bodypart split

What Muscle Building Program is Best for You?

Paralysis by analysis by a condition that many people suffer from, in various different aspects of their life, not just in their pursuit of an ideal physique.

But we’re not here to talk about your dead-end job or why you didn’t pull last weekend, we’re here to talk about losing fat and gaining some fucking muscle.

So what is paralysis by analysis when it comes to choosing a resistance training program?

The amount of information available on this topic is overwhelming, even if you know what you’re doing, and I’m not just talking about the internet, I’m talking about that dusty copy of Flex magazine from 1998, the overly-friendly guy at the gym who dishes out advice whether you ask for it or not, or the guy who sites opposite you at work who seems to know everything there is to know about training despite looking like he’s never set foot in a gym.

So who do you listen to? Do you just make it up? Rock up at the gym and freestyle it? Well no, you should listen to me. I’m joking, of course, I’m just offering my humble opinion, but since you’re already reading this, you may as well carry on.

 

So What’s the Best Program?

There is no best program. Sorry.

If there were one training protocol that trumped everything else, we’d all know about it, and we’d all be doing it, and we’d all be 300lbs and ripped to shreds year round.

But we’re obviously not.

The best program is the one that you’ll stick to, because there is one aspect of training that DOES trump everything else, and that’s consistency. if you’re not consistent, no matter what program you’re on, you won’t achieve the best results – you may not even achieve ANY results, depending on how inconsistent you are.

So be mindful that, when chsoing a program, it needs to be one that you’re confident you can fullfill. If you’re a business owner who commutes 4 hours a day and has a wife and 17 kids then your time is probably going to be quite limited, so don’t pick a program where you’re training 7 days a week, twice a day. Simples.

With that in mind, here are some training programs to pick from, some of which I’ve done, some I haven’t;

 

Body part Split

This has to be the most famous and most popular split, mainly because it’s what most bodybuilders do, and therefore what they recommend in their Muscle & Fitness interviews. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best program for you, even if you want to look vaguely like a body builder.

This program essentially involves training one large body part and possibly one smaller body part per day over a seven-day cycle, for example;

Monday: Chest and Triceps

Tuesday: Legs

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Shoulders

Friday: Back and Biceps

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Abs

 

Example Day: Back and Biceps

Pullups – 8 sets

Bent Over Rows – 3 sets

Single Arm Rows – 3 sets

Lat Pulldown – 3 sets

EZ Bar Bar Bicep Curls – 4 sets

Spider Curls – 3 sets

 

Of course there are several different variations of this program, but the above is pretty typical.

You could of course train chest and back on their own separate days, and have a day where you combine biceps and triceps.

Another popular variation is training chest with shoulders – there are pros and cons of every variation.

 

Pros: The good thing about this program is that it’s easy to understand and plan, it also allows you to cram in a lot of volume for an individual body part. Because of the scope for large amounts of volume, it opens up opportunities for a wide variety of exercises and rep schemes.

Cons: The main disadvantage of this program is that people stick to it for so long, rather than mixing it up with other variations, of course this is true of any program, it’s just that it occurs much more commonly with the body part split than anything else.

The real main con of this program is that it doesn’t allow for a lot of frequency, you’re only training every body part once a week, and therefore, 4 times a month, and 52 times per year

Of course, if you have enough time in the day (and energy) you can get in a lot of volume. Because this is body part specific – it’s very much geared towards aesthetics, since it allows plenty of room for of isolation moves – hence why it’s popular with bodybuilders

bodypart split training
Image from http://questforstrength.com/

 

 

Upper/Lower Body Spilt

From one extreme to the other – while the previous program divides the body into it’s constituent parts, this simply divides the body in half, so you’re only ever working your upper or lower body

For example;

Monday: Upper Body

Tuesday: Lower Body

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Upper Body

Friday: Lower Body

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Upper Body

N.B. – this would work on a rolling cycle, so on the following Monday you’d hit lower body, then upper, then rest, etc, etc.

 

Example Day: Lower Body

Back Squats – 4 sets

Front Squats – 4 sets

Deadlifts – 4 sets

Dumbbell lunges – 3 sets

 

In complete contrast to the body part split, this is a great program for specific training – because the body is split into two parts there’s not much room for specialisation (or isolation moves), so it’ll force you focus on compound moves.

Of course, you don’t HAVE to focus on compounds – but it’d certainly be the best use of your time if you chose this program.

You could keep all your lower and upper days the same (e.g. upper could be flat bench, standing military press, dips, pull ups) or you could alternate compound days like the one just mentioned with isolation days, for upper body this might be flys, lateral raises, tricep pulldowns, lat pulldowns).

Pros: Frequency. Aside from a whole body workout – this will allow you get plenty of frequency in, since you’ll be training every body part every third day. If you play your cards right, this should allow you to quickly improve the big lifts.

