Tissue stresses and Tissue health - A basic understanding.


We as coaches constantly get asked; ‘why can I not do that movement or exercise’ or ‘why do I have a constant niggle here’, ‘coach, why are you making us do this weird exercise’ or my overall favourite ‘I want to do a muscle up or a handstand press up why won’t you let me!’.

For many years, (more so now than ever before) we idolise our elite performance athletes in our chosen sport/sports that interest us. Moreover, we use their success as motivation towards our personal training goals. This can be very effective given the safe management and application of the training that we undertake.

What we struggle to understand, as the general public, is that we have entirely different lifestyles to our sporting idols and undergo completely different physical and mental stresses throughout our daily routine.

Following an ‘online program’ or emulating an ‘elite level athlete, regardless of sport workout regime will either;


a) Get you injured to the degree you need surgery to fix it

b) injure you to the point that you require copious amounts of Therapy and Rehabilitation or

c) Put you in that much discomfort you ache so bad and are in constant pain.

Most of these will probably put you out of work for some amount of time.

Either way without me putting this more bluntly it is completely thoughtless and stupid.

Tissue health – Tissue health is defined by what stress the tissue can absorb before becoming damaged (Brukner and Khan (2017). This is a function of the health of the tissue. For the same level of activity, the risk of re-injury increases with increasing damage to the tissue that is generally evaluated through the presence of symptoms (e.g. pain), signs (e.g. swelling) and diagnostic tests (i.e. muscle strength).

Tissue stress – Is the stress that that is applied to the tissue, directly related to the activity we do. Using the frequency, intensity, time and type (FITT) principle us as coaches can modify our program to suit the general public and then tweak individuals training during our classes on a 1-2-1 basis. All of the FITT principles create the stresses that are applied to our tissues so we MUST pay attention to them Joyce and Lewindon (2015).

Tissue stress is where we as coaches come in to determine what sets, reps, rest, optimal loading, optimal range, client readiness and many more factors allowing us to decide whether or not you as clients are ready for a particular movement or a certain level, i.e. intensity or volume (another huge discussion point).

Our discussion points were mainly to get you to understand our active daily living (routine) is far different from that of the people we spend so much time copying and idolising, so when your coach says you are not ready, then you are not ready. He will, of course, provide you with the best route of action to take to be successful, whether you listen to that or decide to skip the steps is up to you but consider your (ADL) active daily living routine and also whether you enjoy being in pain.

Earn the right to be successful in your movements by putting in the hard work and the time to allow your tissues to understand load and stress. I am confident your sporting heroes have done, so what makes you any different?

Prevent injury by; Listening to your coaches this will allow you to learn, develop and grow.

Article by Tim Fearnett


Brukner, P. (2017). Brukner & Khan's clinical sports medicine. Principles of sports injury rehabilitation, Brukner P, Clarsen B, Cook J, Cools A, Crossley K, Hutchinson M, McCrory P, Bahr R, Khan K. Brukner & Khan’s Clinical Sports Medicine: Injuries, Volume 1, 5e.

Joyce, D. and Lewindon, D. eds., (2015). Sports injury prevention and rehabilitation: integrating medicine and science for performance solutions. Routledge.

The link between muscle growth and body fat loss

How many of you know the link between muscle growth and body fat loss?

We often hear stories of friends, but more so, a majority female’s avoiding their weight training sessions or reducing their protein intake to prevent gaining ‘muscle’.

However, did you know that the higher muscle percentage on your body the lower your body fat stores will be? So how does this occur simultaneously?


When your body gains muscle, you burn more calories maintaining that muscle tissue. Unfortunately, with cardio training, you stop burning calories roughly 12 hours after you have finished your session but with resistance training, when you increase protein synthesis (growth), you can turn your body into a fat burning machine with up to 72hours or fat burning post session. When lifting weights, damage/micro tears occur to the cells in muscle tissue, which results in the body producing more protein to repair these tears which entail stipulate growth of new tissue which increases strength and mass.

Sigal, et al. (2014) in a randomised control trial that a combined aerobic and resistance exercise training regime, tended to be superior to aerobic training alone in decreasing percentage of body fat and waist circumference. While resistance training alone had (quantitative changes in skeletal muscle mass or fibre diameter and increased muscular strength). Sigal RJ, Alberga AS, Goldfield GS, et al. Effects of Aerobic Training, Resistance Training, or Both on Percentage Body Fat and Cardiometabolic Risk Markers in Obese Adolescents

In addition to weight loss, building muscle can also do the following:

Reduce injury probability - Through the growth of tensile tissue strength.

