Posts Tagged ‘fitness’

I often get asked by clients and friends some very similar questions;

‘what is the most important thing for me to be doing in order to get where I want?’ 
‘Should I be training 2 hours a day, every day?’ 
‘I ate like crap at the weekend Joff, do you think I should get on the treadmill for half an our to combat that?’

Here I hope to answer many of those questions by sharing with you what I and prob almost every smart coach or trainer out there would see as the holy trinity of body composition.

Before i go onto this holy trinity i want to discuss what i mean whenI talk about body composition. What I’m talking about is how much muscle mass you have in comparison to fat mass. I don’t mean how big and muscly you are,  I mean how lean you are as that is ultimately what most people are striving for. Not being the biggest or smallest but looking the best nekkid! Weight loss is a stance I detest, it can be a nice guide initially when looking to drop body fat but in the end I always ask this question;

“Would you rather weight 7-10pounds more than your ‘ideal’ weight and look fantastic or weigh 7-10 less and not look as good?” 

This is a real situation that many people, particularly women find difficult to comprehend because we are constantly told that it is our weight that matters. I could point out plenty of people who’s weight and size might be classed as normal but they may have 20-30% body fat. They in many cases would weigh less than someone of the same size who has a body fat % of somewhere between 10-15%. In the long run, with regards to health and materialistic shallow views on each other, it is the leanest that tend to win popularity and live longer lives.

So how do you reach the lean potential that many people have the right and opportunity to reach? Here are the three things that when combined will make the greatest changes on how you look and feel.

1. Training
2. Nutrition
3. Sleep/Rest

Three simple areas that when combined produce the best results. Let me explain each one then I’ll go into more detail about how they as a whole create the best of the best!

1. Training

This is a fairly simple one to explain. If you’re training program is either old, not specific enough for you, poorly periodised, or just flat out crap then you have no hope in hell in reaching your goals in the gym and the fat loss or muscle building ones you may have in relation to this.  If you are training to win mr Olympia and you’re training program sucks, then you won’t get anywhere. If you are an athlete who wants to improve your power or work rate and your program is poorly periodised or lacks progression then you will stay stagnant or even worse become injured. Or if you are like most people who set foot in the gym and just want to fit into that new dress or pair of jeans, or look good for those holiday snaps.  If you’re training program consists of 20mins of cross trainer, 20 mins of bike followed by 30 stomach crunches then progress is not going to become your middle name I’m afraid. Trust me on this, I’ve seen it a thousand times before and I have never seen any of the above examples help those individuals reach their goals.

Your training program has to be exactly that. Yours! Specific, measurable, progressive and motivating! All of these variables have to be in a program or it will fail. As Joe Ken, someone who i think is one of the most interesting coaches in the strength and conditioning world once said; “program writing is an art, and I think of myself as am artist’.  As we all know, there is a very big difference between a monet and a street corner artist selling characateurs of passage by. The same difference applies to the art of writing efficient programs.

Not only does your training program have to be spot on, you also have to train like there is no tomorrow! Brutal hard work is the only thing that separates a training program on paper from the training program in real life. If you want to succeed then you have to train like someone who desires success.

2. Nutrition

This is without a doubt as important if not more so than training. If you’re nutritional program is poor or non-existent then gains in and out of the gym will be slow if at all.  I’ll put it to you straight, and if you take anything away from this blog let it be this:

You simply cannot out train a poor diet. It doesn’t matter how many hours you put into your training each week, if you eat junk most of the time, you will look like someone who eats junk. 

Your nutrition is the largest thing in your life that a trainer or coach cannot fully control. Commitment must come from you. And must be something that you take ownership of. Saying that you don’t have the time or are bored with the choices doesn’t really cut it if you then go and choose to eat a shed load of bread, cake or chocolate and then complain that you aren’t reaching your goals. You reap what you sow when it comes to you’re nutrition and nothing short of full commitment is the one thing that separates those that reach their goals from those that don’t. It really is as simple as that.

3. Sleep/Rest

This is by far the most overlooked aspect of anyone’s body composition goals. The only time you are able to recuperate and build muscle or eat away at your body fat is after training, in the hours and days following a workout. For guys wanting to put on muscle, it has been proven that better and longer sleep increases growth hormone secretion during our sleep. Testosterone levels are highest when we are at rest and insulin sensitivity is aided by decent sleep.

