Monthly Archives: September 2014

Mirror Mirror on the Wall…

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

The old you?
Nothing has changed?
No progress?
Disappointment perhaps?

I enjoy the Greek Myth of Narcissus.

Narcissus was a hunter from the territory of Thespiae in Boeotia who was renowned for his beauty.
Nemesis noticed this vain behaviour and attracted Narcissus to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realising it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus died.

Ok, that is a tad dramatic for this time of the morning but here is my point. We strive to achieve perfection, we are never happy with what we have achieved, We always want more, but, at what cost?

So often I hear of people looking in the mirror and seeing something completely different, Body Dysmorphia is an illness of the healthy, it is not only woman who are affected by this but also men.

The gym can become addictive, Obsessive even. We start a routine and get results fairly quickly, and then, tragedy strikes because we fear changing our routine because we might lose what we have, let me tell you something; You won’t.

Many punish themselves for missing a session, or slipping on their diet, they feel everything they worked for will vanish and once again they will consider themselves worthless. I have been in this dark tunnel myself.

Hours of hard work and dedication don’t disappear overnight, sorry, I had to reiterate that point. We are not paid to train so we don’t need to spend all the hours in the gym, do what you can and enjoy it, otherwise you will soon come to resent what you once loved and die just a little each day because you will never feel good happy with what you’ve achieved.

An achievement is still an achievement no matter how small, the little achievements mount up overtime. Change little things and continue to progress, so that, when you look in the mirror you will see the results of your hard work so far, be happy with them, congratulate yourself and be proud of what you have achieved.

I guess what I am trying to say is this – No one will ever be perfect, so when you look in a mirror be proud of what you see because you’ve earned it.

Don’t obsess with perfect, instead strive for progress.

So tell me now, what do you see when you look in the mirror?


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Know Sites?

There is lots of chatter on Facebook about cheat meals today, considering this I have decided to ignore that band waggon and talk about fat storage sites and hormones instead.

Before I go on to the storage sites here is some basic info on the different types of fat. Yes, there is more than just one type of fat.

Brown Fat:
A fat that is often found in leaner people, they seem to have more brown fat than overweight or obese people. (Brown fat has a somewhat thermogenic affect.)

White Fat:
Much more plentiful than brown fat and fuelled by cookies. The job of white fat is to store energy and produce hormones that are then secreted into the bloodstream.

Subcutaneous Fat:
This fat is found directly under the skin. It’s the fat that’s measured using skin-fold calipers to estimate your total body fat.

Visceral Fat: (Unfortunately the worst type of fat.)
Visceral or “deep” fat wraps around the inner organs and spells trouble for your health. How do you know if you have it? If you have a large waist or belly you have visceral fat. Visceral fat drives up your risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even dementia.

So what does it mean when you store fat in certain areas?

Accumulation of fat on upper arms and chest is linked with Low Androgen Levels (Low levels of testosterone).

When you store fat on shoulders and hips it stems from Insulin related hormonal issues. Insulin is the storage hormone. Issues in this hormone can be from poor insulin sensitivity or insulin resistance, these can be trigger by excessive carbohydrate intake and a sedentary lifestyle.

What about that tricky fat on ribs? This has a correlation with a dysfunctional Thyroid Gland.

Fat on abdomen can be caused not only by too much sugar in your diet but also too much Cortisol (stress hormone).

A common problem for the ladies is fat on bottom and thighs, the reason for this is an elevated level of Oestrogen (female sex hormone).

Some people have tricky fat on the knees and calf’s, From studies I have read this is caused by low levels of Growth Hormone.

As you can see the fat storage sites are all directly linked to hormones, and how are our hormones affected? By the foods we eat, that is the answer you’re searching for.

Eating as many natural/whole foods as possible will give your body the best chance to establish optimal hormone levels, not to mention exercises, adequate sleep and good old fashion down time.

So when they say “A second on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.” this time they’re not wrong.


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Simple Nutrition

Nutrition these days has become a Black Hole of facts, fiction and some occasional Voodoo.

Over the years fat has been demonised, sugar has been demonised, even kittens lead to excessive fat gain accord to some studies. Ok, seriously I feel people are taking things to a level of depths that not only baffle many but also depress them.


