Building Training Programmes for Fat Loss: Part 1…

Lets face it personal training is expensive. Not only is it expensive but if you do a basic search for personal trainer in your local town they are on the increase. In my local town of Ware/ Hertford there appear to be over 20 trainers all plugging different approaches for fat loss from different diets to extreme exercise regimes. What works though? Well taking up your activity burns calories but what gets the best results. What follows are the three basic components of  a training programme.

Item 1- Aerobic Exercise.

This can be seen in the form of jogging or any other form of low to moderate cardiovascular exercise. Currently, this is a form of exercise deemed inefficient by the fitness industry for fat loss. The advantages are that it require minimal equipment and is the easiest to perform for beginners physically and psychologically. From a scientific definition point of view this may be considered to be working at a threshold of under 70% of an individuals VO2 Max. In some individuals this will be enough stimulus for fat loss as the intensity will be enough to cause an overreaching effect. In physically fit individuals this level of exercise may be considered extra activity and have to be performed for a longer duration to burn a suitable amount of fat. The negative implications for this are that the body adapts quickly to this level of intensity and therefore to elicit further responses exercise intensity or volume will need to be increased. From a hormonal standpoint excessive training volume may not be beneficial, this in line with not enough intensity to promote the hypertrophy of muscle mass can in effect decrease net metabolic rate as aerobic exercise if poorly prescribed can be anabolic in nature meaning that lean muscle tissue is broken down. This does to a point explain why new exercisers undertaking an exercise routine see decreases in weight followed by a plateau as the body adapts unless training volume or intensity is modified.

 

Item 2- Anaerobic Exercise.

This can be described as periods of high intensity followed by a rest period such as sprints or circuit training. This method is well used in the fitness industry and rightly so as it mixes periods of elevated intensity with rest in effect causing an acute overreaching effect in the exercise session which places the body under stress which it has to adapt to. Again anaerobic exercise is dependant upon the fitness of the individual being trained, the intensity that the individual is being placed and the period of recovery before the next interval. This type of training is very metabolically demanding and therefore it’s use in comparison to aerobic methods of training needs to be limited.

 

Item 3- Resistance Exercise.

Resistance training is hard to quantify as in effect everything is resistance training if you are moving your own bodyweight. Weight training in itself burns calories though not necessarily the same amount as anaerobic or aerobic training. The advantage of weight training is that it promotes the growth and importantly the maintainance of lean muscle mass which in effect keeps the energy demands of the body elevated. Methods including super setting exercises (pairing exercises performed one after the other) to be time efficient are useful as well as providing extra stress to the cardiovascular system.

Repetitions for each exercise of between 8 and 12 are effective for lean muscle maintainance. Rest periods should be around 30 seconds to 90 seconds as the muscular system is the main system to be fatigued and therefore full recovery is not necessary. If the desired response is to get stronger then performing 6 repetitions and below is the ideal rep range as there is a need here to challenge the nervous system. It is important for longer rest periods here to let the body recover fully.

Typically most programmes recommend one form of exercise to promote weight loss. This approach is in effect limited as variations in stimulus cause the body to adapt. Net fat burning in a session of exercise is dependent upon the cumulative intensity and volume of the session. At rest we are burning more fat proportionally compared to the other fuels in the human body. This is the same for low intensity exercise. During low intensity exercise calorific expenditure per minute of exercise can be around approximately 5kcals though net fat loss is higher if we work at a higher intensity as well as the net amount of other fuels that the body can use for energy. During intense exercise calorific expenditure per minute can be at 10kcals and above. Obviously intense exercise can not necessarily be maintained for long periods. Resistance training in it’s traditional form has a calorific expenditure between high and low intensity work. High intensity work and resistance training place a greater stress on the body and have a higher post exercise calorific burn compared to low intensity work.

The way these methods of training are combined depends on the individual but each of these items of training form the basic tool box for smart fitness training programmes.

3 Proven Fat Loss Tips…

Fat and weight loss is often a lot of our clients main goal at Results Fast. With the volume of misinformation in the media it is hard to find information that is factually correct.

 

These three strategies are backed up in research as having a positive correlation with fat loss. Now this does not mean they are the causitive factor- it means these three things are associated with getting a positive result.

