Hook grip. It’s more than just Tshirts and posters of Lidia Valentin you know.

If you are a weightlifter, you should be using hook grip. Before I tell you why, I need to tell you something. It hurts. Sometimes it REALLY hurts.


Don’t worry though, your hands WILL get tougher and you WILL get used to it. Now we have that out in the open we can move on.

What is hook grip? It is simply trapping your thumb under your fingers when gripping the bar rather than the other way around.


As far as the technical reasons for using a hook grip go, there are two main reasons for you to consider.

The first is the strength of the grip. Using a hook grip will have a mechanical effect on the barbell, namely reverse torque, therefore strengthening your hold on the bar.

Secondly, using a hook grip will mean you keep your arms looser and turn over the bar faster, because there will be far less tension in the muscles that surround the elbow.

I suggest you start introducing it as early as possible in your weightlifting while you are still handling modest weights and you can get used to it!

Something I see on a daily basis is weightlifters failing lifts. The VAST majority of the time this is down to one reason: not getting under the bar.

Why do people fail to get under the bar, and consequently fail to receive the bar? Physics my friend, physics.

DO NOT DROP UNDER THE BAR! When all things are equal, objects fall at the same speed regardless of mass. Yes, I know that surface area, air friction and so on all have an effect, but on the scale we are talking about, to all intents and purposes, they fall at the same rate.

So guess what? If you drop, or fall under the bar, you and the bar will drop, or fall, at the same rate. Even if the bar is 100kg and you are 60kg. Except you won’t fall at the same rate. The friction in your knee and hip joints will slow you down even more.

You are simply moving too slowly to fall under the bar. Sure, you can get away with it when it is light, you can pull it higher and give yourself more time. However what do you do when it gets heavier?

YOU HAVE TO PULL YOURSELF UNDER THE BAR. Ah, the fabled third pull. In order to move faster than the bar you have to apply force, and it needs to be against the bar.

Actively pulling yourself down will accelerate you under the bar faster. This also has the effect of pulling the bar up (think Newton’s third law of motion boffins) so will slow the bars descent.

So now you are moving faster under the bar, and slowing the rate at which the bar falls. Now you are making lifts. Get it?

Richard Feynman would have been an excellent weightlifter.


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This work by David Whittington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

There are two kinds of people. Those who keep a training diary, and those who don’t. Which are you?

Personally I keep a training diary, and always have. This is in no small part because I follow only a template rather than a programme, and I load instinctively. For this reason it is vital for me to keep a training diary, so I can see any patterns, improvements and stagnation. I constantly refer back to previous weeks, months and even years to see what is working and what isn’t. It’s always nice to look back and see improvements you have made too, which is particularly useful if you are becoming demotivated or bored with your training. If you can’t remember what you are doing, how can you keep moving forward?

I keep a paper diary. As people who know me will attest to, I am a technophobe! My work diary is also a paper diary and I have only been using a smartphone for about six months! However, if you are a little more tech savvy than I am, this is a great way to record your training. I programme for my athletes using Google Drive, so they can record everything online in a spreadsheet, allowing me as their coach to constantly review and adjust the programme as required.

This at least gives you an excuse to be on your phone in between sets…

On the other hand you could waste your time scrolling through idiots on Instagram. A quick word on this…

I wanted to hate Instagram. I really did. You know what though? It CAN be brilliant! I get to watch lots of clips of top weightlifters picking up heavy things. I get a LOT of food ideas and see my friends doing fun things. Excellent! You can follow me on Instagram ( TheGorillaPT ) if you want to see a mediocre weightlifter picking up moderately heavy things, giving coaching tips and generally bimbling around pretending to have a proper job.

However, it it also a collection of twats. I could ramble for hours about this, but I shall stick to just one point. Just because you got sent a free tshirt and have a 10% protein discount code, you are not a sponsored athlete. Instafame (which I’m told is a thing) in no way compares to the people out there who are truly exceptional athletes and put their heart, soul and bodies into exemplifying the peak of human performance, often in sports that give little to no funding, support or fame. Work hard, pay your dues, and maybe one day you will be an athlete that kids can look up to and aspire to emulate.

