Lifting Heavy? Be Ready!

How many injuries have occurred because the body wasn’t physically prepared for the day’s workout/competition? Let me take you through one of the best bang for your buck exercises that will prime your body for the task at hand.  It will activate what needs to be turned on and stabilize what needs to be locked down!

CoreXcellence has developed the reputation as the “go-to-place” when you’ve plateaued, been injured, or just want to learn #IntensityDoneRight. 

Over the years CoreXcellence has added many methodologies into its toolbox – be it related to assessment, rehab, strength training or regeneration.  Some are still a mainstay in our “System”, while others have gone along the way of the relationship graveyard – “good while it lasted”.

One aspect of our training system is movement-prep/activation. We used to do a lot stretching, mini-band work, hip lifts, shoulder stabilization, dynamic warm-ups – all to prepare for that day’s lift. We’ve cut the prep time in half for our training sessions – implementing postural repositioning (PRI) which sets the body in the most optimal lifting pattern, as well as adding an efficient, loaded, all inclusive core activating/stabilizing exercise in the Turkish Get Up (TGU).

Benefits of TGUs

  • Shoulder Stability
  • Anterior Core activation
  • Efficient Hip extension
  • Bracing & anti-rotation (athletic abs)
  • Lower to Upper body power transfer

Common hiccups

  • Not packing shoulders before beginning lift
  • Crunching the Get Up instead of rotating at the trunk with braced core
  • Not effectively extending the hip
  • Overhead position without packed shoulders or arching the back to attain overhead position

Putting it all together

Let’s take a set-by-step walk through of the Turkish Get Up

Summing it up

Perform the TGU impeccably. Load it up – if you’re going to lift heavy sh**, get your body primed.
If there is a point in the TGU that seems unstable, spend a little extra time on that area in order to limit your exposure to injury and give you the tools to lift more efficiently.
Stack the shoulders, extend the hips fully and lock down the anterior core to prevent the ribs from flaring or extending into your back.

Now, GO GET IT!!!

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The SYSTEM – You’re LOST Without It!

Over the past few years, well maybe 35 years, I’ve seen a lot of intelligent, passionate, energetic, and seemingly financially sound trainers/coaches come and go – what was missing? A SYSTEM.

They finished school or worse, a weekend certification, with a plan of how they would transform their clients.  It worked great for a period but then boredom kicked in or the client plateaued – hmmm, what to do? There was this cool exercise/machine in that magazine and that other trainer was doing with their clients – it looks like it works.

They attended all the seminars, but not listening to the speakers talk about why they do things a certain way (read: SYSTEM); they’re at the back of the room buying VHS, CDs, DVDs, digital media – yes, they had VHS back then.  They would only attend the practical sessions because they just wanted to see what the latest exercise was or how to use that cool new piece of equipment.

About fifteen years ago a trainer said “You’re so lucky because you get away with doing the basics with your clients!  My clients want something new all the time?!”  Well, if you’re not making them better at the basics, then of course they want to do something else?!  Who wants to be s…t at something?

“Oh, it hurts when you squat low?  OK don’t squat that low.  And it hurts when you do push ups?  OK we won’t do those, but I’ll show you something cool I saw at the seminar I went to!” – how often have we heard that?

How about when you attend those seminars really listen to what the successful coaches are doing, ask them why they do it that way, and try to figure out if/how you should implement it in your coaching system – build your toolbox!

Those that know me have heard me give kudos to the likes of Mark Verstegen, Mike Boyle, Paul Chek, Danny Roberge, Gray Cook, Ron Hruska – these pioneers gave me the tools to begin working on the foundation of what is now our SYSTEM. The system has evolved tremendously, especially in the last ten years – not because of gadgets or fads but because of ongoing continuing education and by being challenged by a knowledgeable and passionate team.  We strive to find more efficient tools/methodologies to help coach our clients to success.

Notice how at every level of the system, we assess?

We look for feedback at every level of the process.  

Are their Plyometric landing mechanics off?  

Do they not have good hip alignment when doing split squats?  