 

Strategy 1- Eat more nuts. Nuts get a bit of a bad rap because they are high calorifically, however in research nut consumption has a positive corelation with weight reduction. The calorie theory of weight loss in the sense of “what goes out has to be more than what comes in” is useful as a guide. The fact is though that nuts are packed with quality fats which have a hunger satieting effect and makes them a useful addition to most nutrition plans as a snack food in small quantitites. So take Mr T’s advice and get some nuts!

 

Strategy 2- Drink Green Tea. The metabolism enhancing benefits of green tea are again well documented. Green tea consumption is a good replacement for calorie containing beverages which may be unnecessaery when trying to burn body fat. There are a variety of mechanisms for green tea’s metabolism enhancing effect, but often it is a case that it may be better than an additive field soft drink or a sugar laden juice drink which may promote fat storage.

 

Strategy 3- Positive Social Support.  This is probably the most important and is where we excel at Results FAST. Getting the support of your friends and family is vital for getting a great result in your health, training and nutrition. Being in the right environment is a great thing for acheiving your goals and getting motivation not just from a trainer but also your training colleagues. So if you are not getting the support you need ask yourself is your training environemnt conclusive to acheiving your goals and is your trainer giving you the positive support you need.

 

The New Rules of Circuit Training…

Circuit training has been a mainstay in fitness training for decades, some may even say centuries. With the rise of smarter methods being developed to burn body fat, raise our fitness levels and lift performance to new heights it is important to recognise circuit training for the benefits it can deliver. Most people will recognise a circuit as a mix of a variety of different exercises in a random order. You move from one exercise to the next with an elevated level of fatigue and a heart rate that is rapidly accelerating out of your chest. Now this is where the difference comes between a circuit that has been designed in a smart way compared to a circuit that is designed to knock both legs from underneath you and leave you hoping that you will see the sun rise for one final time. It is important to define at this point the reason why you would perform a conditioning based circuit. Circuits are designed to build your “work capacity” meaning the amount of work you can perform in good form. It is no good lolling from one exercise to the next performing half decent repetitions where your form goes to pot placing unnecessary strain on the joints of the body. Think of it in this way- it should almost be You Tube quality; no one wants to see someone doing something badly. The mistake most people make is that they will fly straight in to a circuit class without any basis of strength. The mistake most personal trainers make is that education comes first before a workout that will leave someone in need of replacement organs.

It is important to develop form and function before invoking any type of fatigue which is why basic strengthening exercises such as squats, lunges, press ups and pull ups should be mastered ahead of going all out on a “death circuit.” Your conditioning level will be directly related to your strength levels- the weaker you are often the poorer your conditioning or the greater the time it will take to bring your conditioning to a great level. Improve your strength levels and the benefits you will gain are twofold.

Structurally you will be stronger meaning better exercise efficiency meaning you can do more. This means in turn that your conditioning levels can grow faster in line with your enhanced strength levels. A circuit should be designed with balance challenging the major movements in the body. The upper body can be paired with the lower body meaning the cardiovascular system can be challenged without causing exercise form to depreciate through fatigue. It also does not need to be high repetition as most circuits tend to be. Remember we are trying to build “work capacity” so repetions can be as low as 4, this is phenomenally useful for strength based athletes such as rugby players. These lifts are not maximal though but exercise form should always be maintained. So for instance you could pair bench press with back squats performing 5 repetions on each with a suitably heavy weight for 10 minutes, lunges with seated rows for 6 repetions each for 10 minutes followed by 10 minutes of a variety of different boxing combinations on a punch bag.

Welcome to smart circuit training….

Barefoot Training and Trainer Choice: Part 1.

Two months ago I had ankle surgery which after two years of nursing an ankle instability issue gave me an even greater interest in understanding the foot and ankle complex. Trainers are something that I spend about 90% of my life wearing so it is important for me to get my footwear choices right- especially when looking to get my own training back on track and rehab an injury.

A question also that we often get asked by our training clients is “What trainer should I buy to train in?” This is often followed by a look down at our footwear- followed by “Should I buy those or should I buy a running shoe?”

