Thursday, March 26, 2009

Oh Apple, you've done it again...

For those of you who maybe read our blog but haven't visited us in person, we are an office of self-confessed Mac geeks. We all have an affinity with our Iphones, Macbooks, and various other Apple paraphernalia. In tandem we are also an establishment dedicated to learning and improving our knowledge across a wide range of subjects.

I have always maintained that personal training is an undersold occupation, often looked down on by 'strength/conditioning experts' or those with more grandiose titles. However, a really skilled trainer needs to have an armoury of skills and knowledge along with the ability to deliver that over no more than a couple of hours a week - we don't get a lot of time, and we don't have highly motivated athletes to hone our skills on. Being a good trainer takes elements from life coaching, anatomy and physiology, psychology, pharmacology, physiotherapy, strength training, nutrition (my personal favourite), sports science, and a wide basic understanding of many medical conditions and systems in relation to exercise and fitness. Somewhere in there you have to be able to write a decent training programme too! Although, for most of the 'average' clients, its less about a technical training programme than it is encouraging behaviour change and lifestyle modification, and there in lies a big difference. For our average client the need for a complex training programme is fairly low (of course there are exceptions), whereas the need for addressing lifestyle habits (which were originally the cause of weight gain and poor health) is high.

However, I am drifting hopelessly and somewhat pointlessly off-topic. Today's post is to tell you about an amazing resource new to Itunes, the Apple Mac music and entertainment software platform.

Itunes have introduced the Itunes U - a copious resource of audio and video from many of the worlds leading educational establishments, spanning an incredible range of topics from science to health to literature and social science. Even as I write this blog post my itunes is currently downloading biochemistry lectures, and video lectures from Stanford University on ethical food issues and endocrine function. Amazing.

Check out the introduction to it HERE

Alternatively if you want to get straight on with downloading, open Itunes, click on Store and then look for the link to Itunes U in the left hand column. From there you can explore a range of topics and categories.

It's great fun, there is a ton of stuff to peruse, and a wealth of information for even the most dedicated (Yes Ronan, that even includes you!).


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Things you hear that drive us mad!!!

O.k it isn't often we have a bit of a rant on here, but today we are going to....

We recently saw a comment by one of the U.K's "leading" nutritionists on a website, which stated unequivocally that the "only reason you lose weight on a low-carb diet is due to water loss not fat loss".....

O.k, take a deep breath and count to ten, and you've probably got someone writing this who would tell you that low-carb = Atkins, that high (whatever they consider that to be) protein intakes cause kidney failure, that ketosis is terribly bad, that you NEED to eat carbs for energy, and more similar rubbish.

Firstly, we should add that you do often lose water on a lowered carbohydrate (and we are talking sugars and refined carbs here) intake, but I'm not sure why that is such a big deal! Carbohydrates that are refined raise insulin, which in turn leads to the kidneys retaining salt and the body holding on to fluid. This is a major contributor to high blood pressure....(despite all the press that tells you to limit salt, you'd be better off cutting out bread, flour, fruit juice, and other such insulin promoting foods). So, the more accurate statement would be that high-carb diets promote fluid retention!

I am always surprised at how many folks I meet who will soon chastise you when you mention the notion of improving health through controlling carbohydrates, or who think that the Atkins diet is the closest thing to nutritional heresy you can get. Despite this next to none of those I meet look particularly athletic or in particularly good shape, not only that but they have rarely, if ever, read the literature, or even tried it out themselves (if they had they would know how important the role of vegetables is in these approaches). Very few have read the considerable evidence for the role of sugar and refined carbohydrates in heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and many other 'western' diseases. They will often baulk at the thought of eating any saturated fat - despite the fact that many native populations around the world live on exceptionally high intakes of fat and only started displaying heart disease and cancers when their diets were corrupted by refined sugar and flour-based products. In fact their nutritional viewpoint is all too often based on uncontested dogma, that is often outdated and in many cases equivocal as to its reliability and relevance.

It is amazing that even in the presence of such overwhelming evidence for the role of refined sugars and flour products in our diet being directly responsible for many diseases and health conditions - including obesity - that we still make saturated fat the dietary pariah and hence the extensive amount of "low-fat" foods out there.

The yoghurt ad on tv right now is another example, with women shredding 'fad-diet' books in favour of a LOW-FAT yoghurt. Unreal. Perhaps they haven't heard of the Ornish Diet or Piritkin diets??? Both in my mind true 'fad-diets' at worst, but even at best no better than 'Atkins' or 'Protein Power' (by the brilliant Michael Eades....)

Eating low-fat is a fad and for most signals a diet full of processed crap full of chemicals, sugars, and additives all put in to replace the taste and satiety that came with fat.

