Category Archives: Strength and Conditioning

The Simplest Way to Improve Every Performance Marker

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know that I’m a huge advocate of better breathing.

There is simply no easier or more comprehensive way to boost whatever performance marker you care to mention than by better breathing, using the appropriate breathing technique for the task and ensuring you are not only using the diaphragm to drive the breath, but you’re also getting the optimal gas exchange across the alveoli in the lungs, and able to transport the oxygen to and waste away from the cells efficiently and effectively.

And that is probably the longest sentence I’ve ever written in a blog post!

Fun Fact:

You can go about 3 weeks without food
You can go about 3 days without water
You can go about 3 minutes without oxygen

That ought to help you see why prioritising breathing is important.

Now, a few years ago I met Patrick McKeown, one of the worlds top experts on Buteyko breathing.
Pat teaches the work of Dr Konstantin Buteyko, a Russian Doctor who first spotted the correlation between breathing rate and disease.

Essentially, Buteyko teaches you to:

1: Breathe through your nose, which is Homo Sapiens default breathing apparatus
2: Breathe LESS volume of air
3: Develop a better tolerance to CO2 build up

This video clip is Laird Hamilton talking to Joe Rogan on breathing:


Now, ignore Laird stumbling over the science, there’s a link to Patrick McKeowns work below.

Instead, listen to how Laird talks about how he feels, how it affects performance,
If you don’t know who Laird is, he’s the dude surfing the wave in the image above. He’s considered to be probably the greatest surfer who ever lived.
The guy that more or less invented Big Wave surfing, came up with the concept of the tow in that allowed you onto bigger and bigger waves.

He is surfing’s Alex Honnold, Muhammad Ali, Usain Bolt.
He’s not a scientist, so forgive the bro-esque nature of the conversation, but he is all about performance. And if you have ever been out in any sizeable waves, you know how important breathing is!
Here’s his Wikipedia:

So, back to breathing appropriate to the task, I’ve covered that in a previous blog post here:

Breathing, an instruction manual

Book mark that Instruction Manual, better yet, print it out.

Last point before this blog turns into an eBook…..

Meet the Vagus Nerve:

Vagus Nerve, lit. Wandering Nerve

That fella is the shortcut to toning down your stress response.
Of bringing the Parasympathetic Nervous System online which turns down the Sympathetic Side.

The parasympathetic is the “rest & digest” side of the nervous system, rather than the adrenalised, high speed sympathetic.
As you exhale with your diaphragm, you press and stimulate the vagus nerve, this calms the system.
Using the mechanism we can better deal with stress, keep a clearer head under fatigue, recover faster from high intensity activity and actually switch off after a rough day at work.

Like I said at the start, there is NO better way to improve every performance marker than to breathe well.

And it starts with your all day every day breathing pattern, which should be all through the nose as mentioned by Laird in the video, as studied by Dr Buteyko and and as written about by Patrick McKeown in his books, which you can see using my amazon affiliate link here:

Pat McKeown on Amazon:

Now, close your mouth and breeeeeathe…

Chat later

Dave Hedges

Conditioning Made Easy part 2 – Circuits

Welcome to the second part of the “Conditioning Made Easy” series.

If you missed part 1, it’s here:

This week, as promised, I’m talking about circuit training.
I’ve been a huge fan of circuit training since I began training.

My early years of weight room training started back when I was a 16yr old spotty little shit.
I hung around at school with the lads on the rowing team, they were ranked around number 12 in the UK at the time.
My Karate instructor, the late Jack Parker had told me I needed to be stronger, so I asked the Rowers if I could join their weight sessions
They asked the Coach, he said yes, and the rest is history.

But Coach had a wicked training style.

He gave us a few minutes to warm ourselves up while he laid out a circuit.
Then he’d walk us through each station once.
Then he hit the start button and for the next 20 minutes we went flat out.

After that, we set up the heavy stuff.

This influence can still be seen on the methods I employ today.

But enough of my history. Are circuits a good choice for developing high levels of conditioning?

