Thursday, 18 October 2012

Let the young run free

Martina Hingis, Lebron James, Tiger Woods and Pele are just some of the people, that whilst under the age of 13, had already taken the world by storm.

This is where it all starts, these are the years that can determine the rest of their lives.  Children are too often subjected to Playstations, iPads and Mylie Cyrus when they should be climbing ropes, playing on jungle gyms and standing on their heads.

Many parents today are under the impression that exercise and training can be detrimental to their little snowflakes.  I agree, 5 days a week of heavy weights and constant stress on the body, can be adverse to the bodies of our developing youth. However functional bodyweight training, mobility, flexibility, and motor skills are only going to benefit the little people physically, socially and mentally in the long term.

How many Olympic gymnasts started their training at 21 years old?  These incredibly versatile athletes were exercising their muscles from the age of 3 whilst increasing bone density, improving cardio vascular function and promoting their motor skills.  No detriment caused there later in life, that's for sure.

The word that seems to send most parents over the edge, causing a complete state of anxiety and rapid breathing is 'strength'.

Lets break this down, strength: The quality or state of being strong, having physical power and energy.

Oh goodness no, we wouldn't want that for our children.  Yes, I'll admit, I am not a parent, but I am a professional who has spent time studying the cause and effect of stress on the human body, both young and old.

Firstly lets not confuse strength training with weight lifting or powerlifting, this definitely can put strain on young developing muscles, tendons and developing cartilage that hasn't yet turned to bone, when being done in the incorrect manner.  However at a very young age, when exercising using their own bodyweight, this will increase their muscle and endurance whilst strengthening their joints.  Remember that children recover quicker from stress on their bodies, faster than you EVER will again in your life.

Supervised, practical exercise is going to build a foundation for a healthy life, and focusing on flexibility exercises are going to help children perform better in all aspects and help them avoid injury.  Whilst strength training through bodyweight exercises will increase their bone density, develop a natural power, and promote healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, the list goes on and on of benefits surrounding your child's growth and the advantages of training and exercise in the earliest days.

Make the switch, encourage your offspring to get physical, not just in sporting activities but get them involved in practical exercise that will get them hooked on vibrant living.

Let your children start their life, how you always wished you could.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Cardio, I love to hate you

Those who know me, know that I loath cardio.  I don't just hate its being, I despise the word.  It's conditioning, cardio sounds like its covered in fairy dust and nothing this ugly deserves such treatment.

My body has never responded well to high intensity exercises, purely based on the fact that I merely need to walk across a room and my metabolism begins to demolish every form of energy I have consumed.  As a hard gainer I need every ounce of calorie my body takes in.

This is why I have such a hatred for it.

However I strongly recommend it and always ensure that I do it, your strength needs to be powered by fuel, and conditioning is your fuel.  Your muscle is useless if you run out of gas.

Nonetheless there is still a large portion of the population not combining their strength with conditioning, and visa versa.  Then there are those that misconceive the difference between the two entirely.  I cringe at what some perceive as strength training as much as I cower at the thought of those spending an hour in the gym on the treadmill.

You need to train intelligently.  Firstly strength training involves heavy weights at low repetition, so 5 reps of 4 sets with a challenging weight, with a longer duration of rest in between,  where as 100 overhead presses with a 15kg dumbbell, with little or no rest in between develops endurance, and is a form of conditioning.

Know that difference first and foremost, when planning your training.

VariableTraining goal
Load (% of 1RM)80-9045-5560-8040-60
Reps per set1-51-56-1215-60
Sets per exercise4-73-54-82-4
Rest between sets (mins)2-62-62-51-2
Duration (seconds per set)5-104-820-6080-150
Speed per rep (% of max)60-10090-10060-9060-80
Training sessions per week3-63-65-78-14

Conditioning on the other hand is what increases your energy and endurance, and is what works your cardio vascular system.  Applying a stress to your body through high repetition drills for long periods of time or at intervals is what exercises your metabolism, this is conditioning.

Whether you choose to sprint hills, flip tyres, snatch kettlebells or pound something with a heavy hammer, you are feeding your levels of fitness, and your abilities will grow and thrive to endure an exercise over a longer period of time, without gasping for air and coughing up a lung.

Conditioning will fuel your fire.