Thankfully more and more of us are waking up to the reality and understanding that eating highly processed foods, refined sugars, and refined carbohydrate products are the real danger to our health. That doesn't mean we all exist on bacon and eggs either, most 'low-carb' eaters I know are the ones loading up their plates with broccoli, spinach, and other veggies next to their meat!

If you are interested in finding out more I suggest you get hold of a copy of 'Diet Delusion' by Gary Taubes - but prepare to have some of what you believe to be challenged!

Team Aegis

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sandbag Training for Fat Loss and Fitness

Part 2

In part 1 of this article we gave you a guide on how to get started making your own kitbag with minimal cost and effort. In this next part we are going to talk about some of the exercise benefits along with some of our favourite exercises. In the final part, we will look at how to put them all together to make some simple circuits that can target explosive power and in particular energy system work.

One of the great things about kitbags is that they offer tremendous versatility and can be easily used indoors or out, making them ideal for bootcamp type training such as what we do. They can also be thrown about without fear of damaging them or ruining flooring. The slightly awkward nature of them means that they can also be used in a wide variety of lifting positions or techniques, as well as providing a truly 'functional' training challenge. The uneven and slightly off-centre weight distribution challenges the whole body, working to stabilise the load while lifting, walking, lunging, squatting, or throwing.

So, let's take a look at some of the basic exercises you can get started with using the bag.


Obviously this exercise is a staple in olympic lifting, but this is a bit different. The idea is to simply get the bag up to the chest using an explosive lift. Done with the kitbag this is a far less technical movement than the olympic lift done with a barbell, there is no need to teach a scoop or double knee bend or any of that stuff. Simply grab the bag with both hands on the canvas handle and rip it off the floor up to the mid chest height. From there as the bag reaches the top of its momentum, release the handle and 'catch' the bag with both arms underneath it.

Clean - Zercher Squat

Following on from our first movement, we add in the Zercher squat, an exercise that is absolutely perfect for use with the kitbag. In a Zercher squat the weight is carried at the front of the body, much more like it would be in any real life lifting task. From the finish of the catch position in the clean, you simply squat down, sitting back with the hips and driving the knees forward to achieve a good depth. Simple, but very effective. For an added challenge drop the bag after each rep and begin every rep with a clean, performing the movement as a combo.

Farmers Carry

Simple but very effective, grab a bag in each hand and run with it till either your grip or your lungs give out.

Farmers Carry High/Low

We've just tweaked up the conventional farmers carry, clean one bag up and onto the shoulder then bend down and pick up the other one in a low carry position and you are away.

Clean to Overhead Throw

This movement really develops explosive power and the anaerobic energy systems. Each repetition is a real total body effort from the feet up to the shoulders. Make sure you develop a strong lower back to get the most from these exercises as the lower back really is key in harnessing the strength of the lower body and transforming it into an expression of upper body power. This exercise is a real flashback to the days of hard physical jobs on farms and in yards loading or unloading and is one of our favourites.

Walking Lunges

No surprises here, they do exactly what they say on the tin! grab the bag, toss it over the shoulder or alternatively across the shoulders and get lunging....

Check out our video here to see full demonstrations of the above exercises and more....we decided to record this straight after 30 minutes of front squats and it shows, so don't expect perfect form! Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kitbag/Sandbag Training from Team Aegis

Something strange must be happening with the global climate as we have had two consecutive days of sunshine here in London and we are loving it. I can feel the vitamin D coursing through my body and everyone is noticeably happier and more cheerful, roll on the summer! Of course, as ever we are doing our best to be innovative in the methods we use to train our clients and our recent bootcamp circuits are an example of the range of options we have for all fitness levels and budgets.

Our latest pieces of kit are simple, easy to make, and low-cost, so they can be made and used by anyone on a budget looking for new training ideas. They are also multi-functional and ideal for circuits or ballistic exercises as they are so durable and easy to throw around, drop, catch, and generally abuse without little risk of damage to them or the trainee. In this short series of articles we will be showing you some of the drills and exercises that we like to use with the bag, along with some short videos so you can see how to do it.

First things first though, how to get yourself one of these. Here is what you will need.

1. A kitbag - these can be bought online from british army surplus stores for around £7.50 plus postage. An absolute steal. We recommend you get yours from

2. Sand - pop to your local DIY shop for this, a 20kg bag will be ample.

3. Gaffa tape - careful you may start to look like some kind of kidnap planner, but this is an essential.

4. 2 heavy duty rubbish bags

5. 1 large bin bag, big enough to line the kitbag. A wheelie bin liner is ideal. To dump the body, obviously (this will get you an even more alarmed look from the shop assistant)

6. Some filling - we used torn up sheets out of an old punchbag we had, but you can use pretty much anything from old clothes to rubber cut-offs.

