Working Out or Working In

Recently I have had a number of  discussions with clients who needed to go off plan for a session or two due to various reasons. This led me to thinking about the difference between “working out” and “working in”.

Hard training sessions seem to ” take” more than they “give” at that time. That’s working out. While a session with just the right level of difficulty for that day seems to “give” back. Meaning you can feel more energised than when you started. That’s what I would call working in.  Don’t get me wrong hard sessions are needed when you have big goals but when it’s not there it’s just not there. 


We hear it all the time. “I feel far better now” or “that’s just what I needed”.

Sometimes we come into the training studio knowing full well that the usual energy and motivation just isn’t at the level it normally is. This could be from almost anything. Injury, poor sleep, bad mood, sickness, seasonal changes and various other stresses that life seems to find. Whatever the reason may be, trying to pile more onto your plate  by having a hard training session may not always be the right move. Just because a hard session was planned does not mean it is set in stone. There is no shame or harm in doing an “easier” session. Oftentimes it’s just what the body wants. 


Personal training should be exactly that. Personal. We understand regular people aren’t robots and have lives outside the gym. It’s highly likely you also aren’t a professional athlete being paid for your physical prowess. This means that there is far more room to be flexible with almost every part of the plan. Things like scaling down the resistance, easier movement progressions, focusing on a different fitness quality or throwing the plan out the window and going off script. 

Little if any progress will be lost by toning it down sometimes while other things are going on in life.

Just my 2 cents. 


Jump, Slam & Throw

Those of you that are training at Strength and Soul may have noticed an increase in jumping, throwing and slamming lately. We believe power is an important quality for every one of our clients. This is why the vast majority of our training starts with a power component.

 Apart from feeling good and being great at releasing frustration, power training has benefits for the general population that go further than just being able to jump on a box.

Power is a quality that can be trained just like strength or balance. In fact it is the combination of strength and speed. Usually training for power is going to be done with your own body weight or with relatively light implements. This means that the exercises can be performed quickly or with the intent to be quick. Where strength is the ability to overcome a resistance no matter how long it takes, power is overcoming the resistance as quickly as possible. This makes for far more dynamic exercises which usually feel more stimulating than exhausting.

As you can imagine power is a massively important quality for athletes who need to run, jump and change direction quickly. But for the general and aging population it is an important quality to maintain because we rely on it more than we think. From being useful in the garden to preventing falls, being able to produce force quickly is important for day to day living. For example, you are probably strong enough to walk across a busy road but using more power would get you to the other side quicker and avoid becoming roadkill.

Unfortunately as we move between ages 20-80 we lose about 40% of our muscle mass and about 30% of that is lost after the age of 50. With that goes a loss of strength but more quickly than that is the loss of power. This is hugely reduced in people that use resistance training – of course. 😁 So when you are throwing the medicine ball, battling the ropes or pushing that sled you can now know that you are putting off the loss of strength, muscle and power but also maintaining your ability to dodge traffic.


Soreness after Exercise – What is that?

We have all experienced this at some point.  The roll over in bed the day after a a hard walk, run  or ride.  “Uh oh” we say as we lift ourselves up and out of the snuggly bed covers.  For the next day or 3 you are reminded of your enthusiasm whenever you get on and off the toilet or go laugh at a joke with sore abs.

This lovely feeling is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS for short. It’s also sometimes called “muscle fever” which is a new one to us but I quite like it. The sciencey reason about what the actual causes are unclear but it involves microscopic trauma to the tissue.


The main reasons why you might wake up with DOMS is that you did significantly more to your muscles than your body was used to. This includes taking up a new novel activity, returning from a layoff or really increasing the amount that you were already doing. 


Certain actions of the muscle are known to be far more likely than others to cause the dreaded muscle fever. Actions like the lowering portion of bodyweight or weighted exercises. Also things like the quads and calves when walking down hill and landing as you run. This part of the movement is called the eccentric portion and when exaggerated is a great way to get really strong – but also make you second guess taking the stairs. Unfortunately or fortunately depending how you see it taking the stairs would be the best thing you can do to loosen up the stiffness and reduce some soreness.


This brings us to the next part of DOMS. It doesn’t get worse. Due to how awesome our body is, the next time you do something similar your muscles will be ready for it and the response will be far less soreness if any at all. Which is a bummer for those of us who enjoy feeling those training sessions long after they are completed. Soreness in the legs and butt can be very memorable but hard to replicate.


