Pull ups and the Zombie Apocalypse

You see these lists all over the internet every day:

“10 skills you need for a happier life!”

“21 skills every man should have!”

“101 skills you need to survive the Zombie Apocalypse!”

Who says I need a happier life!?! And what’s with the casual sexism?

I’m  happy in my life because my four year old daughter has a bodyweight deadlift (for reps!), can almost do a pull up and is wicked deadly with a lightsaber! (My zombie plan is to train my children to be Jedi Knights)

The ability to climb is an essential fitness skill in law enforcement, fire and military service. I’d add that it’s something that everybody should be able to do. The ability to rescue your neighbors cat/child, complete an obstacle course, get holiday decorations out of the attic, or climb a tree to escape zombies should be in everybody’s toolbox!

If you want to own climbing, then the pull ups, grip strength and crawling are the things to look at. But let’s do one thing at a time.

There are a lots of variations of pulling your body up to (and over) a bar, door frame or tree branch. You can do:

  • pull ups – palm facing away from you
  • chin ups – palms facing you
  • tactical pull ups – no thumbs
  • neutral grip – palms facing each other
  • any of the other myriad variations

For the sake of simplicity let’s just, for today, put them all together under the name ‘Pull Ups’.

Why do pull ups?

Apart from the lifestyle benefits of putting up festive decorations, escaping zombies and being able to save your life in the event of a flood they:

  • help counteract the ‘modern Gollum’ posture
  • encourage full shoulder/upper back range of motion
  • are a health counterpart to pressing actions
  • help develop the ‘athletic taper’ body shape
  • are a good indicator of a healthy body composition

They can also be used for:

  • pure strength
  • lean muscle development
  • endurance strength/cardiovascular drill
  • weighted pull ups (nothing says ‘I’m too strong for my body’ than this!)
  • an accessory for squats and deadlifts (you need a thick back to support big weights)

Fat-loss Guru Josh Hillis also notes that any woman who can perform three pull ups and any man who can do five, probably looks pretty ‘rockstar’ (and if they don’t then it’s the kitchen, not the gym, that they need to work on).

Can’t do a pull up?

Here’s a video I made a few years ago detailing exercises you can use to build up to your first one.

Don’t know how to add pull ups to your training? Want to know why you shouldn’t do pull ups before deadlifts or  superset them with bench press? Join the conversation on our Facebook group!

Be fit, be strong, be happy!

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Choosing your first Kettlebell Part 1 – Why get one in the first place?

As many of you know, I teach a lot of strength, mobility and conditioning workshops many centring around the use of the kettlebell. Now, there’s nothing magical about kettlebells despite what many hardcore enthusiasts might believe. It’s basically a cannonball with a handle, nothing mystical there.

But, they are just a tiny teensy little bit special. There are many different tools to be used in our training. Barbells, dumbbells, clubbells, Indian clubs, gymnastics rings, powerbags and bodyweight callisthenics, to name just some of what’s available to us. So what make kettlebells so special?


Nothing special about these guys.


In my experience the kettlebell is possibly the single most versatile tool we have available in the modern gym environment. For most beginner-intermediate trainees, women or men, I can get an entire workout from a single kettlebell. Depending on the weight of the ‘bell I can use it in various different ways.

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What are Mindful Mums fitness classes?

New mothers are given very little choice by fitness class providers.

There are classes for new mothers but they either don’t include Baby, or they don’t recognise the pain and problems that pregnancy and birth can bring.

Mindful Mums is a class that recognises what a Mum’s body has been through and understands that Baby can be included in, and have fun at, a fitness class.

Mindful Mums uses gentle, primitive movements to help new mothers regain full and pain free movement. From there, we move on to low intensity strengthening exercises to help Mums become more capable in everyday life.

So what are primitive movements? This is where the genius of the Mindful Mums class lies. Primitive movements are the movements that most children make as they progress from lying, to rolling, to crawling, to climbing  furniture and finally, walking unaided. In a sense, in a Mindful Mums class your baby can be your coach!

When: Mondays @ 1000 (from Mon 4th Sept)
Where: Funkstar Fitness, Ladeside Business Centre, St Catherines Rd, PH1 5RZ
Cost: £25 for the 5 week block
Contact: colin@mindfulstrength.co.uk
Spaces are limited to 8 mums plus their baby/s.
Babies must be 3 to 12 months and mums must be post natally cleared for exercise by their Doctor or Midwife.



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Willpower is weak

Willpower is weak, few successful people rely on willpower in the long term for success. Sure willpower is like a muscle, we always get that analogy. So let’s take that analogy to its logical conclusion.

To get stronger or more powerful we need to work the muscle, we need to work it hard enough to introduce tiny little failures in it. Then we need to leave it alone for a period of time so that it can recover and improve.

If we work it too hard, it will break big time and not improve as it recovers. Also we’ll have had to wait a long time for it to recover so we can use it again. If we don’t allow it enough time to recover, over time it will not be able to restore itself to even its starting level of strength.

The same is true of willpower. If we exercise it to a certain degree everyday and don’t overly rely upon it, it will get stronger. If we try to overly rely on it… it may work for a short spell but invariably we end up gorging on Jaffa cakes, vegged out on the sofa watching a Game of Thrones marathon (or is that just me?).

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Your fitness class is oxymoronic

If I paid money to go to a german language class and all the instructor did was shout random words in german at me for 45 minutes, do you think that would be an effective method of learning the language?

Likewise, if I went to a Judo class and all the instructor did was throw me on my head for an hour and a half do you think I would have learned much in the way of practical application?

Then why do we go to fitness ‘classes’ to be shouted at by a sweaty psychopath for 30 to 60 minutes? Are we learning anything new or practising/executing a skill we’re proficient at?


These types of classes lack the key factors that cause the physical changes you want to achieve, consistency of practice and variation of difficulty.

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What do you think of this workout?

Iceberg workout

Quite possibly the most common question anyone who works as a personal trainer, strength or movement coach gets asked. It’s a curious question, because rather than ask said professional to design a training plan for you, you have asked them to provide an opinion on something someone else has designed.

My answer is normally along the lines of:

“Yes. Without prejudice or commitment, that is indeed a workout.”

This phrase “Without prejudice or commitment” is something that is hammered into all MoD project Engineers, to be used when talking to contractors. It basically means:

“No party can take anything I am about to say, or have just said, as a contractual obligation.”

Yes, I am saying that what you have presented to me is, in fact, some form of ‘workout’. Without any further information I cannot determine the usefulness of the aforementioned ‘workout’ for either yourself or for any other person. I am not denying or affirming that the ‘workout’ is either good or bad. Read more