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How to Build the Perfect Sandwich for Performance!

A sandwich is the perfect ‘throw together’ snack or meal for active people looking for a quick and easy lunch, a pre or post training meal or a snack to keep you fuelled. Easy to make, adaptable to any ingredients on hand, and easy to throw in your gym bag, esky or have ready to go in the fridge for convenience, these 5 simple guidelines will have your nutrition needs covered for a healthy lunch. 

1. Choose a SMART wrapping

Whether you choose bread, bagel, a roll or a wrap, ensuring it is wholegrain will boost the fibre content of your sandwich is a good option as lunch or snack, or pre-training. If you are looking to eat something pre-training, or you suffer stomach upset during training a lower-fibre white bread may be more suited for a snack, this is also a good option to refuel after training.

2. Select your spread

While butter and margarine do a great job of livening up bread, there are plenty of other choices that not only taste great, but also come out on top when it comes to nutrients. Try mashed avocado, hummus, ricotta or cottage cheese, pesto, roasted pumpkin, mustard, tahini or nut butter for an array of sweet and savoury options.

3. Pick your protein

Ensuring you include a good quality protein source in your sanga will be beneficial for muscle repair and maintenance. For carnivorous options, look for lean meats like poached or barbecued chicken breast, roast beef, lamb, or tinned tuna, salmon and sardines. Meat-free options can include cheese slices, ricotta or cottage cheese, boiled or pan fried eggs and vegie patties made with beans or legumes like chickpeas.

4. Layer on the veggies

You’ve heard it before, vegetables are essential for good health, yet very few of us manage to fit in the recommended 5 serves a day. Fitting in a couple of serves at lunch or snack time makes it a little easier to meet the target. While common sandwich choices like lettuce leaves, tomato and cucumber slices are great, be adventurous with whatever you have on hand. Some other ideas include: capsicum, grated carrot, beetroot, spinach or rocket leaves, roasted pumpkin, sweet potato, zucchini and eggplant.

5. Tweak to taste

Though it may seem complete, this is where you can make additions to your sandwich to suit your individual taste. For savoury sandwiches, this may mean adding cracked black pepper or fresh herbs like basil or parsley. If you’ve crafted a sweet creation, experiment with add ons like dried cranberries or walnut halves.


--> 1-2 Slices of Wholegrain bread spread with ¼ mashed avocado and 1 tbsp. ricotta cheese, topped with tomato slices and torn basil leaves.

--> A wholegrain roll filled with cottage cheese, lean turkey breast, a handful of rocket leaves, dried cranberries and a few walnut halves.

--> A wholegrain wrap spread with hummus and pesto, and then layered with slices of barbecued lamb and roasted pumpkin, capsicum and eggplant.

--> Ricotta cheese on wholegrain bread, sprinkled with grated carrot and a handful of sultanas.

Strength training for Middle and Long Distance performance

A recent meta-analysis (collaboration of 28 publications to identify trends and strengthen statistical findings) has identified strength can influence both middle and long distance events, these include running, cycling and swimming. These findings could therefore also be extended to the combination of all these events (Triathlon).

The study identified strength training improved

1  Reduced Energy cost of locomotion (Increased Economy of Movmement)

2 Increased Maximal force 

3 Increased Maximal power

With no detrimental effects found on maximal aerobic power (VO2max) and also endurance capacity. The authors suggest 2 x strengthens per week and a total of 24 training sessions were associated with the greatest improvements in the energy cost for locomotion. Further, maximal force training (strength) were associated with the greatest improvements compared to other training intensities.


What does all this mean? To simply apply the above, if you are training for a middle to long distance event the addition of 2 x strength training sessions will help improve your performance. A total of 24 sessions should be targeted, if you are aiming for 2 x per week 12 weeks should be sufficient enough to see positive results. High force training appears better then other training methods, therefore you would be aiming to include compound (multi-joint) exercises for 3-5 sets for 1-6 reps. Due to the nature of the exercise modes included these movements should be specific to your sport, although a combination of both upper and lower limb training can have benefits for running, swimming and cycling events. The key message is that strength is an important quality for long and middle distance performance.

If you are unaccustomed to resistance training then you do not need to go and lift lots of weights to see benefits. Manipulating Range of motion, plane of motion, stability demands and by the use of accomodating resistance (bands) you can challenge the body and improve all the above qualities. You can also manipulate the tempo of the exercise to overload tendons (e.g. eccentric biased) or use isometric exercises to improve force production. If you are interested in learning more ways to improve your training you can get in touch with Joel at Spin House to help put together a training plan.

Reference: Berryman, Mujika, Arvisais, Roubeix, Binet & Bosquet, IJSPP, 2018

Should I exercise longer or harder for weight loss?

Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)


During exercise most of you would have noticed you get warm, your body starts to sweat and you feel your heart and breathing rate increase. When you stop exercise it is not as easy as turning off the switch, in fact your body continues to burn energy at a greater rate following exercise. This process is called exercise post oxygen consumption (EPOC) or oxygen debt. It is typically the amount of oxygen needed to restore metabolic function.


We have a very important fuel source in our body and this is called ATP, we produce this through a variety of different means however to keep it simple it is either from aerobic (oxygen) or anaerobic (without oxygen) pathways. If we think of oxygen in the air like going on a driving holiday and the muscle being the end destination it is obvious that between A and B a period of time must exist. For this reason our body is very good at using anaerobic ATP as fuel during times when oxygen is less available or the drive is slower than normal. When you start exercising you may notice it feels hard or you feel tired, then as you warm up the exercise feels easier. If we exercise at a steady state eventually the oxygen supply will meet the demand, if there is an increase in training intensity (increased demand) then unless we supply more oxygen the body will revert back to using anaerobic sources. After we stop exercising, it is the balance between oxygen supply and demand during the session that results in EPOC to support the following processes:


1.     Replenish ATP stores in the muscle

2.     Resynthesis glycogen from lactate (a product of intense exercise)

3.     Restore oxygen levels in the blood to normal

4.     Restore body temperature to normal


If we look at the above and think about exercise intensity, a greater intensity means a greater tax on the system (i.e. decreased ATP stores, increased Lactate, lower oxygen content in the blood and higher body temperatures) and the greater the EPOC. There are two benefits here 1) you increase the work in the session because the intensity has increased and 2) you burn more energy after the session because the cost to return your body to rest is greater.


