Thursday, 29 September 2011

Tabata Protocol

I recently received some great news; a photo-shoot has come about in Southampton in about 15 days time. I’m really excited about it and now seems a good a time as any to post some of the training methods I use to achieve that lean, ripped look many desire.
I don’t do cardio. Yes, I refuse to become one of those hamsters on the treadmills. By cardio I mean that boring, mundane work you do in the gym on the treadmills and bikes etc. Instead I use alternatives such as battling rope drills, agility work, prowler sprints and sled drags. To me it’s much more exciting, functional, challenging and its nice to get out of the gym and into a different environment.  There really is nothing like the feeling of being outside working out with your heart racing and the sun beating down on your back.
Due to the way I eat and train I keep my body fat around 8-10% all year round,  I’ve gone off this ‘on season-off season’ type routine where you’d be in shape for a few months then turn into Mr Blobby for the remainder of the year. Keeping in relatively good shape all year round is perfect because if any photo-shoots come about I can just make a few tweaks to my training and diet over the last two weeks and be ready.
The Tabata protocol is a research proven interval training method, the brain child of Professor Izumi Tabata. It consists of 20 seconds of all out high intensity work followed by a 10 second rest period, and then repeat this pattern for a total of 4 minutes (or 8 rounds). You would then rest for 60-90 seconds and repeat the entire pattern 3-5 times for a total of 12-20 minutes. It doesn’t sound much, but if you really push the intensity during the 20 second work periods like your supposed to, it will kill you! It’s something that I’m going to be adding into my training 1-2 mornings a week in conjunction with my 4 strength training workouts.   
I normally pick two different exercises that I alternate between. This is to prevent the fatigue on one exercise kicking in to quickly. It also means that you can change up your workouts each time, preventing boredom. Here are some of my favourite exercises:
·         Battling rope drills
·         Ketllebell swings
·         Jump squats
·         Mountain climbers
·         Sledge hammer tyre strikes
·         Skipping
·         Medicine ball slams
·         Punch bag
There are hundreds more, but those are just some of my favourites. For todays session I picked:
A. Battling rope drills
B. kettlebell jump squats

Written down, the workout would look like this:
20 seconds – battling rope drills
10 seconds rest
20 seconds – kettlebell jump squats
10 seconds rest
20 seconds – battling rope drills
10 seconds rest
20 seconds – kettlebell jump squats
10 seconds rest
20 seconds – battling rope drills
10 seconds rest
20 seconds – kettlebell jump squats
10 seconds rest
20 seconds – battling rope drills
10 seconds rest
20 seconds – kettlebell jump squats
10 seconds rest
(Rest 60-90 seconds then repeat)

I then repeated that pattern 3 times for a total of 12 minutes. After that I was a trembling, sweating, fatigued mess on the floor. But remember those painful 12 minutes equal a lifetime of pride!...

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Progressing Progression

Think sticking more weight on the bar or completing more reps is the only way to progress your training? Think again! Try these 5 other methods to take your training to another level.

1.       Decrease rest time between your sets.
Chances are your taking 60-90 seconds rest in between your sets or you’re checking yourself out in the mirror for 5 minutes. Nothing challenges your workout like clock watching in between sets. Try taking 30 seconds rest and really push the pace. It will be a quick workout, but it certainly won’t be your easiest!

2.       Incorporate thick grip training.
Thick grip training takes care of grip strength and forearm training which is pretty much always neglected in training routines. It’s more functional, for example how often would an MMA fighter have to grab his opponent’s 1 inch thick wrist (the usual size of a barbell or dumbbell handle)? Never! Human wrists are 2inches + in diameter. Thick grip training also increases motor unit activation in the muscles which results in faster gains in size and strength. Purchasing a whole new set of thick grip dumbbells or a new bar would get expensive; however check out ‘Fat Gripz’ as a more feasible alternative. They simply slide over your existing bars, dumbbells and cable attachments. Try them on any exercise you want and I guarantee you it will challenge you like nothing else. Without a doubt one of the best investments I’ve ever made into my training.

