The Adaptation of Kyle Gardiner

The Adaptation of Kyle Gardiner

This blog post is about the detailed approach in the building of Kyle’s training program, which took him from 567th  in the 2014 CrossFit Open to 79th (Australia Region) after only working together for 7 months.

Kyle was 37 when he first came to me in August 2014, with the goal of going top 100 in the 2015 Open. At that time I knew how hot the competition was getting and said we would do some testing to establish the realism of the task.

The first thing any good plan has is a start point and an end point. We had the end point, top 100 in the Open, but we needed to establish the start point.

Here is a picture of the very first day’s testing from August.

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As the weeks went on it was pretty clear to see his strengths and weaknesses. His primary weakness was the aerobic side with a 2km row time of 7:29 and a 5km run time of 26.06 during week one and two of testing respectively and second to that was his shoulder stability and strength.

His strengths were his ability to move weight, partially due to his size (95kg), and also the quality of his gymnastics movements. He had very little Muscle Endurance but his movements were correct. Gymnastics and weightlifting are arguably the hardest skills to develop and master, and having these skills already moderately taken care of made things a lot easier.

If we looked at a power/endurance continuum Kyle thrived on the left and was way weaker the further he came to the right.

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Another key indicator was the length of time it took him to recover from an aerobic stimulus. With all of my athletes I monitor HRV (Heart Rate Variability) to help determine their training. It gives a great indication as to the body’s state and whether it is recovered or in the process of recovering. With Kyle there was a common trend that every time we had a high load aerobic session his HRV would significantly drop and stay down for up to four days. I could tell immediately that he wasn’t at all conditioned to aerobic training.

On inspection of his movements and motor patterns with video analysis we could see one of the main causes of his breakdown in performance came from a weak posterior chain. Whether it was pulling from the ground, squatting, rowing or running, his weak lower back, glutes and hamstrings created a tendency to favour his quads with everything and led to a huge lack of performance across multiple movements (row, deadlift, snatch) and his lower back becoming tight doing almost everything.

Here are his placing’s during the 2014 Open:

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You can see the big failures were in workout 1 and 3 which both heavily depended on the posterior chain and pulling from the ground. The workouts he did better in involved squats, gymnastics or both. All of the weaknesses discovered during testing would serve as the focus for the following six months.

Once I had Kyle’s start and end point it was time to develop a program that got him from point A to point B. The macrocycle was broken into month long blocks, and after the testing phase we only had six months to prepare which is a ridiculously short amount of time.

As with all programs I focus on the weakness of the weakness and went straight to work prescribing posterior chain activation, aerobic base and shoulder stability/strength work. There was no time to just do ‘CrossFit’, we had to hammer home the weaknesses ASAP with laser like focus!! There were very little typical CrossFit workouts prescribed, we just coordinated firing the right muscles, ran and rowed for the vast majority of the training.

Although CrossFit in general follows a non-linear model of training, and even people that compete at CrossFit will follow a non-linear periodisation, with Kyle we kept things non-linear (training all of the energy systems on a weekly basis) but within each system kept things relatively linear.


Safety, timing and control. If you haven’t read my other blogs about injuries being the biggest factor on limiting growth then it might come as a surprise to you, but a linear model of training is a lot safer. With volume gradually increasing, then decreasing with the addition of intensity, the body is use to what it is being given with the performance still increasing. My primary goal with everyone is to prevent injury (because injuries f*ck up everything).

So here is how the macrocycle looked:

Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb
Layer  1 Post Chain
Aerobic Base Aerobic Speed Posterior Chain Strength Posterior Chain
Skill Work
Layer 2 Aerobic Base Isolated Post Chain Endurance/
Posterior Chain Endurance Aerobic Speed Endurance CrossFit CrossFit
Layer 3 Skill Work Skill Work Skill Work Skill Work Skill Work CrossFit
Layer 4 Anaerobic Endurance Anaerobic Power Anaerobic Endurance Anaerobic Power Functional Aerobic Speed Endurance CrossFit
Layer 5 Strength and LME Maintenance Strength and LME Maintenance Strength and LME Maintenance Strength and LME Maintenance Strength and LME Maintenance Strength and LME Maintenance

This means that on a weekly basis ‘Layer 1’ would be done five times a week as the first part of the session, ‘Layer 2’ would also be done five times a week but as the second part of the session, ‘Layer 3’ would be done four times a week but it would be the third part of the session, ‘Layer 4’ and ‘Layer 5’ would be done three times a week as the final parts of the session (yes, strength training last).

