Archive of ‘Weight training’ category
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The Happy, Healthy Mom is an excellent resource for all moms who are looking to get in shape, lose weight, learn about exercise, look after their skin, be happy, and so much more! The post-pregnancy period can be a tough time for many moms, but hopefully with the help of this book, you can turn this round and thrive!
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I am really excited to announce the release of my first book, available here and also available through Amazon in all other countries for example amazon.co.uk, amazon.fr etc.
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The Happy Healthy Mom is a great resource for post-pregnancy fitness and health and gives:
- Reassuring information as to what is happening to your body and how best to help recovery after birth
- Precise advice for caring for skin and hair post baby
- Practical tips as how to manage time and prioritise, following the dramatic change to parenthood
- Life changing advice on nutrition – including what supplements could help with the present challenges of motherhood. Tips for healthy snacks.
- LOADS of encouragement and advice as to the exercise and activity you can perform from the first day of motherhood through to regaining your full fitness. Included are pictures of the exercises you can perform at home with clear explanations. Also includes specific advice for those post C- Section.
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* Spellings are in American English as most of my audience are in North America
I have decided to write this post in response to a question from a friend of mine. She is concerned that she is gaining size on her legs and butt through the exercise she is doing, and doesn’t really want to. There are different types of exercise that can cause you to see an increase in size and it can be pretty complicated to give a straight answer. So I am going to try to be as clear as possible without skirting round the issues. I have to give credit (or blame!) to my husband, Pete, who is a strength and conditioning coach for elite athletes, for a lot of the information in this article. He is more of an expert than me when it comes to the intricacies of weight training!
First and foremost, there are a number of factors that can impact how you respond to exercise and training. These include:
- The type of exercise you currently do
- The volume of exercise you do (how much of it)
- Your somatotype (this is your natural build. Training can impact and change this, although a tendency remains towards one particular body type)
- Whether you are a novice, intermediate or advanced trainer
- Your age
- Your sex
- Your exercise history (the types of sports or exercise that you have done in the past)
- Your injury history
- Your nutrition
I am not going to look at all of these variables, but I will present a few key ideas that will include a number of them.
Figure 1. and figure 2. show the difference in responses to weight training between novice trainers and advanced, well-trained individuals. When novice trainers train with heavy weights but low repetitions, they generally lose weight and therefore the girth of their legs decrease. This is due to the high calorie burning effect of this type of exercise. When advanced trainers train with heavy weights and low repetitions, however, they generally gain a bit of muscle mass slowly over time. This is because they are lifting relatively heavier weights than novice trainers (because they are stronger), and they have already experienced the early adaptations that novices experience, and therefore, put simply, growth is the next adaptation to happen. One way to slow down this growth is to keep the volume of heavy lifting low. This means that you still lift heavy for few repetitions, however, you will not do multiple sets. The total amount of work done will be less. If you wish to continue lifting heavy for the strength gains, you should do something like 3 sets of 3 repetitions instead of 5 sets of 5 repetitions for example. That way you can keep the load high but the volume low.
Lifting moderately heavy weights for 10-15 repetitions is the best way to get muscle growth. These are the typical parameters used by body builders. The reason you get maximum growth in this rep range, is that the muscle is under tension for a long period of time, with the addition of a heavy load. This means that the maximum amount of damage is done, and if you recover properly, the maximum amount of growth occurs. “Time under tension” is one of the keys for muscle growth. Therefore this is the type of training to avoid if you do not desire size increase.
When lifting light weights for high repetitions, you do not experience the same physical adaptations of muscle growth despite the fact that the muscle is under tension for a long time. The reason is that the weight is not high enough to cause a large enough stimulus for growth. Less damage is done with a lighter weight, so less growth occurs as a result. The time under tension may be high, but the light weight means the degree of tension is much lower.
Nutrition plays a key role in muscle growth too. By reducing your overall calorie intake, you will get less growth as a result of training. Be aware though, that training at a high volume and high intensity, on a low calorie diet is not sustainable for long. When bodybuilders train on a reduced calorie diet in their pre-competition “cutting” phase, they are not able to train at the same intensities or with the same volumes as when they are feeding well in a growth phase. If you are smart with your nutrition and training, however, you will be able to find a balance where you can train hard and lift quite heavy, and still not grow. Make note, cutting calories does not necessarily mean cutting down on volume of food. By making smart choices, and eating plenty of vegetables, you can still reduce your amount of calories without going hungry.
