His brother’s keeper the unbreakable bond between Penrith Panthers coach Ivan Cleary and his brother Ash Cleary

“But in four or five years I went downhill really quick, and in that last year I was really sick,” Ash told the Herald. “It moved really fast. I was tired all the time. I was going to work but I couldn’t concentrate. I’d come home and I was useless around the house. My wife was looking after the kids, because I was tired … and felt really nauseous.”

The family soon gathered to discuss Ash’s predicament. Dialysis was an option, but not a solution.

Ivan and his other brother Stuart both offered to undergo a series of compatibility tests to determine whether they could donate a kidney that would help Ash return to a normal life.

Ivan and Ash Cleary after the Penrith coach donated his kidney to save his brother’s life in 2017.

“I remember Ivan saying: ‘Don’t even ask, I’m absolutely doing this for you’,” Ash recalled. “He didn’t hesitate, mate. Both my brothers were happy to do it but Ivan was more compatible so he was the lucky loser.


“I found it really difficult. I wished it could have been the other way around. I wished I was the one giving the kidney to my brother. I didn’t want Ivan to have to do that for me, but I needed it. He was so good. He kept saying ‘he was happy to do it’. He felt privileged to do it.”

On reflection, Nathan Cleary didn’t realise the magnitude of what his father had volunteered to do. Generally, people with one kidney live a normal life.

“I underestimated the whole process because dad was so blasé about it,” the Penrith halfback said.

“He was always ‘100 per cent I’m doing this if it matches up’. It wasn’t ever a thought in his head that he wouldn’t do it if he could. It was at the point where my uncle needed one or it wasn’t going to end well. He didn’t even look himself any more he was so sick.”

Ash Cleary (left) with his brother Ivan after a successful kidney transplant that saved his life.

Ash Cleary (left) with his brother Ivan after a successful kidney transplant that saved his life.Credit:Dean Sewell

The surgery was successful and, apart from having to take a blood test nine times a year and daily medication, Ash lives a normal life.

However, he admits there were times throughout 2019, as his brother struggled with the pressure and criticism that followed Penrith’s disastrous start to the season, when things didn’t feel quite right with his new kidney.

“When they were having such a rough trot last year and losing a lot of games, I was feeling a bit of pain around the kidney area every loss,” he said. “I certainly haven’t felt that this year. Maybe there is something in that.”

Ivan Cleary is the strong, silent type. But those close to him could see the emotional impact his acrimonious departure from the Wests Tigers had on his life last year. His family struggled to comprehend why some people couldn’t at least respect his motivation for linking with the Panthers.

Ash (left) with nephew Nathan Cleary and brother Ivan Cleary after the halfback's State of Origin debut in 2018.

Ash (left) with nephew Nathan Cleary and brother Ivan Cleary after the halfback’s State of Origin debut in 2018.

“Ivan has proven through what he did for me, how important family is for him,” Ash said. “Choosing to go and be in the same team as Nat, I couldn’t understand why people couldn’t see how important it is to him. The stuff that was said about him last year was pretty unfair.


“I can understand the disappointment from the Tigers fans, but I thought there would be a bit more recognition that them being father and son, that this was their dream … Ivan copped it, which is part of the territory, but the criticism then moved to Nat, which I thought was really harsh and unfair on him.”

As a big brother, Ash is naturally protective. That bond has grown even stronger since Ivan gave up an organ in the name of family.

“I’m really lucky that he’s given me a second chance at life,” Ash said.

“We’ve always been best mates and this has totally strengthened our relationship. I’ll always be indebted to him. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for Ivan.”

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Kris Gethin’s 7 Unbreakable Rules of Muscle Growth

A few years back, Kris Gethin was a dedicated bodybuilder. Today, the founder of Kaged Muscle supplements is still that—and a whole lot more.

In the last couple of years, Gethin has diversified his fitness resume to include both an Ironman and an Ultramarathon, all while keeping up his customary intensity in the gym day in and day out. Gethin is proving to meatheads everywhere that being a one-dimensional animal in the weight room just isn’t hardcore enough. The real definition of hardcore? Embracing a relentless chase of improvement in every area of life.

If you’re one of the millions who has experienced Gethin’s mentorship in his iconic programs like the 12-Week Hardcore Video Trainer or the 12-Week Muscle-Building Trainer, you know that how Kris trains and how he lives are two inseparable parts of the same project. Here’s how to prioritize your training and lifestyle to keep growing in the gym and out.

1. Overcome Plateaus with Intensity, Not Just Volume

You can’t throw a shaker bottle in the weight room without hitting someone living and dying by 3 sets of 10-12 on pretty much every movement. (Note: Please don’t throw shaker bottles in the weight room.) That classic set-and-rep scheme is popular for a reason, of course: It allows you to efficiently move from station to station, machine to machine, feeling a little burn and watching the weights climb.

At least for a while. When the weight increases stop, many lifters just try to overcome this “plateau” by doing more sets of more movements. In his popular article “Kris Gethin’s 4 Essential Intensity Booster Techniques for More Muscle,” he says a better way is to try to get more out of each movement that you do. That means trying techniques like:

  • Supersets
  • Giant sets
  • Dropsets
  • Forced reps

“If [these techniques] have a unifying theme, it’s shortening rest periods, hitting high repetitions instead of low reps, and taking my body—and yours—out of the comfort zone,” Kris says.

Yes, this will almost always make you have to drop the weight, and experience more discomfort in your nice little workout. Only outside of that comfort zone will you revive progress in a stagnant physique.

