Thursday, 26 May 2011

De-Constructing Group exercise: Part 1 - BodyPump

Hello everyone, especially the bus-drivers of Singapore!

"Im not telling you where this bus stops.... ever!"

I would like to take a few moments at the start of this blog to pay tribute to the skill, manner and professionalism of this elite group of people. For those of you who know me and my humour, you may have guessed that i am actually TAKING THE PISS.

So I am on the bus (don't ask - i just was), the journey is horrible... I won't mention ethnic groups to avoid seeming racist but there were groups of ******* and ******* people in this bus, rubbing next to me... touching me. One ****** gentleman even had the audacity to casually throw his arm up to use the overhead handle, thrusting his arm-pit near my newly-shaven face. The smell was, well.... pretty FUNKY. To be honest it was f*cking gross.

Anyway, 45 minutes later (all on my feet BTW) i'm ready to kill someone. I ask the bus driver where the stop was for my destination. He looked at my as if i had just shown him a severed hand.

Top O' the morning to Ya!

Driver: "No, No stop"

NW: "Where is the stop for Turf City?"

Driver: "No, No stop"

NW: "Ok, where is the stop nearest to Turf City, so i may walk the remainder of the journey?" (I turn into a polite englishman abroad when i'm very annoyed and my language is excellent!)

(Take into consideration, i have told myself if he says 'No, no stop' again, i'm ready to take him out... and probably the rest of the bus)

Driver: "No, No..........."

NW: "Arrrrrrrggghhhhh!!!!! f*ckin' hell. Do your job!"

The bus stop i wanted was literally 3 short stops down the road with a massive TURF CITY THIS WAY!!! sign at the bus stop. I was so annoyed and confused.

This got me thinking about people and their jobs. 

Do you really like your job?

Do you actually go into work and give your absolute best to that job every day? This bus driver knew his route, he does it every single day of his life, yet he didn't want to help me... i feel sad that he goes through his day/life with a shitty attitude to bus passengers' questions. It is an easy job - drive the bus and answer people's travel queries, but he couldn't even do that.

I hope he dies alone... wet and very cold (preferably in pain). I would gladly show him the correct stop for the nearest hospital/morgue - should we be on the same bus at the very same time that he is dying.

"Don't just be in your job/field/industry.... Be into it"

I have borrowed that from Martin Rooney's last blog... awesome fitness coach, you should check his stuff out. Love what you do and its amazing how days at "work" fly by.

Todays blog is slightly controversial and it will look at the 'dangers' and some of the short-comings of group exercise. When writing this i spoke to a few of the GroupX guys in my current gym. Let me say this before i go any further... They are (all the group exercise colleagues i have had the pleasure to work with) amazing people with a passion and skill to train large groups of people at the same time. They also entertain (something which i have been told that i dont do!) and excite their crowds into getting in shape. Im a fan of group X instructors... I certainly couldn't do what they do.

Whats not to love about 2 shiny people training in the rain? Double awesome.


I have tried this class a couple of times (literally twice) and thought it was good, challenging and useful. I understand how someone would include it into their weekly/monthy training schedule... i dont really understand the freaks that do 3-4 BodyPump classes a week (i think thats a recipe for disaster) and dismiss all other forms of exercise as inferior to BP.

The good - BP will give 'almost' a full body workout and it hits different tempo's which is good for basic strength and certainly improved muscular endurance. The fact that people will really end up 'loving' this class is a good thing (loving exercise will mean people will return and stay fit) although many become 'addicted' and miss out on other great forms of training. I will admit, as a concept i like BP a lot... but my argument would be that most people who take it should firstly be individually screened in exercise technique so that participation becomes safe for both client and Instructor. Unfortunately this doesn't happen.

The bad - When i say 'almost a full body session' I mean there is often no 'direct' hamstring tracks, which could lead to strength imbalances in the lower body with multiple BP classes per week/month. Yes there are deadlifts, but they way they are taught in the class emphasises the lower/upper back... which leads me to my final point. Technique. Also, most of the exercises are performed in one movement plane (Frontal); where the body should be trained through all 3 (Frontal, Sagittal and Tranverse) for a fully complete training program.

If i'm wrong on anything so far, Please call me on it? I want to know what you think.

