Being a rookie is the gym is exciting, but tough. You have so much potential to fulfil but the pitfalls are all to easy to fall down on. Here's three of the biggest mistakes I see beginners making (not to mention three I made for years too!).
1/ YOUR COMMUTE - Your choice of travel to and from work every day could be a great chance for you to get some calories burnt. Do you get the tube to work in London? Get off a stop early and get those steps in. Maybe you work only a couple of miles from where you live? In this case maybe cycling to and from work would be a cool way to get your daily activity up (and save some petrol money!). The other thing to consider is how stressful is your commute? If every day it's an unbearable grief then it's time to try and think around it. Being stressed for extended periods of time isn't great for you for all kinds of reasons and will make it physiologically tougher for you to lose fat.
Whilst what goes on in the kitchen does have a big impact on what state your mid section is in, it's not truly where you're abs are built.
Your abs are like any other muscle group in the sense they can contract and stretch, they can get DOMS and they can become stronger/grow.
Assuming you have average genetics, the key thing where carving out a sixpack is concerned is two things:
1. YOU NEED LOW ENOUGH BODY FAT - This is only to happen by burning more calories than you take in, to then get into a position where your body can utilise some of that excess belly fat as fuel.
2. YOU NEED TO BUILD A STRONG MID SECTION - If you want a well defined sixpack your abdominal wall and deeper abdominal muscles need to be strong and conditioned. Crunches and sit ups aren't the answer. Again, like many good answers to common gym questions, the answer is to get stronger and progress on your big compound lifts that heavily tax your core strength and stability. Deadlift and squat variations are fantastic for this.
So yes, the kitchen does have a huge impact on you showing off a lean torso, but you can't show off well what hasn't been built well.
Revisiting an old blog here, but as I see many guys getting disgruntled with their lack of progress so far in 2017, I wanted to put this out again to give some perspective if you're starting to wonder whether steroids are the answer...
There's two ends of the spectrum here.
On one end, you might make bit of a meh decision to to jump on a quick cycle of gear. You think popping a few pills and a handful of semi structured, mediocre workouts are going to do the trick and have you ripped for ibiza in a few months. Nothing much happens in the first few weeks so you fob the idea off and think no more of it.
You decide to do it 'properly', but just one cycle right? What harm can that do.. You're willing to use whatever drug it takes but you're going to follow the recommended doses right? You train like an animal and weigh your white fish and oats to the gram. You see some results.
But you want more. And because more is better you up your dosage, perhaps you bring in another drug to help 'get rid of that last bit of fat' or 'give you that hard 3D shouldered, Instagram filtered look'.
So you go on holiday and look/feel better than ever have before. You thrive on the compliments and love the attention. You figure you've done a great job and decide when you get home you'll come off the gear and just maintain your shape. Cool.
But a few weeks down the line you feel small, weak and soft. F*&k it, jumping on one more cycle should do the trick.
That right there is the slippery slope of steroid use.
If you get the desired result from taking something, you will go back to it to regain the results you lose coming off it and the further down the path you get, the harder it is to find your way back..
You've not just built a physique with drugs, your mind is now at the mercy of them too.
It's now a part of who you are. You feel the desire to keep up this reputation of being the guy everyone looks at in the gym and asks for advice.
Dysmorphia kicks in. You become increasingly dissatisfied with where your physique is at. Thus more drugs. More drastic measures.
The negative physiological effects have now hit really hard. Unbeknown to you your natural testosterone production is shutting down. Your liver is starting to wane and your nuts are shrinking.
So where does it stop?
Worst case scenario... Your body says enough is enough. Heart attack. Done. You're out. Dead.
Still worth cracking on with a quick course for your holiday?
If you want a physique like the guy in this picture, please believe me that you DO NOT need to take drugs. Is that kind of physique easy to achieve? No. But is it achievable.. For absolute sure.
If you want to be Mr Olympia then yes, at some point drugs will have to come into the equation. But if like most of us guys you're after that lean, men's heathesque kind of look you really do not need to be anywhere near drugs.
Gyms this day and age are littered with guys using performance enhancers and that's their body and their choice, no judgement on them.
But it pains me to see so many young guys resorting to such drastic measures because they feel it's the only way to get the results they want or the easier/quicker way to make it happen.
I urge you to look at the bigger picture and consider your decision on this kind of stuff very, very seriously.
Lets cut to the chase. It's YOU. You genuinely are the only person stopping yourself from achieving fantastic results. You're also the only person that can make it happen. Powerful position right?
Truth is many people would sooner create 100 excuses than find a single solution. What I want to get at in this post is that getting results requires you to take action. You'll have to do some stuff you're not doing currently and probably cut out/adapt some stuff you are doing.