EPOC describes the process after exercise so how do we influence EPOC to get better results?


There are three ways shown to increase EPOC, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), high intensity resistance exercise (HIRT) and through a combination of these two modes.



HIIT training helps increase the intensity of the exercise as it often involves high intensity efforts interspersed with low intensity activity. There is a greater intensity and the constant stop start does not allow your body to reach a steady state so you your oxygen debt or EPOC is larger.



HIRT can be equally effective as it involves large muscle group resistance exercise with short recovery. We will introduce some HIRT sessions in the coming weeks, however body weight exercise is a great way to increase anaerobic energy supply.



HIRT and HIIT training together, brutal and very horrible sessions however each helps to amplify the other. Adding resistance training exercise to a HIIT session has shown to increase the metabolic demands of the resistance exercise (i.e. you burn more for the same movement). You could perform a set of HIIT efforts and then with little rest go straight into a body weight resistance circuit, this is the foundation of our Cycle X classes


Is more better? 

One important fact about EPOC is it is influenced by intensity and not duration. We have a limited supply of anaerobic energy so once it is used up then the intensity has to be reduced to continue or the exercise has to stop. Because we have a limited supply of Anaerobic energy that means we have a limited capacity of EPOC as these are generally tightly linked. The key message is to train hard not long if you are trying to increase your EPOC.




1.     Metabolic energy (ATP) is supply through two main pathways aerobic (with oxygen) and anaerobic (without).


2.     Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) is the amount of energy needed to return your body to rest following exercise


3.     EPOC is influenced by intensity and not duration ~ Train hard not long


4.     High intensity interval training (HIIT) and High intensity resistance training (HIRT) are both ways to increase EPOC.


5.     You can combine these two methods to reduce the amount of time needed in a session to maximise the EPOC


6.     Greater intensity in a session means greater expenditure after a session

Event Nutrition Series- 50km Nutrition

Over the next few months there will be a host of us challenging our limits in very different events. I will put together some information in the lead up to each event to develop nutrition strategies for both pre, during and post. The most important strategy is practice, like training you need to condition the body to what ever nutrition you plan on being apart of your race strategy. Our first event will be held in two weeks, the 50km time trial.

Before we go into the what to eat and when you need to understand some limitations in the body.  Refer back to an older blog if you would like more information on how exercise can be limited, however specifically for the 50km time trial a key factor here is glycogen. Specifically the supply of glycogen to the muscle during prolonged endurance events, Prolonged cycling at moderate intensity has been reported to deplete muscle glycogen stores and thus becomes a limitation whereby the exercise intensity must reduce or the exercise is ceased (exhaustion). Strategies that promote glycogen availability during exercise (available to the muscle) have a performance enhancing affect. The 50km time trial will take between 90-120 minutes, meaning we need to adopt some nutritional strategies to complete the event and maintain pace towards the end. 

To perform at your best for the event it is important to understand glycogen availability, this is how readily available glycogen is to the working muscle. We store glycogen in the muscle  and in the liver. Fuelling pre-event becomes important to optimise glycogen stores. 2-3 days before an event we want to maximise glycogen storage as the event will last longer then 90 minutes and the pace will be relatively moderate. Carbohydrate loading is reported to be around 8-12 g/kg of Body Mass (BM). That means for an 80kg individual you want about 640g-960g of carbohydrates. I think for this event being indoors and on a fixed cycling you can get away with less. 5-7g/kg of BM of carbohydrate should be sufficient. If we add in a during event strategy you should have enough to get you through without limitation.

  • Carbohydrate loading takes 3 days, the target for the 50km time trial should be 5-7g/kg of Body mass
  • Eat quality carbohydrate sources brown rices, wholegrain, pasta, sweet potato, potato, fruits

Endurance events like the 50km time trial will have an affect on muscle glycogen and without proper nutrition support hypoglycaemia is a real threat. This is where blood glucose drops below the required level to maintain active transport into the tissue. So it is important to maintain blood glucose by supplementing during exercise at durations greater then 60 minutes. Depending on your food preferences different solutions will suit. Sports drinks are an easily available option and provide hydration and glucose. Aim for a sports drink with 4-8% carbohydrate content 600-1000ml. If you have used them before sports gels are a good option, however trial them first as they can give you stomach upset and you may be running for a toilet not finishing the 50km ride. 1 gel should be fine for the 50km, I would take it around 45-60 minute mark to get you through. If you prefer more natural products bananas are a great carbohydrate source, however you will need to eat 2-3 medium bananas. 

  • During event consumption of carbohydrates is necessary to maintain blood glucose and maintain exercise intensity. 
  • Sports drinks provide by hydration and carbohydrate supplementation, aim for 4-8% carbohydrate solutions
  • Gels are a good option, make sure you practice using them to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Natural options can be used (fruits), however greater quantities need to be consumed.

Lastly, hydration is very important for exercise performance. It is important in maintain blood pressure, nutrient concentration and also cooling. So hydrating before an event and during an event is important. Try and come up with a fluid plan, pre event you should consume a fluid bolus (large quantity) to promote fluid intake during the event, during the event keep sipping water to maintain fluid intake. Avoid excessively drinking as it can be detrimental. 

