Thursday, 16 February 2012

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Speed Kills

You have got to train for speed!

It’s no good getting strong as hell if you’re slow as hell!

I’ve said it time and time again; When you’re an athlete, you have to be strong to be fast, but remember that lifting weights is not the main event! You have to be fast, skilful and have a never-quit attitude.

Heavy strength training will give you the necessary foundations to develop all of the above, but you ABSOLUTELY MUST combine heavy strength training with lighter speed training. This is what will set you apart from everyone else.

With that said here is a look inside the Raw Strength Gym on one of our dynamic lower body sessions so you can see how we develop speed, explosive power, strength and muscle in all the right areas to create BEASTS! Take some notes and start applying what you learn!



If you want to become the best athlete you can be, join Raw Strength by clicking on the menu bar above or visit the website.

Join the gym for athletes at


Anthony Shaw

Raw Strength

Monday, 26 September 2011

3 Tips For a Bigger Bench

Rugby players and other beast athletes! You gotta bench! Read the following tips and watch the video to learn how to immediately improve your bench!

The bench press is what we call an ‘indicator’ exercise because when your bench press goes up it proves that your program is working. So periodic testing of the bench press gives us an INDICATION of the development of upper body strength.

Benching allows you to lift HUGE amounts of weight and build a load of muscle in the arms, chest and shoulders.

The stronger you get, the bigger you get. Simple as. So here are three techniques we use at Raw Strength that will IMMEDIATELY increase your bench:

WP_000434 1. Set up Properly

The ‘set-up’ is the way you position yourself on the bench BEFORE you pick the weight up out of the rack, it’s so important it could literally have its own article! For now I’ll just give you a few tips……

  • Lie on the bench with your eyes in line with the bar
  • Position your feet on the floor, underneath your hips and staying on the ball of your foot (This helps with leg drive; see tip #2)
  • Grab hold of the bar with a wider than shoulder width grip
  • Keeping your grip and foot position the same, slide up the bench until your head hangs off the bench!
  • Now pull yourself into the bar as if performing an inverted row, literally do a kind of lying down pull-up, lift yourself off the bench and pinch your shoulder blades together, then push yourself down into the bench so your eyes are back in line with the bar, but now your shoulder blades are tight and ‘set’ into a strong position and your entire back is tightly arched. If it feels comfortable….you’re doing it wrong! Arch your back some more and slide a little further down the bench towards your unmoving feet.
  • Get someone to help you lift the bar out before you press, as ‘reaching’ up and trying to unrack the bar on your own will almost certainly un-set your shoulder blades! You need to have your shoulder blades squeezed together as it gives a solid foundation to press, it protects your shoulder, it lifts your chest up and shortens the distance you have to press. The shorter the distance you press, the bigger the weight you can lift….and the bigger the weight the BIGGER you GROW!

2. Leg Drive

Leg drive sounds stupid, the bench is an upper body exercise right?! Well…it’s really a whole body movement when you do it right, although it stimulates upper body nerves and muscles the most, knowing how to push with your legs at the right time will help you leverage the bar up!

  • After the set-up you should be in a strong, uncomfortable position to press, bring the bar down, get a solid touch on your chest…no half reps here…and now drive your heels towards the floor, literally try and push your feet into the ground as you press the bar up. Pushing through the floor with your feet will help transfer your centre of gravity from around the middle of your belly to your chest and upper back, this helps ‘stick’ you to the bench and makes you more stable when pushing up.
  • Drive with your legs as you begin to press upwards, just after the bar has touched your chest. A good little exercise to practise and understand leg drive is to perform a couple of reps of glute bridges, whilst pressing your hands up.
  • It’s important to note here, that whilst you are going to drive with your legs, you must keep your ass on the bench at all times!


3. Breathe Properly

Breathing is easy…in on the way down, out on the way up right? NOPE. Not even close. Try the following tip for correct breathing and see your strength skyrocket….IMMEDIATELY!

