The Muscle Manager - Assessing the impact fallen arches for Powerlifters (1 of 2)

In June 2016, I was very fortunate to be invited to my first Training Exchange at CityGym Limerick. This fantastic opportunity allows Powerlifting Athletes & Powerlifting Coaches come together to share their knowledge and learn from one another.

Not only was I lucky to take part in the training session with CityGym Head Coach Gar Benn, I was also fortunate to speak with many of the athletes who asked about a variety of concerns they had. Over the next few weeks, my aim is to write a series of articles on some of the topics discussed with the athletes at the Training Exchange. This first article, of two, will focus on assessing the impact of fallen arches on the Powerlifter for squatting, and common compensation methods used by the athlete. The second article on arches will look at other limitations brought about by fallen arches such as the impact to explosive movements, the knock on effect on the glutes and some of the inflammation and pain modalities that will occur for the athlete.

Assessing the impact fallen arches has on squatting technique.

Squats are awesome. Okay, there are days when even I disagree with that statement, but it is truly an amazing technique that we learn very soon after learn how to walk, and then suddenly we un-learn this technique.

I have a niece (aged 3½) and a nephew (aged 2). They have PERFECT squat technique, and as their uncle, I feel it will be my duty to ensure that they never unlearn how to squat. If you watch any young child looking to pick up something at a lower level, they will instantly take up the perfect squat position & perform a perfect technique. Bum to the floor – every time. This leads me to believe that performing a squat is not something you learn, it is something that is built into our physiology because if you were to remove the muscles of a postural neutral body, the body would collapse into a squat position before toppling forward.

It is important to take a moment to realise that our feet are the first point of contact for everything from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed.

As a Sports Therapist & Injury Specialist working primarily with Powerlifters, my approach to treating fallen arches is dependent on the athlete. If the athlete is complaining of pain in the inside of the knee, hip pain, groin pain or pain in the lower back, then we’d look at treating this issue cautiously and aggressively however if the athlete presented with no pain in these areas, we’d take a less aggressive approach to strengthening the weakened muscles. We must always remember that Powerlifters are, in my opinion, one of the most propriosceptively aware athletes across all spectrums of sport. As a Powerlifter approaches the bar there is almost a subconscious checklist of every muscle in the body. So it makes sense that any change to their current muscles state (positively or negatively) will impact how they lift on a psychological and physiological level. Treating any muscle group for a powerlifter will require the powerlifter taking time to re-learn their technique, becoming aware of the changes we have helped them achieve. This is why treating arches can be very tricky. As a Sports Therapist focusing on injuries you want to do enough so the athlete gets an improvement, but not too much so their entire subconscious checklist is affected adversely.

In order to understand the issues with fallen arches, we must first understand the mechanics associated with the foot, and it’s alignment with the knee and hip. An un-fallen arch allows the ankle, knee & hip to stay in alignment. It achieves this because the arch elevates the foot just enough to keep the tibia in line with the knee and as a result keeps the knee in line with the hip.


When the arch collapses, the heel kicks outwards resulting in the tibia rotating inward. Once this happens an excessive pressure is experienced at the knee – possible resulting in pain particularly on the inside of the knee. Furthermore the Q-angle further up between the knee and the hip is also misaligned. What this means for your squat is you will not be able to track the knee over the foot when you squat because as a result of the fallen arch, the knee is already internally rotated.

This fallen arch also alters the joint mechanics of surrounding areas. We observe an increase in knee adduction, and internal rotation of the knee. As previously mentioned we also see an increase in the external rotation of the foot and an increase in the pronation of the foot. At the other end of the spectrum we observe a decrease in the dorsiflexion of the ankle and a decrease in the foot’s ability to perform inversion.

Limiting the range of motion, particularly limited dorsiflexion, during lifting movements will eventually case a mobility deficit. This means if you always training in a limited range of motion, at some point the muscle of the body will remember this limited range and only work within that limited range. This is true for all muscle groups not just those associated with the arch of the foot. 

Poor dorsiflexion as a result of fallen arches will limit an athletes ability to get into a deep squat – but powerlifters (being absolute heroes), will find another way to squat deep every time, and the body will take the route of least resistance to achieve this. Taking the route of least resistance means there will ALWAYS be a compromise elsewhere in the body. So from coaching perspective the danger would be to ask an athlete to squat deeper, and in order to achieve this the athlete will find the path of least resistance, which will ultimately produce a poor quality of squat.

The route of least resistance for an athlete due to a fallen arch can present in a variety of ways, but I will only describe 3 of these in this article.

You will probably notice in the observations below that I say this “can” be dangerous, as opposed to this “is” dangerous. This goes back to what I said earlier about the proprioception of powerlifters and their subconscious checklist. If a Powerlifter has always had fallen arches due to a hereditary pre-disposition, then there may be no fixing this, and going straight in and correcting any of the other observations listed below in isolation, without looking at the postural performance of the body as a whole, will bring about further problems for the athlete. If you observe any of the below with your athletes, please take time to get advice from an expert in the area, be it a physiotherapist or sports therapist with the knowledge of the biomechanics associated with powerlifting, or an experienced & successful Powerlifter.


At the bottom of the squat, take a moment to look at the toes. If the athlete is coming up on the toes at the bottom of the squat, stop them. This can be dangerous during a squat, especially if the load is particularly heavy. If the athlete raises up on the toes, they may have a very unstable base from which they can drive through and they will more than likely lose their balance. The inexperienced squatter will be putting themselves and their spotter at risk of injury.


As the Powerlifter hits their depth, they are more likely to try and increase this depth by leaning forward at the wait. This is probably the most dangerous compensation method the Powerlifter can make, as they are at risk of doing some serious damage to their lumbar spine. 


As the athlete approaches the end of their true range of motion (without taking the route of lease resistance) they will excessively pronate or flatten out their feet. When this excessive pronation occurs, it will force their knees to turn inwards in order to get more depth. This turning inward of the knee can result in further complications with the ACL and patellofemoral joint.

This brings us to the end of our first article. I hope you found the information helpful. Be sure to look out for our next article on the impact of fallen arches for Powerlifters.

If you wish to discuss your symptoms further, you can book your appointment today by popping into us in CityGym Limerick. You can also call The Muscle Manager on 085-704 5157, or email us on

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5 Minute Meals

Home Made Burrito (2 Servings)

What You Need:

How To Prepare and Cook:

  • Heat some butter in the pan
  • Toss in 3 diced chicken breasts which have been coated with cayenne pepper
  • When chicken is nearly ready stir in approximately 1/2 of Old El Paso tub of sauce and then pop two "Single Serving"  packs of rice into the microwave
  • Place the cooked rice on the plate and pour the cooked chicken pieces over 
  • Top with Home Made Guac and enjoy!!

LIKE THIS? CHECK OUT OUR FREE PREP GUIDE HERE (PS IT'S FREE SO DON'T ENTER CARD DETAILS AT THE CHECKOUT!) Or follow us for SnapChat Meal Ideas on SnapChat, username "citygymlk"

Macro Counters, my actual meal here had:

Protein - 44g, Fat - 14g, Carbs - 41g, Fiber - 7g (532 CALS)


Home Made Guacamole

Try this at home to spice up the home made burrito

You Will Need:

  • 2-3 avocados
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 chili
  •  3-4 small cherry tomatoes
  • Juice from a lemon slice
  • Fresh coriander
  • Sea salt

How to Prepare:

  • Put 2-3 avocados in the bowl
  • Add 1 chopped chili, a 1/2 of a chopped onion and 3-4 diced tomatoes and add to bowl
  • Squeeze a lemon slice over the mix and add salt to taste
  • Mash it up and enjoy as a topping for different meals! :)

Body Image Troubles - Coach Dons

Our society is bombarded by images of modified unrealistic expectations of the human form. We should all know this has led to a rise of eating disorders and body dysmorphia. But I’m not here to to talk about that. I want to talk about how I dealt with the insecurities cause by society. Recently a friend showed me an app where, like in the media, you can alter facial and body structures. Model editing accessible on your phone…. We have been made so insecure, we are now promoting unrealistic expectations of ourselves, causing other people to be made feel insecure about you’re unrealistic promotion of yourself.

“The 5 minute transformation”  guess I can stop lifting now everyone will think I'm massif on insta!

The 5 minute transformation”  guess I can stop lifting now everyone will think I'm massif on insta!


Irony? Everyone can feel insecure, that does not have to be a bad thing…. I’m going to use myself as an example: Before i started training at 16, I was overweight essentially my entire youth and teenage years. So I trained like a madman! Literally….. Took a year or so of nothing but salads, mini circuits in my room twice a day and the occasional cycle from Rathkeale to LimerickCity. I wanted to be cool and didn’t think I was cause I was fat, probably is more so cause i’m weird lol. One year and there wasn’t a pick on me.

Donnacha journey from 15years old on the left to 20 on the right  

Donnacha journey from 15years old on the left to 20 on the right


Was I Happy? No! I couldn’t say I was fat but now I was lanky. I Got this bodybuilding craic wrong! So I studied, read and watched everything I could and became a “BRO”. Worked hard and up until the past year not the smartest but I've made sizable progress I know that. Still insecure? Certainly….. Am I mad bro? No. Look what it’s done for me. Without being insecure i’d have never of started. I would never of completed my goal of first show by 20 (and not look like crap lol). I wouldn’t of learned what I’ve learned and met the people I’ve met. Most importantly help others overcome the same feeling I feel! Give in to your insecurities and let it be the driving force to make positive changes to your life. I can’t guarantee you you’ll ever not be insecure, but if you work hard and smart you will be able to look back to where you came from and see the progress you’ve made. Look at where you are now and where you have come from and continue to make progress, don’t focus on the distance of the destination.