Following the event resume normal eating practices and make sure you are rehydrating. A good rule is aim to replace 150% of fluid loss. If you weigh yourself before the event and after that will be a good indication. For example if your pre-event weight is 60kg and you loose 1kg, then you should aim to replace 1.5L (1.5kg) of fluid. Other strategies help here, consume water with food sources, adding or consuming higher salt dishes, and avoiding alcohol. 

Happy Riding...



Spin to Win

We want you to get the best out of our training so we thought we could offer a few things you can do in the class or off the bike following the class that will help burn more energy and build a stronger fitter version of yourself. Try these few challenges to boost your workout and add an extra element of difficulty. 

  1. The recovery threshold: During the recovery try and keep your power output above a certain threshold, this might be 200 watts. So work as hard as you can and then when you are in a recovery set you have to keep your legs moving. This will maintain your heart rate at higher levels in the class so you will be working harder for longer.
  2. The Runs: Any form of exercise will result in a level of muscle fatigue and this is often unique to the exercise pattern, intensity and duration. The bike tends to fatigue hip flexors, gluten, quads and hamstrings. Running of the bike creates a challenge as you have to produce more work to do the same required movement. Try running some hills of the bike at North Burleigh 6-10 reps will enough.
  3. Stairway to Heaven: Following a high intensity interval session your metabolic rate remains elevated and is termed Exercise post oxygen consumption (EPOC). The great the stimulus during the session, the greater the EPOC. If weight loss is your goal, training after a high intensity interval session you will burn more energy. Try adding some stair sets, you do not need to run, just walking stairs will burn a huge amount of energy as your metabolic rate is already elevated. 
  4. Metabolic Conditioning: Combining resistance training following a high intensity interval session will burn lots of energy. Body weight exercises add an element of difficulty and will rip weight off. Similar to the stairs you have an elevated metabolic rate following intense exercise, adding additional work to this will amplify that even more. If you couple the bike with upper body exercise (push ups, pull ups, band upper body exercises, kettlebells, weights etc.) you get a greater nervous system response as the body has to redirect blood flow to the working musculature.

Try these workout boosters to help achieve your goal. If you would like any more help in how to best structure your training email info@spin-house.com.au

Meal Ideas

Week 6 kicks off next week and you may be looking to update your meals each week. Remember the eating plan is a guide, keep the structure and swap a few of the meals of add some of these to your current meals. I have put more focus on snacks to help get you through between meals and I have also put a few more lunch time ideas together. 

Healthy Coleslaw: This one is from me, it is an easy recipe I use to add to chicken dishes or as a side for lunch. You can make a batch and it will keep for a couple of days in the fridge. Thinly slice some red cabbage, green apple and carrot. If you have a slicer it is a lot easier. One you have all these cut up I put half a lime's juice on the apple to keep it fresh. Add all the ingredients. Mix together greek yogurt and tablespoon of whole grain mustard, mix this through the coleslaw mix. Away you go, taste great, is healthy and will help bump your protein content up. You can mix in spinach and beetroot leaves for more fibre.

Sweet Potato and Egg Salad

The above dish is great as a side or as a main dish. I would swap out the potato for sweet potato and eating it cold will slow the impact on the blood stream (glucose response). I would add this to your training days to help keep your energy levels up, do not go over board on the portion sizes.

Pecan and Sweet Potato Side Dish

Use this dish as a side for your dinner after training, add a protein source for an easy quick meal. Cook a batch on the weekend so it is simple to grab during the week.

Twice baked Sweet Potato

I have gone a bit sweet potato mad but this is a great option to cook up on a Sunday to give you some on the go breakfast for the week. Good for days you are training as it has all the right energy to help support recovery after or fuel for training before.

Coconut Curry

This is a great meal you could use as left overs the next day, add a small portion of brown rice as a side, remember we only want a portion about the size of a closed fist. If you do not eat meat you could substitute for lentils or split peas and add cauliflower to help give it some base. You could even add these to the meat version if you do not feel like rice.

Sweet Potato and White Bean Chilli

This is an awesome dish, great as a leftover and to add some another source of protein you could add some black beans. It is a great vegetarian option post training to help aid recovery.

Barramundi Taco Lime Salad

I like this dish with either prawns (use frozen) or barramundi. Spice the fish and then either grill or fry. You can do the same dish with chicken, use chicken thigh and flatten out with a mallet or rolling pin. Spice and grill on the bbq or in a griddle pan to give you some charcoal flavour.

Sesame Soaked Kale

Great snack as it is low in calories or good as a side to either your lunch or dinner.

Sneaky Donuts

You read correctly, sneaky donuts are a a healthy breakfast option. Not the glazed deep-fried version you pick up from Donut time but a quick easy snack or breakfast on the go. To stick with the more natural lower carbohydrate switch the wholemeal flour for coconut flour/almond flour. You will still need the self-raising unless you want to play around with the addition of baking powder to help give them some air. Add in some berries to boost the antioxidants and I would only eat this on training days as they can be a little addictive (portion control out the window).

Pop Eye Toast with Poached Eggs

Great little breakfast option or post gym/spin snack if you have one piece of toast. I would add 1-2 poached eggs on top to help increase the protein content per serve.

4-Grain Porridge

Looking over everyones diet feedback there is a few of you who enjoy quick oats. Although these are an easy option the above porridge once you make the base is super quick and easy to make up. Cook up a bigger batch and you can portion off and microwave for breakfast on the follow days.

Energy Systems

When we exercise the body needs to convert chemical energy from substrates into mechanical energy in the form of movement. The intensity and type of exercise performed will dictate the substrate and rate at which it is used. We use three major substrates as fuel: phosphocreatine, glycogen and fat. Exercise is a complex task and you will find that all these substrates act at the same time, however for the purpose of this post I will isolate each and describe how each work. 