The first thing to do is to make up your weights. Simply divide the sand into a couple of heavyweight plastic bags and then wrap those in gaffa tape completely to prevent them from splitting.

Once you have done this, line the kitbag with the wheelie bin liner and start to pack it out with filling. Place in the desired weight packs as you go keeping them well packed in with the filling until the bag is filled to the top.

Close the bin liner over the top and gaffa tape it shut, then gaffa taping the canvas flap in the bag down over it. To finish it up, simply draw the top shut and clip it secure using the bag clip and you are done. 15 minutes work and a total cost of under £20 for one bag.

Once you have your bag you are ready to start training with it. Keep eyes out for the next article where we will start showing you some exercises and circuit suggestions using the bag.

Another off-topic post

Apologies, once again we are about to dive off topic - yet again...

Today the sun was out here in London.....people were smiling, winter seemed finally to be behind us, the mood was good, and we were happy.....

I had been chatting to a client about traveling and seeing the world and it got me a bit nostalgic about my five years or so that I spent around the globe teaching skiing and generally partying and enjoying myself. It also reminded me of one of those fantastic videos that simply would never have been without the internet and of course, YouTube....

So, I thought we would share it with you....I hope you enjoy it and if nothing else it reminds us of how something as simple as dancing can make so many people happy in so many parts of the world

If you have never seen this video or are wondering where this whole phenomenon came from then check out his 2006 travels. Fantastic music and amazing sights...

Don't worry we will be back on post later this week, but for now enjoy the milder weather and hopefully some more of the sunshine!



Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Should I train with a cold??

This is one of those things that we get asked a lot. Adults on average suffer from between 2-4 colds a year. Most of these occur between September and May. Contrary to what you might think, researchers don’t put this down to winter weather. It is more likely that they are spread more readily, with people spending longer indoors together during the colder months.
Colds and Flu are often confused, though they are different types of infection. Symptoms of the common cold are a stuffy nose, sore throat and maybe some slight aches. Flu is generally far more severe with fever, aches and pains and feelings of exhaustion. Chances are if you are feeling like this, you won’t want to exercise. If suffering from flu, avoid exercise until a week after it has cleared up to ensure you are fully recovered. If you are in any doubt over symptoms, speak to your doctor first.
Whether or not we suffer from colds is largely down to our body’s ability to fight infection. Many different factors can affect this. Smoking, stress, poor diet and lack of sleep all reduce our protection, making us more vulnerable to illness.
By taking regular exercise and eating a healthy diet we can improve our immune system. Research has consistently shown that people who stay active suffer from fewer colds.
Colds are highly contagious and easily spread in places like health clubs. If you’re not feeling well then help prevent spreading it to others by staying away from the gym altogether. The American College of Sports Medicine advises avoiding all high intensity exercise, such as running until a few days after the cold has cleared up. Mild exercise like walking shouldn’t cause any problems, and may even help relieve some of the symptoms.
Certain medicines are important to be aware of as well. Many common cold medicines that are available over the counter contain a substance called pseudoephedrine, it is commonly found in decongestants. This drug will affect your heart rate and blood pressure. This is very important if you suffer from a heart condition. If in doubt, consult your doctor for advice.
The general rule for exercise with a cold is that as long as symptoms are above the neck – a runny nose for example – then moderate exercise should not cause a problem. However, if you are suffering from the flu then contact your doctor and stay away from exercise until fully recovered.
Here are some simple guidelines to help if you are suffering from a cold –

• Stay out the gym – nobody will thank you for sharing your infection
• Drink plenty of fluids
• If symptoms are above the neck then some moderate exercise is fine
• Avoid high intensity exercise for a few days after recovery
• If you have had the Flu avoid high intensity training for 2-3 weeks afterwards
• Listen to your body, if you are feeling out of sorts then give it a miss.
• If you are at all unsure, consult your doctor first.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday Funday Part 4 - Maybe not so fun!!!!

This week we decided to push back the boundaries of 'fun' and try out
a new circuit format for team training.

This weeks workout is simply called the 'IGO-UGO 300' and is a workout
for teams of three. It is a great simple format for any of you who
train together and are looking for a fun twist to your routine that
inspires some healthy competition and some interesting exercise
variations, not all intended!

So, here is how its done. We pick three exercises, in this case we
chose deadlifts, chin-ups, and close grip bench press. Each exercise
is done for 100 reps total between the those of you taking part. One
works, while the other two rest. To make it a good challenge you
ideally need three people of roughly comparable strength levels to
avoid the need to change the weights between sets. We chose a weight
that would allow us to start with sets of 6 - 8 each and gradually do
less reps as we fatigue.