Does one arm swing more than the other when running?  And so on…

“Assess and Correct” as Eric Cressey would say.  Twenty years ago, our only tool was FMS (Functional Movement System). With the addition of our Multi-Disciplinary Sports Clinic in 2013, evaluating existing and potential clients has become more productive in getting to the root cause of movement impairments. Since then, Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) has provided much more insight to our assessment protocols.

 In the last 7-10 years, there has been a surge in the need to add speed training to our athletes’/clients’ programs, so we enlisted the teachings of Derek Hanson (Running Mechanics Professional) and Les Spellman (Spellman Performance) to our system.

Don’t wait for the client to tell you something is wrong – by then, the issue is probably chronic?!

Coaching Checklist

  • Find out WHO the better coaches are in your city/province/state/country.
  • Either mentor or intern with them to get a better understanding of WHAT their system is all about and ask WHY they run their system as they do.
  • After gaining a good understanding of how their program works, copy it!! They are smarter and more experienced than you, so why shouldn’t your clients benefit from their knowledge.
  • Once you’ve become a craftsman with the tools in your toolbox, only then should you start putting together your system.

Are you all fired up and ready to get after it? WAIT!!  

You need to take 20 minutes and listen to Martin Rooney – then you’re ready!!

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“The best way to get better at your sport is to practice your sport more!”

Injured?  Doesn’t matter, you’re an athlete, you’ll adapt. 

Plateau?  Keep going, it’ll get better eventually! 

Do you know why you’re finding it hard to convince your Strength Coach why you have to keep hammering it home?  Because he doesn’t really understand your sport.  Your Sport is different!!!

OK now that we have the sarcasm out of the way, let’s get to the bottom as to why some athletes shun the Strength & Conditioning Coach.

Swimmer? Marathoner? Cyclist? Right Winger? Ben Johnson is that you?  I think not!!!

Sport silhouettes

The goal of a qualified S & C Coach is to make you a more efficient, powerful, confident and most important, more resilient athlete in your sport of choice; not a world class bodybuilder!!

Hockey – reduce groin pulls with proper core stability; increase speed through lower body strength and power development; save compromised shoulders by improving upper back strength(thoracic mobility/stability/strength).

Endurance athletes(marathoners/triathletes) – improve pillar strength(Abs, buttocks and lower back) so as to endure long distances with repetitive movements, improve “Glute” function to ensure proper running stride or cycling cadence.

Cyclists – pillar strength, improve hip mobility and efficiency of lower body power production, upper back stability.

Golfers – improve the efficiency of the power transfer from the lower body, through the core, into the thoracic spine, out the arms, whipping the club, and pummelling the ball.

And the list goes on and on…

The S & C Coach will identify and help fix or limit your imbalances, improve your flexibility and mobility, strengthen your weaknesses, take you past your plateau, and get you game/race ready.

An 8 cylinder engine might go fast with only 6 cylinders working, but you’ll only know true speed when all 8 cylinders are firing!



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What to Expect when You’re Expecting?! – Part 2

So…“Do you have control of your pelvic floor?”

In my opinion the most overlooked question in training pregnant women.

Learning how to get these muscles working properly & efficiently can sometimes be a humbling and complicated affair – so why is it so important?!

  • Reduce the risk of low back injuries due to the lack of stability in the lumbo-sacral region.
  • Improve bladder and bowel control
  • Reduce the risk of prolapse, resulting in feelings of heaviness, pulling, dropping, and needing to use the bowels but not actually having to go.
  • Improve recovery from childbirth and gynaecological surgery (in women), prostate surgery (in men).
  • Increase sexual sensation and orgasmic potential – this one usually peaks interest the most!!

Notice how the Pelvic Floor is shaped like an inverted umbrella

And is tasked to support the lower abdominal organs

The easiest way to identify the pelvic floor muscles is to ‘hold your pee’ midway through urination (sorry – couldn’t find an easier way to say it).  This should only be done for a couple of seconds, then relax the muscles and continue emptying the bladder.  This is NOT how you should exercise the muscles; stopping the flow should be used only to identify the correct muscles!  Another method to find the right muscles is to ‘stop the flow’ and ‘hold in the lower gases’ – doing both at the same time.  Try this lying down, seated, or standing with legs shoulder-with apart.