For this reason, this is a great, simple program for beginners – who will most benefit from building a solid foundation

Cons: This is a program which could quickly get stale, since there’s not a huge amount of scope for variety

It’s probably not also a great for advanced trainers or people looking to bring up lagging body parts

 

 

Push/Pull/Legs Split

This is the program that I’m currently on, and is definitely becoming more popular.

If you’ve been using a body part split for a while now, this is a good transition into a program that allows for more frequency.

This splits the upper body into movement patterns (push and pull), and keeps legs on for a separate day, much like the upper/lower split.

This is a great program for aesthetics, since it allows for more volume AND more frequency per body part.

Not only are you training every body part twice a week, could actually achieve more overall volume in a week than a body part split, if you do enough sets. For example, on a body part split you might do 20 sets in total for chest (e.g. 5 sets each of 4 different exercises), an push/pull/legs split might allow you to do 10 sets on Monday for chest, and 11 on Thursday, meaning that, over the course of a week you’ve done more volume. Phew.

Here’s an example;

Monday: Push (Chest/Shoulders Triceps)

Tuesday: Legs

Wednesday: Pull (Back/Biceps)

Thursday: Rest

Friday: Push

Saturday: Legs

Sunday: Pull

 

Example Day: Push 

Flat Bench Press – 5 sets

Incline Dumbbell Flys – 5 sets

Barbell Military press – 5 sets

Lateral Raise – 3 sets

Skull Crushers – 4 sets

Rope Tricep Extensions – 3 sets

This is a great program if you’ve been training for a while, and you really want to take it to the next level, but be warned – you only get one rest day per week!

Despite the fact that the thought of having just one rest day a week is quite daunting, this is actually quite a ‘fun’ program, since you’re only doing a few sets (over maybe 2 exercises per body part) per session.

Now I know what you’re thinking ‘I DON’T WANT TO SQUAT TWICE A WEEK, ONCE IS BAD ENOUGH’. Well you don’t necessarily have to, what I do is a Quad dominant leg day (where I’ll do front squats) and a hamstring dominant leg day (where I’ll do back squats). Similarly, I’ll only deadlift on one of the back days per week.

Pros: Allows you to increase volume and frequency over a body part split. This is pretty big.

Cons: Training 6 days per week – you need to be prepared to dedicate quite a lot of time to the gym.

 

 

Full Body

Does what it says on the tin – you train your whole body, every session.

Much like the upper lower split, this is great for sports specific training. Frequency will also be quite high, but the volume will be low, since you’re only going to have time to do a couple of sets per body part, unless of course you want to spend hours in the gym.

Scope for isolation exercises will also be limited if you want to get the best bang for your buck.

For example;

Monday: Full body (Heavy)

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: Full body (Light)

Thursday: Rest

Friday: Full body (Moderate)

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Rest

 

Example Day:

Squats – 4 sets

Deadlifts – 4 sets

Military press – 3 sets

Flat Barbell Bench Press – 3 sets

Pull ups – 3 sets

The best way to approach this would be to have a heavy, moderate and low day, since training squats or deadlifts repeatedly in any one of those rep ranges is going to be counter productive and unsustainable

Pros: Perfect for those that are short on time, and need the most bang for their buck, OR people that want to combine resistance training with cardio or another sport. It’s also good for complete beginners since it’ll help them learn the important movements quickly and build a base level of strength

Cons: Probably not the best for those looking for pure aesthetics, due to the lack of emphasis on isolation exercise exercises. Of course that’s not to say you won’t be able to achieve a great physique using this program

 

bodypart split
Three of the most effective excercises you should be doing

 

 

 German Volume Training

I’ve no idea why this is German, maybe it’ something to do with the ruthless efficiency of this program, and it is pretty efficient.

No fancy exercises, not complicated set and rep schemes, just pure unadulterated volume.

The widely accepted way to perform this program is to do 10 sets of 10 for a compound exercise, then a few sets of an assistance exercise.

There’s no widely accepted scheme for GVT, but here’s how I’d set it up;

 

Monday: Chest

Tuesday: Legs

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Back

Friday: Shoulders

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Rest

 

Example Day: Shoulders

Standing Barbell Military Press – 10 sets (10 reps)

Standing Dumbbell raises – 4 sets

I’ve only scheduled four training days per week in this program due to the amount of volume.

One thing you’ll need to carefully consider if you’re doing this is the weight you’re using, you want to use something you’ll be able to get 10 reps out of for 10 sets – so even if the few sets feel easy, the last few definitely won’t. I’d go for 60% of your 1RM – so if you can bench 100kg, use 60Kg.

Pros: Easy to program, since there are only a maximum of 2 exercises per body part

Cons: Can we mentally taxing due to the lack of variety. Also probably not a great program for beginners who don’t need this level of volume to spark adaptations.