Rest and sleep don’t just include the evenings and nights directly following a workout, they extend to daily stress levels as well. People who live extremely stressful lives are the ones most likely to hit a wall or plateau on their fat loss journey.  Stress levels directly affect cortisol levels in our body. Cortisol is a stress hormone secreted at times when we are under large amounts of mental or physical stress and one of the negative side effects of this hormone is that it unfortunately places a large stopper on fat loss. Making time to relax every day by doing something that you enjoy will help to lower those cortisol levels. It could be as simple as sitting in the sauna for 15 mins following your workouts to help relax the muscles and the mind. Whatever it is that you find helps keep you relaxed, practice it and use it as another tool towards your fat loss goals.

In order to make the most amount of progress in your fat loss goals then you have to fully apply all three of the above mentioned aspects. Two out of three is ok, one out of three is poor and as such will reap similar rewards.

The people that you see in the gym or on the beach who have the best physiques or sports stars who are the best in their game are the people that fully optimise the above strategies. 

I promise you that if you have the right training program tailored for you and if you train like your life depended on it whilst maintaining a strict diet free of processed foods, sugars, grains, excess dairy and included time to sleep well at night and make time for plentiful mental rest periods in your week, you will reach your goals. This is a fact. You won’t necessarily get there within a week or a month or even 3 months, but you will get there.

Take a look at your life at the moment and how your fat loss or muscle gaining goals are coming along. Are you falling short somewhere? Could you do better? If so, then why aren’t you letting yourself do better? Are mediocre results good enough for you?……

I seriously doubt it.


2011 thus far…

9 months in to the year I think it’s about time I took a step back and thought about some of the great successes that my clients have achieved so far.  We all know that January is the busiest month of the year when people start their new years resolutions with regards to their health and wellbeing.  Most fall short of their goals for one reason or another.  Below is the list of successes that my clients (some of which I have trained since January, some since long before) have achieved in the previous 9 months and are the ones who didn’t give up during the quiet times of the year and who have consistently worked hard from session number one!

In 2011 so far have helped clients lose a combined fat loss of over 11 stone, or 154 lbs if you’d rather look at it that way.  My clients have added a total combined strength increase of over 700kgs   (1543 lbs) across all lifts so far since January.  What does this strength increase mean? It means lean muscle gain. And for the ladies out there who worry that weight training will get you big, then let me tell you that that is a myth! Some of my strongest, leanest female clients are under 5’3″ and are size 8-10 with a lifting capacity of at least 1.5x their body weight. Every single week since January 1st, one or more clients of mine have beaten their personal bests in one lift or another.  Some people spend months trying to increase their ability in something, my clients have proven that with hard work, correct programming and nutrition that they can excel upon previous bests week upon week.

I have worked with competing athletes, weekend warriors, mums, dads, housewives, househusbands, the elderly and the young.

I have helped clients who have suffered with weight troubles their entire lives, make drastic changes and drop kilos of body fat and inches upon inches off their body.  I have helped them gain vast increases in self confidence, had the fortune (or misfortune for their wallets) of making these changes result in completely new wardrobes. 

I have helped older less mobile clients with hip replacements become more mobile and pain free. I have helped triathletes and marathon runners shave time off of their previous personal bests. I have helped them train consistently  pain free all year, allowing them to remain on top of their game no matter the season. I have helped football players become drastically more explosive than previous seasons.  

I have helped clients who have suffered with IBS their entire lives eradicate such problems for good. Even after doctors had told them that it is a condition they will suffer for life due to ‘stress’.  I have helped clients with mild to serious intestinal inflammation live a healthier inflammation free lifestyle. 

My clients have enjoyed energy levels higher than they have ever experienced and enjoyed the best nights sleep of their lives, some after suffering with sleeping problems for decades. I have helped clients with low thyroid function increase their bodies natural thyroid ability and even helped them lose body fat whilst not on medication. Much to the surprise of their doctors! 

I have helped clients who have suffered with back pain for years, move and sit pain free. I have helped clients who have come off the back of serious injuries rehabilitate their bodies so that they are able to get on with their daily lives in much more comfort than before. I have helped to create transformations so great that because clients have taken complete ownership of their health and wellbeing that they have gone on to make other drastic changes in their lives and have helped to inspire similar changes on their surrounding friends and family. 