In summary don’t let DOMS put you off from continuing that activity.  In general it will disappear within 48 hours and unless you are going hard doing random activities or every session increasing the work done by massive amounts you should not be constantly sore.

So get out there and enjoy what your body can do and if your muscles get a little bit sore enjoy that to.


The Face Pull – Why we do it

One of the most common areas of annoying niggles or pain that we see is the shoulder.

Without diving too deep into the posture and pain subject let’s just say that posture will influence the position of your joints and the position of your joints will determine how well they work. This is the difference between smooth pain free ranges of motion or slowly grating away your poor tendons.

If you are hunched over a computer or your phone reading this right now, these are the positions that we are referring to.  So sit up and keep reading.

The shoulder joint is the combination of the scapula (shoulder blade) and humerus ( upper arm bone) and  is the most mobile joint we have. It relies for the most part on many muscles to make sure that the scapula can be both stable and mobile and the humerus can move well with the scapula. If some muscles over time become “stiffer” they can pull on either the humerus or scapula and change the position and therefore the function of the shoulder, usually for the worse. The muscles that tend to get stiffer are usually on the front. You know  the chest, biceps and neck. The ones that get weaker tend to be the ones we can’t see. Which leads us to the face pull.

Every one of our training clients do the face pull or some variation of it every session. Either with a band or cables and as a warm up or within the main sequences.  This versatile movement targets the neglected area of upper back and helps to keep those little muscles called the rotator cuff employed.

In short it does the opposite of the movements we find ourselves doing for long periods every day, phone,computer, steering wheel and TV and it helps to improve and  keep those shoulders moving smooth like butter.

Just Start at the Start

Whatever your starting point, it’s okay.

On the training floor our goal is to help our clients feel and move better.  This can happen through losing some fat, becoming more body aware, gaining some mobility, increasing strength or using exercise as a stress outlet.

Each person is unique and not just in a “special snowflake” kind of way, but as in each of you comes from different backgrounds and injury history.  From bionic knees, fused backs to missing organs and rare disease.  Each one of you has a vastly different history and that’s just the physical side.  Let’s not forget that everybody has differing goals, lifestyles, exercise preferences and dislikes.  This leaves a lot of room for individuality.

Too often we hear from people that they need to get fitter or be a bit slimmer before coming in to see us.  I usually liken this to making sure your car is in good shape before going to the mechanic.  The point of this short post is to say that know matter what your starting point is it will undoubtedly be different from the next person.  That is okay. 

Don’t compare yourself to how other people are doing.  The most discouraging thing you can do to yourself is think “I can’t do it, so I wont bother doing anything.”  There is always something we can do.


We get a lot of joy helping people make progress with their physical body and the list of benefits that come from physical movement is ever growing so forget the reasons why you can’t and focus on what you can.

Walking – why most of us need more

“Happy is the man who has acquired the love of walking for its own sake”-W. J. Holland

Walking is like the vanilla of movement. Pretty plain and usually not that exciting. But as far as human evolution goes, walking on two legs was a huge part of our ability to take over the world. It freed up our arms and hands to be able to specialise in other tasks like hunting and gathering.  

Walking can be described as “controlled falling”. Being able to move on two legs requires a tremendous amount of balance that we usually take for granted. Watching my son move from being stable on all fours while crawling to pulling himself up on furniture and being shaky, it reinforces that it does require many things to be strong enough and stable enough before walking is even possible.

Although the world we live in today is vastly different to the world our hunter gatherer ancestors roamed in, the bodies we inhabit are very much the same. I would like to give you some reasons to get out more and enjoy some vanilla.



  • Improve your mood


There are numerous studies that show that something as simple as going for a walk can improve your mood, even if it is a mundane walk towards something you don’t want to do. If you want to really boost your mood and relieve some stress go into the bush and do what the Japanese call “forest bathing”. Make sure to leave your phone at home and enjoy the time in nature with all your senses.


  • Help maintain a healthy weight

As our world changes our lives are becoming more sedentary. This means that while our bodies are made to move we tend to sit down more and more. The simple act of walking 10,000 steps per day has numerous health benefits such as increasing V02 max (ability to use oxygen), decreased body weight and decreased blood pressure.


  • Immune function

Walking and exercise in general is a great way to improve your immune system. Studies show that a 30-45 minute walk increased the level of immune cells in the body and also dramatically reduced the frequency of sick days.  


