Month: November 2009

Bodypump, and its major flaws for weight loss

I did feel bad at first quitting teaching this popular class, but sometimes you ‘ve just got to do the right thing………………for yourself,  and others.  The purpose of this article is not to condone Bodypump to the depths of hell or anything, but I hear it talked about as the holy grail!!  Simply put, Bodypump suffers from all the downsides of most aerobics classes, but has something going for it – in that it uses weights……..just not the right parameters!  (By parameters, I mean intensity, volume, duration, exercises etc). 

Intrigued??  Read on . . . .

Bodypump suffers in the way most aerobic classes do in that there is so little room for progression.

 

Lack of Progression
Due to the fact you are exercising for roughly 4-5 mins per track, it is often hard to progress much further after 6-8 weeks – without seriously compromising technique or lifting speed. For instance, you might compromise technique by reducing squatting depth, and lifting speed could be simply letting the bar drop quickly on a triple wide row etc. Both of these bad habits can be done consciously or subconsciously.  Below is a classic example, people drop like lightning on the descent of a squat, and lets not even discuss depth!

 

 

This is not a full squat

Progression is what keeps our bodies changing. You could say the opposite of progression is stagnation, and I feel a lot of people are stagnating….and not through lack of effort……simply that the AEROBICS model is completely flawed.

For example, when you take into account when lifting considerably heavier weights in the gym, you would expect to make increases of around 1%-2.5% per week or so, in a person who has trained for more than a year. (This can obviously plateau if you stay on the same program forever, and be more in someone who is new to training).

When you realise that in a Bodypump class, say for a biceps track, for a woman to go from say, 7.5kg, to the next weight up (10kg) is a massive leap of 33%, you start to see why improvements aren’t coming. Also, a typical ‘gym’ set lasts 15-45 seconds, a typical Bodypump ‘set’ lasts 3 to 4 minutes!

You try upping your weights 33% and multiplying your set duration by 6-8 times and you will fail!!!!!


Even on the Squat track, a very strong man might use 40kg and try to progress to 42.5kg. This doesn’t sound like much but is another 6%. Again, this is for 5 minutes – not 15-45 seconds!

Simply put; If you are not adding more weight, adding more reps, or reducing the rest in between sets or exercises….you are not providing a stimulus for your body to change.

 
Music

Another major flaw of Bodypump is it’s music. Now you might think the music rocks (!) but if the music is constantly changing week-to-week…….how do you know if you have improved???!!!!

For example, you might do a tougher track this week compared to last week. Are you weaker? Are you stronger? Was the track harder? Were you fatigued because the track before (which was also different from last week) was harder?!

 
I hope you see where I’m going with this. There is no plan of progression.
 

What is your weak muscle?
Fitness training ‘legend’ has it that you should work the larger muscles first, then move onto the smaller muscles. I’m ok with that as a general ‘rule,’ (and agree to some extent)…………But what if your weaker muscle is a smaller one? For example, shoulders;

If you do not bring your weak link up to the standard as the rest of your body, it will be your limiting factor and it will hold you back. If that’s the case then every Bodypump class you do, you are prioritzing other muscles over your weaker ones (your shoulders) – digging you deeper, and further strengthening your chest and triceps relative to your shoulders!

Next time you think about doing a Bodypump class, ask yourself the following:

Does it fit your goals?
Can you progress at all?

If you even want to try it, just make sure you measure your success and don’t kid yourself.

If you have enjoyed reading this article, I suggest you read (or re-read) ” Don’t be a class Junkie” which addresses why most other classes suffer.
Any questions on this article, please email me by clicking here.

John Cammish (B.S.C) is a local East Yorkshire Fitness Bootcamp Instructor and real-world fat loss expert. He has helped countless individuals change their lives through postive habits with a focus on tried and tested methods. For more details about Personal Training, Fitness Bootcamps, Free Articles and more – check his website (www.yournextlevelfitness.co.uk)

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What is N.E.A.T. & does it work?

Did any one see Professor Regans television show last week? The concept of the programme was to look younger and ultimately see what works and what doesn’t – using scientific evidence. One such method was exercise – and can we stop going to the gym to be leaner and fitter. Sounds good? Read on…

Prof. Regan’s show brought about the idea of using general everyday activity to help increase our health and decrease our weight and body fat percentage. I know this as N.E.P.A. (Non Exercise Prescription Activity) and often have clients do this on ‘off’ days from vigourous exercise. The Idea in the program introduced N.E.A.T. (Non Exercise Activity Theremogenesis), basically meaning that increased everyday activity will burn more calories over time, reducing our overall weight, bodyfat percentage, and increase our health in numerous ways.

Sounds good? Well, not so fast, mr eager-to-not-work-so-hard.

Prof Regan wonders wether there is a substitute for conscious effort

The participant in the experiment was a fairly sedentary 30-something that was overweight, over fat, and wanted to change – without going to the gym, running, or any other form of ‘exercise.’ He wore a sophisticated pair of shorts with many sensors inside that tracked his every movement, from waking to bedtime. His instructions were to walk wherever possible, walk to the bus stop, stand on the bus, iron clothes, do washing up, cook meals etc – all in the way of burning small amounts of energy here and there. On the first day it was estimated he had burned an extra 317 calories. Roll on 3 weeks eh, he will be lean, fit and healthy for sure.

Ironing – more fun than the gym?!

What Happened?

What actually happened was that his body weight and bodyfat percentage actually I increased I to what it was at the start of the experiment. His arteries were expanding 66% more so his blood pressure was lower, and he generally felt fitter.

What was that? He gained fat?!

Yes that was not a typing error. He gained both bodyweight and body fat. I can imagine right now you’re thinking ‘why is that’? Surely if he was doing more he would be lighter and hopefully leaner?

Well, that is usually what everybody thinks. In the programme itself, the reason given by the participant himself (and oddly accepted and concluded by Prof. Regan and the show itself) was that he had simply eaten more food as he was hungrier with doing more exercise. This (somewhat obvious) variable should have been accounted for in the experiment, and seen as though it was not, it hints that NEAT does not work in terms of body composition improvement. Sure, it will help lower blood pressure, probably decrease stress and overall lead to a better health profile. Unfortunately, in terms of losing body fat – looking leaner, it will do very little – if anything.

What can I do to get leaner then?

That’s the question I hear you cry. First off, (as should have been done in the experiment) you should be tracking what you are eating. Even though your diet might be poor or great, you need to know what you are eating so that you can tweak it, if and when progress stalls – because at some point it will.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news 🙂

This can be your best friends when things are not working so well.

Secondly, and this is why it’s observed that most leaner people go to a Gym, or do resistance training at home or wherever: Do some resistance training that is demanding.

This is my philosophy and I will stand by it, as I have said numerous times, that resistance work is far more important than cardiovascular exercise when losing body fat. To get leaner, you need to make a muscle bigger and the fat around the muscle smaller. Before anyone says it, No, you cannot turn muscle into fat – they are both entirely different. If you do nothing to stimulate muscle contraction you are not forcing the muscle get bigger, and not making your body burn more calories with less effort. What do figure athletes base their training on?

Figure Athlete Jamie Eason does mainly resistance exercise

So there you have it. Another (albeit small) experiment that showed that aerobic exercise does not contribute to improved body composition. Do not mis-understand me – cardiovascular exercise is very important for health, but let’s not forget that most people have a lack of time – and therefore a lack of priorities.

Would you like to be lean strong and healthy?

A sound resistance-based program done properly can do both.

John Cammish (B.S.C) is a local East Yorkshire Fitness Bootcamp Instructor and real-world fat loss expert. He has helped countless individuals change their lives through postive habits with a focus on tried and tested methods. For more details about Personal Training, Fitness Bootcamps, Free Articles and more – check his website (www.yournextlevelfitness.co.uk) and his Bootcamp Blog (blog.yournextlevelfitness.co.uk).

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2009 Fitpro Conference Summary

This past weekend, I attended the annual Fitpro Fitness Convention in Loughborough for the third year in a row. It was amazing. World-class coaches and speakers from all over the world shared a wealth of advice, including: Charles Poliquin, Paul Chek, John Berardi, Bobby Cappucio, Greg Roskopf – and many more. It was an information extravaganza that motivates coaches like myself to get even better at what we’re doing year upon year. After all, the health and fitness industry is one of the quickest-changing – with new information, concepts and ideas coming out all the time. Here is what happened from my viewpoint, and what things we can expect in the future.

First of all, much acreddited author Paul Chek was given the responsibility of the opening address, in which he delivered a poem entitled ‘Life is Movement.’ Although appearing long-winded at first, he opened up ideas and images of both humans and animals living and moving together, and how life began and how it has changed quite dramatically recently. Images on the backdrops formed nuclear power plants and the chemical spraying of fresh produce – identifying that chemicals are now in our soil, so are in much of our vegetables, and therefore in much of our animals (that we consume).

