Thursday, 27 October 2011

train HARD recover HARD

What does the word recovery mean to you? To most it just means sleeping or resting (which is fine and probably the easiest way recover from your workouts) but what if there were other things you could be doing to aid performance, promote a faster recovery and have you feeling fresh and strong for your next workout. Well there is…..

The five ‘active’ recovery techniques listed below are some of my favourite. They can all be performed in the comfort of your own home and cost next to nothing.
·         Stretching
 A lot of people like to tag some stretching or flexibility exercises before or after their workout. I prefer to look at it as a completely different session entirely and do it for 10-15 minutes at home in the evening in front of the tv etc. Stretches should be held for 30-60 seconds. The benefits of stretching should not be overlooked and include increased flexibility, increased joint range of motion, increased blood flow to the muscles bringing nourishment and flushing waste products and it helps beat stress by relaxing tight muscles.
·         Foam rolling
This technique is similar to getting a sports massage, but only at a fraction of the price. You simply roll your calves, hamstrings, quads and lower back etc. over the roller. There is a bit of pain involved, but bear with it, the benefits such as increased flexibility and released tension in the muscles by digging out those knots will really help your recovery rate. Again like stretching you can do this at home on rest days/between workouts.
·         Ice bath
This is not the most enjoyable active recovery technique and I can guarantee you in the 15 minutes it takes to have an ice bath you will repeatedly ask yourself the question “why the F*CK am I doing this!?” The best time for an ice bath is immediately after your workout or sports match. They work by constricting the blood vessels which in turn reduces swelling and holts DOMS. After the bath the underlying tissues warm-up causing a fast return of fresh blood flow bringing nutrients and flushing harmful metabolic debris out of the muscles.
·         Epsom salt baths
Contradictory to the previous bathing technique, this is by far the most enjoyable. Next time you have a hot bath drop in some Epsom salts which can be brought from most supermarkets and even some good health food shops. Epsom salts are high in magnesium so it’s a great way to get a boost if you’re deficient. Amongst many other processes, magnesium is necessary for the body to bind serotonin, a mood enhancing chemical within the brain creating a relaxed feeling of well-being. Epsom salt baths also help flush out toxins easing muscle aches and pains.
·         Proper hydration
Last, but by no means least is proper hydration.  Exercise increases the demand of water, so it’s paramount to make sure your drinking enough to prevent dehydration which can lead to poor performance. Water also helps flush out harmful toxins, which again will help aid in the recovery process. Aim for at least 3-4 litres a day.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

five meal ideas #2

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.
Tuna steak, mixed veg and brown rice 

Buckwheat pancakes and strawberries drizzled with honey (great way to start the day!)

 Cheese and ham omlette with mixed salad drizzled with olive oil

Lean beef minced meat with roasted mediterranean vegetables

Salmon fillet with steamed asparagus, sweetcorn and green beans

Monday, 17 October 2011

The push/pull formula

In a previous post I made “train like an athlete, look like a bodybuilder” I briefly touched upon the benefits of using a push/pull split versus a typical bodybuilders body part split. In this post I will take that a step further and present to you the formula you can use to construct your own push/pull split. So, here it is...

Push day
Movement type
Power clean, jump squat, snatch
Knee dominant
Front squat, lunge
Horizontal push
Bench press, incline DB press
Vertical push
DB shoulder press,  standing BB press
Bridging/ trunk flexion
Plank, cable crunch
Trunk rotation
Seated Russian twists, cable wood chop

Pull day
Movement type
Power clean, jump squat, snatch
Hip dominant
Good morning, back hyperextension
Horizontal pull
BB row, seated cable row
Vertical pull
Pull up, close grip pull down
Bridging/ trunk flexion
Plank, cable crunch
Trunk rotation
Seated Russian twists, cable wood chop