The ugly - The main reason i would be a nervous wreck taking a class is because (as a PT) i'm meticulous about proper exercise technique (everyone should be!).

I can't believe this was a promotional picture to entice people into BodyPump!

Lady 1 (far left) seems ok, not sure why her feet are so close? (But no major worries)
Lady 2 (centre) will have a bad neck in about 4 weeks time from cranking her head up to watch herself
Lady 3 (right) looks like she has a bent back... but who cares! Its a great tune and there are 2000 more reps to go!! wooooppp wooooppp!!! The reason why she goes to the back of the class is probably because she is not very good exercise and wants to hide from everyone else in that particular class.

I genuinely believe that 'some' people go into classes to hide, especially the guys/gals in the back rows. They are not confident on the gym floor (for numerous reasons) and slip into a class where all the attention is seeked/demanded by the front row groupies - wearing the latest Les Mills Body Pump kit and matching headband/wristband set.

                      Front row 'BP groupie' with Les Mills sleeveless zip top and matching lady gloves... sweet!

Meanwhile, back in the local commercial gym.....

WOW! check out the tekkers on grandma! (front row left)... that looks high quality.

I honestly could have fun with this all day, but that would be un-productive. The catch about taking a class of 25 people is that you have to keep the show going. As an instructor, it is nearly impossible to keep a class full of people energised if he/she was continually correcting the weakest links of the group. How could you possibly know if someone in the back row was performing an exercise correctly with this view?

Answer: You can't even SEE the back row!

One more problem I have with BP (and warrants a blog of its own) is the depth of squats that are taught. Every time i look into a class i see shallow squat patterns (often with too much weight for the prescribed 3 minute tracks) which WILL lead to overworked Vastus Lateralis (side of quads for the lay person). In my experience, general PT clients i assess will struggle with the deep squat pattern because they are too tight, so i can assume the Group X/class crowd are no better. Every 'Pumper' i have had foam roll on their VL has nearly burst a spleen in pain. Its not a coincidence, Its a trend.

Foam rolling is not nice if you have tight VL (from shallow squat technique)

BodyPump Solutions

My goal of this blog was:

a) Make people laugh
b) Share some fitness knowledge
c) NOT to rubbish BodyPump as the devil!

therefore, my solutions for those who go to multiple BP classes per week would be:

1) Back off from 1 class per week and work on soft tissue/flexibility instead, Or take a Yoga class? It will result in a less painful and injury free future as well as promote better technique all around.

Read this for more info

2) Foam roll and stretch before and after classes. Stretch what feels tight.

3) If unsure about anything, ask the instructor to keep an eye on you when you take the class, they will be happy to oblige (although you may face a fight with a 'BP groupie' for his/her front row space!)

This blog is getting lengthy so i will leave it and create Part 2: Spinning/RPM. Also my conclusion about group exercise/classes and what classes i think you should be doing.
I can't resist one more.....

"Look at me love... I can rep out barbell rows and take the piss the same time... woop woop, feel the burn!!

Please leave comments at the bottom, i love hate mail! Share with Facebook friends if you like this :)

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Welcome to Singapore

Hi all,

Some time in late 2010 i made a massive personal decision to look for new pastures, a new challenge and a chance to carry on my travel and world fitness education. After having 2 offers from Hong Kong and Singapore (SNG), i decided to go with the latter... and it already seems like the right choice. When i was thinking about the content of this blog, i decided against comparing SNG and my former home, Bahrain. I loved my time there i never get into the habit of critising places i have lived or still have friends. Just like my home town, Llanelli. I honestly don't think i could ever live there again (for many reasons) but that doesn't mean i don't like the place. 

Home, Sweet Home

Anyway, i digress.... These are the things i have noticed in my first month in SNG.

The first thing i noticed (quite literally) coming off the plane was the humid Climate. If you are a sweaty person, you would fit right in here... sweatin' hell! I have spent the first 2 weeks perspiring (posh name for sweating) and generally being warm. Im getting used to it i think, but locals tell me you cant get used to it - it just is. You sweat in SNG, you will have 3-4 showers per day, get over it. 