After the poem, Chek went on to talk about how we rely on doctors and medication when much of the time, it is the medicine that we take every day that is making us ill……our food. He went on to talk about the 4 doctors he uses, Dr Movement, Dr Diet, Dr Quiet, and if all these ‘doctors’ are present in our life – Dr Happiness just seems to show up! Chek also pointed out how only 3% of women and 8% of men all over the world do not have a set time period to exercise. This was shocking – although somewhat obvious also – and made me think about how people seem to think that exercising should be ‘going hardcore in the gym’ – when sometimes a little bit of movement, be it a walk or general activity (e.g. wheelbarowing some sand D.I.Y.-style) can provide a little movement – and ultimately improve the quality of someone’s life.

Quality stuff!

Next up we had the truly inspiring and enthusiastic Bobby Cappuccio with his lecture ‘Customer service is Dead!’ I saw Bobby several times last year and he is, hands-down the most enthusiastic speaker I have seen yet. When he tells a story – the whole room listens and there is complete focus. He even cracks some funny jokes here and there.

The lecture began with simple definitions. It is absolutley astounding how he highlighted that many people and businesses don’t know what they are selling, how they sell it, and how they can make it better for their customers. Numbers of why people leave health clubs were shared and it is obvious (and almost cliche) that many health clubs simply sign you up, and make you pay for a service you thought you would get (they sold to you), and then you are unhappy for months until you eventually leave.


Clients leave silently with their feet

Bobby then touched upon personality types and goal-setting, but the simple take home message is that businesses are simply too focused on money and not on what they should be doing – creating a better service. Makes you wonder if you’re getting what you expect, doesn’t it?

Next up, John Berardi’s ‘From the treadmill to the Table lecture. Now, I’ve been a long-time fan of John Berardi and his work for a few years now. His motto at the start summed it up: The information you’re getting:

Is it interesting?

Or,

Is it important?

I personally think this absolutely key in today’s world and is a very much under-rated concept.

We live in this society where there is so much ‘noise’ and so much information that contradicts so much more information. People tend to take on more and more, where as it would be better to reject what is useless, or at least weigh up whether there is a better alternative or not. Along the interesting (and important!) discussion topics were carbohydrate, protein and fat intake, cholesterol (I stepped up for this one), supplements, rest/recovery, resistance training and cardio.

All great info.

Poliquins ‘stumbling blocks for fat loss’ lecture was complicated if you don’t know your stuff. Having done Biology at A-level I think I was a bit more clued-up with some of the topics here. Genes, methylation protocols, vitamins, minerals, and hormones were all touched upon – and the various high-end supplements you can use to combat the problems. When you realise that Poliquin has worked with 17 olympic medalists, you soon realise why he needs to know everything in depth as he does.


Aims for perfection in his athletes

Friday’s closing session was all about finding what the customers want, and how to provide that service. Social and economic variables were greatly discussed, and also points such as locations, target markets etc.

Saturdays sessions started with Bobby Cappuccio, entitled 5 habits to ensure failure – and how to avoid them.’ A great lecture which focused on habits an how to stay on track with what you’re doing (again, what is important), and avoiding getting into the trap of ‘being busy for works sake’.

John Berardi was up again for the next lecture. This lecture, although not too over-whelming, touched upon things that are coming out and will be big in the future for example, testing for genes that can help plan a customised diet.


Your DNA could have the answer to what you should or should not be eating

Martin Haines of Mobilis Performance, took part 1 of his series on biomechanical screening, and why we should do it. Simple things such as a squat depth check can unravel flexibility issues, and can also be a clue to why the athlete or client is getting injuries elsewhere. He also instilled the possibility (and maybe probability) that if one joint is in pain – It may not be that joint that is dysfunctional.

‘Stressed overweight and heading for disaster’ sounded like most people today! This lecture contained a lot of the thoughts expressed in Poliquin’s and Berardi’s lectures, but went a bit further into the anatomy and physiology of stress, and what we can do to help reduce it. What baffled me in this lecture (somewhat off-topic) was that some other trainers presents methods were to constantly reduce calories, even at low levels – and I found this a little shocking as it is very stressful on the body and can lead to a ‘rebounding’ of weight gain, and cause much psychological stress too. Just shows that trainers can be really different!


Even though this individual wants to lose fat (as he is over-fat, yet likely underweight) this does not mean he needs to eat like a rabbit

Last for Saturday was Coach Poliquins lecture on body language, differences between clients and how to get the best out of them. If you’ve ever been to any of Poliquins lectures, you soon realise he doesn’t take any crap. If you want to work with him, you have no excuses.

Last day – Sunday. I went to 2 anatomy-based lectures – Jeff Willoughby (Muscle imbalances) and Martin Haines (Biomechanical screening part 2). Both presenters went through various tests to see if there is anything dysfunctional at the hip, and exercises that can be done to improve this. Interestingly, the exercises used and advice for each was conflicting, and I was made to make my own mind up. I think the jury is out on this one.

Bobby Cappuccio went through body language in great detail, and linked this up to his other lectures at how airline hostesses show a fake smile! He highlighted studies that showed people can instinctively tell if something is ‘not quite right.’ This is why I always tell people when they go to a trainer to get a second opinion – because often, you will hear another set of information and it is up to the client themselves to compare and judge themselves – if there is nothing to compare to, then the client usually accepts what is in front of them. Also, with having 2 appointments for different trainers – you will know instinctively which trainer made you feel at ease.

John Hardy finished off my ‘business’ lectures for the day, with his exploration of community-enhancing methods, and the importance of having a target market. He touched upon economic drivers and how small goals can lead to bigger goals. He also recommended a few books I will definitely be checking out!

Very interesting stuff.

All in all, the Fitpro conference was another great one. World-class coaches; World-class advice; A World-class experience. I know I go to this conference every year, but the information is always changing in the health and fitness industry. What I’d like you to think about, is how do you better yourself? And the information ‘facts(?!)’ you’re getting or the exercises your doing . . . are they interesting….. or are they important?

 

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Make this year YOUR BEST YEAR!

It’s that time of year again, and we know what we’re all supposed to do…..make some life changing decisions to make us happier people (and maybe make us better people – who knows!) Whether we try to swear less, stop annoying habits, or eat less chocolate, you CAN make a difference, but only if you strive to make one.

Below are tips to help you be what you want to become and the reasons why!

1. KICKSTART your new body transformation TODAY!

The word you’re looking for is ACTION. I’ll let you in on a phrase I tell nearly every one of of my clients: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. Makes sense, don’t you think?

How was 2009? Was it a good year? Let’s face it, if you do nothing significant between now and December 2010, I would bet you’ll be doing more or less exactly the same thing come December 2010! Do you want to move forward, not ‘maintain’ or even regress? Do you want to make a change? The time is NOW!

ACTION!

2. Set a goal.

I’ve covered many aspects of goal setting in my article (‘Are you working intensely enough?’) but make sure you set at least one goal! How else will you know if you’re making progress? How will you know if you’re doing the right things? What will alert you that you might be doing some things that aren’t working?

3. Write the goal down!

Writing a goal down on a piece of paper makes it feel more real. It makes it tangible. Important. It will then serve as a reminder for you to keep trying to keep to it.

4. Keep a food diary.

Ever wonder why the unwanted weight keeps returning? Invest in a notebook and you can catch the hidden snacks. If you want to go one further, you can track calories and macronutrient ratios on internet programs like fitday.com.

(Bear in mind this can get quite tedious, but if you struggle with basic portions it’s a great start).

5. Regularly check progress.

If this is to lose weight then is a simple weigh-in. To specifically lose fat and improve body composition, a weigh-in and body fat measurement test will need to be done. Don’t panic about dips and increases in weight over short periods of time, but be sure to check on it and record it!

6. Exercise often!

This could be 10 mins everyday, 30 mins 5 times a week or 3 hours a week. The catch is to make sure you do it! Once you break the cycle, it’s easy to let another training session slip and before you know it you haven’t exercised in a month.

How do you make sure failure doesn’t happen? Make goals small and achievable. Only after adopting this new lifestyle for a while will you be able to make more further changes.

7. Hire a Coach or a mentor (I.E. someone who has done it before)

Most of us need a kick up the backside this time of year. A skilled professional will jumpstart your progress and give you priceless advice that will mean you don’t make physique killing mistakes.

Believe it or not, over-using this machine can be a big mistake for some.

Find a trainer that has good credibility (recommendations), they walk the talk (they look like they actually know what they’re doing) and can answer most of what you ask – and tell you the reasons WHY. Anything that sounds like B.S. – check it with another trainer, or someone you know and trust.

8. The time to mix it up is now!

If you’ve been doing the same program for the last 3 years It’s pretty obvious that your body would benefit from something different. If you ve been doing sets of 20 reps, why not try some heavier weights with 8 reps? Done bicep curls every time you step in the gym? Try some close grip chins or pull downs.