Within each of those blocks, each layer followed it’s own little linear periodisation. So in the Aerobic Base work we built Kyle’s running, rowing and Assault Bike endurance up gradually. By the end of October he was running 10km at a 5:00 km pace and rowing 5000m at a 1:50 500m split pace.

Once we began working on his aerobic speed he became good friends with the 400m running track, spending two days a week completing his interval training. We also conducted sets of up to 10 x 400m rows which were consistently around 1:15 in duration. And when we moved into the following months we bought in functional movements into the interval training but ensured the heart rate was still high and he never stopped moving. When we re-tested his 2km Row before the Open he came in at 7:05.

Once Kyle recognised how to switch on his posterior chain and keep it switched on we followed a linear LBBS (Low Bar Box Squat) program for the month of December. The LBBS is hugely under-utilised in most CrossFit programs. I believe that for the majority of the people that have problems pulling from the ground that this exercise can fix it. The movement pattern is near enough the same but the arms and shoulders are taken out of the equation and 100% of the load goes through the back. With no deadlifting done at all his 1RM went from 190kg to 205kg (in five weeks).

To help with his shoulder stability and strength we did literally 100’s of Turkish Get Up’s and kept his pressing movements strict. We followed a predominantly eccentric (tempo) Strict Press program for his strength work which I have found builds strength quickly, especially with more isolated movements.

Once January rocked around we started to bring all of it together, his weaknesses had been severely addressed and it was time to start doing more specific CrossFit style training. The closer we came to the Open the more specific training became and the true test was the five weeks during the Open.

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The entire time on a daily bases we monitored his HRV and his HR, which helped prescribe the days training and gave me an insight into how his body was recovering from the training.

Using this method we were able to improve everything in isolation, from all of our aerobic tests, through max UB reps and other muscle endurance work and most areas of strength. The significant gain was in the aerobic domain, which brought him up to be a balanced athlete.

Kyle is a professional stunt coordinator and was working in Thailand on a movie for the majority of the program, which included long ass days on set and broken eating habits. The one thing that made everything work was his commitment. He got sick once during those six months and had a few days off but apart from that he backed up training everyday without question.

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Not many people have that sort of discipline and he must take full credit for his achievements. During one of the weeks when there was a 7km Row planned and Kyle had no access to a rowing machine we changed the program to 300 Burpees instead, and without question he went in and did them.

If you are interested in seriously excelling within the sport of CrossFit then join the Underground RX Athlete Program and notice the difference! A new training cycle starts this coming Monday after the Open so click HERE to find out more and sign up.

The Secret To Long Term Success


I have no idea how this blog post will be. I’m just going to wing it… This post is about something that has been on my mind for a while and something I felt I needed to share.

Injuries are without a doubt the number one reason top tier athletes fall behind in the competitive season, and with each added injury comes a new hurdle or roadblock to overcome. Each injury also possibly adds an imbalance which can result in further injuries if training is not successfully modified to suit.

Rule Number 1) Don’t get injured…

All top athletes, bar a very few have had some sort of setback or injury in their career, it come with the fact that they push themselves so hard so often. Injuries can make or break an athlete. Young and enthusiastic athletes will normally work their ass off to overcome the hurdle and remaining focused on their primary goal. The thing that happens is that after one, two, three or four major injuries, sometimes the amount of time you end up putting in to rehab and maintenance outweighs the rewards.

Chad McKay is a hero of mine, and that man has had his fair share of injuries. I don’t know all of them but I am sure the list is long because every season he is doing some form of modified training. He has been in the game a long time and is a wise athlete and the reason he gets so far despite shoulder surgeries and broken bones is because he is smart. Taking six months off to fix a small issue saved him many months of future pain. I even heard a rumour he takes a mobility ball to the cinemas when he goes to roll out his back, glutes and hamstrings while we watches the latest chick flick because he knows the importance of staying injury free.

