Check out the video below, showing some of my female clients’ weight training workouts.
Archive for the ‘Training’ Category
It’s very rare to see women doing weight training in a commercial gym and if they do, it’s usually incorrect. I think this is due to a lack of understanding and the widespread nature of some of the myths about weight training.
“Core training” is the magical phrase that women like to hear. Quite often when I have a consultation with a potential female client the most important area for them is core training. What they want is a flat belly and a narrow waist, and so they believe that by performing all kinds of abdominal exercises(plank, swiss ball crunches, sit ups etc) they will get the result they want. In most cases, it is not the strength of the abdominal muscles that is the problem, but the presence of unwanted fat – which will not be spot-reduced by any amount of abdominal exercises. The overall level of body fat must be decreased.
Instead of wasting time on a swiss ball doing hundreds of sit ups, you should be doing some of the basic exercises such as lunges which target large muscle groups.. By doing that you will increase your metabolic rate, so you will burn more calories even at rest. Combining your resistance training with a good diet will further help you to reduce your body fat.
As for strengthening the core, the main function of the core muscles (which are not just abdominal muscles but also the hip and back muscles) is to stabilize. So provided you are using challenging weights whilst doing exercises such as squats and lunges you will activate your core muscles throughout your whole workout.
Women usually tell me they don’t want to get “big” and want to just look “toned”. There is no such thing as a “toned” muscle – muscle can get bigger or smaller, and the only way to look “toned”, or rather defined, is by increasing the size of the muscles and lowering the body fat level.
Resistance training will never make a woman look like a man – testosterone treatment is needed to achieve this. Women do build muscle when they train, but women’s muscles are naturally smaller than men’s, and they have fewer fast twitch muscle fibres, which means bulk does not come easily.
But I will not deny what many women already know – building up muscle can sometimes result in a “chunky” look, if this is done in the wrong way – women are programmed to have more body fat under the skin than men, and so retaining much of this layer of fat whilst increasing the size of muscles does not result in a toned, athletic appearance, but simply the impression of having “bigger” arms or legs. The key here is to design the resistance training programme well, so that as muscle mass increases, body fat decreases. Diet and management of oestrogen can play an important role here too.
As with men, there is a wide variation in terms of genetic predisposition. Occasionally I see women who are genetically predisposed to muscle gain, and who naturally have a low level of body fat – they look athletic even without training.
Looking nice in the gym
Lots of women come to the gym in their expensive pink exercise clothes and spend hours using mini hand weights. It seems they don’t even work up a sweat. This sort of workout is useless. Women should not be afraid to use real weights, to push themselves and to sweat – even if this doesn’t look particularly feminine. A few generations ago, most women were engaged in physical labour every day, their bodies are designed to work as hard as mens, if not harder. So you should get some proper guidance, get into the freeweights area and stop wasting time!
Women often neglect resistance training, as they feel it is the cardio work that will burn stubborn fat – especially low intensity, long duration cardio. In any workout, whether weights or cardio, the amount of calories burned is actually small – even the calorie deficit created by a super high intensity martial arts class could be wiped out by a snack. It is what happens in the body after exercise that is important. Resistance and high intensity training can increase the metabolic rate for several days after the training session, this is one reason it is important to rest between sessions. Repairing the damage done to muscles during a resistance training session requires energy, which often comes from fat. Also, resistance training has a large effect on improving cardiovascular fitness – the heart rate increases dramatically during an exercise.
Resistance training is the only way for both men and women to improve the body shape. It is impossible for a woman to look masculine through resistance training, and following a well designed resistance programme using real weights and eating well are the keys to achieving a slim and “toned” physique. See the video below of Fiona, one of my female clients who does the same exercises as my male clients and who looks slim and feminine.
Some people get great results in the gym through setting clear goals, and working towards them with a progressive programme. They tend to be consistent and when their routine is disrupted, this sort of person just gets back into it as soon as possible. Other people start diet and fitness regimes with great enthusiasm and discipline, but soon are distracted by other life elements, or are put off course by a few weeks out of their rhythm. Yet another group has little real interest in physical activity or eating in a specific way, and needs an intellectual motivation to make lifestyle changes. Understanding which type you are will help you to design an effective exercise plan, that you can stick to in the longer term.
The following questions are designed to give you an insight into your personality as applied to exercise behaviour, but do not focus only on exercise-related topics. Answer each question and keep a note of your score. You may have a predominance of one type, or a mixture.