These changes are why I became a personal trainer. I don’t list these things above due to some arrogant need to show off, I list things as a testament to the hard work and success of my clients. So that they might read this and see themselves in these words. I am only as successful as they are. I don’t ask for any thanks or praise as their success is all the thanks I need. Seeing my clients drop more body fat, seeing their surprised and proud faces after lifting 10kgs more on their box squat than they thought they would be able to, or having a client email me saying that they produced a new personal record in a triathlon or half marathon; these are what fuel my passion towards helping them reach their goals!

This is only a list of personal successes in the previous 9 months. Just think of the list of successes I will be able to sing from the hill tops about in another 9 months!? 

If you have personal goals relating to your health, weight or fitness then let me help you so that I can list your success story in my next update. The only thing I ask for is hard work and some self belief that what you want is achievable. Just ask my current clients, they’ll tell you that your dreams aren’t really that far off.

To your continued success!

Joff brown

I became aware very recently that my number one blog by a very long way was one on motivation and how I believe that without it, we’d struggle to really achieve anything profound. It got me thinking about the idea of motivation and why it may be important to a lot of people to read about? Are we all looking for some words to help us feel inspired or are we looking for some speech that can fully describe or explain what motivation really is? I would be inclined to say yes to both of those questions. We all want to feel inspired and this can in many instances come from all different angles.

It’s in human nature to aspire to be better or to want better things, I mean just look at how many people do the lottery each week in the small hope that choosing the right 6 numbers could improve their lives. But what is it that really separates the motivated from the unmotivated? Is it that some people are simply content with being unmotivated, safe or even trapped? Or are motivated people the thrill seeker types that need motivation in order to feel worthwhile? Or could it be that those people stuck in the middle who lack areas of motivation in their lives just haven’t found anything to feel motivated about quite yet?

We all have things that we are passionate about at certain points of our lives. I am a firm believer that if someone is not feeling motivated about anything then they have nothing to worry about. We’re all going to go through times in our lives when passion and motivation levels get low, its all part of the peaks and troughs that make up our existence. It’s not about being motivated all the time about particular goals, or even feeling the need to keep creating new goals. What is important about motivation is that we use it to the fullest when we are feeling it. That we don’t just let the moments of inspiration and determination let us pass by because of trivial worries.

Imagine yourself on your death bed, surrounded by all your friends and family. You are moments away from death. Now are you the type of person who will be able to pass with happiness and contentment because you didn’t leave any cards on the table, you did everything you could to be the best version of you? Or will you have a moment of doubt and regret because you didn’t quite fulfil a dream or expand upon an idea or group of ideals. If you are one of the latter and I’d imagine a lot of us would fit into that category, then ask yourself; ‘what can you do about it starting from today?’ Can you use the motivation you have inside of you to achieve a particular goal in your mind starting from the present? Of course you will have doubts about whether you can achieve or reach that goal, but wouldn’t you like to know what it feels like to get there?

One lesson that I have learnt above all when viewing success of others who willed themselves to get what they want against all odds is that once you reach your goals and are able to bask in the immense feeling of self worth that comes when we succeed, don’t forget the person that you were when you started the journey. My greatest heroes are people that set their minds on a goal and worked as hard as they could to get there but remained the same throughout their journey. And some of these figures I respect within my profession are true examples of this. Coach Michael Boyle, Coach Robert Dos Remedios, Coach Joe Defranco, these men are hugely successful and influential within their chosen field of strength and conditioning but continue to remain humble with the true sight that its all about helping people get better, faster, stronger, fitter, leaner and happier. A sports quote I tweeted a while back is an example of the motivation that I’m sure they teach and inspire upon their athletes:

‘Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become, the hours of practice, the coaches who pushed you, the team mates who believe in you and the fans who cheered for you, there is the little boy who fell in love with the game and never looked back. Play for him.’

Motivation of any sort is our body’s fuel to help us go that little bit further than we would normally go. That is why my last post on this topic was called ‘Motivation: The fuel that feeds our dreams.’ Motivation is that injection of desire that the machine that our mind and bodies are, need to go that extra mile or to push that little harder or faster in life. Immeasurable yet insatiable at times, without it, our fuel tanks run a little lower than normal.