 

 

Crossfit WOD

Crossfit has been loosely termed the ‘sport of fitness’ and the people that ‘compete’ in it bestow it with a cult like status; they pretty much have their own language (boxes, paleo, kipping pullups anyone?). Although Crossfitters exist in their own little Under Amour-wearing, Rich Froning-worshiping world, Crossfit workouts can genuinely be good for muscle gain and fat loss.

N.B. Crossfit involves a lot of Olympic lifting so if you’ve never tried Clean and Jerks or Snatches before, learn the technique or you’ll probably end up snapping your spine.

Crossfit basically works on the premise that everyone does a given workout on a specific date (the WOD, or Workout of the Day), and the entire Crossfit community competes to complete this workout in the quickest time.

The workouts are given innocent-sounding women’s names, but many of the routines are anything but, with punishing compound exercises back-to-back with sprints or box jumps.

Example Workout: Linda

Crossfit Linda
If you thought Linda was just your mum’s mate, think again

 

 

Conclusion

There are tons of other established, popular programs out there, some you might want to check out include – FST7, YT3, 5/3/1, DC and Mountain Dog (Google them), though these are probably more appropriate for advanced trainers.

As I said at the start, you can make progress with ANY of these programs, so your choice should be based on how often you can/want to train, and whether you prefer longer, infrequent workouts, or training more often with slightly less volume.

Whichever one you do choose, I certainly wouldn’t stick with it for the rest of your days, it’ll probably take you a good few weeks to really get stuck into a program, so I’d recommend doing a program for a minimum of four months before moving on to a different one.

When it comes down to it, the decisive factor in whether or not your workouts are successful will be consistency, I can’t stress how important that is. You need to stick it it out – if the program looks like too much of a commitment for you, choose another one. sure, you can take the odd unscheduled day off or move your workouts around, but 90% of the time you need to be hitting the gym on your scheduled days. No excuses.

If you need help picking the right program for you, or want to design one tailored for your exact needs/goals/lifestyle, get in contact with me.

 

 

 

 

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Myfibrillar vs Sarcoplasmic Hypetrophy

Does More Strength Mean More Size?

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You often hear the words ‘big‘ and ‘strong‘ mentioned in the same breath, to the average person these two qualities may seem inextricably linked, but are they mutually exclusive, or does one depend on the other?

It’s true that there is some correlation between size and strength, after all, when was the last time you saw a 60Kg ectomorph squat three times their body weight? Of course there are occasions when an individual may be superhumanly strong relative to their weight (Olympic weightlifters), but whether or not performing Olympic lifts to achieve optimal muscle growth is certainly up for debate.

Petite Female Olympic Lifter
Small packages and all that…

Muscle growth may not be top of your agenda, but since that’s what this blog is about, that’s what I’m going to focus on. This is a hotly debated topic which many have some strong views on, but I’m going to go out on a limb and make some statements which I believe to be true;

1. Gaining strength DOES help with gaining size

Why? 

Because strength facilitates the use of heavier poundages, allowing the trainer to utilise the progressive overload principle to force the body into adaptation (a calorie surplus is also required). In addition to this, gaining strength with compound exercises such as the squat and deadlift will result in a more stable posterior chain and core, resulting in the ability to handle more weight in exercises such as the military press.

Performing strength exercises also hits muscle fibers that light weights can’t.

However…

 

2. You can get stronger without getting bigger

Why?

Because there are two different types of muscle fiber, myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic. Sarcopalmic fibers are in effect the substance that fills the inside of the fibers, these are stimulated with more time under tension (and, generally ‘higher reps’) and has the potential to expand in volume, ultimately resulting in bigger muscles volume-wise. Myofibrillar hypertrophy occurs when the tiny fibers within the muscle belly are strengthened and become ‘denser’ resulting in the ability handle heavier weights – think along the lines of the thick, dense metal cables that hold up suspension bridges.

So, although strength and size gains can occur in isolation, unless you’re training to specifically increase one and not the other, they’ll both increase in unison.

Myfibrillar vs Sarcoplasmic Hypetrophy
Ignore the ‘useless’ bit

Using Size to Gain Strength

As I mentioned above you might have seen Olympic lifters hoisting some serious weight above their heads – pound for pound they’re extremely strong, but it’s not just pure strength that they have in their arsenal, using perfect technique is key to succeeding in this sport. There’s no doubt that size aids strength, even when it’s not all muscle – just look at strongman competitors, most, if not all of them (with the possible exception if Pudzianowski) are carrying relative high levels of muscle and AND fat.

Pudzianowski Ripped

So what role does fat play? Firstly, if you’re trying to gain the maximum amount of muscle possible, in the quickest time possible, regardless of fat gain, well, you’ll gain a lot of fat. Hitting the right amounts of calories to ensure you’re in a surplus, so if quick muscle at any cost is your goal, then overeating, which leads to fat gain, makes sense.

