enjoy and stop ruining everybody else’s dinner conversation.


5. Keep your shirt on – I’ve been guilty of this I have to admit, but I am at least man enough to admit that while yes I may have been a bit hot during that work out, the deep down reason that the shirt was ripped off was that I wanted to show you just how good I looked from all of my gains. I know it’s self incrimination, but because I have been guilty of this I know exactly what all of you people with “thermoregulation problems” are doing. Unless you live in Indonesia, Thailand or some other tropical country within 100km of the border, you will survive with a .5mm thick slice of cotton on your back. So keep it on friends, save your shirt off moments for the bathroom mirror.

Well that’s it guys :), remember I write these fun pieces to have a laugh at the industry that I love so much. I am an active member in the Crossfit community and an instructor at Crossfit Redbox. This is in no way an attack on anybody, sometimes it’s just fun to rattle the cage. Let me know what you guys think in the comments bellow and feel free to follow our blog. I will be aiming to write a comedy piece once a month, I enjoy taking time off from the serious training stuff from time to time so there will be more like this I promise. Till next time, take care. Chris R (Owner and writer at NCSC)

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Unilateral Conditioning, The Forgotten Pillar for Performance.

Ask any trainer who worth his salt which are the three most important strength exercises for health and functionality. I bet you 10 dollars the squat, dead-lift and bench press are going to be the answer nine times out of ten. Rightfully so, these three exercises are super functional, super taxing, and hit the largest respective area of musculature. I use these three exercises with every single one of my clients, but I also use something else. Something that I think as trainers we tend to put in the back of our minds and only bring it out when we feel like being a bit frisky. The lunge!

Now nobody in their right mind says the lunge is a bad exercise but I feel that the lunge and unilateral exercises as a whole get put often in the “auxiliary” section of our programming and we tend not to give these exercises the respect and time they deserve.

I believe that unilateral strength exercises are a pivotal cornerstone in a performance regime and here is why;

1 – The lunge targets the posterior chain, something that the average gym goer and as athletes tend to let fall by the wayside. The posterior chain is the combination of the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. It is massively responsible for generating power in sprinting and jumping and can be very troublesome for athletes when weakened.

2 – In sports the majority of our power movements are unilateral. You don’t two foot jump after a soccer ball or try to squat your way through a rugby scrum. We use unilateral strength and power every day of our lives and in our sports. From a purely living function perspective, we don’t often throw two feet under us to stand up out of bed or get up off of the ground. Most of the time its one leg at a time and often its in a lunging form.

3 – Unilateral strength training adds the benefit of working large musculature whilst at the same time forcing the core to activate and switch on our stabilizers. By putting the work load through one leg, the smaller muscles of the hip and knee have to work overtime to keep everything inline. This stabilization is crucial not only to athletes but to us in our every day lives.

4 – Lastly unilateral movements pushes our proprioceptive ability working on balance and posture. This is something that is key to all athletes but also something that will help us age better as well as keep us more confident and capable as we age. When we are confident in our balance we put ourself at less risk for accidents in the future. Having a strong proprioceptive awareness is one of the key attributes to being truly functional.

Well there you have it, those are my main arguments for implementing lunging and other one legged exercises into your work out or programming regime. Of course you should not replace the deadlift, squat, and bench in you work outs but use these types of exercises to supplement your program. I personally will usually include some form of unilateral lifting session in every one of my training weeks.

I mentioned the lunge as one of the main unilateral strength exercises but there are plenty to choose from to keep your work outs fresh. Here are some of my favourites;

Single leg kettle bell dead-lift – This great little exercise is relatively simple to learn compared to its barbell brother. Great for the posterior chain and will leave you with sore hamstrings and glutes sore for days.


Prowler sled push – I may be a bit bias on this one (my research is on sleds) but I really enjoy both the difficulty and the functionality of this exercise. Did I mention its really bloody hard and will make your knees wobble like a jelly cake?


Barbell high box step up – This is a phenomenal exercise that really allows the leg to do almost a full depth squat movement without having to go into pistol. You can also life a heavy load with relative safety.


Kettle-bell / DB Reverse Lunge – This is just a simple variation of the lunge. It is my personal favourite because of the less anterior forces placed on the front of the knee. The main difference is you step back into the lunge rather then stepping forward. It will feel a little wonky at first but once you get used to it you won’t want to do your lunges any other way.