If you are a relatively advanced trainer, like my friend who asked the question, perhaps you still want to lift weights but do not want to continue to see significant muscle in your thighs and butt (or anywhere!) you have a few options:
- Lift light weights for high repetitions. That way, the exercise becomes more aerobic, with the weight not being high enough to stimulate growth
- Lift heavy weights but keep the volume low. This can either mean reducing the number of sets performed in a session (as stated above), or keeping the number of sessions per week low. If you limit yourself to 1 session of heavy lifting a week, to maintain strength, and your other exercise sessions are non weight training activities, the stimulus from the one heavy session, compared to the stimulus from the multiple other sessions of different activities will not be high enough to elicit a huge amount of muscle growth. The thing you do the most of, will have the biggest effect. So if you do 1 weight training session, and 4 other sessions, the other 4 sessions with have a greater effect on your physical adaptation than the 1 weight training session.
- Lift heavy but learn to manipulate your diet to minimise the amount of growth through calorie reduction, timings of meals, and macronutrient manipulation.
I hope you find this useful. Keep trying new things but most of all, enjoy your training! Give me a shout if you have any questions
If you’re looking for an effective way to get in great shape quickly, and burn considerable amounts of body fat, then this exercise cannot be excluded from any weight training programme. In my opinion, the squat is one of the most fundamental exercises for a number of reasons.
1. The movements of flexion and extension of the ankle, knee and hip joints are similar to daily activities such as standing up, walking, jogging, and jumping. Therefore, training the body in this movement is functional to daily life.
2. There are numerous muscles used in this exercise, and therefore it really is a whole body exercise. The quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, adductors (inside of thigh) and gluteus (bum!), the muscles of the lower body do most of the work in lifting the weight. In addition to this, the weight is held on the trapezius (below the neck), and the muscles of the trunk and lower back, also known as “core” muscles, are required to stabilise the upper body to effectively, correctly, and safely perform the movement.
3. A much greater amount of calories are burned by doing this exercise compared to many other exercises you could chose. The reason for this is that so many muscles are being used, as mentioned above. Not only are a large number of muscles used, but also the muscle groups that are used are large muscle groups like the quads, glutes and hamstrings. For example, an exercise like this burns far more calories than a bicep curl, which primarily works the biceps, which are a relatively small group of muscles.
4. Due to the fact that a number of large muscles groups are used, testosterone is released. Testosterone is an extremely effective fat burning hormone, which also helps boost energy and libido, and helps sharpen memory and mental focus. It can help keep bones strong too, which is extremely important for pre-menopausal women as bone density can deteriorate during menopause.
5. Finally, this exercise is effective at building lean muscle in the body, which is one of the biggest factors in returning to your pre-pregnancy body shape (or better!) and getting rid of that baby belly. Read my previous post “The Truth about Lifting Weights” to find out why you need to build muscle, and learn why building muscles does not mean getting “big”!
Exercise #3 – The Squat
To perform the squat, place a barbell across your trapezius, hold the bar in your hands with a grip wider than shoulder width, and pull your elbows down and back. Stand up straight with your feet just wider than shoulder width apart with your feet pointing slightly outwards. Lift you head up so that you are looking straight ahead and stick your chest out. To start the movement, bend at the hips and knees and sit back so that the weight begins to transfer from the middle of your foot towards your heels as you go down. If you are able to maintain good form, you should try to achieve a deep squat position where your hips are lower than your knees. Maintaining good form is keeping a good flat back throughout the movement, with your chest up and head looking forwards at all times. To go back up, push your feet into the floor and extend your knees and hips, returning to a standing position.
Start with 2 sets of 10 repetitions if you are using weight or 2 sets of 20-30 repetitions if you are only using your bodyweight. Once this gets easy, move to 3 sets of 10 repetitions, making it challenging so that the last 3 repetitions of each set feels difficult.