Additionally, more fat around the joints provides crushing and stability to help with big lifts

 

Using Strength to Gain Size

All else being equal, you’d expect a guy who can deadlift 200Kg to be bigger than a guy who can only deadlift 100Kg, but this isn’t necessarily just because he can deadlift more. Overall strength facilitates muscle growth because it allows for the pursuit of the progressive overload principle. Compound lifts like squats and deadlifts shore up the posterior chain, meaning more overall stability, a more solid foundation, and the ability to handle heavier weights for isolation exercises that are better able to target pure hypertrophy.

So you can certainly get stronger without getting bigger (up to a point), but can you get bigger without out getting stronger? There are bound to be conflicting views on this within the fitness community, but I’d argue that, when ultimately aiming for size, strength gains need to be a primary concern on the road to your ultimate goal. You’ll struggle to add size unless you’re constantly pushing the boundaries, but to be able to do that (in the optimal hypertrophy rep range) you’ll need to gain strength.

Bodybuilder Deadlift

For example, if your 10 rep max on the barbell shoulder press is 30Kg, you won’t increase this by simply pressing 30Kg every week, you’ll gain endurance, but not size. If you want to up the weight you use for your 10 rep max, the best course of action would be to increase the weight and drop the reps. Work on gradually increasing the amount of reps you can do with this increased weight (and eat a calorie surplus), and you should be able to handle more weight for 10 reps. There’s your progressive overload. If you have been in a calorie surplus throughout this process, chances are you will have gained some size.

Final thoughts

Throughout this article I’ve talked in terms of ‘absolutes’

– Do this for ultimate strength gains

– Do this for ultimate size gains

You might think you just want to be strong, or you just want to be big, but unless you;re going to be earning big money for being one of the best few people in the world at strength competitions or bodybuilding, what you think you want and what you actually want are probably two different things.

Do you really want to be able to deadlift 3x bodyweight but look like you don’t even train wearing clothes? On the other hand, do you want really big arms, chest and shoulders that are covered with so so much fat that no one will really notice? Probably not.

This is why you need a BALANCE between size and strength training. 99% of people want (whether they realise it or not) a balanced physique – i.e. an appreciable and symmetrical level of muscle mass, and a low enough level of body fat to effectively display that muscle mass – and this is achieved by mixing up your training methods.

Hypertrophy training helps with muscle size, short rest periods and powerful, explosive movements like clean and presses elevate the heart rate and stimulate the metabolism, encouraging fat loss, and strength training allows for more stability, and facilitates the progressive overload principle. More strength means more muscle – if you train right, more size means more strength – if you train right, and more muscle means elevated metabolism and lower body fat.

Everything works together in harmony. Work on size and strength, see the bigger picture.

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Does Crossfit fit your Goals

The Answer to Every Question About Muscle Building and Fat Loss

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The answer to Every Question About Muscle Building and Fat Loss is:

‘It depends on your goal(s)’

Everything you do in the gym, everything you eat, and any change you make to your routine should be accountable to this question. The fitness industry is becoming increasing lucrative, and brands are making  it a commodity, with this comes choice, ambiguity and confusion.

Just look at;

  • The different workouts listed in Men’s Health or Muscle and Fitness each week
  • New supplement crazes that come and go quicker than Katie Price’s husbands (hello Raspberry Ketones)
  • The plethora of ‘diets’ out there – carb cycling, carb back-loading, IIFYM, this list goes on

How is the inexperienced trainer meant to pick through these trends and brightly colored tubs of powered chemicals in order to find what they need? By asking themselves constantly ‘does it fit my goal(s)’.

Let’s Take  a Few Examples;

Crossfit

Crossfit is first and foremost, a sport. Granted a sport which very closley mimics what most people do in the gym, but still a sport. People that compete in Crossfit are trying to complete as many reps as possible across a set number of exercises, people do Crossfit for the sake of doing Crossfit – because they enjoy it, it is not a ‘means to an end’ like bodybuilding.

So with that in mind, if you are trying to add as much muscle as quickly as possible, should you do Crossfit? No. Why? Because Crossfit moves like Olympic lifts aren’t ideal for building muscle – there’s not enough time under tension. Take the ‘kipping pull-up’ – a Crossfit staple – there is some considerable thrust used from the legs and hips in the interest of simply completing each rep, there is not a strong focus on the lats for a long period of time, which would better facilitate muscle growth.

If you want a balanced physique with low bodyfat and some muscle, by all means do Crossfit. If you’re trying to build the maximum amount of muscle possible, don’t. It depends on your goal.

Does Crossfit fit your Goals

 

BCAAs

Branched-chain amino acids are the building blocks of protein, BCAA power or pills are essentially protein in a pre-digested form that assimilate into the bloodstraem very quickly (at least compared to the digestion rate of whey or solid protein), they’re one of the most popular supplements for gym rats along with whey and creatine.