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Injuries can definitely knock an athlete of their peak, take Matt Healey for example, finishing in fourth place at Regionals in 2013, one spot from going to the Games and then never being able to compete again since all due to a dodgy patellar tendon. Just imagine if he had looked after his knee in the long run, there is little doubt that his goal of competing at the Games would have manifested in the next few years.

Rule Number 2) The fitness game is a turtle race

Well, it’s actually a balancing act between training your balls off and being smart. Training super hard all day everyday will only get you so far if it isn’t done correctly, visa versa training smart but not hard will mean you remain a nobody.

Injuries in CrossFit happen because people are stupid. They do ‘too much’ too soon and they do ‘too much’ all the time. So how do you get to the top? How do you find that balance between working hard and knowing when to rest?

Unless you have amazing intuition then you need to monitor your training load. The words ‘too much’ are the reason for all the injuries. When a smart athlete will do ‘just enough’. It’s no secret that to get to the top you need to work harder than the person beside you, but unless you are recovering faster than them you will not be able to do more work. So the name of the game becomes about recovery.

Intensity is the ONLY way to get better at something, and I will never forget a quote from Chris Spealler. “To get results you need intensity, to get intensity you need recovery”

Rule Number 3) Recovery is the secret to long term success

If you can train 365 days a year at high intensity then you will dominate. If you can only train 150 days a year at high intensity then you will be left for dust. If you want to be able to train 365 days at high intensity then you better be recovering like a boss. So many people just train everyday and wonder why they don’t get better. It’s because they have moderate intensity. To those people that just “go in and grind it out”, you’re doing it wrong. Yes grind out hard workouts, but don’t grind when you could be at home eating ice cream and rolling out, then coming in the next day and smashing it!

Ok, it’s late and I’m tired… Not sure if this blog even makes sense and I’m not going back to proof read it… Let me know your thoughts.


27/11/14 – Can you increase aerobic capacity and absolute strength at the same time?

Can you increase aerobic capacity and absolute strength at the same time?

The answer, as with most things depends on the individual. Each individual has a certain peak that they will be able to hit in their athletic career before things start to limit their progress and even go backwards. You can’t be the best forever, worst case you will die, and then I’m fairly confident you will have no athletic career. Second to that are all the things that happen with ageing and a drop in performance. Mental drive and generally being ‘tired’ will cause people to digress, injuries are another common career ending problem.

So within your lifetime you will only be able to get so far. Genetics will probably be the biggest asset you have and then it is about getting everything else right to ensure you reach ‘your’ peak and the closer you get to your peak the harder it is to make progress and you have to put more energy in to get the same results out.

Now that we have that clear lets talk about the question at hand. Can you increase aerobic capacity and absolute strength at the same time? For ease of understanding lets say cardio is measured by 5km run time and strength is measured by 1 RM deadlift.

Athlete A: If we look at an untrained person that could run/walk 5km in one hour and could only deadlift 30kg then it is easy to see that if that person had mild training for a few weeks they would have huge increases in their performance in both cardio and strength. BOOM, you CAN increase both at the same time.


Athlete B: Now let’s look at a fully trained runner that can run 5km in 15 minutes but only deadlift 60kg. That athlete is near his peak in cardio (in this case running) but a long way off his peak in strength. Would he be able to increase his peak in both? I’m going to say yes, he would need to focus a lot on his running still and a little on deadlifting, suffice to say the deadlift will get stronger fairly quickly.


So the answer is YES you can increase both aerobic capacity and strength at the same time, and in an experiment the results should show that (CrossFitters do it routinely). So why is there a debate about whether you can increase both? The only time you will really digress is if you are very close to your peak in one area and you start putting lots of effort into another area and neglect the amount of work taken to push your peak. Where it all gets unclear is on which way is best to increase both at the same time.

Now, let’s be honest, most of you reading this are CrossFitters so lets focus on what this means to you (but keep reading even if you are not a CrossFitter).

In CrossFit there is more to it than running 5km and hitting a 1 RM deadlift. If you then start adding other elements of strength and conditioning then you will need to start putting more energy in to keep progressing at the same rate. More energy also means to a big degree more time, and time waits for no one! To get better at everything you must constantly be doing everything, but to constantly do everything you need to recover enough to make positive adaptations and not go backwards.

