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Nick Mitchell was recommended to me by Men's Health magazine as the best personal trainer in the UK to get me cover model ready, and after only 5 minutes with him I understood why. He is a fantastic person to help get anyone into the best shape of their lives and his knowledge of the human body blows me away!
I rely on UP ahead of big photo shoots to always help me be in the kind of physical shape that the clients demand. In my industry we must always be as close to perfection as possible and no one understands the way to fine tune a woman’s body like them!
Zoe Duchesne, Victoria’s Secrets model
Nick Mitchell is the best personal trainer that Europe has to offer. His depth of experience keeps him at the forefront of the industry and I have no hesitation in referring anyone visiting the UK to be trained under his watchful experienced eye.
Charles Poliquin, Strength Coach of Olympic medalists and athletes from the NHL and NFL
The fact that my forty-year old frame graced the cover of Men’s Health is down to Nick Mitchell's encyclopaedic knowledge and no-nonsense training techniques. He’s the go-to guy if you want results.
Wesley Doyle, Fitness Editor - Men's Health UK
Training with Nick was great fun and very rewarding. His enthusiasm and passion inspire me and I cannot recommend him highly enough.
Misha Farska, Leading Fashion Model
On my trips to London I have found Sav and the Ultimate Performance team to be the only guys in Europe who can give me what I need – a great place to train, fantastic cutting edge advice, and an insight into competitive sports that only comes from years of coaching experience at the highest level.
Ronnie Coleman, 8 Time Mr Olympia
World Class personal training guaranteed to get unparalleled results
Ben Price, Leading Man (Coronation Street, Footballers Wives)
In my assault to reach the British Heavyweight boxing title and beyond there is only man I could turn to give me the extra strength, speed and conditioning necessary to step up to the big league. Nick’s coaching is scientific, extremely challenging, and the results speak for themselves!
Larry “The War Machine” Olubamiwo, Top British Heavyweight Boxer
"I was recommended I look up Nick Mitchell before arriving in the UK from Australia. His knowledge is second to none and is proving extremely useful in getting through another demanding Super League season."
Craig Fitzgibbon, Australian National Rugby League Team
It is thanks to Nick Mitchell’s expertise, understanding and patience, that I am healthier, fitter and leaner than I was 10 years ago. He taught me that it’s not enough to love the body we’re in but to respect it too.
Sassy Wilde, Producer & TV Presenter
I have worked with Kosta for many years and the best compliment I can pay to him is that at the end of our professional partnership we became friends. He is constantly challenging me with through new ideas, care and excellent interpersonal skills.
Christian Lattanzio, England National Football Team / Manchester City Football Club Technical Coordinator
Nick Mitchell is a pleasure to work with. Not only is he full of knowledge but he puts it over in a way that is understandable and practical for everyday people. He obviously has a real passion for everything muscle and fitness and his training methods and the gym atmosphere portrays this.
Men’s Fitness UK
Thanks to Ultimate Performance my filming of the BBC TV show "Hustle" went incredibly well and the producers were overjoyed with the outcome
Chook Sibtain, Actor
Anyone who trains at Ultimate Performance can be assured of some proper training, which requires effort to reach their goals and not fobbed off with a watered down session and a gossip as with every other personal training gym I have seen!!!
Dave “Bulldog” Beattie, World Powerlifting Champion, Trainer of Strongest Man in the World.
I am extremely lucky to of had such a wonderful and respected teacher as Kostas Stavrev to help with all my physical requirements. He is a fantastic source of encouragement; is intelligent, detailed and motivating and I continually seek his advice and expertise on all athletic issues.
Perry Suckling, Tottenham Hotspur Goalkeeping Coach
By James White
Editor’s note: the title of this article is slightly misleading and I encourage those of you who are interested not necessarily in lifting heavier poundages, but in the optimal health and performance of your body to read this article. There are a few take home gems in this for everybody.
Shortcuts to Strength: how to make yourself instantly stronger
Everyone has heard stories of people finding the strength to lift cars off dying loved ones and ripping muscles clean off the bone through the tremendous force produced. This is called limit strength. It is the peak force that the neuromuscular system is capable of producing in a single contraction. So we know the body can produce far more strength than it often gives us but why does it hold back and not give you all the strength potentially available? Are there any shortcuts to strength that are quick, safe and available?
To learn why the body holds back and how to instantly enhance your strength lets first make clear as to how a muscle contracts:
In the most simplistic way possible, when your brain decides you want a muscle to contract to initiate a movement, the command is produced right at the top of your brain. This message is then passed down your spinal cord and then out of the spinal cord along a motor neuron which then meets the muscle and causes it to contract.