Because no matter what people try to do, somewhere, in some place, someone says they are wrong and because they are wrong it makes them stupid. When did it all become so hard? When serious money could be made would be the correct answer.

From what I have learnt over the years there has been a staple rule that I have followed. Admittedly, I have tried some differing approaches, some worked for some but not for others, yet, amongst all of the trial and error there was one simple method linked with common sense that seemed to always prevail.

Here is a secret that hide in plain sight.

Protein + Carbs (High Carb) = Muscle Gain.
Protein + Fat (Low Carb) = Maintenance.
Protein + Vegies (Low Carb) = Fat loss.

The simple maths of nutrition.

Now I can agree with various points of logic from, Paleo, IIFYM, Atkins, Ancestral Eating and many more because they are all good. The point of which my tolerance reached it’s limit was when I heard a young girl no older than 13 working out her Macro’s… Now things are getting ridiculous.

We all have to remember that we’re not pro athletes, we don’t need to be that specific.

How do you track your progress then? Before and after photos.
How do you know what to eat? Listen to your body, it will tell you.
How do you know if something will work? You try it.
How do you know how long to do it for? It’s a small lifestyle change, live with it.

Find what works for you, a keep this in mind: Just because you’re not doing what everyone else is doing, it’s ok. It doesn’t make you wrong, and it doesn’t make you the devil; it makes you different and I think different is pretty awesome.

Be different, and be proud to be different.


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Why Weight?

For those of you who have embarked on your journey to ultimate health and fitness how many of you said: ‘I want to weigh XYZ”?

Picking a goal weight to weigh is like throwing a pebble into the ocean in the hope of creating an instant tidal wave. Pointless.

My view on this may seem somewhat brash, please hear me out.

Many people will pick a weight they wish to achieve and strive to lose weight no matter the cost or consequence to their bodies. Some are racked with various problems after they achieve a rapid loss, such as, hormone levels being skewed, psychological dissonance and physical illness to name a few.

Focusing on the scales is a dangerous way to set yourself a goal, just because you weigh eight and a half stone it doesn’t mean you will look good, or even be healthy.

I suggest instead focusing on what you look like overall.

Taking before and after pictures is something I urge all my clients to do, and everybody else for that matter. Pictures help you keep a realistic view on how you’re progression is going, and you only need to do them once per month, this helps you avoid one on the most common pitfalls associated with aiming for a weight based goal: Jumping on the scales every day.

I can understand why people are fearful of taking pictures at first. Seeing themselves in their current physical state can be depressing for some. Trust me though. Taking pictures will allow you to see how far you have come, and how all of your hard work has paid off.

Don’t become a slave to chasing numbers.


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The Missing Link

What is the most important part of your training?

Is it your program?
Is it your time spent in the gym?
Is it your attention to detail in the amount you record?
Or maybe it’s the weight you lift.

If any of those are you answer, while you are not wrong, you are almost destined to fail you endeavour. Why?

Let me explain.

The most important part of training I feel is an aspect that is overlooked by almost everyone, and that my friends, is Mind Set.

Mind Set is the difference between achieving your goal and giving up.

When people give up it is often reenforced with a plethora of excuses when really it was because they didn’t have enough resolve to continue what they started. The didn’t want it enough.

Often times I hear excuses for people not being able to achieve their goals, the reasons why it didn’t work and the outside influences that stopped their progress. Just because you might have failed to hit your goal it doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a person is only means as the time you didn’t want it enough.

To those who give up I have these two questions:

Instead of saying why it didn’t work, why not say what is required from you to make it work?

What change in your behaviour can you make so that you will achieve your goal next time?

Flipping your mind set around is not the easiest thing in the world to do, I understand this. That said, the Issue is not making large changes in life that is hard, it is making the small changes that matter the most that is difficult.

Lets say you missed a new Squat P.B. Instead of saying why you didn’t get it try to say HOW you can change what you did to get it next time, for example: Getting tight under the bar, Staying tight once unracked, taking a deep breath before descending, pulling down into the bottom of the squat and driving up hard being ready to stick and keep pushing until you’re past that point.

Training your mind is not hard. It can be done through reading books, simple mental exercises, games such as Chess (a personal favourite of mine).

Remember this: If you fail it does not mean you are a failure. All it means is that you missed something this time around, next time say how you will achieve what you missed, and what behaviour is required for you to achieve your goal.