A bit of a back story is necessary here to set the scene. Running trainers with support, motion control technology; special fabrics etc. may not necessarily be the best thing to wear when training. A lot of these technologies block movement at the ankle joint. Effectively shutting down range of motion and not allowing the foot to adapt naturally to movement. For a more in relation to running this website provides a great reference: http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/index.html

The question posed is that mid-foot to forefoot striking may be more desirable from a joint health perspective then to heel striking or absorbing force with your heel initially. What does this mean? Well, a lot of trainers have an elevated heel lift which causes heel contact ahead of mid-foot or forefoot strike when someone’s natural running style is unsuited to this method of movement.

This is twinned with another issue from structured running shoes. If we have a lot of medial support (typically in the mid foot area as a harder material or bar) it effectively blocks prontation (the movement of the foot inwards that happens directly after ground contact). So if we need support against pronation it is a good thing, how many people need extra support though? I have been lucky enough to work with dynamic gait analysis with pressure pads and excessive pronation can be an issue. However, the question is why do individuals have excessive pronation and what are the measures that we can counter against this apparent weakness? Well the recommendation that you go straight in to a support shoe is not always right. This again is about treating the cause rather than the effect. If the foot excessively prontates then often it is a question of stability and strength at the ankle. A point to note also is that in the case of shoe shops with “gait” analysis the instant reaction is “You are a pronator- you need a shoe that supports against pronation.” Most of these tests are performed visually or in static (on a pressure pad). Most people who “pronate” will pronate on contact before is transferred to the lateral foot before rolling back out through the toe. This is often the case as well if someone has flat feet- the assumption is that their foot will fall in on ground contact. Dynamically often though the arch of the foot may lift and the forces will display closer to a foot with a natural arch. Simply putting someone in a trainer and saying “off you go” is poor advice- similar to putting a new wheel on the car but only attaching one bolt to keep the tyre on.

Barefoot training and minimal shoe training is the smart move if you want to build up to running distance. This does not mean go out and wear flats all day every day and run barefoot. It means that building barefoot training and wearing minimal footwear can help build strength and stability at the ankle and lower limbs before running. In this sense the ankle has to remain stable in to prontation meaning the ankle is stronger at its initial contact point. Is barefoot running therefore recommended for everyone?

Well no- a lot of people will run without suitable strength not just at the ankle but through the knee, hip and lower back. Making sure that someone is structurally strong is important otherwise a minimal shoe may decrease the base of support further for the individual possibly leading to injury. This means that if someone is not proactive about building a better base to their strength levels then supported trainers will become effectively a “crutch” to lean against. After developing suitable structural strength then introducing a minimally supported shoe would be a good progression. This works brilliantly for single leg work such as lunge variations and single leg deadlifts. In these exercises the foot will try to grip with the big toe which will lift your foot arch in turn developing stability at the ankle on ground contact.

Barefoot movement drills such as shuffles and sidesteps can then be added to training, the key with these is learning to absorb force at the mid and forefoot. This can be quite harsh on your plantar fascia (the base of your foot) initially though rolling your foot on a tennis ball can help relieve tension.

Barefoot running is the next step; consider the fact that for year’s sprinters spikes and middle distance athletes have been using a minimally supported shoe. This does not validify their use but there has been no change in injury occurrences in the lower limb due to structured support trainers as discussed in the Harvard research cited. Either way if you are considering a minimal shoe to run in then I am presuming that you will be pretty switched on to having suitable postural balance, taking adequate measures to develop your strength levels and have a structured running programme with variations in intensities and volumes allowing you to introduce minimal shoe training sessions steadily without excessive volume. If you are looking for a gym shoe that will give good carryover to more effective training then you may also be interested in purchasing a minimal training shoe

So what are the options? I’ll review some of the contenders in my next post….

Hamstrung- Effective Hamstring Training for Performance

Both runners and cyclists in the past have considered the quads to be the primary muscles to develop for performance commonly leading to overbuilt, dominant anterior leg muscles.  

The hamstrings are among the muscles responsible for running and cycling fast as they are involved in both knee flexion (bending and hip extension (torso straightening at the hip)). The hamstrings are also key decelerators- indeed the faster you can stop the quicker you can move again.

The Anatomy of Movement of Running and Cycling.

Understanding the hamstring almost needs a full anatomy lesson in what happens during movement and specifically how energy is transferred. More specifically the elastic power transferred from between one leg to the other leg during normal gait. Running in this case is different to cycling; running is a movement which relies upon elastic power being converted to kinetic power before being converted back to elastic power (think as you move from leg to leg).

