We had some fantastic results with people who took part in our 12 week challenge.

Sara

Sara’s strength and fitness improved significantly, as did her body composition. Her body fat dropped from 20.6% to 17.5%.

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She also added an extra 1.9kg of lean muscle, whilst burning 1.5kg of fat. Overall her body weight increased by just under 1kg, which just goes to show that in isolation, the scales rarely tell an accurate tale. Her confidence in the gym also improved, and she has continued to mix it with the boys in the weights section.

Brett

After shot, you can see Brett’s ‘V’ and his glutes taking shape.

Brett’s goal was to work on dropping his body fat prior to an extended holiday abroad, and he did just that. His body fat dropped from 19% to 16%. He added over 1kg of lean muscle, whilst burning over 4kg of fat. Brett was extremely dedicated to his training, and was able to train harder and smarter than he ever had before. He actually reduced the overall amount of time he was training. Just goes to show that if you’re not doing the right thing in the 1st place, doing more of it is not going to help.

Sebastian

A leaner, meaner Sebastian after the 12 weeks. Improved muscle tone and posture.

Sebastian was also desperate to drop his body fat, and was willing to put in the hard yards even though he had limited experience in the gym. His body fat dropped from 22.2% to 18.9%. He added almost 2kg of lean muscle, whilst burning almost 3kg of fat.

Jo

Jo’s programmes had become boring and stale, and subsequently her dedication began to wane. The structured approach of this challenge was perfect for Jo, and allowed her to get in 3 good training sessions every week. Her body fat dropped from 21.2% to 17.4%. She added 2.1kg of lean muscle, whilst burning 3kg of fat. She is continuing her good work in the gym, and hopes to get even better results in the coming months.

It should be noted that all of these results were achieved with ZERO aerobic work. No boring runs on the treadmill, or hours on the cross-trainer. It was all the work of well designed resistance programmes, even for the girls.

Well done to each of you on your fantastic results.

These days it is hard to separate the two. We’ve been (incorrectly) told for years that to train the heart and lungs, we MUST do steady state aerobic training. Gyms are filled with expensive ‘cardio’ equipment because of it . It couldn’t be further from the truth.

There are actually much more effective ways to train the CV system than to waste time with boring aerobic exercises (excuse my obvious biases here).

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Strongman Training

Strongman training is a favourite of mine and can include anything from sled drags and prowler sled pushing to tyre flips and farmers walks. It dramatically increases your heart rate whilst also improving strength, literally killing two birds with one stone. The funny thing is that our clients who enjoy this the most are definitely our female clients. Although it is incredibly tough work, it is also empowering. And it improves strength in traditional gym exercises such as the squat, and improves flexibility. Sled training can also be used for clients very soon after knee surgery, and for clients with general joint issues, because it works the leg muscles very well without heavily loading the joints.

Sprint Training

There is nothing quite like setting yourself a target in the distance and running AS FAST as you can to reach that target. The mental energy requirement alone easily outdoes anything that a treadmill can throw at you, simply because you have to dictate the speed rather than a machine dictating the speed for you. So although you can concentrate on reading a magazine ot watching a TV when on the treadmill, the gym is one area I definitely don’t like to multi-task. Repeat the sprints 10-15 times in a 20-25 minute period and you’ll be done and dusted!

Circuit Training

Simple. Choose 6-8 challenging resistance/strength exercises (I’m thinking squats, step ups, pull ups, bench press, overhead press, incline curls) do 10 reps of each, take 45 seconds rest between each exercise, and repeat the circuit 3-4 times. Do that and then tell me that strength training doesn’t train your cardiovascular system! If that type of training is new to you it is likely that you may find yourself throwing up it is that hard. You’ll be sweating and panting like crazy.

All of the above approaches are great ways to train your cardiovascular system without relying on a boring electric exercise machine. And they all have the added benefit of improving strength, reducing risk of injury, increasing growth hormone production (responsible for burning fat) increasing your resting metabolic rate (the amount of energy burnt when doing nothing!) and reducing your overall exercise time commitment.

And let’s not forget my point in previous posts, the fact that exercise physiologists have proven that doing anaerobic training improves aerobic conditioning MORE than traditional aerobic training.

Is there any debate as to which approach is more beneficial?

