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Push Up Power

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Push ups are one of those exercises that get dismissed quite easily in many weight control programs. Is it because of their simplicity? Are they not rated that highly by health professionals because of all the new shiny equipment in posh gyms these days that on the face of it seem to get better results?

My honest opinion, it is one of the best exercises you could have in your exercise armoury.

Why?

The answer is quite simple, they are simple exercises to perform, and what I mean by that is you don’t have to figure out what this machine does, how the pulleys work, what does this clip or handle do?

They are safe. The only equipment you need is the floor, and floors are everywhere! No equipment or heavy weights have to be carried around, no work bench needed, just a floor and you. This also means you don’t need a gym, and all that goes with having to go to a gym, expense, time etc.

The push up is a versatile exercise, it doesn’t matter what your level of fitness is, there is a variation for you. You can build from never having done one before to progressing through the variations of the exercise and eventually banging out some plyometric push ups.

The push up enables you to build functional strength as it uses a lot of major muscles at the same time, in unison.

When you perform a full push up, you not only work your chest, shoulders and triceps, but your back, abs and legs have to work isometrically to stabalize your body. Hence it is a full body workout. The British military, as well as others do push ups as a staple. They can’t all be wrong!

Beginners;

If you can’t hold your weight in a plank position just yet, you can place your knees on the floor to take the pressure off until you gain strength.

Intermediates;

You can perform full push ups with correct form and lowering all the way down, now it’s  about adding more sets/reps to push you a little more.

Advanced;

You can do a lot of sets or reps with relative ease, maybe try some declines by placing your feet on a small wall or the sofa for example.

I have done them in the past with my wife sat on my back for added weight, (think she enjoyed making me suffer a bit too much though!)

Alternatively you can try some lung busting plyometric push ups.

So get down and give me twenty.

Keep clean, stay lean.

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Stress and Fat are Best Friends

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Are you stressed out?

Do you seem to be putting weight on even though you eat right, exercise regularly?

Stress may just be the stumbling block in the way.

I’m not saying all is lost and start stuffing your face with junk food and lounging around all day. Still exercising regularly and being focused on what fuel you give your body is of paramount importance.

However, if you are ramping up your cortisol levels on a regular basis, it’s going to detrimentally affect your prospective goals.

I’ll explain;

When we become stressed, no matter how small and insignificant the problem, we have the same response as being chased down and hunted by a tiger. Getting that release of hormones is a perfectly natural state for us as humans, it is our survival mechanism, and without it we would not have survived for millions of years and evolved into a super smart race that we are today.

This is what we commonly know as our ‘fight or flight’ response. Eat or be eaten, or sat in a traffic jam and late for your meeting, same thing!

Well, it’s the same thing as far as our body is concerned.

When we get stressed, our adrenal glands release hormones that affect our blood pressure, heart rate, and cause us to sweat. These glands are located just above the kidneys and are roughly the size of your thumb. The hormones released are called epinephrine and norepinephrine, adrenaline to me and you.

So, if it’s a natural survival mechanism, that’s good right?

To an extent, yes, it can be the difference between life and death because the adrenaline release temporarily heightens your senses in order to survive whatever danger is lurking.

That’s the good bit.

Unfortunately in a modern society we tap into this mechanism too frequently. We are very rarely in a dangerous life threatening position, but we make our adrenal glands think we are.

A hormone called cortisol is a major player here in our downfall, not only to weight loss/maintenance, but also with other health aspects too. It is another hormone released under stress.

If we have a constant stream of cortisol release, it has a detrimental affect on bodily functions such as digestion and our immunity to getting ill. You may notice when you are at high levels of stress for a lengthy period, your body can’t cope and you get sick.

Now, if your body thinks it is in survival mode, do you think your fat burning capabilities increase or decrease? Your body is wanting to hold on to everything, including stored fat.