BCAAs are an easy way to protect against catabolism (muscle breakdown) when calories are restricted for long periods of time, which makes me wonder why so many people pop BCAA pills during their not-particularly-intense workouts when their last protein meal (which won’t have even fully digested yet) was less than an hour.

For competing bodybuilders, BCAAs might be useful for dialling in that extra 0.5%, but for you and me, there are far better things to spend our time and money on.

BCAAs

 

Carb-Backloading

I recently did a post on why I think carb-backloading is great for people like me that have a sedinatry job and are looking to build muscle while minimising fat gain. It may not be the BEST opinion for people that have a sedinatary job and are looking to build muscle at all costs (i.e. with a disregard to any fat gain), and it certainly wouldn’t be a great option for ectomorphs with active jobs.

My point is that people hear about a new nutritional method and immediately jump on the bandwagon regardless of whether or not it suits their goals. Why would you deprive yourself of carbs in the morning if you’re working on a building site, or training in the morning.

Carb backloading

 If you blindly follow what everyone else is doing, or what you read on the internet, you’ll never reach your full potential…

Every time you consider making a change to your diet or training regime, ask yourself what your goals are.

If you want to build no-compromise muscle

  • Concentrate on eating a adequate amount of calories
  • Train intensely, with a focus on strong contractions and enough time-under-tension
  • Make rest a priority

If you want to drop a significant amount of fat, but don’t mind losing some muscle

  • Train frequently, prioritising aerobic energy systems
  • Carefully monitor calories and macros, ensuring adequate protein
  • Keep metabolism revved throughout the day

 

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Vibram five fingers

What are the Best Weightlifting Shoes?

If your work out regime has a lot of weight training, you will want to make sure you don’t wear any old shoes, as many gym shoes have a lot of cushioning, and you need to create a stable base when lifting weights. Opting for shoes with a hard, dense sole will ensure that you keep your balance and use less energy when lifting.   The pros of investing in the right pair of shoes will help you feel the weight better through your heels, you’ll develop a better technique, and most of all they will prevent injury to your feet.

 

Consider Converses

A surprising choice, seeing as Converses are usually associated with basketball or trendy teens, but according to T Nation Converses have the perfect hard flat sole for squat lifting, and their stability means that your foot won’t roll around. Loads of high street retailers sell Converses so head to somewhere like Debenhams to get your hands on a pair of these trainers. These shoes are best suited to low-bar squats, and they also give you some good ankle mobility. Brands such as adidas and Nike also offer trainers that are suited to weightlifting, however Converses seem to be the shoe of choice for many weightlifters because of their durability, cheapness and good solid sole.   Converse for weightlifting

 

Keep it minimal

There’s a craze to go barefoot at the moment, meaning runners, joggers and other sports fan ditch the trainers and go au naturel when training. Some weightlifters do prefer ditching the shoes, but if you don’t like the idea of a huge weight crashing down on your unprotected feet, you could consider a pair of minimalist shoes such as Vibrams. They’re the shoes that look like gloves for your feet, and they provide all the benefit of going barefoot, but with extra grip on the bottom so your feet are keeping in a more natural position. This style of shoe is good if you’re doing a lot of deadlifting.

Vibram five fingers

 

Go Olympic

Olympic weightlifting shoes are available for non-Olympians to buy, however they can be expensive and are generally only useful if you’re doing complex weightlifting techniques. The heels of the shoe have wood or hard plastic stacked into them which make them more stable when lifting the really heavy weights. These shoes are generally heavier, which can make weightlifting even more cumbersome for you, so unless you’re a die-hard weight lifter it may be better opting for a slightly cheaper trainer.

Olympic lifting shoes

 

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fay guy curls

Forget About the Details: The Most Common Gym Mistake

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I mentioned in a previous Facebook post that I witnessed two people in the gym a few weeks ago discussing the pros and cons of dumbbell hammer curls vs supinated curls.

Pretty normal in a gym right?

Absolutely, I’m sure this happens daily up and down the country. So why am I ranting about it?

Because one of the people participating in this discussion was (probably) morbidly obese (and no, he couldn’t blame this on his muscle mass), the other was tiny.

Now, if the fat guy just wanted big biceps at the expense of everything else, and the skinny guy simply loved doing curls for the pure hell of it, then fine, I hope they both continue as they were.

The point is, I can almost guarantee neither of them wanted those respective things, and that discussions like between people like that should NOT be the norm. This, in my opinion, is the most common mistake in the modern gym.

fay guy curls

Let’s be honest, most of us are going for a lean, balanced physique with an appreciable amount of muscle mass.

Dumbbell curl variations are not the way to achieve this.