  • Following the set-up and BEFORE the bar has left the rack, take THREE deep breaths WITHOUT LETTING ANY AIR OUT! You gotta take in 3 breaths ON TOP OF EACH OTHER. Your lungs should feel like they are about to explode!
  • Now squeeze the bar tight with your hands, tense your stomach as tight as humanly possible and HOLD YOUR BREATH.
  • Now you can unrack the bar, lower and press, hold your breath for the entire movement. You can only breathe in at the top of the movement, when the bar is locked out. Whenever the bar is moving hold your breath, squeeze the bar tight and tense your stomach.

This breathing method is common in powerlifting, in fact I would go so far as to say that ALL strongmen, powerlifters and weightlifters use some sort of breathing technique when shifting some heavy stuff…so its gotta be important.


Try these 3 tips and let me know how it helps your bench and overall strength levels!


Join the gym for athletes at


Anthony Shaw

Raw Strength

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Top Ten Tips for In-Season Rugby Players – Part 2

Welcome back to part TWO of my top ten training tips for in-season rugby players.

This is how to MAINTAIN your strength and fitness from your off-season…and how to build more strength too.

If you missed part one check it here

6. Train Your HamstringsWP_000307

To become a monster on the field and protect your legs/hips/knees from injury, you gotta train your hamstrings! Strong and well developed hammies make you faster, stronger, heavier and an all round unit! Strong hamstrings will also support the box squat, which should be your main lower body lift!

The simplest way to train your hamstrings is with a glute ham raise bench, throw them in as a warm-up on upper body sessions and work them hard after your squat on lower body days. Do them at least twice a week and you will reap the benefits.

Now I know a lot of people don’t have access to a glute ham bench, you guys need to do good mornings and loads of glute bridge and hip thrust style movements for the above recommendations.


Sleep 9-10 hours every night and I PROMISE you will feel better, recover faster and play harder. Just set your alarm, make bedtime a routine and get it done! Try to go to bed and rise at the same times each and every day. I forget who/where I got this from, but if you do anything consistently for 3 weeks straight, it becomes a habit. So do the 21 day sleep challenge! Get 10 hours of sleep every night for 3 weeks and it will become a solid and beneficial habit.

8. Work on Your Skills

Remember…..your skills are what will get you noticed! Practise, practise and more practise on the KEY skills for your position will make you a superstar. So if you play inside centre, get good at running awesome lines every single week. Stay behind and practise some more if you have to. Flankers need to turnover the ball constantly so work on your steals and practise making quick and effective tackles. You know what your role is on the field, specialise!

Are you the best at your position? If not, what do you need to practise to become the best? Now go and do it.

9. Warm-Up by using Corrective Exercises

WP_000387 Don’t waste time after your training session doing so called ‘pre-hab’ exercises to prevent injury. Just find the areas in your body that need some work and do a whole warm-up based around exercises to develop these areas. If in doubt you probably need work on the following common weak and/or inflexible areas…(google them if in doubt);

  • upper back/scapular retractor strength (do your face pulls, scarecrows, lower trap raise, prone Y’s etc.)
  • glute strength (hip thrusts, good mornings with bands, even do some glute ham raise here if you can handle it!)
  • hip mobility (fire hydrants, birddogs and other mobility drills for the hips here, stretch out the hip flexors and foam roll the glutes and hams)
  • chest/shoulder mobility (doorway chest stretch, no moneys, shoulder dislocates)
  • abdominal strength (deadbugs, knee raise, plank varations. Work on strength NOT working till you get a burn in your abs!)

Just chuck a couple of corrective exercises into your warm-up (10-15 mins) and you will start improving your body from the second you step into the gym.

10. Set A Goal and Constantly Review your Progress

I saved this one for last but its possibly the best tip of all…..set a goal for yourself and constantly check on your progress to see how well you’re doing. Go and get a pen and paper!