1. Which of the following sounds most like you?
I hate to be bored (LT)
I really dislike instability and uncertainty and try to avoid it (BN)
My emotional life is something of a rollercoaster – I wish there was more harmony (O)
2. Which of the following statements about career/work do you agree with most?
Work is important for providing me with a sense of self-worth (O)
Work is important, but mostly as a means to an end. It provides me with stability and a regular income, but I don’t feel emotionally attached to it beyond that (BN)
I really enjoy intellectually stimulating work, and throw myself into it. I have no patience for boring or mundane work, though (LT)
3. Can you relax easily?
No, I often find it hard to switch off irrespective of how much I have to do (O)
Yes – relaxing can mean cooking and enjoying a meal, catching up with friends or going for a walk (BN)
Yes – I daydream a lot and enjoy stimulating my mind with books, films or puzzles. I don’t need to be around others to relax (LT)
4. What would you say your biggest strength is?
My ability to commit and stick to things, even when the going is tough (BN)
My creativity and ability to innovate (LT)
My energy and drive, which can sometimes be super-human (O)
5. What would you say your biggest weakness is?
I get bored easily and give up on things that don’t interest me (LT)
I have large ups and downs – one week I am all-conquering, the next week I struggle to get out of bed (O)
Sometimes I can be stubborn or closed minded, sticking with things just because they are familiar or established (BN)
6. Do you currently exercise?
Yes, as much as possible (O)
Yes, I have a routine which I try to follow (BN)
When I can be bothered – I do what I feel like (LT)
Not at the moment – I know I could find the time, but I have too many other things on my mind (O)
7. Whether you exercise or not, which of the following do you agree with most?
The human body is designed for movement, and being active is natural (BN)
Exercise helps to relieve stress, it can help a person to forget the other issues in their life (O)
There are many reasons to exercise – weight loss, preparing for a sporting event, socialising (LT)
8. If you had an exercise routine disrupted by illness or a holiday, for example, how would you react?
I would just get back into my routine as soon as I could (BN)
If I had a break from the routine, other things would take its place and I would probably forget about exercise (O)
I wouldn’t allow anything to disrupt my exercise routine (O)
It would knock my exercise off track for a few weeks, but I would get back into it if there was a reason to do so (LT)
9. Imagine you are at the gym – where would you be found?
Trying out a strange new piece of equipment, or in an interesting-sounding class, like Boxercise, Body Attack or Salsacise (LT)
Following your usual routine, recording your progress (BN)
Doing another 45 minutes on the cross trainer or treadmill – you need to reach a certain calorie target this session (O)
10. Which of the following sounds most like your exercise behaviour to date?
I usually have some sort of routine, and stick to it – it might not always be the best routine, but at least its something and at least I have regular activity (BN)
When I have a reason to exercise, I do it, but I can get bored of it quickly, particularly if it is too much effort or I don’t see results (LT)
I go through phases of exercising a lot, or not at all. I don’t always have a particular plan, but I know I can achieve a lot (O)
Exercise is the most important thing in my life, I have to fit in a certain number of sessions every week (or day) (O)
What your results mean
The Obsessive. Lives through emotions, desires, compulsions
Obsessives are motivated by their compulsions. They can have immense drive, setting and achieving extremely ambitious goals – at any cost. However, Obsessives are by nature inconsistent – they can fluctuate between doing the work of several people, to being barely able to function.
In terms of exercise, an Obsessive could have an unhealthy relation to exercise, using it to avoid dealing with psychological issues. More commonly, they are the “all or nothing” types – able to be incredibly strict, but also vulnerable to binge eating or drinking, depending on circumstances. Many Obsessives feel they do not have time to exercise, as they have too many other things on their minds
Advice for Obsessives
- Whilst exercise is useful for relieving stress and letting off steam, dealing more openly with any psychological issues will help you to better focus your drive and energy
- Make time for regular practice of balancing exercises such as yoga and pilates – these will help to calm your mind
- Try to include different types of exercise, allowing you to improve the connection with your body and take enjoyment from activity. Get outside when you can, and try things “just for fun” – the idea is to bring balance. If you feel you don’t have time to exercise “properly”, you can start with these kinds of activities
- Avoid setting too many goals, and focus on the process more. You know you can achieve goals, but now think about what you can do for yourself for the longer term
- Exercise is not about proving a point, or passing or failing – it is about you and your health, and no-one else. If your routine slips because of a temporary change in your circumstances, accept it, but don’t dwell on it. As soon as you can, simply start your activities again
Sample exercise routine for an Obsessive, to help with achieving harmony
Monday – Resistance training/interval cardio gym workout (programme designed by fitness professional)
Tuesday – Walk in the park after lunch
Wednesday – Resistance training/interval cardio gym workout (programme designed by fitness professional)
Thursday – Yoga
Friday – Walk in the park after lunch
Saturday – Exercise class of choice
Sunday – Walk in the country with friends
The Body Natural. Lives through sensory experiences, the body
Body Naturals are not always high energy “sporty” types, but are in fact the type most likely to achieve and maintain the best results or to master a sport. With a strong connection to the body, this type appreciates the sensual, and understands instinctively the need for movement.