I’ve said it time and time again, and so, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, here it is again;

The quickest, most efficient, most sustainable way of building mass and losing fat (or keeping it off) is spending 75% of your time in the gym on;

– Squats

– Deadlifts

– Bench Presses

– Pull-ups

– Dips

– Olympic lifts (and variations)

These allow you shift big weights in a powerful manner, get stronger, and increase your metabolism (turning your body into a fat-burning furnace).

Curls will not do this.

Granted, if you want big biceps, curls will help, and if you want big biceps with no V-shape, invisible abs and chicken legs then fill your boots.

Once you’re strong and have a great muscle to body fat ratio, then explore curl variations, but the chances are, by the time you reach that point you’ll be so hyper-aware about the ‘right’ way to train, you won’t want to try anything else.

 

 

 

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calendar

The Secret to Getting a Great Physique

Consistency.

There you go. Not very exciting is it?

The key to getting a great body doesn’t lie in a brightly-coloured pill bottle making wild claims.

Nor does it come at the end of a fashionable new workout, or finally reaching double figures on the bench press, or standing next to the biggest guy in the gym and hoping that hypertrophy happens via osmosis.

While all these may make a fraction-of-a-percentile of difference (save for the last thing), the key decding factor in whether or not you acheive your goals is consistency.

The sad truth is, building a good body takes years, sure you can make noticable and staifying improvements in just a few months if you’re a newbie, but any subsequent gains will take longer, and require more and more effort.

It will be of little surprise that many give up completely before a year is up, while others will periodically give up and ‘get back into it’.

Taking up training again after a lay off is admirable, but will only truly worth it if you stick to it indefinitely and train consistently.

consistency

Rest is of course essential to allow your muscles to recover and grow, but some people use this as an excuse to miss training for days on end.

The truth is, if you are performing a body part spilt, you can train for days in a row without rest.

There really is no set rule for training frequency, but I tend to auto-regulate rather than sticking to a struct schedule.

This means taking one day at a time, if you’re tired or bust on a certain day, miss training and just pick up where you left off.

It doesn’t matter if you’re not hitting a certain number of days a week, the only rule I’d recommend is never take more than 2 days off in a row, no matter what you’re training for.

Here are a few tips for maintaing consistency;

 

  • I like to train legs on a Sunday evening. Legs are a tough body part and getting them out the way early doors sets you up perfectly for the rest of the week. You’re almost always guaranteed to get a squat rack on a Sunday evening
  • Always train on Monday – if you’ve also trained on Sunday and you’re doing a 4 part split this means you’re half done by the first of day of a new week. Of course this doesn’t mean you get the rest of the week off, it just gives you a great mental boost.
  • If you have the energy – train, you’ll never know when you have a tiring or stressful day coming up and you need an evening off
  • If you having nothing on – train, you might have a surprise social event come up that you really want to attend, and training should not be the be all and end all
  • If doing a body part split start and end with a heavy lower-body compound movement, e.g. perform squats on the Sunday, then Deadlifts on the following Thursday or Friday. This will give you plenty of recovery time and keep your metabolism elevated on your rest days
  • Hit the gym straight after work, trust me
  • Make sure you’ve eaten properly on days you plan to train – missing a meal is a common excuse for slacking off a workout
  • Believe – gains take a long time but you NEED to keep plugging away, don’t get demotivated if you don’t see change, if you’re training intensely and eating and sleeping well good things will happen
  • Enjoy training – research constantly to find new training methods, keeping things fresh and interesting
  • Accept that training needs to be a significant and permanent part of your life if you want to achieve your goals

 

 

 

 

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forced reps

5 Techniques to Make Your Sets More Intense

‘Intensity’ is a term that’s becoming more and more fashionable amongst trainers right now.

It’s cool.

Long, drawn-out workouts comprising of 20+ sets are out the window in favour of shorter, tougher sessions lasting an hour or less with almost non-existent rest periods.

While I don’t agree this is the BEST way to train (there is no ‘best’ way), it’s certainly effective, and a style that you should practise periodically.

‘Intensity’ is an ambiguous term however; some take it simply to mean ‘trying really hard’ – this is something you should be doing regardless of whether your workouts last 20 minutes or 2 hours.

So how can you ensure that your workouts become more intense?

Here are 4 techniques you can employ at the end of your sets to take your muscles ‘beyond’ failure;

 

Rest-Pause Sets

Finish your set in the normal fashion.

Rather than resting and waiting for your muscles to replenish so you can perform another ‘full’ set, put the weight down, rest up to 10 seconds, then push out as many more reps as you can.

Try decreasing this 10 second rest period over time until you can actually tack an extra rep on the end of your normal set.

The video below shows one regular set followed by 2 rest-pause sets (a style of training known as DogCrap or DC)

 

 

Forced Reps

You’ll need a spotter for these.

Once you reach failure, get your spotter to assist with as many more reps as you can handle.

