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Good Technique Comes to Those Who are Patient.

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So you have been progressing well with your strength training as of late, and either by choice of your coach or by your request, you are beginning to learn weightlifting movements.

Super cool you think! Some more complex variation in my training, sweet, I am ready! You move through the basic progressions pretty well and you start to think, this can’t be too bad. You can back squat and front squat, your strength isn’t too shabby, you can overhead squat and deadlift with sweet form and you feel you have this “pull” movement coming along well. You have been working through some basic barbell movement primers and are keen to start trying some actual lifts with some load.

So the program finally progresses to some snatch and clean variations with load, your thinking awesome! Now I get to do what I see others in the gym doing. In your mind it seems so easy to join the dots, its just a snatch pull into and overhead squat right? Or just a clean pull into a front squat right? When you watch others perform the movements, they make it look easy.

Compartmentally, yes, but this is when the real test begins and (the weightlifting gods will now test your worthiness) the art of learning the skill of weightlifting. As a novice to weightlifting, the first few months your still like a baby giraffe, movements are jolty and uncoordinated, your not quiet sure where the bar is relative to your body, and weights you deemed “light” are making you sweat and hurt! Your timing is all off and your still using body parts to move the bar that don’t need to or shouldn’t. There are 100 different things going through mind every time you touch the bar and attempt to perform a lift, despite the coach asking you to focus on 2 – 3 things. Think bout don’t over think, be controlled yet aggressive, it is the art of finding your calm amongst the chaos that is the technicality.

You persist a little longer and things start to click (a little), timing improves and you start to understand the “pull” and how it fits to moving the bar. Your loads are now starting to look a little more decent as you load the bar in your sessions, your moving less like a giraffe and your thinking, cool, I can do this, this isn’t so bad. For most recreational lifters, this is a good zone to be in, you may only be hitting weightlifting movements once or twice a week in your program and your content with that and you have no desire to commence the never ending quest that us weightlifting.  For some, you decide you want to take it to the next level, you want to train it more frequently and are now playing around with targets for a snatch and clean & jerk max, you may even give a low level comp a go!

Once you make the transition to focus more heavily on your weightlifting, this is where patience becomes your most valuable tool. Any great weightlifting coach can explain to you in words weightlifting and the ideal technique, but it will take you 10 years to master that technique. You will have training sessions where everything feels amazing, you hit the slots perfectly and your timing is on point, but then you will come in the very next day and things will feel hard, your timing will be way off, you will miss snatches forward, behind, get spat out the back of cleans and squished under jerks or even routine squats. As one of my coaches used to say to me “some days you get the bear, other days the bear gets you”. Get prepared for many sessions where the bear gets you more than you get the bear!

I have been competitively weightlifting now for 4 and a half years and one thing I can tell you is you only get better with more time and being consistent, even if you are a natural that picks it up well. I am still considered somewhat of a foetus in the sport of weightlifting to give you some perspective.

Along your journey there will be ebbs and flows, you lifts will increase fast at the start, but they will plateau, you will go through periods where it may take you a year to PB your snatch (yep that was me at one stage), and there never stops being something technical that needs work on, or part of the body that needs to be stronger yet again, because we can never be strong enough.  Ask any experienced lifter to show you some of their lifting videos from the early days… its always good for a cringe and laugh! We all start there just remember that!

So don’t be too hard on yourself if your technique isn’t quiet there yet and your not matching it with the Rx lifters in your box or the best lifters in the strength room. Enjoy the fact that you are on a journey of mastering a skill that is technical and something not everyone can do nor finds comes easy. Take the small wins when the come, savour the great lifting sessions when you have them, try not compare your lifting progress against another and most importantly trust the process and trust your coach (if you don’t have a weightlifting coach, get one!) I have found in my personal journey that when you rush, your goal lift seems to stretch further away from you (literally). Be patient in your technique, be patient in your progress and you will be surprised at maybe just maybe how quickly things may then come to you.

Coach Holly

Footwear When Squatting: Should I Be Wearing Weightlifting Shoes?

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If you have ever watched the movie “Like Mike” you will understand how influential a simple pair of shoe’s can be!