Reduce blood pressure – Weight training increases your heart rate and works on building the strength of your heart muscles. A stronger heart can pump blood around the body more efficiently with less effort. The less your heart has to work to pump the blood around the body the lower your blood pressure.

“The Systolic Blood Pressure lowering effect of exercise among hypertensive populations appears similar to that of commonly used antihypertensive medications”. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2018

Increase happiness – Studies have shown that weight training can reduce the development of depression and other mood disorders. During weight training, your body releases opiates, which is a powerful anti-stress messenger to the brain.

Reduce the risk of developing diabetes – Weight training has shown to reduce the risk of developing diabetes in recent studies. Lifting weights can improve the bodies response to insulin release and also balance blood sugar levels.

“resistance training has the potential for increasing muscle strength lean muscle mass and bone mineral density, which could enhance the functional status and glycemic control” American Diabetes Association 2006


Tempos and why you should be doing them


There are many reasons you should be exploring the world of lifting tempos but first how to understand them.

Tempos are often seen written as four number for example 3-2-1-0, each number is expressed as a part of the lift in seconds

1.    The first number (3) represents the eccentric (lowering phase of the lift).

2.    The second number (2) is the pause.

3.    The third number (1) reflects the concentric (upward phase of the lift).

4.    The final number (0) therefore stand for any pause at the end of the repetition before the next.

This is all well and good until you come across an exercise where the start of the lift initiates with a concentric (upward phase) such as a pull up or ring row however, if you remember the first number is the eccentric and the third number is always the concentric then you’re set.

But why should you be doing them?

  •  Improved proprioception (awareness to sense your body in its given environment).

  •  Increased stability leading to greater control in lifts.

  •  Increased tendon strength due to stimulated collagen production (Wilson & Best, 2005).

  • And of course, the important one, HYPERTROPHY

Hypertrophy, or growth leads to an increase in muscle size. This occurs due to the increased time under tension of the muscle and because of the increased amount of force that can be produced by the muscle during the eccentric potion of the lift.

(Schoenfeld, 2010)States many studies have found tempo training to yield the greatest hypertrophic response.

So next time you’re doing your ring rows, pull ups, squats or bench press why not give it a go! Do it properly and reap the rewards that tempo training has to offer you.



Wilson, J. J., & Best, T. M. (2005). Common overuse tendon problems: a review and recommendations for treatment. Am Fam Physician72(5), 811-818.

Schoenfeld, B. J. (2010). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research24(10), 2857-2872.

On-line Coaching vs Coaching

The new “buzz word” in fitness at the moment is online fitness programming, and everyone one wants to sell us one if it’s for marathon training or Crossfit.

How many times have you looked through Instagram or Facebook and seen someone selling their services or an online programme that will get you to the Games? Some people will go looking for the "Smolov” Squat programme, or the “Russian” Squat programme thinking it will improve their squat, and yes it will if the movement patterns are correct and all the muscles are firing in the correct order. Some even go to their favourite athlete’s page and follow what they did, just cause it looks tough and it will “raise them above everyone else”.

Matt Fraser

Choosing the correct program to follow is tough, many people look into what Matt Fraser is doing. Matt is at the top of his game, so everyone thinks “if I do that, I’ll be at the games too!”.

We as humans want to jump too far ahead of ourselves take the quick route in the hope we’ll get the results quickly. What we need to do instead of doing what Matt Fraser is doing now, is to do what he did five years ago, the endless hours of technique, practice, endurance work and recovery.

Following an online programme is hard work, hours on your own doing things you don’t want to do. How many of you would honestly do a 60-minute row if it was programmed?

Having a programme which is too advanced is not going to help you, it’ll probably harm you! If you don’t have muscle ups why follow an advanced programme that has them in. Acknowledging your own ability level is tough. Make a list of your weaknesses, then plan appropriately. It will improve your psychological strengths too.


Having someone watching over you every class and coaching the session you are doing, will benefit you more than just blindly following a plan. Some days you’ll need cajoling and some days you’ll need someone to push you or critique your positioning.

Coaching isn’t about cheerleading and pushing you to your limits, it is saying to you “drop the weight, your body isn’t ready for that” or “lets just scale that back a little bit and fix the positioning first”. It’s not because we don’t want you to improve! it’s to say take it easy and improve the technique then push the weight, your general health and prevention of injury is far more important than weight chasing for followers.


Tom Landry

“A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be”.

Author - Paul Shelley
Coach - Central Staffs Crossfit