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Alex Valentine Personal Training

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olympic lifting

Fitness Facts and Fiction

It’s that time of year again; the sun is shining (mostly), the thick woolly jumpers are being tossed aside, and more and more websites and magazines are promoting “How to get your perfect beach body”, “Shed 10lbs in 10 days”, and “Use this weird old trick to lose a pound of belly fat a day” (you must have seen that one, right??)

There is so much information readily available to us on the internet and from our peers, that when we want to gain a bit more lean definition and improve our fitness levels, it can be really difficult to know where to start. So how can we tell the fact from the fiction?

Here’s five easy steps to debunking fitness facts from full blown fiction.

1) If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Sounds cynical, but it’s a good rule of thumb. If a website or magazine is claiming outrageous results that are difficult to believe to be true, they probably aren’t true. No matter how “scientific” it sounds. This is generally a good rule for life, not just in the gym.

With that said, I’m going to tell you a MASSIVE secret at the end of this article, that will make healthy living and getting a sculpted physique so much easier for you, so read on…..

2) Avoid the “all or nothing” approach.

Many diets and fitness routines tend to focus on one thing, such as only doing cardio, not eating carbohydrates (carbs), only eating protein and fat, or only doing exercises as fast as humanly possible, with no regard for technique or safety. The way you eat and the way you train, like everything in life, needs to be a balance. Treat your training with an holistic view, you wouldn’t only eat bananas or rice, so why would you only eat protein? You wouldn’t squat to your maximum capacity every single day without doing anything else, so why would you run on a treadmill every day and do nothing else?

3) “But I saw this exercise on Instagram….” “It said on Twitter if I do this it’ll make my tummy flat…”

This is an oh so familiar phrase to hear as  Personal Trainer, and I can’t tell you how frustrating it is! Here is a small selection of things I have been told by people (smart, educated, talented people) in the gym:

“I saw a girl on Instagram saying if I eat pineapples every day for a month, I’ll lose a stone”

“I’m wearing clingfilm under my t-shirt cos I read on Twitter if you sweat around your belly you’re sweating your fat out”

“My mate told me if I inject myself with insulin, it makes your muscles grow quicker”

NO NO NO NO NO! Just stop! People GENUINELY believe the bullshit they read online, or what their mates-girlfriends-mothers-pug told them. We might sit here and have a giggle at them, but some of these are actually deadly. Ask yourself, how likely is this to be safe and true? Don’t just believe what you read, do your own research and evaluate the evidence before trying something radical.

4) What do you believe?

Sadly the health and fitness industry is saturated with so-called gurus, experts, and people after a quick buck from preying on peoples’ insecurities. Some people become so engrossed in a certain type of diet or fitness fad, that they find it hard to open their mind to anything else. If someone questions the way you eat or the way you train, and you find yourself getting angry, defensive, emotional, or downright preachy about what you’re doing, ask yourself one question…..WHY? What does this diet or routine mean to you? Is it the best thing for you? Once a belief becomes dogma, it is very hard to challenge, let alone change. Some gym chains, diets, weight loss groups and fitness routines have gathered cult-like status, not necessarily because of the results they yield, but because it gives people something to be a part of and believe in. I can’t deny that being a part of something feels good, and it’s a great way to meet people, and if you’ve done your research and you’re happy that whatever you’re doing is good for you, carry on. But always keep an open mind, because what’s right for you and your body today might not be the right thing tomorrow.

5) The secret way to lose weight fast…

Is to stop looking for quick ways to lose weight or build muscle, and actually use that time in the gym working for the body you deserve. There are so many “secret” ways to weight loss on the internet, the phrase itself is a contradiction in terms. If these weight loss tools were that secret, how come Google spurted out 46,300,000 results when I typed in “secret way to lose weight fast”…it’s clearly not a very well kept secret! Are you ready for the ONLY real secret to decreasing body fat and increasing muscle tissue to give that lean, defined look that most people are searching for……?

Eat less crap. Do more exercise.