If you are doing bodyweight squats, build up to 3-4 sets of 20-30 repetitions. To really get the benefits mentioned above, after the first 3-4 weeks of doing 10 repetitions, increase the weight and aim for 5 sets of 5 heavy repetitions. As with the other exercises, you should start by doing this 2 times per week and aim to hit a rhythm of maintaining this on a regular basis 2-3 times per week. You will notice it gets easier the 2nd or 3rd time but you’ll see drastic improvements after 6 weeks! If you have no barbell, but still would like to add weight to the squat, you can hold dumbbells with your hands by your side, or hold a medicine ball in your arms against your body.
I’d love to hear how you get on with this, so please leave me a comment.
There are so many fitness fads and so many different diets out there that it is hard to know what to choose. You can get fit in so many different ways, using so many different modes of training – that is the beauty of exercise – it is so varied! As you may know I am a fan of having some form of weight training as part of a fitness programme for several reasons (see my other blogs). I want to show you a great but simple way of training with weights. If you ask a personal trainer to write you a programme, you may be given a list of 10-12 exercises to do over a period of an hour or so in the gym. To get through these exercises, you have to rush through each one, keeping the weight low, as there’s not much time to rest. Sometimes the exercises are so easy that you hardly break a sweat, and other times you find yourself working a small muscle in your arm that you never even knew existed. You rightly begin to wonder if this will really burn the fat off your bum and thighs.
So, I want to offer you a simple but extremely effective programme that, if you follow for 6 weeks, you will see a complete transformation to your body! These 4 exercises will burn the fat and tone you up in all the right areas. I haven’t just chosen any 4 exercises, or even my favourite 4 exercises. I have chosen 4 exercises that will give you the perfect balance of a full-body work out. These 4 exercises encompass the upper body and lower body, pushing and pulling, all of which compliment each other. In addition to this, you are effectively working your core without doing any direct abs work.
This blog is Part 1 of a series in which I will explain everything about this programme! I will give you tips on technique, so that the exercises are executed correctly, as well as justification on why these exercises work so well, and how this simple system can transform your shape. By the way, don’t wait until you have read all the parts before getting started. Why wait? Start today. Start now!
Exercise #1 – The Lunge
Begin standing upright, feet together, holding a dumbbell in each hand and head facing forwards. Take a step forwards of about 80-100cm, and then lower yourself keeping the knee of the front foot over the ankle. Make sure your upper body is upright, shoulders back, your head facing forwards and your core is engaged, not soft. Go as far down until your back knee almost touches the ground. Then, push upwards and back with the front foot and return to the upright, standing position. Repeat this 10 times! I’ve done it today!
The lunge predominantly works your quads, hamstrings and glutes (bum!) in a really effective way. In addition to this, by engaging your trunk area and maintaining and upright posture throughout the movement, you are giving your core a blast at the same time!
I hope you enjoy this and I’m looking forward to sharing the next part really soon!
I would like to introduce some of the key benefits of lifting weights, and to use this post as a bit of an introduction for some other great posts I have lined up on weight training.
I also want to take this opportunity to dispel some myths about training with weights, and to give you some reasons why, as a busy mum with kids, you should be adding weights to your “fitness regime”.
Myth #1 – Lifting weights will make me big and manly
Lifting weights will not make you big! If it does, you are probably eating too much. It is extremely difficult to gain large amounts of lean body mass (muscle) and this takes a LOT of hard work. It simply will not happen unless you want it to, as it requires you to take all the right steps to train and eat in such a way that develops this. Furthermore, women have much lower amounts of free testosterone than men, and therefore are not inclined to gain large amounts of muscle mass. Evidently, it’s even really hard for men to gain large amounts of muscle mass, and that’s why so many products and magazines are aimed at giving men the best solutions on ‘how to get big’.
Lets consider sporty women – have you ever seen a large, muscly high jumper? No! Yet women high jumpers lift extremely heavy weights on a regular basis, and train much harder than you or I will ever have time to train (it’s their full-time job to train!), yet they do not get big. Why? Because they train and eat in the right way. In fact, lifting weights will make you thin and toned, so read on to find out how and why.