As this video states, your spotter needs to do ‘just enough’ to help you get the best results, on most exercises you’ll reach a ‘sticking point’, and your spotter is best utilised in getting you past this so you can perform the remainder of the rep on your own. You can also spot yourself on single-limb. movements.

 

Negatives

Since you’re always stronger in the eccentric phrase of a rep (the lowering phase), you’ll be able to continue performing negative (eccentric or ‘lowering reps’) long after you’ve failed on the concentric (lifting phase).

With this in mind, get a spotter to essentially perform the concentric phase for you, while you concentrate on lowering the weight as slowly as possible for extra reps.

This also works as a standalone technique – i.e. you could perform a whole workout consisting of just negative reps

 

Partial Reps

When people talk about failure, they’re mostly referring to failure to perform another full concentric rep.

Often you’ll still be able to perform partial concentric reps through a certain phase of the lift.

For example, once you’ve reached full concentric failure on the barbell bench press, you should be able to continue performing the 2nd phase of the lifting (where the triceps are more involved).

Of course you’ll need a spotter to help get you through the initial phase (or the final phase, depending on which is the toughest) unless you’re using a power rack, as demonstrated in the video below

 

 

Drop Sets

Drop sets work best on machines, although they can just as easily be performed with fixed-weight dumbells/barbells or plate-loaded machines or barbells.

Once you’ve reached failure, remove 2/3rds of the weight and continue to rep out until you reach failure again.

Repeat until you want to scream.

You don’t necessarily need a spotter for these.

 

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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Go Mammoth Launch Zumba Fitness Classes in London

Zumba is the fitness craze that has taken over the UK thanks to the fact that it hardly feels like working out at all! For those who want to party themselves fit and have fun shedding those pounds, zumba is the ideal option. It is open to people of all ages, whether male or female, and offers the chance to meet other zumba-goers and to get fit with series of classes that are both challenging and enjoyable, adapting to the improving fitness levels of the class members as the course progresses.

 

Go Mammoth is launching zumba classes in London from 21st January, with sessions in Putney, Stockwell, Balham and Clapham. These classes are run by some of the best and most enthusiastic zumba instructors in the country and there are no long gym contracts to sign if you want to attend. Go Mammoth zumba classes take place most evenings during the week, with morning classes at the weekend.

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If you haven’t yet thought of trying out a Go Mammoth zumba class then there are a few things you might want to consider.

 

You don’t need experience! Even if you are a complete beginner you won’t feel out of place at our zumba classes. You don’t need to show up with advance knowledge of zumba moves, or any dance skill, and the classes are structured so as to become more challenging as the weeks go on and your fitness improves.

 

It’s a fun way to get fit! Our zumba classes are a great way to meet new people, especially as you have zumba in common as a starting talking point! Group fitness in such a relaxed environment is a great way to make sure you keep up your motivation to attend the weekly classes and to start hitting your fitness goals too.

 

Zumba is not just fun! It’s also a highly effective cardio workout that burns calories and can help build long term fitness. There’s no better way to get into fitness than with a class that doesn’t feel like a chore. However, the likelihood is that you’ll be having too much fun to notice you’re exercising!

 

Luke Mohr, MD of Go Mammoth said; “Go Mammoth is everywhere! We have classes in the most convenient venues and our instructors are some of the best around. Wherever you’re looking for a zumba class, we have lots of options – and once you’re part of Go Mammoth you get benefits such as a free top and discounts on food and drink at the zumba venue.”

 

It’s all about the tunes! The music is absolutely key to zumba and our classes have the best choices of tunes that are guaranteed to make sure you’re dancing all through the class – and all the way home!

 

It’s really convenient – you don’t have to sign up for a gym contract and you are just bound in for your eight sessions. If you decide you’d rather do something else after that then there are no penalties and you don’t have to come back.

 

Prices are around £50 for an eight week course, but hurry, as some of our sessions are already fully booked!

 

Find out more about Go Mammoth fitness classes on the website – http://www.gomammoth.co.uk/fitness-classes or by phoning 0207 381 6034

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Goblet squats

Alternative Exercises for When the Gym is Packed

It’s January and you’re back to work after a long break, but more importantly you’re back in the gym and on your nutrition regime.

What could be worse then on your first night back on it than being greeted by a bunch of newbies occupying your beloved free weights area, YOUR territory! However irritating it may be, they have as much right to be there as you.

So how do you cope? Well you have 3 options;

1. You could wait around for each piece of equipment to use, but this could seriously impact the intensity of your workout.

2. You could go at a quieter time like last thing at night or first thing in the morning

OR…

3. You could take this opportunity to try some new exercises which could be the best possible thing to kick-start your muscle building or fat loss in 2015

 

So what are the most important exercises and what can you do instead?