 

Simples 🙂 as always, if you’d like any help, advice or clarification on any of my blog posts, feel free to drop me an email on alexvalentinept@mail.com

Weight Lifting for Weight Loss?

Or more accurately, fat loss. A lot of people shy away from resistance training (or weightlifting) for three main reasons:

 

1) fear of it making them look “bulky”;

2) fear of looking stupid, or like they don’t know what they’re doing;

3) they believe that cardio is the way to lose weight (or burn fat).

 

On the surface, these all look like valid reasons for avoiding weights like the plague, but when you dig a bit deeper, it kind of all falls apart….

 

Myth 1 – unless you weight train heavily (and I mean HEAVILY, like five days a week) for 6 months straight and take banned substances, you will not look bulky. It takes a lot more effort than you and I can even contemplate to put on enough muscle mass to look “bulky”. Please have a skip to my picture on the “Who Is Alex Valentine?” bit of my website; I weight train three times a week every week….do I look bulky? No. Do I feel more confident knowing I’m stronger and can fill out a pair of leggings with my ass? Yes!

 

Myth 2 – everyone is afraid of looking daft in the gym, you are not alone! But weights are for everybody, and if you’re not 100% confident or sure of what you’re doing, contact a Personal Trainer in your gym who specialises in weight training who can show you the ropes. Only bad PTs make other people feel bad for not knowing how to lift weights.

 

Myth 3 – cardio is the answer to all weight loss issues. There no easy way to say this….but it’s NOT true. If you love cardio, awesome! Keep at it, you gotta do what you love. But think about it; you get on the treadmill, jog at a mediocre speed for 30mins, see that you’ve burned (an estimated) 200 calories and go “yay! I burned calories!” Which is great, but as soon as you go home and have that post work out banana or a fat free super light yogurt cos you’re hungry, guess what? You’ve just put nearly 100 calories back into your body. Kinda defeats the object of the run really. But wait, before you decide to cut out even more food from your diet, have a think about a different approach to training….

 

When you lift weights and challenge your body to lift more than it normally does, your body does something amazing….it adapts. Your body realises it can’t handle what your throwing its’ way, and so it changes to cope. These changes include stripping away the weaker muscles fibres in your body and replacing them with stronger, denser, slightly larger fibres (creating what’s now referred to as “muscle tone”). Because lifting weights burns more calories than cardio, your body also creates more mitochondria in your muscle cells; these are the energy burners in your body….more mitochondria means more energy burners to expend calories. This in turn increases your basal metabolic rate for at least 48 hours after your workout.

 

In English? The bottom line is, lifting weights helps your body burn MORE calories even when you are AT REST. This to me is a winner, because I love nothing better than getting home after a heavy weights session, plonking down on the sofa, and knowing that even though I’m lazing around watching Columbo, my body is STILL burning calories! Work smart, not hard 😉

 

As always, if you want more information on how you can turn your bodacious bod into a fat burning machine, or as one of my client’s put it the other day, how to “sculpt your body”, call, text or email me on 07875465275 or alexvalentinept@mail.com for a complimentary consultation 🙂

Olympic Lifting….what’s the big deal?

Oly floor colourful

We’ve all seen and heard about Olympic Lifting, but not many people are entirely sure what it is. Most people envision beefy looking men and women, usually from somewhere eastern European, grunting as they heave up buckling barbells, leaving powdered clouds of chalk behind. Either that or some moustauchioed dude in leopard print underpants doing something like this:

onearmmilitarypress

Both are accurate in a way, but modern Olympic Lifting is broadening its horizons, and is no longer only reserved for a few elite athletes. Or occasional circus strongmen!

Olympic Lifting has become more widespread recently due to a rise in it’s use in gym programs like CrossFit, and this has made learning the techniques more accessible to the everyday gym goer. Olympic Lifting involves heaving large amounts weight from the floor to over your head in one swift movement, or a series of movements. As you can probably tell, if performed incorrectly, it can cause injury, and can be quite dangerous. That’s why it’s important to find a fully trained coach, who can break down the moves for you, show you, and teach them to you from the ground up, in a safe and effective way.