Get stressed often enough, have a constant secretion of cortisol, fat is kept for survival. Simple as that. In fact, to add insult to injury, insulin is also released on the back of the the amount of cortisol, so you are now going to breakdown lean mass for glucose to give instant energy to flea danger, and guess what happens when you are not using that energy to run, it gets shunted into fat cells.

So if you feel yourself getting stressed, try and remove yourself from it as quickly as possible. It is literally making you fat!

Keep clean, stay lean.

 

 

 

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Carbohydrates

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Assorted Carbohydrate Sources Spelling Out 'Carbs'

Are carbohydrates making you fat?

Carbohydrates take on a few guises, from the simple, to starchy, to the NSP’s.

NSP stands for non starch polysaccharide, and roughly translated means your leafy greens and other ‘roughage’.

Starches are your potatoes, pasta, rice and breads.

Simple sugars are what you find in sweets and biscuits, table sugar essentially.

Is there a good or bad time to eat them?

How much of them is safe enough to eat without piling on the pounds?

Let’s start with simple sugars, cakes and donuts and the like. Eat too many of these and you will bloat out fast, and not do your health much good either. After all, if your body is fit and healthy, you should’t be holding excess fat.

The problem with eating these simple concentrated sugars is the affect it has on insulin production. Insulin is a hormone produced to regulate the level of glucose in your bloodstream. Ingest a lot of glucose, insulin production rises to compensate.

What’s the problem then?

Well, insulin is a nutrient transporter, so as well as giving cells of the body the nutrients it requires to operate functionally, any excess will be placed into fat cells for storage. Trouble is, once it is there it also hinders its release. Double whammy!

Try to stay clear of simple sugars, and if you do have them, the best time to do so is straight after or during a strength training session. Your body is then in an ‘anabolic zone’ and the initial insulin spike fills the muscles depleted glycogen stores, and carries the proteins needed for them to repair. Meaning less likely fat storage, depending on how much you’re having that is!

Starchy carbohydrates act in the same way, just in a slightly slower time frame. The same process takes place in that the body, the food gets broken down and the simple sugars are released and insulin again is recruited. This time though the insulin is at a more steady secretion, avoiding big spikes.

Eating too many though and you simply end up with too much glucose anyway and guess where that goes.

Choose good sources though, stick with natural ones like sweet potatoes or quinoa.

Pasta and bread is man made and processed, and although tastes great, be restrictive if fat loss is your aim.

The best sources for carbohydrate intake is your good old fashioned fruit and vegetables.

They are nutrient dense and low in calories.

They happen to be a great source of fibre too so they will keep your gut health in order whilst having the benefit of making you feel fuller for longer.

As a rule of thumb, if you are having more than 200 grams of carbohydrates per day, you are slowly increasing your fat gain.

Between 100-200 grams and you are maintaining your level.

Below 100 grams is steady fat loss.

Reduce further to below 50 grams and you are in ketosis and aggresive fat loss.

To conclude;

  • Stick to NSP’s. (The green leafy stuff basically).
  • Make good starchy choices infrequently.
  • Avoid simple sugars.
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Squats

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One of the most natural movements we can do as a human, the squat.

If you look at young toddlers, (I have one myself), when they are playing they very often hold themselves in a squat position for a long time. It is the evolutionary seat that was created for us.

When I gained my certificate as a personal trainer, I thought I knew it all. During my training I was taught how to squat correctly, which is with your feet shoulder width apart, bending from the knee, activating your glutes, and keeping your back straight with your heart to the sky, and pushing off through your heels.

This all sounds correct yes, because it is, however what I didn’t learn was we should all really try and go as low as possible.

In my opinion, that’s what we do as kids, it is clearly natural, that’s what we should do now.

One of the reasons we don’t by the way is flexibility.

I am a culprit here with this. The flexibility in my ankle isn’t the best, but I’m working on it.

I bet not many people in this country can squat to the floor whilst keeping their feet flat, without holding on to something or falling over. I’m talking adults here by the way.