The idea is to keep the bar moving constantly, so avoid working to
total failure in early sets otherwise you will blow out way too soon.
So, your sets might go something like this - 6 - 6 - 5 - 4- 4 - 3 - 3
- 2 or similar.

Of course, if you want to you can make the exercises more metabolic
and choose movements like burpees, ball slams, box jumps etc or you
can raise the reps total for the workout. Again, remember, there
aren't really any specific rules, we just like to use big exercises,
keep movement constant, and work hard for the duration of the workout.
You could combine the formats, starting with a strength movement,
moving onto a more traditional hypertrophy exericse and then finishing
with a metabolic exercise, check out the example below for the lower

A Barbell Squats

B Dumbbell Hack Squats

C Burpees

Or the following example for the chest

A Flat Bench Barbell Press

B Dumbbell Swiss Ball Press

C Sled Tricep Presses

If you want something purely metabolic then you can up the reps or add
a couple of exercises, here is the IGO-UGO 500 workout for metabolic
training. Do this with a team of three, rest when needed.

A Burpees

B Ball Slams

C Box Jumps

D Ball Rollouts

E Kettlebell Swings

There you go, weeks of fun!

Enjoy! Please post questions and comments!

Flipping Out - Tyre Drills for Strength and Fitness

As you have probably realised by now, our take on 'functional training' is a bit different to what you will see on a lot of fitness blogs and websites. Functional training seems to have become a euphemism for training with all manner of toys along with 'training the transversus' and other kinds of stuff that from what we can tell doesn't seem to do an awful lot for changing the physiques of most the population. Not only that but last time we checked, life in the real world doesn't really involve anything remotely like all these daft exercises that many insist on promoting.

In fact, the biggest attractions we see of a lot of these methods is a low requirement for intensity, a lot of time spent laying on the floor or rolling around on a ball, and minimal caloric expenditure. Our idea of training functional strength and fitness is a bit different. In truth we think the whole thing is being grossly over complicated in an attempt to 'science up' things that we have been doing intuitively for centuries, if not longer! Too many modern workouts simply aren't tough enough to provide sufficient overload needed to make real changes in fitness and strength.

Part of this may be the fact that life itself rarely seems to demand much in the way of real strength or fitness either, which is probably why as a population we are expanding and diseases of the 21st century, like type 2 diabetes threaten to reach epidemic levels in the western world. However, we are digressing. Now, this weeks strength training article is all about training with the tyre, one of our favourite tools for developing strength and power. There is nothing like lifting awkward objects to challenge the whole body to stabilise during movement. The shape and weight distribution also ensures a solid forearm workout and a true cardiovascular challenge as well.

As with before, decide on what you want to get from the exercise before you stick it into a programme. You can train power endurance with it, use it as part of a metabolic circuit, or as an explosive strength movement at the start of a strength workout. Below we have shown two simple exercises to do with a tyre, plus a small metabolic/power endurance circuit which can be great for limited time workouts or as finishers for a strength workout. The tyre featured in the accompanying videos weighs in the region of 130kgs.

The Flip -

This isn't a move based on finesse. As often used to be said to me about lifting coal 'there is a knack to it - its all about technique' - well guess what, the stronger you are the better your technique! However, there is an easy way and a hard way to do this. Optimal technique is to get the grip under the tyre inside the feet. Keep the feet a good distance apart, this will make it easier to get low enough to get the hips into the lift. Drive forwards and upwards getting the tyre lifted and as soon as possible get the knee underneath the tyre. Drive with the arms and the knee to move the tyre to vertical and complete the flip by pressing with the arms.

Team Pushes -

All this takes is two people for a pressing power/endurance workout. Simply get the tyre to a vertical position and each stand on opposite sides of the tyre. One person begins by pressing the tyre away from them towards their partner. Their partner then catches the tyre, absorbing the force with the legs and hips, before pressing it back. So, it goes for the desired number of reps.

Tyre circuit -

If you have 15 minutes to kill at the end of a workout, and by some strange coincidence you only have a tyre with which to train, try this little circuit and repeat as many times as possible in the time alloted. We call it the Plus 2 workout.

A1 Tyre Flips x 4
A2 In and Out Jumps x 6
A3 Tyre Burpees x 8
A4 Press Ups with Feet on Tyre x 10
A5 Toe Taps x 12 each side
A6 Walk Ups x 14

You can view the three videos on You Tube here:
1. Tyre Flip
2. Tyre Pushes
3. The Tyre Circuit