3 weeks ago we started a group 12 week challenge. The aim was to give training, nutritional and biosignature guidance to committed members who were looking for more direction with their training regime.

Over the course of the 12 weeks their programmes will be updated 3 times, they will receive weekly nutrition notes, as well as personalised protocols dependent on their Biosignature profiles. They must train a minimum of 3 times per week, with each session lasting between 50-60 minutes.

The results so far have been fantastic. Each one of the participants has shown great motivation, training consistently and at a higher level. And importantly each participant has already greatly improved their body composition, with the average body fat readings dropping by over 2%. Great results in such a short period of time, and still 9 weeks of hard work to go!

Will keep you updated on their further progress, as well as before and after pictures.

Trying out some of the new arrivals from Watson’s Gym Equipment – chains attached to the end of the bar to increase the strength curve.

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1. Carbohydrates are essential for increased energy

Most people burn through carbohydrates very quickly. This means that they will often feel hungry again very soon after eating high carbohydrate meals, prompted by a quick blood sugar crash. For most, a majority of your carbohydrate consumption should come from a variety of above ground vegetables and low sugar fruits. Protein and fats both offer more dense and slow releasing energy for the body, so pre-workout foods higher in these will keep you going longer.

2. Saturated fats are bad for you

Im not usually one to push conspiracy theories, but as with CV exercise, the evidence linking saturated fats with heart disease and other modern day killers is very thin. Saturated fats are typically high in omega 3s and other vitamins, and as long as the source of the saturated fat is high quality (ideally organic) then it has immense health qualities. Fat free foods present major problems because the removal of fat increases the overall insulin load on the body. If you want to burn fat, you have to keep insulin in check. Saturated fats are also the best fats to cook with (lard, ghee, butter, coconut oil), as they do not go rancid or change their structure under intense heat.

3. Counting calories is more important than the quality of your food

Calorie consumption has overtaken sustinence from food in the nutritional debate. Every fad diet seems to revolve around some kind of calorie reduction. I believe counting calories is a waste of time, and people’s energy should be focused on eating the right types of foods – largely raw, unprocessed fruits and vegetables, with a variety of meats and nuts. Forget portion sizes and instead eat according to your appetite.

4. All organic products are good for you

Even though I’m a huge fan of consuming a largely organic diet, many organic products on the market should still be avoided. Most organic snack bars and cereals are still filled with sugars and high fructose corn syrup, which both have drastic effects on blood sugar and insulin levels. So check the ingredient lists on all packaged products you consume, even the organic versions.

5. Drinking less water can help you lose weight

Staying hydrated may be the single most important thing you can do to remain healthy. The body’s organs require a large amount of daily water just to function, and hydration is essential to your metabolism. Water consumption is based on weight, so the heavier you are, the more water you need. A decent guide is to consume 3.5% of you bodyweight in litres every day (if you weigh 100kg, you need 3.5 litres of water)

1. Deep squats are bad for your back and knees

Granted deep squats are not suitable for everyone (especially those with orthopaedic or structural balance issues) but for a majority of us getting range and depth with squats is the best and safest way to train. It is true with most exercises that increasing the range of movement will heighten muscle activation. Deep range squats also activate the VMO muscle of the inner thigh, a typically weak muscle for most people that is a common cause for knee pain.

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Anatomically the knees are in a well supported position at the bottom of the squat, and as long as the lumbar and thoracic spine remain in extension, the back is also well placed. So don’t shirk it next time you’re squatting. Get that arse to the floor! (n.b If you have flexibility issues with the traditional back squat, then try body squats, dumbbell squats, heel raise squats and also high block steps ups as a starting point.)

2. Doing lots of crunches will burn fat around the middle

Although this would be nice if it were true, it simply isn’t the case. Spot reducing through exercise is a myth, and although obviously you can build muscle in an area, you cannot burn fat by working that area. Each person will burn fat according to their genetic and hormonal profile, so the best way to get rid of those unwanted wobbles is to do an all round exercise routine that uses the most energy and increases metabolism. Certain supplements can also aid your hormonal profile, which in turn can help fat metabolism.