You’re actually gonna set a 3-5 year goal, a 1-2 year goal and constantly updated 3-6 month goals. So lets say I want to become a pro rugby player, this is how I would commit that goal to paper:

3-5 year goal – get signed by a premiership club

1-2 year goal – get signed to the academy squad of a premiership club

3-6 month goals – join the best club I can get into and make 20 tackles a game

                - improve on my strength and skills by training four times a week

Write your goals down using the above framework, arguably the 3-6 month goals are the toughest to set as they are the stepping stones to the longer term goals. Every week or even every month you need to sit down and look at what you have written down and then write WHAT YOU DID TO GET YOU CLOSER TO YOUR GOALS and also WHAT YOU DID THAT MAY STOP YOU GETTING TO YOUR GOALS.

So I might review my goals as such:

I made 20 or more tackles in the last 3 games I’ve played and I haven’t missed a workout, which has helped me get one step closer to being signed by an academy squad of a premiership club HOWEVER I have been eating badly and drinking alcohol after every game, which may stop me getting to my goal.

Then BRAINSTORM different ways that you can achieve your goals and tweak and update your 3-6 month goals.

Dream big and believe in yourself, if you want to be the best you gotta understand that there is no point in being realistic. Set crazy goals and go about getting them done!

Join the gym for athletes at


Anthony Shaw

Raw Strength

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Top Ten Tips for In-Season Rugby Players – Part 1

You should be in shape right now! After a good 3 month off-season of sprinting, lifting, growing, eating and skills training, you should be the strongest you’ve ever been!

The problem is, most players forget that you must MAINTAIN your off season gains during the playing season. Just playing rugby games on the weekends (or 2-3 times a week for the younger guys!) is not going to maintain your strength OR muscle size. You WILL, without question, get smaller and weaker during the season if you don’t MAINTAIN your strength!

This is due to 2 things:

1. Endurance or Long Duration exercise makes you weaker1202647463_f (and skinny!)

The human body is incredibly adaptable, and will transform itself to perform as well as it can in any situation that you CONSTANTLY throw at it. So whatever you do the most of, your body will adapt to.

If  the majority of your exercising hours each week are spent running and playing rugby, you will adapt to become better suited to endurance exercise. Your fast twitch muscle fibres won’t be stimulated and will lose strength, your slow twitch fibres will adapt to provide more energy to the muscles via aerobic energy sources and enable you to perform better for longer.

You need to be able to play hard for up to 80+ minutes, the problem is, you’ll be weak as hell!


2. The higher workload of games and training means you have less time to recover

Playing a game is much more intense than just going to a team training session, you’re gonna get knocks and bruises, you will likely train twice a week with your team and spend most of that time running and doing skills training. This means that for at least 3 times a week you’re running for over 60 mins, which links with the above point, but also means that you’re probably still recovering from last weekends game during your first training session of the week, so you won’t be able to train with as much intensity! You will also have less time to focus on strength and power work, compared to off-season training programmes.

A drop off in training intensity (to help you recover) means you will stimulate LESS gains in your endurance capability AND lose strength!


So if you have to be able to perform for long periods of time, and you don’t have much time to recover, but you have to train and play, what should you be doing each week to maintain your off-season gains?

Top Ten Tips for In-Season Rugby Players

Print this list out and make sure you’re completing the majority of the items each week to stay STRONG, RECOVER QUICKLY, and MAINTAIN your off-season gains!

1. Perform Short and Intense Interval Training Workouts

After your regular team training session for skills/strategy etc., sprint the length of the field (approx 100m) and walk back. Complete 10 times. This will maintain and improve your repeated sprint ability, and also maintain your aerobic capacity. Basically, you’ll never get tired! This is a quick and simple training method, any longer and you wouldn’t recover. Providing you’re playing each weekend you should be maintaining your longer duration/aerobic ability so there isn’t a big need to go for long slow (and boring) runs. You can do any short, intense conditioning work that you want, just be sure to do it!