This inevitably means you're going to have to change some habits, which often isn't easy or comfortable. But I can promise you that this is where your results are hiding.
I'm going to give you a couple of case studies from just today coaching my 121 clients:
0900am My first clients walk in the door. A Husband and wife ready to crush a leg session. Husband has been out of training for the last 6 weeks and Wife originally came to me post stomach op a couple of years back and has been working closely with me or my co-trainer ever since. Husband knows he's going to struggle to keep up with her but gives it 110% to keep the pace giving an awesome account of himself showing some real grit in his first leg session of 2017. Wife is also a Mum and juggles a hectic homelife with coming to see me x 3 a week. Coming to me originally post op with apprehension and plenty of work to she has now carved out an envied physique that 95% of women would kill for.
1000am My next guy rolls up as he does every Saturday morning with a smile on his face and ready for action. This guy's a city boy with a demanding career as well as a happy home and social life. Despite this he's managed to adapt his weekly routine in a way that he gets his 3-4 training sessions in which has seen him progress every single month. To the point we even worked towards a successful photoshoot a couple of months back to showcase his fantastic results so far.
1130am It's time for one of my newest recruits to get involved. Heading into week 3 of working together and I'm starting to see the first glimmers of progress. He has been willing to strip back the weight on a lot of movements and start from scratch to relearn techniques with superior execution than previous. He has also made conscious decisions nutritionally detailing to me how his day pans out and the new informed choices he is making rather than just opting for what is easy and convenient. I'm excited to see where he is in a few months time.
All three of those above have the same thing in common. They haven't just voiced their desire to change, they've consciously made decisions followed by positive actions and a willingness to learn and embrace feeling uncomfortable.
Research as much as you want, spend as much money as you can and take all the most cutting edge 'fat loss' supplements you can, but I promise you NOTHING will change until you start acting in a way thats conducive to change. Thoughts are great, but they don't change anything. Actions do.
Something a lot of us guys want when it comes to physique goals is to fill out our tshirts with a thick chest, round shoulders and dense arms that hug our sleeves. Classic superheroesque kinda torso. Whilst some guys can be more genetically predisposed to slapping on muscle tissue quicker, many struggle adding that extra size. Typically known in the industry as hard gainers! Is this you? If so, read on for my five commandments to bring even the skinniest of you the best results possible...
1/ DECIDE WHAT BODY COMPOSITION YOU WANT - If you just want size, size and more size and body fat isn't really something you're bothered about (within reason) then congratulations you can get bigger, quicker. On the other hand if you want to keep body fat gain to a minimum, then you're going to have to play the longer more gradual game of making 'lean gains'. Although this longer more steady process requires more patience, in my eyes it is the superior approach. It's better news for you hormonally (the fatter you get the worse your hormonal profile will become). It's also going to reduce the chance of you developing any physiological and psychological food issues from over eating/bingeing on junk, which is typically what happens when people go on a no holes barred, aggressive bulk.
2/ GET STRONGER - Getting stronger on all your big compound lifts (squat, bench press, deadlift, lunge, pull up etc) is going to help massively when it comes to laying down new muscle tissue. The process of getting stronger requires you to get better at essentially 'turning on' muscle fibres and the better you get at this, the better you can break them down to allow them to adapt and grow back bigger and thicker.
3/ BE PROGRESSIVE - Don't keep doing the same workouts with the same weight, exercises, sets, reps etc and expect drastic change. Your body responds to changes of stimulus so be sure to track your training shooting for progression week in week out. Try to change up your program every 4-6 weeks as a general rule.
4/ CALORIE DENSE FOODS - If you struggle to get in enough calories because of a modest appetite 1. I'm very jealous of you! (closet fat boy) and 2. You need to be wise with your food choices opting for foods that contain a lot of calories without being too much of a chore to get down your neck. Snack on nuts/nut butters, use a little oil in your cooking and incorporate fruit juice and full fat milk into your diet if you're looking for some easy calories. Making your own mass building shake is a great idea in between meals. 1/2 pint full fat milk, 1/2 pint coconut milk, 2 tbsp peanut butter, 40g whey, 1 banana, 50g oats. Blend. Done.
5/ ARE YOU WORKING AS HARD AS YOU THINK? - Adding muscle takes intensity. I drone on about this all the time, but if you aren't training hard enough, you simply will not build muscle. Period. A great training partner or a well equipped personal trainer should take your training to the next level. Having someone else there allows you to really get stuck in and leave nothing on the table. You can start throwing in techniques like negatives, forced reps and AMRAP sets much more effectively when your right hand man is there to make sure you don't squash/decapitate yourself.
Address those five points, be patient, and you will grow!
With more trainers providing services than ever before it can be a minefield when it comes to sourcing a top quality Trainer that's best suited to your needs as a client.
