Posts Tagged ‘training’

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.


Cardio vs Weight Training for fat loss

It’s a debate that has gone on for years in the fitness industry and beyond; what really is better for fat loss, cardio or weight training?

Now before I go on,, this article isn’t about what is better for you or what is the best training on the planet, it’s about what is the most efficient form of training to help with fat loss.

So January comes each year and millions of people the world over make New Years Resolutions to make the upcoming year their most productive yet. They want to get that nice flat tummy, toned legs or even just aim to lose a few pounds. Now I ask those people here that are members of a gym to think of their gym and then think about what area is the busiest at this time of year? The answer will 9 times out of 10 be ‘the cardio area’ where all the treadmills, bikes and cross trainers are housed. So naturally we now all assume that the usual steady state cardiovascular exercise is clearly the most efficient form of exercise to help lose that extra winter fat that we’ve accumulated over Christmas because everyone seems to be doing it???

Well they are in fact wrong. I’m sorry to all of those people that may be reading this and have, or are planning to hit the gym 3 times a week every week and undertake 45 mins of steady state cardio work on a variety of machines with the goal of losing weight, because you are unfortunately wasting a lot of your time.

I’m afraid the winner when it comes to efficient training for fat loss is in fact WEIGHT TRAINING. Now before people start slating me for saying this, I’ll now go through what happens to your body when you do both cardio and weight training in relation to fat loss, then I’ll explain that despite weight training being the most efficient, having a blend of both is also in fact absolutely fine.

What happens to your body when you undertake steady state cardio

– The levels of the stress hormone Cortisol raise inhibiting fat burning
– Calories expended ceases after you stop exercising
– Your body adapts extremely quickly to this style of running
– Loss of muscle mass increases due to lack of overload on type II muscle fibres
– Aerobic capacity increases helping to keep your heart and lungs healthy and strong
– Steady state cardio is boring!

What happens to your body when you undertake Weight Training

– Levels of the stress hormone Cortisol actually DECREASE, resulting in further fat loss.
– The numbers of calories expended by the body by weight training continues long after your workout due to increased metabolism and the energy required for cell repair.
– Joint stability increases
– Bone density increases
– The amount of lean muscle mass in your body increases. Muscle is up to 3 times more metabolically active than any other cell tissue and thus burns more calories.
– Increase in muscle mass results in a firmer more toned body
– Your aerobic capacity still increases (not to the same level of cardio training)
– Weight training is dynamic and fun! A diverse training session is so much more fun that running at a steady pace for 40 minutes!

Weight training really is a superior style of training for fat loss. This is not to say that I don’t recommend steady state cardio at all. I think that having a brisk paced thirty minute walk on rest days in between weight training is a fantastic way to loosen tight muscles (especially in the hips) whilst still maintaining an increase in resting metabolism. Body builders of old have used this method of using walking to help keep body fat levels low for decades.

If you do want to include cardio as part of your fat loss (something I’d encourage) then the ultimate form of cardio training for fat loss does not include any steady state work at all! Sprinting or high intensity interval training (HIIT) is a phenomenal way to push your body to the max whilst burning a large number of calories. Studies have shown that sprinting near to your anaerobic threshold is the range best suited for fat loss utilisation.

To really show you what I mean, think of 2 athletes. One is a marathon runner, the other is a sprinter. Now what body types come to mind?

The marathon runner is going to be very slim with little obvious muscle. The sprinter is going to be extremely lean, with well defined muscles. This ultimately comes down to the muscle types that those athletes train, but in essence if you are planning on losing weight why start to travel down the long distance runner route? If you want to train to run then run but don’t run specifically with the sole intention of losing body fat.

Training for fat loss is completely different to training to run. I train runners and triathletes. They need to run a certain number of miles a week in order to be able compete in marathons etc but even they need to complete sprint training and weight training to be the most efficient runners they can be. If you don’t believe me, please get in touch and I’ll explain in more detail.

So what’s your excuse for not dropping the cardio and hitting the weights?

Oh and one last thing, if you’re a woman and you are scared of weight training for fear of getting ‘big’ like the men then you need not worry! The reason men grow large muscles is because the levels of testosterone in our bodies is significantly higher. Women have such low levels of testosterone that growth of muscle size is on a much smaller scale!