Take home point: Don’t let your insecurities cause unhealthy behaviors. Use it to make you work hard and safe. It will take longer but you will be better everyday. If your insecurities don’t stop never stop your journey to the greater you!

Coach Dons





Interview with Michael Carroll of Fit For Golf Cork

Interview with Michael Carroll of Fit For Golf Cork

  Art: Michael, delighted you agreed to be interviewed for the CityGym Blog. I know you well from our Sport and Exercise Science days but for those who aren’t familiar with you, can you give a brief outline of your background in Sport, what led you into the field of Strength and Conditioning/Physical Preparation for Athletes, your qualifications etc.?


Michael: Firstly Arthur, thanks to CityGym and yourself for asking me to contribute to your blog.

In terms of sporting background I tried a lot of different things growing up. GAA, soccer, golf, and athletics being the main ones. I went through spells of emphasising one or the other throughout my teenage years. Jack of all trades, master of none would be a pretty accurate description!

I knew from about 16 that I would be interested in working in training or coaching to some degree. I loved the process of breaking down the sport you are competing in and thinking about how you could train to try and improve it. At around this time I joined a local gym called Fitnessworx, where I ended up working after first year in college. (I am still based there). Fairly quickly I could see a link between improved strength and power in the gym and performance on the pitch, golf course, or track. I genuinely enjoyed training and used go pretty regularly before school in 5th and 6th year. I would see the trainers in Fitnessworx training people and thought it looked like it was a great environment to be in.  At around this time my older brother also started studying Sport and Exercise Science in UL. I can remember reading some of his assignments and notes and finding them really interesting and it grew from there.


BSc in Sport and Exercise Science from the University of Limerick

UKSCA accredited Strength and Conditioning Coach (ASCC)

Titleist Performance Institute level 2 Golf Fitness Professional

Art: Before we get into the Fit For Golf, I’d like you to share some of your experiences from your internship at Cressey Performance, Florida, A World Renowned Strength and Conditioning Facility. I acknowledge it was a few years ago now so the experiences maybe aren’t as fresh in your head anymore but what really stuck out for you about the place? What is it that makes them so successful and highly regarded?

Michael: In 2013 I spent 3 months interning at what is now known as Cressey Sports Performance. Three things that immediately stick out about the facility are, the culture and community feel they have in place, the huge attention to detail when it comes to coaching, and the professionalism of the staff and clients training there. It was a great place to work, the coaches were all excellent at what they did and you were dealing with extremely motivated athletes for 7 hours a day. It’s basically like a coaching boot camp. With their internship program you get thrown in at the deep end which is great as you are exposed to a huge amount of coaching. The full time staff and owners there were also always extremely helpful with any questions you might have. It wasn’t until I came home and started coaching again I realised how much more I was seeing when I was watching people.

I believe they are extremely successful because they are excellent practitioners working with very much a niche market. 90% of the athletes training there during my internship were baseball pitchers. Most Irish people who haven’t spent time in America don’t realise just how big baseball is in the US. When word spreads about the quality of service that is provided coupled with the fact you have an extremely specific market I think a business can really gather momentum. This has proved to be the case with Cresseys’ as they have opened a second gym since I came home.

Art: Ok now onto the Fit Fir Golf Cork. This was a project you started up on your own. What is it? What does it entail and who is it for? What motivated you to setup the service?

Michael: Fit For Golf is a strength and conditioning / physical preparation service for golfers. Essentially I try to help my clients increase their golf potential by giving them a better physical starting point. If somebody is in very poor physical condition and has a body that is not able to perform relatively athletically it makes the game very difficult. Most people are familiar with football or hurling teams having a coach that looks after the physical element of training. Fit For Golf does the same thing for golfers.

I am currently working with all levels of golfers from high handicaps to club professionals in both individual and group settings. The process is quite simple. Everybody’s first session is an assessment and screening which involves a chat about how their body is currently and how they think it might be hindering their golf. We also go through a physical screening to see what level and what specific areas we might need to start with. Quite often I liaise with the players golf coach (if they have one) to get some information from them in regards to what they see from a physical standpoint during the swing. The Titliest Performance Institute (TPI) screening protocols have been useful in this regard.

After we have the initial screening and assessment done and a plan of attack has been made there is a number of different training options available to the client.

Art: How important is non-specific strength training (i.e. Squats, bench presses, rows, deadlifts, chin ups, power cleans etc.) for golf performance?

Michael: General or non-specific strength is extremely important as it provides a vital base for progressing onto exercises that might have a greater transfer to the sport. If someone isn’t strong in basic movements it is unlikely they will be benefit very much from more specific exercises. One of the key determinants for club head speed (a very important playing variable) is the ability to rapidly push a lot of force into the ground through the legs. Obviously this is determined by lower body strength and power so this can be a good place to start!

The way I program training for golfers varies massively depending on their current strengths and weaknesses.  For example Arthur, imagine tomorrow that you came to me for help training your body for golf. As you are already very strong in general exercises like deadlifts, squats, single leg variations etc there would not be much point in us training to improve these. You would likely benefit more from work in lateral and rotational patterns, and from learning about the optimal sequencing used in the golf swing. On the other hand, I currently train a golfer in their 60’s, who at their best had a handicap of +2 (2 shots better than scratch). This person has seen huge benefit to their game from getting stronger on “non-specific” exercises because their baseline level of strength was so low.

Art: How important is rotation (and even anti-rotation) training for physical preparation in golfers?

Michael: Training rotation is extremely important. Once an athlete has decent basics in posture, mobility, stability, sequencing etc there are two main areas I try and get athletes stronger and more powerful in. These are vertical or ground reaction force (which is governed by lower body strength and power), and rotational force. If you can push your feet into the ground hard, and rotate hard you won’t go far wrong in terms of training power for golfers. Simple examples of these would be squat jumps, and rotational med ball throws.

In my opinion anti rotation is useful to train but I wouldn’t say it’s a necessity to train directly. In a simple, properly executed program I think the client gets enough work on stabilizing their pelvis. I usually tackle this with exercises like renegade rows, single leg deadlifts, plank variations etc.

Art: When I hear the phrase “Functional Training” I cringe and probably die a little inside as I envisage idiots doing squats on a swiss ball or simulating a punching action while holding dumbbells, but what does the phrase mean to you?

Michael: Speaking of functional training I actually wrote this answer while balancing on a bosu ball while pressing my tongue into the left side of my pallet and sucking my bellybutton to my spine J.

On a serious note though I think there is a basic misunderstanding of the terms “Functional Training” “Sports Specific Training” “Core Strength” etc. It seems a lot of coaches are completely on one side of the fence with limited critical thinking on their own part.

On one side you have the “functional strength” guru who tries to make everything as complex and gimmicky as possible, with “exercises”that often look impressive to the uneducated eye but have little merit in the program. Squatting or swinging a golf club on a swiss ball are perfect examples. Just because they are hard does not mean they are worth doing. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with people training balance or doing the odd fun game at the end of a training session as long as it’s safe and not completely ridiculous. Sometimes people lose the plot completely though and have a very poor understanding of how to breakdown a sports movement and what modes of training are likely to enhance it.

On the other hand you have “strength coaches” who believe that getting stronger in barbell lifts and chasing numbers is the holy grail. Taking everything said on t-nation as gospel is a perfect example of this.

There needs to be a balance. Athletes aren’t powerlifters or Olympic weightlifters, nor are they circus performers so they shouldn’t train like them. Analyse the movement, analyse the individual on an ongoing basis, always think of the transfer the training will provide.

To get back to the question, “Functional Training” to me means training that is fit for the purpose it is being done for. For bodybuilders this might be bicep curls, for a sprinter it may be jumping.

Art: If you could go back in time and give a younger Michael Carroll a bit of advice in relation to training or coaching, what would it be?

Michael: Without doubt I would say that most coaches concentrate way too much of their study time looking up exercises, diets, special programs etc. While learning these things is important to I think most coaches will make better long term progress if they realise that they are dealing with humans.

Study how humans learn new tasks. Ie motor learning and skill acquisition

Study how humans interact and behave. In coaching you come across a lot of personalities, if you don’t find ways to get on with someone it’s irrelevant how good your program is and you will lose business quickly.

Practice coaching in as many different settings as possible, young, elderly, elite athletes, desk jockeys, disabled, annoying clients, enjoyable clients. Get as many different perspectives as possible.

Look the part – Image and first impression are key, you need to look like you train and be able to demonstrate things, wear appropriate attire, etc. 

5 Minute Meals

5 Minute Meals, Meal 3

The aim of 5 minute meals is to bring you quick nutritious food for those people who seem to be so busy they need 25 hours in a 24 hour day.

Salmon, Eggs and Avocado

What you need:

  1. Eggs (As many as you require, I used 4)
  2. Salmon (As many grams as you require, I used 200g)
  3. Avocado (I used 50g)
  4. A small bit of butter to cook in

Just a small point to make. I eat an outrageous amount of calories, check calories at the end and tailor this for your needs. 