3.        Vary rep tempo.
This is often an overlooked way of progressing your workout.  The most common speed of a repetition could be expressed as 2010 (2 seconds on the eccentric phase, no pause, 1 second on the concentric phase and no pause at the top) instead why don’t you try 4010 (4 seconds on the eccentric phase, no pause, 1 second on the concentric phase and no pause at the top) Or how about 6110, 2041, 2020 the possibilities are endless.  It’s a great way to shock your body and elicit some extreme DOMS! Adjusting your lifting speed like this will have a great effect on time under tension. Which some muscle groups, like the lats for example respond to greatly.

4.       Increase frequency.
If you’re training each muscle group once per week why not try and train them twice a week. This is also a fantastic way to bring up a weak or lagging muscle group you may have.

5.       Active recovery week.
Sometimes, to take a step forward we have to take a step back. High levels of intense training put huge amounts of stress on the mind and body, so taking a week away from the gym or performing a few light workouts instead will help you recharge and prepare for another block of training.

I hope this post has given you a few more ideas to try out, shock-up your own training routine and most importantly keep results coming! J

Friday, 23 September 2011

five meal ideas #1

Be under no misconception, reaching your fat loss or muscle gain goal will take time. Getting to your fitness destination is a marathon, not a sprint. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your dream body. With this said one of the main areas so many people fall down on is not being consistent with the diet. It could be lack of preparation time or lack of healthy meal ideas. Besides eating right doesn’t have to be about bland chicken breasts, boring brown rice and dry steamed vegetables at every meal. My main aim of this post is to give you some inspiration for creative healthy meal ideas that taste good, can be made in under 15 minutes and can be suited to any fitness goal.
The rules of good nutrition
Whatever meal you choose to eat if you stick to these simple rules you can’t go wrong!
·         Eat 5-6 small meals a day
·         Stay away from sugars and processed foods
·         Focus on consuming lean proteins with every meal
·         Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
·         Drink 3+ litres of filtered/bottled water a day
·         Save starchy carbs for breakfast or after a workout.

Chicken and sweetcorn pizza bagel (wholemeal)

Tuna salad (made with tinned tuna, lettuce, spinach, cucumber, avocado and drizzled with olive oil)

Honey, peanut butter and banana bagel (wholemeal). Perfect for muscle glycogen replenishment post workout or at breakfast

Buffalo meatballs with roasted red peppers and brown rice

Steak, sweet potato wedges and steamed vegetables drizzled with olive oil

Thursday, 22 September 2011

The barbell warm-up complex

Everyone in the gym has their own warm-up routine. Some do a few light sets of the exercise they begin with, some do a light jog on the treadmill for 10 minutes, some fools stretch out their shoulders before training legs (by the way, stretching as a warm-up is something you shouldn’t be doing! Current clinical and practical studies have shown stretching before your workout will have a dramatic impact on the weight you can lift and we’re not in primary school PE class anymore) and some people don’t even bother with a warm up.  In this post I will present the warm-up routine I use and believe to be the fastest most efficient way to prepare your whole body before any strength training workout.

So why bother warming up? Quite simply the warm up prepares the body for ultimate performance. Whether it be in training, practise or competition. The warm up will raise the core temperature, mobilise joints and help prevent injuries.
What is a complex? A complex is actually simple. Choose 2 or more exercises using the same implement and load (in this case an empty barbell) and perform the exercises back to back without putting the bar down or resting between exercises.  For my warm up complex I perform 6 exercises. Each exercise for 5 reps then without resting I would move onto the next. I would go through this circuit just once. I would then supplement this with some mobility work like shoulder circles and spine mobility.
To me 10 minutes on a treadmill as a warm up is a bit of a waste of time. Sure it gets your heart rate up, but it’s not very functional in terms of joint mobility and warming the muscles through a full range of motion. The barbell warm-up complex is as follows:

A. Hang jump shrug x 5
B. Power clean x 5
C. Push press x 5
D. Front squat x 5
E. Bent over barbell row x 5
F. Romanian deadlift x 5
Shoulder circles x 10 seconds (not pictured)
Spinal mobility: lateral flexion x 5 each side (not pictured)
Spinal mobility: lateral rotation x 5 each side (not pictured)
 If you find an Olympic bar to heavy try a 10kg fixed weight barbell or weighted aerobic stick as an alternative.  It looks long written down, but takes less than 5 minutes to complete then it’s straight to it like there’s nothing to it!...