The time to change is now!

John Cammish (B.S.C) is a local East Yorkshire Fitness Bootcamp Instructor and real-world fat loss expert. He has helped countless individuals change their lives through postive habits with a focus on tried and tested methods. For more details about Personal Training, Fitness Bootcamps, Free Articles and more – check his website (www.yournextlevelfitness.co.uk) and his Bootcamp Blog (blog.yournextlevelfitness.co.uk).

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Q and A: November

Q. Last Christmas was a disaster for me, I put on over a stone in 3 weeks. Can you give me some options so I can eat without feeling guilty 🙂

A.

1. If you know that when you drink, you eat more = then don’t even start drinking. It’s tempting to drink more and more as the festivities grow throughout the night.

2. If you are eating, try not to have an alcoholic drink before the meal. The alcohol leads to a rise in blood sugar, and then insulin does it’s job (clearing it away) very quickly, leaving you a little hypoglycaemic. This starts hunger pangs, and you will order more than you actually want!

Not the best pre-meal idea

3. Have a small meal or snack 1-2 hour prior to the meal. It’s fine to be hungry when you order – but you do not want to be at the point where everything and anything will do!

4. The best choice in most restaurants/pubs is likely to be grilled meat or fish. Try to avoid sauces where possible, these are where hidden calories sneak in.

5. Bread sometimes comes out at the start of meals in some places. Pass on this unless you have been training and earned the insulin rush. Chances are, you haven’t just been training and should just say ‘no’.

6. When ordering pasta, asked if the pasta is cooked in oil. High glycaemic carbohydrates and fat are not a good combination. As above, watch out for the calorie-loaded sauces (pasta dishes often have a ton of cheese involved).

The secret is in the sauce! (The secret being the calories)

7. Wherever you want a sauce, you have 2 options: 1; Ask for it separate to the dish (so you can use as little or as much as you want). 2; Don’t think you HAVE to eat it all up (i.e. licking the plate!)

8. Drink low calorie drinks wherever you can. Water, tea and coffee are often better choices. Just make sure it’s not your typical ‘mocha’ with a load of cream in it.

9. Don’t stuff yourself. You should never be stuffed full or be starving. Regular eating patterns will help this and need to be part of the big picture.

10. Skip dessert where possible

Keep these tips in mind over the xmas celebrations and you will be better off than most. Please be aware though, that it is not just one or two binges that make you fatter. It is a positive lifestyle that
needs to be adopted and put in place. When you have the proper habits occurring almost automatically……you can then afford to eat more of what you want.

Q. I’ve recently heard lot’s about power plates – are they any good?

A. Are they any good for what …… doing shivering impressions? Whats is the world coming to when we have to stand on a
vibrating plate in an attempt to burn some fat? “It’s not lazy because Im contracting my muscle against the vibrations”.

The easy way…….to spend a ton of cash

Do some proper work!

The way that power plates are ‘supposed’ to work, is that the frequencies make the muscles in your body subconsciously contract (uk.powerplate.com), presumably maintaining muscle mass and burning calories.

However, when muscles do not contract fully, and more specifically, to high levels of force production, you are going to get very little in terms of results. This is not too dissimilar from BOSU balls and instabilty work that attempts to ‘blast your core!’
The bottom line – The more unstable the surface, the lower load you must use, leading to a lower force production. This leads to less calories burned and more importantly less muscle mass used/maintained. This will inevitably result in less calories burned int he long-term and increased chance of fat gain.

Here are just some of the results of a few studies I found:
One study that found power plates at a very low frequency cause less bone fractures than walking – yet there were only 28 women in the study (low sample number) and also BMD (Bone Mineral Density) had only increased 4.3% (not much really!). You could also argue that if walking is too strenuous – power plates might be better suited for rehab gyms rather than promoted as ‘fat loss machines!’ Another finding of the study was that balance had improved 29%,
which is fairly positive. However, I think the cost-to-benfit ratio isn’t great. 8 months to improve balance? And by about 25 percent? This shouldn’t take as half as long and even losing weight in overweight individuals would probably be more effective in increasing balance.

There was a study in which bobsled athletes jumped and sprinted to achieve quickest times possible, either using vibration techniques or rest in-between sprints. It was found that vibration training slightly helped recovery between sprints, although this was not significant. There was also only one male tested, and 6 females.(2)

A review of many vibration studies (3) found that benefits were either non-existent or minor. At this point in time, I agree in that there could be use of vibration training from a rehabilitation standpoint, but as far as strength, speed and fat loss are concerned, there are tried and tested methods to improve. I also believe the cost of these machines is ridiculous!

Generally people, more-often-than-not, take the easy way out. Leg extensions over squats. Chest Press machine over Dumbell bench press or Press ups. Lat pull down over pull ups. We need to realise that ‘machines’ make things a bit easier for us. Don’t get me wrong, they’re fine from the absolute beginners level, but when you’ve been training for more than 8 weeks, free weights exercises need to be introduced.

Also, the way a person trains can often be seen to mirror the outside life of an individual. A person who sticks to easy machines and makes little or no progress is often the person who doesn’t take risks in their everyday lives. They might even have low confidence levels. OR, they could just not be confident with free weights. It’s thought for another article but is an interesting discussion point nonetheless.

Q. I constantly find myself reaching for snack food – how can I stop?

A. Breaking a bad habit can take days, weeks or months. It’s been said that it usually takes at least 21 days to break a bad habit properly.

Have you ever wondered WHY we eat snack foods – and how much better or worse we ACTUALLY feel afterwards? Its almost as if our society encourages eating foods that are BAD FOR YOU in LARGE AMOUNTS in both GOOD and BAD situations.

Have you had an amazing day where you’ve finished a deadline, made some progress in a working/social relationship, had something go really well at work? How did you celebrate?
Did you go for a slap up meal at a fancy restaurant? Or, did you head down the pub for a few lagers? Have a think about that for a minute.

Now consider the opposite. Have you had a crap day where you’ve missed a deadline, broken up with a girl/boyfriend, had something really important go so bad at work? How did you console yourself?
Did you grab a cheeky takeaway? Or did you head down the pub for a few lagers to drown your sorrows?

You see, we have been almost conditioned to use food/alcohol as BOTH reward AND a pick-me-up.

Next time there is a situation where you are drawn to NEED the snack – you should be asking yourself: Do I REALLY want this? How will I FEEL after I’ve had this UNHEALTHY SNACK
We need to get ourselves out of these habits, and actually think about what we are eating, when we are eating it, and how much we should be eating.

On a different note, (and another article!) If you already have unhealthy food in your house, then it is 10 times easier to consume it than not. Cut it out at the source (the shopping list) and go from there.

Q. I have a friend who says goal setting and time management are a waste of time, do you think they can work against you?

A. Goal setting can be enormously helpful, as described in “Are you working intensely enough?” Yet, they can
become almost tedious and create another problem – rather than help sove the problem of time management in the first place! So while I think they are great tools, they need to be done the right way.

Here are some more easy tips to make sure you do not over-analyse:

Make your goals YOUR goals.

If you want to aim to earn x amount of cash a year then set out to do just that. If you value quality family time over financial gain – then don’t over analyse your target earnings and focus on spending x amount of hours a week with your family. It is YOUR goals which are important, no one elses.When you will inevitably look back, you don’t want to think: “I wish I’d done that”…..and could’ve done.

Make them brief.
Split bigger goals into smaller ones, so that they do not over whelm you and you can actually enjoy accomplishing something everyday. Try to do 1 or 2 (no more) things a day relevent to that goal and stick to it. This could be big like taking the kids shopping for the day or just buying them a small toy.

Start with the end in mind
Imagine that you have actually completed this goal, and the feeling that you will get when you have done it. You will feel a sense of satisfaction that will spur you on. You can work backwards from this end scenario if it makes it easier

Make your goals specific
If you do not know where you are – you will not know how far you have to go – or how far you have come! Create landmarks that indicate you have reached certain levels and are really progressing.

Make your goals flexible
Life happens! Things will come up that you never expected – at the worst possible times! Goals need to be able to be put on hold, so that we do not break down or self destruct.

We need to remember that while planning is needed, we often rush into making rules for ourselves that are not entirely thought through. Spend a bit of time, identifying what the right moves are, and make sure they help you get what you ultimately want. We can make more money – but we cannot create more time.

John Cammish (B.S.C) is a local East Yorkshire Fitness Bootcamp Instructor and real-world fat loss expert. He has helped countless individuals change their lives through postive habits with a focus on tried and tested methods. For more details about Personal Training, Fitness Bootcamps, Free Articles and more – check his website (www.yournextlevelfitness.co.uk) and his Bootcamp Blog (blog.yournextlevelfitness.co.uk).

References

1 Gusi N, Raimundo A, Leal A. (2006) Low-frequency vibratory exercise reduces the risk of bone fracture more than walking: a randomized controlled trial. BMC Musculoskelet Disord.Nov 30;7:92.