Yes, is the short answer.

In my “WMD” eBook I have a chapter devoted to the circuit training method with a couple of dozen examples of actual circuits we’ve used in Wg-Fit as part of our Kickboxer conditioning program (article continues below the image)

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They key to good circuit training it to have an plan.
Decide before you lay it out what you training effect the circuit should elicit.

Are you wanting cardio?
Faster recovery times?
Local muscular endurance?
Mental Fortitude?
Are you developing the aerobic or alactic energy systems?

Knowing what aspects of fitness you want to emphasise will tell you what time, duration, work to rest, exercises and loads to use.

For a simple example, if you’re developing aerobic capacity, you keep the loads light, so single kettlebell lifts, bodyweight drills etc, but the durations long and the rest periods short.

For alactic, you increase the intensity of the exercises, so more power oriented moves and higher loads, and keep the overall duration short.

An aerobic circuit may last 20 minute to an hour, looking to keep the heart rate in and around the 130-150 BPM (it’ll vary up and down, we’re talking averages here) for the duration.
Alactic, the circuit will last 2-6 minutes, but you will perform 2-4 rounds of the circuit with 3-5 minutes rest between each round, each round should be red lined.

Notice how these are two very different animals looking for two very different outcomes.

One isn’t better than the other, they’re merely different. It’s up to you (or your coach) to select which is most appropriate to your wants and needs.

After you’ve considered this, the actual exercise choices are secondary.
Staples of almost any circuit will include:
Upper Body Push (press/push ups…..)
Upper Body Pull (pull ups/various rows…)
Hinge (RDLs, Kettlebell Swings….)
Knee Dominant (Variations on Squats, lunges/step ups)

Other stuff includes things like:
Battle Ropes, Slam Balls, Direct core/ab work, Bag work, Skipping, Carries, Throws, Footwork Ladders etc

The actual choices are pretty much unlimited.
Just so long as it all adds up to benefiting the training plan and moving you towards your chosen goals.
As an exercise choice guide I’d strongly suggest you include elements you need to bring up, for most that’s glutes, hamstrings and upper back (did I mention swings and inverted rows earlier?)

Now, lay out a circuit and get to work.
If you’re short of ideas, check out the WMD manual:
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Dave Hedges

I’ve a Couple of Questions on Bodyweight Training…..

So said one of my Lunchtime training regulars the other day.

He wanted to know about the Hindu Push up, the One arm Push Up and the Pistol Squat.
He was asking what they were and how useful they are for his training goals.

But first what are his training goals. Graham is a Triathlete with a preference for swimming. He needs to be strong, coordinated and athletic, and he needs to maintain this for time.

So are the bodyweight drills above good for him?
Hell Yes!

First lets take the Hindu and 1 arm push ups and look at how they can help.
They are both upper body pushing actions, but come from opposite ends of the spectrum. The Hindu is fantastic but relatively easy and so suits high repetitions, it will open the chest, build massive endurance through the entire upper body and loosen up the hip flexors, hamstrings and spine, particularly the thoracic (area that your ribs attach to) which are all trouble spots for any endurance athlete.
The One arm push up is painfully hard, demanding massive amounts of stabilisation through the core and the shoulder joint. Swimming can be very hard on an athletes shoulders, the One Arm Push Up forces the serratus anterior and lats to work together to keep the shoulder stable, while the core has to be absolutely rigid to prevent the body twisting. Plus as a swimmer he pulls himself through the water with one arm at a time, it’s a good idea to train the arms unilaterally from time to time.
By combining the two into a training program, Graham can develop strength through the 1 arms and endurance from the hindu’s. A sample workout may look like this:

1A: One Arm Push Up Ladder (1 l/r, 2 l/r, 3 l/r) x 3-5 with 2-3 minute rests between series.
1B: Hindu Push Up 1 x max repetitions

In this manner he would build strength and stability first before moving to endurance and mobility.