Then again they’d probably rather look at some idiot in a backwards hat, who has achieved nothing other than limiting his carb intake, telling you to stay humble.

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This work by David Whittington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

This weeks blog starts with talking about the favourite subject of every gym bro, protein. Protein, protein, protein. We all know it is important, essential in fact, but just HOW important is it?

A mere scan through a few journals or websites will tell you that there is no fixed answer on just how much protein you NEED, either as a standard issue human being or as a weightlifter, bodybuilder or whatever. You will see figures ranging from 0.5g protein per kg of lean body mass per day, up to a whopping 4g per kg of body weight per day. There really is no clear, definite answer, despite what some people will insist. Most people will find some research or opinion that they agree with or understand, and that they can fit into their daily life, and eat accordingly.

What I want to know though is where protein cheese fits into this? For those who have not seen it, there are some supplement manufacturers marketing cheese that is higher in protein content and lower in fat than most hard cheeses. It is essentially fortified cheese.

The thing is, you can already get protein cheese. It’s called cheese. However you can also now get protein cakes, protein beer and who knows what else. The issue I have with these things are how much processing and manipulation these foodstuffs undergo. If you require more protein in your diet, why not include more natural, unprocessed, whole food protein sources in your diet? If you want to eat less fat, or refined sugar, why not eat less of them? If you are so deficient in an essential macronutrient that you must turn to protein cheese, you need your head looking at because you are doing life wrong.

I understand that people need to eat in a way that is sustainable, and protein beer and cheese may seem a ‘better’ way to deviate from your normal, healthy nutrition plan, but I disagree. If I eat a clean, whole food diet 95% of the time, and that allows me to eat junk 5% of the time, why the hell would I go with protein beer and cheese?! I want to enjoy good quality, delicious beer and cheese, and as discussed last week, nutrition it is all about mean averages! Get a grip!

Second, lets talk about your training week. This stemmed from some programming I was doing with a GB American football player. This athlete had contact and skill pitch based sessions each week, along with a game during the season. In addition they had two strength sessions, a power and sprint session, some agility and quickness work, and of course mobility and recovery work. Allowing for adequate rest and preparation for games it simply did not fit in a seven day week. So we made an eight day training week.

This was simply because in order to complete a successful training cycle with effective stimulus for adaptive change we had to change something. I could have made the decision to remove some important training, or set my athlete on a destructive downward cycle of overtraining. Neither of these was an option for me, so I changed the arbitrary measure of time we habitually use.

How often do you see a template like this:

Monday: Chest
Tuesday: Back
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Legs
Friday: Shoulders and arms
Sunday: Hangover


Monday: Upper body strength
Tuesday: Lower body power
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Upper body power
Friday: Lower body strength
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Carvery

Now imagine that the bodybuilder wanted to include a circuit session, and some CV, and play 5 aside football? Or that the strength athlete wanted to add in two hypertrophy sessions, and a pool session? They would be struggling to fit them into their training and around their life. If though we programmed the cycle of sessions over an eight, or even ten day stretch then we could successfully include all the desired or required training.

It is important that YOU do what YOU need to do.

Even if ‘Monday is always chest day’.

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An open letter to British Weightlifting

My name is David Whittington. I am a BWL and UKSCA coach, and I am unsatisfied with British Weightlifting as an organisation at a regional level. On behalf of myself and numerous weightlifters I have talked with or who are coached by me, I wish to express my disappointment in BWL and promote discussion on the issues that I am raising here.

My concerns can be grouped chiefly into three areas:

  1. The disparity between different regions within the BWL structure in regards to organisation, participation and promotion of weightlifting, and the lack of standardisation.

  2. The organisation of the upcoming Central Championships, specifically:

– The method used to invite lifters

– Removing the competition as a potential qualifier for the English / British championships for uninvited lifters.

– The discriminatory nature of the athlete selection, in particular gender discrimination.

