My Weekend at the Spinning® Clinic

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Just completed my two-day spinning® clinic in Central London and like the barefoot running coaching it was a great course for me to do.  Until now I had been teaching indoor cycling having qualified with a lesser-known brand.  In fact, most instructors that teach indoor cycling are not qualified with the actual Spinning® brand.  I am actually happy to have taught a more freestyle version previously as it gave me the opportunity to improve my skills as an instructor.  Now I feel I am ready to represent the brand.

Now I feel a sense of belonging to a global network using a global language to convey our instructions.  Did you know that all the different drills in spinning®, like ‘seated flat’, and ‘sprints on a hill’, have their own symbols?

For attendees this is of great benefit because if they come across a Spinning® instructor the language used will be familiar to them so even if there is a substitute the class continuity can be preserved.

The spinning programme is a wide and extensive programme.  It can be implemented to achieve numerous goals by following the different training methods discussed briefly on their website www.spinning.com.  Through this, one can achieve all their fitness goals I believe be they improving fitness or achieving fat loss.  A good spinning® bike is about £500 and that really is all you need to get fit with the right instruction.  A few little separate sessions of weight training will help and everything is sorted.  Only those that wish to bulk-up in muscle mass will need more help in the weights room but just to look lean and toned the spinner is really all you need.  I know that is all I would need, I just do the other stuff because I enjoy it and it is also my job.

Another great thing from the course was that most of those attending weren’t even fitness professionals.  They were those with normal office or desk jobs who had a passion for fitness and spin and wanted to do this course in order to help themselves do better in their own classes and to also keep alive that dream of working in the fitness industry one day.

I have also had the opportunity to teach a class today in my new style and I look forward to developing these skills in future weeks.  I have some really good ideas planned.

Big shout out also to my Master Instructor Sandro Morelli who is an encyclopaedia of knowledge and a great inspiration.

I thoroughly recommend this course to anyone whether in the fitness industry or not.  Hope you enjoy your journey into spinning®

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Unlocking the Mental Secret to Weight Loss

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The paths to weight loss are many and weight loss is something that preoccupies people all over the world.  With fitness being the most conventional path that people go down for this purpose, we often hear about the importance of nutrition in this process.  However, weight loss, or Fat Loss, as I prefer to call it, is very much influenced by our mentality as well, and the mind plays a huge roll.

So let me create one specific situation for you to place yourself in allowing you to really intensify your goal…

Imagine you are in prison, for whatever reason and now having paid your debt back to society you have now been given your release date… it is only a month away.  Now this really is a goal; you want to make sure that when you are unlocked for the last time and those doors open you are in the most awesome shape you have ever been in.  You no longer have any distractions and you have that date in mind so what do you do? You hit that gym, or that rowing machine, or even your prison cell workout every single day without fail,  knowing that one lost workout is a day wasted.  You avoid that biscuit or chocolate because you know that is an extra millimetre round your waist line and a few push-ups gone down the drain.

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So put yourself in that prison with that release date in mind, and let that create that inner determination and will to help achieve your goals.  This will give you that extra drive to train even when you thought you couldn’t and push even when you thought you were running on empty.

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The workout and routine that I stuck to to help get rid of my stubborn belly fat was a 30 minute row on the ergometer every single morning with the last ten minutes being intervals.  I imagined myself in that situation and got down to it and got on the machine no matter what and soon I began to see those results I craved.

Of course, you could have a different situation in mind like getting into your wedding dress or getting prepared for the beach but it just doesn’t cultivate the same attitude as the prison scenario.  The association between sweat and grit with wedding dresses just isn’t there unlike prison so that connection is enforced and results are achieved.  Hope this can work for you as it did for me.

 

 

A Fairer Fitness Test

Practically all of us have been put through some sort of fitness test, whether at school, by a doctor, a trainer or as part of our enrolment.  The trouble I find with is that most tests require a certain level of technical ability probably because they entail some sort of cardio exercise like running or cycling.  With these being very specific exercises it is hard to guage an accurate fitness level for all people as a ‘fit’ person may have an inferior running technique to a less ‘fit’ individual.  What if the ‘fitter’ person cannot even ride a bike??? Sometimes the exercises involved in the fitness test requires weights in which case you have to set regulations as to what men need to use and what women need to use.  So what if you have a light man like myself.  I’m fed up of authorising bodies setting a weight that only 75kg + men would comfortably manage.