How to prepare and cook:

  1. Heat the pan to a searing heat and drop your butter in
  2. Crack eggs and toss them in the pan
  3. Cut your avocado and salmon to your desired size
  4. Finish cooking the eggs and pop all of the above on a plate
  5. Voila :) Easiest meal yet!!

This is the last of the breakfast 5 Minute Meals series. Tune in next week for the start of the lunch series!


Macro Counters, my actual meal here had:

Protein - 70g, Fat - 46g, Carbs - 1g, Fiber - 1g (707 CALS)

"I never thought I would have the quality of life I have now" - Lifting with Cystic Fibrosis

May 2015 I was a completely different person. My Cystic Fibrosis (C.F.) had progressed to the point where my lung efficiency had fallen to below 40%, I was seriously underweight and my Liver was beginning to fail me so I was now being assessed for the Liver transplant list.

Having heard about Gar’s personal story through a mutual friend I went hesitantly and met with him. Instantly I knew he wasn’t full of crap and what was to be a quick meet and chat turned into an hour and a half of us both swapping hospital stories.

Here was someone who had brought themselves from a place of ill health to the embodiment of health, fitness and energy. This is the kind of person I need to train with.

We started training in June 2015. In the beginning it was slow and tough. I was constantly tired and couldn’t do much. But we chipped away at it, making the smallest of changes here and there. If anything this also taught me patience.

Fast forward to today and all I can say is I never thought I would have the quality of life I have now ever again.

My lung function is increasing slowly, my weight has increased thanks to more tailored nutrition and muscle mass and my Liver is no longer on red alert at the moment so I can breathe a sigh of relief for the time being.

Simply put I owe Gar Benn more than he knows for helping to give me a quality of life my family or I could only daydream about.

Don’t get me wrong I have a long road ahead of me, with plenty more challenges but being healthier and stronger leaves me better equipped to deal with those challenges and as of right now for the first time in a very long time I’m feeling normal and normal never felt so good.....and for anyone hesitant about lifting weights and the dangers of pushing yourself in exercise I recently heard a quote that sums up my feelings perfectly....”You think lifting weights is dangerous, try being weak, being weak is very dangerous”

- Rob Sheahan

Arthur Lynch - 5 more strength training tips and things I’m thinking about

5 more strength training tips and things I’m thinking about

1. Consider dripping some water on your legs for deadlifting if your legs are “too massive”

I’m a reasonably ok Deadlifter. At the time of writing this I have an over three times bodyweight Sumo stance deadlift (300kg@90BW) and I could probably get about 255-260kg in a conventional stance. An issue that has caused me a great deal of frustration in recent times is my legs being “too big” and getting in the way of the bar. If I stand up straight and contract my quads they will protrude way out over the line of my shins if viewed from the side.

This creates a huge problem for me when deadlifting as my quads create so much friction on the bar that locking out has become extremely difficult for me. So my initial solution was to use baby powder. This works just fine in a Powerlifting meet and is perfectly legal in most (if not all federations) to the best of my knowledge. However, the stuff goes EVERYWHERE! This can create quite a serious safety hazard in a busy commercial gym and what’s even worse is that it looks like chalk so people would think nothing of it if they walked over it. It got so bad that I had to find a small space in the corner of the gym beside a fire exit where I could go out and apply the powder before every set, then chalk my hands and shoes so I wouldn’t slip.

I was pretty fed up of this so I decided to give baby oil a try. All of the lubrication, none of the mess on the floor, and what’s better still I usually don’t have to apply more for each set. Just make sure to clean the oil off the bar (and yourself obviously) once you’re finished.



Problem solved right? Not exactly. There were two issues with this. Firstly, it made my legs so lubricated that locking out became EASY! The problem with this is that it didn’t transfer to a competition setting where baby oil is not permitted. The second issue was that it completely discoloured my shorts, I’ve been unable to get them back to their original colour since.

So my solution now is to simply dribble some water on my legs, it aids in reducing friction of the bar. But it doesn’t make it so much easier that the lockout becomes lightning quick (which did happen with the oil). Just be sure to chalk your shoes and you’re good to go.

2. Stop looking for the “secret”, or magical “quick fix” you know what you have to do

A few years back when I deadlifted 200kg for the first time, as soon as I put the bar back down on the floor I quickly reached for my shaker to take a sip. It contained some protein or branched chain amino acids and some dextrose or something else fairly benign like creatine. Another gym user then approached me, “Man that was some lift, was that 200?” he said to me, “Thank you, yeah it was, it was pretty hard though” I replied. He responded fairly quickly, “So am, what exactly are you taking in there?”. Now to be fair, the man probably never meant to cause any offence, nor was he impolite in any way at all. However, looking back it was indicative of many gym-goers who see someone who looks better or lifts more than they do, so they automatically attribute this to some quick fix (“Ahh, you’re taking something though”). Those in the know will understand what that “something” is. The fact of the matter is I have just trained consistently for many years and accumulated a reasonable amount of strength over time, nothing spectacular, but if you are consistent and strive to keep improving over time then you will eventually accomplish something fairly impressive. When someone expresses frustration at their lack of training progress to me, I always refer back to when I got stapled under 70kg on the bench press back when I was just starting out in college, a staff member was on the verge of kicking me out of the gym. Now not only do I work in that same gym, I can rep out with double that amount of weight. Just remember that it doesn’t happen overnight, it takes a lot of time. That was nearly 6 years ago. So stop looking for a quick fix and just accept that in order to get to where you want to be, you will have to be consistent with your training, diet and lifestyle habits, give yourself a realistic goal (and timeframe to achieve it) and continue to strive for small improvements in the short term as these are what will add up over the long haul to bring you to where you want to be.   

3. If you’re anyway serious about your training goals, don’t do German Volume Training (GVT)

Just say no to GVT (i.e. 10 sets of 10 reps). If you just want to feel flogged at the end of your session and don’t really care about how much you’re lifting or if your performance is improving then by all means do GVT. If your goal is to feel better, add some muscle, look better, get stronger, reduce the likelihood of injury or improve your performance in any sport, then there is just no logical reason for doing 10 sets of 10. But time and again I see a some skinny runt, wondering why he’s not getting bigger or stronger and I ask him about his training, his face lights up and he responds with “Oh I’m doing German Volume Training, it’s really tough”, he also tells me how he “never stops eating”. Then I ask him how much his lifts have increased since he started the program, the increase (if any) isn’t exactly spectacular. GVT just isn’t appropriate for most people, it is too much volume to recover from, it doesn’t allow for much progression week to week, the quantity of reps involved means that form will probably be compromised at some point in the session and it doesn’t really leave you with much time or energy to do any more than 2 or maybe 3 exercises, so muscle imbalances (and possibly an injury) are likely to occur.


4. What makes an “Expert”?

Nowadays anyone with a few months to a year of training experience or who seems to have put on a reasonable amount of muscle mass is now an “expert”. “I was fat and now I have a six pack so that means I should be telling you how to diet and train”. This is absolute nonsense for the following reasons:

  • N = 1 Meaning our new “Expert” has only ever worked on/experimented with one subject (i.e. him or herself).
  • Our “Expert” may be a complete idiot who just so happens to have the best genetics in the land (or they respond exceptionally well to drugs in some cases).
  • Whilst the crazy diet plan of our “Expert” may have worked perfectly for them, giving that same diet to someone else unless you are fully qualified to do so (i.e. a registered Dietitian who has spent years studying Dietetics and Nutrition) could potentially end very badly, particularly if any pre-existing health conditions the client may have aren’t taken into account.
  • The “Expert’s” training program is likely to be at best unscientific and produce poor results and worst case scenario may even injure another person.

Now with that out of the way, who could be considered a genuine “Expert” in this field (training and/or nutrition?

  • A trainer with a solid base of education. This may include a Degree yet I have seen plenty of incompetent trainers with even Honours Class Degrees in the field under their belt. On the other hand I know of some extremely intelligent and well-informed trainers who were college drop-outs. Some certifications are genuinely quite good (for example UKSCA, NASM, Precision Nutrition) but the majority are not worth the paper they are printed on so always be skeptical of these.
  • A trainer should have a solid base of experience. If you’re getting Olympic Weightlifting Coaching from someone who has never Olympic Weightlifted properly, for your own sake find a new coach! A trainer should be in the trenches themselves or at least have done in the past. Ideally he/she should be a competitive athlete. However this needs to be done in conjunction with their education as the two feed off of each other. Education without practical experience is in comprehensive and vice-versa, to quote Ciaran O Regan "There’s a difference between someone who has knowledge and someone who can impart knowledge."

In other words, someone who is purely an academic and hasn’t the experience built up as a practitioner isn’t in an ideal position to be coaching clients (the problem with a lot of sport science graduates who go straight into coaching full time without building up their coaching experience while they were completing their degree in my opinion).