In running the hamstring is stretched as the opposite leg swings forward, the pelvis maintains position as the hamstring stretches away from the torso trying to stabilize against rotational forces (this highlights the role of suitable core strength for runners who have symptoms of hamstring pulls or sore lower backs). As the foot transfers through the gait cycle there is a changing of emphasis of the muscles that are recruited. As the toe pushes of there is a transference in muscular recruitment from the hamstrings, glutes and erector spinae (back) to the abdominals, iliopsoas and the quadriceps muscle group. Broadly speaking this is a transfer between the muscles at the back of the body to the muscles at the front of the body. If the pelvis is in an incorrect position away from neutral it can make the transference of muscular recruitment difficult. Why? The torso has to stabilize against rotation and forward leaning. This can be seen in runners who lose control as they run, simply elastic energy transference is affected and the individual finds it hard to bring the swing leg through in front of the body. If as they push off on their toe there is too extreme a level of backwards movement (or the back hyper extends) it will result in the forward movement of the pelvis (often termed anterior tilt), this highlights that the knee does not need to travel backwards far past the hips in order to maintain pelvic stability. Great sprinters show this knee and hip position, if efficiency is leaked over 100 metres it can mean a difference of seconds. While in distance running efficiency is vital for quick times it is also vital for injury protection. Running in an uneconomical way can lead to poor joint position that loads the muscles and connective tissues and can ultimately lead to injury. If the hamstrings are tight it can pull the pelvis downwards posteriorally, tightness in this case limits the range of movement of the leg and limits stride length. If not strong enough anterior pelvic tilt occurs causing hyperextension at the lower back and possible back pain. Both may be related to hamstring pulls but for different reasons.

Cycling is different, when seated the pelvis is affectively fixed in a different position. As you do not have the elastic challenge to stability and transference from leg to leg, efficiency and leg power have to be built within relative few changes in environment as the movement is essentially closed chain. There is a need though to maintain pelvic stability and resist rotation (as in running). A stable pelvis leads to economical movement of the legs and therefore efficiency on the bike can be maintained. It highlights why leg power or strength is only task specific- most great sprinters would not come close to setting the world of time trialling on fire and vice versa.

The Myth of Sports Specific Training for the Hamstring.

So does this mean hamstring strength is trained differently? Well no, technique for runners and setup and technique are vital for both runners and cyclists. Beyond that though training the hamstring in itself is about training not just that muscle but the muscular balance between all the muscle groups that act around the hip and knee.

Most movements that operate through the hamstring tend to be ballistic- this highlights the necessity of the hamstrings to be able to control rapid lengthening. Hamstring training should initially be eccentric in nature; this means that during training there is an emphasis on controlling the lengthening of the muscle. This should also be multi-joint so that the muscles are recruited as a unit, not independent of each other- this is often where injury or overuse occurs. In regard to injury occurrence poor warm up procedures are blamed for hamstring pulls and strains. Type of warm up matters but specifically stretching the hamstrings effectively turns the muscle off, this increases the chance of injury as the muscle cannot lengthen under control.

Initially exercise selection to develop strength should consist of exercises such as stiff leg deadlifts, single leg deadlifts, step ups, and reverse lunges. These can progress towards walking lunges, cable hip extensions, glute ham lowers/ negatives and forward lunges. Beyond this technique training for both cycling and running can be reinforced. Bike work needs to be on the bike, variation of resistance can be used.

Dynamic hip mobility exercises for both cyclists and runners is important. Lack of hip mobility is a major cause of many hamstring problems. Without proper hip mobility the leg will not be able to work through the full range of motion. This limitation will eventually lead to flawed mechanics especially in a fatigued state as more limited ranges of movement will be worked through. These drills should be incorporated daily as part of warm-up or cool down and initially may be performed for posture correction reasons.

On a single leg the abductors and adductors play a major role in the stabilization of the hips. Resisted hip abduction helps strengthen the glute medius (vital for knee tracking). If they are weak or not coordinated with the hamstrings more strain will be placed on the hamstrings. Lateral resisted side steps with a rubber band placed above the ankles or  the hips can be utilized as a warm up and cool down drill. This is quite effective for cyclists who can develop dominance in certain muscles leading to faulty knee tracking.