  1. The poor organisation of the upcoming Central Open.

First, I would like to question the standards and consistency employed by BWL at a regional level. I, and many others, feel that there is a significant difference in the approach taken by the different regional bodies in terms of the sharing of information, the number of competitions held and introductory or developmental events.

A good example of this would be to look at the websites for Central (http://www.centralregionsweightlifting.uk) and Northern (http://northernweightlifting.com/) as a comparison. The quality and quantity of information provided, including results, competition calendar and news varies enormously. Further to this, there does not appear to be official sites for London & SE or South West at all.

Why is there not an official and branded site for each region, and why are they not standardised?

Why are they not linked to from the BWL website?

Why is there not a central database of upcoming competitions on the BWL site?

Second, I would like to turn to the Central Championships to be held on 12th December 2015.

In terms of the selection process, I believe the method used is unfair. The organisers have used the Sinclair coefficient to invite the top performing athletes from the region from the previous 12 months in order to make a selection. I was informed that this was to keep the entry numbers down to make the day shorter. I understand the need to limit the entry numbers (both in terms of time constraints and standard of lifting), but I believe that using Sinclair rather than setting qualification totals has resulted in an entirely skewed sample of lifters being invited.

In this instance there have been NO lifters invited from the following weight categories:






Also, the following categories have 3 or fewer athletes invited:






The Central Championship is the flagship event of the region, the largest and most prestigious competition for the Midlands. How is there a scenario where competitors in FIVE out of 15 weight categories will be awarded a championship medal for simply turning up and posting a total? Additionally, lifters in one-third of the weight categories will not even get the opportunity to compete as there is not a single athlete invited from them. This is ridiculous and makes a mockery of the whole event.

In addition to this, any athletes that were hoping to use the Central Championships to qualify for the English championships in January, including myself, will now no longer get this opportunity, indeed one of the last opportunities to do so. Not only that, but there are lifters on the list who have been invited, but are not aware of it as the organisers have not even contacted them.

Is participation not one of the priorities of British Weightlifting?

How can BWL claim to be increasing participation with such a poor system in place?

The organisers of the Central Championships have also decided to arbitrarily limit the male competitors to 25, and female competitors to 15. I, and every single person I have discussed this with, finds such a discriminatory practice outdated, unfair and offensive. Why is the gender ratio of invited lifters so warped?

How is it that in an equal opportunities society the selection process for invitations to a sporting event can be so sexist? As demonstrated by the current funding situation, BWL aims to increase the participation of female lifters in particular. How are we meant to trust in the equal opportunity provision of our sports governing body?

Finally, I wish to criticise the organisation of the Central Open competition for November, which has changed date several times, and is now scheduled for a Sunday just 6 weeks away, leaving many athletes unable to compete and many with the need for reprogramming to taper towards the meet.

I strongly believe that regional-level competitions should be set at the start of the year and collated centrally on the BWL website and calendar.

I welcome open discussion on any of the points raised in this letter, and hope that it leads, in any small way, to the positive growth and change of weightlifting in Great Britain.

Yours sincerely,

David Whittington, ASCC


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This is the first of a new weekly blog post discussing anything and everything from the world of exercise, sports science, nutrition and weightlifting. I will be reflecting on the previous week, coaching and training, anything noteworthy from the news and ideas for the week ahead.

The first thing I want to talk about is something that came up several times last week with some of my weightlifters, including both novice and experienced lifters. I coach a number of athletes on a one to one basis and a lot in a group setting. These sessions are usually planned to include specific drills to improve positional strength, a particular movement pattern or aspect of strength. In other words there is always a specific target in mind for the work that we do.

I love my lifters to ask questions, this helps them understand what we are doing and ultimately become better athletes. Last week the question seemingly on everyone’s lips was ‘Ah, but what about…?’