  • The trainer should be constantly striving to get better. This includes furthering their education (particularly in this rapidly changing industry, you can never stop learning, if a trainer scoffs at the idea of reading, fire him/her), their coaching skills and their own athletic accomplishments. The trainer should be reading books, journal papers and/or research reviews regularly, reading highly regarded science-based blogs (such as Greg Nuckols’ blog, Bret Contreras’ blog, Eric Cressey’s blog, Dean Somerset’s website, Suppversity website, and Precision observing other coaches, watching educational videos and listening to podcasts as much as possible. If all your trainer does is train, watch his favourite bros on YouTube, post Instagram photos and troll on internet forums then his/her “continuing education” is probably sub-optimal.
  • They know the boundaries of their expertise. Expertise is specific to a very small domain. An expert Psychologist is not an expert Physicist, an expert exercise physiologist is not expert dietician. The same holds true for trainers. I am quite competent in the narrow field of general strength training in beginner and intermediate level lifters. If you ask me about some pain that is radiating down along your leg, I will refer you to a specialist, if you are looking to train for Olympic Weightlifting, I will gladly refer you to an Olympic Weightlifting coach that I know and trust. If I did decide to take on a client for Olympic Weightlifting training, not only is there a higher chance of me injuring them, I am not doing what is best for the client. Any trainer or coach should know the scope of their practice and know when to say no.
  • They are humble and open to the possibility of being wrong. Even experts make mistakes. The important thing is for them to acknowledge them, learn from them and move on. A trainer who is open to the possibility of being wrong and is not dogmatic about things is a trainer you can likely trust.
“An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field”
Niels Bohr


Why I will never prescribe a pistol squat!


And all functional and unilateral training proponents lose their s*** in 3, 2, 1….)

Ok this one is likely to generate some debate/hate. The pistol squat is seen by many as a very “functional” exercise which can be used to train ankle mobility and knee stability. Great stuff! Just one problem though, it is a horrible position to be in*.

So here we see a typical pistol squat being performed. This is a fantastic display of ankle dorsiflexion whilst keeping the heel on the floor and the knee in a stable position. However, look at the man’s spine! I spend a great deal of my time training clients to get out of this flexed posture into a neutral spine position. Training with a flexed lumbar spine is a great way to slash years off your training career and leave you in a lot of pain down the road. Now by not prescribing the pistol squat, are my clients missing out on anything? I severely doubt it, but if they are one can obtain that same knee and ankle position with a deep front squat. Yet I still don’t feel the need to. The majority of clients don’t need to squat this deep and many of them can’t do it safely due to their own anatomy and/or mobility restrictions.

This deep front squat is an excellent display of ankle and hip mobility with a stable knee position and importantly a more neutral spinal position.

Now to satisfy the single-leg training lovers, the position can also be trained with a rear or front foot elevated split squat.

The rear foot elevated split squat

Front foot elevated split squat

Now which movement should you use? I will usually just back squat as it is the most specific to my sport (Powerlifting). Every client I have ever trained has benefited in some way from back squatting and unless you are an athlete or can’t handle a lot of compression and loading then single leg squats aren’t absolutely necessary. For athletes they can be beneficial, so programming them properly allows for both to be trained (for example you could back squat one day and perform a rear foot elevated split squat 3-4 days later, or something to that effect. Another application for single leg squats is in the elderly who can really benefit from the balance training they offer and I have even seen split squats take away a lot of knee pain in elderly women (now the sample size was quite small and the reporting of pain or no pain is a subjective measure so that needs to be taken into account as well).

*Note: There are a very, very small minority of people who can perform the pistol squat with minimal to no lumbar spinal flexion, if you are one of these people keep doing what you’re doing.


Closing comments

I hope you enjoyed this blog post in which I discussed some tips for strength trainees, what to look for in a trainer and my thoughts on pistol squats/single-leg training in general. If you like what you read then you can contact me at, type "Arthur" under subject line

5 Minute Meals

5 Minute Meals, Meal 2

The aim of 5 minute meals is to bring you quick nutritious food for those people who seem to be so busy they need 25 hours in a 24 hour day. 

Bacon Bagel with Rocket and Onion

What you need:

  1. 1 Bagel
  2. Bacon (As many rashers as you require, I used 4)
  3. 1 onion
  4. Rocket salad
  5. A small bit of butter to cook in

How to prepare and cook:

  1. Heat the pan to a searing heat and drop your butter in
  2. Quickly chop your onion and toss the onions in, followed by the rashers
  3. Pop your bagel in the toaster
  4. Bagel pops, butter it and line the bottom with rocket
  5. Rashers should finish up very shortly after, take them out of the pan and toss them on top of your bun
  6. Voila :)


Macro Counters, my actual meal here had:

Protein -68g, Fat - 12g, Carbs - 55g, Fiber - 4g (462 CALS)

Tesco VS Aldi (Battle of the BarGainZ)


Tesco Vs Aldi, the biggest show down of giants since Batman V Superman

To give some background, I always shop in Aldi. Because it's cheaper. Or at least that's what the ad told me. When I'm extremely busy, I have to shop in Tesco. There's no way around it, Aldi closes too early. I noticed that the differences in price weren't as great as I imagined so I set about making a little chart. I took the items I purchased the most and pinned Tesco Vs Aldi to see who would come out triumphant!

As you can there isn't huge differences between Tesco and Aldi on these selected items! We are making a full list for next week and if you'd like our full list which will include an entire list of Tesco, Aldi and Dunnes Stores too sign up to our email list before and we'll mail you out the list next week!

All items were priced on the 11th of March 2016, prices are based on Tesco's own brand products vs Aldi's cheapest in store.

5 Minute Meals

5 Minute Meals, Meal 1

The aim of 5 minute meals is to bring you quick nutritious food for those people who seem to be so busy they need 25 hours in a 24 hour day. 

Steak, Eggs and Avo

What you need:

  1. A steak of your choice
  2. 2-3 eggs
  3. A small bit of butter to cook in
  4. 2 garlic cloves
  5. 1 onion

How to prepare and cook:

  1. Heat the pan to a searing heat and drop your butter in
  2. Quickly chop your garlic and onions and have them ready on the side
  3. Pop your eggs in the pan with your garlic and onions and let them cook
  4. Take the eggs out and drop your steak in, preference is huge here but I just flip the steak once and I'm done.  
  5. Cut your avocado and place all 3 on the plate
  6. Voila :P

Macro Counters, my actual meal here had:

Protein - 82g, Fat - 34g, Carbs - 10g, Fiber - 3g (683 CALS)

Like this? Check out our FREE Prep Guide here. (PS it's free so don't enter card details at the checkout!) More 5 Minute Meals coming next week!


Thought of the Day #1

Episode 1 - Thought of the Day

Thought of the day is a new mini blog series I'll be writing once to twice per week depending on how hectic my schedule gets. I'll take an idea from somewhere, put my own spin on it and hopefully deliver something of use to the people reading this blog

Today's blog is brought to you from a Pat Divilly idea. I was in Mansion House for a Gary Vaynerchuk book launch and Pat was speaking there. He had some really interesting ideas that you don't often here in the fitness industry. Everyone seems to go down the same route of showing abs and shoving copious amounts of products down their followers throats. Pat's most interesting part for me was his view on how to be good in a fitness business, "Tell your story and be authentic". No fakeness, no super lighting or fake tans... Just be yourself and pick up a following of people who genuinely like you and what you do.

I think too many people in this day and  age try to force a certain image on themselves (In fitness and outside as well) that's just too much effort and people pick up on falseness. We've always been ourselves in CityGym, we do strength training and we don't do gimmicks. We know it gets people in shape, helps them live a pain free life once they have the right musculature "switched on" and overall people just feel better. It's a fantastic circle of...

Perform -> feel better -> sleep better -> you're encouraged to eat better -> Performance (See where this is going?)

We'll always stay true to this model of creating a lifting community of guys and girls from ages 9 to 63. That's why we're building every day with new people coming through the door excited about a training system that works!

That's the CityGym Limerick story and what we based our business on. Tonight I want to hear about your story. Email us and I'll give one lucky person with a great story, 4 free personal training sessions!

For more on CityGym and the story of how we were opened follow this link


The Process is Everything

I think this is something that a lot of powerlifters, bodybuilders and entrepreneurs will just nod their head in agreement with.

Motivated people have goals or specific ideas of where they are going. It doesn’t have to be perfect, a start just has to be made. Examples, “I want to open a business”, “I want to squat 200kg”. It’s an idea, a moment of madness that sparks something and gets the ball rolling. As I said, the start is never perfect and the road ahead is never straight but those with backbone and the will to push, will start and succeed.

Let’s fast forward. You open your business or you squat 200kg and celebrate. Then what?

*Queue head nod*

You think, let’s make a bigger business, let’s squat 210kg.

*If you've ever been there you definitely just smiled and nodded your head*

I’ve noticed this in the lifting community and with friends who own different businesses, as soon as they achieve something, they immediately think bigger. When you ask them how good it was to celebrate whatever milestone, they’ll say it was good but always reflect on the process of how they got there. That’s where the story lies, that’s where the real push came from. Back to the wall with injuries or bills or whatever else might have come your way, that’s the exciting stuff!

Enjoy every minute of the process



In the last article, we discussed migraines, tension headache & cluster headache and the how crucial good posture is to preventing these from occurring. In this article, we are going to focus on the impact of sitting incorrectly at computer screens, smart phones, and tablet devices all day.


Since the early nineties, a growing number of people have been using personal computers both in their work and for personal use. As a result of the introduction of computers (and later tablet devices & smart phones) meant the introduction of a whole new era of postural issues. Office work has changed quite considerably over the years, for example over 20 years ago involved a wide variety of activities such as reading, writing, typing etc. It may be hard to explain this to millennia’s but these activities involved contrasting changes in activities, with natural short breaks and the activities were sufficiently varied to produce changes in posture. Ask any office worker today to perform these activities and they will tell you that they are all performed at the desk, on a computer.