For those in the business world exercise intensity is a factor of supply and demand, there is a demand for energy and a need to supply this energy. When you first start an exercise session your body relies on muscle substrate stores mostly in the form of glycogen and phosphocreatine. Once blood supply to the working muscle is enhanced the body can then regulate the substrate used based on the demand (exercise intensity). We use substrates to form a high energy molecule (ATP) and in combination with oxygen forms mechanical movement. That is about as far as you need to understand that process.

Before I go into more detail about how we use certain substrates for energy I will just highlight some limitations to exercise performance as this is important to understand. There are many limitations to exercise and these are task specific. To help understand energy and fuel I will highlight just a few. Oxygen is key to movement, although we can work without it, once this is limited or maxed out we can only produce a finite amount of work before the system is exhausted, overwhelmed or disrupted. So one limitation to exercise is oxygen use and oxygen supply. To supply oxygen requires blood flow to the working muscle and this requires your heart rate and blood vessels to work to supply enough blood without affecting other important functions (etc. brain). To do this the blood vessels can redirect blood flow from areas that do not require energy while you are working out (i.e. digestion). So a second limitation is blood supply, and this could be affect by heart rate max, blood volume and the nervous system. The last limitations to exercise I will talk about is substrate depletion and metabolic byproduct removal. During exercise we breakdown substrates to perform mechanical work, these produce byproducts and built up enough they can disrupt exercise or provide feedback for us to reduce or down-regulate the intensity. There are limited sources of both glycogen and phosphocreatine in the body and therefore if these become critical during exercise the intensity cannot be sustained. Although there is not an infinite amount of fat in the body it is unlikely to become depleted during any normal exercise event. Substrate depletion is therefore primarily focused on glycogen and phosphocreatine, although depletion can happen, the rate at which these are used may also affect the build up of byproducts and thus reduce the ability to keep exercise at high intensity. Therefore, it could be depletion that stops you or changes in the metabolic environment in the muscle. Substrates are with in the muscle and also external to the muscle so you can also see here that blood supply is important for not only oxygen delivery but also fuel delivery. To recap with can be limited by substrates and oxygen supply, substrate depletion, the rate at which substrates are used, the clearance of metabolic byproducts and blood supply.

Now that you have a little more idea about how we can be limited during exercise it is easy to understand how we use fuel during exercise. I will use a 100m sprint as an example. If we think about Mr Usain running the 100m, oxygen supply and blood flow are not limiting as the exercise is only performed for 9 seconds. The primary fuel here is phosphocreatine as it is readily available in the muscle and lasts about ~10 seconds if your at absolute capacity to produce power/force. So Mr Usain would only be reliant on this fuel to complete the race, high energy and very low duration. If he were to step up to a 400m race where the race goes for 40-60 seconds you can not supply the muscle with enough phosphocreatine to complete the race so intramuscular glycogen becomes important. Phosphocreatine will work until depleted (60-100m) and then intramuscular glycogen would get you to the end of the race (100-400m). Again, oxygen is not a factor here, what is a factor is the rate of fuel use and metabolic build up. So blood blood is very important, if Usain does not remove enough of the substrate byproducts or tolerate their build up then Mr Usain will most likely not be run a world record here. Here is where exercise gets complex. Lets say Mr Usain runs one 100m race, he runs it in under 10 seconds (training run). He then gives him self 5 minutes recovery and runs another sub 10 second casual 100m. The fuel source here is still phosphocreatine, although he probably used it up in the first run it is re-plenshished to a degree. However, if Mr Usain ran a sub 10 100m effort with a short recovery (~20 seconds) and then ran another sub 10 100m effort and another and so on you would see a drop in performance (10 seconds, 12 seconds, 15 seconds) and if you looked the inside of the muscle you would see a shift in fuel and a greater reliance on oxygen. I will put all this together soon. Mr Usain has now stepped up to the big show and is running an 800m or 1500m race. If you think about someone being aerobic these guys are the most aerobic people on the planet. The primary fuel source is still glycogen, however the reliance on oxygen is greater so its an aerobic glycolytic event. Compared to our 400m run before which is anaerobic glycolytic. They are both limited by glycogen more then oxygen, however the rate at which glycogen is used/delivered is the difference. Lets look back at our repeated 100m efforts Mr Usain did before, the first 1-2 might by phosphocreatine dependent, then we start tapping into that anaerobic energy system whereby oxygen is not supplied fast enough to meet demand and the intensity is two high and byproduct build up is inevitable. That may make up the next 2-5 efforts. If he complete 10 sprints, the last 5-10 would be primarily based on aerobic glycolytic metabolism as the intensity would reduce, the rate at which glycogen is used would reduce, the metabolic build up would slow and hopefully start to clear and oxygen supply would have a chance to match demand. The last substrate to cover is fat, limited effects in high energy events, however if Mr Usain jumps into a marathon then it may become more important. Glycogen stores are limited and if you are competing in an event at high intensity for more then 1 hour it is likely you will hit the glycogen wall with our external sources (gels, bananas etc.). Endurance trained athletes such as marathoners have a better ability to use fat at high intensities and spare glycogen for the last sprint to the finish.