Due to the advent of Instagram, Hookgrip and the internet in general, lifters can pore over ‘perfect’ technique for hours and obsess over tiny details, many of which are individual to the athletes being filmed anyway. They then begin trying to incorporate these advanced techniques or idiosyncratic movements into their own lifting, focussing on small details rather than the fundamentals. This is simply not beneficial for a lot of novice to intermediate lifters and can result in slow or stagnant progress as new lifters are unable to find their ‘own’ way.

The point I am making is this: Do you know what you are doing and why you are doing it? Are you nailing down the fundamentals of strong positions on an unrelenting basis, over and over again? Are you staying over the bar, driving with your legs, hitting full extension, pulling under and receiving in a strong position? THESE are the cornerstones of good weightlifting, not tiny insignificant details. Trust your coach, trust your drills, hammer the basics.

Secondly a quick word on food, and against the obsessive use of MyFitnessPal. Newsflash: You can’t get fat or thin in a single day, so don’t worry about hitting your daily targets with 100% accuracy every time. Look at your nutritional intake over the course of a week in order to ascertain mean averages. This is what is important, and sustainable, in a monitored diet!

If you want me to address anything specific in these blog posts, or have any questions you want answering, drop me a line via the contact form at http://www.gorillapt.com or the Facebook page.

Finally, is anyone still watching the Rugby World Cup? I thought it had finished…?

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This work by David Whittington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Yet another free download from Birmingham based elite coach and personal trainer GorillaPT.com! This is a four week strength training programme, suitable for novice and intermediate lifters.

This 3 session per week programme can be found here:


Simply go to ‘File’ then ‘Download as’ to select your desired format. As with all Gorilla PT programmes they are active spreadsheets, so filling in your max lifts will calculate everything for you!

Personal Trainer Birmingham Gorilla PT

If you don’t have maxes, for example because you are a new lifter, it will be necessary to find your five repetition maximum weight on the 5 key strength lifts. I prefer to programme off the 5RM for beginner to intermediate lifters for several reasons, the first and foremost being that the risk of injury is significantly lower during testing than when attempting to find a 1RM.

The next reason is that a 5RM will likely be a much more accurate reflection of your strength. Primarily because when testing a 1RM the importance of all factors such as sleep, nutrition, fatigue, technique etc have a greater effect. So your ability to replicate lifting at the tested standard is dependant on too many factors to be consistent. With a 5RM you will gain a more accurate insight into your strength.

Regarding both the testing and the training in this programme it is important to note that technique is the primary consideration, rather than weight on the bar. For example if you can deadlift 100kg for 5 repetitions with good form, and you think you could deadlift 110kg for 5 repetitions but with a rounded back, the max here is 100kg. Do not be tempted to lift more weight with worse form!

This progamme is designed as a repeatable 4 week cycle, ideally to be completed over 3 sessions per week with a rest day in between each session. If however life dictates completing your sessions with a greater or lesser frequency, simply continue completing the sessions in the order that they are programmed.

If you want to complete any cardio vascular fitness training, I would recommend considering how you will fit it around this strength training, ideally on the days that you don’t lift.

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This work by David Whittington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Injuries. They sometimes seem inevitable. You train sensibly, you programme your progress, warm up, cool down, stretch, foam roll and do assistance and rehab. Yet still luck occasionally seems to be against you and you get injured.

So what do you do now?

Birmingham personal trainer torn quad

What would you do with a torn quad?

In my experience, both as an athlete and a coach there are numerous ways to deal with an injury, and often you will go through them all during an injured phase!

Wallowing. This is often the first reaction you will arrive at. Wallowing in self pity. You can’t train as you would want to, so what’s the point? Why not just stay at home and eat peanut butter? Out of the jar. With your hands. This is not the way!

Soldiering on. This can come next. The ‘sod it’ factor. You get your ass down to the gym and attempt to push yourself through your session anyway. A bit of pain never hurt anyone, right? Wrong, you will probably make your injury worse!

Half arsed. Most people settle on this. Doing a few bits that you can manage without pain, and moaning about it every step of the way. It’s better than the previous two options, but still not the one!