What about the Pistol squat, how could that be of benefit?
Like the one arm push up, the pistol, or one legged squat, is demonically difficult. It will never develop huge bodybuilder legs, but it will certainly build strong legs.
As you perform this standing on one leg, the stabilisation and balance issues are huge. The foot must be strong, the knee must track perfectly, the hip must be mobile enough to allow the movement to happen, but stong enough to prevent the body tipping and the core is, as always, watching and correcting any wobble.
This is a beast of an exercise, and one that took me personally a long time to get the hang of!
However, our subject is a Triathlete, would this benefit him?
Yes, the extra brute strength, the greater stabilisation through the joints and the improved body control will undoubtedly help him running and cycling.
After all in both events only one leg at a time is producing force. I have improved many an athletes time by introducing them to single leg work (Pistol variants, Split Squats, 1 leg Deadlifts etc..)

He could use the same progression as listed above for the upper body drills, and combine the pistol squat with a higher repetition hindu or standard squat for endurance work. I recommend alternating Upper and lower body days, something like this:
Monday: Upper Body – Hard
Tues: Lower Body – Hard
Wed: Off
Thurs: Upper Body – Easy
Friday: Lower Body – Easy
Sat & Sun: Off

The whole workout should be done in less that 40 minutes and ought to leave enough in the tank for the other training activities involved in his sport.
But what if you’re not a triathlete?
Well, you’d still make great gains from bodyweight only training, aside from strength you’ll develop the balance, grace and poise of a wild animal. Coordinated, flowing powerful movements.
Sound good?

If so these drills are all featured in No Equipment, No Excuses, currently on offer as part of our Wild Geese anniversary eBook package, available here.

That article I promised on the best Kettlebell Lift for Fighters, well Paul, the other half of Wild Geese asked if I could put it over on the Martial Arts blog instead. So if you want to find out, please head over here

Challenge Workout

Wild Geese clients are some of the most dedicated and determined around.

We like it like this, we actually weed out the ones that can’t hack it, there’s a curves gym down the road and I know a good Zumba teacher for them.

The ones that we keep though are incredible, and often they set the pace in the classes.
Last week one of my guys piped up “I fancy doing that 300 challenge, haven’t done that in a while!”

Now this isn’t one of the fighters, or serious athletes that trains here, it was Eoin, an average bloke with above average determination and focus, he came to us just over a year ago as an out of shape former student, still living the student lifestyle.
He came to us for that “kick up the arse” and he got it. He liked it, and is now one of most regular guys.

When he asked to do the “300 Challenge” how could we say no?

I wish I could remember which site I stole this from, but it was a little while after the whole 300 movie hype was still floating around. I spotted this workout and immediately added it to the challenge list I keep. If the author of the workout is reading, drop us a comment or an email and I’ll credit you, until then, sorry.

Here’s what it looks like:

* 25x V Ups

* 25x Snatch left

* 25x Snatch right

* 25x Push Ups

* 50x Swings

* 50x Burpees

* 25x Clean & Press left

* 25x Clean & Press right

* 50x Mountain Climbers

This is a timed event, the idea is to get it done as fast as possible. Here are the results from last nights group, and one brave lunchtime warrior who took a crack at it today:

1. Ray – 14m 33, using a 16kg bell
Although he later admitted he did the clean & press swapping hands every 5 reps, whereas EVERYONE ELSE did them properly!

2. Linda – 15m 08, using an 8kg bell

3. Padraig – 16m 27, using a 16kg
Since taking part in the first of our boot camps, Padraig has been unstoppable!

4. Eoin – 16m 40, using a 16kg
It was Eoin’s idea, but he really didn’t look well at the end.

5. Dave G aka the Rasta – 16m 40, using 24kg
Our resident Muay Thai coach kicked arse!

6. Me – 17m 26, using a 24kg

7. Imre – 18m 26 using a 20kg
Imre is a beast of a man, the least experienced athete in the room, but his spirit in incredible!

8. Mathewe – 20m 16, using a 16kg
Mattie, came in today for his lunchtime training and saw the workout still up on the wall, “I’ll have a go of that” he says, he even took the photo as proof.