The main Olympic Lifts are the Snatch:

Andrei_Rybakou snatch

And the clean and jerk:

Oly Lift Svetlana Podobedova_2012

There are loads of derivations of these moves, but for now we’ll keep it to these two main moves.

People ask me all the time why I do so much Olympic Lifting, surely I’m strong enough? Whilst the answer is yes, I am strong (I could always be stronger though!) Olympic Lifting is about so much more than strength. It’s about timing, speed, flexibility, power, core strength, precision, and more than anything, it has such amazing…..finesse. NOT something you would expect to be associated with heaving massive barbells about! When executed properly, an Olympic Lift has an astounding combination of power and poetry, it is almost a work of art. I spend so much time lifting because I want to perfect this art, and become more powerful in the sport I play. However strong you think you are, it will be nothing compared to the rock you will be carved from when you start Olympic Lifting.

Olympic Lifting is the ultimate in plyometrics (increasing central nervous system speed), and refines the muscle you have built to be fast and powerful. I have seen competitive bodybuilders unable to overhead squat an empty bar, purely from lacking the core strength, precision and power to perform the move. This is most likely a one off, but it just shows that big muscles are not always the most powerful. No point in driving a Ferrari if it’s got a Reliant Robin engine! Olympic Lifting can fit right into your workout, or can be performed once a week to ensure the body you are sculpting is strong as well as beautiful. Whether you’re a regular gym user who just wants to get stronger, a weekend warrior at football, netball, or rugby, a semi-pro athlete, or a professional sports person, Olympic Lifting can benefit almost everyone who wants to up their game. So the question is, when will you start Olympic Lifting?

Which comes first…. cardio or weights?

Ah, the age old question! You get to the gym, lace your trainers up, grab your water and your towel and head to the gym floor. But there’s so many machines….where do you start? Most people don’t have time to slog it out at the gym five days a week, and switch between upper, lower, and cardio, so how do you fit it all in, AND make sure you get the benefits of both?

Scientists used to think that it was all dependant on how tired you are; if you go for a 5K run first, you won’t be able to lift as much because of the lactic acid build up and general fatigue. But what about sports people who need to be fast, powerful and explosive, all at the same time?

Simple. It’s all down to enzymes. Research has shown that when completing exercise, either cardio or weight training, a protein called AMP Kinase is released. This protein determines whether a  workout session will be set to produce hypertrophy (bigger muscles) or increased cardiovascular function. Unfortunately, it can’t do both! Dependant on which activity is completed first, the sequence of cellular activation determines whether AMP Kinase is activated to produce bigger guns, or increased cardio function. But this means that you can’t do cardio and weights in the same day, right? True, if you’re training for a 10K or a bodybuilding competition. But most people kind of just want to look good and feel healthy. This isn’t to say there will no benefit whatsoever to you doing both on the same day, the effect just won;t be as substantial. So what’s the answer?

It’s easy to build in a small amount of cardio into every workout, just by putting it in your warm up. Ideally you should be aiming to get the blood pumping at an above average heart rate for a least 5 minutes before picking up anything heavy, and you can always finish your workout with a hardcore four minute High-Intensity Tabata style row (20 seconds all out rowing, followed by 10 seconds rest, and repeat seven more times, completed three times a week). Researchers at the McMaster University, Ontario, have found this to have a similar health benefits as people who do moderate exercise for up to an hour a day.

If you’re doing sport specific training, and want to be fast, strong, explosive, and be able to keep going for a whole match/game/bout, it’s best to warm up properly, then do weights and plyometrics on one day, and cardio on another. If there’s not enough time to split up your workouts in that way, a good bit of High Intensity Interval Training, like the Tabata round above, will definitely give your cardio system something to think about! For help, advice or training in weightlifting or Sports Specific training, feel free to drop me an email to hi@alexvalentinept.co.uk, or use our contact form.

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