If you're currently looking for someone to get you on track to turbo charge your health and fitness results, ask yourself these questions:
1/ ARE THEY CERTIFIED (AND INSURED)? - The fitness industry isn't regulated all that well when it comes to this so be vigilant and do your research. You're potentially going to trust this person with large components of your health and if they aren't legitimately qualified to handle this responsibility you could be in for big problems.
2/ DO THEY SPECIALISE? - You wouldn't go to the GP to fix your teeth and it's the same principle with getting the best services for your fitness endeavours. You want to lose fat and gain muscle? You need a body composition expert. You want to build the muscle back up in the leg you broke playing football? You could do with seeing a sports performance and rehab specialist. You want to step on a bodybuilding stage? A prep coach with a track record of successful competitors is going to be your best bet.
3/ HAVE YOU WATCHED THEM OPERATE? - If you're considering starting with a trainer, if its possible to do so, watch them train other clients. Do they look interested? Do their clients look like they're 1. working hard and 2. enjoying what they're doing? OR... Does the trainer lazy appear bored? Easily distracted? On their phone? Generally just uninterested? Finding someone who is present and passionate about what they do should be right near the top of your wish list.
4/ DO THEY WALK THE WALK? - This is a controversial one. I'm not saying they should look like a Men's Health cover 365 days a year BUT they should look healthy, they shouldn't be turning up to Sunday morning sessions hungover. They should enjoy what they do and enjoy living a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
5/ DO THEY TRACK PROGRESS? - Physical results, performance tests, dietary analysis, session briefs, weekly check ins... There's tons of things your trainer should be monitoring. Without doing so you're flitting from one session to another, not really sure of the progress you're making. Having some solid data and numbers will help keep you accountable, motivated and keep track of what does or doesn't work for you in regards to working towards your goals.
6/ ARE THEY CHEAP? - We all love getting value, but when it comes to a personal health related service it's important you value yourself high enough to invest in yourself without necessarily shopping purely on price.
7/ ARE THEY A TEACHER OR DRILL SERGEANT? - A great trainer won't just tell you what to do, they will tell you how and why. Their goal is to give you the tools to at some point down the line walk away from them with the knowledge they need to carry on their progress without you needing to put money in their pocket. As a client you should feel your knowledge is always growing and not just your biceps.
With London setting the standard with it's huge influx of health and fitness based facilities over the past few years, the surrounding counties are starting to catch up. The following are a few of my top picks you should make an effort to visit if you're Essex based like myself.
1/ ABSALUTE GYM - Over the past 5/6 years the guys at Absalute have built an empire of the best equipped gyms in the county. With gyms in Brentwood, Romford, Thurrock and Chelmsford, Absalute has managed to strike just the right balance of 'spit and sawdust' with extensive high grade equipment. Not only that, all four gyms have multiple personal trainers who work independently in their own specialist disciplines, which means you'll never be far from a helping hand if you need it in any area of fitness. If you want to take your training to the next level and surround yourself with other people hungry for results, these gyms are where you need to be.
Find out more about all four gyms at absalutegym.co.uk
2/ HEALTHY ROOTS - This is exactly what every high street needs. An eatery that prides itself on providing quality, tasty food with both eat in or take out dining options. A varied menu comprised of the best quality ingredients makes this place a 'must visit' if you're passing through. Based in Upminster, Healthy Roots is the only place of it's kind in the local vicinity, although given their massive popularity I'm sure we'll see other start ups come in to try to replicate.
Check out Healthy Roots at facebook.com/healhtyrootslondon
3/ ESSEX BOOTCAMP - If the gym isn't for you or you simply prefer to get yourself outdoors and you want to get fitter, stronger and leaner you need to check these guys out. With thousands of members enjoying their bootcamp based training every week from over 20 locations, the Essex Bootcamp movement has grown through a combination of effective but fun and engaging sessions paired with an awesome sense of team spirit. The trainers love what they do and care about every member's personal fitness journey.
Visit essexbootcamp.co.uk to sign up for your free 7-day trial.
The number one goal any one comes to me with is to strip down their body fat. There is so much conflicting information out there on what you need to do to make this happen so I can completely understand the frustration of anyone seeking out the real answers. Lets not overcomplicate it; here's 5 fundamentals that will help you on your fatloss journey:
1/ CALORIE DEFICITS - You must be in a calorie deficit to burn body fat (ie. burn more calories than you take in). It's important to remember to look at this beyond being a daily thing, i'll often look at a client's whole week's worth of calories balanced against what they get burnt in a total week. This leads me to my next point nicely.
2/ FAT DOESN'T GET BURNT IN A DAY - Another good reason for the above is it encourages you to look at fat loss on a longer term basis rather than expecting drastic results from some nutty 2 day lemon water and nettle detox in Bali. Your body has a lot of stored carbohydrate (glycogen) to burn through before you get near burning any body fat, hence when you keep topping up your glycogen stores on the weekend with sugary food and that cheat meal you feel you earnt, you feel no real changes the following week.