A Body Natural usually includes some form of activity in their life, because it feels good. However, this is not always the progressive training required to achieve results – Body Naturals risk being “stuck in a rut” and continuing with a routine because it is established. This type responds best to goal setting. A Body Natural at their best will be committed and consistent – and will always be rewarded by changes.
Advice for Body Naturals
- Consider working with a Personal Trainer, or having an exercise programme designed for you. Record your progress each session, and make sure that each time, you do more
- Set sensible, yet challenging goals, breaking them down into sub-goals and adding checkpoints – keep a log
- If you don’t already play a sport, consider it. Your commitment means you do well with mastering new techniques (no matter how long it takes), and you can be an excellent team player. This could be any kind of sport, from field and track to golf to football
- Don’t forget the fun – as well as progressing with your routine, occasionally inject something new into your activities. Plan an active break, try out a class or exercise with a friend or a group
- Every so often, either alone or with a trainer/instructor, critically review your exercise programme. Is it helping you to achieve your goals, or does something need to change? Don’t be afraid to make changes when necessary – by making sure you have good advice on technique, etc. you reduce the risk of a new exercise not suiting you
Sample exercise routine for a Body Natural, to help with making progress
Monday – Personal Training session, resistance work and cardio
Tuesday – Sport skills training
Wednesday – Personal Training session, resistance work and cardio
Thursday – Sport skills training
Friday – Resistance work and cardio session (alone)
Saturday – Walk in the park
Sunday – Rollerblading in the park
The Lazy Thinker. Lives in their head
Lazy Thinkers tend to be dreamers and theorists, who live in their heads and thrive on intellectual challenge, and who therefore may have less of a connection to their physicality. They are able to commit themselves wholeheartedly to an interesting project, but lose interest with mundane tasks.
Lazy Thinkers can motivate themselves to exercise – if they have an intellectual reason to do so. They can therefore masquerade as other types, committing to an ambitious regime if they realise they need to lose weight, for example. But once the activity becomes too much of an effort, or is not yielding results, momentum is lost. Lazy Thinkers may be captivated by the latest fad, class or piece of equipment, but are likely to give up when the novelty has worn off.
Advice for Lazy Thinkers
- Accept that you have little real interest in exercise and stop trying to set goals that don’t mean anything to you on an intellectual level. Try to find a real reason for exercise – this might be something as broad as improving your health for the longer term
- Brainstorm how you might include exercise in your life, and make a note of ideas that appeal to you
- Once you have decided to exercise, your challenge is to prevent boredom. Whilst some element of progressive training is required to see results (which you need to see to stay motivated), this can be balanced by activities that are stimulating and fun
- Speak to a Personal Trainer or fitness instructor, and consult fitness magazines and websites for ideas. Consider working with a Personal Trainer at least once a week
- Consider taking up a sport with a mental/strategic component, such as a martial art. Read up on the history and culture of the sport, and look forward to the time when you have mastered the basic techniques (a stage which you will probably find boring) and can apply them creatively
Sample exercise routine for a Lazy Thinker, to prevent boredom and to achieve results
Monday – Sports class, e.g., martial arts
Tuesday – Personal Training gym session – resistance and interval cardio
Wednesday – Sports class, e.g., martial arts
Thursday – Dance class
Friday – Resistance and interval cardio session
Saturday – Thinking time – whilst walking outdoors
Sunday – Outdoor Personal Training/Military Fitness type session
MC is now seeing clients at Urban Kings MMA gym. Check out the website to find out more, and stay tuned for news of upcoming offers, taster sessions and open nights!
Until the end of September, we are running a special offer on referrals. If you refer a friend (colleague, family member, spouse…) for either Personal Training or BioSignature consultations and your friend signs up for a block of sessions, you receive a FREE Personal Training session/programme design AND a BioSignature consultation!7
BioSignature consultations are now available at 121 Harley Street as well as Soho Gym Camden Town.
Connect with us on Facebook (Body Progress Centre) and Twitter (BPC_Wellbeing) or contact us for more information.