See if you can beat the times.

Go on, set yourself a challenge.
Or you can always take up Zumba instead……….


Dave Hedges

Strength, Conditioning & Martial Arts

Ever since my Karate instructor turned to me and said “Dave, you’ve got to get strong” I’ve known that to be an effective martial artist or, in fact, athlete of any sort, we need to do some form of strength and conditioning.
This was around 20 years ago.
Yet, to this day so many instructors still tell their students not to strength train, instead telling them that endless sets of push ups, sit ups and running are enough.

This is not, never has been, and never will be the case.

You need to add in a structured training program if you want to be competitive, or even if you simply want to reach your potential.

Our own kickboxer, Chris, has just come to this realisation. After taking to strength training for the first time he recently had the best fight of his career, an easy win.
He told me that he never felt as fresh, as explosive and focused. He was able to recover faster throughout the round, and so able to keep his punches sharp and accurate.

Chris had been training 3 mornings a week for 40 minutes to an hour, lifting heavy weights, performing hard circuits and high-octane cardio.
He put on a small amount of weight but looked leaner and harder.
When he attended his regular training you could hear when he was on a bag, his strikes echoed through the building.

After 6 weeks of strength and conditioning he became the fighter he always wanted to be. He had the skill, he had the speed, he even had power. But no matter how much running and skipping he did, he coud never go the distance, until now.

The entire training program he followed is detailed over on the Wild Geese Facebook page, in the notes section (here: but over the next week I’m going to spend time at the keyboard and I’m going to write out a PDF document for download detailing the workouts that we used and also how you can personalise and vary them to suit your individual fighters needs.
Hopefully this will allow you as a coach help better prepare your fighters and competitors. If you’re an athlete looking for that edge, this will be just that.

We called this training program “The fighters boot camp“, but really it is for anyone willing to work hard and push themselves to the next level. Here’s some of what goes on:

The next Boot Camp starts October 11th.
The eBook will be ready before then.
Drop a comment if you have any questions.



Can you survive the Lunges Of Death?

Wild Geese Fitness members enjoy a good bit of variety in their training, Kettlebells, bodyweight, barbells, sandbags, strength focus, endurance focus. Just plain old variety.
But in order to ensure that progress is being made we have a few benchmark tests or challenges that we throw out every now and again.
Usually these are either a max effort lift, max repetition set or a timed challenge.
It’s the time challenges that really get everyone going, they seem to create the most competition and camaraderie then the other challenges.

One such challenge was on todays menu, feel free to try it out for yourself, see how you get on.
I’ll be honest, it was set by a different crew, but we put our own spin on it. The video below is the original post from Smitty over at the Diesel Crew, he uses a 50lb Bulgarian bag and lunges the length of a football field.
Here at Wild Geese Fitness we have the metric system, no Bulgarian bags and no football pitch. So we use 90 meters (98.4 yards) which just so happens to be 6 lengths of the training floor, I put a medicine ball at the turn around points to ensure nobody cheats. In place of the Bulgarian bag we hold a Kettlebell in each hand, most opting for a suitcase carry which really does a number on your grip!

50lb = 22.7kg, so most of our guys and girls hold a pair of 12kg kettles (24kg = 53lb!), although most have since stepped up to 16’s (70lb), 20’s (88) and one or two (myself included) have even used 24kg bells (53lb).
Last time I did it with a pair of 24’s it took 5 minutes dead and left me limping for about 5 days!

So if you’re up to taking the diesel challenge, even if you’re doing it Wild Geese style, watch this video, or talk to any of our regular members, then grab a stopwatch and a weight and away you go.




Man, I feel Electric!

How many of you can say that at 8.30am when about to head into work?

Not many eh?

These words were spoken to me by one of my Boot Camp participants, today was Cardio day of week one.
We started with the fitness test which will be repeated on the last day, then went into a slightly easier than normal cardio session. Intensity will build over the coming weeks, but today is week one and also test day so the actual workout wasn’t the meanest.