One of my best friends has an awesome physique, lifts some serious weights yet openly admits he can’t squat very low because of low flexibility.

Before embarking on trying to overload your muscles with olympic bars and loads of plates, my suggestion would be to get your flexibility first. If you do then you will become stronger anyway.

The lower you squat, the more muscles are engaged, the more energy you require, the more fat you burn.

Your ankles, knees, hips particularly need attention, but also don’t forget how much your abdominals are activated with this exercise.

For fat burning, the squat is a must.

For building lean tissue, the squat is a must.

For endurance athletes, the squat is a must.

You get the idea!

Th squat uses so many muscles, and major ones at that. This is why it burns fat like there’s no tomorrow.

  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • Calves
  • Hamstrings
  • Hip extensors
  • Abdominals
  • Back

There are a number of variations of the squat.

If you are loading weights then you can do a back squat, front squat, overhead squat, hack squat, one legged varieties. There is loads to choose from, mix them up and hit your muscles from different angles.

If you are using your own body-weight then you can perform jumping squats and add them to a plyometric circuit for a real test.

Below is a picture of the muscles worked.

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Keep clean, stay lean.

 

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Obesity in Kids

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I recently attended a career progression course on childhood obesity, and some of the information was quite shocking.

We need to seriously look at this problem, as a society, together, and sort it out.

My worry is that if we don’t all take responsibility for this problem, the future of the next generation, and ones after that is very bleak.

In fact it will come to a point where parents will out live their offspring!

Speaking as a father, and a human, this cannot be allowed to happen.

It amazes me that we really concentrate on academic subjects at school like maths and science, which we should by the way, but not to the complete detriment and ignorance of other aspects of life.

It’s no good being potentially the greatest scientist on the planet and not reaching the age of 30 because of a metabolic disease?!

We should also have a big emphasis on cooking, and teaching kids and their guardians about food and ingredients. What to look out for, and things to avoid.

We need to be overhauling the whole system in my opinion from the top down.

It starts with the information we receive from the government regarding their guidelines on healthy diet and eating patterns which should be changed.

Advertising is a major problem, especially when they are targeted at children. They have a lot to answer for. I know they have a job to do for big conglomerates but maybe they should take a good hard look at themselves with regard to their products.

Again this can be changed by government guidelines on advertising and hitting the big corporations hard, but I’m afraid money is the root of the evil there.

You will notice that most foods aimed at children are full of artificial rubbish and sugar to improve taste, even down to the labelled ‘health cereals’.

The packaging is bright and colourful and very attractive and appealing; very clever. They always mention the good stuff in the product, and seem to disregard all the nasty elements that are hampering our kids health.

The other problem of course is convincing our kids to play the latest computer game and therefore halting exercise in favour of the screen entertainment.

All these things add up to a massive problem that is then transferred to the next generation.

For example, I make a concerted effort to take part in physical play with my son. If he sees me lazing around all day playing computer games, guess what, he’ll be doing the same.

I got my 21 month old copying me performing burpees the other day, and he was in stitches, (as was I).

He always uses me as a climbing frame too, he is very active naturally, but he also wants to copy daddy.

There must be a direct correlation between a childs exercise patterns and their parents activity levels.

It’s the same too for food choices. Mummy and daddy are eating their vegetables, so am I. Mummy and daddy are eating pizza and chips, why do they expect me not to and have vegetables?!

Trouble being that this situation will only escalate. Unless we all stand together and do something about it.

Bottom line, we need to make change for the sake of all of our future.

Keep clean, stay lean

 

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Glorious Green Vegetables

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Leafy green vegetables are top of the agenda when it comes to must haves in your diet.

The power of these foods are second to none, they are so nutrient dense, packed with fibre, phytochemicals, and all sorts of vitamins and minerals. Some include;-

  • Vitamin A
  • Some of the B complex
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • calcium
  • iron
  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • phosphorous
  • zinc

Many of the benefits of ingesting these powerful greens as well as gaining the above list, is that they have a positive effect on our digestinal health. The high fibre content concludes to smooth transition through the intestines.