It emphasises the need for a well mapped out training program.

It all comes back to the athlete’s current training ability and goal but lets assume the goal is to get better at CrossFit, which as everyone knows means having no weaknesses. If the athlete is strong but lacks cardio they should be doing ‘CrossFit’ with a bias towards cardio until they reach a level of balance (no weaknesses). The degree of that bias will depend on the degree of their weakness. For example, if Athlete B, the world class runner started CrossFit his program should have a heavy bias towards strength work (& skill). Giving him running would likely be a waste of time, and as stated, time is the one thing that will not wait!

Here are my points:

– The more modalities you add the more energy you must put in to increase at the same rate.

– The closer you get to your peak the more energy you must put in to increase at the same rate.

– CrossFitters should do CrossFit, but it should be periodised so they reach their peak when it matters AND it should be biased towards working on their weakest areas brining them into balance.

– The key to training more is recovering better.

Train smart team and if you want to read a detailed article on the subject written by the guru Aaron Davis then click HERE.

Why Low Intensity Training Is Just As Important

As a coach I have seen and trained hundreds of people from all walks of life with different goals and results in mind. When it comes to CrossFit and becoming more competitive people just seem to think that going hammer and tongs everyday is the way to progress. I’m just going to clear one thing up that hopefully teaches anybody reading this why going balls to the wall is not the best way for a couple of reasons.

Reason 1) To become fitter you need to become stronger, think 1RM Hang Snatch at Regionals or the 1RM OHS at the Games.

Reason 2) To become fitter you need to be able to do more work in a set time or the same work in less time, think most traditional WODs that involve AMRAPS or RFT (Rounds For Time).

Now this post is called ‘Why Low Intensity Training Is Just As Important’ and I am going to explain it to you base off of the above two reasons. The first point is related to ‘Reason 1’ and the second point to ‘Reason 2’. You will soon see that there are two ways to become stronger and two ways to be able to ‘work faster’.

Point 1) ‘Reason 1’ is about strength. Strength is not ‘for time’, it is literally the amount of weight (load) you can move. Like stated previously, there are two ways to get strong.

     A) Improving the energy system responsible for strength increase:

This involves a smart training program. High intensity through volume and/or load and appropriate rest to allow the body to recover. To get stronger you need to rest. Strength is predominantly the nervous systems ability to recruit more muscle fibers during it’s contraction and the nervous system can take anywhere between 1 – 7 days and sometimes even more to fully recover. If you just lift heavy weights (above 75% 1RM) everyday doing big compound lifts your body will struggle to recover. The amount of times people take a few weeks off from training and then come back to hit a PR is ridiculous. Resting is when you make your gains!

     B) Body position & movement:

This is the first real reason ‘Why Low Intensity Training Is Just As Important’. This is what you would call better technique. Your body isn’t actually any stronger but through using correct technique you will lift bigger weights and become stronger on paper, which is what matters. This is where low intensity training means everything. Snatching is a perfect example. I know people that can deadlift and squat huge weights and would appear to be strong, however they couldn’t power snatch (less flexibility required) anywhere near the equivalent weight. Just doing heavy high intensity snatching will be a slow way to results. Doing low intensity, quality skill work will increase your snatch/power snatch numbers significantly quicker and on paper you will be a lot stronger!

Low intensity training = better technique, better technique = strength, strength = increase in fitness!

Point 2) During ‘Reason 2’ we talk about doing more work in the same time (AMRAP) or doing the same work in less time (Rounds For Time). There are 2 ways to increase your fitness during these scenarios. One way is to physically increase the ability of your energy systems to store and utilise energy and the other is to become more efficient in your movement so that you use less energy doing the same work, which is the point I want to make clear. .

     A) The ability of your energy systems to store and use energy:

This is all about training smart and following a program that targets energy systems, especially the area’s you lack in. Interval training is great on high intensity days and long slow efforts are great for low intensity days and both are equally important.

     B) Become more efficient in movement:

Here is the second real reason ‘Why Low Intensity Training Is Just As Important’. If you move efficiently, you will save yourself energy, with that saved energy you will be able to do more work while the person next to you rests. To become more efficient you need to learn the correct technique. To learn correct technique you are best to do it at light load in a controlled environment.

