Monday, 28 May 2012

Complex training

If you know me, or follow my blogs you’ll probably have a pretty good idea by now that I love to use sports performance strength and conditioning protocols within my training to achieve a functional, shredded, muscular physique. Without a doubt this is one of my favourites and fastest ways to build muscle, melt fat, gain strength, gain explosive power and build work capacity simultaneously. Let me introduce complex training! (not to be confused with a complex, like the one I presented in a previous post - the BB warm up complex)

so what is it? Well the concept of complex training has been around for years and quite simply is a strength exercise paired with an explosive exercise of the same/similar movement pattern. For example, a bench press for 6 reps into a medicine ball chest pass for 15 reps. Not all exercises have an explosive exercise they can be paired up with, but a substitution can normally be found.  Here are some common pairings:
Strength exercise (4-6 reps)
Explosive exercise (12-15reps)
Bench press
Medicine ball chest pass
Front squat
Jump squat
Broad jump
Weighted pull-up
Medicine ball slam

The science behind complex training is actually quite simple when you think about it. It activates the central nervous system and fast twitch fibres simultaneously (remember these have most potential for growth and are responsible for explosive power). You can already see your going to be killing more than 2 birds with one stone right? So the strength exercise activates the fast twitch fibres, then the explosive exercise that immediately follows stresses these fibres that have been activated even more. This type of training will also shift certain muscles fibres that may be more slow twitch to perform like a fast twitch muscle fibre. If you want to become a fast, strong, explosive individual this is exactly what you want! If you want to become a slow, weed with bamboo sticks for legs stay away from this technique. My last point is that the pace of this workout torches calories and gets your heart rate up which keeps your body in that ‘fat burning’ state.
The video below shows a quick demonstration of a smith machine bench press paired with a medicine ball chest pass. Try it, you won’t be disappointed!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Abs are made in the kitchen

“abs are made in the kitchen” how many times have we all heard this phrase? Countless right? But what does it actually mean? Well quite simply it means in order to see your abs your diet must be in check. Which is 101% spot on. No doubt about it. However there is one major issue that stands out to me - So much emphasis has been put on this phrase everyone’s forgotten than you need to train your abs in order to see them more clearly and defined! They’re just like any other muscle group, in that you need to train them (hard) to develop the fibres making them more visible. Combining the diet and training together is the recipe for those chiselled set of abs you desire. So this post is my bite-back at the ‘abs don’t need to be trained’ theory. After discussing some important information about the abs I will show you a sample abs workout that can be performed in, yep you guessed it – the kitchen!

A set of shredded abs can look great. But what are they actually for? Well, they flex the trunk forward, protect the organs, assist with going to the toilet, regulate internal abdominal pressure and prevent the spine from hyperextending. Remember as well, with the abs there’s more than meets the eye. You also have the core, which is a strong column set deep inside your body. Having a strong, well developed core creates a solid foundation for all everyday activities. For us weight training folk a stronger core means bigger weights on compound lifts like squats and deadlifts etc.
Due to the location of the abs on the body (they are situated very close to the heart and lungs) they can oxygenate and recover from a set very quickly, so you can hit them hard. Some people I see in the gym stick a few sets of crunches on the end of their workouts and wonder why they see no progress. I like to train abs with 2-3 exercises every other workout. I normally just tag the routine onto the end of my main workout. Never at the start as this will weaken your core, limiting the weight you can push or pull during your main session.  I tend to stick to the 10-20 rep range, but you can go higher or lower, you just need to see what works best for you. Lastly, don’t be afraid to add some resistance to your abs exercises. Remember they need to be ‘developed’ in order for them to become more visible.
When devising my abs routines I normally stick to this simple, yet effective formula:
·         Movement A -  trunk or hip flexion / upper or lower abs work
·         Movement B – rotation or side bend / oblique work
·         Movement C – bridging/core work

Heres a very simple abs workout that uses this formula (note it doesn’t have to be performed in a kitchen, it just fitted in perfect with the title!)
Movement A – weighted crunch
3-4 x 10-20 reps

Movement B – seated Russian twist
3-4 x 10-20 reps

Movement C - L sit hold
3 x 30-60 seconds