Your week may look like this:
MON-push day
TUE- rest
WED-pull day
THUR-push day
SAT-pull day
Regardless of how many days you train per week you would quite simply alternate between the push and pull days. What about arms and calves work I hear you say?! Well if you wish you can include an arms day within your weekly split or drop the abs/core work from one workout a week and replace it with some arms or calves isolation work. I’ve also been asked “because there’s only one exercise per push workout for chest (for example) I don’t feel very sore the following morning, am I training hard enough?” Well if you push the intensity to the absolute max on that one exercise like you should, its more than enough work. Then you’ll recover those pushing muscles for the following few days whilst training the pull muscles before you go back to the pushing muscles and do it all again!
Now you’ve got the formula, get straight to it like there’s nothing to it!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

five underrated supplements for + muscle - bodyfat

The fitness and sports supplement industry is a booming business, and it continues to grow on a daily basis. There are thousands of products on the market all of which promise this and promise that, it’s very easy for the audience to be sucked into buying a product only to be very disappointed. Cutting through all the BS, taking a magic pill claiming to shed pounds of fat or pack on lean muscle overnight is probably a fad. They may assist you achieving your goals, but without putting in the hard work in the kitchen or gym you aren’t going anywhere!
 On a more positive note there are many great supplements out there that are not a waste of money and have solid scientific evidence backing them up. In my opinion the following five supplements should be part of anyone's diet looking for more muscle, less body fat and optimal performance.  I regularly use them and have the confidence knowing that they are supporting me in achieving my goals. Try them too, and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

1.       Vitamin D3
So what do you know about vitamin D? You probably know it can be made in the body with the help of sun light and that low levels could result in rickets or osteoporosis. What you probably didn’t know is that a deficiency could be linked to obesity due to the lack of production of the ‘fat regulating’ hormone leptin. It can also be linked to muscle weakness and depression. Now provided you don’t live in the Caribbean or Africa etc. do you really think you’re getting enough sunlight all year round to produce optimal vitamin D levels?
2.       Omega 3’s
I could quite easily talk about the benefits of omega 3’s for the rest of this post, so I’ll try and keep it short and simple. The greatest benefits from this supplement are reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, lowered blood pressure, lowered levels of fats in the blood stream, greater brain function and a speedy recovery from exercise due to their ability to reduce inflammation in the joints and muscles. If that’s not enough reasons to start taking them I don’t know what is!
3.       Zinc
For the male athlete, zinc is so important. Did you know even a mild deficiency could reduce testosterone, decrease lean body mass and slow muscle recovery? Exercise increases your need for this vital mineral, so what are you waiting for!?
4.           Hydrochloric acid (digestive enzymes)
HCL is a naturally occurring chemical in the stomach that breaks down fats and proteins. There are no tricks to this supplement; quite simply it’s going to help break down all that food your putting into your body for optimal digestion and absorption.

5.       CLA
Conjugated linoleic acid is an unsaturated fatty acid found in small amounts in meat, milk and cheese. It’s marketed as a fat loss supplement as studies suggest it limits fat storage and increases fat burning.  However when combined with resistance training studies have also shown it to increase muscle mass and strength. This suggests it would be the perfect supplement for a lean muscle bulk phase or a fat loss phase whilst maintaining as much size and strength as possible.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Its all about the hormones...

Ever wondered why the guy that’s banging in steroids, training like an ape and eating shit food gets results?.....Its because its all about the hormones! Getting the optimal hormonal balance within the body should not and cannot be over looked if you want to see great results. One of the most important, and the hormone I’m going to discuss in this post, is testosterone. The king when it comes to muscle and male health. It drives protein synthesis so whether your goal is to get bigger, faster or stronger having optimal T levels will make a massive difference. Oh, and it gets better. Optimal T levels will also mean more energy, higher libido and greater cognitive functions. The following points will make sure your body’s hormones are working in your favour:

·         Heavy compound lifts.
When it comes to boosting T levels making use of big complex lifts like the bench press, deadlift, power clean and snatch will make the world of difference. The reason – these lifts recruit a massive amount of total muscle. This demanding motor pattern puts high metabolic stress on the body, perfect for realising more testosterone.

·         Are you zinc deficient?
Zinc’s main roles in the body are skin and cell growth, healthy immune system and wound healing. Exercise increases your need for this vital mineral and even a mild zinc deficiency could result in lagging testosterone levels and reduced lean body mass.

