Sunday, 29 May 2011

Foods for muscle building

If you are well into your muscle building, you will know the importance of protein to help repair and rebuild the muscle fibers that you have broken down. However, many of you won't be including certain foods in your diet that will really help your progress:

Red Meat - Don't skimp on your steaks! Saturated fat in red meat is actually good at boosting testosterone levels, one of the big factors in muscle building. If  you are constantly breaking your body down, you will need the fats in these foods to provide quality calories to help rebuild those muscle fibers. Red meat will provide B12, Creatine and iron and provides more quality calories than white meat for all you muscle builders!

Eat the organs - Another fantastic source of high-quality muscle building calories, are the organs of animals e.g. Kidneys, Liver etc.Think of a tiger in the wild. They will eat these first, the meat second and skin third. This is where you find all the goodness.

Eggs - One of the best and most natural forms of protein. Some bodybuilders eat the whites only. This is usually when they are trying to get lean. If you wan't to put on muscle size, eat the whole egg.

Dried fruit and nut mix - Dried fruit is a great form of condensed calories. Eating 5 dried apricots is easy. Eating 5 whole apricots is more difficult. Pound for pound, raisans are one of the most dense forms of carbohydrate and provide a great amount of anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants will protect against free-radicals which are a by-product of the stress caused by exercise. Nuts are again filled with protein, good fats and carbs and are a great source of calories.

Whole milk - We give whole milk to babies to build them up. Simple.

Eat carbohydrates - These are massively important to fuel your workouts and to prevent you from breaking down muscle fibers to provide energy. If you don't eat enough of these your body will turn catabolic (break itself down) and you will start loosing muscle. Include sweet potato, white potato, rice, rice pasta, pasta, quinoa, wholewheat, etc!

NOT EATING ENOUGH! - if you aren't gaining weight and you are training hard, then you're probably not eating enough. Start incuding the above foods and the additional calories should get the ball rolling. Make sure you are resting enough between sessions and let the food do the work while you put your feet up!

For more information on eating to gain muscle, email Oli on

Sunday, 8 May 2011

You Should.....

Give it a Rest

A lot of people would like to improve themselves in some way, whether that be in terms of sporting performance, muscular hypertrophy (gaining muscular size) or losing weight. Regardless of the purpose behind your training, there are a couple of obsticles that most people will encounter.

Motivation is a major one. All people at some stage will struggle with their motivation somewhere along the way and overcoming this is very much down to personal fortitude and determination. This is what seperates top athletes from the also-rans and those who repeatedly set and achieve goals from those who have used a gym for years (decades even!) without ever accomplishing their desired results. Our instructors can offer all manner of advice and ideas on how to keep yourself motivated and focused but essentially the decision to stick to a plan and work hard at it on every visit is very much down to one person. You.

The second, and potentially more dangerous problem, is that of over-training. I say more dangerous in the respect that I've never heard of someone physically injuring themselves or, for instance, tearing a muscle through pure lack of motivation.  Over-training syndrome is a real condition and effects a great deal of gym users and athletes whether they realise it or not.  This is often a result of a lack of understanding of a rest day's usefullness within an exercise regime.

Rest days are a crucial element in any programe for many reasons, but most notably to prevent injury and allow sufficient time for muscles to repair and develop between sessions. The most common misconception is that a rest day represents time not being spent working towards ones given target. In fact a rest day constitutes an active and important part of achieving any goal in that it will allow time for all the hard work to be 'redeemed' whilst you rest. If you just continue to train day after day eventually you will find yourself overtrained, probably injured and actually moving further from your targets as a result.

The most common physical and psychological symptoms of over-training are;

  • Washed-out feeling, tired, drained, lack of energy
  • Mild leg soreness, general aches and pains
  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • Sudden drop in performance
  • Insomnia (inability to sleep) 
  • Headaches
  • Decrease in training capacity / intensity
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Depression
  • Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased incidence of injuries.
  • Lowered immunity (increase in number of colds and sore throats)
  • A compulsive need to exercise


 It's fairly obvious as to how each of these ailments do not lend themselves to a progressive training regime and this illustrates the importance of avoiding overtraining as a whole. One of the most common mistakes is one often made by those who are generally very active in their day to day lives in addition to following a specific training programme. Most of us only take into account the exercise we perform in the gym and/or in relation to the goals we have set ourselves and what people forget is that, regardless of how much we enjoy it or feel invigorated by it, exercise is just another stress factor within our daily lives. Stress is accumulative in nature and can be contributed to by a number of different factors, both physical and psychological. Take the list of symptoms above for example, they can all be re-caterogised as symptoms related to excessive stress as well as those of over-training and this is why it can be neccesary to adjust or adapt your training workload at times of increased stress in order to redress the balance between training enough to progress and doing too much.