You need to assess your goals, and implement the right methodologies.  Personally, I'd like to add a few extra kilos to my deadlift and a couple extra reps to my pull ups, over getting an extra 50 reps on my kettlebell snatch.  If your goal is to excel in GS (kettlebell sport) then your focus needs to be on those additional reps, your game plan needs to involve maximal conditioning.

Bare in mind that you cannot have ultimate strength and ultimate conditioning, it would be like driving a Lamborghini Murcielago and a Hummer at the same time, if you want to be an Olympic lifter and achieve maximal muscle the other qualities will suffer.  To the average gym goer, do both separately and reap the benefits of both strength and conditioning.

It all depends on what your objectives are, one always has to suffer.

If you are not a competitive athlete, I would recommend 50/50 of both your strength and conditioning.

The most important factors are that in order to lose weight, gain strength, mass, or fitness you need to implement both imperative factors into your training, keeping your goals in mind and apply both according to your needs.

Keep these training methods separate, if you have the time, do them on different days and never go overboard just for the sake of doing more, your sweat does not determine the intensity of your workout.

If you want to see swift gains in your size and mass then strength is your primary goal and you should take a 70/30 approach to your conditioning.

Conditioning is valuable, but just how imperative depends on your goals, your weaknesses and your sport.

Remember that if you not training for a marathon, or preparing for a competition, or you not trying to set a new record or trying to impress anyone, your health, fitness and strength will save your life.

Tuesday, 09 October 2012

Legs: The forgotten apendages

It's that time of year again, the gyms are roping in the masses, low fat products are flying off the supermarket shelves, and competitive figure athletes are fifty shades of Dorito.

Two things: Summer is knocking on our doors and its competition time in the fitness and bodybuilding world.

Athletes, fitness models and bodybuilders have been working towards these few weeks for months and the weekend warriors are filing into the gyms in hopes of making some changes before they strut their stuff on our beach fronts.  The common trend here is that the guys are hitting the gyms.

However there seems to be a trend in the world of the weekend warrior and a drift amongst some men, like a secret society.  Your secret is out I am afraid, we have noticed, you are not training your legs.

The reason I aim this at men is that genetically a women's fat deposits sit from the navel to the buttock to the thighs.  We know this.  We train our legs, to avoid this, amongst other things.  Men on the other hand tend to focus their training on those pecs, biceps, and abs. Those 'show' muscles.  It is the area that the opposite sex seems to be attracted to, well, so the men think.

I know men personally who have in fact never trained their legs.  Yes.  Never.

I know men who train their legs daily, then there are those men who dedicate one training day a week to the deadlift and squat.  Now, these guys who focus on the deadlift and the squat alone, are few and far between.  These men are the ones who know what immense gains are attained from performing big exercises.

Don't get me wrong, athletes and sportsmen have their chosen exercises for their legs that are effective to their needs, the squat and deadlift do have many holes in translating into everyday sports.  The topic here is training those legs in general.

90% of the figure athletes out there are doing what needs to be done to perform at their best on stage, however there are those few who somehow filter through the cracks and make it onto that stage without a leg day logged.  I shake my head in shame.  The competition is tight at this level and one should know better, as for the warriors, I take this opportunity to enlighten you.

There is nothing more monumental in your regiment then focusing a workout on the lower body weekly.

Firstly, and the most obvious reason of all, aesthetically you want to be in symmetry, which will never exist if you have a mammoth upper body and hosepipes for legs. Your balance will be completely off and more over you just look ridiculous.

Your legs consist of some of the biggest muscles in your body, by working these large groups your body impulsively excretes more natural growth hormone.  Your body needs to produce more of this to assist your recovery, which in turn aids the rest of your bodies growth, knowing this just reinforces the relative stupidity of the bicep curl/crunch kind of guy.

When training the lower body, because of the size of muscles recruited you burn a higher calorie percentage, these large muscle groups also require longer recovery periods.  Due to the length of recovery your metabolism is raised for a longer period.

In simple terms the bigger the exercise the greater the hormone production.  It's that simple, the deadlift and the squat will do more for you simultaneously, the same way a bench press will kill a chest fly, more muscle recruitment, more hormone production, more gains, bigger results.

Strong legs are the foundation of an amazing body, and friends certainly don't let friends skip leg days.