2 Bullock N, Martin DT, Ross A, Rosemond CD, Jordan MJ, Marino FE. (2008) Acute effect of whole-body vibration on sprint and jumping performance in elite skeleton athletes.J Strength Cond Res. Jul;22(4):1371-4.

3 Nordlund MM, Thorstensson A. (2007) Strength training effects of whole-body vibration? Scand.J Med Sci Sports. Feb;17(1):12-7

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Q and A: October

Q. You have stated in a previous article that bodypump is not ideal. If this is the case, then why do you still teach it?

A. Good Question!

First off, I feel most of the Bodypump format is excellent. It uses free weights and teaches basic essential exercises with reasonably good technique on many of the lifts. However, it does have its limitations: Top-half squats, chest presses, lunges, and partial range deadlifts are not optimal, and can compromise joints by weakening strength curves. Flexibility issues are key here, so in a class setting I can see why these movements are restricted – yet these can be overcome in the gym. Bodypump also teaches good control, lowering the weight properly – which you see many a 19yr old male in the gym doing quite the opposite. It does however sometime accentuate the tempo of some songs to fit the music, rather than the workout itself – which is sub-optimal.

Although the weights used are light to moderate, the weights are still heavy enough to elicit a decent effect. This is better than some circuits where you see people using 0.5kg and 1kg dumbells for exercises that require at least 5 times more intensity.

Saying this, the weights used are still too light in my opinion. The intensity is too low, and there is too much of an aerobic component to the class. There is too little scope for progression – and this is mainly due to the fact that the training protocol is made to fit the music – rather than the other way round (the way it should be!). This explains why participants have good results at first but then struggle to progress. It simply disobeys one of the main principles of training.

In the pipeline is a body conditioning class that uses slightly heavier weights and less volume, with more intensity. Contact myself for details and watch this space!

All in all, Bodypump is a lot better than most classes, as it gets women lifting moderate weights that many would not be doing otherwise. This is one fo the main reasons women see little results – so from this standpoint – it’s a good class!

Q. The other day, Me and my mate were doing shoulder presses, and this guy next to us said its better to do them standing up. We tried it and it was harder than sitting down. Is he right that it’s better to do it standing up?

A. First of all, let’s just ask ourselves what is ‘better,’ in terms of your goals. The shoulder press is an excellent exercise, and should be present in most programs. (It might not feature due to muscle imbalances, injury, pain, changing of exercises etc). When you do shoulder pressing seated, you should be able to lift either a little bit more weight or the same weight for an extra few reps due to less neural drive being ‘wasted.’ However, doing sholder presses standing, you will activate stabilising muscles, such as your abdominals and will most likely feel your legs too (if the weight is fairly heavy). Some standing movements use up a lot of energy just making sure you stay in the proper position with correct posture – or so that you don’t fall over! These isn’t necessarily ‘bad’ – just ‘different.’

So, the question “which is better” should be rephrased “which is more applicable to my goal.” One might argue that for body part split training, seated shoulder presses will be more appropriate, as you can lift with more intensity.

Also, what works for one person may not work as well for someone like yourself. This could be down to muscle fibre type, training history, strength differences in muscle groups – the list is huge. A person may be able to do standing shoulder presses just as well as the seated – or better!

While the debate of doing the same exercise differently is interesting, it will probably give somewhat minimal differences from a results-standpoint, compared to major variables such as the rep range, the intensity level, rest periods and of course diet. I recommend that these variables are focused on as they will have a greater impact on your results.

Q. Hi, I am literally going nowhere with my exercising. The weight is creeping up and I’m trying harder to keep it off but it isn’t working. What should I do?

A. When you see overweight people exercising – what are they doing? I would bet they are doing long cardio at a steady pace. This is far from ideal, and while it’s too much to answer this one question – it can actually make things worse.

Like alot of things in life – Don’t do what lots of unsuccessful people are doing… They are most likely following a flawed system! It’s like if you’re a masterchef and you’re making a bolognese with a god-awful recipe and low quality ingredients – it doesnt matter how good a chef you are. The system will still fail you. Ask yourself this, what do the successful people do? What exercises do they do? Do they eat certain foods more than others? Do they have a personal trainer? Do they get their advice from magazines? Do they walk the talk? The list goes on.

A simple model could be:

Step 1: Observe everyone.
Step 2: Copy the successful ones.
Step 3: Measure progress (how can you know if you’re improving if you can measure it?!!! This is a big problem with most trainers and their random-style workouts.)
Step 4: Were you successful?

Answer:

Yes – keep doing what you’re doing til progress slows or stops.

No – theres something you’re not doing (this could anything, for example; Not eating the right foods, not using the correct weights, not trying hard enough etc)

If this way sounds like way too much effort – search and book in with a personal trainer in your area – www.nrpt.co.uk. Have a consultation with a handful of trainers (most do these for free), and see who you agree with, get on with, and trust.

Only through measuring and evaluating can you make changes to progress at the rate YOU want.

John Cammish (B.S.C) is a local East Yorkshire Fitness Bootcamp Instructor and real-world fat loss expert. He has helped countless individuals change their lives through postive habits with a focus on tried and tested methods. For more details about Personal Training, Fitness Bootcamps, Free Articles and more – check his website (www.yournextlevelfitness.co.uk) and his Bootcamp Blog (blog.yournextlevelfitness.co.uk).

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Q and A: September

Q. What are the 3 biggest training mistakes you see in the gym.

A. 1. Progression – lack of it.

Those who have read my article ‘Are you working intensely enough will have an idea of what I am talking about. People often think that just because a gym instructor has written them a program, they expect that they’ll lose fat / gain muscle etc. if they do that program and no more. This should be a starting point. Week upon week or even workout to workout you should be striving to get that extra rep, moving more weight, or cutting your rest periods. (Thus doing the same amount of work in less time, or more work per unit of time).

A program is only as good as the time it takes your body to adapt. This means that if you do exactly the same number of reps for the same number of sets in the same amount of time, then your body will*; Lose fat / gain muscle at first (if its challenging); But will stop losing fat / gaining muscle when it becomes too easy. Therefore, progression is crucial.

* Diet factors remaining consistent in an effective structure

Therefore, you should always have a pen and paper with you when you work out, monitoring sets, reps, resistance and cardio levels (unless you are hitting all your maximums and the rest period is the training variable). If you’re working out with someone and you aren’t recording this information – your partner or personal trainer should be. It is only when you stop progressing that you should think about switching exercise programs.

2. Not using big compound movements.

Let’s simplify these 2 types of movement; An isoloation movement targets a specific muscle and involves one major joint. An example could be a Bicep Curl, as it targets the Biceps and the elbow is the joint involved. A compound movement works several muscles at once and involves more than one joint. An example of this could be a squat; It targets the Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes, and Calves – and the joints involved are the Hip, Knee and Ankle Joints.

The advantage of using compound movements are many;

You can use more resistance as you are using more muscle mass to execute the movement. Which do you think would be more effective at burning calories and causing short-term micro-tears in the muscles – a 20kg Bicep Curl, a 50kg Barbell Row or a bodyweight chin-up? Likewise, when the goal is strength/size or both, which movement is going to stimulate the most muscle?

VS

Admittedly, isoloation movements have their place, but they should not be over-emphasised at the expense of more important exercises. Most exercisers go to the gym 2-3 times per week, and at that frequency – compound movements win when we want to prioritize and use our time effectively.

3. Third is probably that people tend to do too much aerobic exercise. Don’t misunderstand me(!), Cardio has its place, but for long-term success – long-duration cardio should have a lower priority than resistance training. This is because our bodies can burn muscle instead of fat – which is why overall body weight is not a good indicator of progress. People are more often than not, getting too much cardio exercise and not getting enough resistance training in their schedule. Step in a commercial gym on a monday night and you’ll see the cardio section jam-packed with people, many of which aren’t doing any resistance work at all!

People feel that they need to work up a sweat on the cario machines to be doing any good. Many people do not realise you can do cardio with weights!! This will not only burn calories, but it will urge your body to keep its fat-free mass (lean muscle tissue), thus keeping your metabolism high – burning calories when you are doing nothing! Bodypump is a good (but not ideal) example of this, keeping rest intervals short, but utilising weights as its mode for work which is preferable to say, this:

Bear in mind that I’m not saying that low intensity work should be avoided – but it should be less of a priority than high intensity exercise.

Q. I’ve seen people training on fitballs – what are your views on this?

A. The biggest problem I see with fitballs (or swiss ball) is that the trainee/client has to significantly reduce the load involved, and the ‘gimmick’ factor.

People fail to realise that weights are vital to losing fat as they make the body hold onto muscle and burn fat as its fuel for exercise. The weights need to be heavy enough to cause this adaptation, and light enough as to not cause injury. If the weights involved are extremely light, then this may as well qualify as very low-intensity cardio!