·         Eat fat to get fit.
Fat, especially saturated fat has got a bit of a bad reputation these days in the media. Yes too much could be an issue, but it shouldn’t be avoided all together. Testosterone is derived from cholesterol so eating foods such as whole eggs, cheese and beef are essential in your quest for higher T levels. Omega 3’s should also be consumed on a regular basis as they have been proven to enhance protein synthesis and reduce cortisol (the stress hormone).
·         Sleep.
Not enough or poor quality sleep could reduce testosterone levels by up to 40%. When you rest your body recovers and rebuilds from your hard work you’ve put in at the gym. If you want optimal testosterone levels you should strive for better quality of sleep. Improving quality of sleep could be as simple as use the bathroom right before bed, keeping the room at a suitable temperature or even using sleep aiding supplements such as ZMA which contains zinc as discussed earlier. The message from this point is simple, for more T make sure your getting enough ZZZ’s.

·         Be a carnivore.
If you don’t eat enough meat (particularly red meat) on a regular basis you could be missing out on zinc, fat, iron, omega 3’s and protein.  All of which will have a negative effect on achieving that optimum Testosterone level within your body.

As a natural athlete these five points listed above are your ammo. So go on, chamber the cartridge and fire back to make sure your body is primed for strength, speed and lean muscle gains!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Supersets 101

Supersets are by far one of the most used and talked about training techniques in the gym. Whether it’s the intense burn you get from performing them or their incredible ability to accelerate performance, build muscle and even burn a bit of body fat on the way they certainly get a lot of attention and they may be just what you need in your training routine.
So what is a superset? Simply put they are a pairing of two different exercises performed back to back with no rest in between.  There are three common types of supersets the first being antagonist supersets. This is where two opposing muscles get paired up with each other, for example biceps and triceps or chest and back. The second type is known as post-fatigue supersets, this is where two exercises for the same muscle group are paired. The first exercise being a compound movement, the second being isolation. An example could be barbell bench press followed by dumbbell flyes. The third type is known as pre-fatigue supersets, this is where two exercises for the same muscle group are paired. The first exercise being an isolation whilst the second is a compound. An example could be the reverse of post-fatigue supersets: dumbbell flyes followed by the barbell bench press.  
Pros of supersets
·         Workouts can be completed faster than usual. Perfect if you’re pushed for time.
·         You get a great ‘pump’ feeling especially when you superset biceps and triceps together.
·         Because of the pace of the workout you’ll burn more calories giving a cardio element to your weight training routine.
·         Post-exercise oxygen consumption is elevated, meaning a higher metabolic rate for a longer period of time after your workout has finished.
Cons of supersets
·         Greater calorie burn/ cardio element may not be what your after.
·         It’s easy to get carried away over performing exercises which could eventually lead to over training. Like any training technique, use it don’t abuse it!
·         In a busy, commercial gym some exercises such as barbell bench press paired with the lat pull-down might be impossible to complete as other gym users could jump onto the piece of kit your about to use.
Below are some of my favourite superset workouts and splits that I hope you will gain some inspiration from and try out in your own training routine.

Weekly antagonist split
Day 1: Chest ss back (horizontal pulling back exercises e.g. dumbbell Rows)
Day 2: Biceps ss triceps + abs
Day 3: shoulders ss back (vertical pulling back exercises e.g. Pull ups)
Day 4: quads ss hams + calves

Biceps/triceps antagonist workout
Barbell curl 3 x 8-12
Bench dip 3 x 8-12
(Fat gripz) incline bench DB curl 3 x 8-12
Overhead DB extension 3 x 8-12
Cable rope hammer curl 2 x 10-12
Rope pressdown 2 x 10-12

Back pre-fatigue supersets workout
Back extension 4 x 6-12
Barbell deadlift 4 x 6-12
Standing straight arm lat pull down 3 x 8-12
Pull- up 3 x 8-12
Dumbbell shrugs 3x 10-12