And we must continue to consider the importance of our footwear when thinking of movements like the squat, as we wouldn’t go and run a marathon in a pair of flip flops, nor would we play a game of basketball in roller-skates!

Our feet lay the structural foundation for us before any movement occurs. The foot itself is very flexible and has a great range of motion with over 25 bones across 4 joints, however, when we squat we must instantly increase the stability of the foot. We can do this by creating a naturally ‘arched’ position with the sensation of gripping the ground.

For this reason, we must consider the correct footwear that will support this stable position when squatting. Weightlifting shoes are a great option as they not only provide a rigid base of support, they consist of a non-compressible raised heel, usually somewhere around 25mm. And as research suggests, the foot is able to better maintain a naturally arched position when the heel is raised.

During the movement of the squat, on the descent, our knees come forward over our toes, and it is the amount of anterior translation of our knee that determines the angle at which our torso can remain. Meaning that if we want to maintain a nice upright chest and torso
during our squat, we must allow the knees to travel well over the toes.

Weightlifting shoes work to support this position by elevating the heel and reducing tension in muscles of the calf such as the gastroc, soleus and peroneals, therefore, reducing the reliance of ankle range of motion to enable successful squatting technique.

By keeping the torso more upright, we are also reducing the amount of unnecessary loading through the lower back. While a certain amount of forward lean is wanted at times to maintain balance and complete a successful lift, an upright chest and neutral spine will
prevent us from placing any risk of injury, and reduce the amount of shearing force placed through our lower back. Therefore, if you have ever experienced lower back pain when squatting, you will only benefit from the use of weightlifting shoes.

In a nutshell, weightlifting shoes are a great investment for any level of athlete. Whether you compete in Olympic weightlifting, CrossFit or simply just like to squat, and you want to get stronger, weightlifting shoes have been found to enhance squat technique and increase performance whilst reducing the risk of injury. So if you take your squatting seriously and don’t have a pair yet, go get some!

Coach Jack

Slow it Down: Everything you need to know about tempos

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Tempos. You may have heard of them but what are they? How do they work? And will they help me with my training?

There are four important numbers which are often found next to the sets and reps when you are prescribed a certain exercise. These numbers aren’t just there to confuse you…In fact they are actually there to guide you in so many ways and they can be very beneficial lifters of any level. Let’s slow it down and take a look!

What are they?
Simply put, tempos are the speed at which you perform the lift.

How do they work?
There are four numbers which each describe a part of the lift and each number represents the amount of time in seconds. Take a look at the example below:

30X1

First number – Eccentric – The lowering down phase
Second number – Pause at the midpoint
Third number – Concentric – The Up Phase
Fourth number – Pause at the top

Now let’s apply the tempo above to a Back Squat. We would want to see 3s on the way down, no pause in the bottom, explosive on the way up and then 1s pause to reset for the next rep.

Most of the time it’s that simple however the confusion may arise when looking at other movements such as pull ups or bicep curls. Remember the eccentric phase is the always the first number and the concentric phase is the always the third number. If you can get the hang of this then you will be good to go!

Will they help me with my training?

As I mentioned earlier the use of tempos can be beneficial for anyone whether you’re new to the gym or you’ve being lifting weights for years.

Imagine it is your first few weeks of training. For most of us this is the time when your body is taking baby steps and attempting to learn all of these new movements. Tempo work allows us to slow down and focus on each exercise to ensure you are performing correct technique and reinforces good movement patterns. Below
are a few of the benefits you would see from applying tempo work for any athlete:

  • Improved body awareness
  • Improved control of lifts
  • Development of connective tissue strength
  • Improved stability and coordination
  • Focus on muscular elements versus tendinous elements (a slow, controlled motion is going to place more stress on the muscles, whereas a bouncy or ballistic motion will place more stress on the tendons, etc.)

