Steve Berry began his fitness journey as an overweight father worried about keeping up with his child. Now his son has tough shoes to fill as he has entered one of the toughest challenges on the planet: the Ironman triathlon.
How did your fitness journey begin?
My fitness journey began back in 2006 when my little boy was 18 months old. I was a bit of a couch potato, weighed 18st (115kg) and was on the verge of being morbidly obese. I started going to a local gym as I thought I would never be able to play sport with my little boy if I didn't do something about the weight. This turned into taking part in charity challenges and eventually competing on a bike for my local cycling club.
What made you decide to take the leap into triathlon?
I decided to take the leap into triathlon after I had been successful in cycling, winning a few National Time Trialing championships. I was becoming a bit bored of just cycling all of the time, I wanted a new challenge, and the natural progression said triathlons, so I just took the plunge.
How does your first triathlon compare to your most recent triathlon?
Comparing my first triathlon to my most recent one and I think there isn't a great deal of difference. I am faster in the swim now which helps massively, but I am still more of a bike specialist. I don't get as nervous now; the first one was really nerve wracking with not really knowing what to do.
When is your next event?
My next event is a half iron distance triathlon. This is part of the Castle Triathlon Series and it will be at Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire.
What does your training regime involve?
Training involves a pretty even split of swim, bike and run, with generally 4 swims a week of around 3 km for each swim, 6 bike sessions which are mainly turbo sessions with a long ride at weekends, some of those are 2 sessions in a day as well. The turbo sessions are mainly interval sessions of varying intensities. I normally do 4 or 5 runs a week of which one weekend day is 2 runs in the day. Mostly short runs of up to 12km, but one long one of around 20-25km, all of which generally have intervals in. Training on average is about 14-15 hours a week.
How do you find balance with work/training and your social and family life?
The balance of training is difficult sometimes. I do have a wonderfully supportive family, but I generally get my swimming done on the way to work, and the evening sessions are done either straight after work or while my son is at Sea Cadets, this way the disruption is minimised. The weekends can be tough as the long bike ride does take up time, and if I’m doing 2 sessions a day I have to try and fit in the 2nd session in the evening, so it can mean missing out on a film or family time for example.
What's your aim for your next triathlon?
The next triathlon is a bit of a stepping stone to a full iron distance triathlon I am doing on the 10th July, this is a target event for me as I want to try and finish on the podium, so the race next weekend I will be sort of training through so I am not expecting a great result. Saying that I still hope to do well enough to get top 10 and finish on the podium in my age group.
Why did you choose Sundried?
I chose Sundried as the quality is superb and the previous designs of the T-shirts were really fun. The new sports wear again is great quality and a really nice fit.
There is lots of bad advice out there on how to squat (or how not to squat!) We look at 4 of the biggest squat myths to ignore and why.
1. Your knees can never go over your toes when you squat
The theory that knees should never go over toes was found in a study that found maintaining a vertical lower leg as much as possible reduced strain on the knee during a squat. However, the study only looked at two dimensional models of the knee joint, so it lacked consideration of forces working from above, at the hip, below, and at the ankle, which all receive considerable force in this position
Further research by Smith and Fry in 2003 compared unrestricted squats, where the knee could travel freely over the toe, to squats where a vertical board was placed over the lifters shins and physically prevented the knee moving over the toe. Whilst forces on the knee were reduced by 22% due to the restricted range of movement, forces were increased by 1000% on the knee joint.
The reason we are told to ensure our knees don't go over our toes is actually less about our toes and more about our centre of gravity and muscle recruitment. With the weight shifted back, we get more muscle activation from the glutes and hamstrings, whereas when our weight is shifted forward the focus is more on the quads and anterior chain. So… knees over toes is a myth as the toes simply serve as an arbitrary point and the guideline should really be more to do with how to balance load, but the knees over toes works as a simplified guideline.
2. Deep squats are bad for your knees
Look at how a child squats, in fact most children will spend the majority of their time in what looks like a deep squat. That’s a big hint that it’s not bad for you, as a child will not put themselves in a position that causes them pain, they move in our natural movement patterns until they are taught otherwise.
What then happens is our kids grow up and we start introducing the pattern of sitting behind a desk all day. That’s 7-8 hours of sitting and what that does to our flexibility is where the issues arise.
Contrary to popular belief, squatting deep is not bad for the knees - studies have found there is no difference between partial, parallel and deep squats impact on the knee. In the study by Clinical Biomechanics, five female athletes were studied throughout squats with varying degrees of flexion at the knee and concluded that squatting from 70 degrees to 110 degrees of knee flexion had little effect on patellofemoral joint kinetics.
