After conducting a fairly lengthy food diary, where I recorded my daily calorie, fats, carb and protein intake at every meal a few important findings became clear. I was substantially under my calorie intake that would be condusive for putting on more muscle.

Muscle needs food and therefore calories to create an anabolic state for the body to induce muscle growth.

My BMR should be around 2200 calories per day (this is the amount of calories required just to survive (breath/brain function/digestive system etc) but my daily activities level could be regarded as ‘highly active’. Using the Schofield calculation, I should actually have a calorie intake of around 3200 – 3400 calories.

So, I’ve established I need to take in more calories, as one of my goals is to put on more muscle… but where should these calories come from?

Well, going back to my food diary it appeared that my protein and fats intake was perfectly adequate (following ACSM guidelines) but my carbohydrate volume was half what it should have been.

Now, I am an advocate of listening to your body and not always following the rules for the masses, however,  just seeing the fact that my carbs were very low I thought doing a carb increase trial (for a couple of months) would be worth it.

I am trying to double my intake. It was previously around 15-20% of my total calorie intake. I am trying to push this up to the 35% mark.

The carbohydrates will take the form of low GI based foods such as sweet potato’s, quinoa (see pic below) and porridge oats for example. Alongside slightly simpler carbs like banana’s straight after training (within the so called metabolic window).

Carbs and protein in this ancient aztec food...

A great choice for good clean carbohydrates.

It may increase my muscularity, or may add a little little more wobble!!! I’ll keep you posted on my results.

Devised in Germany, the volume training approach is something I have just begun to adopt to my leg workouts. Basically, the method is to use volume to instigate hypertrophy (muscle growth), rather than lower reps and heavier weights.

The reason I have done this is I injured my left knee around 3 years ago and have a touch on tendonitis (jumpers knee) in it. This was from Thai Boxing and most probably from doing too many tuck jumps in training. As a result I struggle a bit with squatting big weights… I say struggle but it is more the fear of injuring it again really.

My solution is now to do lighter front squats going very deep and then ‘German Volume Training’ on the leg extension machine. How do I do this? Well, it sounds a bit sadistic but it is actually just more of a mental challenge in overcoming the lactic acid build up. I do 10 sets of 10 reps on the extension but with only 10 seconds rest in between. So in total it’s 100 reps… but I do this twice in one training session… so 200 reps!!

I tend to leave at least half an hour between the two and after only one month I have seen some muscle growth, in particular some good separation in the quads. I highly recommend it for those that don’t want to do heavy squats but are struggling to build their legs up. It’s even great for just toning them up.

But get ready for the lactic burn… just swear in German and no one will know! Achtung!!!!

Over the last few weeks I have been aching a little bit more, especially in my legs. I put this down to the fact that I have been doing fairly long sessions (approximately one and a half hours) with many sets and typically 15-20 reps per set. I have responded well to this hybrid of German volume training approach but I really don’t think it is something I could keep up for weeks on end.

After a good two weeks of doing this I decided to change this up (or more like down!). I have been doing sessions for about 45 mins, hit it hard and heavy and get outta there. And I must say it is a nice change; I have got back home for my post workout meal and I still feel full and pumped and the muscles are still pulsing with warmth… perfect for growth.

So, all I am suggesting is don’t be afraid to do a shorter session. So long as you warm up and then hit the sets hard and heavy, you may find that it benefits you more. I just enjoy being in the gym and training, I’d be in there hours if I could… but it may not be the best for the body and your muscle gains.

There you go… just like this post, keep it short and sweet (occasionally).

Thought for the day…

Posted: March 10, 2014 in Weights
Tags: ,

If you are ever tempted by snacking, be it at home or work then a nice little phrase to think of is ‘Resistance is temporary… regret lasts forever!

When you see that doughnut being waved in front of you just remember that phrase and I can assure you it is then easy to say no.

Last night was a brutal back workout but brutal in an ‘I Love It!!’ kinda way. Working the back is something many people struggle with but is essential to get a well rounded and symmetrical appearance. It is a large area (stating the obvious!) made up of a number of muscles such as the Latissimus Dorsi (Lats), Rhomboids and Serratus amongst others.