It was afterwards though that Eoin comes out from the changing rooms with his bag over the shoulder, the last one to leave, with a happy grin and a light behind his eyes, “Man I feel electric, that was brilliant!” And off he went, bimbling along to the office.

I nipped out, had to get some bleach and a few bits, also stop by Lunch!, a local coffee shop that does the best Double Espresso Machiato. As I’m out I’m looking at the hordes of grey people walking by.
Dark suits, grey hue to the skin, eyes fixed on a point in the distance as they all walk in a huddle, aiming towards the Irish Financial Services Centre just over the river.
It’s reminiscent of a George A Romero movie, only it’s daylight!

I will ask you a question, would you rather sleep untill the last minute, rush around getting ready and go straight to the office, to have your senses dulled and brain melted. Or would you rather get up earlier, spend an hour in the company of hard charging, motivated, positive people, then have a long hot shower and leave feeling, as Eoin said, Electric?
Who do you think will perform better in work? Mr Electric or Mr OMG?

An early morning workout can and will set you up for the day, it fires the nervous system, refreshes the blood and gets those “happy hormones” flowing through the brain. It clears away the fog and even if it is cold and wet outside, you won’t care because you will feel alive, you will feel like a real human animal, sharp, focused and alert.

But hey, you could have an extra hour in bed instead….

I wonder, do some people ever really wake up?

Take control of your life, one step at a time.

If you want to feel electric, you know what to do.



Year of the Little Guys

Looks like the Boot Camp starting next week is going to be full, there’s enquiries flying in.
Lunchtime workouts are getting gradually busier, we’re even getting people in on the Tuesdays and Thursdays, which are newly opened.

Combat Conditioning on the Tuesday and Saturday is busier than it’s ever been.
New people are showing up to Kettlebell beginners every week.

And yet the fitness industry is said to be struggling!
It seems that that you, the customer, has realised exactly what you want from your training. You want results, you want a coach that actually pays attention. You want service.

I was chatting to my mate Kieran Dolan who runs Dolan Fitness down in Tullamore Co. Offally, he’s reporting the same thing. He’s now buying kettlebells from us to set up his own classes.

This is the year of the small gym. And about time too.

For too long the market has been held captive by the big chains. Commercial gyms with shiny kit and big screen TV’s held control over the fitness industry and the small gyms were struggling and closing down.

People now are better educated than ever before, the internet has allowed for research to be conducted and so people can make up their own minds on the style of training they wish to take part in.
People ask about Deadlifts, Kettlebells, Sledgehammers. They ask about High Intensity Training, they realise that endless hours on a treadmill does little to change their body composition. It’s fantastic.

I used to work out of a Jackie Skelly gym, and I know that most of the “fitness instructors” there couldn’t answer the kind of questions that people are now asking, nor can they offer the style of training people are now requesting. That’s why Kieron, Myself and others are getting busier. People want quality, they no longer need swimming pools and saunas, they’d prefer heavy iron and chalk.
They don’t need adverts over the tannoy and countless mass marketing emails offering upgrades and products, instead they want solid training, results oriented training, they want motivated and interested coaches.

This is exactly what we little guys can offer. Our clients have names, they’re not numbers. We push them to work harder than they’ve ever worked, we don’t use fancy kit, because well, we don’t need to.
We don’t employ a sales team.
We employ coaches.

We don’t mass market
We use word of mouth, recommendations.
And people do recommend us.
We thank you for this.

You have our guarantee that we will continue to work hard to provide you with the best training on offer. We will continue to go to seminars run by the likes of Steve Cotter, Andy Bolton, James Fennely and more so we can offer you better training. We will never, ever compromise our results for a fast buck, you, the client will always come first.
And you will never find us offering a Zumba class!

Any how, here’s todays workout:

It’s Kettlebell based, but can be done with dumbbells if you wish.