Another study by The Journal of Biomechanics found that the deeper the squat, the less pressure is created inside the knee. The journal of strength and conditioning research also completed a study which concluded that parallel squats with heavy weights are less effective at increasing strength than deep squats with a lighter weight.
Obviously, there is not a one-size-fits-all perfect squat, but in most cases, gradual progressive training to the full range of motion of a deep squat will be effective.
3. If it doesn’t break parallel it doesn’t count
Myth. Despite the research supporting squat depth as seen above, failing to squat deep doesn’t mean that the squats don’t count. In fact squatting to parallel is probably the most widely used squat because it is arguably the safest form of squatting and the easiest to perform.
For some people, though it has greater muscle activation, squatting below parallel just isn’t possible, be it due to lack of flexibility, lack of strength or lower back issues.
If the lower back rounds when the athlete performing a full squat breaks parallel, it's time to stop. Rounding of the back during this phase of the squat places intense pressure on the lower vertebrae of the back. Research has shown that during the deepest phase of the squat, this compression is six times greater than at the top of a squat.
As your spine flattens out with a heavy barbell across your shoulders, a large amount of pressure is imposed on the discs in your spine. Eventually, if your form isn’t spot on this can lead to tissue damage and back pain. Repeatedly sliding out of a neutral spine position increases your risk of serious injury and a hunched back. All of which can be avoided by squatting to parallel, or even breaking parallel but rising before your bum tucks.
Work on flexibility by performing bodyweight squats and gradually sinking lower until you can break parallel and enter the full squat without compromising your spine. Dynamic warm ups and flexibility work will help to increase your range of motion.
4. Look up as you squat
As much as you may enjoy staring at your squirming face as you squat, “head up” is one of the worst commands you can give to a client. The logic behind it was/is that the body goes where the head leads and therefore if you look up, you will be less likely to fail your squat. However, with a heavy load across your shoulders looking up increases the amount of pressure on your neck and could potentially lead to slipping the discs in your neck. Ideally, the aim should be to keep your spine in neutral alignment. For most people you need to keep your eyes forward and tuck the chin slightly.
Now you’ve sorted fact from fiction, why not check out our page on Squats.
Harry is a young cross country runner who juggles studying at university with his training. He talks to Sundried about his motivation as an athlete.
How did you get into fitness?
I started when I was 15 at school. The running club coach noticed that I was quite good at running, so I joined the school team and did well in competitions. I now run for my university's athletics and cross country club. I started working out in the gym and cycling for pleasure when I was 18 because a friend asked me to join him and I got addicted to it!
What are your training goals?
For running, my goal is to run a marathon in under three hours. I have entered the London Marathon ballot, so if I get a place, it would be amazing to run a sub-3-hour marathon in my home city of London. For the gym and general fitness, I don’t compete so my goals are to continue to be happy with how my body looks and makes me feel whilst continuing to work out my upper body, legs, and abs.
Do you compete in any sports?
I compete in Cross Country and occasionally athletics. I ran for my school, Borough, and now the University of Bristol. I prefer longer distance races like half marathons and marathons, however, I have competed in distances as short as 400m before.
When is your next competition?
I am running the Great Team Relay on the 14th of July. It is a 5km road relay which starts and finishes on the track in the Olympic Stadium in London. We are entering a few teams from the University of Bristol Athletics and Cross Country Club, so we have been doing shorter training sessions on the road recently to build up our speed.
What would be your advice to someone new to a fitness programme?
Whether it be running, working out in the gym, or any other form of fitness, I would definitely recommend doing your fitness programme with a friend. I go for runs and work out in the gym both on my own and with other people and I find it so much more rewarding when I do it with someone else. It is very easy to give up when you're on your own, but together we push ourselves to achieve more than we would if we worked out on our own.
How do you balance work and training?
I am currently studying at the University of Bristol, so have lectures and tutorials throughout the week and reading and essays to do in my spare time. I tend to go to the gym early in the morning about four times a week to have a good productive start to my day. I train with the University’s Athletics and Cross Country Club, so we have set training times which are early evenings on weekdays, which is good because it is at the end of the working day and gives me something to look forward to. However, on the weekends, I like to go for longer runs with fewer people and we usually go around midday to break the day up a bit.
Why did you choose Sundried?
I chose Sundried because the products are great for so many different things; I can train comfortably in the gym, on my bike, and whilst running when wearing Sundried. The quality and finish on the products are far better than I have experienced before.
The Kettlebell snatch is a full body power exercise, requiring advanced skill that looks cool as you do it, what more could you want from an exercise?
To master the kettlebell you need advanced coordination, strong hamstrings, hip flexors, shoulders, core strength and plenty of practice. Mastering this skillful move may seem tough, but it will be worth it.