To better understand the sessions in the spin studio the above information may help. We want to develop a well rounded system, so high energy power sets are aimed at developing the ability to use the phosphocreatine and cope with metabolic build up. The repeat high intensity sessions aim to develop tolerance for both anaerobic and aerobic systems under conditions whereby the muscle environment is compromised. The longer aerobic sessions are aimed to build a better delivery system i.e. stronger pump and better oxygen/substrate delivery. Then we put it all together during our 10km time trial, under competition this requires you to be able to delivery oxygen, cope with stress and finish strong. I also manipulate the sessions so you may have to do power under fatigue i.e. (power sets at the end) or endurance under fatigue (tolerate work under metabolic build up). I have a few more tricks up my sleeve that I will not fully disclose, hopefully you get an understand of how the body works and how it works during exercise. You can see how training effects your fitness and performance. There are many more limitations and you find that complex mechanisms of control normally mean if one system is disrupted multiple are disrupted. If you have an event coming up or would like more advice on training you can email me at info@spin-house.com.au





Build Your Own Workout

I have been writing and designing programs for people for quite some time and it becomes a process. I thought I would pass on my knowledge for those looking to add a little extra. There is no perfect program, there is only a perfect program for a situation. The first part of the process is to identify your limitations, once you know the constraints to exercise you can start to build a program. I look at the following to help me start:

  1. Previous/current injury movement restrictions
  2. Time to exercise
  3. Goals (individual vs. coach vs. training history)
  4. Exercise preference (i.e. hate doing squats)

As a process if you answer the above questions you will have a template of a training plan suited to the individual. We can expand of this later and build more questions to define our scope, however these four are a good place to start. Answer these about yourself and see what you come up with and then we can fill in the blanks. 

Once we have these answered we can look to start building some exercises into the program. Again I have a few rules. Firstly, the program should be progressive, the program should have an outcome, the program should be balanced and the program should include specific and general conditioning/strength. My last rule is universal, prioritise your weaknesses and develop your strengths. I will expand on each of these below:

  1. Progressive: We adapt to any stimulus or stress and this happens very quickly. We need to make sure that we progress the program so it challenges our limits and constantly improve. We can do this a number of ways, exercise selection, sets & reps, time, density of a workout and order of a workout. Again, there is greater depth we could focus on, however this is a good learning point.
  2. Outcome: A lot of programs I fell are short term focused with no direct outcome. If you answer the questions above not only do you have a template for your program you should have a good idea of what you are trying to achieve. The idea of any program should be to have an outcome. Working with athletes, I often use short term program goals to maintain focus and break up larger tasks, however, each short program has an outcome to progress to the next level. It is the same for anyone training, you should have a focus on what you are trying to achieve so you can make sure you are on track. If you train year round this can be tricky, I follow this a process to help me keep motivated and on task. December-January (off-season) low volume training, body weight and cardio work, maintenance, injury/stretching work. January-March (Foundation), build an aerobic base and work on training volume/density. April-July (Building the frame), start to increase intensity of both conditioning and strength work. Aug-November (Polish), lots of high end power work and power speed sessions in the gym/bike. The year for me is made up of a lot of 4-8 week programs with the above focus depending on the time frame. Each year it is progressive, I look back at last year and set a few targets (i.e. squat 120kg last year, this year is 125kg). 
  3. Balance: All my programs are balanced to limit overuse injuries and minimise risk of functional deficits. I normally use a few easy to remember rules. The first is for every push exercise I do 2 pull exercises, if I work with someone who sits down a lot it is even more biased towards pulling and I use a ratio of 1:3 push:pull. I always do 1 quad dominant, 1 hip dominant, 1 hamstring exercise and 1 single limb as a minimum. There are thousands of examples here so it really depends on preference and your training history. I add in rotator cuff exercises every session (warm up or in session). When I do core work it is 1 x static, 1 x dynamic core drill, without going into too much detail I use different planes of movement where I can (i.e. side plank, front plank, side plank with rotation).
  4. General vs. Specific: It is important to develop both general exercise and specific exercise to maximise your training. What I mean here is your goal might be to deadlift 150kg for 1 rep. To get this you have to do general core exercises, general energy system development (absolute power), general aerobic work to cope with the volume of work needed to build up your strength to lift 150kg once. You also need to be specific and do deadlifts. You may do these in phases (See outcome paragraph above) or you may do these all at once. Do not get confused general does not mean low intensity or easy it just means it indirectly affects your outcome.
  5. Weakness vs strength: The best example here is people who spend 25 minutes stretching for a 40 minute workout. I am all for mobilising tissue if it limits your ability to perform an exercise. However, tissue is a structure that needs stress and to make it change by stretching and mobilising in my opinion is hard. I have always found if you can train through range then your flexibility will improve over time. It may be a matter of modifying exercises to fit your current range of movement and then slowly over time increase the range. We need to focus on our weaknesses, however we should always look to develop our strengths. If you can squat well, and cannot deadlift very well. It is natural to want to continue deadlifting to improve your strength. If we only focus on that we are probably limiting our gains as we are not working on developing our strength in the squat. Although I use squat and deadlifting as an example I am really talking about the nervous system, muscle system and how these interact. So always base your training plan on what you do well and then add into that where your weakness lies and balance your program between both.

So now you have basic knowledge on how to program, but there is still a lot to cover on exercise selection, sets & reps schemes, density, rest periods, exercise tempo, exercise order. Brain overload, there is a lot here. Again, I focus on having a couple of rules. Every trainer will be different and you may come up with a different plan for what you like and what suits your body. Everyone is slightly different and therefore we respond to exercise differently. There is commonality in that when we exercise our heart rate goes up, we sweat etc., however, it normally stops there. Beyond that you have your own response, monitoring and planning will help you identify what works for you. Back to my rules for filling in the program. When I am planning I normally follow this as a general rule. Use barbells for building strength, use Dumbbells for building stability, use body weight for building endurance. You can play on these as no now is saying you cannot get strong by doing body weight exercises. So a week for a person looking to improve strength in upper body pushing might look like:

  • Monday: Bench Press (Heavy)
  • Wednesday: DB Single Arm Chest Press (Moderate)
  • Friday: Push Ups (Light)

Rule two when looking at exercise selection I choose difference movement planes. As humans we can move in 3 planes. It's a little complex, my rule is do something vertical, something horizontal, something unilateral (one-sided). Back to our above example:

  • Monday: Barbell Shoulder Press (Heavy, Vertical)
  • Wednesday: Single Arm DB Chest Press (Moderate, Unilateral)
  • Friday: Push Ups (Light, Horizontal)

Rule three, choosing a sets and reps scheme. Here is where we can get really complex with training programs. Occasionally the fitness world is wowed by a new trend, however, it is often the case that we are not sure how that trend fits into the general training road map. If you understand nothing else but this section your doing well. Sets and reps schemes allow us to target, progress and express physical qualities. The first part of this is to look at what are my goals and what training phase I am in. The three I use are volume, strength or power. It may be that you are combining all of these at one time, no problems there but thats where programming can be highly complex.