These are just a few of the many many benefits of walking.  As we move into winter we may not be as motivated to get outside and walk but your body will thank you for it.


Diary of my SLAP tear and how I avoided surgery

I’m Ryan, one of the Personal Trainers at Strength & Soul Whangarei.  I like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or BJJ for short. But on this one day last year (2017) it didn’t like me.

I was rolling on the mat with another guy and I got caught in an armbar, I managed to escape, but while doing so hurt my left shoulder pretty bad.

After a few physio visits and an MRI scan it was discovered that I had a SLAP tear or lesion.  A SLAP tear or lesion occurs when there is damage to the top of the labrum or where the bicep tendon connects to the labrum.  The labrum is a piece of cartilage attached to the rim of the shoulder socket that helps keep the ball of the joint in place.

SLAP is the acronym for Superior Labral tear from Anterior to Posterior.

When I knew for certain it was a labral tear, I was gutted!  I had a similar injury a few years ago on my right shoulder and that needed surgery.   Therefore I assumed that the only option for me this time, was also surgery.  Over the next few weeks whilst I waited for my surgeons appointment, I was not a very happy person to be around.

On the day of my appointment i went into the surgeons office thinking the worst.  He performed a few tests on me, which all showed positive for SLAP tear, and my confirmed diagnosis was made.  As I sat there in his room I expected him to tell me my only option was surgery. I was surprised and delighted when he actually gave me his reasons to try to avoid surgery and see if we/I could get it to repair itself over time.  Recent studies have shown that labral tears can be rehabbed to 100% without having to go under the knife. This process could take 3 – 6 months and I would need to have patience and perseverance.

As I walked out of his office i vowed then and there that i was determined to rehab my shoulder back to 100%.  First up i needed to do a little research of my own.


Discoveries & Research

As part of my initial physio rehab plan prior to the surgeons diagnosis, we discovered that my Left Latissimus dorsi muscle was not working as well as it should be and I was also lacking adequate range of motion with external rotation.

This was my weak point which I needed to focus on.  I needed to be able to activate these muscles and once that happened, I then needed to be able to strengthen these areas.

The rehabilitation exercises that I choose to do were;

  • High elbow face pull with external rotation x 10
  • A move I call ‘No Money’ which is a specific external rotation move x 10
  • A landmine press with no weight x 10

Plus I would foam roll the lat and peanut (2 x hockey balls taped together) the entire shoulder area.

I did this for 3 sets, slowly with my focus always being on proper shoulder movement and muscle activation.  I did these EVERY SINGLE DAY.

What to do and what to avoid

For me ALL overhead movements were off limits.  However I was still able to continue with all my other training.  This is what my training plan looked like;

  • I still kept deadlifting about 150 – 160 kgs for 5 reps
  • Farmers walks with 40kg kettlebells
  • Lots of heavy goblet squats and swings.

All the time my focus was on ensuring my left lat was activating and engaging properly.

The main exercises that I did to strengthen the shoulder were;

  • Bottoms up kettlebell cleans x 3-5 reps with 2 sets
  • Tall kneeling landmine press no weight x 5-8 with 2 sets
  • Kettlebell floor press with double 24kgs x 5-8 with 2 sets

I would do these exercises every second day.  For the first 3 months it was hard if I didn’t have my shoulder in the exact position it needed to be in, then it would bite me. Also I was not able to put much weight on the shoulder.

I also started to hang on the rings and slowly lower myself down.  I would try to hold as much of my body weight as possible and maintain that position until it became uncomfortable.  With this exercise I really didn’t feel like I was making much progress initially, but I persevered.


At about the 3-4 month mark I was starting to feel really surprised as it seemed like each week my shoulder was beginning to become more noticeably stronger and stable.  I was able to hang off the rings with my full body weight, then a week later i was able to hang off the rings on my left hand with my full body weight.

The next week I was able to Bottoms Up Clean with a 32kg KB with my left shoulder.  The landmine press now had a 15kg plate and the floor press increased to 32kgs.


I had now reached the 5th month and because I had achieved activation and adequate strength I focused on strengthening and conditioning the shoulder joint.

  • Swiss Ball walkout with a leg lift
  • Push Up Position Plank rolling a med ball from one hand to the other
  • Side-lying Subscap Internal Rotation with a 15lb dumbbell
  • Tennis Ball Wall throws progressing to 3kg medicine ball.