What is it that feeds your motivation? What is it that motivates you to be the best that you can be?

In today’s modern fitness culture we are constantly exposed to new pieces of fancy equipment that claim to revolutionise our training, or help us to build muscle faster than previously thought methods. They range from machines enabling us to move in ‘un thought’ of planes of movement to just absolute nonsense! My newest favourite piece of gym kit that looks like absolute tat is the Shake Weight for Men! My brother recently posted on my facebook the advert for this crazy piece of equipment that is basically a dumbbell with weights that shake up and down via a spring that runs through the centre of the handle. This is only one example of the sorts of equipment out on the market that are supposed to help us get fit and strong. Most of the time they are over priced pieces of kit that get left in the bottom of your wardrobe because after one or two goes on it, you realised that it was £30 not so well spent!

Today’s blog is about going back to basics. Forgetting about all the fancy gym equipment and going back to the type of workouts our ancestors did unintentionally which helped them get big and strong! My suggestion for a piece of kit to buy to help you workout is something that is functional for strength training plus has a use outside of workouts…….a sledgehammer! One of the oldest tools in modern history used by construction workers the world over! Using a sledgehammer enables you to train outdoors in the fresh air, will work your incredibly hard and at the same time acts as a phenomenal stress reliever!

The hammer is a wondrous tool to help with both strength building and helping to keep you lean. Workouts based around using this tool are intense but extremely effective. Every time you strike a sledgehammer, almost every single muscle group in your body is required to perform the stroke. Whether your swinging the hammer overhead or from the side, it is an all body workout. Firstly your core is required to fire in order to prevent excess flexion of the spine and hips, secondly your shoulders, legs, back and arms are brought into play to help you lift the hammer from the ground, over your head then once again to slam the head into the ground.

The first thing that you need to sort out before actually undertaking a hammer workout is what you are going to use to soften the blow of the hammer. It is important that what ever you strike with the hammer is soft so as to save any jolting of the wrists, elbows or shoulders. Like all exercise, we have to weigh up the risk vs reward factors to reduce the risk of injury. My advice is to use a tire of some sort. Large truck or tractor tyres are the best due to their size, however a car tyre would probably suffice. If you don’t have any of these to hand, go find a truck company and ask them if they have any spare tyres going that they don’t want. Most of the time you will find that they are more than happy to offload a tyre because due to government legislation they have to pay a waste carrier to remove the tyres from their sites. If you are unable to get hold of a tyre then find somewhere that has very soft ground, or even a sandpit!

Sledgehammer training can be used as part of an outdoor circuit or on its own. If you want to complete a workout purely based around using a hammer then I recommend doing interval periods. For example, strike the hammer into a tyre for 30-60 seconds, rest for 60-90 seconds before repeating. This can be done as many times as you are able to undertake the exercise safely. To increase the difficulty of the exercise, concentrate more on the downward swing phase of the exercise. The speed and velocity of the downward swing is what will help increase your overall power output.

Another important thing to be aware of is that there are multiple weights of hammers out there. For example if your goal is to increase your body conditioning whilst burning multiple calories to get lean, then buy a lighter hammer. Use this hammer for multiple sets of intervals. If your goal is to increase gains in size and strength then go for the heaviest weighted hammer you can lift safely. But be aware that its not necessarily the weight of the hammer that is going to give you the greatest gains, as mentioned above, it is the velocity of the swing that will give you the greatest gains in power and stremgth.

Keep the training safe, I would not normally recommend this to someone just starting a weight training programme due to the high injury risk factors associated to lack of core, shoulder and hip stability. But if you are looking for a cheap, different but thoroughly rewarding training session, then get to your local hardware store, get your hammer, get your tyre, grab your ghetto blaster, head to the park, throw out some aggressive music and get hammering!

Probably one of the things I’ll say the most frequently to my clients whilst they are undertaking an exercise is ‘tense your core’ or ‘tuck in that tummy.’ But what does that really mean? Long before I became a personal trainer I’d hear about how important it was to tense my core when exercising, but I didn’t fully understand or realise the importance of our core for bodily movement control and prevention of injury.