The muscle is made up of tens of thousands of muscle fibers, which are the part of the muscle that contracts. However when you try to lift the heaviest weight you can with your maximal force, only about 30% of your muscle fibers in that particular muscle are actually working. So you think that your muscle is producing its absolute maximal force and it’s only at about 30%! A well conditioned athlete will be able to recruit more muscle fibers than a de-conditioned individual but let just say 30% on average.
The reason for this “holding back” is because your body is saving the other 70% of muscle fibers for the following contractions you are going to ask the muscle to do. Its assuming that if you are wanting a maximal contraction of a muscle then you are probably in danger and in that case you are not going to want 100% of your muscle fibers to be fatigued and leave you defenseless. Plus as mentioned earlier, without gradually building up to it, if you did manage to recruit all 100% of your muscle fibers you would probably rip the muscle from the bone as the connective tissue (tendons and ligaments) would not be conditioned to do this.
It’s worth mentioning here that although all the muscle fibers are never working together in normal circumstances, each individual muscle fiber is working as hard as possible. Your muscle fiber is either on or off. When you work harder you are simply recruiting more muscle fibers. This is called the ‘all or nothing law’.
So we know now that there is a huge amount of potential for your muscle to contract more strongly than it currently does, the question should be how do you actually make it do this?
As you will have worked out now the instant increase in strength comes from working with the neural system. There are two angles to attack when seeking instant increased strength.
The first step is to make sure that your muscle is not being inhibited by the nervous system. This is the very easiest way to increase strength because you are not asking the body to do anything unusual. All you are doing is removing the barriers and allowing it to return back to normal strength.
Once there is no inhibition taking place it’s then time to try facilitating more muscle fibers to boost your strength beyond what it was.
Reduce Reciprocal Inhibition
When an agonist contracts the antagonist relaxes. Translated into a practical example, when the biceps muscle contracts the body neurologically ‘shuts down’ the triceps muscle so that it is not contracting also and canceling out the contraction of the biceps. So this reciprocal inhibition is a natural thing that will happen in the body to aid every movement you make.
However it can work against you and reduce your strength.
Davis’s Law states that ‘if muscle ends are brought closer together then the pull of tonus is increased, thereby shortening the muscle, which may even cause hypertrophy. If muscle ends are separated beyond normal, then tonus is lessened or lost, thereby weakening the muscle.’
Translated into a practical example this means that when you are sat on a chair for 10 or more hours a day your hip flexor muscles are shortened during these 10 or more hours. Over time this will make your hip flexors shorter, they will hypertrophy and the tone of the muscle will be increased. The tone of a muscle means it’s contraction at rest. So if the tone of the muscle is increased then it is slightly more contracted all the time than it should be.
If the tone (or resting contraction) of the hip flexors is heightened then due to reciprocal inhibition your gluteus maximus will be slightly inhibited. In the same way the biceps turn off the triceps, your hip flexors are turning off your gluteus maximus.
This will of course weaken all movements that involve hip extension including running, squatting and lunging. If you inhibit the hip flexor muscles and reduce their tone then you will be able to send more neurological power to the gluteus maximus and they will be able to contract more forcefully. If you perform a prolonged static stretch on a muscle you will inhibit it and make it weaker. So the key here is to stretch your hip flexors.
To stretch your hip flexor muscles simply get in a lunge position with your back knee resting on the floor. Then whilst keeping your knee where it is, push your hips forwards so that your back leg extends. You should feel a stretch in the front of your back leg and hip area. This same thing can be used for people with tight/facilitated chest muscles to strengthen the back muscles.
Arthrokinetic inhibition is what takes place when your body reduces the available power output of particular muscles. It does this to protect itself. In an extreme example, if you dislocate your shoulder joint and then your deltoid contracts at full force it is going to rip that joint apart. So to stop this from happening your body will not allow the muscles around a damaged/compromised joint to forcefully contract.
A more everyday example of how arthrokinetic inhibition is constantly making you weaker could be by looking at the pelvic region. Take a common example if someone who has an anterior tilt of the pelvis, their sacrum is compressed and locked up, they have pronation of the feet which is causing the femur to internally rotate and there is excessive lordosis and compression in the lumber spine. All this means that there are many joints around the pelvic area that are not in optimal positions/alignment which has put them more at risk of becoming injured during powerful movements. The proprioceptors within all these joints know this and tell the nervous system to inhibit the muscles acting upon that joint and also muscles near the joint that could have an indirect effect on the dysfunctional joint.