So to address all this I came up with the ‘Lizzy’ Challenge.  The story behind it is a rather long one but it is a series of 8 bodyweight exercises performed back to back.  You count total reps and the target is 200.  It in itself is a great cardio/strength workout and a valuable reference point to return to and assess your current level of fitness.  The eight exercises are

1. Alternating Lunges

2. Press-ups (Girls can go on their knees but I do have girls that are happy to go on theirtoes and still hit 250 +)

 

3. Mountain climbers (will probably have to refer to the video for that one)

4. Bunny hops

5. Step-overs (a stepper or box will be needed for this and the previous exercise)

6. Bodyweight squats

7. V-situps

8. Star jumps (they may look silly for some but it is a good way to finish and take you to your PB)

Many thanks to my client Andrew for doing this workout on film.  His progress has been amazing.  Try the test yourself and let me know your results.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Es-AUwxO5Bs

 

Barefoot Running, The Dangerous New Phenomenon

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Hope that title caught your attention.  Fact is I had the most amazing experience learning proper barefoot running technique from the coaching team of VIVOBAREFOOT.  I literally felt liberated and born again, no exaggeration.

Of course, it’s not as simple as just taking your shoes off and running.  Luckily I had the priviledge of learning from the students of Lee Saxby, the authority on barefoot running.  A lot has been made of this book called Born to Run, Chris McDougall. The book that allegedly sparked a revolution.  Well, Lee Saxby was McDougall’s coach.  Also present (as a learner) was a London Marathon expert and advisor to over 50 charities on long distance running, Greame Hilditch.  His book on running marathons has even helped BBC presenter Sophie Raworth to complete her marathon, a year after collapsing in one.  It was thus an honour to be in such esteemed company, training in a centre just down the road from me at PremierGlobal, North London.

The team have come up with a great, simple-to-follow, training programme to start getting accustomed to this technique all explained in an ebook, the link for which is below

http://trainingclinic.vivobarefoot.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/Proprioception-MakingSenseofBarefootRunning.pdf

So we began the day getting ourselves recorded executing our current technique.  Then we went through the drills explained in the ebook and were filmed again.  The results can be seen, at least with me, in the following YouTube video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hitEcTt_JgM

Say what you like.  Most people say I look healthier in the second video, some say I look weird.  One thing is for sure, I am a lot happier.  It has given me the motivation to take up more running and it might be the answer to beefing my tiny calves.

Of course you don’t have to be totally barefoot and there are a lot of ‘barefoot’ trainers out there.  However, the VIVOBAREFOOT model has a proper training philosophy behind it, most notably the importance of toe-splaying which is compromised by the five-finger models.  As a result, VIVOBAREFOOTs even look like normal shoes so a double bonus.

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There’s a whole lot more around this phenomenon.  Learning to strike with the forefoot as opposed to heel is a skill that isn’t just acquired and needs to be learnt and I am still in that process.  Sure I can coach and advise people on this but I am on the journey myself but it is a challenge that I am relishing and looking forward to sharing my findings with you.

So read up the resources given, as well as the stuff on the VIVOBAREFOOT website and make an informed decision as to whether you wish to embark on the same journey.  Some people like Greame has said that he has been fine running marathons for fifteen years in cushioned trainers so he probably won’t change, so make the decision that is right for you.

Healthy Regards

Pre-exhaust method to build big pecs

Another one of those problems faced by iron-pumping enthusiasts is when you feel your performance improving on the bench press but the chest remains as flat as a pancake. So what seems to be the problem here?

It’s a simple case of the arms taking dominance over the chest  I should think. So here’ s the primary method used to address this; it’s actually a method that we are all taught in PT school but now I stumbled across evidence that this method actually works. It’s called the pre-exhaust method and the idea is that you fatigue the tricep first so that once you hit the bench press exercise the chest becomes more engaged during the move.  The picture above features one of my clients, Jenner.  We never actually practised the pre-exhaust method but what he did have was a slight injury to his left tricep.  After a few months of working with him we see that the left pec is much better developed than the right pec.  My belief is that the weakness in his left tricep allowed him to engage the left pec a lot better.  Again a small portion of people will find their pectorals responding well to any chest exercise and they are that minority regularly attending the gym either because they see their results and are thus motivated or because they are scared of losing what they already have.  This method is more for those that struggle to build the chest or because they have plateaued.
The method is pretty simple; perform an exercise that will fatique the tricep.  The chosen exercise needs to isolate this muscle to make it a complete ‘billy-no-mates’.  The standing cable extension with the rope is a good choice for me.  Once you have done that, hit the chest with an effective pressing exercise, dumbell press or bench-press.
Breaking plateaus is a challenging game and gradually I am building up my repertoire of plateau breakers but this is a common one that every Personal Trainer is aware of.
Hope you have fun trying this out.

