Monday, 5 December 2011

Education: Muscle Contractions

There are three different types of muscular contraction which can occur in most muscle within the body.

Concentric muscular contraction (b)

During concentric contraction the muscle gets shorter under tension.

Specific Training Uses for Concentric Work

Weight/resistance training relies heavily on concentric movements. The muscles being utilised will also be strengthened throughout the whole range of motion the joint is trained in. This will result, when training with appropriate weight/resistance, in an increase in physical strength. It is therefore important when training for a particular activity or sport to make sure you use the full range of movement possible to get the best performance increase throughout the whole movement.

Eccentric muscular contraction (c)

During eccentric contraction the muscle gets longer under tension.

Specific Training Uses for Eccentric Work

As stated above weight/resistance training also relies heavily on eccentric movements with muscles being strengthened throughout the whole range of motion. It is important to make sure you use the full range of movement when training to get the best performance increase throughout the whole movement. The muscle is always stronger during an eccentric contraction so eccentric work (negative reps) can be particularly useful when training for strength increases. A good example of where the gains in strength could be utilised in sport would be during a game of rugby where having a strong grip when an opponent is trying to break away from a tackle is extremely important.

Isometric muscular contraction (a)

During concentric contraction the muscle stays the same length under tension.

Specific Training Uses for Isometric Work

An isometric contraction strengthens the muscle at the specific joint angle at which the isometric exercise occurs (with some lesser gains in strength also occurring at proximal joint angles).  This sort of training, building strength in one set position, can be useful when training for a wide variety of different sports. It is important though to concentrate on replicating the fixed position very closely to achieve the strength gains at the appropriate joint angles. A good example would be a barbell fingertip hold to build the strength needed in the fingers and hands needed for high level rock climbing.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Interval training options

This post will follow up Dan' previous article on interval training. Here are a few simple examples if you are training in the gym or outside:

·         Warm-up
·         30-60 seconds maximum speed
·         60-90 seconds comfortable recovery
·         Repeat for 5-8 sets
·         Warm up
·         5-8 100 metre sprints
·         300 metre walk to recover
·         Each sprint and recovery will therefore be the length of the track
Rowing machine:
·         Warm up
·         45 second sprint
·         45 second recovery (stop rowing or slow)
·         Go to menu – select workout – new workout – intervals:time – 45:45
·         Aim for 5-8 sets @ level 7

See full size image

Exercise bike:
·         Warm up
·         2 minutes at 9/10 effort (tough level) – maintaining speed between 80-100rpm
·         2 minutes at recovery pace of 5/10 (easy level) speed between 80-100rpm
·         5 sets
Summit trainer:
·         Warm up
·         3 minutes 9/10 effort above 5km/h tough level
·         3 minutes recovery above 5km/h easy level
·         5 sets
·         Warm up
·         2 lengths as fast as possible
·         2 lengths recovery - Repeat this combo 5-8 times

Hill sprints:
  • Warm - up
  • Sprint up a large hill
  • walk down for recovery
  • 5-10 sets

Simple But hugely effective!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Revisiting my squat programme

I wrote a previous post on goal setting. One of mine was to reach the 150kg mark on the squat for 1 rep. Currently my programme consists of the following.

  • Warm up with bodweight exercises and mobility work
  • Squats - building up to 6 sets of 3 reps - 3-4 minutes rest between sets
  • Front squats - 4 sets of 8 reps - 90 seconds between sets
The programme is really simple but still very hard work. I'm not used to taking such long rests between sets but this is necessary when lifting heavy. Not only do you need the muscles to  recover but also the central nervous system.

I did all of my sets on 127.5kg. That's 18 reps overall. You can keep the volume up by doing multiple sets.
I will do the same routine this week but I will throw in a few single reps at the end to see how far off 150 I am! Probably quite a bit off!

 Pic of Barbell Front Squats



Sunday, 6 November 2011

Caveman workout!