If it's a volume phase there are a few sets and reps schemes I use:

  1. Traditional 3 x 8, 3 x 10, 3 x 12 same weight
  2. Ranges 3 x 8-10, 3 x 8-10, 3 x 10-12, 3 x 10-12, 3 x 12-15, 3 x 12-15 (increase weight each block)
  3. Pyramids (ascending) 8/10/12, 10/12/15, 12/15/20 (decreasing weight across set)

If it's a strength phase there are a few sets and reps schemes I use:

  1. Traditional/Block 3 x 12, 3 x 8, 3 x 4 Increasing weight
  2. Ranges 3 x 10-12, 3 x 10-12, 3 x 8-10, 3 x 8-10, 3 x 6-8, 3 x 6-8 (increase weight each block)
  3. Wave Loading 10/8/6, 8/6/4, 6/4/2 (increase weight across set)

If it's a power phase there are a few sets and reps schemes I use, this is a little more complex and might be more useful across a weight. Power is always about quality so focus on speed and use low reps to achieve this.

  1. Heavy/Light Day Same Exercise 3 x 3 @ 80% Squat 3 x 3 @ 60% Squat
  2. Heavy/Heavy Day aligned exercise 3 x3 @ 80% Back Squat 3 x 3 @ 80% Front Squat
  3. Contrast Loading (Strength/Power Exercise) 3 x 3 @ 80% Squat straight into 3 x 3 Body weight jumps

The last rule is adding layers to the program. Look at your goal and then pick some of the following:


  1. Rest periods are a great way to challenge the system. The greater the stimulus and the lower the recovery the harder the body has to work to keep producing the work. The obvious deficit here is absolute work will decrease overtime. If your goal is power I would increase the rest, if your goal is work rate or aerobic fitness decrease the rest.


  1. Density defines how much work you do in a period of time. We can look at this on a few scales. The density of a session (i.e. do 10 sets of squats in 60 minutes vs 10 sets of squats in 45 minutes), the density of a day (twice a day training vs once a day training), density of a training block (how many sessions you perform in a week, month, program). Increasing the density increases the work rate. If you produce 500 watts in a 1 minute bike effort and have a minute off x 10, your work rate is 250watts/min. If you do the same with 2 minutes rest between the work rate is 166watts/min. They are the same workout so you can see density makes a large difference. Each will have unique outcomes. I use density during my power and volume phases. Work rate is important for both.

Exercise order and Tempo:

  1. I have a general rule for exercise order, start with your most fatiguing and finish with your least fatiguing. However, you can play around with this if your goal is to develop strength/power under fatigue, as you may want to put these at the end. If I use the spin classes as an example I often say finish strong. It is a natural decision to increase pace as time gets closer. If we can develop this we can develop our pacing strategy. So I may order the sessions so the harder exercises are at the finish. It helps you develop a reserve to produce power at the end of a race. When we do our 10km time trial it is the last 3-4 minutes that make the difference. We want to be able to power to the end and blow away the competition. However, to develop high end power requires you to be fresh, hence our power sessions are ordered so the powerful work is complete first. 
  2. Exercise tempo can have a different definition for different tasks, I will speak about it in a gym/weight sense. The exercise tempo describes how fast we are lifting/lowering the weights. The slower the tempo the greater the time under the tension the muscle is subjected. The trade of here is the load needs to be lowered, so it is a good finisher to a session. I often use my body weight exercise with a slow tempo at the end of a heavy training session to really blowout the muscle. An example may be after a heavy strength day (barbell bench press) I might finish with a push up on a 3010 tempo. This describes the lowering part (3), the pause at the bottom (0), the up phase (1) and the pause at the top (0). So you would perform a push up on a 3 second down, no pause, 1 second up, no pause.

The last part of programming is understanding how to order/plan your days. If you have asked your questions at the top then you will have an idea of how often someone or you can train. That is a constraint, I often see these amazing 6 day programs given to people who can only train once a week. Great in theory in practice it does not work. I have outlined how I break up a program for each phase. I always stick to these patterns with some slight variations.

Volume Phase

  1. 1 Day a week is full body
  2. 2 Days a week is full body
  3. 3 Days per week is 1 lower 2 upper or 2 lower 1 upper or 1 upper, 1 lower, 1 full.
  4. 4 Days per week is 1 lower strength/volume, 1 upper strength/volume, 1 lower volume, 1 upper volume.


  1. 1 day is full body
  2. 2 days is full body or 1 lower, 1 upper
  3. 3 days is 1 lower, 1 upper, 1 full or 1 push, 1 pull, 1 lower
  4. 4 days rarely happens in this phase as I usually look to have day on/day off training


Power training is normally a lower volume type of training so I look to add sessions around it that continues to build on the foundations laid before

  1. 1 day full body (contrast/volume)
  2. 2 days full body (contrast/strength, strength/volume)
  3. 3 days 1 lower body power 1 upper strength/volume 1 full body contrast 
  4. 4 days similar to strength training it is hard to get 4 days in a week here, if I do have time I normally add an extra upper body or full body volume day

The more you understand about your training the more you are able to fine tune it so you get a better outcome. Hope this blog helps with your own training structure. If you require some more information feel free to email me at info@spin-house.com.au





Limitations to Exercise Performance

According to which theory you refer to there are many limitations to exercise performance. I will outline some simple things that may help you understand exercise and how the body works. I will also relate this to the types of sessions that we do in the studio to help give you a better understanding of why the sessions run the way they do.