As a walk to work everyday i pass locals engaging in exercises. People have an Active lifestyle here. Of course there are sedentary people everywhere and this place is no different, but i haven't noticed an abundance of seriously obese people yet, maybe because everyone walks around? Maybe because i work in a gym and i am generally around trimmer people? i pass the same guy every morning doing his 'old man exercises' which are tragic at best - but you know what, he is staying active, i respect the fact that he is off his ass and moving. When i walk home i pass an elderly Tai chi evening class every night, outdoor activities seem to be popular in my neighbourhood (insert red light district jokes here).

Locals love evening Tai Chi

The Food is excellent and really expensive in places. Its interesting to see what is cheap here - Salmon, spinach, Pak choy, organic vegetables are all foods you would pay a lot for in the UK, here they are great value. So no real excuses to overeat on bad foods. Supplements are an outrage! GNC have total dominance in the market and their prices are crazy. When the woman told me GNC standard gold whey was $S200 (100 quid) i nearly choked... "but its buy one, get one free this month" Yeah, i should f*cking hope so. Again, this gives me a chance to get back to proper nutrition and focus on whole foods. I am about to talk with Maximuscle about distributing their products which is great news - i've always liked their stuff and my clients will benefit from them too.

Alcohol is expensive, which is a great thing if you're trying to get back in shape. I don't actually mind this. There are happy hours and cheaper alternatives but i would have to drink on weekdays and in street food joints to take advantage.

Local drinking joints are street side and inexpensive

There is such a wide mix of People here that its hard to say generally what 'people' are like. Its a real blend of cultures and pretty cool to be a part of. Of course, i went to Boat Quay recently and was pleased to see the english 'culture' of getting rat-assed and being sick in public was still very much on display. Brilliant... we are a bunch of dicks with limited class really, aren't we?
I guess i am comparing Orchard Road against anything i saw in Bahrain by saying its nothing like it. The atmosphere, the crowds, the air... everything says more living. My old home does seem pretty dead when i think about it now, not that its a bad thing... its just a really different environment. I particularly enjoy the chirpy music that plays outside my gym each morning - it nearly puts me in a good mood, nearly.

Orchard Road at night

The Public transport system is amazing. Really easy, really cheap and always on time. If i go into this anymore i will be labelled as a bus/train pervert so thats all on that.

The gym is pretty cool, all the people who train here 'seem' to have the right idea about 'functional training' although it has made me re-think about the whole subject (maybe a should write a blog about it) I just see too much of... how can i put it?.... hmmmm.... "f*cking around" in gyms, yes perfect. I mean do you really need to balance on a bosu ball with one leg and do a shoulder press? What happened to a DB shoulder press? I hear fat people talking about the nuances of shoulder training when they should really lose some inches around the waist.

Some member, bless her... (sarcasm) tried to sell Spinning to my PT client while i was training him. Yeah cheers for that, my new 'office-worker' client who has bi-lateral hip tightness and resultant lower back issues really need to spend another hour of his day "smashing" an already tight left hip!!! Thats the thing about cereal-box philosphy, its dangerous in a gym. A little knowledge is dangerous, this lady obviously had it. But i digress....

Im talking about gym users here (and trainers). Basic movements are 'functional'. Squats, lunges, pulls, pushes, etc. It seems that the basics are being over-looked for the latest balancing act, it's bullshit. I honestly cant remember seriously using a bosu ball in the last 6 years - maybe they are good for something? Answers on a postcard below please!

Can you guess what is going to happen next?

I really like the bulgarian bag (like a sandbag) for fat loss circuits and the viper seems like a decent kit for  a change of angles. I will add these to my fat loss circuits in time, but for now the correction/strength programming (which works) is still my go-to method for client success... Cheers to the guys at Cressey Performance for that!

Bodybuilding training is very much prevalent here in Singapore, which is surprising. Its been a while since i've trained in a genuine 'civvy' gym so maybe time has stood still and people still train like i used to when i was 18? I'm still to find out. Im seeing a lot of T-shirt muscles and big waists in my first month here and maybe its a reflection of the training/partying culture of ex-pats here? Read the latest T nation ( article by TC called "the testosterone principles - most bodybuilders look like crap" its a good read about the above topic.

Ok, thats me done. My next blog is going to offend some folk but its honestly how i feel about the subject: De-constructing group exercise classes

It should be controversial at the very least.

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