Once I had started this new programme it felt like my progress was happening every day!  Occasionally I would throw in the old rehab exercises as a bit of a check in.

The 6 month Deadline

By the 6 month mark I was feeling 100%.  After a couple of weeks of feeling like this I decided to give an overhead press a go.  With having zero overhead press action for 6 month I was bloody stoked when I managed a single military press at 32kg on my left shoulder.

Then I had my follow-up appointment with the surgeon.  He performed a series of tests on my shoulder, a repeat of the ones I had done on my first visit.

He asked me about my rehab plan and I filled him in on all that I had done over the last 6 months.  With a smile on his face he told me he was pretty certain my shoulder was back to 100% and that I definitely did not need surgery.

That was one of the best things I have ever had someone say to me.  I was so stoked that my patience and perseverance had paid off.

What is ironic is that now my left shoulder feels stronger and a lot better than my right.

My Learnings

The two most important things I can take away from this whole experience is if you do have an injury keep moving!!

Make sure you continue to go through all the range of motion movements that you can without pain.

Secondly once you have selected or been given your exercises to do by your trained healthcare professional DO THEM!! EVERY DAY start light and work your way up from there.  

Consistency was very much the reason for my successful rehabilitation.







Crawling, so what’s that all about?

Apart from looking and feeling funny on the floor what are the benefits of crawling as an adult?

To begin with crawling is a developmental movement pattern that as a baby, you yourself most likely went through on your progression towards walking. As you graduated from crawling onto walking you probably thought, “right I’m done with that part of my life”, but hold your horses. Crawling can be equally as valuable a movement now as it was way back then. I am going to try to convince you that crawling isn’t just a way for our hidden cameras to get funny footage of you, it can also be both strength, conditioning and mobility work.

Reason 1 – It’s good for your brain

To say that crawling plays a major role in a developing brain is an understatement. It helps increase body awareness, nurtures gross and fine motor skills as well as developing the child’s visual abilities. Also not to mention developing the necessary strength and coordination to get up walking. But what about for us adults?

 Some of you who have crawled as an adult may have found it super easy, but I can guarantee that some of you reading this right now, felt as uncoordinated as a giraffe on ice skates, especially while going backwards or sideways. Getting down on hands and knees and moving in a non-ridiculous fashion requires the left and right side to join forces to get things done. Doing this gives you a lot of sensory input from all the parts of the body that are moving and being contacted by the floor. This improves the coordination between the left and right side of your walnut, increases your body awareness and also improves your “reflexive” strength eg. Catching yourself while tripping over before you faceplant.

* It may also add 10 points to your IQ score although I have no data to back that up.

Reason 2- It’s good for your body

If you are over 30 and have been paying attention you may have noticed that your body may not feel as good as it once did. Some will write it off and say “I’m just getting old” but many of the things that cause it to not feel as good as it once did can be minimised or eliminated. It is true that ageing can cause a loss in muscle mass and strength, balance can decline along with your confidence level and your body may start to feel “tighter”. These can start to decline in your late 20s and continue to fall until the inevitable sleep. But what if someone wanted to do something about it?

There are issues that we see at Strength + Soul that are really common in the general population. To see how these can be helped with crawling I will give 2 examples:

A Stiff Upper Back

A mobile upper back or thoracic spine, is an important player in many things but for this we will focus on shoulder health. If this region is tight it can limit the ability of the shoulder blade to move which then restricts how your shoulder moves. As you perform variations of crawling and maintain your eyes on the horizon it can encourage thoracic extension while loading the upper body in a way which improves shoulder stability. Winning!

A Weak “Core”

I cannot think of anyone I have come across where I thought to myself “guess we don’t need to do any core work”. We like to view the “core” as anything from hips all the way to your neck, front back and sides. This is the area which you produce and transmit huge amounts of force through, generate movement from and all the while hopefully protecting your spine and vital organs. Your shoulders and hips must work in a reciprocal fashion to make movement occur and these forces must be transferred through your midsection. A baby crawl can be a gentle way to get these opposite sides working in harmony while setting the blueprint for for more challenging variations such as the leopard crawl or the spiderman crawl. Most crawling variations will challenge many of the jobs of the core such as rotary stability and anti extension. So if you want a strong core start acting like a big baby!

After reading this short snippet i hope you now have a few reasons at least to drop down onto the floor on all fours. Crawling can be so good for the body and brain it’s a wonder why we all don’t do more of it.