1A: Classic Groener Chain – Snatch/Press/Clean & Press, 1 rep of each, work up to max weight.
When a max is reached, drop back and climb the weight stack again, repeat 3-5 times.
1B: 5min Snatch, as many reps as possible in 5 minutes, change hands at will and try to hit 100 or more.

Short, sharp and efficient. Enjoy.



Sandbags, Boot Camps and the Warrior Mindset

This morning saw the end of week three on the Wild Geese Boot Camp.

Week three is my favourite, the group have bonded, they know what’s expected of them and they buckle down hard and get stuck in.

There’s no wasting time teaching exercises, that’s all been done in the previous two weeks. Everyone is fired up and ready to get stuck in.

Last week I introduced my Booties to a friend of mine. A friend who has helped me create some brutal workouts, a friend who takes no prisoners, ever.

This friend is a humble sandbag.

It kicked everyone’s arse.

So this week I brought it back out, and listening to the gang before we started the warm up I could hear the murmuring. They were saying things like:

“I’m gonna lift that f**king sandbag today”
“No way is that sandbag is going to f**king beat me today”

“Nice, the sandbag is out again, that’s a tough drill”

And when we ripped into the circuit the guys ripped into the sand bag with an aggression level rarely seen. It was awesome.
One lad, Colm, especially impressed. Last week the bag thoroughly humbled Colm, today he was out for revenge. As he stood towering over the bag he had a look in his eye, when I called start he bent down, slammed his hands powerfully into the sides, grabbed a big handful of canvas in each mit, dropped his hips and launched the bag skywards. He cleaned it like it weighed nothing, but he wasn’t done, you could see the abs tighten, the legs firm up as he braced, looked up and pressed hard and aggressively.

He was the first one on the bag, when I told the gang to get a to a station ready to begin the circuit, he walked straight over to his old nemesis, and set an example for everyone else to follow.

Today Colm didn’t just lift the bag, he owned it.

This is the Wild Geese spirit, this is the warrior mindset.

As tough and brutal as a Sandbag Clean and Press may be, a warrior is even tougher and even more brutal.
A warrior knows that physical hardship is only half the battle.

He knows that a battle must first be won in the head before it can be won on the field or in the ring.

“Iron” Mike Tyson used to stare at his opponent from the moment he laid eyes on him right up to the fight started. He would stare aggressively, challenging his opponent to match him. As soon as the opponent looked away, he knew he’d already won. The fight had already taken place without a single punch being thrown.

Developing a mindset like this is hard work, it may be the hardest thing you every do, but in doing so you will become greater than you ever thought possible.

You will accept and relish any challenge thrown at you.
You will push on with tenacity and courage.

You will not stop.

Yes you may fail, but that will just serve to make you stronger and more determined.

Chris, one of our kick boxers and the man who organised the first Boot Camp is a prime example. Taking to kickboxing in his late twenties and early thirties he wanted only to prove to himself that he can do it. In the ring his nerves constantly got the better of him and he took a loss after loss. Eventually things changed, his focus sharpened, his body hardened, his determination never waivered and now he doesn’t just step into a ring, he stalks into the ring.
No longer is he a mild mannered executive trying to prove himself. When the glove go on, his face changes, his body language changes, he becomes a warrior.

A sandbag is cheap and cheerful to build and keep at home. But it will kick your arse like few other training tools. If you are interested in developing not just the physical strength, but also the mental strength to take on whatever life throws at you, keep an eye out here as I’ll be giving you step by step instructions on how to build your own and some of the very best exercises and routines to use.

For now, here’s an example of the Clean and Push Press exercise done with my old bag:



Sometimes, even I get it wrong….

Dave Gordon was busy setting up a conditioning circuit for himself. He had a few pieces of equipment layed out but what caught my attention was the two 32kg bells set in front of the swiss ball.

I made a natural assumption that he was about to do a variation on an exercise that I’d never tried.
Not wanting him to be the first, I jumped in and made an attempt.

Turns out I was wrong. The video below shows what I thought, see if you can figure out what the Rasta was actually setting up for.