Training smart. This is the winner. It takes a little discipline and some planning, but this is the solution. So what do I mean by training smart? Well, firstly an objective assessment of the injury, and prognosis is required. This is best done in conjunction with a coach, physiotherapist or doctor. This will allow you to effectively settle on the movements and intensities that it is advisable to include, and those that it is wise to avoid.

Secondly, look at what movements and treatments you should be including to speed up and maximise your healing. If this involves medication ensure you consult your doctor, and seek advice on things like foam rolling and corrective exercises from your coach or movement specialist.

Thirdly, look to include an element of progression in the movements that you are able to train, ideally with a timeframe that is compatible with the recovery time of your injury. It is important to take a proactive approach to recovery if you want to make the most of your smart training!

A good example of putting this into practise is a recent injury I sustained on my rebuilt shoulder. A muscle pull meant that snatching and overhead work were likely to be off the menu for around a month. Having suffered numerous injuries while competing as a strongman, many of them fairly serious, I managed to avoid the wallowing and soldiering on methods and immediately started planning a smart training phase.

I decided to focus on my squat, initially deconstructing it mechanically, and then adding in frequency and load to bring my strength up. This culminated in a 5kg 5RM personal best after the four weeks, a worthwhile training block I’m sure you will agree!

While I was unable to snatch I was however able to work on my start position and first pull, both with load to strengthen and with positioning drills. I also included shoulder and upper back stability work using bands and unilateral movements to ensure that once I returned to overhead work I would be unlikely to reinjure myself.

I dislike using tired old clichés as conventional wisdom, yet in this case such gems as ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ or ‘for every door that closes another opens’ are definitely applicable, and should give you food for thought.

Injury, or opportunity?

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As another free download from GorillaPT.com here is a proven four week squat programme!

birmingham personal trainer weightlifting coach

As with all my programmes, you can complete the ‘Max’ boxes and it will calculate the loads for you throughout the programme.

To download this free resource, simply follow this link:


Select ‘file’ then ‘download as’ and select the format you wish to save the file as.

This is not a complete programme, but is the squatting portion only. This makes it suitable to include as part of a strength and power programme, or to adjust your primary focus to squatting strength during a four week mesocycle. This calls for squatting three times a week, ideally with a rest day in between each one.

This is also perfect for crossfitters or weightlifters who want to add a structured squatting element to their training.

For full and personalised programming options, get in touch via thegorillapt@gmail.com or via the contact form on the homepage.

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This work by David Whittington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

I thought I would address something that arose in one of my Birmingham weightlifting clubs a couple of times last week. It concerns weightlifting shoes, something that the majority of my lifters wear (and yes, chances are you should be too if you’re even semi serious about becoming fitter and stronger). It transpires though that a lot of people are wearing them incorrectly! How on earth do you wear shoes incorrectly though I hear you ask? Putting them on the wrong feet? Putting them on your hands? Wearing them to do the garden in? All these are, clearly, wrong, but this is what I am talking about:


I saw one of my lifters putting her shoes on without undoing the laces or straps, just pulling them on like a pair of carpet slippers! The simple fact is this: If you wear your weightlifting shoes loose you are costing yourself kilos on the bar!

Lets look at the design and purpose of a weightlifting shoe. They have a solid heel and sole, designed not to compress or wobble so the lifter’s feet and therefore ankles, knees, hips and spine are stable. They have tarsal straps to prevent the feet spreading and moving so the lifter’s feet and therefore ankles, knees, hips and spine are stable. They have a raised heel to allow for the ankle and knee to move effectively without pulling the heel off the floor, so the lifter’s feet and therefore ankles, knees, hips and spine are stable.

Do you see a pattern here?

If you are stable and can achieve good positions and movement, you will lift more weight and become stronger. So why on earth would you negate these positive aspects of weightlifting shoes by wearing them loose, allowing your feet to move around within the shoe, thus compromising stability?!

In order to become a strong and effective weightlifting unit you need to lift on solid foundations. As I once notably commented in a one to one coaching session, “you can’t build a house on trifle”.

Build your house on solid foundations, do up your shoes!


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