Low intensity training = better technique, better technique = efficiency, efficiency = increase in fitness!

Hopefully now you can see ‘Why Low Intensity Training Is Just As Important’. It caters for 50% of getting fitter!!

If anyone reading this follows the Underground Program or is personally coached by me you will see that I very often program RFQ (Rounds For Quality). This is where the focus is on the quality of the movement which gains the ability to save energy. This is the stuff we focus on in the general preparation phase of training so that when it comes time to ramp up for competition you are moving like water.

Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee

How To Stretch While Waiting At The Airport For Your Late Girlfriend

So after over a week off of training last week with some sort of weird bug I headed in to the box at 8am for a heavy squat session. I only had two hours as I had to pick up my partner from the airport so I had to get through it pretty quick and knew I wouldn’t get a chance to stretch. I take ages to warm up, then I squatted for an hour, missing all of the numbers I wanted to hit so I just gathered that it wasn’t my day.

I hopped into the truck and headed off for the airport. Feeling my knee throb with pain and my legs start to tighten up I knew I had to stretch otherwise I would be written off for the next days training. I got to the airport as the flight was supposed to land but it was delayed 40 minutes which gave me time to find somewhere to stretch.

I’m going to be honest, if you get embarrassed easily then stretching in the middle of an international airport probably isn’t for you. But if you really want to make progress with your training sometimes you have to do the extra things. I even heard a rumour that Chad McKay takes a lacrosse ball to the cinema when he goes to roll out as he watches the movie. Now thats commitment.

Anyway, here is how I got an inconspicuous stretch going at the airport with a few tips to go with it.

1) The first stretch I did was for my quads, you can see how tight they are as I can’t get my knee back in line with my hips. I did some PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) to help lengthen it out which involves contracting the muscle you are stretching for about 10 seconds, then as you relax it you push the stretch a bit further using autogenic inhibition (google it).


2) Next up was the hamstring stretch. Again, completely inconspicuous. Notice how I use a cellphone casually so it doesn’t look like I’m stretching. That’s how the pro’s do it.


3) And lastly the glute stretch. This was probably the most obvious one. There is no real way to hide it and expect to get funny looks.


I just kept rolling through those stretches for about 30 minutes until my partner arrived and helped me re enact the stretches while she took photos. She thinks I’m a bit silly sometimes.

And for those people that read this I will write my blog posts on Sundays and Thursdays which will coincide with the Underground RX rest days.


How Your Metabolic Type Affects You?

PART 1: Training and Recovery

I don’t know how many posts this will take or how far into the rabbit hole we will go but I’m going to talk about something that probably never crosses anyones mind.

Even though it affects us all on a daily basis and specifically those of us who train hard and have health and fitness on our daily agenda.

Our body is made up of systems, one of them being the nervous system. The nervous system is made up of two parts, the CNS (Central Nervous System), which is the brain and spinal cord. And the PNS (Peripheral Nervous System) which is everything else including the the part I want to talk about, the ANS (Autonomic Nervous System).


Image from Wikipedia

As you can see in the diagram, the ANS (bottom centre) has two parts to it, the Sympathetic Division (SD) and the Parasympathetic Division (PD).  The SD is active when you are in action (fight or flight) which for us today means you are training. The PD is active when you are resting (rest and digest) which for us today means you are recovering.

If you do not understand what is written above please do not proceed. Read it again, look at the picture, and try your best to understand what has been said.

How is this relevant to you? There are LOTS of reasons…

The SD and PD come into play when they are required to assist you with what you are doing on a daily basis. Sometimes the SD will be dominant (training) and sometimes the PD will be dominant (sleeping). But that is not always the case and some people are SD dominant, and some are PD dominant and that should have a big effect on how you train and recover.

Have you ever noticed that some people are just slow and sluggish in the gym where others are go go go at 100 miles an hour. Usually the people that are go go go are like that out of the gym too, the are the A type personality, they love adventure and are usually the leaders. They are the SD dominant people. Opposite to that are our ‘hippies’ (no offence meant), who seem to cruise, not have a worry in the world, generally live at a slower pace. They are the PD dominant people. Yes you are both, and to varying degrees but you will more than likely have a bias.