This month I want you to try a different workout, to transform you from deskman to caveman! The same applies to all you cavewomen out there! The routine focuses on exercises/muscles that you would need to use when hunting or gathering. Do the following routines once a week, or twice if time allows:

Workout one

400 metres of the track/outside, quick pace
20 high bench/box jumps 3 sets of 10 reps
Pullups 3 sets of maximum reps
medicine ball throws 3 sets x 10 per side
Goblet squats 3 sets of 15
Dumbell clean and press 3 sets of 10 reps
Cable woodchops 3 sets of 10 per side
400 metres of the track, quick pace

Workout two

Deadlift 3 sets of 8 reps
Lunges 3 sets of 10 reps per leg
Cable press 3 sets of 10 reps
Mountain climbers or bear crawls
Farmers walk 3 x 50 metres / shrugs 3 x 10
Dumbell punches 3 sets of punching with dumbells for 1 minute
Sprints 50 metres x 5

Some of you may have heard of the Paleo diet (paleolithic). This draws on the use of Caveman foods only. All sugars, grains, dairy products, refined sugars, and processed foods are avoided. Basically, you can't eat anything that wasn't around a million years ago. Instead, organic meats, fish, veg, fruit, nuts, and seeds are eaten.

A typical day could be:

Eggs with grilled tomatoes and grilled mushrooms
snack -Apple
Beef stir fry with no noodles and lots of veg
snack - Nuts and dried fruit
Turkey burgers and salad
snack -Pineapple


Try this diet and exercise plan for 4 weeks and you will get a lot leaner! Email me at if you want me to take you through the routines!


Thursday, 27 October 2011


When I first started in the industry, one of my targets was to learn as much about nutrition as possible. I remember when I first read about Goji berries. Apparantley they are rich in anti oxidants, they have more Vitamin C than oranges and more Beta-carotene than carrots. They are also high in B-vitamins. Did they change my life? Not really..

I found the following on the internet:

The Tibetan Goji berry (Lycium barbarum) is an amazing berry originating from the Himalayan Mountains, grown on the border between Tibet and China (where they are called Wolfberries).
The berries are a respected part of Himalayan culture, and the locals celebrate an annual Goji (meaning happy) two-week celebration in the berry's honor.

In my opinion, flying a food miles around the world for my consumption is fantastic but is it really worth it? I believe health comes from fresh local produce. Fruits grown in an alotment or in your garden are full of flavour and goodness. As soon as a fruit is picked, it starts to lose its nutritional value. Then it has to travel the world, get delivered to the supermarket, and then sit on the shelf for a few days.

A friend of mine has his own chickens. The eggs he gives me are an amazing yellow colour, and I am still on the hunt for a farm where I can get raw organic milk! 6 eggs at my supermarket are £2.69!! I can get 10 large free range ones from a local farm for £1. So cost doesn't have to be an issue. Local butchers should be utilised for fresh quality meat.

My mission is to search the local area for more local produce (on a budget!). I also need to move out of my flat so I can get a garden to grow some veg!! Who needs the himilayas!


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Goal setting

If you want to progress more effectively, goal setting is a great way to help you do this. Your goals can be long-term or short term. Both combined are probably even better. If you set a long term goal of losing 2 stone in 12 months, you can then break this into monthly or quarterly targets.

I often say to myself I would like to be 14 stone. I'm currently weighing in at 13 stone. However, although this my goal, I have been very vague about my approach. Being 14 stone would be nice, but with no real plan I haven't budged on the scales. Putting on a stone through weight training is tough, mainly due to the constant food you need to consume (see Dan's previous post for tips on this). With no real structure, things can take a lot longer!

Make sure your goals are realistic. If you have slowly put on 3 stone in the last 10 years, don't expect to lose it in 3 months. Don't aim to run a half marathon in a good time, with 4 weeks training. The idea is to plan ahead. Be motivated but it doesn't have to consume your life. One of the best things to do is to write your goal down. Leave it on your fridge, or on a pin board. Another great thing to do is to meet with a member of the gym team or a personal trainer. They can help guide you and put a realistic time frame on your goal. From there they can help map out your path to success!!

