Get cold to get cut

The seemingly relentless cold weather reminded me of a previous experiment with the cold and thermogenics, a concept developed by space scientist Ray Cronise

As I recall,  the back story to “using cold” is outlined in the 4 hour body book.
which cites numerous reasons why you should use coldness in your struggles for weight loss and health. The reasons are these

1. Short-term cold exposure (30 minutes) in humans leads to fatty acid release to provide fuel for heat production through shivering. This same shivering could be sufficient to recruit “GLUT-4” to the surface of muscle cells, contributing to increased lean muscle gain.
2. Cold exposure (with shivering) may increase adiponectin levels and glucose uptake by muscle tissue, and the goodness may outlast the shivering
3. In the absence of shivering, it is still possible to capitalise on “fat-burning fat” through the stimulation of BAT thermogenesis
4. Cold water improves immunity (maybe it increases the levels of circulating norepinephrine)
5. Cold showers could help depression
Wow, all this for just turning the central heating down/off cooler showers  and nipping outside for a fag?

The 4 hour body book ( sooo 2011!1) was based on the works of our good friend Ray Cronise who  initially  recommended the following protocols:

A) Place an ice pack on the back of the neck or upper trapezius area for 20–30 minutes
B) Consume 500 ml of ice water on an empty stomach when waking
C)  Take 5–10-minute cold shower before breakfast and/or before bed
D) If you can tolerate more, take 20-minute baths that induce shivering

However, the death of a worker in a las vegas “cryospa”  panicked  “cold advisors” and  so  a more humane protocol is probably :

“Mild cold stress begins in water temperatures below 80F (26C) and air temperatures below 60F (15.5C).  There is no reason to go below 60F(15.5C) water or 32F (0C) air.  Generally speaking one can get all the benefit they need from just a 10 degrees .

Ideal temperatures are 75F (24C) water and 55F (13C) air”
So where does this leave us?

It leaves us on the verge of a whole range of exciting discoveries, and a whole lot of experiments and trials. Some of us have heard that the cold stimulates testosterone, helps recovery from physical training and has a role in first aid training.

So I kicked off this morning in a very unspectacular way, by simply turning the shower temperature down for the last minute of the shower!

Combination training

Goto  et al, is a fascinating read!   “Muscular Adaptations to Combinations of High- and Low-Intensity Resistance Exercises”, (J Strength Cond Res) touches on an issue I often ponder.

If I want to make my endurance athletes stronger, why don’t I  combine  high and low intensity in the same session? Must I spent 12-16 weeks working off season strength, banning “cardio”,  setting them classic low rep (80% plus stuff) then send them off to convert this strength to endurance?

Ive always found this hard,  as most runners and rowers like running and rowing. They often hate  heavy work. But what if I could combine high reps and low reps in the same session, which is, btw,  specifically against perceived wisdom

Goto’s team looked at his  very point. See an abstract here.  They measured  3 types of regimes for knee extension exercise:

  1. a medium intensity (approximately 10 repetition maximum [short interset rest period (30 s) with progressively decreasing load (“hypertrophy type”);
  2. 5 sets of a high-intensity (90% of 1RM) and low-repetition exercise (“strength type”);
  3. and a single set of low-intensity and high-repetition exercise added immediately after the strength-type regimen (“combi-type”)

The combi-type group, added a single set of 25-35 reps following their final low rep set.  At the end of the training program the combi-type group had increased their strength 58% more than did the other training group (14.7% vs. 9.3% respectively). The results suggest that a combination of high- and low-intensity regimens is effective for optimizing the strength adaptation of muscle in a periodized training program.

“This suggests that the combi-type regime caused a larger increase in dynamic muscular strength than did the strength-type regimen when combined with the hypertrophy-type regimen in a periodised fashion… This effect appears to be inconsistent with the classical principle operating in resistance-exercise training, in which low-repetition protocols are used for muscular strength and low-intensity, high-repetition protocols are used for muscular endurance.  Sensible combinations of high- and low-intensity protocols may therefore be more important to optimise the strength adaptation to resistance training.”

The website Training Science suggests the concept of Muscle Factor  Training

” In addition to the low rep training you are already doing, add:

  • one set of 20 reps (range of 17 – 23 reps)
  • one set of 40 reps (range of 35 – 45 reps)”

In practical terms, I think this means,  if you do 3 to 4 sets of say 5 reps ( assume 80% 1 Rep max) in your squat regime,  replace  2 of those low rep sets with 1 set of 20 reps and 1 set of 40 reps.

  • 2 sets x 5reps
  • 1 set x 20 reps
  • 1 set x 40 reps.