For many advanced lifters the manipulation of tempos can be used to breakthrough plateaus or target any weaknesses. At this level tempo training can still provide the basic benefits we listed above however let’s look at how you can change the speed of the lift to provide other benefits:

  • Pause reps – Pausing in certain positions to focus on concentric phase
  • Speed reps – Power Development
  • Time under tension (TUT) – The amount of time you muscles are under tension – Increase muscle growth and strength
  • Isometric holds – Pausing to increase strength in certain positions

Summary

Next time you are reading the tempo for an exercise whether it’s on the board or in your own program have a think about the intention behind the numbers. Prescribing tempos can be just as important as the sets, reps, rest periods and other parts of program design. So remember when you are pausing in that squat or when that 3s lower feels like forever…There is a reason it’s part of your training and it’s all part of helping you reach your goals.

Coach Adam

Muscle Up Series | Part 3

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Turnover and Transition Muscle Up
The final  component of the muscle up puzzle comes down to the transition of getting up and over the rings.

Usually the athlete may have the strength of both the push and the pull but can find it quite difficult to piece it all together.

There are a few different variations of drills to practice this transition step, however, the major key is to be fast, aggressive and to use the momentum from a powerful hip drive rather than pulling from the arms.

It is best to think about keeping the rings close to you, so that you are able to catch yourself safely on top of the rings before driving out of the bottom of the dip position!

Drill 1 – Master the False Grip Aka Broken Wrist

 

False-grip in gymnastics is a special grip, where the wrist is already on top of the rings. The best part about the false-grip is that there is no need to rotate your hands in order to get your body into a good ‘catch’ position — which makes it easier to perform muscle-ups without your hands tearing to shreds.

Training your false-grip is a great way to strengthen your grip, wrists, and improve your wrist and elbow mobility!

At GW Performance, there are a few different steps we like to take our athletes through when starting to practice the false-grip, as this is a movement it can be quite uncomfortable to get used to.

Step 1- False Grip with Knee support on Low rings 

Step 2- False Grip with bent arms and extended legs

 

Step 3- False Grip with extended arms and one foot off box

Step 4- False Grip On high-rings in extended position

Drill 2- Mastering the Kip

Do you know the difference between a kip and a swing?
The kip is a gymnastics movement which we hold control over, where a swing is controlled by gravity, and you have the ability to control and alter your position dramatically.

The two most important positions which make up the kip swing for the muscle up are the hollow and superman holds. When we translate these two positions to the rings, we want to begin with small tight kip for about 4-5 reps hitting each position as best as possible. The kipping movement should generate no bent knees and maintain tension within the body the entire time.

We want to generate the movement from our hips (although we also need to present power towards the push and pull on the rings themselves) so we can continue to stay in a nice strong position the entire time.

A great way to keep tension between swings is to place a playing card or a piece of paper between your feet, allowing you to keep a locked position throughout the entire skill.

Drill — Feet assisted transition on low rings

Using a set of low rings about belly button height set yourself up as you would for a ring row

Start with your legs bent, your feet planted on the ground in front of you and rings over your shoulders at arm’s length (similar to setting up for ring rows, just with bent legs).

  • Pull yourself into the rings keeping a nice tight position, before throwing your shoulders up and over with your chest coming through at the top to finish in the bottom of a drip position
  • Remember to think about pulling your rings down towards your hips, and not too high into your armpits.
  • Feet stay on the ground throughout the drill, think about using your hips! Not jumping yourself upwards.
  • Think about pulling yourself high and fast enough so that you experience a split second of weightlessness throughout the transition, find your wings and fly!

Once you’ve mastered this drill with your feet flat on the floor we can challenge ourselves throughout setting up a box to put your feet on. This uses more gravity as resistance, providing an even greater challenge version of this drill.

Drill 4– Band assisted transition on low rings

Once you have become more comfortable with the false grip and the kip on the rings the next phase is working on the hips to allow the powerful drive getting you up and over into a good catch position.

  • Using a set of low rings attach a small band to one and loop into the other to provide seated assistance. The band should be sitting nicely across your butt like a swing as you lay back, as you hold the rings with straight arms and a tight hollow body position.
  • Get into your false grip as best as possible allowing your arms to stay straight whilst you lay back.
  • Push your hips down against the band to allow the reflex reaction to assist popping your hips up to the rings. After you have had a few attempts pop your hips up while quickly pulling the rings down towards your hips, then throw your chest and shoulders through like the fastest sit up you have ever done. For females we like to say smack your ponytail into your face!
  • It is important to keep the rings close and pulled into your sides as you catch yourself in the bottom of the ring dip. We like to call this the superman transition! Think about ripping your shirt apart as you as you transition, not allowing those rings to come away from the body. By the end you should be clearly over the rings with your chest towards the floor, in the bottom position of your ring dip, ready to kip yourself into an extended position.