2. Stretch following a game (and get a massage if its available!)

After your game (and every training session), stretch the muscles that feel tight to restore them to their normal length. If you don’t, your muscles will shorten, get really tight, and take up even more of your precious recovery ability. Get a massage if your club provides it. Stretch your hips, hamstrings, calves, quads and chest/shoulders, as these are the areas that get really beaten up during a game. Spend 15 minutes after a game to save about 24 hours of tight muscles. Good investment of your time right? :)

3. Drink a Post-Game Shake

After a game your body will have extremely low blood sugar, depleted glycogen (carb) reserves and be dying for some protein to help rebuild your tired and aching muscles. Get yourself a drink with approximately 1g of sugars per kg of bodyweight (so if you weight 80kg, drink a shake with approx 80g of sugars in!), and 20-30g of protein. I tell my athletes to drink the 1 litre cartons of flavoured milk you can get at any supermarket (usually 2 for £2), keep it simple.

4. Do Your Strength WorkWP_000434

Twice a week, get to the gym. Squat on day one, bench on day two. Start off with 4-6 sets of 3-5 reps @ 85-95% of your max. Any lighter in weight and you won’t maintain your strength. Include 3-4 assistance exercises for the associated muscles, stretch and go home. You can do two whole body workouts if you prefer AS LONG AS YOU SQUAT FIRST IN ONE SESSION, AND BENCH FIRST IN THE SECOND SESSION! Some weeks you may only get one session in, just squat and bench in the same session, again, nice and simple.

5. Do Your Pull-ups  

Constant tackling takes its toll on your shoulders, to help prevent injury you need a strong back, especially the upper and middle back. This will help support your shoulders by having a strong and stable base of support. Pull-ups are second to none in building a beastly, injury proof back. Pull-ups increase grip strength and cause your back and arms to grow! Do pull-ups at least once a week, don’t go to failure! Try and get 20 quality reps each workout over several sets (even 10 sets of 2 reps if you have to!) and steadily increase the volume of reps throughout the season.


Print this list out and start implementing as much as you can! Focus on doing one thing right for one week, then add another thing the next week and so on.


That’s all for part 1, stay tuned for part 2!


Join the gym for athletes at


Anthony Shaw

Raw Strength


Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Future of Sport? Don’t get left behind.

As I see it, strength and conditioning coaching for amateur sports clubs is an afterthought. Skills training and sport specific drills are always going to be, and should be, the priority.

But there’s more to a team than just being good at the skills, you need to be physically fit for your environment, FOR YOUR SPORT, and there’s a whole host of other disciplines that sports coaches should be looking at, not necessarily to hire a team of professional nutritionists, physios, strength coaches etc. But you must review your sports club, see what you can outsource either partially (buy a book/dvd, learn it and implement it) or fully (hire someone else to come in on an hourly rate, rather than a full time salary).

Just because your club is amateur doesn’t mean you should treat your athletes as such…..every pro athlete starts out as an amateur and I’m sick of hearing people blame pro athletes in the UK as being unfit to compete on a global stage, as we really should be focusing on improving the grassroots.

Here are a couple of things you must review AND START TO IMPLEMENT in your club. Many are low cost, some are high cost, but it is an investment in the pride and the FUTURE of your team.

If you get injured, you shouldn’t be using the magic sponge, you need a dedicated physio, and to be fair, most teams have a good physio….on match days at least. But if you get given rehab exercises….do you do them? If you’re a coach could you learn a few exercises that help prevent common injuries and teach them to your athletes?

If you plan on playing the whole season whilst healthy and injury free, then you need to warm-up correctly, not just jogging around and passing a ball, but really focused, targeted and INDIVIDUALISED warm-ups… you do this? Do you warm-up correctly? If you’re a coach could you learn more efficient and healthier warm-up techniques?

If you want to get in shape, lose body fat or put on some muscle, you need to consult a nutritionist. Do you look at what goes in your mouth? Do you care? If you’re a coach do you own any books on diet and teach your athletes how they should eat?