{BTW  when doing the lighter sets, its worth while considering Holm L, et al, Changes in muscle size and MHC composition in response to resistance exercise with heavy and light loading intensity, Journal of Applied Physiology, Nov 2008, 105:1454-1461.  The weight lifted in the 40 rep phase can be a light as  15%}

Am I going to suggest this across the board? Hell no. I have clients who hate cardio, and  by hate it,  I mean  they loath it.

I have clients who row. This seems a sensible protocol to test with them.

So, I’m going to unleash this on poor Rochelle on Wednesday. Ill report back if it works

Relative intensity

The programmes I discuss here have many objectives, one of which  is to  help you find your strength head – shorthand for developing your strength knowledge. In this article we visit the basic language of weightlifting and how it relates to the concept of relative intensity.

When it comes to using weight; in simple terms, people think this: lift the heaviest weight you can, that’s your 1 rep max; then based on that you can lift 90% of it 3 times (3reps), 85% of it 5 times, 75% 10 times. If you do 3 rounds of 3 reps, that’s 3 sets.

So weight lifting is a mix of percentages, sets and reps, all based on a one rep max. Simples!

This is a great place to start, but to develop your strength head,  you need to develop your knowledge and insights into the strength game.

Some time ago, Zatsiorsky pointed out there are two types of  one rep maxes you can have: a competition 1 rep max, and a training 1 rep max.

A) A competition max is  where you get hyped up and get a PB  and scream a lot.

B) A training 1 rep max


However, often people skip the full definition of a 1 rep training max.

A maximum training weight  is the heaviest  weight you can lift  without substantial  emotional stress.

Damn. No screaming.

For athletes, the difference between the two is great. The example Zatsiorsky cites is that for athletes who lift  200 kg during a competition, a 180kg is typically above their maximum training weight. As a possible indicator, if your heart rate increases before your lift, that’s a sign of emotional engagement. Weightlifting is meant to stress your body, not your mind.

That’s the job of your partner and employer.

In short, if you screamed it up – it’s too heavy to use as a basis for regular training.

So, if you are calculating reps and sets using a 1 rep max, please, please use the right one; otherwise you’ll break. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon… If you want to properly test your 1 rep max, book a PT session with one of the training team.

If you have been lifting regularly for a while, you have probably begun to review strength literature and you are probably aware that lifting 80% of your 1 rep max provokes strength gain.

So, when lifting sets of 5, you’d probably like to put 80% of your 1 rep max on the bar. Everyone does that, but think about what it is you’d are actually be doing.

Let’s forget weightlifting for a moment, and talk about bricks. Imagine you are a labourer on a building site. Lets say we run a test to see how many bricks you can move in a day. For argument’s sake, let’s  say you can move 1000.

Normally in training we wouldn’t want to move the 1000, we would do 800 ( 80%) but many people want to set 5 reps of that. So there you are, lifting 5 x 800 =4000.

If you tried to do that in a day, you’d probably die.

Back to the weight room. So you can lift 100kg calmly as your 1 rep max. You’ve been told if you lift 80% and over of this figure, you are strength training. So, to keep the maths easy, if you lift 80kg, you are strength training. But do you lift that 80% five times?

As you see from my poor labourer example, the first 800 was probably easy, but the next 800, isn’t easy, the 3rd 800 is getting you to breaking point.

In short, 80% lifted multiple times, isn’t perceived by the body as 80%. It sees it as much, much heavier because of the volume. The bricklayer, is of course a silly example – but try and get the message rather than be sidetracked in the endurance aspect of the example.

In simple terms, because you are lifting in sets of multiple reps, a load of 67% of your 1 rep max lifted 5 times has a relative intensity of 79%. It feels like 79%, your body thinks it’s 79%. It is 79%

Putting 76% of you 1 rep max on your bar for 5, has the effect of being 88%.

70% feels like  =82%,

73% feels like  =  85%.

80% on the bar for 5, is like lifting 91%.

Relative intensity is the simple observation that volume, load and rest effects how your body feels and adapts to weight.

Coach Robb Rogers gives a fuller description here:

Remember your muscles are dumb, they don’t know or care about percentages. They just know what feels heavy.

According to Mike Tuchscherer; “The body responds to things like the force of the muscle’s contraction, how long the contraction lasts, and how many contractions there were. A percentage isn’t necessarily a precise way to describe this, as different lifters will perform differently.”

In take-home terms, if today you went to CrossFit London or CrossFit SE11, and during the strength session, you only got to 68% of your (proper) 1 rep Training max for 5; you actually hit the 80% in relative intensity. That’s the 80% you need to nudge your strength along.