When using a fitball, say in a dumbell chest press, you may have to reduce the load by as much as 50% depending on balance, starting strength and bodyweight. Critics will argue that it recruits more stabilizers which is debatable, but you have to look at the bigger picture: You are not going to cause significant micro tears in the muscles to either a) grow larger or b) cause energy to be used repairing these muscles (which is beneficial to fat loss).

Secondly, I see trainers that recommend that the swiss ball is ‘the best way to get a six-pack’.

Heres the best exercise for a six-pack: ‘The Plate Push’… Push that plate of french fries away from your mouth!

The swiss ball is simply another tool in a toolbox to ‘change up,’ introduce variety or add instability to an exercise, or it can be used when people find the floor uncomfortable. As long as it is challenging, and the individual is doing the exercise safely, then it is beneficial. When bodyweight crunches get too easy (i.e. you can do more than 15-20 slow and controlled easily, then you need to add weight to those crunches!) The swiss ball has become a bit of a gimmick when trainers start pushing these exercises, when missing essential lifts like squats, presses and pulls. The same can be said for Bosu’s and stability disks. They can be beneficial as a stabilty TOOL, but the more they are used instead of the essentials, you are going to see results in terms of fat loss stagnate – or even deteriorate.

Q. I lead a pretty stressful life. Do you have any tips that can reduce my stress levels?

A. Stress is inevitable in todays world. Interestingly in 2006/7, 13.8 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, anxiety and depression (http://www.stress-ip.co.uk/FactsandFigures.htm). The average 7yr old child has probably already seen thousands of televison adverts. We have to filter all of this out and get done what we need to get done… and quicker than in the past. Excess Cortisol is the main stress hormone (coupled with adrenaline), and can lead to lack of quality sleep, and this can cause disturbances within the body. One of the best tips is to discharge all of the possible magnetic fields in the area where you sleep. This means turning off all things electrical: clocks, TV’s, mobile phones etc. Then make the room as dark as possible, like a cave. Get thick felt curtains, disable the landing light – whatever you have to do.

Secondly, Time management is key. A paper and pen can go a long way, but there are effective methods to get more done in less time = leaving you more time to relax – or more time to do what you need to do.

Q. I’m really into my fitness and have recently completed a Personal Trainer course – is there any advice you can give me to help me succeed?

A. First off, congratulations on wanting to help others change their bodies for the better, and get healthier all-round.

I have a handful of tips:

1. You are your own best business card. People will simply not come to you if you are overweight, out-of-shape, and do not train properly or frequently enough. Similarly, you should not be so weak that you cannot fight your way out of a wet paper bag. Ask yourself this: Would you pay a significant amount of money and time for someone to tell you what to do, when they can’t get it to work for themselves?

If your rear looks like this – people probably aren’t going to want your advice on fat loss

2. Practice what you preach. If you have certain ‘rules’ that you state – stand by them. For example, if you tell clients to do a movement a particular way – don’t be seen training differently – unless its backed up by a reason (for example, individual circumstances such as injury, different training goal etc). Do not be a hypocrite.

3. Back up your advice. State WHY the client should do this workout; with these exercises; for this many reps; and this many sets. I hate it when I see trainers jumping clients from one exercise to another with no purpose at all. Also, Remember this (in contrast to rule 1), A trainer can look good but might not be able to coach clients properly. You are not there for clients every hour of the day, so you need to get them prepared to face the gym and the world on their own.

Jay Cutler may be able to lift heavy things – but he may not necessarily be the one to get your bad habits to change

4. Continually strive to learn all you can keep up to date. Strength, nutrition, and the whole exercise field is constantly changing. New research is being done all the time, so always keep up your education: Attending seminars from top coaches, reading books, recent research papers etc.

A lot of what was found 40 years ago is becoming obsolete, and many experiments have various flaws such as training effects, sample sizes, sample populations, diet controls etc etc. For every experiment that happens, the media will sensationalise a part of this – without looking at the study as a whole. Keep up-to-date and don’t get left behind!

 

 

John Cammish (B.S.C) is a local East Yorkshire Fitness Bootcamp Instructor and real-world fat loss expert. He has helped countless individuals change their lives through postive habits with a focus on tried and tested methods. For more details about Personal Training, Fitness Bootcamps, Free Articles and more – check his website (www.yournextlevelfitness.co.uk) and his Bootcamp Blog (blog.yournextlevelfitness.co.uk).

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10 Ways to change it up

 

Do you get bored easily in the gym? Do you find yourself doing the same exercises, over and over – with no hunger to lift weights? This article is intended to make your gym workout fun, offering a few ideas you may not have thought of.

Some people prefer to stay at home and exercise!

While I do encourage variety – there is no substitute for a structured program geared towards a specific goal. The emphasis here would be to try a few of these ideas at the end of a workout, or even for a few sessions in-between periods of structured periodisation. The aim of this article is to generate more ideas, providing motivation as opposed to flat out results – although for those who have been on the same program for years, good results often follow!

1. Opposite Training

A few questions for you:

What current rep scheme are you on at the moment? (1-6 / 6-12 / 12-20 / 20+)

What type of exercises are you using at the moment (Mainly Isolation / Mainly Compound / Both)

What type of split are you on? (Full body 3 x a week / Upper + Lower 4 x a week / Push + Pull 4 x week etc)

What rest period are you using? (No rest / 15-30s / 30-60 / 1-2 / 3+)

How many sets are you doing per muscle group per week? (1-6 / 6-12 / 12+)

This is how doing ‘opposite training’ works and it’s very simple! Lets say you’re currently doing:

Full body routine:

3 sets of 15
(1 exercise per bodypart)
30 seconds rest
1 hour session
3 times a week.

You’re due a change so this is where it radically changes! Instead, you’re going to do the opposite to what you’ve before – as different as possible. There is no point going from 15 reps to 13 reps – this must be a big change…..opposite if you can.

This might look like:

Split program: Day 1 = Chest and Triceps; Day 2 = Back and Biceps; Day 3 = Legs and Shoulders;

6 sets of 3
2 exercises per bodypart)
2 min rest
30 min session
6 times a week

Sounds simple? Try it for a few sessions in-between structured programs for 6-8 weeks. The reason that results come quickly with this method is because it provides a fresh stimulus that the body has to try to adapt to. Many male trainees complain about not getting stronger when they’re doing 3 sets of 15. Do some opposite training and watch the strength go up!

Note: Always warm up thoroughly when using heavy weights.

2. Start Position Changed

Sounds simple – change the start position of the exercise. Let me remind you that simple and easy are totally different. This simple technique can set off alarm bells that you are rushing your exercises, causing a weak point in your strength curve.

Typical Example: Barbell squat

Have the bar racked at a height where it would be at the bottom part of your squat.

Setup as normal, but in the ‘bottom’ position: Heels around hip-width; Tension between Shoulder blades; Straight Back; Bar resting on Shoulders; Knees flexed; Heels stay on the floor;

Extend up smoothly, pause, and drop down under control, and pause – around 1 inch above the safety pins. Thats 1 rep.

The fact that you spend more time in the ‘down’ position increases the tension and adds a stimulus without adding weight or reps etc.

This has a truly functional aspect, as we rarely lower heavy objects to the floor and then pick them back up. We nearly always pick heavy things up from the floor to use on a higher level i.e in front of us. Heavy objects are usually on the floor!

This can be done with many exercises: Chest press, lunges, DB rows etc.

3. Bands and Chains

Exercises gotten too easy? Bands and chains to the rescue!

These tools are especially useful when tryin to break through plateaus as some trainees get stronger in different parts of movements. For example: Say that 2 men can both full squat the same weight for the same number of reps, yet one struggles at the bottom of the squat (‘in the hole’) and the other struggles at the top of the squat (in the upper third). The bands will be more useful to the second man – as this is his weak point that needs training – and the tension is highest as the top of the bands (when handles are under the feet).

The first man would probably benefit from partial low squats and hack squats to strengthen his weak point (the bottom third of the squat).

These can be also be used for push ups, lunge-walks and all sorts of other exercises.

4. Pair exercises together, or use Complexes.

You can easily pair exercises together to get a cardio-effect, without compromising the resistance involved. This is a method I employ when somebody is craving their usual ‘cardio-fix,’ but they are already over-doing it on the cardio machines.

Simply do two or three exercises in a row – with no rest in-between.

The weights used should be heavy enough that you cannot do more than 10-12 reps – If you are not breathing heavy by the end of the second or third exercise……It’s not heavy enough!

Rest between pairings can then be altered depending on the fitness of the individual.

This method can be especially handy when you can use the same pair of dumbells for 2 different exercises. This method can save time, burn more calories and leave you gasping for air. Its important to note that if you are limited to a certain piece of equipment, eg 1 set of dumbells, that you don’t neglect one exercise for the other.