Drill 5 — START FLYING!

The final step is putting everything together and finding the courage to attempt that first muscle up! Before going for your first attempt go through stages 1-4 thinking about how you can portray each step in your final attempt!

Find some aggression, don’t overuse your kip for too many attempts. Don’t burn yourself out! You do not want to practice muscle ups under muscle fatigue, if it isn’t happening after the first few attempts then leave it for the day and come back another to try again!

Watch the demonstration video below of the drills, to see which stage you’re up to!

If you’re looking to master this movement with the help of a coach, just send a message to me, at jen@gw-performance.com, or send us a message on our Facebook page.

Muscle Up Series | Part 2

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Welcome to Part 2 of our Muscle up series!

Last blog,  we looked at ways we can increase our pulling strength in order to gain the baseline level of strength needed for the almighty muscle up.  In this blog, we are going to go through the other half of the movement — which is just, if not, more important: The ring dip.

There are many exercises in functional fitness that can be frustrating and testing for all kinds of athletes. One of them being the dreaded ring dip.

In order for a muscle up to be complete, we must have the ability to not only pull-up, but also press our body weight.

Ring dips are challenging for multiple reasons. The fact that the rings as an instrument alone aren’t completely stable, makes the movement difficult, as you need to work to stabilise the rings before even completing the dip portion.

Scenario: Have you ever look at the workout of the day, seen that ring dips are scheduled in the program, and think to yourself

“Ring Dips? Well, I’m skipping class!”

If this is you — don’t give up!

Instead, continue reading the following steps on how you can learn many different progressions that can assist you to either improving or simply getting your very first ring dip!

Before performing any movement, ask yourself a few questions to figure out if the dip will be an appropriate  movement for you!

  • Are your shoulders and elbows pain free?
  • Are you able to do full range push-ups? (Chest to floor)
  • Do you have any pre or past injuries which would make this movement painful or difficult to complete?

If you can safely see yourself moving forward towards your first ring dip, you can follow through with the following.

Static Holds

A hold can be performed on either gymnastics rings, or on two plyometric boxes.  If a static hold is something which you find quite difficult, start with assisted holds, such as one foot on the floor before trying to hold your body weight freely. When attempting a static hold on gymnastic rings, have a training partner with you to slightly hold the rings at your side while you hold in a static position to get yourself comfortable with holding yourself up for the first time. 

Coach recommendation: Before you jump straight on the rings, we recommend that you should be able to hold for 15-30 seconds on the boxes, before attempting to hold on gymnastic rings.

Stationary Dips/ Box Dips

Before you move forward with the ring dip, it is advised to start with a more stable movement — like the stationary dip.  A stationary dip can be done by using either stationary dip bars or two plyometric boxes. The flat surface of the plyometric boxes allows you to still work through the same range of motion, in which is required for the ring or stationary bar, without needing the strength required to control your balance on a more difficult object surface.

Coach recommendation: We recommend being able to complete 8-10 unassisted stationary dips before  attempting a ring dip.

Tempo Dips

Building time under tension within dips can help build the needed strength for the full range of motion required for the ring dip. Make sure that you adhere to the tempo for both the eccentric and concentric portion of the movements.

A good tempo to start with is @3111. Three seconds on the way down 1 second hold at the bottom of the dip 1 second up and 1 to reset. You can change the tempo to increase the amount of time under tension, until you feel stable enough to begin using a simple tempo of @1111 with a significant amount of strength.

Band-Assisted Ring-Dips

Bands are a fantastic way to see progression made over a certain movement — especially that of a ring dip. After gaining enough strength to transfer to the rings, the bands can be of some assistance when it comes to stability. As you get more comfortable completing quite a high number of reps, with a certain resistance you can continue to work your way down until no band is needed at all!

Tips to remember!!