Limitations to exercise performance

Limits to exercise are task dependent, this means that under different conditions the body may stop by different means. Before I delve into this I will just give you a quick overview of the body, the mechanisms that helps us exercise and then the limitations to each. I will not go into great detail, so if you would like more information you can email me at info@spin-house.com.au. When you exercise there are some fundamental things that need to happen, the muscle needs energy, the body needs to supply the energy in the form of different substrates (e.g. fats, carbohydrates, phosphocreatine), you need oxygen to turn this into movement, and you need to remove the waste or by products of this process. There are some important components to all this happening, the lungs to get oxygen in the body, the heart and circulatory system to transport the oxygen and substrates to the muscle, the nervous system to stimulate the muscle and assist with increasing the rate of the above, and the same systems drive removal of exercise by-products. So naturally limitations to exercise performance can be part of any or all of these systems. There are a few more to this list but I will keep it simple.

The cardiovascular supply theory suggests exercise can be limited by the amount of oxygen supplied to the model. Once a threshold is reached, the body must work harder and harder without additional oxygen, this creates an increase in exercise by-products and eventually exercise will have to cease. So the model works in two ways, limit supply or inability to buffer/tolerate exercise metabolites (by-products). Although an upper limit exists for oxygen delivery there are arguments that not all oxygen in the blood is used even at maximal intensities, so something other then this may limit exercise.

Fuel is import for exercise and dependent on the exercise task, the duration, the environment, and the intensity different fuels are required. The substrate supply/demand theory has a few components. Exercise may be limited by limited cellular fuel sources (Adenosine Triphosphate), you do not need to know what this is, just know that it is very important. The other component is limited fuel availability i.e. low carbohydrate or low phosphocreatine (two limited fuel sources). In context to the situation both these can be correct. The evidence suggests that exercise may be limited by the amount of fuel available or by the rate at which it can be consumed or metabolised by the muscle.

These two theories focus on the metabolism limitations to exercise, however we also have some nervous limitations to exercise. All these theories are in context to a situation, and under certain conditions exercise can be limited by the central nervous system (brain to the nervous junction at the muscle) and peripheral nervous system (nervous junction through to action). When a muscle activates a signal is sent from the brain, down the spinal cord, along peripheral nerves to a junction at the muscle. Here the signal is converted from a electrical signal to a chemical signal and eventuates as an action i.e. picking up a cup. There a many limitations to both of these areas, however the simplest way to put it would be central limitations are any that stop or reduce the signal from the brain, peripheral limitations are any that limit the mechanical movement. To complicate it more, one of these may act to influence the other. However, I will keep it simple. If you exercise at a very high intensity for a very short period of time (<30 seconds) there may be lots of metabolites (by-products) that build up in the muscle and limit the mechanical movement. In a different scenario, long duration exercise may slowly build up fatigue related factors and limit the drive to the muscle reducing force/power it can produce. Its not always time related, however these are simple ways to view fatigue or the nervous system.

The body is not a simple machine. The above limitations to exercise are therefore true in isolated tasks, however, when we look at exercise or movement as a whole it is most likely that all these factors contribute differently. There is a few complex models of performance, however these are yet to be proven. The most contemporary is the inclusion of the brain in the conscious control of exercise based on feedback from all these systems interpreted in the mind as a perception of effort. How hard you think you are working is always going to dictate how much effort you decide to put into a training session when you get to control or regulate the intensity. So this is where training comes into play, if you improve the body's ability to cope with stress you can change the perception of the exercise task and therefore hopefully work harder. One catch to this, you may get fitter and better at working under harder conditions but perception is very hard to change. It may only change at what intensity you think is hard. Confused? Imagine you are on the bike, spinning 90rpm and at resistance 8. If you do this for 10 minutes and decide that is 10/10 on a effort scale (10 being I can't do anymore) so you stop. After a few weeks, you might be at 90 rpm, resistance 12, after 10 minutes you decide that effort is again 10/10. You have not changed your perception of the exercise, it feels the same, what you have done is increased your ability to tolerate exercise so that a 10/10 effort is at a greater intensity. So lets look at how we can change the above limitations to exercise to help us do just that.

Exercise Training, How does it help?

Cardiovascular/supply model, when we exercise it is natural our heart rate goes up, our breathing rate goes up and our blood is pumped around the body a lot faster. There is also some other things happening at the muscle level, oxygen and substrates are being transported into the muscle. If its your first time, there is a limited amount of blood in the body, so the heart has to work faster to supply the muscle with oxygen and substrate so your heart rate is often very fast, over time as you adapt to the exercise you get an increased volume of blood, this allows your heart to pump less and get more benefit. If you have a really high heart rate, you normally think the exercise is harder (i.e. rate it 10/10). Same goes with breathing, when you first start exercising your breathing rate can be very shallow, very quick and very inefficient. Overtime you develop stronger breathing muscles, better control and this allows you to slow your breathing down and take in more oxygen. Like before higher breathing rates are normally correspond to higher effort. This is where our threshold classes are really powerful, they challenge the body under maximal heart rates and breathing rates which forces it to get better, but also forces you to get used to working under those conditions. Interval training is also great for this as you can work very hard for short duration yet still maximally stimulate the breathing and heart rates.

The central and nervous system theories are based around limitations to either nerve conduction to the muscle or mechanical disruption at the muscle. Both these can be affected by high metabolite production in the muscle that may eventually spill out and disrupt other systems, this is normally when you feel pretty sick (i.e. end up in the garden). Improving the body's ability to tolerate high concentrations of metabolites forces the body to develop better buffering systems. Without going into detail we have safeguards that protect change or disruption, once we go beyond these the body has to reduce the exercise intensity or you risk further problems. If we systematically and appropriately challenge the body in these environments then we can develop better safe guards and we can also get better at working through the barrier. High intensity sprints, repeated sprints, repeated hill climbs and high intensity time trials or intervals are all great ways to test and develop this system. All these modes of exercise work on generating high force, which normally means high metabolic loads and lots of metabolites. 