Add 10 kg to your Maximum Bench Press

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This is not a make-believe Men’s Health claim. I actually did increase someone’s plateauing 1 rep maximum by 10 kilos on his bench press. It was a 3 months process (which you can easily condense into 9 weeks) but now we have built a strong foundation upon which we can beef up his chest which would not have been possible without adopting such a perfect structure. This method is perfect for someone who finds it difficult to build up his chest. If it doesn’t happen easily just with a few chest workouts then you need a plan Like this no doubt.

There is no fancy name for this method because it’s my method and I am a nobody 😦 as i already mentioned it is for people who have

1. Plateaued

2. Lack the genetics needed to get that chiselled physique.

Quite simply you go through a 9-week phase training chest twice a week. All your exercises are press variations. Dumbbell, barbell, smith machine, incline, decline whatever. Each micro cycle is 3 weeks long.

Weeks 1-3

every exercise is 5 sets of 5 (Yes I know this has already been documented so let me finish)

weeks 4-6

Every exercise is 4 sets of eight

Weeks 7-9

Every exercise is 3 sets of 12

Once you complete your 9-week cycle you will find not only that you are stronger on your 1 rep maximum but you have also built up the chest in the process. Try it for yourself because you may as well. What else were you planning a thirty minute time-wasting abdominal workout?

The last point of caution concerns form. Check the ‘big four’ post for more info on this but form on the bench press is extremely overlooked compared to what we are accustomed to with squats and deadlifts.

Hope you enjoy trying this out folks.

Fat Gripz for getting bigger arms

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I’ve known about this product for over a year but only ordered it with two clients in mind.  Now I’m surprised that so many people aren’t using them.  This is the difference in just two weeks.  The forearm on Jonathan is now much more beefy on the right.  The bicep itself is one quarter of an inch bigger with two half-hour bicep sessions a week.

FatGripz have been named ‘Training Tool of the Decade’, probably because it gives your training a whole new dynamic without changing your routine that much.  It’s not just about building your forearm muscle and enhancing your grip.  The nervous system plays a part by not allowing you to progress in lifting weights until the forearm catches up.  Once you challenge the forearm the rest of the body follows and plateaus are broken.

My advice however, is to go back to the basics first and focus on the big lifts, relying predominantly on your chest and back workouts to build your arms.  Once you start getting and seeing that shape you crave then start thinking about breaking those plateaus with training tools like FatGripz and supplements like creatine.

Secondly, a lot of guys are missing the point on their arm workouts, picking up huge dumbells and relying on momentum to shift the weight.  There are no bicep curling competitions, getting big guns is the goal from targetting the biceps so keeping the tension in the bicep throughout the movement will stand a better chance of yielding results.

Back to the FatGripz then below are two resources to refer to when looking more into their benefits.

http://www.fatgripz.co.uk/?gclid=CK_Zz6XiwrUCFYfJtAod1hEAOA

And you have a video where Charles Poliquin discusses the product.  Get this, he’s even found that thicker implements even correct imbalances between right and left… AMAZING HUH!!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o22UUAmCa3s&feature=player_embedded

Order yours now.

Fancy Coffee Chain or Builder’s Cafe

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This for me is a hugely relevant subject amidst the ever-growing keep-fit culture submerged in a sea of misconception. Queue upon queue of people outside Starbs, Pret and Costa divided into two categories of people:
1. Those in a rush that suffice with the equivalent of tea and toast or in the fancy world, coffee and croissant. A breakfast so deprived of nutrition unlikely to keep you alert during the day and definitely not conducive to a healthy lifestyle.
2. Those deceived by the notion that porridge is the healthiest breakfast. Sorry guys but this is not true. Porridge means carbohydrates and still likely to raise blood sugar levels. A breakfast should be protein rich and that means eggs for breakfast. So where do you go for your healthy breakfast instead? The builders cafe of course where you can have as many eggs as you wish in any form you wish. True you’ll have to sit next to a bunch of big fat hairy guys in fluorescence and hard hats but try it, they’ re actually very entertaining.

The moral is not to get deceived by the marketing slogans and try to get advice from proper pros. We have two gyms side by side in Islington, London and you will always see us in the old school cafes unless of course now when I am in need of a wifi connection lol.

Forget Rep Ranges And Just Work To Your Mood

There’s a lot of obsession with rep ranges when it comes to weightlifting and bodybuilding.  At PT school we are always taught this idea of doing 12-15 reps for toning (or getting ripped), 8-10 reps for building mass and 5-7 reps for gaining strength.  Something like this anyway and frankly I don’t really care because it is just bullshit I think.  I happen to think that as long as you get the movement right you will see the results.  Those that don’t get the movement right will probably only see their arms grow a bit.  Those with good genes will see results quick even with bad form.  In other words a lot of the books and programs you find online or in magazines are practically worthless.

