Tight Hip Flexors? Do these mobility drills to help

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Tight Hip Flexors? Do these mobility drills to help

Can we get a show of hands how many of you are spending more than 4 hours at the desk? How many of you spend hours driving? Or sitting on the sofa watching TV?

Are 15 minute breaks to walk around enough? Probably not. Say hello to tight hips.

You may experience occasional hip discomfort or possibly back pain. Tight hips are a big deal that if addressed properly will hopefully relieve the back pain you were feeling or even the ache in the hips. A lot of the time you’ll hear that you have a weak core and in some cases this is true, but have you ever thought that the hundreds of crunches you did in addition to the hours of sitting has caused your hips to shorten.

Anterior pelvic tilt

 

ant-pelvic-tilt

 

 

Hip Flexor Muscles

The muscles that make up the hip flexors include:

  • Psoas major muscle: The psoas muscle is a deep muscle that connects your spine to your leg. In fact, it’s the only muscle that does so. It runs from your lower back through your pelvis, passing to the front of your hip where it attaches to the top of your femur, which is your thigh bone.
  • Iliacus muscle: The iliacus is a flat, triangular muscle that lies deep within your pelvis. It attaches from your pelvis to your thigh bone (femur). Its primary action is to flex and rotate your thigh.
  • Rectus femoris muscle: This muscle is one of the four quadriceps muscles, attaching your pelvis to the patellar tendon of your knee. Squats and lunges exercise the rectus femoris.
  • Pectineus muscle: The pectineus muscle is a flat, quadrangular muscle that lies at the top of your inner thigh, often referred to as your groin muscle. It’s primarily responsible for hip flexion, but it also rotates your thigh and adducts, which means it pulls your legs together when the muscles contract.
  • Sartorius muscle: The sartorius muscle is a long thin muscle that runs down the length of your thigh from your pelvis to your knee. It’s the longest muscle in the human body and helps flex the knee and leg.

Anterior_Hip_Muscles_2

 

Tight Hip Flexors = You’re Out of Whack

Think of the prime movers in the body: quads, hamstrings, glutes, and adductors (for starters). All of these major muscles act around the hip to keep it in balance and level. When your hips are tight, shortening your hip flexors, this can cause a dysfunction in your lumbo-pelvic-hip complex. Tight flexors can cause an anterior tilt of the pelvis, which in turn drives your lower back into a constant state of compression.

Poor Posture = Poor Range of Motion

When your posture suffers, so does your range of motion, or the full movement potential of a joint from flexion to extension. A considerable issue for obstacle racers, who need full movement capability to tackle everything from hurdles to wall climbs. A less-than-ideal range of motion will cause you to compensate with other muscle groups, heightening your risk for injury.

What is the key to healthy hips and overall posture? There are a couple of points to make. Yes, it’s important to take care of your hip flexors by doing a series of stretches three to four times weekly, in addition post-exercise, to increase hip mobility. It’s also important to focus on adopting proper mechanics throughout all the stages of daily movement, from sitting and standing to working out.

If it hurts, pay attention to it.

It’s important to note that if you are getting pain I would recommended checking in with a physical therapist or a sports therapist. They may help to evaluate key factors impacting overall hip pain.

  

4 Potent Hip Mobility Exercises

Spiderman Stretch: Start in a high plank position. Bring your right foot forward, to the outside of your right hand, placing it flat on the ground. Drop your hips toward the floor, stretching through the left flexor. Hold for 10 seconds, return to start. Repeat on opposite side for one rep. Do five reps.

personal trainer Mortlake

Deep Squat: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and either arms by your sides or hands clasped in front of your chest. Sit back in your heels, as if you’re going to sit in a chair. Lower your body as far as you can, until your thighs are below parallel to the ground. Alternate shifting your bodyweight from your right to let leg for 10 seconds, then push through your heels to return to start for one rep. Do 10 reps.

personal trainer chiswick

Hip Flexor Stretch: Start on your knees and step your right foot forward, ensuring your knee doesn’t pass your toes. Keep your torso over your hip and squeeze your right glute. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side. You can maximise the stretch further by lifting your arms up while holding the stretch position.

personal trainer barnes

Band Assisted Hip Flexor Stretch: This is one of my favourite stretches to do for the hip flexor. Looping a resistance band against something sturdy. You place one leg into the loop so that it sits just below the glute. Step backwards until you feel resistance pulling you forward assisting you into the hip flexor stretch. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute each side.

personal trainer chiswick

If you’re looking for personal training in Mortlake, Chiswick or Barnes. We can help!