Kettlebell Snatch Preparation
Before working on the snatch you should be confident performing:
- The Kettlebell Swing.
- A Deadlift of at least 3 times the amount you’re trying to snatch.
- The Turkish Get Up.
A strong swing is essential for every Kettlebell movement, you can see how to perform the exercise here. The swing develops a number of skills that are necessary for the snatch. The hip hinge is one of the most important moves and enables you to drive the kettlebell upwards and absorb its force as it comes down. The swing also helps develop good shoulder stability that will ensure you keep your shoulder in the socket as you go for the snatch.
Mastering the deadlift will help you build strength in you grip, the range of motion required to snatch and in the lower back which comes under particular strain.
The Turkish Get Up helps build practice of holding a Kettlebell directly over the shoulders. This will help you practice the good shoulder mobility and stability to help you confidently snatch above your head.
Benefits of the Kettlebell Snatch
The snatch is a compound move which builds strength and power simultaneously
Speed + strength = power. The basis of the snatch is the hip hinge which takes strong and powerful hip flexors to force the kettlebell up above the head. The speed and strength required of this power move makes it a game changer.
The snatch is a full body exercise
The snatch requires almost every muscle to work together to perform the lift, beginning with the posterior chain, then working through core strength, stability in the shoulders and using a strong grip throughout.
The snatch is great cardio conditioning
Performing constant reps of the kettlebell snatch raises your heart rate and can be used as a HIIT cardio move. Researchers at The University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, concluded that the kettlebell snatch workout easily meets industry standards for improving aerobic fitness. Participants maintained 86 to 99 percent of their maximum heart rate during the workout.
The snatch is a calorie torcher
The work load and intensity of the snatch mean that it requires a high heart rate throughout and a high heart rate means high calorie burning. This move is great for those trying to shred up or lose weight.
The snatch builds a sturdy shoulder girdle
The shoulder joint has a varied range of motion and therefore injury is common. Developing strength here both in motion and in the static part of the hold can help to prevent injury.
The snatch focuses on balance
Swinging the kettlebell and snatching it to one side of the body requires balance and core strength to remain sturdy throughout.
The snatch corrects imbalances
Most exercises tend to require both sides of the body working together at once and though most of the time this is fantastic, it can lead to imbalances. Why? Because your stronger side will almost always put in more work than your weaker side, without you even realising. Isolating each side of the body can help to create equal strength and balance any abnormalities.
How to Kettlebell Snatch
- Start in position as though you were about to perform a kettlebell swing. Knees bent, feet just outside shoulder width and with the kettlebell about 30cm in front of you.
- Grab the bell with one hand, thumb facing inwards and keeping a neutral spine.
- Swing the kettlebell between your legs, as it reaches chest height this is where the transition happens, which is the main part of the swing. Utilising the power from your hips punch through the arm and move the wrist around the bell so that it flips onto the back of your wrist. Ensure you bend slightly at the elbow as you maneuver the bell around your hand to protect the shoulder
- At the top of the exercise the bell should be resting against the back of your wrist. If the bell slams your wrist it usually means a lack of control. At this point you lock the bell directly above your shoulder, keeping a straight back and good control.
- Control the kettlebell as you let it fall back to that start position, flipping over your wrist.
- Make sure the power of the swing comes as a push from the hips rather than a pull from the upper body.
- Maintain a straight spine throughout without arching your back.
- The only time your arm is straight is at the top of the movement, you arm should have a slight bend to protect the shoulder throughout the rest of the movement.
- Avoid over-gripping the bell as this will make it hard to push through to the top of the movement.
Kettlebell Training Progression
The plank is a staple in almost every fitness routine. It is one of the best exercises for a flat, toned stomach, working all the muscles in your core including the transverse abdominals, internal and external obliques, hips and back.
Plank up downs are our regular plank on steroids, they crank up the intensity of your plank and work your core whilst challenging your balance and burning calories.
How to Do a Plank Up Down
In the plank up down, we are alternating between a plank on our hands, and a plank on our elbows, challenging your core and shoulders.
- Assume the TRX plank position, with your feet in the stirrups and in an extended plank with your hands underneath your shoulders.
- Keep your core tight and your feet still, take one hand down into the forearm plank position.
- Now match your other arm, so that both hands are in a forearm plank.
- Push up to return the first hand to an extended plank.
- Follow the second hand into a fully extended plank.
The closer your feet are to the anchor, the easier the exercise is.
Crank it up
Add a push up into the extended plank part of the movement.
Take it down a notch
Try and hold stable in the extended plank, once you are strong and confident here it will be easier to progress to the climbing plank.