So how do you reduce this arthrokinetic inhibition? Well there are a few things that can be easily done.
1) Decompression – If a joint is all jammed up with tight/restricted connective tissue and tight muscles then the joint could do with decompressing. With regards to correcting the above example some sacral decompression would help to free up the SI joints and hip joints. It would also help to flush the joint with synovial fluid and the surrounding tissues with blood. This helps to carry away waste products and bring nutrients to the area which would improve the health of the joint and ultimately reduce the arthrokinetic inhibition.
2) Stretch – You need to find out which muscles are tight and stretch them. In the example above there is a fair chance that one muscle needing lengthening are the hip flexors. These tight hip flexors are adding to anterior tilt, lumber lordosis and lumber compression. Lengthening these muscles would reduce these three things and improve function.
3) Strengthen – I know this doesn’t seem a very instant method of increasing strength but it is necessary to improve posture more effectively. So again going back to the example above, you would probably want to strengthen the gluteus maximus muscles which would help to bring the posture back into alignment and stabilize the pelvis which would all allow more power to be sent to the joint.
Remember, there is an osteopathic principles which goes ‘Structure and function are reciprocally inter-related.’ What this means is that if you change the structure of something the function is changed. So if you change the structure of a joint by placing it in poor posture then the function of the joint is changed. Put the joint back into it’s intended structure and function is restored.
Placebo and Nocebo
Most people have heard of the placebo effect. In medicine the placebo effect is that if you believe you are taking a drug to help you get better then you will start to get better, even if what you are taking is actually nothing.
The nocebo effect is the evil twin of the placebo effect. It basically works by someone telling you that you are ill and then you believing it so much that you actually become ill even though you were not ill to begin with.
This can work the same with lifting weights. If you are constantly telling yourself that you are unable to life a certain weight then more likely than not you will not be able to lift that weight. The last thing that you want when you are just about to try for a heavy deadlift is you telling yourself that you’re not going to do it and also your training partner doubting that you’re going to do it. The power of positive thinking can give you that extra edge you need to progress your sessions enough to see significant progress. Remember, all muscular contractions start in the brain.
There are many techniques that can be used to instantly increase strength. A few useful techniques to allow you to lift more are explained below with reference to the three powerlifting movements which are the squat, bench press and deadlift. The techniques will specifically improve performance on these lifts, and that in turn will mean more high threshold motor units have been stimulated, and this will lead to some tangible strength, and often size, gains.
Gripping the bar harder – This technique could be used in any lift but lets look at the bench press. If you squeeze the bar as hard as you can whilst performing the bench press then this has a knock on effect of increasing the neural drive to the rest of the upper body muscles allowing the weight to seem lighter.
Another little tip here on the bench press is to imagine yourself pulling the bar apart. This will activate your triceps to a greater degree which are very often not used enough in the bench press.
Retract your shoulder blades and push your chest up to the bar. Retracting your shoulder blades will stabilize them and in turn provide a stable base for your arms.
When squatting imagine trying to bend the bar around your shoulders. This will tighten up your back musculature and increase the stability of your back. With this increased stability the focus and power can once again be shifted back to the legs for the movement.
Focus on initiating the squat with the hips. The very first movement with the squat should be your hips being pushed backwards rather than your knees bending first. If you push your hips backwards first then you begin activating your posterior chain more. This gets the glutes and hamstrings involved in the movement. Glutes and hamstrings are very often neglected muscles in the squat that don’t get credit for the importance they deserve. (Editor’s note: James is describing a squat performed in the powerlifting style where poundage takes priority over more “functional” strength gains)
If you initiate the squat by bending the knees you are likely to put too much emphasis through the quads and these are not as powerful as your posterior chain muscles
Lift with the whole body not just your legs. Very often you hear people saying to lift with your legs. When you tell someone to do this with a heavy weight then it makes the weight feel heavier, they drive the legs with all their force and it ends up being a messy looking lift with the back being left behind in the lift.
What you really want to do is lift with every single bit of your body. So grip the bar as hard as you can. Clench your jaw with all your might. When you begin the lift you need to lift hard with your back. Think about pulling as hard as you can with your back and also drive your legs. This full body emphasis will make the weight feel lighter and give you the aggression and focus you need to lift big weights whilst keeping your back safe.
All of these techniques are not instant shortcuts to strength, but when taken and used together could really start to propel your strength and fitness to new heights.
About the author:
James White is a UP personal trainer who can lift backbreaking weights and then fix the damage. A world class powerlifter with some crazy lifts to his name such as 280kg deadlift at under 75kg bodyweight, he is also studying to be an osteopath.