For example it would be foolish to squat with 40kg dumbells only to find you won’t be able to do your lateral raises with them. Likewise, doing lateral raises with 12kg dumbells is all well and good but not if you then start squatting with them when you can squat 3-4 times that weight. The pairing of exercises have to be well suited – and balanced in terms of the whole program. For example, doing chest in every pairing can lead to muscle imbalances – See Don’t be a hunchback!

Complexes are when multiple exercises are sequenced together, with the same resistance – your hands should never leave the bar!

An example might be:

Cleans x 8
Front Squats x 8
Push Presses x 8
Lunges x 8 each leg
Rows x 8

This complex incorporates big muscle groups and are similar resistance levels. As stated before it would be foolish to try and do an exercise like front raises with a weight you would struggle to clean. The key is getting the correct weight and using similar exercises, generally not using the same body part twice in a row for fat loss.

5. Tempo training

Tempo training can be highly effective when done properly. It is also the main component of bodypump – A popular cardio class using weights.

Tempo is often mis-used by many trainees, often swinging weights around using their bodies momentum – not their muscles. This method soon teaches someone how to lift properly and is incredibly simple. Various tempos can be used depending on the specific individual training goal.

It is important to note that various speeds can have both positive and negative effects. For example slowing the speed down can be effective for someone who rushes exercises, but will be extremely detrimental for an athlete that relies on power – for example, a Shot Putter.

6. Unilateral exercises

Unilateral exercises are very often neglected in both commerical and ‘sweat-and-sawdust’ type gyms. They’re underated as a sport specific tool, and are tough. Case in point – Lunges.

Ask someone that you think is a strong squatter to lunge with 60-75% of the weight and see what happens. Lunges are hard work, as they require strength and balance. If you find them easy, chances are…….. you’re doing them wrong. I must say that 99% of of the people I see doing lunges, are doing them ineffectively. Top tip: You are working the FRONT LEG.

If you are already doing unilateral exercises – try them one at a time!

You’ve mastered the dumbell bench press and are looking for an alternative way – here comes the 1 arm-bench press.

Set up in the same way you would a dumbell bench press, only with one dumbell up in the air in the right hand.

Lower the right-hand side dumbell down to around chest height and explode up.

Try to keep balanced, not allowing the left-hand side of your body to come up off the bench. Tip: Place the left hand on your left hip and maintain that shape
When done with the right arm – switch to the left arm and do the same number of reps.
If you cannot to the same number of reps on both arms, the weakest arm should be done first – and the stronger arm only doing the pre-set number of reps.
You should need to come down around 25-40% from your usual bench press weight depending on your strength and balance.

Again, movements like standing shoulder presses, 1-leg squats etc all add variety and a new stimulus to workouts.

7. Fitball / discs

While I personally think fitballs and inflatable discs are overated from a fat loss point of view, they are useful for balance, injury rehab – and of course can be a lot of fun! The problem with them is when heavy resistance training gets substituted by an exercise of ‘holding a weight in one hand, kneeling on a fitball.’ What’s the purpose of this exercise? Don’t say ‘It works the core’ – this can be done a lot more efficiently using heavy weights in certain positions. However, these exercises can be added in at the end of workouts, and sometimes used for a week or two before going back to more efficient methods.

Examples could be Bench press on a fit ball etc.

The weight of the dumbells will have to be reduced by 30-50% depending on individual strength and balance.

8. Random workouts

Feel like leaving it to the gods to map out your workout? All you need is:

You can create your own (endless) system to randomly create your own workout. For example, 2 throws:

Roll the dice twice:

1 = squats 2 = deadlifts 3 = DB Chest Press 4 = DB Rows 5 = Shoulder presss 6 = Lat pull down

Superset these movements, one after the other until you reach your target rep total. For example 32 (4 x 8).

It’s important to note that muscle groups should be balanced, so that every muscle group gets hit over the week and/or training session. With the above example, It would make sense to roll the dice twice, and superset these exercises. Then, roll again – but not using the same number twice – unless you’re adopting a split routine.

This is the tip of the ice berg when trying to create your own random session. Reps, Rest periods, vertical pushing and pulling movements etc etc can be manipulted if necessary.

9. Vary your grips

The grip strength of an individual can be the weak link in an exercise. Grip can be worked on directly (going beyond the scope of this article) but regularly changing grip styles can help overcome sticking points. Also using thicker bars, and towels can help the rate of improvement.

10. Real – life work

Sometimes it’s nice to get outdoors, and get some fresh air whilst working away. Lifting objects such as sandbags, barrells, tyres – anything at all! Chopping wood and DIY-type activities like wheel barrowing cement etc are good too. As long as there’s sufficient resistance and not a lot of rest, a workout can be created! Steps and sprints make for great cardio workouts, while sled pulls and sled pushes are great.

Hopefully, now, you should never be bored to exercise. Try incorporating some of these ideas into your routines or in between programs.

Now go get to it.

John Cammish (B.S.C) is a local East Yorkshire Fitness Bootcamp Instructor and real-world fat loss expert. He has helped countless individuals change their lives through postive habits with a focus on tried and tested methods. For more details about Personal Training, Fitness Bootcamps, Free Articles and more – check his website (www.yournextlevelfitness.co.uk) and his Bootcamp Blog (blog.yournextlevelfitness.co.uk).

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Training for Muscle

 

As a personal trainer, I am overwhelmed with questions, but a certain two keep coming up time and time again. Yes, you’ve guessed it: Number one is ‘How do I lose fat?’ A close 2nd is ‘How do I gain more muscle?’ After all, the majority of us would like a little bit of both.

This article will outline some of the variables you will need to manipulate to put on any appreciable amount of muscle. It will address nutrition, training variables and psychological issues that will affect your progress. This is not comprehensive by any means – but provides the simple concepts that are crucial for muscle growth.

Need for muscle

First off, you need to make your body want to keep its existing muscle mass, and need to add extra muscle mass. Getting your body to do this is difficult as stated in Are you prepared to work intensely enough?. This means:

1) Using weights that are heavy enough to maximise Strength
2) Using weights that are moderate-to-heavy to maximise Hypertrophy (size)
3) Managing total volume to ensure optimal recovery (Not overtraining)
4) Training frequently enough so that de-training (understimulation if muscle) does not occur

You need to remember that your body will not grow unless it thinks it can and that it has to.

Progress is key, in that as you get stronger, you should be aiming to increase the weight as soon as you hit your target with proper form (technique).

Intensity

It is imperative that you emphasise increasing the weight as opposed to upping repititions (Reps) or cutting your rest periods. Weight determines intensity. The higher the % you can lift of your 1-rep max (The weight you can lift only once) in that exercise is the intensity you are working at.

For example, If you can lift 100kg for 1 rep in the bench press and tomorrow you do a set of 1 rep at 100kg; Intensity = 100%. If you can lift 100kg for 1 rep and tomorrow you do a set of 10 with 70kg; Intensity = 74.4% (providing this was 10-rep max).

The number of different programs that can be created goes beyond the scope of this article, but the main point is that intensity needs to be kept high. Intensity will maximise the likelihood of your body retaining it’s muscle mass and furthermore, will try to adapt to get stronger. This is because maximal lifting improves your neural strength; It is the nervous system that is getting trained. Imagine your body as muscles, with chains pulling the muscles to do what you want to do. The thicker and more chains you have, the more force you will be able to produce, and the stronger you will be!

With maximal lifting you ‘train the chains’

This means utilising reps between 1 and 5 (85-100%) and having any number of sets per muscle group depending on the split of the overall program. Again, the number of options are endless, but an example could be on a chest and back day using 8 x 3 (8 sets of 3) for 2 compond movements (Movements using more that 1 joint) For example, bench press 8 x 3 and barbell row 8 x 3. Rest periods should be no less than 5 minutes to ensure proper recovery and maximise the chance you will get the most out of your next set. Those wishing to cut their workout time or maximise recovery even further can alternate exercises.

Example:
1a) Bench press
1b) BB row

This means:
1) Perform 1a
2) Rest
3) Perform 1b
4) Rest
5) Repeat

You can cut the workout time so if you were resting 5 mins between straight sets, you could rest 2:30 and alternate. This would give 5 mins rest til the same movement was done again. If you alternate, and still rest 5 mins between all sets, you will get Approx 10 mins rest between the same exercise, which would mean you are more likely to hit your target and increase the weight the next session.

I can hear all the guys shouting now ” We dont care about training the chains! We want to get to the muscles!” The reason behind maximal lifting is that the use of very heavy weights will mean you can lift more weight when you train the muscles!

Training the muscles

To work the muscles, exercises should be using reps between 6 and 12. This enables more blood flow to get to the muscles without compromising the intensity of the set. IE if you used a weight you can lift 30 times, this is likely to make your body rely more on the cardiovascular system (less on the muscles), and will reduce the likelihood of your body adapting to keep muscle. Does 50% intensity (or even less) sound like hard work?