For now, in our general programme, we are not obsessing about percentages; but those who do know their lifts, I hope will be grateful for this insight. For the rest of you, simply work to a set of 5 that you can comfortably lift, bearing in mind these RPE (rates of perceived exertion) as guidance.

On a scale from 1 to 10:

9: Heavy Effort. Could have done one more rep.
8: Could have done two or three more reps, but glad you didn’t have to.
7: Bar speed is “snappy” if maximal force is applied
6: Bar speed is “snappy” with moderate effort

After a while, I suspect a “five” you can do in class will be at an RPE between 7 and 8.

Once you bedded this concept of relative intensity into your head, you can look forward to many years of safe, effective lifting.

More insights coming soon.

Grateful thanks to Coach Chet Morjaria @  Strength Education and to Coach Anthony Waller @ CrossFit London for the numerous corrections  and observations they supplied


Muscle ups, Rings and Gymnastic shapes

Todays special theme was the muscle up, so we picked up some essential skills: the false grip, the “muscle up push up” and other secret stuff

Here are some idea to help you revise

Dish Shape

handstand shape into wall walk

false grip

The muscle up push up and some other stuff you may not have seen

For those who have fallen in love with the  Muscle up and Ring Training for fitness , you may fancy this Ring Training guide its only 99p

Btw my name is Andrew Stemler. Im a london personal trainer based in Bethnal green  E2. Contact me by Email

Fall in love with a concept 2

There are lots of things you can do in fitness . One interesting target is to fall in love with a concept 2 rowing machine . Getting a fast 2k is the ideal , but disgusting, mix of aerobic and anaerobic capacity . People who row fast and well look like people who row fast and well .

Keep an eye on this blog as we discuss proper rowing technique and interesting capacity building workouts .

Btw my name is Andrew Stemler and I’m a personal trainer based in Bethnal Green E2

If you do not have any pull ups, no one will want to marry you

Once you have a few pull ups, its ‘easy’ to keep adding to them. The real hard one is  getting that 1st pull up. I’ve struggled for 3 months to post a genuine article about getting your first pull up. This is my first public draft.

I hope it helps.

If you have no pull ups, here are some essential things you must do:

      1. Get a pull up bar at home. I’d say this won’t guarantee success, but not having one at home will guarantee failure. Do not rely on getting to the gym, or to us for that matter. Also it’s a private matter between you and the bar: basically you have bar “issues” and sometimes its best to deal with “issues” in private. This  pull up bar is often recommended  JML Iron Total Gym Upper Body Workout Bar
      2. Understand that a pull up is not a rubbishy exercise like all those silly piltates wiggles and squirms that you do. Pull-ups are a predictive happiness test. If you have no pulls ups (and this is especially true of ladies) no-one of quality will want to marry you. If you refuse to get that first pull up, stop reading this and go and get some cats. That’s all you will be good for.
      3. . Look honestly at your weight. Pull-ups will be harder to get if you are over-weight. That does not mean you wait until you are the “right weight”. Get going now. It will be harder, but as I often say: “you ate it, now hump it”.

(If you are overweight don’t set yourself the task of losing a few pounds before you do anything; start living your life now. If you are overweight, and are miserable because you are lonely and boyfriendless/ girlfriendless/ loverless, put your details up on the raunchiest BBW site that your morality can stand, and hold on to your hat! Big girls and boys are always in demand. You can only lose weight if you are happy. Fending off would-be lovers with a stick is  a very practical and measurable marker of happiness. Sitting at home feeling fat and ugly, makes you fat and ugly.  Sorry, that not really about pull ups is it.)

Let us begin…

  • Objective 1: can you hang from the bar with your palms facing towards you (for those in the know, this is the ‘chin-up’ grip that’s a bit easier to begin with)?
  • Objective 2: can you hang a bit longer?
  • Objective 3: can you hang a bit longer than objective 2? (can you see where this is going?)

To save a lot of time, can you get to hang on your bar for 10 seconds? When you can, shout “woohoo” (loudly so as to annoy your neighbours) and start on working out how to do your first negative.

Your first what?

Well in highly technical terms, right, there’s the pulling up bit (right?) and then there’s the lowering bit.


At the moment you are not strong enough to do the pulling up bit, like, but if you were kind of already up there, maybe you could, er, lower yourself down a bit?


