As a rower, if you don’t have enough flexion, you won’t be able to get in an optimal position in the catch. If you are lacking flexion, you have a lot to gain from improving it.

Moving into the catch, as soon as you hit end range of motion with the hip, your lower back will start to round. This position does not allow you to get power out of your glutes. This reduces your ability to drive hard against the foot stretchers. ​Driving out of the catch with a rounded back is also a compromised position for the spine. This is also what happens to you when you squat with poor hip flexion​. If you are descending into the squat and lack flexion, your lower back will round at the bottom, shutting off your glutes. Lack of flexion will negatively impact your running form as well​, as it is difficult to drive your leg in front of you with each stride. Squatting and running are outside the scope of this article, but you can start to see the importance of hip function for all athletic activities.​

Here’s a quick test​ to see if you have sufficient hip flexion: (see picture below) lying on your back raise your knee as high as you can without assistance, without rounding your back or moving the other leg. Ideally, you should be able to hit about 120 degrees before feeling resistance​.

The good news is that there are some simple exercises you can use to improve your mobility – usually, you can see the difference immediately. Mobilizing your hips before you row (or squat) will usually allow you to get into a better position, allowing you to produce more power and reducing your chance of injury. Stretching after you row can help keep you limber so that you don’t tighten up further, and promote better mobility.

1. Banded distraction before your row: If you’re not familiar with banded distraction, YouTube has lots of good videos to get you up to speed. In general, banded distraction is not hard to do, feels great, and usually has an immediate effect. To explain how it works on a high level, the hip joint is surrounded by tight muscle tissue, which binds to the joint and keeps it from moving well. Think about knotting your t-shirt up around your fist, then trying to move your fist. If you loosen up the shirt, it’s easier to move your fist! It works similar with your hip joint and the surrounding tissues.

There are several variations, but here are two basic versions to try. I find just the first one works really well for me, but I need to get a lot of tension on the band.

Banded Distraction 1: 2-3 minutes per leg, moving around to find the positions of restriction.

Banded Distraction 2: 2-3 minutes per leg, as above.

2. After your row: Stretch and lengthen the surrounding tissues

Here are several variations of just one stretch, though there are many more ways to improve flexion. Partner variations are my favorite, as they allow you to relax completely, and your partner can keep the bottom leg from lifting.

I prefer these at 20-30 seconds per side, for 2 sets. But this is up to you depending on time and what feels right.

And let me know how that new PR goes after mobilizing those tight hips!


Sia is a good friend of mine that I have a lot of respect for. He’s a busy guy, and he’s in good shape already, in my opinion, but I know he’s not quite in the shape he used to be, and he wouldn’t mind losing a little bit more fat. Sia has been watching his diet, and has cut out sugar for almost a year already. After seeing some results he’s finding progress has slowed, and today he asked me if I had any ideas to help him get to the next level.

And as a matter of fact, I do.

Really, I think he just needs to kick it up a notch, and try a few different methods to spark a bit more fat loss. It’s not just about trying one thing or something else, it’s about adding them together. Taking his existing healthy diet and adding some more fat loss methods on top of that should be all he needs.

Idea Number 1: Try Some Intermittent Fasting

I’m a huge fan of intermittent fasting and it’s my go-to method of losing fat. There are more benefits then just fat loss, such as improved insulin sensitivity and digestive tract function. I’m always surprised that fasting also increases my energy significantly, or how my eyes will get whiter (I suspect from reduced inflammation). And I get these effects from just fasting 4-6 hours a day in the morning, and not even every day.

I recommend trying just two days of intermittent fasting for four hours each morning after you wake up. Let’s say you get up at 8am – consume nothing but water or black coffee until noon. Then, eat as you normally would for the rest of the day. Continue to try and eat as healthy as you can – avoid sugar and alcohol as much as possible, don’t overeat, etc etc. But don’t under-eat either – just eat normally! The first day, in my experience, is usually really easy, but the second day is a bit harder. Fight through the hunger and hold off until 12, or 1pm, if possible.