Immune functions are boosted as well as cancer preventative elements too.

Inflammation, energy, and circulation are all improved as well.

Do you need any more reasons to go more green?

So let’s take a look at what sort of foods help do all this good work;-

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Lettuces

These are all good choices, and especially if eaten raw, personally I think you get a fuller flavour. They all go well in green smoothies, which can be part of a hearty breakfast, and a great way to get your veg count up for the day.

However if you prefer cooked veggies, you still get benefits from steaming, boiling, or even light frying provided you choose a good stable fat to cook them in. Be mindful however of overcooking and diminishing the water soluble vitamins contained within the food.

One of the main elements in plant life is chlorophyll. Without this substance, life on earth would literally die out. It’s what makes the world breathe if you like.

Breaking this down into it’s simplest form, by eating green leafy veggies, you are eating life itself and creating more vibrancy within you. Eating something which was recently alive is the best way to go, whether that’s your veggies or animals that feed off those veggies.

The carbohydrates contained are mainly fibre, so helping to keep you fuller for longer with a lower carb count, great for fat loss or low carb dieters.

 

This helps also because of the low level of glucose, meaning your insulin response is limited and therefore not causing fat gain or experiencing the sugar crash two hours later.

Adding all these elements up puts green leafy vegetables in a great place, and should be making the bulk of your diet for health and weight loss/maintenance.

Green is for go, green is life.

Keep clean, stay lean.

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Deadlift Breakdown

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The deadlift is one of the top two exercises to perform, in my opinion.

It is a natural, functional movement that gives us so many benefits to our health.

Whether your goal is to build mass and size, tone up, gain strength, or for general fitness and flexibility, this is a must for any program. You just have to manipulate the finer details depending on which target you have.

As a personal trainer, I make sure every plan I do contains this movement somewhere.

The correct form for a deadlift is essential, so making sure you get this right is paramount before adding any weight or resistance to the movement.

Keep your back straight at all times, do not arc, this is where you will get injuries, especially when lifting heavy. This is why I say to get correct form first, then add.

  • With a barbell on the floor, keep your feet shoulder width apart and your toes just underneath the bar.
  • Keeping your back straight, bend forward from the hips, with a slight bend in the knee.
  • Grip the bar, typically with one hand prone, the other supine.
  • Lift the bar up, drive through your heels as you do until you stand tall and your shoulders square.
  • Repeat the process back down.
  • If you are on an olympic pad, and are lifting seriously heavy weight, you may need to drop the bar to the floor from the standing position.

The muscles this exercise uses are incredible, nearly everyone in the body. It is a full body workout, so very time efficient too.

There are some very important hormonal effects from performing a deadlift.

Performing a deadlift with a heavy resistance will create a testosterone response that places your body in an anabolic environment. So you will repair and build those muscle fibres making you stronger.

Ladies don’t panic, you are not going to end up looking like Arnie either, although women do produce testosterone, it is not in the amount that would be needed to build a ‘big’ physique. You will get ‘toned’ as opposed to ‘bulked’. Provided you are not using any outside influences that is?!

For the guys though, you will get more benefit from building more muscle mass because you have this hormone more naturally abundant than our better looking counterparts.

Here’s a little bonus to this though, the more muscle mass you have, the more fat you burn at rest.

Try to keep your rest periods down to a minimum, don’t do your next set fatigued obviously, but the shorter the rest, the more growth hormone is released, which essentially means better recovery and guess what, increased fat loss.

How can we not do this exercise?

There are too many benefits to miss out on this.

Deadlift-Muscles-Worked

Above is a picture of the muscles worked by performing a deadlift.

Here’s a quick list of the major muscles worked;

  • quads
  • hamstrings
  • glutes
  • calves
  • back
  • shoulders
  • abs
  • arms
  • chest

Not bad for one exercise eh?

Get deadlifting.

Keep clean,stay lean.