3. Cardio training burns more calories than strength training

Although cardio training has become very popular, and the floor space in most gyms is dominated by CV machines, the science backing the benefits of this type of training is very thin. One thing for certain is that CV training plateaus very quickly, so most people will fail to see results after an initial 6 week period. Strength training offers more variety in terms of training the different energy systems, and it also increases metabolism for up to 72 hours after training, something sorely lacking from CV training. For increased energy consumption, supersets, tri sets, giant sets and circuits are a much more efficient way to burn calories.

4. Machine weights target muscles more than free weights.

In the battle for gym floor space, CV machines may be top dog, but machine weights are closing in fast. The major limiting factor for machine weights, as opposed to free weights, is that the plane of movement is completely fixed, meaning the smaller stabiliser muscles that usually work through all movements do not have to be switched on for the movement to occur. In essence, the machine largely stabilises the movement for you. With free weights, the extra stability required to move the weight gives you a higher level of muscle activation and increases motor unit activity.

5. You need to train for more than 60 minutes to get the most out of your workout.

This could not be further from the truth. Most people will peak at around 20-25 minutes into their workout. After 45 minutes testosterone begins to drop, whilst cortisol begins to rise. Cortisol is a hormone that works in break down mode, so training whilst hormonally you are breaking down muscle is counterproductive. If you have the time and want fast results, it is much more effective to do 2 separate training sessions per day, leaving 6 hours between sessions to maximise results.

A friend of mine recently asked for some advice on good post natal exercises to do. Although it is hard to generalise, here are some tips that will apply to most pregnant women, and those who have recently given birth:

1. During the 1st 3 months of pregnancy, make sure you do not go overboard with strenuous exercise where you are struggling to find your breathe. There is an increased risk of miscarriage if the womb becomes overheated, so I would stick to resistance exercises, keeping the workouts around 40 minutes in length, with 90-120 secs rest between sets.

2. After 3 months has passed, you can largley resume your normal routine – EXCEPT – avoid exercises where you lie on your back.

3. You will probably find that exercises such as back squats (or anything where a bar will load the spine) become quite uncomfortable. I think squats are a great pregnancy exercise, so rather than remove them completely, switch to an exercise such as a dumbbell squat where you viagra from canada hold dumbbells beside the body.

4. Once you have given birth, it depends on what type of birth you had – natural or c-section when deciding when to resume. If you were doing regular exercise throughout your pregnancy, then you may be able to resume low level exercises, such as horse stance versions, after 2 weeks. If you had a c-section, then you need to have more time off to allow the scarring to heal. After 6 weeks, a horse stance horizontal would be a great first exercise to start, as it will recruit your core and gluteal muscles without placing too much load.

5. Running would be one of the LAST things I advise you to resume. Your pelvic area will become quite loose and flexible during pregnancy, and will continue to be relatively unstable in the weeks following birth. I usually work for at least 3-4 weeks on strength exercises before allowing my clients to resume running.

6. Because of the demanding physical nature of raising a small child, you shouldn’t avoid doing ‘big’ exercises that load the muscles and joints. Here is a sample programme that I used with a client 6-8 weeks after she gave birth to her 3rd child. I kept it rather short (35-40 minutes), mixing both strength exercises with CV exercises that were not too demanding. I took into account that her sleep patterns were still disrupted, and she had 2 other young children to take care of. She trained with me up until 8 months into pregnancy:

Good old cereal.

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Quick, convenient, nutritious. A great way to start the day.

Umm, if only this was true.

Our addiction to cereals may be one of the single biggest reasons why we are in the midst of an evergrowing obesity epidemic. And just to clarify – because I have been questioned a lot on this lately – cereal includes all grain breakfasts, even the humble porridge and muesli (which I call the classic ‘best of a bad bunch’).

One of the key reasons why we as a society are struggling with our weight is because we cannot control our insulin levels. It’s relatively simple. When we eat carbohydrates, our blood sugar levels rise. If they rise above a certain point, our body releases insulin to combat the rise. When insulin is present in the bloodstream, we are primed to store fat, and/or metabolise sugar into fat.

So a simple solution is to eat foods that do not significantly raise our blood sugar levels. Meat, fish, nuts, eggs, full fat dairy, above ground vegetables, pulses, legumes, low sugar fruits. If these foods form the basis of your diet, then you will lose body fat and improve your concentration levels.