As for running, stair and gradient running is an efficient way of emphasising a high knee lift and powerful drive on toe off. Hill sprinting at a 15-degree grade provides an excellent means to develop good top speed mechanics. It is virtually impossible to overstride sprinting up hill and helps develop an efficient leg pick up from the hip flexors. Low hops and jumps serve to facilitate muscle stiffness which is more important for running than cycling. Stiffness does not mean necessarily mean tightness it means stability and quick transfer of movement, the opposite of stiffness would be the leg collapsing at ground contact. The emphasis here should be on the knee being slightly flexed with quick movements and low ground contact times. The key is in the ability to absorb force efficiently and transfer quickly.

This article has highlighted that subtle differences exist in the conditioning of cyclists and runners though there are more similarities especially in the gym that leads to optimum transfer to better performance.

Experiments in Fat Loss: Part 3…

While this follow up was ment to come sooner due to a pretty stressful house move I have not had much time to write. That said it was great timing for the final week of the 28 day lean down to finish the week before we moved. The 2 previous posts of how the diet and training is set up are explained here:

Experiments in Fat Loss: Part 1…

Experiments in Fat Loss: Part 2- Cheating and Training

My final weight was 92.8kg on the final Friday- an overall weight loss of 5-6kg in 28 days (starting weight was circa 98-99kg). That said on rehydration the weight came back up to 94kg three days later with the inclusion of a larger amount of carbohydrates. This sort of shows the large scale variability that using scale weight can provide when using it as a guide to weight loss- this is even more prevelant for females who’s hydration state can fluctuate during their monthly cycle. Skinfolds came down around 20mm in 4 weeks placing my “new” body fat at just under 15%, this was agreeable though hitting the gold standard of sub 10% may be the next target.

So what are my overall reflections for this period of training and nutrition? Firstly, nutrition needs to be perfect for the ideal result- the final week was hard from the dieting perspective. I have performed low carb plans before though the problem comes when you start to feel devoid of energy, you start to feel ill or your training leaves you feeling light headed and weak. This sort of happened to me around the week 3 to 4 transition. To me it highlighted the neccessity to consume the right amounts of food and to keep the right type of fats in your diet. Simply speaking I felt rubbish in the last week and slipped up on the food front. At the same time this is a lessoon in perserverance- 28 days is a good amount of time to perform a lean down. Could I have gone out to 6 weeks? Well by the end of it I was pretty much in to the swing- focus has an addictive quality and it is important to understand this and manage it appropriatly. As I say to my cleints a diet is a short term fix, it is not healthy, it is a form of nutrition that often removes certain food groups though it can cause a desired result. The addictive nature of dieting often is seen in the results escpecially if things go too far.

Lifestyle is also another major factor. I feel that that organization and structure provides the best environment for fat loss. That means making the right foods available at the right times. Making your lunch and taking it to work seems to be an alien concept for a lot of individuals I work with. Simply it provides the control to have a healthy lunch without giving in to the chocolate bar or fizzy drink that you may pass on the way to the shops (if you have to buy your lunch). If you are busy obviously this squeezes the time to be organized in but finding time to plan is vital for success in fat loss as it is in any walk of life.

Sleep is another vital component. I will probably get hate mail for this but 6-7 hours a night is as much as I get on a good night. While increasing my work commitments in the short term you notive that with training it is harder to recover and strength levels are reduced. Comparing the body to a car if nutrition is petrol to your body then sleep is like the air in your tyres- you are not going anywhere quickly without it.

I used some pre-workout supplements before training, I varied the source to analyse the effect they had. While not wanting to actively promote any specific brands one of them high in caffeine and a hundred of other things provided a useful push to training early in the day. While not adverse to these products I am not a fan of their loading protocols. Simply anything packed high with stimulants such as caffeine can have addictive qualities as well as building up your tolerance to said stimulants (these were all of the shelf products). If you overload on these type of products it can leave you a bit amped up which is not always good. One point that I would like to make though is that these pre workout supplements where great when feeling fresh after a good nights sleep. Using them when tired though was a bit of a disaster, in fact one of them made me feel pretty rough. All in all it is an area of fat loss nutrition that I need to be sharper on so I intend to investigate these products a bit further and their advantages and disadvantages.