The same can be said of fatigue. If you regularly fail to sleep adequately then it can have a detrimental affect on your body's ability to both train and recover. This is partly due to slight hormonal changes, including elevated cortisol (related to stress), decreased activity of the Human Growth Hormone (HGH-responsible for muscle regeneration) and decreased glycogen synthesis resulting in lowered energy levels.

There are many ways in which you can utilise a rest day to aid your progress and allow your body the time it needs to recover, here are just a few;

Stretching is always a good choice because this will actively help you to recover by making the muscles more pliable and increasing the blood supply to them as they repair and re-build themselves. It will also, over time, help to increase flexibility and improve the biomechanics and muscle recruitment you can utilise whilst training in future. An easy way to start to improve your suppleness is to take part in a Yoga or Mobility Class on your rest days in order to learn to relax and de-stress whilst still contributing to you objectives.

Swimming/ Pool Recovery
Swimming is an excellent past time during rest periods largely because of the lack of impact involved. Your body is supported by the water throughout and this provides both buoyancy and a degree of gentle resistance to again help increase blood flow to those repairing muscles. Obviously swimming lengths is only a good solution if you are fortunate enough to find swimming both relaxing and comfortable - If you are not a strong swimmer then 20 lengths probably isn't your idea of a rest! Instead you can simply use the pool to perform some simple mobility exercises such as shoulder circles or leg kicks holding onto the pool wall in order to get the same benefits without risking your life.....

OR...if you really can't bare to be away from us.....

Reduce your worload
If you simply have to use the gym then it is wise to reduce you weights and concentrate on your form for a week every couple of Months (or more regularly if you prefer) in order to reduce the work your muscles are having to recover from. This slight reduction in workload can be enough to get you through but there really is nothing better than a good day off.....

Monday, 2 May 2011

Oli's weekly training diary.

Most of the members in the gym are used to the TSC fitness team working them hard in classes or on a one-to-one level. This month, you will have the opportunity to see how they train and who inflicts a bit of physical pain on them!

Here is my training plan for this week, commencing Monday the 1st of May:

Monday - Upper body strength training:

1. a. Bench Press 6 sets of 3 reps
    b. Weighted wide grip Pullups 6 sets of 3 reps

2. a. Narrow grip Bench press 3 sets of 8 reps
    b. Narrow grip chinups 3 sets of maximum reps

3 a. Floor pressing 3 sets of 12 reps
   b. Recline Pullups 3 sets of Maxiumum reps

On all of the exercises I used the new piece of kit that we have at the gym called 'fat gripz'. This made all the pullups extremely challenging (Please see the below article).
I like to pair exercises. I do 'a' first, then 'b'. I rest a minute then go again. I use this for opposite muscle groups so that it doesn't affect my strength. It also keeps my heart rate up and helps with conditioning, as you are always on the move. It also saves time!

Tuesday - Swimming

I had a dip in the pool today. My muscles were sore from yesterday (especially my forearms after the work with the fat gripz). When I hit the pool i do a variety of strokes that help keep me fit for life gaurding. My workout consisted of:

4 laps - Breast stroke
4 laps - Front crawl
4 laps - Side stroke
4 laps - back stroke
4 laps - Side stoke
4 laps - Front crawl
4 laps - Breast stroke

Wednesday - Lower body Strength training:

1. Barbell back squats 1 x 20 reps

2. Barbell Front Squats 4 x 6 reps

3. Heavy weighted drag (I used a heavy chain) 3 sets dragging the chain 30-40 metres

4. Wheel rollout 3 x 8 reps.

Thursday - Upper body strength training:

1 a.Barbell Press behind the neck 5 sets of 5 reps
   b. Scapula Pullups 5 sets of 5 reps

2 a. Weighted dips 3 x maximum reps
   b. Incline curls 3 x 10 reps

3 a. Dumbell skullcrushers 3 x 10 reps
   b. Reverse curls 3 x 10 reps


Teaching Spin - This always gets me sweating!

Saturday - REST!!!

Sunday - Power and Back training:

1. Barbell cleans 3 sets of 5 reps

2 a.Barbell deadlifts 4 x 6 reps
   b Dumbell farmers walk 4 x 40-50 metres

3 a.Barbell rows 3 x 10
   b. hanging leg raises 3 x 8-10