The focus here is B don’t confuse intensity with intenseness. Intenseness prolongs fatigue in the muscles – which can be useful to break plateaus but shouldn’t be relied upon. (Bodypump is a good example of this, although it focuses more on the cardiovascular component which is why participants get good results at first).

You may have heard of drop-sets, pyramid sets, 21’s and a whole list of other techniques – these are methods that should be used to break plateaus – not used as staples of a program unless you’re quite advanced (e.g more than 3-5 years of regular lifting). The more experienced you are, the more you can use them, and the more effective they’ll be. If you’re a male, Can you 1-rep max at least 1.2 x your Bodyweight in the Bench press? Can you 1-rep max at least 1.5 x your Bodyweight in the parallel Squat? Can you 1-rep max at least 1.8 x your Bodyweight in the Deadlift? If not, I’d recommend getting your relative strength up to these starting levels as a general guideline. (Typically, the heavier you are the harder it is to attain these numbers, as will having a high bodyfat %).

Don’t know your 1-rep max? Use the table above to estimate your 1 rep max (Tip: try to manage 3 or 4 reps at your heaviest weight and use this value, the higher reps you do the less accurate the estimate will be – and try to have a friend or instructor with you for safety).

Volume

Volume can be defined as “the amount of work done by a muscle group or whole body in a fixed unit of time (usually a week). Volume is useful, as it works well when done properly. Say for example, on a low-rep strength training day you were doing sets of 3 and you do 3 sets. This amount of volume would be insignificant unless this was done very frequently, (eg 4-5 times a week). Depending on the split of the program, if you are training strength you are likely to require less variety in a session and more volume, and with sets of 3 – around 8-12 sets. This would total 24-36 reps which is a good target at this intensity. Similarly, If you were doing 8-rep sets you could perform 3-6 sets (24-48 reps). However, bear in mind that these are lower intensity sets than say sets of 3. It depends on the overall structure of the program as and when to use different intensities.

Typical hypertrophy like 3 sets of 10 (total = 30 reps) are everywhere at gyms, they are a good start but are fairly low intensity when trying to train for size and strength and can be done quite frequently. The bigger problem is that trainees don’t try to progress, and some people even think that sitting on a tricep kickback machine will melt their batwings – simply because it’s called ‘a machine!’

Frequency

Frequency is simply how many times a muscle group or the whole body is worked in a given amount of time (usually a week). High frequency stimulates the muscle regularly and can often causes hypertrophy. However, constant high frequency can cause overtraining – especially when doing excessive amounts of low-rep training with little rest.

There is an infinite amount of programs you could do, as the following variables can be manipulated:

Rep range
Rep tempo
Rest Periods
Volume (number of sets)
Exercise Type (Compound vs. Isolation)
Number of Exercises (1,2,3,etc per bodypart)
Types of movement (What plane the movement is in)
Exercise order
Variable rest/rep schemes
Advanced technique additions
Bi-lateral / Uni-lateral exercises
Any number of split programs (What days what exercises are done)
This also doesn’t include other factors such as cardio types and nutrition etc. so there are a lot of options!

Full body programs are where all muscle groups are worked within one session. They usually have between 1-5 sets, but this can vary depending on the movements trained and the goal of the session (eg strength or hypertrophy). A split program is where body parts are broken up into groups to be worked on in separate sessions. Below are some the advantages of both types of program.

Full body advantages

1.Full body exercise is ideal for beginners, as it gives a regular conditioning effect.

Trainees need time to adjust to lifting weights, so that the tendons and ligaments do not get damaged. Regular lifting to all body parts will provide a strong yet safe stimulus, giving the trainee a platform to progress from.

2. Often more applicable to sports

The whole body is rarely separated during sports, and working the whole body at once could have some carryover and improve performance. Also, movements between bodyparts can be practiced and can therefore be integrated easily.

3. Working large muscle groups release more natural growth hormone

A split program may have days dedicated to ‘arms’ or ‘shoulders,’ and smaller muscle groups typically result in less natural growth hormone output than when working large muscles. It may be beneficial to group these smaller body parts with bigger muscles to enhance hormonal output.

4. Is likely to be more advantageous from a fat loss point of view

More muscles are used, and also significantly bigger muscles are used – resulting in more calories burned and more muscle breakdown occurring. The extra muscle breakdown will mean that more energy is used to repair your muscles and therefore lose fat. Also, when large muscles are worked and rest periods are short, more lactate is produced which appears to magnify fat burning.

5. Absence scenario

If a workout is missed (due to kids, work, weather, motivation(!)) It’s easier to get back into training, whereas some trainees are accustomed to working bodyparts on set days – especially true if training with a partner. Full body training can start when the session starts and end when the session ends.

6. Bodyparts aren’t missed.

With full body split, trainees like variety and will actually work their legs. “Hey It’s legs day, and legs days hurt so I’m gonna just do Chest and Biceps!” In full body training, you might say “My arms are hurting now, I think I’ll lay off them while I do my lunges while my arms recover.”

7. Don’t get as sore

Full body workouts, (when done regularly) typically do not cause the kind of soreness that leaves you feeling like you’ve been in a car crash. DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) can leave you not wanting to return to the gym, and this could actually be worse if you’re the kind of person that can get de-motivated or lazy).

8. Easy to add exercises

Some exercises stimulate more than one muscle group, and it can be difficult know where to place them. For example, Deadlifts: Is it a Leg or back exercise? It’s essentially both, but which day will you do them? In full body training it doesn’t matter!

9. Increased frequency

Although full body sessions are less intense than split programs, there is increased frequency which may be better suited for some individuals. This is especially true if you are not doing enough volume, and that bodypart may not get stimulated for another 3-7 days.

Split program advantages

1. Can give maximum effort

A whole session can be dedicated to a body part and therefore the trainee can perform at a maximum intensity level. Rest periods can be at their maximum, and you will be confident you have done all you can for that muscle group in that session.

2. Can be more frequency

Although there is more frequency to each muscle on a full body program, a split program enables a trainee to get in the gym as often as they want. 6 days a week; Morning and Afternoon for 4 days with and 3 days off; Morning and Afternoon x 2 a week and Morning x 2 a week………The options are many – to say the least.

3. Flexible

Can fit well into a persons schedule if they have other committments. For example, say a trainee can only train Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday; If a full body workout was done, many of the days quality would be reduced. Also, If someone can get in to the gym 6-7 days a week but only for 20-30 minutes, splits will work better as you’d have been training the same muscle groups on back-to-back days with a full body program.

4. Soreness

Usually produces more soreness or DOMS – some people like the feeling some people hate it! While the feeling can be awkward, sometimes feeling the muscle the next day provides you with a signal of achievement, and sometimes a sign that you need to lift with more intensity on a regular basis, or gradually increasing intensity rather than ramping it up straight away.

5. Advanced techniques

It’s easier to do High intensity techniques such as dropsets, supersets, tri-sets etc. These can be used at the end of a session, or when finishing a body part in particular. New techniques or tools can be used, knowing that it will not interfere with other body parts.

6. Less fatigue to particular body parts

On a full body workout the later exercises often suffer – On splits, you get to identify if you have a weakness in a body part – not just that you’re generally tired from the past 40 mins of other exercises.

7. Specialization / Strengthen a weak area

A full body program trying to strengthen body parts/bring up weak parts could cause a problem in that reps, exercises, intensities, and other muscle exercises will cloud progress clues. A split program allows you to dedicate more days to a weak body part to bring it up to standard, and usually results come quicker as other parts are kept at maintenance levels.

8. Body parts might not get overused

Joints such as shoulders and elbows may get too much frequency on full body programs as they are worked 3 -4 times a week.

Exercises

When training for size and strength, the exercises where you can lift the heaviest weights need to be emphasised. This means deadlifts, squats (link), presses, dips, pulls and lunge variations. Exerices such as Bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, wrist curls etc. are of secondary importance as the resistances involved are insignificant in comparison. What will build big powerful legs… A 45kg leg extension or a 120kg squat?

This guy squats

Nutrition

Nutrition is more than likely the limiting factor for most trainees. Have you heard of homeostasis? In summary, your body wants to maintain a balance so that it can stabilise and survive with minimal effort. With the goal of building muscle in mind, your body will not build extra muscle unless it thinks it needs it to survive and can afford to build it. You can’t build a house without bricks and you cannot build muscle without adequate protein.

What house is your body?

Athough protein will be looked at in further depth in the next article here is some basic protein information. Protein can be used to build muscle, or it can be used to make cells involved in metabolic reactions, or can be broken down and used as energy. To enourage our bodies to use it for muscle we need to train hard and heavy. Protein is made up of amino acids, which cannot be stored – they can only be stored as muscle if your body needs muscle. Otherwise, protein is likely to be used for things such as the manufacture of red blood cells and enzymes, even for supplying energy to muscles if calorie intake is low.