Sunday, 18 September 2011


As I lie here in bed with one hell of a hangover after a great night out with some friends it seems appropriate to write an article about alcohol and fitness (bet you never thought you’d see those two words in the same sentence) and sadly no there hasn’t been a recent discovery that going on an alcohol binge will help increase lean body mass in a matter of weeks!
Everyone likes to go out and socialise with friends, drink and eat food that you know you shouldn’t, its human nature to do so and once in a while this is fine. Some people do find it hard to go on a night out without waking up the next morning thinking they have failed every goal they set themselves, but it really shouldn’t be looked at like that. It should be seen as a mere speed bump on your road to ultimate fitness. Below I’ll summarise a few tips that you can put into practise before, during and after a night out to make sure your progress isn’t hindered too much when you go out.
·         eat your meals as normal right up to around 1-2 hours before drinking begins.
·         If you can, stay away from beer (the beer belly isn’t a myth!) Instead stick to a spirit with a mixer. A shot of vodka with lemonade for example would be a good choice. Don’t even think about drinking those bright coloured, sugar loaded alchopops!
·         Know your limit. Drink to have a good time, not to show everyone your breakfast.
·         Dance! Get out on that dance floor, it’s a great way to meet new people and burn those 7ckal per gram that alcohol packs.
·         Most people like to hit the kebab house after a night out which is a fantastic as it soaks up all the alcohol leaving you hangover free the following morning right? Wrong! It also puts another 500+kcal into your body which isn’t going to get used and will therefore probably be broken down and stored as fat - massive progress killer! So this should be avoided at all costs. I like to have a small, slow digesting protein shake containing 20-30g of casein protein as soon as I get in which will keep me going until breakfast and prevent muscle breakdown without necessarily adding more poor quality calories.
·         The following day I try and stick to my normal routine as best I can (diet wise). I would also take a power nap during the day to help catch up with lost sleep and depending on how I feel physically will depend on when I get back in the gym, but as long as I’ve had a workout by Sunday evening or on Monday I’ll be happy.
·         Everyone knows alcohol can dehydrate you, so it goes without saying drink 1-2 litres more than you normally would the following day to help this.
Put these tips into practise next time you go out and you’ll have the confidence of knowing you haven’t left a massive dent in your gym progress. Anyway, time for me to crawl out of bed and head to the kitchen!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

"Train like an athlete, look like a bodybuilder"

Take a look at any top 100m sprinter competing today and chances are they have the physique you dream of. Yet they don’t head to the gym and do endless sets of bicep curls and ab crunches! In this post I aim to show you the benefits of training for performance, like an athlete, yet reaping the benefits of looking great.
So what makes an athletes training routine different to your typical bodybuilders? An athlete would commonly train using a full body workout split or a push versus pull split. They would split the movement patterns into what the body does not what muscle group it is like a bodybuilder. Using a body part split is not only a thing of the past it’s completely non-functional. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with training using a body part split, I’ve used it myself many times and seen some good results from it, it just has a few major flaws.
 In my opinion the benefits from training using a full body split or an alternating push/pull day outweigh those of the typical chest on Monday, back on Tuesday kind of split. Let me explain, with full body training you can hit the muscle 2-4 times a week and the more you stimulate a muscle to grow, the more it will grow! Its also great if something pops up in your schedule and you have to miss a session, no problem as those muscles will still get trained in your next workout. Taxing a large amount of muscle in a session could also result in greater anabolic hormone stimulation, perfect for lean muscle gains. You’ll also get greater energy expenditure per workout again due the amount of muscle being hit in one session. This could mean three things, one you can skip that boring cardio, two you could eat more or three you can gain muscle whilst actually losing fat now who wouldn’t want that?
There are a few other key points that an athlete would abide by that we can incorporate into our training.
·         Each rep should be lifted explosively. This is a technique known as submaximal accelerative efforts. This hits the fast twitch (type 2) muscles fibres hard, which have most potential for growth and are responsible for lightening quick muscle contractions.
·         Train using free weights. Free weights not only improve strength but they help improve balance simply due to their unstable nature.
·          Don’t shy away from Olympic-style lifts. These could include lifts such as the power clean, snatch and jerk. They can improve your overall strength, power, balance and coordination. Now you can’t get more “bang for your buck” than that.
The last point I want to touch on is progression. However you train to see results you must progress each week by lifting more weight, completing more reps or shortening rest periods between sets etc.
Regardless of whether we compete in a sport we’re all athletes of everyday life, so why aren’t we training like them?...