Any further questions please get in touch:

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!

We are told throughout our lives that ‘variety is the spice of life’! That keeping things the same is boring and monotonous and should be avoided at all costs. But how many people really do apply this to their lives and for the benefit of this blog, their physical training?

There are potentially hundreds of thousands of people partaking in exercise every week that do so in exactly the same manner they have done for months or even years. A typical example of this is the young twenty something female wanting to keep slim and in shape who comes into the gym 3-4 times a week and spends upwards of an hour simply going from cardio machine to cardio machine. Repeating this same workout every week of the year. In all likeliness, this individual will find that she will see some positive results for the first 6-12 weeks or so. After this time, if she doesn’t push herself or change her workout, then her body will have completely adapted to this style of training and further positive results will be extremely difficult to achieve. Probably at a complete loss as to why results will have tailored off, she will say to her friends ‘I don’t know why I’m not losing any weight, I spend an hour a day, 3 times a week on the cross trainer.’

The answer to this particular example is simple; it’s not the duration that you exercise for, it’s the intensity and variety of your workouts that effect change!

Every month, the top fitness magazines like Mens Health, Mens Fitness etc have numerous new workouts to help readers reach their fitness goals quicker than ever. Strength and Conditioning experts the world over consult to these magazines and impart some of their wisdom. But I do wonder sometimes how many people actually take advantage of this info? People, it seems, like routine and as such I feel that some fitness goals are missed because of an individuals lack of willingness to make a change.

My advice is to change your workouts very regularly. Keep them dynamic and don’t be afraid to add new exercises. Just because you might be dropping one exercise doesn’t mean the muscle that it was working is going to get smaller if you replace it with something new. Changing your workouts regularly not only shocks your muscles, forcing them to adapt to a new style of training, it will help keep your interest levels high as you won’t be doing the same boring workout over and over!

Our unwillingness to change is something that goes right to the top of the fitness ladder. Right from Joe Bloggs the average gym attendee through to the gyms and fitness clubs themselves.

For me, one big contention in the UK is our attitude towards training teenagers under 18. It is a commonly placed attitude that teenagers under that age should not be undertaking any form of weight training at all as it will hinder natural growth and will in most cases cause injury. Gym insurance in the most part does not cover weight training for teenagers and as such prevents any such activity taking place. However if we were to fly across to America and go into any high school, you are pretty much bound to find a weight room stacked with free weights and teenagers training for their chosen sports. Just pop onto Youtube and search for high school weight lifting and a dozen videos of high school athletes undertaking power cleans, box squats and bench presses will appear. If you want to see exactly how the American’s do it in style in high school check out the weight room at Lake Travis High School! The largest weight room space I have ever seen, and for high schoolers! The question that needs to be asked when seeing this is ‘how come the kids in the U.S aren’t suffering from stunted growth or serious injury?’

The Strength and Conditioning coaches across the pond appear to be light years ahead of our British coaching methods because they are willing to make a change and do everything they can to better their athletes. It’s not always about throwing your 15 year old scrum half rugby player into the weight room and asking them to deadlift 150kg straight off.

Weight training is proven to enhance an athlete’s ability in ANY sport! Being stronger and faster is only a good thing surely? And this change can be implemented at pretty much any age so long as the training is appropriate for the sport and more importantly, at a level that is appropriate for the athlete. If you haven’t already, watch Strong the movie which is a documentary about the legendary Strength and Conditioning coach Joe Defranco from New Jersey. In the doc you see him training a 13 year old boy who wants to become a better high school wrestler. As much as this is bound to be a very uncommon sight in most training gyms, in my opinion it should be a welcome one. The willingness at a young age to want to be the best that you can be is extremely admirable.

If we were to apply weight training to our young athletes in this country in a controlled manner then sport would take on a different face. This is a change that I am hopeful will come into play at some point in the future. It is clearly something that must be changed through better education of our strength and conditioning coaches and the athletes themselves. Before a myth can be removed from common knowledge, it has to be proven wrong. Let’s make it happen.