3/ FAT BURNING FOODS DON'T EXIST - Broccoli, blueberries, avocado, protein powder... whatever the food source, I promise you it doesn't have magical fat burning capabilities. Certain food groups make it far easier for you to stay in a calorie deficit than others that's for sure, but the likelihood of you finding a food that burns 'stubborn fat' is as likely as me riding my Unicorn to the gym tomorrow.
4/ FAT DOESN'T MAKE YOU FAT - Confusing I know, but in reality fat is an important part of your daily diet. It keeps your hormones in check and cells healthy. Where people can slip up is by including too much fat in their diet, which is pretty easy given that 1g of fat is 9 calories compared to 1g of protein or carbohydrates only being 4 calories. The best thing you can do is limit your fat intake via artificial, processed foods as this will help keep your calories in check and the fats here are likely to be poor quality ones doing your body no favours anyway.
5/ YOU CAN'T TARGET STOMACH FAT - Do as many sit ups, crunches, planks and leg raises as you like, but this won't help you lose stomach fat. While you might be targeting the stomach muscles doing these movements, they won't make the least bit of difference unless you address your diet and your calorie balance too. Everyone's body will store and burn fat slightly differently but for the most part your body will prefer taking fat from where it stores most of it when you initially start to lean down.
I love the odd takeaway as much as the next man and so do my clients. So rather than eradicate them from your diet, wouldn't you prefer to make better guilt free choices that didn't derail your whole week of progress? Here's the good, bad and ugly of the takeaway world:
1/ FISH AND CHIPS - Simple but satisfying, a traditional fish and chips typically weighs in at between 1000-1500 calories (and that's without the tommy k). It's pretty obvious where the bulk of the calories are coming from - the frying/battering process. Keep the fish in though and steer clear from the processed battered sausage/pie options. A large portion of chips can also be as much as 800 calories, so reign in the portion size here.
2/ MCDONALDS - Loads of options here. Lets look at a typical meal choice (my exact one as a kid actually); a Big Mac Meal with large chips and a large chocolate milk shake stacks up at just short of 1500 calories. If you want to practically halve those calories, get yourself a grilled chicken and bacon salad and you can even throw in a large chicken selects for good measure.
3/ DOMINOES - This is one of the big hitters. A large mighty meat will set you back 2000 calories and a massive 90g of fat! When you add in your sauces and garlic bread you're getting up to the 2500 mark. Trade that in for a large Italian crust hot and spicy to save yourself more than 700 calories.
4/ CHINESE - Chinese food can be an absolute minefield. From deep fat frying to crazy amounts of salt to very poor quality processed meat, it's easy to get lost here. However, I find most people's issue here is portion control. We tend to pick at a little bit of everything here, which amounts to a lot of food! Pick whatever you like but stick to just a main meal and one side then call it a day.
Training legs hard and properly is a tough gig. It's arguably one of the most gruelling sessions of your training week but definitely one of the sessions that will give you most bang for your buck.
Here's 6 reasons you MUST NOT skip it...
1/ THE ULTIMATE FAT BURNER - The bigger the muscle group the better equipped it is to burn more calories. Quads, hamstrings and glutes are all massive muscles that will knock out a ton more calories than your smaller upper body muscle groups.
2/ PHYSIQUE BALANCE - We've all seen the guy that skips leg day and sits so top heavy he might just fall over if the wind gets up. Having a balanced and proportionate physique means training all body parts. This is key to looking great both in and out of clothes.
3/ INJURY PREVENTION - Anyone with major discrepancies between strength in muscle groups is risking injury. Take a deadlift for example; you might have a super strong back that can deal with a heavy load but if you have hamstrings like cheese strings something is eventually going to give.
4/ MUSCLE BUILDING HORMONES - Performing big compound movements like squats, lunges, deadlifts etc that incorporate multiple muscle groups (including a ton of lower body ones) will help amp up your anabolic hormones which won't just help you build muscle in the muscles involved in the specific movements, but it will help create a biochemical environment within the body that will aid muscle gain in all areas.
5/ ATHLETICISM - Great if you have a 200kg bench press but it means naff all when it comes to your ability to run, jump, kick, change direction etc. If you play a team sport or just generally want to move better, you're missing out big time by not putting in the work on your pins.
6/ BEDROOM FITNESS - It makes sense that if you have strong glutes and hips that this will transfer across to other areas of your life pretty well too. Enough said. On a similar note, gents I promise you that woman are looking at how well your backside fills your jeans far more than they are obsessing over how many lumps and lines you have in your stomach.