Even before modern technology the world had methods for showing your metabolic type. You only have to look at Indian Ayurvedic (Ayurveda = science of life) methods to see how there are different types of people with different metabolic types. With Ayurvedic medicine people eat to their type and it has worked for thousands of years to help people become healthy. It is almost a lost art in modern nutrition but luckily it is making a comeback in the western world thanks to new age health coaches.

Anyway, Ayurvedic practices place you into a mixture of three groups and different people will have a bias to one or two groups and thus your type is found. The three groups are Vata, Kapha and Pitta. Feel free to do the online test and find out your life type by clicking this link:

In the modern day and age fancy computers can also tell you what sort of person you are, but I think your own intuition will be enough. It worked for them and it will work for you!! How that method relates to you is that it mainly involves nutrition and lifestyle choices to keep your body in an optimal state, something that everybody, including athletes should seek to obtain. I honestly believe that nutrition and lifestyle choices are the key to recovery outside of the gym.

Now, back to how this all relates specifically to training and recovery. Let’s look at how getting fitter is achieved and the stages the body goes through. With training we try and push the stress on the body just enough so that it doesn’t break (stage 1) and then we rest (stage 2), when the body is resting it pulls us into a Parasympathetic state where the bodies systems over compensate (stage 3) to make sure next time the stress comes along our body is more than capable of dealing with it. That is called ‘getting fitter’. Our bodies get stresses applied all the time so the SD gets called in to action. If those stresses continue then the body would start to break down and eventually shut down (stage 5). When the stress has subsided or the body says enough is enough the PD kicks in and we can rest and recover to get us back to a balanced state (stage 6).

You will notice I didn’t mention stage 4 which I will talk about in a second. Below is an easy to understand sequence of events. HR = Herat Rate, HRV = Heart Rate Variability (taken at rest).

Stage 1: Training (stress) SD in action, high HR, high output
Stage 2: Recovery (rest) PD in action, low HR, medium HRV, medium output
Stage 3: Overcompensation (peak) SD in action, high HR, high HRV, high output
Stage 4: Taper (this is where we should taper otherwise overtraining is likely to take place) Balanced ANS, low HR, high HRV
Stage 5: Sympathetic overtraining (stress, breaking down) high HR, low HRV, low output
Stage 6: Parasympathetic overtraining (broken down), low HR, low HRV, low output

I found this on a weird website but it paints a good picture. (

I found this on a weird website but it paints a good picture. (

For sever overtraining, athletes can hit plateaus and be out of action for over a year which is devastating for any pro athletes. Thats is why stage 4 is so important. Knowing when to taper your training is crucial, without it you are heading to a world of hurt! Tapering is ultimately balancing rest and training so that you don’t go backwards with gains you have made but you are also not pushing the envelope and going back into a highly Sympathetic state.

There are pro’s and con’s to being either a SD dominant person or an PD dominant person. The SD dominant person will more than likely rip sh*t and bust with high intensity high power output training but struggle to rest and recover which can result in overtraining as we have just discussed. On the other hand the PD dominant person will likely prefer and adapt better to longer endurance based training and have little problem getting into recovery mode. So whats best? Well it depends on your sport but for CrossFit a mixture of both is best. Especially if you have the capacity to control your ANS and can train with your SD and then rest with your PD. Have you ever noticed the more relaxed, less stress, more fun people do really well even though it seems like they don’t care. Well those people are recovering like a boss and can hit each training session consistently! Then you get those people that live and breath it, they kill it, they hit PR’s like nobodies business, they live the fast life, then without warning they go flat, get injured and move on.

Ultimately balance is the key, or more like knowing your type and how to switch on the PD state when it is rest time and when to turn on the SD state when it is time to crush a workout.

All of this is one of the many reasons I track HR and HRV with my athletes. To be the best you have to withstand the test of time. Avoiding overtraining by knowing a persons Metabolic type and the best ways to keep the stress/rest balance in place is the key to a long rewarding athletic life.

In Part 2 we will look at how different metabolic types require hugely different foods. It might just save your life!