Repeat this method of two days of intermittent fasting and two days of normal eating for a week or two and just observe the effects. If you get up one morning and you just really want breakfast, just eat it! Instead fast the next day, or whenever it feels right. Listen to your body, observe the effects, and repeat what works.

It doesn’t have to be painful or difficult. I admit I sometimes push the boundary of how long I should fast for – I’ll go until 2 or 3pm maybe, and then realize I’m a bit too hungry and that I didn’t have to push it that far. Just do what works for you and what feels right. But you should also see a difference. You should lose some weight. If you’re not losing weight, you’re probably just eating too much the rest of the day. Be mindful of your eating, and repeat the morning fast as needed.

Idea Number 2: Do More Intense Cardio

HIIT, tabata, sprints, whatever. Push harder, and you might be surprised at the results. In my experience, easy cardio does almost nothing for fat loss. Going for a 30 minute walk or a leisurely bike ride is good for you, and it is better than sitting on the couch doing nothing – but if you really want to stoke the fires of your metabolism you’ll want to hit that workout harder. The idea here is that your metabolism stays jacked up for hours after the workout, and you continue to burn a lot of calories during this time. I prefer running 400m sprints with 90 seconds rest – 8×400 is my go-to workout right now. But also I do 500m rowing with 1 minute rest. I can get a lot out of a stationary bike as well using the same approximate time frames. I like to put the bike on the hardest possible setting (level 25 or whatever) for 30 seconds to a minute, and then back it off for a few minutes, and repeat for 20 minutes. Just do what you can! And do it harder! Hill sprints are another good one, or stair running / climbing…

A warning though, these are hard workouts and you won’t want to do them fasted. I would only do something like this when I’m fueled up and ready for an intense effort. I also admit I will often have a bit of sugar and salt right after one of these workouts to restore liver glycogen and electrolyte balance. This is another article entirely, but just to sum up, if you’re sweating a lot, you need some salt. And restoring liver glycogen right after a workout will help you recover. My favorite is orange slices for the sugar, and some potato chips or pickles for the salt.

Idea Number 3: Fasted Cardio

Fasted cardio is another good thing to try, though I admit not one of my personal favorites – I still do it sometimes because it works. The theory is that performing cardio in a fasted state (first thing in the morning before breakfast is probably the most effective) forces your body to burn more fat as fuel. And a lot of people swear by this method. It does seem an efficient method of training, as you don’t need as much cardio to have the same effect. I’m often surprised that I do not feel hungry while I’m exercising and often even have more energy this way. This method also fits in well with the intermittent fasting mentioned above. However, if you do choose this option, I suggest breaking your fast sooner after your workout, because you might just feel too crappy afterwards. Only one warning, it is not recommended to do high intensity cardio fasted. 25-30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio when fasted is more than enough.

Well, there you go my friend. This may be all you need to strip off those last few pounds. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

Who am I and why would you bother listening to me? Honestly, I have a hard time writing about myself. I’m human and I have an ego! Why would I want to look stupid by exposing my poor writing to the internet? Why would you want to put anything on the internet anyway? I don’t want to sound like some gym know-it-all. The world has way too many of those guys already.

But… I am in love with exercise, and I have been for 27 years now. I want to become a better writer, and I want to continue to share my experiences. Hopefully my experience can be of use to someone.

So yup, 27 years ago I picked up my first barbell. It was with my Dad before school in 1991. We only stuck with it for about a week, and Dad dropped off (hey, was a busy guy and it was wayyy to early in the morning) but I kept going. And going, and going. Off and on, trying one thing or another, reading everything I could and learning from anyone who would teach me.

And I did it without a speck of athletic ability. I was skinnnny. I just didn’t have the bone structure to produce power, and gaining muscle did not come easily! But it did come. Despite 20 years of Karate (trained from age 6 to age 26), I had little coordination and never played any other sports. I could barely catch or throw any kind of object (and still can’t!) In high school, as I started to get noticed for being stronger, I went to a few wrestling practices, but that was the extent of my early experiences. I ultimately because a personal trainer and trained maybe a hundred people over the years.