With the dramatic change in the “improvement” in technology, we find ourselves carrying out multiple activities on computers without ever having to leave the workstation. The knock on effect of this convenience means that disorders involving the shoulders, neck & upper limbs are becoming more and more common. Take a moment to stop and look around you, observe people on their phones, and watch as they have their head cast downward, glued to the screen. Now consider the impact this is having on your neck.


The best of us, no matter how well intentioned, suffer a degree of being slumped over when working at a computer. Eventually our body gets tired and our mind takes over, forcing us to adopt a “comfortable” position.  This comfortable position can result in a condition known as Upper Cross Syndrome. This is a postural abnormality where the upper body and head is drawn into a forward position due to being hunched over a desk all day. This condition does not just affect desk workers, but all those who do prolonged activities that requires them to have their arms reaching outward in front of them such as those who drive long distances or cyclists.

With Upper Cross Syndrome, the muscles which appear to be over tight are those muscles in the chest (pectoralis major and minor) as well as the muscles at the front of the neck (sternocleidomastoid and scalenes) and also the muscles of the upper back (trapezius, rhomboids and levator scapula). While some or all of these muscle are tight, the weak muscles are the deep neck flexor muscles which are responsible for holding the neck back – stopping it from being pulled forward. In addition the scapular stabilisers muscles, which are responsible for drawing the shoulder blades to the middle of your back, are also weakened.

The ultimate result of sitting in an incorrect position for prolonged periods of time is the muscles tighten and becomes tense which in turn can lead to upper back/neck pain, headache/migraine and decreased range of motion – to name but a few problems.

Earlier in the article I asked you to consider those around you on mobile phones. The head weighs somewhere between 8-10lbs (depending on the individual. When you look straight ahead, with good posture, the weight of the head on the neck (cervical spine) is somewhere in the range of 10-12lbs. However, as we begin to look downward, the weight/pressure on your neck (cervical spine) increases. By looking 15degrees lower increases the weight/pressure on the cervical spine to 27lbs. This weight increase is proportional until the chin is on the chest where the weight/pressure on the neck at this point is 60lbs.



It is never too late to start correcting posture.One of the best thing to do throughout the day is move on a regular basis. If you sit long hours at a desk, make sure you stand up and walk around for approximately 5 minutes once every hour. In addition regular stretches and, more importantly, strengthening exercises should be incorporated into everyday activities. Below are some stretches which can be performed while at work to easy tight muscles.

Chest/Bicep Stretch:

While standing, interlock your hands/fingers behind your back. Keeping your arms straight, raise them as high as you can until you feel a comfortable stretch through your chest and biceps. Keep the body in this upright position for 20-30 seconds and repeat this 2-3 times.

Neck/Upper Back Stretch:

While sitting in an upright position, pull the shoulder blades together and reach one arm to the lower part of the back. Keeping the chin level and the head back, use the other arm to gently pull your head to the opposite side as if you are trying to bring you ear to the shoulder.  Once you feel a comfortable stretch, hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on both sides 2-3 times each.


In addition to these stretches you may also benefit from some deep tissue massage of the neck and upper back to aid with the removal of adhesion's deep in the muscles.These adhesion's will have built up over prolonged years of sitting at computer stations with incorrect posture. Deep tissue massage coupled with strengthening exercises available from The Muscle Manager will aid in the correction of posture and decrease in the symptoms associated with Upper Cross Syndrome.

If you wish to discuss your symptoms further, or find out more about the best strengthening exercises for correcting Upper Cross Syndrome, you can book your appointment today by popping into us in CityGym Limerick. You can also call The Muscle Manager on 085-704 5157, or email us on

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter&Instagram.

Arthur Lynch - Dealing with the disappointment of a bad training session

Dealing with the disappointment of a bad training session


This article aims to deal with a very specific time in a person’s life, the sad feels immediately after a bad training session (not a workout, a term which implies you do no train for anything in particular)

Don’t worry friend, all gains have not been lost!


To illustrate this point I will use myself as an example. A few months back I was due to bench press 140kg for 4 sets of 4 reps. Going into the session I knew it was very doable.  Set one went well, set 2 was very tough but I got 4 reps. Then came set three…everything fell apart! After a slow second rep, I descended for my third and got stuck on the chest. I tried to make up the missed volume by adding extra sets but in reality, my head was gone, I was out of the game. Then we moved onto Overhead press. More missed reps! The same thing happened on Dumbbell Bench Press and at this point I was just fed up and left.

Then a few days later I was due to hit 88kg for 4 sets of 2 on the overhead press. After what felt like a very, very heavy first set of two it started happening again. I started missing reps again. Then my shoulder started bugging me (probably from my degraded technique). Then I started warming up for bench press with the goal of hitting 4 sets of 7 with 120kg. However, after my second warm up set I decided to stop. I had realised that my head was not in the game and that continuing was doing me more harm than good. So I abandoned the session, did some low-load blood flow restriction training for 30 minutes and got the hell out of there!

At this point after having two bad sessions it’s easy to feel frustrated, feel like all gains are lost, FOREVER! And you should feel like that, because you know you’ll never be in the gym ever again after that, you won’t ever have another opportunity to make up for those bad sessions. In case you can’t tell I’m being extremely sarcastic. The reality is you will be back in the gym again soon and you’ll probably smash those numbers sooner than you might think.

4 days later I repeated that second session described above. I hit 90kg for 4 sets of 2 on the overhead press and 120kg for 4 sets of 8 on the bench! 2 weeks later I repeated the first training session described above and got 4 sets of 4 reps on the bench press (with the potential to do a fifth set) and didn’t miss anymore reps on the other exercises in the rest of the session.

What changed?

Surely I didn’t get that much stronger in a few days. Well, in the aftermath of a bad session, you have to analyse where you went wrong. According to Elite FTS owner, Coach, former Powerlifter and Bodybuilder Dave Tate, missed lifts always come down to any one (or a combination of ) 3 factors: Physical, Technical or Mental. We will use this as a framework for why my sessions were going poorly!


1. Physical:

  • Did you eat enough today and yesterday?
  • Did you perform any activities in the last 48 hours that may have left you in a fatigued state coming in to this session?
  • Did you get to bed early enough and did you get enough high quality, uninterrupted sleep last night?
  • When did you last train and have you any lingering muscle soreness or fatigue in general?
  • Have you grinded much in your training sessions recently (i.e. have you recorded a lot of RPE’s in the 9-10 range) (Zourdos et al. 2015)?
  • How stressful is your life lately? Are any of your relationships with any of your family members, work colleagues or your significant other causing you to stress out lately?
  • Is there anything going on in your life that is causing you a lot of stress (e.g. money worries, a loved one very sick, work very stressful this week etc.)?

These are all the questions you have to ask at this point. And one stressful event that eats into your recovery ability can have a knock-on effect on another factor. For example, you may be well able to recover from a heavy deadlift session and able to train the bench press the next day no problem, under normal, low stress conditions. However when things get hectic at work, to the point you get stressed out and you start to miss meals accidentally. Then you accidentally snap at your friend who means well but just manages to say the wrong thing to you at the wrong time (Edit, Arthur really hurts our feelings when he's hungry). Then you land yourself in a big, stressful argument, which serves to further deplete your recovery sources. Then you go and do that brutal deadlifting session. Think you’re in an optimal state to recover before your next session now? This is illustrated brilliantly in Figure 4.6 below. Which is taken from Greg Nuckols and Omar Isuf’s recent e-book “The science of Lifting” (highly recommended by the way, they’re much more intelligent than me).The blue line represents recovery capabilities under low stress conditions, whereas the red curve represents recovery capabilities under stressful (i.e. compromised) conditions.



2. Mental:

  • Have you been looking forward to this session or do you not even want to be in the gym today (this can be indicative of over-reaching)?
  • Was your arousal level optimal before this session/set (see Figure 1)?
Figure 1 - Yerkes-Dodson Inverted U-Theory of optimal arousal levels for a given task

Figure 1 - Yerkes-Dodson Inverted U-Theory of optimal arousal levels for a given task

  • Were you overthinking the lift before you attempted it?
  • Had you in your head, 100% convinced yourself you were going to get it?
  • Was your mind elsewhere (the stress inducing factors mentioned previously for example)?
  • Did you draw on a memory of a past performance that did not go well for you (i.e. did you think of another previously missed lift)?
  • What was your training environment like? Were you training on your own or were you with others who support you and help motivate you to lift better?

3. Technical:

  • Did you change your usual bar speed, particularly on the eccentric (i.e. if you went much slower on your descent for some reason)?
  • Was your breathing/bracing off?
  • Was your bar path off? Why? (For example sometimes I can bring the bar down too low on my chest and/or over-tuck my elbows if I get nervous on a bench press)
  • Was something not kept tight enough (e.g. core, legs, upper back)
  • (Note: This is a key example of why it’s crucial to video your sets, and from an angle that provides as much feedback on the movement as possible).


On reflection, that week of poor training was accompanied by some very hectic days at work and some nights of poor sleep. With me being someone who pushes hard regularly and leaves little room for error, something even as small as that can put me off. I also noticed that when I was lifting the bar out of the rack on the bench press that I was losing upper back tightness. Finally, and this last one may be related to nerves but my bar path was very inconsistent particularly on the way down (the eccentric portion) from rep to rep. So I also addressed this in the next session.