The ‘core’ is basically our upper torso minus our arms. It is made up deep underlying muscles that have many functions. They help with keeping the organs in place, they protect the spine from excess flexion and extension and help maintain stability of the body during heavy resistance be it weight or force of movement.

Every body wants a flat stomach or six pack right? But in order to carve out a good one, you need to work from the inside out! The biggest player in keeping a nice flat stomach is the Transverse Abdominis (TVA) muscle. This is a large sheet like muscle that runs from our sides to the middle of our stomach region. It lies beneath the more prominent six pack muscles and when it is well trained helps pull in what could otherwise be a protruding abdomen. Imagine that the TVA is like a weight lifting belt or corset. It will help pull in that tummy region leading to a nice flat stomach! It also supports our trunk area when lifting heavy weights such as when performing a heavy back squat. If an athlete tries to undertake a heavy squat with a poorly trained TVA then we’re looking at a drastically increased chance in failure of the squat and potential injury.

Where most people go wrong when training their core is the application of thousands of stomach crunches each week in the hope of getting a nice flat stomach. Now doing stomach crunches or sit ups is a contentious issue for many trainers and coaches out there due to the flexion of the spine.

So how do we train our core effectively in a way that will help us keep a nice flat stomach and aid us with our daily lives or sporting performance?

There are numerous methods to work your abs that trainers and coaches the world over constantly argue over. Are crunches good for us or should we avoid them at all costs? Is there one exercise that works all of the muscles? How frequently should I train my abdominals?

These are all valid questions that I have been asked and my answer to these is that there are no definitive answers! There are a dozen ways to get from A to B and some methods will work more effectively for some than others.

The easiest way to start training your core is to stop using weight machines for your workout and replace these with free weight exercises. For example; just performing a lunge forces you to fire up your core in order to prevent you from falling over. It’s starting with the simple things that can ultimately lead to a fine flat stomach or chiselled six pack. Try integrating the multitude of planks, hanging leg raises, revers crunches and swiss ball roll outs into your workout to help with training your core. You will find that your training will come on leaps and bounds as an increase in core stability will result in improved technique and your ability to push yourself harder without the risk of injury.

Any particular questions about how to best train your core just drop me a line!

This week I got so sick and tired of the generic house music that is constantly played in the weight room at the gym I work / train at that I decided to customise my own mix to optimise my workout.

Gone are the boring house beats and in come proper weight room music! Aggressive Hip Hop and Metal. I have written before about the importance of music in exercise and the some times staggering affects it can have on an individuals performance. So this week I decided to put it to the test using songs that I knew would give me that mental edge over a normal training session.

The results were brilliant! Both my training partner and myself threw out more weighted pull-ups than either of us had managed before! My deadlifts felt easier and the drop sets on the Bench Press that we completed felt brilliant. It seemed that all of a sudden, this aggressive music mixed with the usual testosterone fuelled atmosphere of big sweaty men pushing weights was raised to another level. How much this really had to do with the CD I had made I don’t know, but what I am sure of is that it definitely gave me the mental pump I sometimes lack when listening to uninspiring beats.

Numerous studies have been undertaken and there are various answers out there. Some studies suggest that we are able to push up to 10% more weight that normal if the right tune is playing. I think that sometimes this may just be the case. A sharpened mind helped to a level of focus by music really can make the difference. I doubt very much that the athletes that attend Defranco’s gym or Jason Ferruggia’s Renegade gym in NJ would have such great sessions if Celine Dion was playing in the background!

So here’s my mix. Feel free to use it for your own workouts and let me know what you think!

1. LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out
2. Youngbloodz – Imma Shine
3. Kid Rock – American Badass
4. Big Boi – General Patton (Ft. Big Rube)
5. Disturbed – Droppin Plates
6. Dr Dre – Still Dre
7. Bullet For My Valentine – Your Betrayal
8. AC/DC – Back In Black
9. Busta Rhymes – We Made It (Ft Linkin Park)
10. Ludacris – Move Bitch
11. Trivium – Anthem (We are the Fire)
12. Sage Francis – Call Me Francois
13. The Notorious B.I.G – Running Your Mouth Ft Snoop Dog, Fabolous, Nate Dog

Green Tea.  The leader in the new breed of healthy café culture drinks.  For many years it sat in the shadow of its bigger brothers and sisters, English Breakfast, Earl Grey and the bog standard PG tips!  But it seems that in today’s uber health conscious society, this green variety is around to take its place in our daily lives.  I frequently get friends asking me about health foods, and ‘what’s in’, in the dieting world.  Quite often these include Green Tea and its supposed revitalising and uplifting health properties.  Everyone has heard of it, many people swear by the positive effects it can have on their bodies (specifically when feeling down or after exercise), but what is it all really about?