Working the Muscles and getting it right


  • Relax the legs, the ‘Abs’, and your breathing
  • Tighten your pelvic floor as if to stop the flow and the gases!
  • Tighten the muscles around the genitalia as if to pull up and into the pelvis
  • Women familiar with using tampons – imagine squeezing and lifting as if drawing upward into vagina
  • Put all this together, feel the contracted muscles – both front and rear passages should feel as if they are drawing up and in to the pelvis.  Now relax them


  • Do not hold your breath while bracing/drawing-in the pelvic floor as this may cause a bearing down effect on the pelvic floor.  This is the main reason why we instruct pregnant woman to NEVER hold their breath!!!
  • Do not contract the glute muscles
  • Do not perform a posterior pelvic tilt
  • Do not ‘crunch’

If you cannot feel the proper contraction, change your position – seated, standing, lying down.

Work up to holding the contraction for 10 seconds while breathing calmly, then repeat 10 times.  Remember to always relax the muscles between contractions, as you would with any other muscle groups you are ‘working out’. Try to pair this exercise routine with your daily activities: at stop lights, while brushing your teeth, at breakfast, in the boardroom, etc.  This will help you get it done 3 times a day, and soon master the ‘Floor’!

Remember, these are just a few of the guidelines we follow at CoreXcellence with regards to training and pregnancy. In no way should these guidelines supersede the advice from your Doctor. As I stated in Part I, we refer out every case to an Osteopath and Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist, both pre and post pregnancy and adhere to their medical advice as well as that of the client’s Doctor.

As a follow-up, Stacie M. started back training six week post-partum, after being signed off by our Osteopath and Pelvic Floor Physio, as well as her OBGYN.  With her ‘Floor’ almost at 100%, she is progressing quite well.  And Baby Nicole….just ADORABLE!!!

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What to Expect When You’re Expecting?! – Part 1

Because I have had the pleasure/honour of training more than a dozen incredible women through two dozen or so pregnancies, I am often asked “What do I do with my client who is or is planning to get pregnant?!”

More often than not, a trainer’s first reaction is “Wow, Congratulations!!!”.  Then, “Don’t worry, I have it all under control!”, which when translated means “S…t, Google what do I do now??”

The most overlooked question that a trainer should ask them self is, “Does she have control of her pelvic floor muscles?”

I recently went on vacation and left Stacie M.(9 months pregnant), to train with another coach without leaving training instructions, as I took for granted that this was an easy case – my bad!

Since I was away in Jamaica and could not be reached, the Coach turned to other coaches for advice.  All the responses were: “My client was able to do this and that…If your client is strong she could do this”.  Someone even suggested Pull-Ups?!

20 coaches weighed in and gave advice without even knowing at what stage she was in her pregnancy; and more importantly, not one person asked “Does she have control of her pelvic floor muscles?”

Back to Stacie M.

When she told me over a year ago that she was planning on a third child, I referred her to an Osteopath to check the integrity of the abdominal area; I refer all my clients planning pregnancies to an Osteo.  She came back and told me he had the same advice as I but was much more assertive, and used word like “prolapse” and “poor bladder control” should she not improve the functionality of her pelvic floor!

Yup, that scared the hell out of her.  So guess what??  “Don, I NEED HELP!!”

The first 15-20 minutes of her workouts, we worked on properly activating her pelvic floor.  Then, holding that contraction and also bracing the Transverse Abdominals…then, Pelvic Floor and Transverse Abdominals AND BREATHE!!!  In conjunction with our 3 workouts per week, I referred her to a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist to also work on re-establishing proper function.

Prior to our ‘intervention’, Stacie M. had plateaued at 90lbs. goblet squats and 150lbs. deadlift.  Four pelvic floor physio sessions and one month of pelvic floor homework had Stacie blasting through her plateau – now front squatting 150lbs. and deadlifting 200lbs.

And then it happened… I I … PREGNANT!!!

She carried full term, 42 weeks…training 3x per week and baby Nicole was born 2lbs bigger than her two sisters!!!

In Part 2,  I will explain how we got Stacie M. better/stronger than she’s ever been and how she trained up to a week before giving birth…

…until then, Welcome Baby Nicole to the CoreXcellence Family!!!

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