Thats all for today, thank you again for having a read and please let me know your favourite strength exercises in the comments.

Chris – NCSC

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Pre-screening your clients – The importance of starting off on the right foot


In my last post I linked an article by Michael Boyle and Grey Cook. The article focused on the predetermaned function of our joints and how they tend to alternate between stability and mobility purposes. Im going to use that article to spring board my next topic, if you have not read the article it can be found here in my last post. I strongly recommend reading it before moving on.


Today I am going to discuss the need for pre-screening athletes prior to writing and implementing a new training program. This advise is more for the trainer who has time to spend with their clients, not your weekend bootcamp instructor.

The first question that may come to mind is why… why pre-screen a client at all? The truth is that most personal trainers and even many strength and conditioning coaches skip this step. This is usually either out of laziness or they believe that an introductory questionnaire is sufficient for determining a clients starting point. This is not ideal and lets discuss why;

1. Clients will tend to be off on their own perceived limitations and abilities. This can go both ways, I have seen clients that do not have a good understanding of movement and can barely do a bench squat tell me that they are in good shape and I have had clients who are quite healthy and strong tell me that they have severe limitations (this is usually due to some past injury). It is important as a trainer to see first hand where your clients abilities lie and exactly what is your starting point.

2. Clients may not have any idea that they have an imbalance or injury, even us fitness minded people still have weaknesses and if you have been active most of your life, Im willing to bet you at least have a minor imbalance. This is normal and no cause for concern however it is still important that your client and you are aware of any limitations and potential injury risks prior to proceeding with training.


Now that you’ve heard my argument for the need of pre-screening, we will discuss what we are looking for when a client is getting started. When screening anybody you are generally looking for three main things.

1 – The mobility of the joint(s)

2 – The stability of the joint(s)

3 – The proprioceptive awareness and balance of the client

Grey Cook developed the Functional Movement Screening System back in 1995. It is a great simple certification that you can do online and includes 7 different screening exercises that cover all of what was mentioned earlier. FMS uses a grading scale of 1-3 on each of the exercises.

1 – The participant feels pain or is completely unable to perform the exercise

2 – The participant is able to complete the exercise but with modification or there is an imbalance

3 – The participant is able to complete the exercise fully with minimal loss in technique.

This simple scoring system gives the clients something hard that they can refer to on paper and allows both parties to see the strengths and potential weaknesses before the client does a single squat. I won’t go any further into what FMS has to offer, just know that it is a great system that uses simple tests and simple equipment that can be done anywhere.

As stated, the FMS is well designed but you do not necessarily need a certification to pre screen your athletes. You can use any of your own techniques as long as you have a the background knowledge and know what technical flaws need to be spotted. If you are going to create your own assessment process I would at least incorporate an overhead squat, a lunge, and a plank.

The overhead squat will quickly point out any hip and shoulder mobility issues as well as assess core strength and balance. The lunge will see if there are any unilateral issues that may occur from the knee and the ankle as well as again test proprioception. Finally the plank will test over all core stability and show if the client has the awareness to feel and brace individual part of their bodies.

Personally I would use these three exercises as a skeleton for my assessment. I would if time allows throw in thoracic rotation as well and some sort of hip flexion test. You may have your own assessment tools which is completely fine, just remember what your looking for and be sure to record any pain or imbalances that occur during the assesment. It is important to note that training should not begin if the participant has any pain during any of the exercises. Refer them to physiotherapy and work together to build a training program that will allow for the rehabilitation of the injury. At no time should the client be allowed to modify their technique to avoid pain. This is known as “training disfunction” and will only magnify the problem down the road.


Well thats all for pre screening athletes and clients, I can not urge strongly enough the need for this in training programs. By using pre-screens I have been able to pick up potential long term injuries far before they ever became a problem. So please take the extra hour in your program design and fit it in.

All the best

Chris R

Note: I have not spoken about teaching basic squat and plank techniques because this pre-screening is focused on finding mobility issues and muscular imbalances in the body. I would of course make sure the client can perform a body weight squat to standard before I get them overhead squat. I would also make sure they have the ability to brace the core prior to performing a mobility pre-screen.

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