I often refer to some sessions as mixed. These sessions normally look to improve all these factors, whereby we do some high energy sprint work, tolerance work in the middle and then heart/lung orientated training at the end. So the session covers all the basis. I hope this helps you understand a little bit more about exercise, if you have a specific event coming up feel free to chat to me to work out what the best form of training may be for you. We can also manipulate a lot of these to help with weight loss goals.



Body Weight Resistance

General health is a combination of cardiovascular, strength, mobility and relaxation techniques. Our blog plans to delve into each of these areas to help develop a better understanding of how to exercise to get maximum results. We will start with body weight resistance exercise, a great way to improve strength and endurance without the cost of going to a gym. As you start to get stronger there are some really simple strategies to help increase the difficulty of the exercise. The obvious choices are increase the volume (e.g. sets and reps), choice of exercise (e.g. push up vs dips), rest periods (e.g. short vs long, Tempo (e.g. speed of exercise), and exercise order. However, we can also manipulate the exercise through a few other variables.

  1. Range of motion
  2. Lever changes (length of the moment arm)
  3. Plane of motion (rotation, side positions, contact points)
  4. Stability demands
  5. Addition of external resistance
  6. Limb utilization (single limb, added tasks)

I will use a few examples of how we progress body weight exercise, then give you a workout structure you can follow for the next 4 weeks. To demonstrate these above factors I will use the simple push up as a guide. 

To change the moment or the force of the exercise you can increase/decrease the angle of body in relation to gravity (vertical force) or change the lever length (Knee push ups vs toe push ups). An example of this would be a wall push up, as you get stronger you get closer to the ground, as you get stronger at normal push ups you elevate the feet. This will change the difficulty of the exercise and will also vary the targeted areas.

Range of motion refers to the distance traveled during the exercise. Lets apply this to our push up scenario, if you are just getting started a full push up may seem out of reach. A full push up os chest to ground, then back to arms full extension. I will cover technique cues in a later blog. If you do not have the strength to perform a full push up we can manipulate the range and slowly build you up to a full push up. Place an object (e.g. tennis ball, medicine ball, DB, shoe) under the chest to bring the floor closer to you (reduced range), as you get stronger remove this object and perform a full push up. Once these are easy you can increase the range by placing the hands on a small block and still performing chest to ground push ups (increased ranged). Great to work on shoulder/upper back and chest strength. 

When describing movement we have three planes of motion (Frontal, sagittal, traverse). These represent different movement directions to help break up and define locomotion (movement). We can use these three planes to increase the difficulty of an exercise task. Important to note not only is moving a certain way good to challenge the demands of an exercise, so is resisting moving a direction during an exercise. For example, if I do a push up with 1 leg off the ground this activates multiple planes. If my body wants to rotate towards the ground and I resist this, then I am activating muscles that work in the transverse plane. So I have increased the directional demands of the exercise and the muscles involved by a simple adjustment. Some other examples might be, increasing one hands range of motion and the other as normal (off-set push up). Lateral shift push up, whereby you do a push up where the shoulder touches one hand then back to centre. Push up rotations or "T" push ups, once you are in the top position rotate one hand towards the ceiling. Reducing the point of contact, taking one leg or one hand of the ground, once you can build up to sets of these you can also start to add movements (e.g. spider man push up). 

The stability demands of an exercise are similar to what I have highlighted before, you can perform an exercise on an unstable surface or you can challenge the body to resist movement in a certain direction. Both these encompass multiple planes of movement and require greater activation of muscles to perform the task. Some hard examples are performing a push up on a swissball/stability ball, having one hand on a medicine ball, and using suspension training devices (e.g. TRX or gym rings). If you have a partner you can also use perturbations to increase the stability demands, this is adding some small external force to different parts of the body i.e. if you have a partner they can push on your hips, shoulders etc.

Performing an exercise with additional resistance is the commonly used method of increasing the difficulty of an exercise. Some simple effective methods are resistance bands or tubing and partner resisted exercises. For our push up example you could use a resistance draped across the shoulder and placed under the hands to increase the resistance of the exercise. If your training with a partner you can have them push down on you as you push up or push down on you as you try and resist the speed of decent (down phase of the exercise). 

Changing the contact points of an exercise increase the stability demands, planes of motion and change the moment/forces applied to the exercise task and are therefore considered advanced. They a great way to challenge the body to work harder and activate more muscle. As highlighted before this can be achieved by changing the points of contact, one arm lifted or one leg raised during the push up. 

Lets put this into a program for you to follow over 4 weeks. 

 ExerciseMinimum RepsSets

Week 1 Wall push up, knee floor push up, toe floor push ups or hands elevated 15-20Reps 3 Sets

Week 2 Knee floor push up, toe floor push ups with one hand elevated 12-15 Reps x 3 Sets

Week 3 Knee floor push up, toe floor push ups with resistance band or partner change force dynamics (add resistance through push up or lowering phase) Up 10-12 Reps x 3 Sets

Week 4 Push ups on toes, push ups on toes with rotation, push up on toes and raised leg  8-10 Reps x 3 Sets

If you pick the 1st, 2nd or 3rd exercise in the above list they are all progressed over the 4 weeks. For example if you choose wall push up week 1, 15-20 reps x 3 sets, in week 2 you will do knee push ups 12-15 reps x 3 sets. Try and do this program day on day off for 4 weeks (3 times per week). It is a simple and easy program to get you started and learn how to progress body weight resistance exercises.