You work hard. You deserve what you want; if you want it enough.

I know you have the potential to do it, the question is, do you trust me enough to believe in yourself?


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How Do You Train?

I was reading a fair amount over the weekend regarding training, volume, intensity and frequency. Several of the books I read made reference to the optimal routine for building muscle would be as follows:

– Train each body part every 5days
– 4 days on 1 day off principle
– Ideally train twice per day
– Split into legs (quad dominant) Day 1
– Chest/back Day 2
– Legs (hamstring dominant) Day 3
– Shoulders/back Day 4
– High threshold in the AM, high intensity in the PM
– Post workout shake of a 4-1 Carb/Protein ratio

I understand not everyone can train twice per day, keeping that in mind I would still recommend using 4 on 1 off. The constantly varying days will help not only your gains, it will also stave off boredom.

If you can only train once per day I would advise a work out structured like this:

~1 Heavy compound movement -25 warm up reps -25 working reps (sets can be to your desire. 8×3 or 5×5 etc)

~1 Superset of semi compound movements -8 reps per exercise -6 sets

~1 Triset or Isolation movements -total around 50 reps per triset -3-5sets

This will provide enormous stimulus throughout many of your muscle fibres.


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A Perfect Pair

Sometimes not everything that is paired together in life works, chalk and cheese for example. Today I would like to talk about exercise selection, because I see many beginners trying to combine exercises that just don’t work.

This example is from someone I saw training the other night who was training chest and back, they have all the best intention but their selection of exercises was not optimal, the exercises in question were: Barbell Bench Press & Straight Arm Pull Down.

This might seem like a sensible choice, however both exercises will heavily hit your internal rotators and leave you more likely to injure yourself through bad form.

Knowing what exercises to combine might seem easy but it’s not.

Ideally as a beginner you will want to use two exercises that are polar opposites, this is because you will be looking to get maximal stimulus in a 45-60min time window.

*It is worth noting more experienced trainees will be able to link similar muscle group exercises because their body will be able to handle the overload.

Here are some examples that will help you:

Legs: Squats – Hamstring Curls
Upper Body: Bench Press – Seated Row Wide Grip-Overhand (Pronated for technical geeks)
Legs: Deadlift – Dumbbell Lunge
Upper Body: Shoulder Press – Pull Up or Lat Pull Down

If you want to understand more about how the body works I would suggest buying this book: The Strength Training Anatomy Workout:by Frederic Delavier. This book will give you a detailed breakdown of what muscles are targeted in each specific exercise, once you understand this you will be able to pair exercises for maximal results.


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Not so Lucky Number 7

How motivated are you on a scale of 1-10 to achieve your goals?

About a 7? If that is your answer then we have a problem.

The number seven might be known as lucky or a divine number linked to god and all creation, but in reality though it shows a distinct lack of commitment because it sounds good. Seven is far enough over the half way mark and just far enough away from the top to make people think you’re motivated.

You also use this number when marking how satisfactory you found something or giving feedback. So many people don’t want ‘Hassle’ and this is the easiest option to take. Why not be honest with yourself?

I noticed this over the years of working with people and observing their behaviour, many clients or general gym members who said the number seven often never achieve anything. Have you ever used the number seven to describe how motivated you were?

If you feel less than motivated say something, that way you can overcome your problems. Perhaps you found a service less than stellar? Say something about it, you may even get a free voucher or compensation… Or they will pee in your soup, either way it’s worth the risk.

6 and below are good numbers, why? Because there is room for ample motivation (all some people need is a small push in the right direction) all you simply need to do is find what inspires you. 8 and above shows a sound resolve and determination to achieve so you will simply need correct guidance.

So keep in mind the number 7 is something to be wary of.


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Train your Muscles not Momentum.

Everyday I see sights that leave scars that will never be healed. Everywhere I look I see bad form, and despite my efforts to help all I get in return is a look of -F**k off- this saddens me.

Various people walk in to a gym and train these two things: Their Ego (lift as much as possible) & Momentum (bad form allowing you to lift as much weight as possible).

It seems focused concentration on a specific muscle area has been forgotten, when did this happen?

Train for your goal – If looking good is your goal you must ignore the weight you’re lifting and focus on the muscle contraction and the pump. The use of any of the following will allow you to achieve a great pump and stimulate multiple muscle fibres for maximal growth and aesthetic symmetry.