Form first – The better your form is, the easier each rep will be. The best way to perform each ring dip is to keep the rings close to your body, push your chest forward, and keep your elbows back while you lower down for each rep. Your biceps must contact with the rings for the rep to count.

Scale appropriately – Just like many other exercises, not everyone will be able to Rx straight away. If you’re having trouble with the movement, then scale the exercise. Start off doing dips on a bench, then move onto bar dips when your confidence builds. Once your bar dips are at a solid stage, then try ring dips using resistance bands. Everyone starts somewhere, so enjoy the journey and watch yourself grow!

Practice your holds– It can take a little while to get used to using gymnastics rings. Therefore, it is a good idea to practice your holds as often as possible. Performing static holds for 30 seconds to a minute is a great way to not only work on your stabiliser muscles, but also to get you familiar with using rings. If 30 second holds seems like too long, segment your time into 3 sets of 10 second holds until you feel more comfortable and confident.

Improve Your Mobility – Is it your lack of strength or your lack of mobility within the shoulders that seems to be making ring dips tough? If  your shoulders are feeling rigid, spend 5-10 minutes working on some upper body mobility before your sessions to improve your shoulder position.

Try, and then try again! – Perseverance is everything when it comes to succeeding. Everyone will always have something they find to achieve a little harder than others. The important thing is not to give up.

With time, practice and a bit of perseverance, every exercise can be mastered.

Look out for my next blog where we will be going through the skill component of the muscle up, the transition!

Why Resistance Training is Ruining Your Game.

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There is a common perception that resistance training is ruining your game. For example, in basketball I have heard time and again that doing resistance training ruins my shot. To an extent, I agree with this statement. Not because resistance training is bad, but that fact that the resistance training you are doing is bad.

 

It’s not your fault. The issue is that you have no guidance in your program so the training you are doing is building size and strength that is not specific to your sport. When you don’t see progress, or hindered performance you stop training in the gym and spending more time on the court or field working on skills for hours and hours. Unfortunately, this can lead to overuse injuries from doing too much of the same thing.

 

The great news is that here at GW Performance, we have the solution to your problem. Under the guidance of experienced strength and conditioning coaches you will receive a customised program aimed at specifically improving your performance on the court through:

 

  • Improving mobility
  • Improving movement coordination
  • Increasing strength
  • Increasing power

 

If you have or are experiencing poor performance from resistance training, stay tuned because over the next few weeks I will be releasing some tips and exercises to smartly improve your on-court mobility and performance.

 

In the meantime, if you have any questions feel free to email me at mitch@gw-performance.com or come and see us at GW Performance.

Coach Mitch

CrossFit | Strength & Conditioning | Personal Training

GW Performance

South Yarra

Maximising Upper Back Strength For Pull Ups

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In the previous article Your Pull Up Strength Solution we discussed how to build strength in order to achieve your first strict Pull Up plus tips for improving movement for the long term.

Once you are confidently doing sets of 1-2 reps and you want to go further in your capacity it is time to consider other strategies.

Watch this video to learn more!

 

 

 

Your Pull Up Strength Solution

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Have you been training for a year or longer yet the ability to do a pull-up still stumps you? I know most of you want to the hacks to achieving party tricks like butterfly pull ups and muscle ups, but here’s the truth: you need to the ability to perform an unassisted, strict, dead-hang pull-up that starts with your arms fully extended and finishes with your chin clearly over the bar first.

There are so many benefits to pull-ups that they should be a major staple in any training program. Not only are strict pull ups a prerequisite for more advanced gymnastic movements; it also helps with your rowing, kettlebell swings, and Olympic Weightlifting too. It might literally save your life if you are ever hanging from a cliff and, if you get good enough at them, you may even be able to save someone else’s life, too!

Done correctly, the strict pull up is excellent for developing upper body and core strength. Here are some common issues I see and how to solve them:

Your Strength to Bodyweight Ratio Needs Improvement

You can’t out train a poor diet. If your goals are to improve in bodyweight exercises then you need an increase in relative strength. This means finding an ideal body composition and strength level. It is harder to master pull ups if you’re carrying excess weight. Take a look at your nutrition and make sure that your food intake aligns with your goals.