Or are they?  Perhaps we do need some sort of program we need to stick to in order to remain motivated and keep some sort of structure and discipline within our training.  However, what if we are sticking to sets of 10 and we realised we feel strong enough to go up a weight?  in this situation, I say we leave the programme and we work to our fullest potential.  Keep going up on the weights, work through the entire dumbell rack until we reach breaking point.  In this case, when training clients I will wright down on their record ‘AFAFA’ (As Far As Form Allows).  This means we have capitalised on every available ounce of strength.  Maybe we will not be able to lift the same amount the next week which is where we return back to the programme.

So work to your mood, not the rep range but just remember two things:

1.  Stick as much as you can to good solid powerful lifts.  Bench press and dumbell press for your chest, maybe throw in the smith machine press.  On each you have a variety of angles so keep the presses going for at least 5 different exercises.  A few flyes and pec decs you leave till the end.  Like I said in my article and accompanying video on the big four we focus on shifting weight in the forward-backward, up-down direction.  On your back training, it’s pull-ups and deadlifts, bent-over barbell rows (wide and narrow), single arm rows (dumbell) and leave lat-pulldowns and low pulleys until the end.  Go for solid moves only.

2. Solid moves are those that guarantee solid form.  Form is crucial.  A lot of people compromise form for intensity just to see the higher numbers on those plates and dumbells.  we should aim to build performance on top of effective and fluid movement.  I’m not denying you can bicep curl huge amounts of weight but how much of that movement has been with momentum and against little resistance.  Do you think this is going to bulk up your bicep??  Every move should be up-down, down-up, forward-backward.  Reach your full potential like this then once you plateau you can start getting fancy with bands, chains and 1.5 reps etc.

The moral of this article is then that you work to your mood so that you exercise your full potential and don’t miss any opportunity to discover your awesomeness.

Fitness Resolutions: Turn wishes into reality

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And as we slowly drift out of our slumber, recover from our pulsating headaches and realise it’s the 1st of january the aim of many is to get into shape.  Perfect time for wannabee writers like myself to impart their words of wisdom on the subject.  If I had to give one unique tip, it would be this:

Get the fitness routine in place and ignore the diet

Yep, I said it.  Don’t throw away the Chrimbo treats just yet.  It’s a gradual process but improving your wellness and wellbeing through fitness is a marathon not a sprint.  Fitness resolutions are mere wishes and only become reality through realism.  The January surge in gym attendance characterises this mindset and the subsequent lull and decline exposes the lack of willpower in fullfulling this wish.  So we need a plan in place that we are capable of following.  If Usain Bolt dreamed of becoming a double long distance gold medallist he would have failed after a few training sessions because the target was unrealistic.

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The goal: Find the fittest version of ourselves

Forget all that ‘get buns of steel’ and ‘lose the manboob’ bullshit.  A simple generic goal for all of us that we can guarantee through our training is to find the fittest versions of ourselves.  Therefore, intially diet doesn’t really matter because we are just trying to get fit.  Hell, we can eat chocolate and still get fit and we can feel less guilty about a chocolate bar after a spin class.  So put the plan in place; look at your class timetable and see what appeals to you and what fits in with your work schedule.  Make sure one of those classes is a pilates or yoga class, invest in a session with a trainer.  We (at least I am anyway) are more than happy to see some clients once a fortnight where we learn new routines for them to use in their own time, thus maintaining that consistency  and guaranteeing an upward curve of progress.

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This notion of ‘finding the fittest versions of ourselves’ is something I have embraced through our unique training system of Circular Strength Training (CST).  I met Mattia (above) in a CST seminar in Florence (sorry Firenze) and realised how with the right dedication and subsequent effort as well as the proper guidance we can do things  that were never possible before.  With CST we cover all angles and take the best elements from a multitude of disciplines including Pilates and Yoga.  Just look at Mattia in action here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89-xEHmf9iE

The result : Fitness becomes part of our enduring culture

You get gym addicts that train hard but don’t necessarily train smart.  They forget about the enjoyment, the connection with one’s inner core and breathing and the need to remain injury-free.  The result is a series of compensations through one-dimensional training methods which they just work around with the help of analgesics.  Few can sustain this especially when conventional training does not teach you the most efficient joint-sparing movement patterns demonstrated by CST head coach Scott Sonnon here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdWUUVTkQ-E

True the moves are advanced but the application here is for special opps; we can perform simpler versions of these moves with the application being to simply navigate around the workplace or kitchen where a lot of back-pain is experienced.  Had a great time teaching my little pregnant sister how to move around the kitchen of her new home in a more efficient manner to spare her all that pain.

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So as usual I have rambled on in order to open your eyes on what fitness is to me but it all begins with that first step of putting a plan in action.  Have a happy 2013.

Healthy regards

Saaj