2. But Sometimes, Drown Your Muscles in Volume

The most legendary Gethin workouts have one thing in common: They burn like nothing you’ve ever thought you’d willingly subject yourself to. As the lactate pools in your muscles, you find yourself cursing Kris, cursing yourself, and pushing through every attempt your body makes to stop for rest.

Sound fun? It really is. Especially for shoulders.

Gethin challenges you to match him and Dr. Kaleb Redden rep-for-rep, set-for-set, and sweat-for-sweat in this crazy high-volume shoulder workout. “If you can’t drink your In-Kaged or you can’t pick your nose at the end of the workout, you know you’re on the right track,” he says.

7 Unbreakable Rules of Muscle Growth

3. Bulk with Food, Not Trash

When you’re a few weeks—heck, a few days—into a Gethin-designed battleground like the 12-Week Muscle-Building Trainer or the 8-Week Hardcore Trainer, your body generally starts sending an undeniable message: Feed me!

You can answer that call one of two ways: in the drive-through, or in the grocery store and kitchen. For Kris, that choice is where the diehards get separated from the pretenders.

Building muscle requires more food than the norm—that much isn’t in doubt. But Gethin is a proponent for quality calories, not spending money on foods that will get you mediocre results. No, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. In fact, in his article “4 Essential Foods for Budget Bulking,” he cuts through the confusion and spoon-feeds you truth about how to grow muscle with foods like:

  • Oatmeal
  • Rice cakes
  • Canned fish
  • Dried fruit and nuts

Yes, these foods are more than up to the task of helping you add muscle, without shrinking your bank account.

4. Live a High-Testosterone Lifestyle

Nothing will tank your results in the gym like tanked testosterone levels. But raising them—or keeping them at healthy levels—isn’t just a question of finding the right hack. It’s about gearing your choices throughout the day toward the singular goal of maximizing testosterone. This includes every aspect of the fit life, including:

  • Exercise selection
  • Workout duration and scheduling
  • Macronutrient distribution
  • Alcohol intake and other vices
  • Supplements
  • Sleep quality and quantity
  • Stress and cortisol levels

This is the big stuff that’s masquerading as little stuff. Keep a pen in hand—you’re going to want to take notes on this one—and follow Kris’ tips in “16 Ways to Boost Your Testosterone.” It’s a goldmine of nutrition, supplementation, lifestyle, and training tips to keep the king of muscle-building hormones on the throne.

5. Don’t Skip Cardio, Diversify It

Cardio isn’t something that Kris only recently came around on. He’s been advocating it daily or even twice a day since the classic 12-Week Hardcore Video Trainer, and living by example ever since. For health, body composition, gym results, and even for things like sleep quality and digestion, he swears that 30-45 minutes per day of moderate-intensity sweating can’t be beat.

Dont Skip Cardio, Diversify It

However, the ways that Kris gets his sweat have changed dramatically. Nowadays, you’re more likely to find him on a bike or trail than plugging away on a treadmill. Part of this is because he has broadened his athletic goals to include things such as distance triathlons and ultramarathons. But another part is because these activities can actually help him be a better lifter—seriously!

“There are so many benefits to endurance running that it’s a shame so many of my iron brethren don’t experience them,” Kris writes in “What Every Bodybuilder Needs to Know about Running.” “I just want bodybuilders to understand that they can experience so much more, and still be a bodybuilder.”

The same goes for cycling, as he explains in the article “What Every Bodybuilder Needs to Know About Cycling.” But be warned: In both activities, planning and technique are every bit as important as they are in the weight room.

“Your size can quickly begin to work against you, unless you have the right approach,” Kris says.

Learn from Kris’ research—and mistakes along the way—and follow the path toward “hybrid athletics” he outlines in the inspiring video series “Man of Iron.”

6. Pay For Your Holiday Sins

Most of the time, building muscle and burning fat are about doing solid work in the gym and making great nutritional decisions when nobody is watching. But sometimes, a little excess is inevitable. Kris gets it. But don’t expect any sympathy.

“Here’s my philosophy: If you’re going to splurge over the holidays, then you need to burn to pay for your sins,” Kris says.

And no, that “burn” doesn’t consist of a few sets of curls and presses. Check out Kris’ “25-Minute Holiday Damage Control Workout,” and you’ll see it means legs. And you can’t use the “I’m out of town” excuse because it’s all body weight and doable from grandma’s living room.

Bookmark that workout. Fear it. But do it.

7 Unbreakable Rules of Muscle Growth

7. Use Every Tool at Your Disposal

Gallons of virtual ink of have been spilt debating the virtues of dumbbell bench press versus barbell, machine flyes versus cable flyes, EZ-bar preacher curls versus… you get it. So here’s the deal. They all work in their own way, and over the course of a long relationship with the weight room, you can and should use them all—and plenty of other implements that you never imagined, too.

Kris brings this point home by repurposing machines daily and making them work for, well, whatever muscle group he wants. As a lifter who lives and dies on the mind-muscle connection, he knows that if it feels right, it will work. Period. A few of his favorites include:

  • Bent-over rows on a shoulder press machine
  • Decline chest press on the leg curl machine
  • Triceps push-downs on the platform of an assisted chin-up machine
  • High cable curls on the lat pull-down station

“My weight was taken” is no longer an excuse. Use Kris’ machine hacks for chest, back, shoulders, triceps, and biceps, and watch a world of new options open up around you.

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