Myth #2 – It’s bad for my back, knees, hips…or whatever other excuses you can think of…
Many people think that lifting weights will somehow injure their joints. It’s true that if you attempt to lift really heavy weights on day 1, and you do not know what you’re doing, you probably will get hurt. That’s the same with anything. If you ride a bike as fast as you can on the first day you learnt to ride, you will probably get hurt. This does not mean that riding a bike is dangerous and will cause many injuries!
With weights, you have to progress slowly, increasing weight as your technique improves and your strength increases. (This is of paramount importance if you do have a long term injury). In this way you will actually strengthen your joints as opposed to injuring them. Your back, knees, hips and other joints will become stronger and more resistant to the stresses of everyday life and sport, if this is something you are involved in. Thus you will be protecting yourself from injury by lifting weights, not causing injury, as some would have you believe. So if you have a weak back or weak knees, maybe now is the time to start lifting weights as this could alleviate your pain and enable you to enjoy life more.
Myth #3 – Lifting weights will make me tight and stiff
Let’s first define tight as “losing range of motion in your joints and becoming inflexible”; and stiff as “the feeling of muscle soreness that you can get after exercise”. If you were to take up bodybuilding and gained a huge amount of muscle mass, then you may possibly lose range of motion in your joints and feel tight. This is a loss of flexibility. However, if you lift weights in the right way, and don’t gain a huge amount of muscle (and as I explained earlier it is extremely difficult to do this) you will actually improve your range of motion. Working your muscles groups through a full range of motion will actually improve your flexibility and strengthen you in the more extreme ranges. One big advantage of this is that you are less likely to hurt yourself if you slip or fall!
You may feel stiff a day or two after training. This is because you have worked your muscles, causing micro tears in the fibres. They simply need a little time to heal and to grow stronger. This is quite normal and shows that you have actually done some work! Great! This feeling lasts 24-48 hours in extreme cases and is not dangerous. Don’t panic, you are not injured, you’ve just asked your muscles to do some work that they’re not used to. Once you are used to your weight training exercises, you will not get this feeling to the same extent.
Myth #4 – I’m too old to lift weights
This is the worst excuse ever! There is plenty of research that has been done that shows the benefits of weight training for all age groups of people, even the elderly. Weight training has been shown to improve daily activities like stair climbing, standing up out of a chair, and other daily body functions and movements. I know I don’t want to grow old and not be able to bend down to tie my shoelaces, or lift my future grandchildren. And I know that weight training exercises will improve my body function in many everyday tasks and movements, thus making me more mobile and able to live life to the full.
One study carried out with 142 older people aged 60-80 years old (!) showed that lifting weights improved stair climbing, treadmill walking endurance, cycling power output and leg strength, when compared with those who carried on doing normal daily activities.1
As a result, it is quite clear that lifting weights properly is neither dangerous nor detrimental to health and function in any way.
Myth #5 – My main aim is weight loss not weight gain so lifting weights will not achieve that
It’s a well-known fact that muscle weighs more than the same volume of fat, so people immediately jump to the conclusion that they are going to gain weight by lifting weights instead of lose weight. There are 2 important factors to consider here:
1. Weight loss is not the same as fat loss. In fact, weight is not directly linked to health so the number that you see when you stand on the scales means nothing. Body fat, however, is linked to health, so if you have too much body fat, you are unhealthy. Furthermore, you look overweight if you carry too much body fat, as it is stored in unkind places, and so has a direct impact on your body shape. Therefore, your goal should be to lose fat, and not necessarily weight. Lifting weights will not make you fat, therefore, it is not unhealthy for you.
2. Lifting weights burns calories and drastically increases your metabolism. You will therefore most likely burn more fat in comparison to the amount of muscle that you gain. As a result, you are likely to lose weight anyway, and will probably shrink in dress-size. So, you will definitely lose body fat and size, and most likely lose weight as a result of lifting weights!
I hope I have successfully given you a number of reasons to add weight training to your list of activities to go get in shape, as well as blowing away some of the myths that exist. Keep checking my blogs for more information and guidance in this area!
Now go lift something xx