When we start the day with high sugar cereals (basically all cereals have a Glycaemic Index of 50+) our blood sugar levels are destined to rise, then fall very quickly. This will result in the classic mid-morning run for a coffee and muffin to bring the blood sugar levels up, and the whole process repeats itself.

If you start the day with a breakfast higher in protein and fat, it will regulate blood sugar levels, keep you satisifed for longer, and help you make smarter food choices for the rest of the day.

So do yourself a favour and ditch those colourful boxes taking up valuable space in the cupboard. Flip a steak instead.

Running is seen as the classic way to get fit and lose weight. The ultimate calorie burner. The only leg toner. That’s why the streets in my neighbourhood get taken over by the weekend warriors, hogging the footpath.

But what if running is not all that it’s cranked up to be? Could it be doing more harm than good?

With my new clients, if they tell me that they go running 2-3 times per week, I ask them why they run. If they say because they want to lose weight, I usually remove it from their program. If they say they really love to run, then I let them keep running, but with variations to their normal routine.

The reality is that long, continuous runs of more than 30 mins can cause undue stress to the body and its energy systems. Running by its very nature is not corrective and not strengthening, so if you have postural and muscular weaknesses in the body, running will find them and pick at them.

I think I should repeat this point – Running is NOT a strength exercise. So all those people who tell me that they have strong legs because they do lots of running, their squats in the gym usually tell a different story, i.e they struggle to do proper squats with just their own bodyweight.

Running the same distance at the same speed will also quickly lead to a plateau in your training. Even the most unfit people will stop gaining results from slow steady paced running in about 6-8 weeks. Given that any results in any training require the body to adapt to new stimulus, reaching a plateau and staying there is not what you want.

For a different take on running, I would highly recommend some sprint training. Sprint training forces you to work at a higher intensity for a shorter period of time. Numerous studies have shown that working at a higher intensity is the most effective way to burn calories and stay lean.

If you are new to sprint training, then it’s very likely that you will only last a short period of time, even if you are a regular runner. It may also make you feel a little ill, but this will pass as your conditioning improves.

Here’s a 20-25 minute moderate level programme you could try in the park or on the track:

40m sprint (jog back to start point) and repeat 6 times.

60m sprint (walk back to start point) and repeat 5 times

80m sprint (rest 60 secs, sprint back) repeat 4 times

Improving your anaearobic fitness also has carryover effects to your aerobic conditioning. So sprint training will actually help with your longer runs as well, especially if you are training for a middle distance event such as a 5-10km run.

Try it out. Your body won’t be disappointed

Updating or changing your programs regularly is a key aspect to achieving your training goals.

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People who stick to the same routine for months and sometimes years on end, will rarely get the results they are after.

The basic premise is this. When you do a new workout consisting of different exercises and movement patterns, the body is forced to recruit different motor units. The body’s response to the workout is to adapt and be stronger than before. Every time you do the same workout, the motor unit response can diminish somewhat, until eventually your body figures out what’s going on. The body will then become more and more efficient, thus using less energy to get through the workout.

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Considering that we workout to burn more energy, the last thing we want is for the body to become efficient in its energy expenditure. The goal is to burn more energy in less time.

How often you need to change depends on your experience. If you are a relative beginner, then a program can deliver results for up to 4-6 workouts. If you’re a high level athlete, you may need to change programs weekly. As a general rule of thumb, I would never stick to the same program for longer than 3 weeks.

The good news is that you don’t need to massively overhaul your programs to elicit change for the body. Here are some small changes you can make to deliver big results:

* Instead of doing back squats, switch to a front or split squat.

* Change the hand position of the exercise. Most times we use a pronated grip (palms facing away from body) so switch to a neutral or underhand grip.

* Change your rest times. If you’re used to having 90 seconds rest between exercises, then decrease it to 60 seconds to improve your lactate threshold, or increase it to 2 minutes to improve your strength levels.

* Change the speed at which you move. Adding a pause at the hardest part of the movement can help improve motor unit activation, e.g on your squats, hold for a 1 second pause at the bottom.

* Use FatGripz on dumbbell and barbell exercises (www.fatgripz.com).

* Do exercises in supersets or circuits to improve your CV fitness whilst also improving your strength.

In order to maximise results and avoid becoming one of those regular gym goers, you must keep your programmes fresh.

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