If you want to progress to an elite or professional level you must have a strength and conditioning coach, or a solid program at the very least. Is your body strong enough? Could you improve and do you know how to improve? If you’re a coach, could you learn a simple but tough workout to coach your team through 2-3 times a week?

There are a load more things you can do to improve your club, but to summarise:

1. Review your club. Pick 5 things that you could improve upon and find ways to learn how to do it or get someone else to do it for you.

2. Learn how to improve yourself and/or others. Work as a team.

3. In 20 years from now, all amateur clubs will have some sort of coaching framework for each discipline. Don’t wait, progress to the future now.


Take a step back and improve yourself as an athlete/coach/parent/teacher or whatever, or the other guy will win EVERY time.



Join the gym for athletes at


Anthony Shaw

Raw Strength

Friday, 2 September 2011

Max out…..then KEEP GOING!

Picture the scene….

Its squat day, you’ve been visualising crushing the weights all day long whilst at work, and as soon as you feel the bar on your back you’re gonna smash some records!

So you get to the gym, put on some heavy tunes, do a few bodyweight movements to get started, then some mobility/flexibility work, then you start out with the bar and gradually add plates until a weight you have never lifted before is on the bar…’s the moment you’ve been waiting for all day!

You get set, lower to the box, and smoke it! You just destroyed your previous lift and it felt easy! New max!!!

Now what? …..uh….dunno….didn’t plan this far ahead.


All too often the above scenario occurs, we break records in the gym then go home, or do some half arsed workout and assistance movements cos we’re suffocated by our pride! Yeah, breaking records feels good, but should it stop you having a great workout? Hell no!

Max out on a lift, then move to your second movement and go balls out on that one too! Unless you’re the world champion you have nothing to be proud about.

The second movement in a workout is hugely important, following the heavy strength work your body is in an ‘excited’ state, and can produce much more force than when at rest, however, this state is movement specific, you won’t boost your curl performance by doing some heavy squats, but you will improve jump height!

To maximise strength and muscle gains the second exercise in your workout has to be in a similar movement pattern to the first. You can even use the same exercise, just be sure to use less weight and increase the reps to fatigue the muscles rather than your central nervous system.


Here is a couple of exercise pairs that you can use to boost performance and carry on the momentum of heavy strength work into the rest of your workout:

1. Heavy box squat          2. Box Jumps

1. Heavy bench press       2. Press-ups on gymnastic rings (max reps)

1. Heavy Deadlifts             2. Power Cleans

1. Heavy Pull-ups              2. Med Ball Slams


Do 5-6 heavy sets of the first exercise, then ‘assist’ that movement pattern with an ‘assistance exercise’ (NOW do you understand why we call them assistant exercises? haha!).

With the second exercise, simply use sets and reps to suit your purpose;


To help build even more strength, use 3-4 sets of 3-5 reps, however, I suggest using an exercise that’s considerably different to the first exercise but still involves the same exercises.

E.g. Box Squat first for 5x5, then use glute ham raise for 5x5.



For hypertrophy I recommend using 3-4 sets of 12-20 reps (2-3 sets if going for max reps as this is much more stressful!)


STRENGTH SPEED (Moving a decent weight at a fast speed, good for blasting through sticking points!)

To boost your strength-speed, use 4-8 sets of 2-4 reps with around 60% of your max, be sure to move the weight as fast as you can, if its moving slow lighten the load!


SPEED STRENGTH (Moving a light weight or your bodyweight as fast as possible)

To increase speed-strength, use 4-8 sets of 4-8 reps with 0-30% of your max. You CAN get gains with just bodyweight! Be sure to move as fast as possible.


Keep it simple:WP_000297

  1. max out on your first exercise
  2. use a second exercise that mimics the movement patterns and/or muscle groups of the first
  3. use sets/reps specific to your performance goals (strength? hypertrophy? speed?)


Now go and finish the rest of your workout!! 



Join the gym for athletes at


Anthony Shaw

Raw Strength