We work in-studio as well as travel to you. Other locations include Kew, Richmond and Twickenham.

I hope this article has helped you think about your hip flexors a bit more and how a mobility/flexibility routine may help you.

 

How to become a bulletproof runner

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Over a decade as a personal trainer in Richmond, I’ve had the pleasure of training clients with varied fitness abilities, some of them would tell me about their exercise history and would tell me stories of their hay day of how they used to be able to sprint as fast as possible and then throw weighted punches or being able to run 80+ miles a week for their marathon training.

During the last few months I started training with a client who had always been a runner and had picked up a few injuries along the way and this prompted me to write this article as I thought it could help a few others out there.

How to become a bullet proof runner

One of my clients used to run marathons but never did any strength work, they came to me looking to see if I could help with their performance but also the confessed to having a few injuries from running, she had read before in a magazine or the internet that running more mileage would make her legs stronger and be able to run faster. In actual fact over time she would develop a semitendinosus strain when she ran. The incorrect running style and lack of muscle development in the posterior chain had caused chronic on-off hamstring strain!

Over the next few months, we worked on developing her muscle strength. Runners have it in their head that because they run they don’t need to do any strength work. I know what it’s like to get the running bug, you don’t feel like doing anything else but running!

However if you’re looking for longevity in your running training then you need to be able to mix up your training with some strength work.

Below are excellent examples of exercises that work for running –

Squats – Make sure you sit back and keep your torso upright. 

To perform this exercise correctly make sure you push your hips back to activate the hamstring and glute.

personal-training-chiswick-squat-correction
 

Nordic Curl – This is a brutal exercise for the hamstring. Use a partner to anchor you down and slowly drop your body to the ground. Keep your arms out so you don’t land on your face! Once stronger you’ll be able to lift yourself up from the ground! 

personal-trainer-chiswick-nordic-curl
Lunges

personal trainer w4
Hamstring Curl

personal-trainer-chiswick-w4-stability-ball-hamstring-curl

Straight Legged Deadlifts – Make sure you keep your shoulders back and down, try not to collapse the upper back and make sure you stick your butt back.

personal-training-chiswick-w4-stiff-legged-deadlift
 

The above exercises when performed correctly will help you bullet proof your knees against the impact of running making you stronger and faster!

Periodise your training

Periodisation is a fancy word they use in the fitness industry when developing a structured and progressive plan for an athlete.

This would take into account the cardiovascular training as well as the strength training that an athlete should do over the coming months. As a beginner to running, it’s recommended that you start with no more than 20 mins run/walk, this helps to condition your knees and legs to the impact of the ground.

When I first started running I remembered being so excited to run that I did it for 6 days straight, however after only the second week I started developing shin splints.

Alot of people say it could be due to the muscular imbalance of the calf complex or the ankle mobility itself, however I’d have to say that it was most likely due to an overly keen teenager running too fast and too much! Of course running style and the incorrect footwear could have also played a part in developing shin splints.

Romanian sport scientist, Tudor Bompa, refers to this start phase of the training plan as the   anatomical adaptation. This is low-intensity and the longest part of the plan for the purpose of “adapting the anatomy of the athlete.”

They also call this base building, in this first stage a runner would be building their time and intensity to gain better cardiovascular endurance and aerobic metabolism, i.e., the consumption of oxygen to drive the oxidation of carbohydrates and fatty acids.

If there is a higher number of mitochondrial content in the muscle fibers there is a increased performance in the energy conversion of fatty acids and carbohydrate oxidation.

What this means is, if you build a good base you’ll get an efficient engine to burn the body fat and a increase your overall performance.

Where should you start?

I would start off by brisk walking where your arms are swinging but you’re still able to hold a conversation. This part of the plan is the longest and ideally you would to build this up to at least an hour.