In a nutshell one should consume adequate amounts of protein as it promotes muscle mass, and it should be consumed regularly to prevent muscle breakdown in between.

Carbohydrates are a source of energy that burns quickly, and therefore become increasingly important with hard intense exercise and doubly so, as they spare the use of proteins as fuel. Therefore as a rule of thumb we should be consuming carbohydrates around workouts to spare protein. However, too much carbohydrate intake often leads to increased fat gain and so needs to be monitored. If you know a bodybuilder, you may see him or her stuffing their face with various foodstuffs and if you ask why… you’ll be greeted with “I’m bulking!” This is likely to result in excessive fat gain and is not advised as it will take just as long to shed the fat as it took to gain the muscle and said trainee will be back to square one. You can gain muscle and lose fat at the same time with sound eating habits and hard work – doing the right things (i.e not wasting your time).

Fats certainly get a bad reputation because of their high calorie content (9kcal = fat vs. 4kcal = protein; 4 kcal = carbohydrate). They tend to be burned a very low intensity exercise – mainly walking, resting and sleeping! Fats help make us the outer layer of every cell in your body so they are necessary. Fat intake should not alter that much as our requirement will not change significantly, however if healthy fat intake is low or the individual is fairly underweight to start with, this may need to be looked at further.

If an individual is struggling to gain significant muscle, as stated previously it is predominantly the diet that will be the limiting factor. Getting enough calories from healthy foods is hard and can be very hard for others.

Try this; Log your daily kcals into an online calculator such as fitday or nutritiondata and see if your intake comes close to your GDA (Guideline Daily Amounts). These are 2000kcal for women and 2500 for men (these are rough values to say the least as they do not take into account bodyweights or even muscle mass for that matter). However, as a rough estimate you can see if you are getting nearly enough quality calories in.

Summary

In summary, if you are struggling to add lean muscle or want to bump up your metabolic rate – try increasing your intensity, and possibly your training volume. Full body programs and splits both have their place – choose what is suitable for your individual circumstances. Your diet will also play a major part, but your starting bodyfat levels will need to be addressed when changing macronutrient levels.

If you wish to discuss this article, or find out more on the subject of health and fitness – feel free to contact me.

John Cammish (B.S.C) is a local East Yorkshire Fitness Bootcamp Instructor and real-world fat loss expert. He has helped countless individuals change their lives through postive habits with a focus on tried and tested methods. For more details about Personal Training, Fitness Bootcamps, Free Articles and more – check his website (www.yournextlevelfitness.co.uk) and his Bootcamp Blog (blog.yournextlevelfitness.co.uk).
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Are You Prepared to work intensely enough?

What would you say if I told you that you could make solid and consistent gains in your sports performance/body composition goals, by purchasing equipment costing no more than 3 quid? You’d probably laugh and ask:

a) What’s the catch?

Or

b) Is it legal?!!

The tools I’m referring to are perfectly legal, and extremely simple to use. They can be used to monitor your progress, and give you the signal that tells you to increase your exercise intensity or volume, decrease your rest periods, increase your cardio – or completely change your program altogether. They can also highlight any mistakes you’re making with your diet, such as nutrient timing, portion sizes and total calorie intake. They can be easily carried around in a trouser pocket, so you can even analyse your training when waiting doing nothing.

So what are these tools?

These items are so cheap and easy to use it’s ridiculous! I see people in the gym working their guts out, but they are doing the same workout week after week, month after month. You couldn’t count how many times I’ve heard “My weight’s just not coming down.”

My 2 responses to this statement are “Whats your diet like?” and “Are you doing more than last week?” If you aren’t lifting heavier, lifting more reps, or cutting your rest time – then why not? Can you even remember exactly what you did in last week’s workouts? A pen and paper can eliminate this problem right away.

“But I don’t have time”

Let’s be honest, If you don’t have time to write the number of repetitions you did for your last set…… you aren’t resting enough – and if you don’t need rest – YOU ARE NOT WORKING INTENSELY ENOUGH!!!! (Even if you are doing circuit training, you can note where you didn’t hit your targets).

Are you actually setting targets?

Targets, or goals can drastically improve both your strength, your muscle gain, your fat loss and your sport-specific training goals. Do you go to the gym and just think “I’m going to spend 30 minutes doing some weights, and then I’ll do 30 minutes cardio?” Do you go one further and aim for a target, for example: I’ll aim to run for 30 minutes non-stop at a speed of 8 km/hr.” Do you go one even better and record it using your trusty pen and paper?

Goal-setting is extremely important, and it is crucial you stick to some rules when making your goals. Remember to be SMARTER than your average gym-goer.

Your goals need to be:

S Specific
M Measureable
A Agreed
R Realistic
T Time-based
E Exciting
R Recorded
Specific

Your goal need to be SPECIFIC for what your SPECIFIC goal is. If this is fat loss, it should not be ‘to lose more fat.’ It needs to be SPECIFIC in that it states a specific thing, (usually a number,) for example: I want to lose 2% my of body fat.

Measureable

Your goal needs to be measurable so that you know when you have achieved your goal! It’s no use saying that you want to lose 2% of your body fat, when you don’t know if you’ve lost it or not! This is important also, as if progress is too small – you know you need to progress more quickly; If your progress is extremely fast, you may be losing muscle as well as fat = not good. See my article Are you a class junkie? to see how excess cardiovascular activities can seriously disrupt your schedule and your priorities.

Agreed

Your goal needs to be agreed, whether between you and your trainer, or with yourself only. You need to make sure that you, and only you, are accountable for your actions. Its pointless to set a goal that be affected by other things that are out of your control. For instance, if you want to lose 2% body fat but you know that you’re going on holiday to Florida with the wife and children tomorrow, then meals and exercise is something you could fail to control as it will be a once-in-a-lifetime holiday and you won’t want to make sacrifices. The bottom line here is that you and no one else should be accountable should failure occur.

Realistic

This ties in with the previous statement a little. You want a goal that is realistic to your situation. If you set a goal that is too demanding and you fail, it is likely you will give up altogether – thinking you’ve failed and that there is no hope for you. For example, “I want to win the london marathon next month,” is highly unlikely if you haven’t even completed a 5k run. On the flip side, set a goal that is too easy, and you will complete it so fast that you probably won’t even set the next one as it was a waste of time. Goals need to be both realistic and challenging at the same time.

Time-based

There needs to be a time period for your goal to be completed. Say, you set your ‘losing 2% body fat’ goal with no time frame. The response when failure occurs will be “I didn’t say I’d lose it by now!” Goals need to have a deadline. There should also be short and long-term goals, that work well together. For example, “I would like to drop my body fat by 2% in the next 6 weeks, but eventually drop it by 7% in 6 months.”

Exciting

Goals need to be exciting in that they motivate you to try to complete them. Imagery can be useful; “Imagine what your husband/friends will say when you look good in that dress” or “Wow, if I complete this 800m race 2 seconds faster than my PB (Personal Best) then I’ll be the 9th fastest in the UK this year.”

Recorded

As stated before, a pen and paper is underated as a progress tool. True, you can use computer packages etc if you want to see progress on graphs and so on, but the take home message is this: You should know what you did in the last workout, know what you aim to do today, and did you succeed? It is only then that you can succeed in the bigger picture.

Are you working intensely enough?

We both know this is a fake grimace

First off, You need to make your body think that it needs to change.

You need to make your body think that it needs to change.

No, that wasn’t a typing error – It’s simply that important.

Ever heard of homeostasis? If not, Homeostasis is defined as ‘The tendency of a system, especially the physiological system of higher animals, to maintain internal stability, owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any situation or stimulus tending to disturb its normal condition or function. (Dictionary.com)

This loosely translated means that your body likes to be in balance, and keep all of its systems around a normal, fixed point. If your body is coping pretty well with no exercise and excess body fat – it will ‘hold on’ to this fat as it has no reason to get rid of it.

This brings about another important concept. Your body is built to survive……. It will do anything to survive.

Whether your goal is to lose fat or gain muscle, your body has survived in the state it’s in for what could be years – and can survive without losing fat or gaining extra muscle. What you need to do is work hard enough for your body to think it needs to lose fat to survive or it needs muscle to survive.

So when you next do a workout, think whether you have worked intensely enough to make a change.

Are you Prepared? (Paper and pen)

Are you setting goals and working hard to try to achieve them? (Work effort)

Are you determined to work hard enough that it makes your body want to change? (Intensity)

John Cammish (B.S.C) is a local East Yorkshire Fitness Bootcamp Instructor and real-world fat loss expert. He has helped countless individuals change their lives through postive habits with a focus on tried and tested methods. For more details about Personal Training, Fitness Bootcamps, Free Articles and more – check his website (www.yournextlevelfitness.co.uk) and his Bootcamp Blog (blog.yournextlevelfitness.co.uk).

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