Now in my own scenario, I was able to address my poor sleep and hectic increase in stress at work. Someone else may not be as capable of dealing with these outside stressors. For these people the most important thing is to be aware of these external influences. We’re not robots that just move bars up and down. So many different factors go into determining whether or not you’re going to perform well in the gym or not. Outside stressors have a profound effect, particularly on advanced lifters. I would recommend you back off in training (especially your volume) and a little bit in intensity if necessary as well. Perhaps take an extra rest day between sessions to allow you to recover better. Outside of that, always attend to your form (but you should be doing that anyway). Finally, keep calm! Nothing good comes from getting frustrated and giving up. You have to accept that whilst X stressor is around, recovery resources and adaptation capacity are going to be compromised. But once X stressor becomes less and less or if you adjust your training accordingly, progress can still be made long term.  


Nuckols, G. and Isuf, O. (2015) The Science of Lifting.

Yerkes, R. M. and Dodson, J. D. (1908) "The relation of strength of stimulus to rapidity of habit-formation",Journal of Comparative Neurology and Psychology, 18(459–482).

Zourdos, M.C., Klemp, A., Dolan, C., Quiles, J.M., Schau, K.A., Jo, E., Helms, E., Esgro, B., Duncan, S., Merino, S.G. and Blanco, R., 2016.Novel Resistance Training–Specific Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale Measuring Repetitions in Reserve.The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 30(1), pp.267-275.


Arthur Interviews John Gilligan of JG Elite

 Interview with John Gilligan of JG Elite


Arthur: John, delighted you agreed to do this interview with me. I’ve known you for a good few years now but for any readers who aren’t familiar with you (or who haven’t seen you on the Sunday Game) could you fill those people as to who you are, your sporting background, education etc.?

John: Hi Arthur, great to be asked to do the interview with yourself.

Well we completed our undergrad in Sport and Exercise Science in UL together, graduating In 2014 I think.

I’m from a small village in Westmeath called Ballymore. I play hurling and football and have represented my county at senior level in both codes. As you can tell I have always had a keen interest in sport and not only GAA. My interest in sport led me to UL to study Sport Science. That’s where I developed my ‘science behind the sport’ I suppose you could say and gained a greater understanding of training concepts.


Arthur: Talk to me about JG Elite, what is it? When was it established? What is your gym’s training philosophy?

John: I opened JG Elite in January 2015 and I’m delighted to say we are still going strong and building each and every day. JG Elite is a gym in Athlone facilitating everybody whether it’s your typical GAA head, somebody trying to lose a few pounds or someone like yourself Arthur who is competing in powerlifting.

Our philosophy is very simple Arthur; Energy, Exercise, Empowerment . We create an energy and atmosphere to encourage exercise at whatever level which in turn gives back to the individual empowerment. Everybody is known in the gym and we have created a great community ethos driving each other on every single day. We pride ourselves on merging ‘Science and ‘Sweat’, where every person that comes through our door whether an elite athlete or a new to exercise novice is treated with the same Sports Science applied approach; ensuring technique, safety and development are achieved!

 Arthur: What difficulties and challenges did you face when setting up JG Elite? Any advice you might give to other young entrepreneurs keen on setting up a gym?

John: How long have you got? I won’t lie and say that I was bombarded with incentives to open my own business. It was very tough! After numerous meetings with the local enterprise board and council I decided that the best option was to kind of ‘go it alone’ I guess! What they wanted me to do to be eligible for a grant did not really fit into my plans and if I am being honest my own personal work ethic. I really believed that if I put the work in I would get the facility I had envisioned.

 The long and short of it is I saved, got a loan, and got a massive amount of help from my family who took a leap of faith in me. I got help from my family, friends and my girlfriend. We worked long hours into the night for months to get the facility ready. Those couple of months before we opened were tough but in truth I found that the most enjoyable part. We could see that the graft we were putting in ourselves was getting somewhere.

For the first 6 months I put in 80 hours a week just to get JG Elite off the ground. But that was what I knew was needed for it to be successful. We have a long road left in front of us yes; but the ground work has paid off I think!

Have I any advice for someone thinking about their own business or gym? Yes I have some advice, go DO IT YOURSELF and don’t wait for someone else to do it! It will be ridiculously tough and there are lots of days when you say to yourself‘why the hell did I do this?’ but it’s worth it!

Oh and if it is a Gym you want to open just don’t open it in Athlone against me! HA!.

 Arthur: Who exactly is JG Elite for/not for?

John: Simple answer JG Elite is for absolutely everyone!

We actually have a new Senior Fitness class on a Monday and Wednesday which aims to increase strength for functional movement in people over 65 as well as increase independence.  Our gym offers equipment for all and we have varied levels of classes and programs designed for different levels of ability.

JG Elite stands for the elite service we provide and not that you have to be Elite to be there; although I like to think everyone that leaves after a workout in here feels a little elite!

 Arthur: My goal for CityGym is to make it the home of Powerlifting for IPF and IDFPA lifters in Limerick within the next 3 years. What are your medium to long term goals for JG Elite?

John: Easy- My medium goal is to make JG Elite a household name in the Athlone and surrounding area for all your fitness goals and athletic needs. 

My long term goal is for JG Elite to be the strength and conditioning hub for all GAA teams in the midlands, including training, physiological testing and monitoring within the next 3 years.

 Arthur: How do you find managing a business whilst trying to fit in time for yourself to train, is it difficult for you to find time or how do you manage it?

John: I found it very hard last year Arthur as I was working 80 hours a week while training with Westmeath and training myself. We had a great year reaching the Leinster final last year; however this year I had to make a very difficult decision.  I could not continue to play Senior football and make JGElite the successful business that I want it to be, so I have opted out of playing with Westmeath. I wracked my brain for a long time trying to figure out if I could do both but I knew I needed to give my business the best shot I had. It has been tough on the heart as I miss it terribly but the choice had to be made!

Training myself is okay! Although, you cannot plan a full big session while you are working as you always have something to do in the gym. I find myself doing 20 minutes here and there and then doing another 20 mins a few hours later. My body seems to have responded well to it as well which is good. I had to alter my training to fit into my work schedule; it’s what everyone has to do. I suppose people think because I am in the gym full-time I must be working out every minute of the day. It doesn’t work like that. You take the 20-30 mins you have free and you use them the best you can. I think sometimes it’s harder because you feel guilty if you are training yourself in the work place because you feel like there is a million and one other things you could be doing. But it is important to take that time I think!

That is something else I would tell any young person building their business! Take time for yourself! At the beginning you have to put in the work and sacrifice things in your personal life. There will be a time though that you can fit in a life around running a business! You need that time for your own sanity and you need to be able to switch off or you will drive yourself and the people around you crazy talking about and doing work! My family and girlfriend will you tell you that is true!!!


Massage and its complementary use in the treatment of Migraine, Tension Headache, Cluster Headache and Stress Induced Symptoms.

Massage and its complementary use in the treatment of Migraine, Tension Headache, Cluster Headache and Stress Induced Symptoms.


There are approximately 400,000 migraine sufferers in Ireland. I am one of those 400,000. It can often feel like there is a lack of sympathy for the condition. At present it is estimated that migraine costs the Irish economy somewhere in the region of €252 million a year through a reduction in productivity and absenteeism.

According to a study published in the Irish Medicines Journal and conducted over the course of 3 months; 227 patients out of 8759 attendances presented to one Emergency Room were by those suffering from some form of headache/migraine.

There is a difference between Migraine, Tension Headaches and Cluster Headaches.

What is the difference and what are the facts?

Tension Headache: This is the most common form of headache. It is estimated that approximately 90% of women and roughly 70% of men experience tension headaches at some point in their lives.

There causes of tension headaches are numerous, they include stress, poor posture and working in environments with inadequate/insufficient lighting. They commonly occur in the afternoon/early evening of a stressful day and they can last from one to six hours. It feels like a pressing headache that tightens down the head with a feeling of tension in the shoulders and back of the neck.

Unlike migraine, the pain tends to be on both side of the head, and there is no worsening of symptoms by routine activities. There is usually no additional symptoms – again unlike migraine.

A short term solution to tension headache is to treat with over-the-counter medication such as paracetamol, ibuprofen etc. The best long term remedy for tension headaches, is regular exercise and stress management techniques – such as massage.

Cluster Headaches: This is a rare, but sever type of headache that effects less than 1% of the population. Cluster headaches are found to be six times more common in men than women. The onset of these usually occurs in the late 20’s/early 30s.

Typically a cluster headache will begin in the middle of the night and feel like a severe stabbing pain with a duration of anywhere from 15 to 180 minutes (and often longer) impacting one side of the head. It is not always the same side of the head that is impacted, but both sides of the head are nearly always never both impacted. Symptomatically it is often described by suffers’ as “a hot poker through the eye”.

Cluster headaches can occur several times in the day with some sufferers describing attacks as lasting weeks or even months, but the time between attacks also lasting months or years.

Cluster headache differs from migraine in a significant way, one such difference is that with a cluster headache the sufferer becomes agitated during the attack and is unable to sit or lie down or find any relief with sleep.

Presently studies are investigating the use of oxygen for the treatment of cluster headaches with some success.  Massage increases the blood flow into the muscles. By increasing this blood flow, we also increase the supply of additional oxygen and nutrients to the muscles – which is crucial for relaxing the muscles.

Migraine: This is the most common neurological condition in the world. Migraine affects approximately 12-15% of the population of Ireland alone (that equates to roughly half a million people in Ireland). It appears to be three times more common in woman than with men, and is usually inherited.  Migraine is a unique condition as some people will experience only one or two attacks a year while others suffer weekly – making it a very individual condition. These attacks can last anywhere from 4-72hours.