 

Squats

In my opinion THE most important exercise, you should probably be spending about 20% of your total time in the gym on these, so when the squat racks are taken by imbeciles doing bicep curls, keep calm and whip these bad boys out;

Zercher Squats

Simply form a V-shape with your arms and allow the bar to rest on the inside of your eblows. Squat as normal, no rack needed

Zercher squat

Goblet Squats

Grab the handle of a kettle bell (a heavy one) with both hands as close to your body as possible. Squat as normal.

Goblet squats

 

 

Bench Press

Finding a free bench in a commercial gym in January is tougher than finding… Something that’s really hard to find. Don’t think that this is holy grail of chest exercises however. Try these…

Floor Press

A bench press without the bench. Lay on the floor and use large-diameter plates so you can get under the bar. Press. The range of motion isn’t as great because your arms can’t go past parallel but you should find you can use a little more weight as a result. Use a spotter.

floor press

Weighted Press-Ups

You’d perform weighted Pull-ups as a key part of back workout, so why not weighted press-ups for chest? Rest a plate on your back and off you go. This is what I call a highly portable exercise, it can be done virtually anywhere in the gym.

weighted-puship

 

 

 

Seated Dumbell/Barbell Press

In my opinion, if you’re going for a balanced physique and great abs (who isn’t?) you should limited seated exercises as much as possible anyway. Standing exercises mean using your core to stabilise.

Standing Dumbell/Barbell Press

Self explanatory really, to make this even more of a whole body exercises, add some weight and perform hang-clean and presses or clean and presses from the floor.

standing dumbell press

 

 

Pull Ups

Pull ups really are an awesome exercise and in all honesty, they can’t be replaced. I’d even go as far to say that there’d be nothing wrong with having an entire back workout comprised only pull-ups. Yes, I like pull-ups, but if there really are no bars around to hosit yourself up on, try these;

Kneeling Unilateral Lat Pulldowns

Lat pulldowns are ok, but they can mimic the staple pull-up a little better with a few modifications. Kneel on the floor and attach two handles in place of the bar. This makes the exercises less stable, making each side of the body work independently, as well as involving the core.

 

lat_pulldown

 

 

 Dips

Dips are really underrated and it’s unlikely that you’ll find all your dips bars taken as they’re grossly underused by most gym goers. If the newbies at your joint are particularly savy however you can make a make shift dip station…

Bench Dips

Position two benches parallel to each other, use your arms to stabilise you and place your feet on the other, dip down to parallel and explode up, not locking out your elbows. Add weight plates to your lap if needed.

 bench dips

 

Use this busy period to try some new things and breath life into your routine. Get in the mindset that everything can be an opportunity. Not benching or doing conventional squats for a month certainly won’t impact you negatively.

Enjoy your training, and happy 2015!

 

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best running shoes

The importance of picking the right footwear for exercise

When it comes to buying fitness equipment, sports shoes are the most important item you will buy. The wrong decision could have a serious adverse effect on your health, as the feet endure a large amount of pressure during athletic activities. Different sports shoes support your feet in different ways, so if you play a variety of different sports, it is recommended to purchase specialist shoes for each one, as opposed to using one pair for all.

Aerobic trainers

For aerobics work, you should look at a fitness shoe that provides flexibility, support and cushioning. This will absorb some of the impact of intense aerobic exercise while also lessening the shock to the feet. Design wise, you are looking for a thick upper strap to protect the forefoot, a good arch design to cope with the side-to-side steps of aerobics and a soft leather upper for comfort. A mesh-cloth lining is also recommended to absorb moisture and keep the feet cool.

Running shoes

The running shoe is the main sports shoe you definitely shouldn’t use for anything else. Due to their flexibility, they are perfect for running as they allow the foot to flex and bend through each step, but this flexibility does not lend itself well to activities that involve a lot of sideways stepping like tennis and aerobics. Unfortunately it is not just as easy as picking just any old running shoe, as there are so many different running shoes available. You have got to think about the distance you will run and what terrain you will run on. You also need to think about how you actually run. Do you make initial contact with the ground using the inside of your forefoot, or the outside of the heel? This can affect which shoe is right for you. The best practice is to visit a specialist running shop, explain what you intend to do and they will fit the perfect shoe for you.

best running shoes

Football boots

Ill-fitting football boots can cause all kinds of problems for the feet. If you play on a variety of surfaces, such as grass and the hard-on-the-feet AstroTurf, again it is best if you have a few different kinds of boot to adapt to the different surfaces. Footballers are renowned for developing corns and calluses, and boots that are too tight can cause blackened or even lost toenails. Again comfort is key here, so make sure you get a pair that fits you properly with a football sock on, and you should be good to go.

Tennis and squash shoes

Racquet sports like tennis and squash again require specially-designed footwear. They are a lot heavier around the toe than running shoes, as tennis for example includes a lot of stop-start action, meaning you need extra protection for the front of the toes. Tennis shoes are also a lot more forgiving on the side-to-side movements common in racquet sports.

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