I did rack up more experience points along the way, spending a few years powerlifting here and there. I trained with the Niagara Powerlifting Club, which is where I first learned to squat, bench and deadlift correctly, and I started to learn what it meant to work hard. More recently I trained for a year with Port Kells Barbell, another powerlifting club, and worked with the best coach I’ve ever met, Ryan Matthews. (this was where I learned to really work hard) I could devote entire articles to what I learned from him, and I intend to do that!

My best lefts were not amazing – I pulled off a 495 pound deadlift in the gym (473 in competition) a 415 pound squat, and a 335 pound shirted bench. (275 raw) Later though, I would realize that powerlifting simply wasn’t my sport, but I could apply that strength to other things. Powerlifting wasn’t my sport, but it made me a better athlete, and gave me a foundation to start to build on.

I’ve learned a lot along the way, and it seems I’m always teaching somebody something, and I really enjoy sharing and empowering people to reach their goals. I don’t just believe in exercise for strength and fitness, but overall well being and health. The fact that you look good naked always remains a pretty nice bonus.

In 2012 I started getting into running, and this is where I realized I did have some athletic potential. It turns out the narrow frame that made powerlifting so difficult for me were perfect for running. Just this last year I really started to get faster, and I racked up a few decent 10k’s (for an old man) this last year, peaking in October and November for a few races. After my last race, I was nursing a slight knee injury, so I got back into the gym for lack of other ways to improve until my knee healed, and suddenly the iron bug hit me again. Then I was back at the weights again twice a day, 6 days a week.

Which brings us to the present. I’m reasonably sure I’m the oldest guy that’s ever been on the SFU rowing team. I actually take a lot of pride in this, as it took a lot of training throughout my life just to attempt tryouts. My fear was I would simply be outclassed athletically, and not only would I not make the cut, if I did it would not be an enjoyable experience. But I sucked it up and tried out anyway, and I was very surprised to see that I was putting up erg numbers that actually beat many of the other guys that were there. My first 2k erg test was just this Monday – I don’t have the form yet, and ultimately I’m too short and too old for rowing – but I put up a 7:04 on my first try. That shows a bit of potential, possibly.

Being on the rowing team been really enjoyable experience so far – the coaches are great, and everyone on the team is encouraging and works really hard. And nobody seems to mind that I’m twice their age. Few people get a second chance to do something like this, and I feel blessed that I have the opportunity.

So there you go. That’s who I am, the guy that’s in love with all forms of training. The ex-karate, ex-personal trainer, ex-powerlifter, ex-runner, ex-bodybulder, oldest guy on the rowing team, happy to help you out guy in the gym who has certainly been there and done that.

So basically what I’m saying is, if you want to be strong, mobile, healthy, or just look good naked, I can help you with that. If you have any questions feel free to send me an email!

Tom Hardy’s Cobra

I need big traps. They are so powerful looking from the front – they are so hard to miss! They fill in that area between your shoulders and your neck. Also, thick middle traps add a thick look to your upper body. Honestly, when I can see someone’s middle traps through their shirt, I find that very impressive. Check out Tom Hardy here, you can see how people used to refer to the traps as the “cobra muscles”.

The trapezius is comprised of three sections: the upper, middle and lower. Each section has a different function, but people typically only train the upper portion. For full development and better posture you need to add a few more exercises.

upper, middle and lower sections

The upper traps elevate your shoulders and keep your shoulders from being pulled down.

The function of the middle trapezius is to pull the shoulders back. Note the difference to the lat or the rhomboids here… Think about just squeezing your shoulders straight back and together. That’s why the high wide machine row works so well (or a cable row) – lean back a bit and you can hit a bit higher on your traps. make sure to grip very wide with your elbows high and squeeze back.

The lower trapezius pulls the shoulders back and down, which is very useful for posture correction.

Here’s a complete trapezius workout for you to try – if you’re really an animal, do this after your deadlift workout! Deadlifts alone hit your trapezius well isometrically. Go heavy and hard on the shrugs and snatch grip high pulls, and do the rest fast with low rest to pump up the muscle. The combination is hard to beat.