Migraine presents as a one-sided throbbing headache which can last hour or even days. The headache can be worsened by movement or physical activity. However the headache is only one symptom of the condition. A Migraine attack can be first signalled by disruption of vision. Sufferers often describe a blurred/double vision. This is called the aura stage of the migraine but only impacts roughly 20% of migraine sufferers. The headache, and possible blurred vision, is accompanied by nausea/ vomiting, diarrhoea, sensitivity to light &noise and strong smells, confusion and in rare cases a temporary paralysis and loss of speech.

As mentioned earlier, roughly half a million people in Ireland suffer from migraine and I is estimated the impact of this to Irish business is somewhere in the regions of €252 million annually as a result of loss of productivity and with the average migraine sufferer missing between 1.5 and 4.5 days from work. All age groups suffer from migraine with women three times more likely to suffer. There seem to be no common thread linking all sufferers of migraine, as trigger factors are highly individual.

 Some triggers outlined by sufferers of migraine include sleep deprivation or disturbances, increases in stress or anxiety and long periods in front of a computer screenresulting in postural changes – to name but a few.

Massage can assist with the triggers highlighted above. Massage promotes better sleep patterns and thereby improves the quantity and quality of sleep. Migraine will cause the sufferer to be in a high tension/poor postural state trapping tension in the neck, shoulders and upper back. Massage eases the tension trapped in these areas results in a decrease in tension and stress experienced by the sufferer. With a decrease in tension in the areas of neck, shoulders and upper back, a return to correct posture is experienced.

Effect of Posture (Here comes the Science)

This is a bit of a chicken & egg scenario. Does headache/migraine cause bad posture or does bad posture cause headaches.  When a headache/migraine attacks it is easy to reach for the over-the-counter medication and focus on making the pain dissipate for a short period of time. By taking the time to consider the impact of posture on headache/migraine you may be saving yourself countless attacks in the future as well as saving yourself money from buying all that over-the-counter pain medication.

Within the 47% of a global population that experiences headache/migraine, 15-20% of these attacks are caused by a postural dysfunction in the neck (cervicogenic). As a result of this 44 % of people with cervicogenic headaches, also experience jaw pain (the big word name for this is temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain).

Forward head posture (FHP - also known as kyphosis) is more common than you’d think. To describe how this would look – it is when the head is in a forward position ahead of the shoulders. With the head in this position, it changes the centre of gravity of the person, resulting in an increase in tension on the neck, and those muscles associated with its structure and support. With this forward head position, the upper neck (cervical) extends in order to maintain a line of vision. This results in a shortening of posterior cervical muscles. As a result of this increased tension there is a repeated stimulus of pain into the nerve of the face and jaw (trigeminal nerve nucleus). If this goes untreated, there is a lowering of the sufferers’ pain/discomfort threshold – the body begins to think this new posture is ‘normal’, resulting in an increase in the frequency of headaches.

Common Causes of FHP: include injury or muscle guarding, muscle tension or muscle weakness, stress, genetics, improper shoes (believe it or not) and occupations that involve prolonged sitting. Bad postural habits are also a key influencer in causing FHP ad as a result headache/migraine.

What can be done: By relieving the tension and adhesions associated with poor posture, a headache/migraine sufferer will experience immediate relief. As a Sports Massage Therapist, we aim to reduce the symptoms associated with headache/migraine. In addition to Massage Therapy, a client specific mobility and strength programme can be developed for improving the muscles of the neck. Furthermore a client specific programme can be developed to improve the sufferers posture.

If you wish to discuss your symptoms further you can book your appointment today by popping into us in CityGym Limerick. You can also call The Muscle Manageron 085-704 5157, or email us on

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter&Instagram.

Benefits of Sports Massage

My name is Niall O’Brien and I am The Muscle ManagerSome members of CityGym Limerick have come to me for a variety of treatments since I set up shop in in September. What I aim to do in this CityGym focused article, is talk about the benefits of what I do, and highlight some of the benefits experienced by some well-known CityGym faces.

Sports Massage Therapy – What is it? What can it do? Who is getting it – and what do they say about it?

What Is Sports Massage

Sports massage involves the manipulation of soft tissue for the prevention of injury as well as a variety of therapeutic purposes. Through this manipulation, of soft tissue there is the release of tension, reduction of pain and the restoration of range of movement. Sports Massage Therapy has the ability to restore normal function to various areas in the body. Sports Massage Therapy provides a major benefit to all sports & exercise participants in their recovery from training and/or injury. In addition to this it is also very beneficial to those with physical demanding or sedentary jobs (working at a desk). Sports Massage Therapy is also essential to those suffering from occupational, emotional or postural stress associated with everyday life. Sports Massage Therapy is recognized by many coaches, personal trainers and athletes as an essential component to an overall training & competition regime. This means that an athlete can get the best out of each training performance before the competition as well as ensure maximum muscle recovery.

Sports Massage Therapy targets muscles and tendons within the body that are key for everyday motion & movement. There are several key elements to Sports Massage Therapy

  • Motion & Flexibility: Athletes of all levels often over train. The result of this is muscle rigidity. Sport Massage Therapy relaxes excessively tense muscles providing additional flexibility. Prior to a competition, sports massage therapy will relax the muscles for flexibility thereby improving performance

  • Reduction in Recovery Time: Exercise and competition is extremely stressful on the body. Without preventative maintenance it will lead to injury. Sports Massage Therapy helps the body deal with this stress.  A proper massage increases blood flow and lymphatic draining thereby assisting the body’s natural healing process by speeding up the removal of waste products from the body. Swelling and inflammation associated with exercise is reduced with proper sports massage therapy. The pain associated with scar tissue (formed as the result of a severe injury) can be lessened with Sports Massage Therapy.

  • Oxygen & Nutrient Supply: Sports Therapy Massage increases the blood flow into the muscles which is vital to creating new tissue as well as increasing strength and stamina. By increasing this blood flow, we also increase the supply of additional oxygen and nutrients – which is crucial for this creation of new tissue.

  • Elimination of Exercise By-Products: During the course of exercise, the body naturally creates by-products such as lactic acid and uric acid. Both of these are lessened with an increase of blood and lymph flow. Sports Massage Therapy increases the blood and lymph flow in the body thereby decreasing the “stiffness” experienced due to lactic/uric acid build-up.

  • Psychological Benefits:  The body is only as strong as the mind behind it, so having a strong mind keeps the athlete focused and therefore provides them with a definite edge. A stressed athlete will be unable to focus properly at any level whether it is training or in competition. A good sports massage therapy session can decrease the stress level the athlete may be experiencing at a professional or personal level thereby increasing their ability to focus.  

  • Pain Reduction: When a body starts to experience pain, it is often an indication that the muscles are overworked. By obtaining a quality sports massage, there is an increase in blood flow & lymph flow, which increases the rate of the rehabilitation process. Sports Massage Therapy also eases the pain associated with spasms and cramps of muscles common experienced in those athletes who train regularly.

Sports Massage Therapy is geared towards athletes of every kind, from the world-class professional to the weekend jogger. The specific of the techniques used in a therapy session is specific to the athlete’s sport of choice.

Who is Sport Massage Therapy Geared Towards?

Often Sports Massage Therapists will focus on areas of the body that are overused and stressed from repetitive or aggressive movements. We all have tightness somewhere, which results in limited ranges of motion, and in turn impacts our posture, leading to further problems.

The best way for you to gain a better understanding for everything The Muscle Manager is to hear from some familiar faces at CityGym Limerick.

For some of you Gar Benn is a man that needs no introduction. He is the owner of CityGym Limerick, and also he claims he lifts. Gar and I often have great conversations about pain, its origins, removing the pain, and of course (one of Gar’s FAVOURITE topics) posture. I have never seen someone get as enthusiastic as me about posture before meeting Gar.

Why is Massage Therapy Important to Me? -Gar Benn

"Hi, my name is Gar Benn and I am a client of Niall aka The Muscle Manager. I am the owner of CityGym Limerick. A working day for me could range from 7/8am-8/9pm. Within that day I have to fit in multiple personal training clients which I instruct form with what could amass to 100’s of reps throughout the day. A big part of my day is sitting at a laptop replying to emails, getting our social media ready for the day coming and writing blogs. All of these tasks have to be done before I even start training myself and often times I find that when I go to workout, I will have excess tension from the reasons outlined above.
Niall has been able to keep me healthy & mobile and bring me back out of pain whenever it sneaks in from scar tissue from previous surgeries.
I could not recommend Niall more to anyone who has crazy stressful days, scar tissue from surgeries, who hits the gym every so often or most important…..those who sit on a daily basis."

Thanks to Gar for taking time out to give his observations & comments on how he has personally benefited from Sports Massage Therapy.

A Word from Arthur Lynch – IDFPA Under 90kg Junior & Overall Champion 2015, IPF Under 93kg Junior Champion (and all round Human Forklift/ProteinFreak)

Another man needing no introduction (but we’ll give him an intro anyway) is Arthur Lynch. Below is a few words from CityGym’s very own Human Forklift & Protein Freak Arthur Lynch.