The key to working out the back has the same principle as all other muscles; the focus should be on the mind to muscle connection. You must feel the muscle working, feel the contraction whilst moving the weight. With all back exercises the temptation is for the arms take over, instead what you need to do is imagine pulling the weight from your elbows. If you concentrate on just moving your elbows back, then you will begin to be on the right path… the path of en’LAT’enment!!

So onto my workout last night:

Firstly, warm up on the cable pull down for 5 sets of 10-12 reps. I often do this standing to begin with for perhaps the first two sets and then I get into the conventional seated pull down position. I use a light weight (around 30-40 kg for the first two sets and then move up 10 kgs each time for the next 3 sets). But remember this is just the warm up so use lighter weights and do it slow with a full range of motion.

Next we get the back pump on! Starting off with my favourite machine:

- Seated Cable Row – 5 Sets of 15 reps. In a working set I use a mix of hand grips; hammer grip, overhand and underhand, each for 5 reps. This may seem excessive but I want to work all grips and target all the different angles because I love the feeling on this machine and also next we have…

- One Arm Dumbbell Rows – 10 sets in total but divided into both arms (so essentially it is 5 sets). I pull a moderate to heavy weight up with a powerful concentric contraction (up) and a slower eccentric move (down) and trying to really feel the pull in the lats. Again, don’t let your arm do all the work, pull from the elbow.

- Smith Machine Deadlifts – 5 sets of 10-12 reps. This is not your conventional deadlift as I set the stoppers around shin height. So, although I am still bending with my legs with good form (arched back etc.) most of the weight is pulled from your inner back muscles such as the internal obliques and even into the traps towards the top of the motion (via a slight shoulder drawback at the top of the movement). To really accentuate the muscle contraction I also try to pull away from the machine.

- Low Cable Rows (with rope attachment) – 3 sets to failure. A fairly simple move; I pull up the U-Rope attachment to chin height, flaring out the elbows and feel the burn around the shoulder blades. Just go to failure as this is one where 15 reps just isn’t enough!

- Pull Downs – 5 sets (dropsets). I move back to the pull down machine and do more or less the same as the warm up but with bigger weights and not standing! Often, I do drop sets on these so I go very heavy for say 5 reps, then a bit lighter for the next 10 and then even lighter until failure. A partner is required for this… my wife seems to manage but she is a bit hardcore!

- Lastly, Lat ‘Squeeze’ Machine – 3 Sets of 6-8 reps. I purely use this as a finisher and go a bit lighter on the last set. I like to hold/ pause the rep at maximum contraction for a couple of seconds just to feel the burn but really this is the beginning of the warm down so full motion is accentuated which leads into the stretching process.

Now we are done don’t forget to fully stretch. I find the most effective stretch after a back workout is ‘The Tree Hug’. If you join your hands together by interlinking the fingers and create a circle with your arms, imagine you are hugging a tree and stretch up down and all around.

And that’s that. Back peaks back…alright!!

This year I am hitting the chest hard. Not in a King Kong stylee but really focussing on the contractions and squeeze, mixing up compound and isolated movements in the same workout. A lot of the time I see people just moving the weight, lifting and lowering explosively in order to move the object as fast as possible and finish their set.

Yesterday was a big chest day for me and here’s a sample of my chest workout:

- Full warm-up of pectoral stretches and light weights for approx 5 mins.

- Bench Press on the Smith Machine with the incline bench. Total 5 sets of 12-15 reps; pyramiding the weights up and then down with heaviest on the 3rd set. (I feel the Smith machine allows me the fullest stretch to my chest).

- Cable Cross Over. Total 5 sets of 12-15 reps; using the same pyramid approach as above. I change the weights and angle for each set of these. I go from light and almost lateral cross-overs, then to very heavy and kneeling crosses and then to standard but very slow eccentric movements. The key is to mix it up every time!