I have a goal in mind to squat 150 kilograms for one clean rep. Squating has never been a massive strength of mine. My legs were always pretty skinny as a young lad. My current best is attempt is 132.5 kg, going nice and deep.

My next goal is to try and perform a muscle up:
I can do pullups reasonably well but I have no gymnastic training and have little idea of where to start. Dan is going to take me through some teaching points and is going to give me things to work on. This is where the value of getting another trainer's help really pays off.

I am going to post my training over the next few months to let you know how I am going with both attempts and to see if I am closer to any of my goals. Both of which I would like to do by the end of the year!!


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Eat butter

I have been eating butter again for a good few years now. Go for a natural organic variety. I also go unsalted.
A small amount of butter with each meal will actually help your body absorb key nutrients, because butter helps promote healthy bacteria in your gut. Butter is a source of butyric acid, an amino acid that helps feed the good bacteria in your gut.


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Gaining Weight

I think it’s safe to say the most common goal in the gym is weight loss however I continue to find myself being confronted by countless individuals whose goals is that of weight gain. With this in mind I decided to focus one post on a subject which is often not discussed however provides a problem for so many individuals. So if you are in such a position and really struggling to gain weight for a particular sport or some alternative reason then this post will give a good example of one potential diet to follow for constructive weight gain.
Key points to try when training for weight gain.
1.       Consume more calories per day then the total amount of calories your body uses per day.
(A surplus of 200-400 calories should be sufficient)
2.       Try to maintain a ratio of 50% carbs, 25 % proteins and 25% good fats.
3.       Try to minimize caloric expenditure where possible
4.       Keep training sessions should short 60 minutes
5.       The rest between sets should be kept to a minimum; 90 seconds or less
6.       Weight Training Exercise should not be performed for more than two days in a row.
7.       Work within a range of 6-15 repetitions when training.
8.       Training must be progressive
9.       Training must be varied
10.   The form in which you perform an exercise should be impeccable.
11.   Training must consist primarily of free weight basic exercises.
12.   Increase your protein intake to 1.5 grams of protein per pound bodyweight. Protein sources should come from lean low fat sources like chicken, turkey, 93% lean red meats, tuna, egg whites, shrimp, tilapia, mackerel, and salmon.
13.   Increase your carbohydrate intake to between 1.5-2 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight. Good examples are brown rice, oatmeal, pasta and sweet potatoes. Limit the higher glycaemic/simple carbs (like bananas) for after the workouts.
14.   Finally, make sure that you have around 15-20 grams of fibrous carbohydrates, such as green beans or broccoli, at lunchtime and 15-20 grams more at dinnertime as these will help to keep your digestive tract clean and ready to accept new nutrients, thus maximizing nutrient utilization.
15.   Increase your intake of good fats. Some fats are necessary to ensure good hormonal production and thus muscle growth. Eliminate all fats and see your testosterone levels take a dive.

One Example of a natural high calorie diet used for weight gain
Week Starting: 
BreakfastEst CaloriesMonTuesWedThurFriSatSun
3x Large Eggs 210       
3x Multi Toast315       
1x 2.5 Cups Rice krispies260       
1x 250ml Milk130       
Mid Morning Snack        
1x 500ml Milk260       
1x 100g Oats388       
1x Fish portion250       
1x 90g Rice170       
1x Cup Veg25       
1x 1/2 Cup Yogurt75       
2x Bananas210       
2x Bagles287       
Mid Evening Snack        
1x 2 Chiken Breasts260       
1x 90g Rice170       
1x Cup Veg25       
1x Large Dinner600       
1x 1/2 Cup Yogurt75       
Night Snack        
2x Scrabled Eggs98