Friday, 25 March 2011

Training your back muscles for strength and power

Improving the muscles in your back is beneficial for everyone. For the purposes of this article we are going to focus on developing the back muscles for strength and power. The sort of strength and power that is functional. What I mean by functional is something that will help you in sport and in life. In this article we will look at what I think are the best exercises for improving this area as a whole.

Firstly lets have a look at the muscles in the back in more detail:

The diagram shows the different areas of the back. The green area highlitghts the upper back and is called the trapezius, the blue area is the middle back, which is also referred to as the lats and the red area is the lower back or erector spinae. In my opinion, a common mistake that people make when training their back muscles for strength, is that they try to isolate the different areas too much. You need to work this area predominately as a unit. This is what it was designed for. My favourite exercises for the back include:

1 - Deadlift - this is the most natural exrecise around. Bend through your knees, keep a tight back and lift the weight from the floor. Simple. If you get strong at this exercise you will pack a huge amount of muscle on your lower, middle and upper back. The next time you move house and have to lift heavy objects, you will feel the benefits.

2. Farmers walk - Hold a pair of heavy dumbells, kettlebells, or any heavy objects in each hand and walk. Walk for a set distance and do multiple sets, or walk a total distance and simply finish the distance as quick as you can, even if you need to drop the weights and start again.

3 - Barbell cleans - A very technical exercise if they are done properly. These will make you explosive through your hips as well as powerful through your back. These are fantastic for sporting activities. They will make you jump higher and run faster.

4 - Mixed grip pullups/chinups - These will add size and strength to the lats. Vary your grip position to hit the back in all different ways. These will also develop your arms.

A back routine including the above could look like this:

Barbell cleans - 5 sets of 5 reps
Barbell Deadlifts - 4 sets of 8 reps
Pullups - 4 sets of maximum reps
Farmers walk - 3 sets of 50 metres with heavy dumbells.

This is an advanced routine so make sure you receive guidance on any of the above exercises from one of our trainers if you are unsure. The above exercises will not only strengthen the back but the benefits will spill over into other areas. The forearms, upper arms, shoulders, abs, obliques and legs will all feel the affects.


Thursday, 24 March 2011

know your colours!

If you look in your fridge, on your dinner plate or in your shopping trolley what do you see? Lots of colours? I hope so. Having a variety of natural foods with a range of different colours is a perfect way to ensure you gain a whole range of different nutrients. Below are some examples of what certain colour foods provide for the body:

Orange - foods include sweet potato, carrots, mangoes, apricots. These provide beta-carotene which is beneficial to the skin and the eyes.

Purple - Blueberries, plums, rasberries, blackberries, dark grapes provide anthocyanins which protect the brain, heart and eyes.

Reds- tomotoes, water melon and pink grapefruit all provide you with lycopene, repsonsible for lowering the risk of cancer. 


The above are just a few examples of why a mixture of colour is a great way to balance your diet. The next time you go shopping, put some new fruits and vegetables in your shopping basket. Try something different every week and feel the benefits.


Breathing Techniques to Improve Performance

Breathing Techniques to Improve Performance

Breathing techniques are very important for all different types of training; however they are often overlooked as a non-essential minor detail with respect to overall performance. This couldn’t be any further from the truth and the following article breaks down the benefits to performance, basic breathing techniques and guidance on improving individual focus. So whatever your goal; lowering your overall heart rate without lowering exercise intensity, increasing your one repetition max (1RM) or developing improved focus and concentration the following information may prove invaluable in helping you achieve it.

When studying the basic anatomy of the lung we discover, although a single organ, each lung is divided into a series of lobes. The right lung is composed of three lobes; the upper, middle and lower. The left lung is similar in construction but only has two lobes the upper and lower. For the purpose of the article I want to focus on just the distinction between the upper and lower lobe and there relationship with two different types of common breathing.
Shallow breathing involves the contraction of intercostal muscles in between the ribs and normally only draws air into the upper lobes. Deep breathing by comparison relies on the intercostal muscles alongside the activation of the diaphragm (large sheet of muscle similar in appearance to a parachute positioned internally at the bottom of the abdomen). It aids in breathing by moving down upon contraction increasing the space within your thorax (upper part of the torso). This creates a negative pressure within the thorax causing the lungs to expand and air to be drawn in. This causes air to be drawn into the lower lobes first, where gaseous exchange can take place more efficiently as well as utilising more of the lungs surface area.
The higher percentage of oxygen in the blood stream and improved VO2max (body’s ability to absorb and transport oxygen effectively) causes muscles to receive increased levels of oxygen, a key component fuelling any aerobic based work. This allows the heart rate to decrease, without reducing exercise intensity levels. As more oxygenated blood is delivered in each stroke volume/contraction of the heart.

With regard to improving a 1RM the increased oxygen levels may not have any direct effect on you physically when performing the lift. This is true as when performing any near maximal effort work your body works anaerobically (energy being produce is without the presence of oxygen), so the increased oxygen levels bear no relevance. However, when performing deep breathing an individual’s parasympathetic nervous system is activated. This causes certain physiological changes in the body; dilation of blood vessels, slowing of the heart and constriction of the pupils. All these changes aid in helping you focus and concentrate and perform to your maximum in any situation.
The easiest way to stimulate deep breathing is to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Initially you may find it more difficult, but with a couple of months practice you’ll find all the above benefits are yours. Once you have learned this deep breathing you will be able to do it autonomously and at high intensity. As demand on performance increases you will use this technique through a “normal” breathing pattern without using the nose breathing technique. It also stops you from straining you intercostal muscle through over use, often leading to a dull ache in middle back. Give it a go and let me know how you get on.
Dan. J. Byrne

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Red Nose Day at the Tonbridge School Centre

As you may know this Friday is Red Nose Day and here at TSC we are having a big fundraising event for Comic Relief. We have given ourselves the challenge of keeping a triathlon running for 24 hours starting 10pm Thursday 17th and finishing Friday 18th but we need your help. You can choose to do 1, 2 or all 3 disciplines either on your own or as a team. Half hour time slots are sold for £10 each, 3 for £20 or you can be sponsored. We still have time slots available so please come in to Reception to book yours but you’ll have to hurry as they are filling up quickly!

On Friday there will be Bingo running in the bar between 10am – 1pm. Tickets are £10 and include a speciality coffee, cake and 2 bingo cards to get you started. A goody bag full of TSC and Red Nose Day treats for the winner.

Also running Friday night will be the Red Nose Day Quiz in the bar. Starting at 7pm until late, teams of up to 6 with 6 bottles of wine to the winning. £10 per team.

All the money raised during the event will go to Comic relief, 2 years ago we raised over £1100 and this year we want to beat this total.

Thank you in advance for all of your support.