Stan 07977 133560
MC 07890 193024
Working out alone in the gym can require a lot of motivation, and one-to-one Personal Training sessions are the way to get the most out of each session. However, with the current financial climate, regular PT sessions are not an option for everyone. We are going to launch small group training sessions, as well as mini weight loss groups. This will give you the advantage of expert attention, but at a lower cost and with the added benefit of working with others who share your goals. Get in touch to find out more about dates and locations!
Summer seems to have ended, the academic year is about to start – and so its time to start thinking about getting back into good habits! Here are some tips to make the transition into autumn a little easier.
1. Love your routines. Routines can be boring, but can also be helpful for sticking to initiatives. Work-gym-commute-home may not be scintillating, but will make sure you fit some activity into your day if your job is largely sedentary. If you truly hate routines, come up with a few different ideas for getting activity into your day, and alternate between them
2. Think about your food. Eating to support your body and to encourage fat loss does not have to mean deprivation. What are the foods that your body needs? Do you eat enough of these, and if not, how can you make them more interesting? What are the treats that are worth waiting for, and that you might want to have once a week or so – such as home made cakes – and what are the throwaway “treats” that you could do without, such as milky, flavoured coffees? Prioritising the foods your body needs, working in some real treats and cutting down on thoughtless consumption will go a long way to improving how you look and feel – without counting calories or worrying about carb intake.
3. Go local and seasonal. Now is a great time of year to explore local and seasonal produce, as there is a fair bit of it around. This does not have to mean going to farmers’ markets, or buying strange and expensive vegetables. If you live in a city, look out for local organic and farm fresh delivery services, which save you the hassle, and can also be reasonably priced, as the cost of long distance transport, fancy packaging, etc. is cut out. If you live in the country, look out for farm shops. Once you start eating fresh, seasonal food, you might never want to return to the mass produced variety, and even if you make little effort to cut down on calories or carbs, eating more “real” food can lead automatically to weight loss and improved energy levels. See “Seasonal Eating” by Paul Waddington, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver and “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig for inspiration and recipes.
4. Start planning for autumn. Do you suffer from SAD or winter blues? Does autumn always bring coughs, colds and low energy? Start thinking now how to combat these problems – invest in a SAD lamp, and look into which foods and supplements may be supportive as the weather gets colder. Also think about how your exercise programme might need to change – if you have been exercising outdoors during the summer, this might need to change.
5. Make a commitment. Many people find it easy to exercise during summer, and are also drawn towards lighter foods when the weather is warmer. Once autumn approaches, though, comfort is sought in heavy dishes and desserts, and exercise seems much less appealing. Think about how you can increase the chances of sticking to your good intentions throughout the autumn – sign up to a class, book some PT sessions, or work towards a sporting event.
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Lack of progress at the gym could be due to any number of factors, but there a few common mistakes that I’d like to discuss here.
Poor exercise selection
Whatever your goal is (fat loss, increasing strength, increasing muscle mass) you should always base your training routine on the most effective exercises.
The foundation of your training should be the big movement exercises such as squats, deadlifts, chin ups and bench presses. On these so-called compound movements you can handle heavier weights, which will result in the recruitment of more muscle fibers compared to small one-joint exercises. For example, you’re better off choosing parallel bar dips for your triceps, rather than single arm dumbbell triceps kick backs.
If you are not applying this fundamental principle of resistance training, you will never change your body shape or increase your strength. The progressive overload principle can be applied by many ways such as increasing the weight (more than 5% increase per session is not generally recommended), increasing the training volume (reps, sets or frequency of training) or by decreasing your resting time.
Not keeping a record of your training
If you are not keeping a record of your training how you can apply progressive overload principle?
Most of the trainees say that they can remember their previous training sessions, so they don’t need to record them. I don’t believe its possible to memorise all the reps, sets and weights used in your training from month to month. You should be able to compare sessions and see your progress in the long run.
It is impossible to make progress in every training session without eventually burning out. If you are beginner you can make linear progress for up to 6 or 12 months. However, when you reach a certain point you will stop making progress, or might actually regress.
The more experienced you are, the more often you should include a deload period or easy workouts in your training. This involves decreasing load, volume or frequency of training, and will result in better recovery and ultimately, the achievement of your goals.
If are not seeing appreciable changes in your physique or strength, it may be because you have not selected the right exercises, are not recording your sessions or progressively overloading your muscles, or because you are not recovering properly. Take a look at the video of my client (Des, 42). His workout focuses on the compound movements, and I ensure he records his progress, and overloads and deloads appropriately.
If you have any questions about your training routine don’t hesitate to contact me.