Complete Trapezius Workout:

1. warm up: band pullaparts 4×20


2. heavy shrugs (upper traps) 5×10

3. wide machine high row (middle traps) 4×20 – lean back a bit, keep elbows high, squeeze middle traps!

wide rows

4. snatch grip high pulls (upper and middle) 3×15 – use straps!


5. Y raises on 45 degree bench 5×10 (lower traps)


Some people can get away with very little trapezius training. I’m just not one of those people. Deadlifts, barbell rows and pullups will do a lot for your complete trapezius development, but if traps is something you want to focus on give my workout a try. Even understanding the function and being able to isolate and feel each section will be really useful in your training.

If someone asks me for advice, more often than not, I’m likely to tell them to just look up Stan Efferding. I’ll tell them to look up Stan and follow everything he says, and I guarantee that they’ll be well on their way to being healthy, strong and successful.

Stan is really, really, really good.

Do I like him because he totaled 2303 raw? (that’s a 865.2 pound squat, 600.3 pound bench and 837.7 pound deadlift – yeah, he’s superhuman) Nope. He’s amazingly strong, and when he did this it was probably the first time I heard of him, but it’s not why I think he’s great.


I like him because he’s extremely intelligent, well spoken and articulate, and describes training and nutrition concepts better than I can. And he inspires me to work harder in business. He’s an excellent example of how to succeed I think.

Check out his rants, or “10 talks”… Here is a good example of what I’m talking about. Some people speak in sentences, some people speak in paragraphs. Stan Efferding speaks in essays. Here he talks about the obesity epidemic in the Somoan islands, and the parallels to North American diet and obesity.

Check him out! Stan’s website.

One of my favorite bodybuilding/powerlifting programming ideas is “The Rule of 40”. It’s a simple idea for learning how to program intensity and volume in your workouts.

I’ll show you how I would use this idea to program a typical day in the gym. Using back day as an example, I’ll pick 5 or 6 exercises that I haven’t done recently and/or haven’t done in this order, and set up the sets and reps something like this:

  1. Barbell row: 5×8
  2. Pullups: whatever you have to do to get 40 reps total.
  3. Snatch grip high pulls: 4×10
  4. db pullovers: 3×15
  5. machine reverse fly: 2×20

Another example for back day:

  1. Pullups 7×3 weighted
  2. db rows 4×10
  3. wide cable rows 4×12
  4. barbell shrugs 3×15
  5. barbell curls 1×40

The rule of 40 simply means the total volume for each exercise should equal (roughly) the magic number 40. 4×10, 5×8, or 4×12 and 5×12 are staples. 5×5 or 6×5 is a good bet even though it doesn’t add up to 40.

The 1×40 set is really interesting. It really depends on how you pick the weight. Pick a bit heavy, and it’s a trial from hell to get through that set. Pick a bit light, and this can be really good for flushing blood into the area and improving recovery.

The 40 rule is not a firm rule, but it’s a good starting point, which should help teach most people how much volume they need to progress. I’ve learned to tweak a few things, like I’ll do more total volume for exercises that have a very short range of motion – shrugs are a good example, where 4-5×12-15 reps probably works better. Also, I’ll typically do a bit more volume for back than for chest or shoulders. More often back exercises are 4×12 or 5×10, where chest will be 5×8 or 4×10.

Conversely, you might want to take the hardest exercises and drop the volume a bit. Deadlifts are a good example, where 5×5 is more than enough work. Or 7 sets of 3 reps of weighted pullups, which is only 21 reps total, is a lot of work.

Also, these rep ranges only work if you follow the “ramp up to one max set” method. As an example, if my best bench press is 225×5, and I expect to hit a PR today, I might do 5×7, like this:

  1. 135×7
  2. 160×7
  3. 185×7
  4. 205×7
  5. 225×6 (almost hit 7 today, but I made the PR of 6)

Only that last set was “all out”. So you get a growth stimulus of pushing your limit and breaking new ground, but also the volume of the 4 previous sets without blowing out your central nervous system. You can play around with this, and you COULD do 205×7 for 5 sets… But for me, always aiming for a PR just yields better results. I try to PR on the final set of every exercise, in every workout. And if I’m eating enough, training hard enough, resting enough, and rotating my exercises properly, it will happen.