The Muscle Manager & Me- Arthur Lynch

"I started working with Niall in the summer of 2015. At the time I was regularly the victim of extremely tight and knotted muscles, particularly my arm and leg muscles which would cause irritation at the joints adjacent to them. However Niall uses a style to release knots that I hadn’t encountered before and worked really well, significantly reducing my joint pain and improving my range of motion. He is also incredibly knowledgeable and knows exactly what he is doing and why with each technique he uses. What is also a great attribute of Niall is that he treats each and every clients on an individual basis and doesn’t use the same set of generic protocols for everyone.
As a powerlifter and coach/personal trainer, I’m fairly active and routinely put my muscles under quite a bit of strain. As Niall said to me in our very first session “you would obviously get your car serviced after a certain amount of mileage has been accumulated, why wouldn’t you do the same with your own body?” And in fact the treatment has really paid off since that first sessions as I have hit loads of personal bests in the gym and in competition since starting treatment with Niall. I really can’t recommend Niall enough."

I’d like to thank Arthur for his kind words above. As you can see from above he is converted to sports therapy, and recognises it’s benefits in both his personal and professional/athletic life and I think he’d agree with me in saying it is now an essential part of his training regime.

You can book your appointment today by popping into us in CityGym Limerick. You can also call The Muscle Manager on 085-704 5157, or email us on

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter & Instagra


Arthur Interviews Ed Slattery

Arthur Interviews Ed Slattery

Arthur: Ed, delighted you agreed to do this interview with me and I’m quite intrigued to hear what you have to say today. Firstly as I do with most guests I interview, if you could give a little bit of information on your own background for those who don’t already know who you are that would be great? Maybe go back to when you just left secondary school right up to where you are now (be as detailed as you like)?

Ed: Cheers Arthur and thanks for asking me to do this. I’ve been involved in strength and conditioning for about five years now having gone back to college at 23 to study in Thurles. Originally I had studied arts in Mary Immaculate with a view to being an English and History teacher and even tried my hand at studying Business in UL before realizing what I truly wanted to do and beginning down the S&C path.
While I was in college I immediately began volunteering with various coaches to learn off them. I was lucky enough to get to work with great coaches such as Damien Young with Tipperary G.A.A Academy and DJ O’Dwyer and Ross Callaghan with Munster Rugby early on and then continue working with these organisations through college. I interned with DJ with the Tipperary Minor Footballers before completing a season as S&C coach with the Tipperary Minor Hurlers. Most of my work has been with Munster Rugby where I was lead S&C with the under 18 Youths for two seasons. Working with Munster was a huge development in my career and I’ve been fortunate enough to gain experience in structuring training camps, long-term planning and even travelling overseas with Munster teams. Guys like Fergal O’ Callaghan, Gordon Brett and Cedric Unholz were key to my development while working with Munster. On finishing college I then went straight into a six month internship with the Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry and simultaneously began working as S&C coach with the Irish Womens Rugby team.


Arthur: Tell me a bit about your current job in the field of strength and conditioning (S & C)? What is it you specialize in and what areas in the field of S & C are you interested in the most?

Ed: My current role is working with the Irish Womens Rugby Team. In this role I oversee the S&C work for nearly 40 players based around the country and abroad while directly handling the coaching of the Dublin based players. I then get better interaction with players when we meet for national training camps. While I don’t want to say I am specializing in any area just yet at the moment a lot of my focus is on movement and its implications on force production and injury prevention/rehabilitation. Having said that a lot of my career has focused on youth development and that is an area I still have significant passion for.


Arthur: Can you outline maybe 2 or 3 key moments in your career that you feel have made you a better S & C coach, perhaps some great piece of advice you were given or some realization you came to by yourself or in conversation with a client(“Ah-ha” moments if you like)?


Ed: Good question!! I’m not sure if I can pinpoint exact moments but recently I have had two moments of realization that stick out in my mind. Working at the Sports Surgery Clinic showed me that the process of initiating change (the how) doesn’t necessarily matter and I think its an important point. Sometimes we get hung up on having to use a certain method or specific exercise to achieve a goal when really the end result is what matters. Now that doesn’t mean to increase a players size I’m going to start using some form of GVT in season but it does mean that we can experiment with various methods and tools and as long as the end result has been achieved (without any negative implications) then the method has succeeded. An example of this maybe someone who needs to achieve quicker contact time or stiffness on mid stance when running. The method of changing this may vary from coach to coach or athlete to athlete but that’s OK as long as the end goal is achieved.

The second realization was the power of strength and conditioning to change peoples lives. Neil Welch said this to me before and initially I was skeptical and thought it sounded a bit of an exaggeration but I’ve seen it work. The dreams of working with top level professional sport can be easily romanticized but strength and conditioning may have its greatest benefit with the general population. We’ve seen how issues such as obesity and its associated problems (diabetes, back pain etc.) can negatively impact society and people lives. The “ah-ha” moment for me was seeing people who had been out of work with chronic back pain for years be able to return to work after only a short period of strength training using basic compound lifts (deadlifts, split squats etc.) instead of relying on medication and injections. Another case I witnessed was a woman who wasn’t able to pick up her newborn child without pain but strength training helped solve this. Making someone run faster or jump higher is great but in the larger scheme of things it will never be as important as allowing people hold their children and earn a living. Corny as it sounds!

Arthur: Here in CityGym we have a number of young S & C coaches learning their trade, any advice you might give to them? Perhaps something you wish someone told you early on in your own career?

Ed: I still consider myself a young S&C so not sure how much I can help here! However if I had to pick two points they would be 1) Get as much experience with experienced coaches and various environments as possible. Some coaches will completely change the way you look at things while others may simply reinforce what you already know but whether it’s a positive or negative you will always take something away. 2) would be to be confident in any situation you are in. I’ve put myself in the situation where I have sat back and let more experienced coaches take over but that doesn’t do you any favours and also doesn’t allow you to prove yourself. In any situation you only know what you know so be confident in it and don’t be afraid to put your hand up and admit to being unsure or unaware of anything you don’t know.

Arthur: You recently completed a Graduate Strength and Conditioning/Rehabilitation Coaching course in the Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry, Dublin (as a side note I really admire that as you’re continuing your education whilst working which is by no means easy). Tell me a little bit about that course and what you learned from it?

Ed: I spent six months in the clinic and couldn’t recommend it enough to anyone considering applying for an internship there. It is a unique place housing some of the best doctors, surgeons, physios and S&C coaches in the county under one roof. From an outside perspective they may seem to have some strange or unconventional methods but everything they do is backed up with research and the benefit of seeing injuries repetitively through large patient numbers. As an example they see around 700 ACL’s a year so you know they are experienced and are using proven results driven methods. My role was as Strength and Conditioning/Rehabilitation Coach. After a patient had completed initial assessments with the physiotherapist I would bring them through strength and power training to address any weakness/movement issues and provide the foundation necessary to prevent future re-occurrence of injury. I have outlined some important realizations I had while there above but really everyday there was a learning opportunity. The big change I would look to make in my coaching after spending time there is in the way athletes move. For instance if we want athletes to maintain a good posture, avoid anterior pelvic tilt, excessive rib flare and/or move through more of a hip/posterior dominant pattern then we have to reinforce these patterns in all our movements not just our deadlifts and squats. Being strict on a deadlift finish position but allowing poor movement in a chin up just defeats the purpose and allows the body to reinforce bad patterns.

Arthur: What does the future hold for Ed Slattery Strength and Conditioning?

Ed: The golden question! My goal for the time being is to just keep progressing and to keep learning. As I said I’ve been very fortunate to work with some great coaches so I want to keep that going and keep improving in my role.  My main focus right now is ensuring the Irish Women are in the best possible position for the Six Nations. Following that I have some ideas for my personal blog ( that I have put on hold for now that will look to combine my work in high performance with S&C for the everyday person. This will be done online and through my Facebook page (Ed Slattery Strength and Conditioning) so keep an eye out for that.

Be sure to check out Ed Slattery’s blog ( for further information about his work.

You Are The Product of How You Spend Your Time

What Does your Day/Week/Month Make You?

Koalaty line right there! Love that now!

This concept is easy! Each day we have 24 hours, every week we have 7 days and so on and so forth. We are all given the exact same amount of time. Yet we don't prioritize what we do with this time.

I want to take this right down a route where I can explain things best, fitness. I consistently hear, "I want a better body" or "I want to be strong enough to do X". For one minute, I want you to picture someone you admire in the fitness industry. Someone you would aspire to be like. Now think about how long it took that person to get to where they currently stand. Not only how long has it taken them in the sense of months or years but think about every session that person has ever done in the gym to be where they are. They have literally become the product of countless hours spent working towards a bigger picture.

There is nothing outrageously different between you and the person that you thought of earlier. Eric Cressey, a strength coach in the US has an awesome Aristotle quote on his wall

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit"

This is the truth! Train like a bodybuilder for 30 years, guess what, you'll look like a bodybuilder. Train like a powerlifter for 10 years, I know you'll be strong, there's no other outcome! 

I have a task that I want you to try for the next 21 days. These 3 weeks will change how you live if you commit to this task. 

Pick a goal, any goal, body shape or strength. It can even be a life goal like increase sales in your business, move up in the company you work for etc. Now think about being at the finish line, you have your new job, or you've deadlifted 300kg etc... Think about how you got there? How many hours did you spend in the gym over the years? How many crap jobs did you do before you got the promotion? You've essentially now just reverse engineered life and lifting to create your own plan. Now all you have to do is put the time in!

Pick a small goal for these 3 weeks and drop us a line in 3 weeks time at and let us know how you got on.