Strength Progressions for Strength Gains

It is critical that you understand that doing jumping pull ups or banded pull ups during a met-con is not going to be the most effective way to develop your strength. Following a periodised progression of compound lifts and accessory exercises is necessary to get you from hanging to busting out pull ups like a boss.

Whilst we program these progressions semi-regularly, I have found the most effective method for achieving pull up strength is to have a personalised program focussed on your major weaknesses that can be used a few times a week. There are no short cuts here: you have to follow the progressions. Here are just a few examples of what you may receive in such a program:

  • Isometric Holds (top of chin up and hanging tuck)
  • Incline Bench Y-Raises and DB Reverse Fly 3 x 12-15 @ 3111
  • KB Batwings and DB Row 3 x 8-10 @ 2111

Injured or in Need of Movement Pattern Correction

Skipping past strength development and jumping straight into learning kipping and butterfly pull-ups is likely to be a short cut to injury. These advanced dynamic movements ask more of the athlete to stabilise the shoulders through large range of motion.

Of course, prevention is the best medicine. At GW Performance we spend time during every workout completing physical prep and activation. However, if you want truly stable, safe and strong shoulders then you should speak with your coach about completing extra work.

It is common that poor posture and muscle imbalances lead to issues like overuse of upper traps when performing pull ups or progressions. This is where the coaches and our in-house sports med team work together on developing custom accessory programming to get you stronger in the right ways.

If you are suffering from a lot of pain, a shoulder impingement, joint issues, or any other type of upper extremity injury, the solution should be obvious. Seek out the care of a sports medical professional such as a physiotherapist

If you want to implement these tips and optimise your progress then book a time with a coach to go through our “Pull Up Assessment” . Also, make sure you watch my follow up video with the details of the program that has added massive amounts of strength to my gymnastics game!

Reflecting on The Open Season

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For most CrossFitters it is the time of year where many are left wondering “now what?”.

The CrossFit Open has been a test of your fitness, application to training and lifestyle. For some, CrossFit is their chosen sport. Apart from the top 1 percent, the season is over. However, most participants are not doing CrossFit with the goal of making it to the big stage in Carson Madison (see what I did there), or even to Regionals. We are doing CrossFit because we want to get fitter so that we can enjoy life OUTSIDE of the gym more. In case you didn’t know, the heart of CrossFit as a fitness program is achieving longevity and increasing your fitness across a variety of domains for the rest of your life.

So regardless of your goal, if your “season” is over it is time to reflect and then seek direction. The following 5 activities are a map for how you can go from thoughts to conception to action.

Reflect on your purpose: fitness for fun or performance?

More than ever I think it is important for GW CrossFit members to get clarity on CrossFit the Sport vs CrossFit the fitness program. To simplify it, here are two definitions to consider:

Competitor:  someone who is trying to win or do better than all others especially in business or sports: someone who is competing.

Health:  the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit; especially freedom from physical disease or pain.

We love informal competition within our gym and we will always support members who are intrinsically motivated to take competition seriously and wish to train for higher levels of CrossFit as a sport. However, I encourage everyone to reflect on whether being a competitor is what is truly important to them or if health is the real priority. As coaches, we want to help you with your individual approach to fitness and ensure that your training, nutrition and lifestyle is aligned with your “why”.

 

Sit quietly

I wish to encourage all members to set aside time and unplug so that they can reflect effectively. Sitting alone may not be for everyone, so try going for a hike or long walk. Doing this by yourself, without your phone, can be life changing. It will allow you to be present and deload from the emotional and physical stress from The Open and life in general.

 

Communicate & plan for the future

Once you’ve collected your thoughts share them with your coach and others. Verbalising them leads to listening to yourself and greater awareness. With your coach, you can then plan for action. Having a written plan attached to your SMART goals and the accountability of a coach is the optimal way for you to ensure progress.

 

Have fun – learn and play with new sports

The final sentence in CrossFit creator Greg Glassman’s classic “fitness in 100 words” is so often ignored. The beauty of our constantly varied functional fitness program is that you are increasing your capacity across so many areas: stronger, more skilled, more coordinated and increased stamina. Get out of the gym and play with these capabilities. You’ll be surprised at how this can be a re-investment back into your training.