Green Tea, predominantly grown in China and Japan has been the subject of numerous scientific studies into the health and wellbeing properties that it may possess.  Before going into more detail I shall start by listing some of the positive effects that Green Tea may have on us as humans:

–          Lowering of total cholesterol

–          Oxidation of body fat

–          Increased thermogenesis (raising the temp of the body)

–          Preventative for build up of teeth plaque

–          Preventative measure for the onset of Alzheimers and Parkinson’s disease

–          Helps reduce blood pressure

–          Increased body metabolism

–          Prevents Free Radical damage on muscle cells

 The above are all widely publicised and are becoming even more popular to report on in today’s ever increasing ‘health aware’ society.  The links to weight loss are obviously going to get attention and rightly so in my opinion!  The main reason behind the ‘potential’ fat burning properties of Green Tea are largely thanks to the rather wonderful polyphenol EGCG.  An extremely potent anti-oxidant that has many brilliant uses within our bodies!  This anti-oxidant has a fantastic ability of lowering and balancing the body’s LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, speeding up our metabolism and protecting our body from cell damage! 

According to studies, if we replace our standard tea with Green Tea, we open up the possibility to potentially lose weight.  Many say that the British Empire was built on the tea trade.  We are a nation that drinks millions of cups of tea per year!  We are also a nation which has one of the highest rates of cardiac heart diseases in Europe, largely related to an ever increasing number of obese people that live in this country!  I wonder what effect Green Tea would have on all of the shocking figures that are released each year regarding the deteriorating health of our nation.

Drinking 3-4 cups of Green Tea per day is reportedly supposed to help our body burn between 70-100 extra calories.  That’s a potential 700 calories per week, 2,800 per month and a whopping 33,600 potential extra calories expended per year!  Just by drinking a different variation of the nations favourite drink!  That is equal to 134 pints of cider, 176 Whisper bars and 100 Jam donuts!!  Is that not an impressive figure or what!?!?

As a Personal Trainer and keen preacher of exercise and physical activity, the application of Green Tea into a person’s diet is particularly interesting to me.  Not purely for it’s abilities to encourage fat burning!  When we exercise there are simply dozens and dozens of chemical reactions that occur in order for the transfer of energy, oxygen and waste products and all importantly the movement of our muscles and joints to take place.  Unfortunately as part of these reactions with our body, chemicals called Free Radicals are produced.  These chemically unstable oxygen molecules are formed as a result of exercise and remain in our muscles.  These chemicals can cause serious damage if they bind with the cell membranes of muscle fibres for example.  This is one of the reasons why we sometimes struggle to recover from exercise for a few days.  Extra damage being undertaken by Free Radicals hinders the body’s ability to repair damaged muscle tissue.  The anti oxidant EGCG found in Green Tea interacts with the Free Radicals and halts the chain reaction of destruction that they can impose on our cells!  So for all the keen sportsman and women reading this, I would suggest you give Green Tea a go!

Unfortunately not all of the positive effects listed above have been proven beyond doubt.  The figures regarding extra calories burnt can’t be verified and I would in no way suggest that just because you may be able to burn these extra calories from drinking green tea, that you stop watching what you eat, or slow down on the amount of exercise you undertake!  I’m using these numbers as a metaphor to show that some times the tiniest changes in our lifestyle, can in fact have profound effects on our long term health and well being.  A friend of mine recently commented on my facebook page during the British election after I had said that I doubted whether my vote could change the world.  He said: ‘Even the smallest wave, can start a tsunami’!  I believe these words extend to all aspects of life.  And if adding Green tea into your diet could have a positive effect on your health, the question is not as the title of this blog suggests ‘So Why Green Tea’, it’s surely got to be ‘So Why Not Green Tea’??