- Seated Chest Press – Total 4 sets of 20 reps. I blast these out with a moderate weights but really push the top of the concentric contraction (where your hands are closest at the top) and do a two count push with the strongest squeeze you can. This really builds the muscle in the centre of the pectorals.

- Leaning 1 Arm Dumbbell Flye – This is something I do after each set of the seated chest press. I will do 8-10 reps of this unique movement to again put more tension and stress of the centre of the pectorals (thus trying to create a deep valley between both pecs).

- Pec Deck – This is the final chest exercise is use to exhaust the muscle. I don’t do a prescribed number of sets instead I just keep going to failure and pretty much go until I can’t go no more!! Punishing but essential to boost development and get the final pump!

If you are a bench press devotee then why not try this for a while and see if it makes a difference to you. It worked for me :)

At this time of year (end of January) new year resolutions start to wane and many completely fall off the wagon. I think this is because of all the miracle diet transformations that we get bombarded with. Often if success is not seen within one or two months then many people believe that they cannot get fit and simply give up.

The mindset of ‘Every Day is One Step Closer’ needs to be adopted. Not so much the mindset of ‘It’s a long road but I’ll get there’ as this just seems too much, too long and too far off for many people. So, if you have a family member, friend or PT client who is beginning to wobble (no pun intended!) then just keep telling them that a journey is made up of small steps and small changes which soon add up to the big jigsaw of success.

Another tip would be not to measure success on the scales; really it is about changes in the mirror (preferably on a once a month basis) or even just about how energised and good you feel about life.

If I were to be a harsh critic I would argue ‘What were they expecting!’… miracles …I mean you cannot expect to eat badly for years with no exercise and then it all gets fixed within a matter of weeks. It is a game of patience and consistency but I think this approach to helping people loose weight has too many negative connotations and will not be inspiring.

So keep thinking  ‘Every Day is One Step Closer!!!’

What do all men want, and all women like to see? That’s right… the Abs!

Of all the body parts that have the most attention, especially on TV and in the printed media; has to be the Rectus Abdominis muscle. The six pack is the holy grail for most people but often it is seen as an unachievable dream. But that could not be further from the truth. The simple fact is all of us have a six-pack but it is often hidden behind a layer of fat and it is this fat that needs to be reduced to be able to see them. In fact, your total body fat needs to be in the 10-15% region before there are any of the washboard signs; really more towards the 10% side.

So, what you really want to know is how to achieve this. Well there are obviously ways to enhance your abs through exercises such as hanging legs raises, V-Sit Ups, Russian Twists, cable pull-downs and the old faithful crunches (All of these will be analysed in a future blog) but I am going to focus your mind now… if you want clearly defined abs you are going have to eat your way towards them.

This means eating clean, unprocessed food in moderate quantities but at regular intervals. The work you put in at the gym can be ruined by your food consumption, so you need to ensure that you are getting the right food fuel to have an effective workout (ensuring you have ample glycogen levels pre and post exercise) but the mantra to follow really would be that you have to burn off more calories than you are putting in to your body to stoke the fat burning fires.

I will be following this post with some food ideas and recipes that will assist you in adopting the eat clean and get lean lifestyle.

Suggested Warm-Up

Posted: September 24, 2013 in Weights
Tags: ,

The ideal way to warm up is not to stretch, not to elongate… but to rotate. Rotation can encompass movement and warming of the rotator cuff (the grouping of muscles and tendons in your shoulder) as this muscle is very prone to injury and is pretty much used in any upper body work-outs.

English: an exercise of rotator cuff

English: an exercise of rotator cuff (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I would also suggest that some kind of lower body warm up. I have begun to incorporate some burpee’s straight after a low intensity, steady state cycle (duration approx 5 mins). I have found this is sufficient as a warm up.

In the past I have been guilty of doing a warm up that was relatively intense such as a HIIT cycle session for 10 mins followed by around 100  press-ups (5 sets of 20 reps). This certainly did ‘warm me up’ but perhaps a little bit too much. After all you need the fuel in the tank for the session, not use at least a quarter on the warm up!