Does sort of rather beg the question of “how do i get up there?”…

Well here is the Andrew Stemler “Getting it up guide” (apparently this is a good title that always sells):

      1. Jumping. Grab the pull up bar but instead of trying to pull yourself up, jump up so that your chin is above the bar. This can be easier said than done
      2. By standing on something. Just stand on something that is high enough for you to start out in that already-pulled-up position. A bench, a chair, whatever. Anything you can use as a mini-ladder would be perfect. Perhaps even a mini-ladder?
      3. Stand on something “version 2”.  Grab the bar and make your loser boy- or girlfriend  (perhaps the one you got from the BBW site) grab your ass and push you up

Now, once you’re in that top position, you’re ready to do the negative part of the pull-up. So, lower yourself down as slow and controlled as you possibly can. Focus on keeping really tight. I don’t mean “refuse to lend people money or get drunk”, I mean “have lots of tension in your body”. Squeeze (your own) bottom together. Brace your abs, squeeze your legs together.

Your first lower (we will call it negatives from now on) will either be agonisingly slow and hurt like hell, or you will fall straight through as you discover you have no strength at all.

Once you have lowered yourself, pop off the bar and reflect. Negatives are very taxing. You need rest between each one and you should never do more than 6 to 8 in a session.

So here is you beginner “CHIN-UPS FOR HAPPINESS” programme

Day  1: neg, neg, neg, neg, neg ( 120 secs rest between each negative)

Rest a day ( drink, eat cake, take all sorts of drugs. Smoking is especially good for you these days as it gets you out in the fresh air

Day 2: neg, neg, neg, neg, neg (90secs rest between each negative) It’s the same but with less rest!

Rest a day (put your own joke in!)

Day 3: neg, neg, neg, neg, neg (120 secs between each negative)

Rest one day

Day 4: The next workout needs you to get that loser boyfriend/girlfriend again. Basically they are going to try and help you pull yourself up and down. They get behind you, grab you…somewhere….(experiment) then they assist you to do….three sets of as many reps  as you can with 120 seconds between. So they grab you, and haul you up and down as many times as you can. Could be 1, you could do 2 or 6. The set is over when they cannot push you anymore, not when you feel like it. You will want to stop early as it feels as it you are not doing the work: in fact it’s mainly you.

Rest 120 seconds. Do it again 2 more times.

It’s my way of getting your body to see what the actual task is. No, a lat pull down machine is not a good substitution.

But, what if you cannot get anyone to help you? Well thats beyond this article: but ideas could be to go next door and bug your neighbour, call up your ex-wife. Perhaps the guy selling the Big Issue fancies a couple of quid extra. Get creative, and find someone. Join a religious group and offer to host a scripture reading and slip your set in before you start as “movement prayer”

Rest 2 days.

Day 5: neg, neg, neg,neg, neg (90 secs rest)

Rest 2 days.

Now it’s the big test. Get someone to help you do 1-2 easy, supported reps. Rest for 2 minutes. Then do your 1 chin-up (woohoo!) or hang there trying for a full 7 seconds. Then with 120 seconds rest neg, neg, neg.

If you get that pull up come and talk to us about getting more. If not return to the beginning and start again. If you are very weak it could take many passes through to get your first pull up. But this regime works.

Feel free to suggest improvements or funnier/ruder quips to comments.


My Name is Andrew Stemler and I’m a personal trainer in London

Back Pain: Cure your back with the Sorensen test

“The race has always been on to firstly predict,  then inoculate against,  back pain. A test known as the “Sorensen test” based on the work of Hansen in 1964, has been popular since 1984.

According to Demoulin et al 2006  ”The test consists in measuring the amount of time a person can hold the unsupported upper body in a horizontal prone position with the lower body fixed to the examining table”

The test is accepted in its discriminative validity, reproducibility, and safety. However debate continues to surround its ability to predict low back pain. No firm explanation, beyond “women rock” , has been offered as to why “chicks” can hold it longer than guys.

Naturally motivation and discomfort tolerance are confounding factors.

A interesting review is available in PDF form at Isometric back Extension tests: a Review of Literature Maureau et al Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics Volume 24 • Number  2001, But in essence,this report says this….(yawn….)

For men, the mean endurance time is 84 to 195 seconds; for women, it is 142 to 220.4 seconds. For subjects with LBP, the mean endurance time range is 39.55 to 54.5 seconds in mixed-sex groups 80 to 194 seconds for men, and 146 to 227 seconds for women” whether thats remotely useful lm not sure, but if you suffer or are prone to lower back pain, (you tend to know by your appalling posture), im going to suggest you move this figure up.

Demoulin C, Vanderthommen M, Duysens C, Crielaard JM.  2006.  Spinal muscle evaluation using the Sorensen test: a critical appraisal of the literature. Joint Bone Spine. 2006 Jan;73(1):43-50.”


My name is Andrew Stemler.  Im a london personal trainer working in Bethnal Green E2 and the City of London