-Drop sets: Finish your last sets rep and then drop the weight and continue until you fail again, repeat until suitably dead.

-Super sets: Same muscle group with 2 exercises. 8 reps Inline bench and 12 reps dumbbell fly, 5 sets for example.

-Tri sets: Same muscle group with 3 exercises. 6 Heavy skull crushers, 12 Overhead ez-bar extensions and 25 rope pull downs is tasty. 3 Total sets.

-Giant sets: Same muscle group with 4 or more exercises. 4 Deadlifts, 8 barbell rows, 12 cable reverse fly’s and 20 face pulls will leave your back screaming. 2-5 total sets.

-Mechanical drop sets: You simply change the angle you’re working at to allow more reps, you start with the hardest mechanical disadvantage and rep out until failure, then move to a slightly easier variation and so on.
A personal favourite of mine is pull ups – Start wide grip, followed by shoulder width supinated grip and finish with a neutral close grip. I find this good as a finisher but you can do 3-5 sets.

Maybe you’re training for strength, if so, control your tempo on the eccentric and explode up on the concentric and really stimulate that CNS. Try one of the suggestions below for an explosion in strength.

*Please use a 4 second eccentric, 1 seconds pause, 1 seconds explosion tempo unless otherwise stated. Often written as 4-1-1.

-Extended sets: A heavy partial range of motion (ROM) rep to a lighter full ROM rep. 4-6reps Heavy bench from pins (Top half) then 4-6 reps full rom dropping 10-20% weight (this depends on your current strength levels). 4 Sets is a great shout.

-Eccentric sets: Take a weight a 110% of your 1 rep max (1RM) lower the weight taking a minimum of 10 seconds, this exercise requires a spotter so be sure to pick a Bro who looks strong… or a trainer. 3-5 reps are sufficient for this exercise done over 3-8 sets.

-Pre-Activation sets: (these can have varying names) load up your bar ready to squat with 150% of 1RM, simple unrack the bar and stand with it for 60 seconds *have spotters. Put the weight back and take 60 seconds rest and then strip it to your 5RM and go for 6-8reps, once done rest 3-5min; you will only need 3 sets of this because it has a high demand on your central nervous system (CNS).

That is only my humble opinion, some will agree others will not. It honestly doesn’t matter if you do or you don’t because I think we can all agree too many people train Ego & Momentum and never get any results.


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Do you set Goals?

Writing goals is something we all should do, few of us do it.

There are many ways to write down your goals, one example is the S.M.A.R.T method. This clever acronym stands for:

Specific – What do you want to achieve? Lose 5% Body Fat
Measurable – How are your going to track progress? Take body fat reading every 2 weeks.
Achievable – Is it achievable with your current skill set? New Gym starter, help needed from fitness professional to set a program/nutritional plan.
Realistic – Is this goal realistic? Currently 30% body fat, a drop of 5% is very realistic. (Learning to break the space time continuum is slightly unrealistic for example)
Time Scale – When do you need to achieve your goal by or, How long will you give yourself to achieve your goal? 4 week is desired timescale, this is just over 1% per week.

The above goal is very achievable.

I know some people that use the template from the books – The One Minute Manager- one of those methods is:

One Minute Goal Setting:

1.Agree on your goal(s).
2.See what good behaviour looks like.
3.Write out each of your goals on a single sheet of paper using less than 250 words.
4.Read and re-read each goal, which requires only a minute or so each time you do it.
5.Take a minute every once in a while out of your day to look at your performance.
6.See whether or not your behaviour matches your goal.

A third way of setting your goals is from the advice for the profound Stephen Covey “Start with the end in mind”. Using this method I have written out goals backwards.

Goal – Become a Rock Superstar.
Current Situation – Self Employed with no singing ability.
Skills Required – Musical tone and lyrical genius.
Required Skills Currently Possessed – None.
Required Action to Achieve Goal – Give up all work and learn to sing.
Overall Outcome – Loss of earnings, potential homelessness.
Decision – Goal unachievable.

Now working backwards I can see that for my goal of rock stardom I lack the skills, well everything necessary. Moving forwards you will need to set goals that are relevant to you.

All are very simple and work well. Do you use a similar method, or perhaps you use something different; How do you set your goals?



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