Over the next 4-6 weeks, you could try adding 30 seconds of jogging intervals into your walk. Eventually you’ll be able to increase the amount of intervals and then maintain the jog for a longer duration.

This could take 2-3 months overall due to the adaptation phase and I understand most people are keen to get running straight away, but if you have the patience and planned your training correctly the risk of injury during this process would decrease greatly.

Flexibility and mobility

There’s of a lot of chatter in the fitness industry of whether you should should or not, strength coaches believe that if you are doing exercises to the correct range of motions there shouldn’t be any need for static stretching.

I’d have to say that this is probably true….but what if you’re already tight?

There are only two main stretches that I would recommend for running.

Wall Ankle Mobilization Drill

This drill helps with dorsi flexion of the foot. Limited range of motion can affect jumping, squatting and stepping down activities. These movements are the building blocks of our functional movement patterns so the importance of having good ankle mobility/dorsi flexion shouldn’t be ignored.

 

Ankle Mobility Wall Drill


Band Assisted Hip Flexor Stretch
personal-trainer-chiswick-hip-flexor-stretch
Due the long duration sat at a desk the hip flexor muscle or psoas major can shorten leading to the lack of R.O.M, if this continues over the years there’s a possibility that you develop something called an anterior pelvic tilt. As the pelvis is out of normal alignment this could change your running mechanics and cause lower back pain.

You’ll need to source a band for this stretch. I’ll put an amazon link to show you where to get the band.

  • Attach one end of the band to a secure point
  • Place one leg through the loop of the band
  • Place the knee of the leg that you’ve put through the band on the floor
  • Place the other foot in front at a 90 degree angle for stability
  • Squeeze the glute so that the hip lengthens

 

In this article we looked at improving your strength, flexibility and mobility and how to run according to the plan. Yes okay you’re not actually bullet proof but I hope this helped 🙂

Please share to anyone you feel could use the help of the above article.

Stay strong!

If you’ve still not got enough below are links to running articles that should be worth reading. Enjoy!!

Why You Might Gain Weight While Running

Treadmill vs. Running Outside

Losing Running Fitness: A Scientific Look at How Much You’ll Slow Down When Not Able to Run

The Ultimate Runner’s Guide to Achilles Tendon Injuries: The Scientific Signs, Symptoms, and Research Backed Treatment Options for Achilles Tendonitis and Insertional Achilles Tendinopathy

How and Why Should You Strengthen Your Hip Abductors

The Ultimate Runner’s Guide to Stress Fractures: Causes, Risk Factors and How to Return to Training

High Hamstring Tendinopathy Injuries – Signs, Symptoms and Research-Backed Treatment Solutions for a Literal Pain in the Butt

Runner’s Knee: Symptoms, Causes and Research-Backed Treatment Solutions for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Piriformis Syndrome: How to detect it and strengthening and stretching programs to help you heal

Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Training 

Some I have found particularly useful

How to Recover After a Marathon

How to Return to Running After Injury, Sickness, or Missing Training

4 Simple Steps to Improve your Cadence to Prevent Overstriding

The Ultimate Guide to Shin Splints for Runners

The 4 Mistakes You’re Making When Foam Rolling (and How to Fix Them)

Carbohydrate Loading: 3 Effective Methods to Increase Your Chances of Marathon Success

What is the Optimal Long Run Pace

How long before you benefit from a running workout

4 Simple Tweaks that make hill running easier (up and down)

How to Feel Your Pace: What Different Types of Running Workouts Should Feel Like

Why planned down weeks are important

I Learn to Lift – Olympic Weightlifting Series | Personal Trainer Richmond

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In the summer I joined a new gym and I spent the summer learning how to do Olympic Weightlifting!

I didn’t have a coach or a team but I spent hours watching videos. I’ve always been lucky enough to have the co-ordination, flexibility and understanding to be able to mimic the movement however this type of training is another type of animal!

One of the most technical sports I’ve tried to do, very difficult to get right but so satisfying when you do. Honestly, I still don’t have the technique right but it’s all a work in progress.

Being a personal trainer, I’ve been lucky enough to meet a few strength coaches that took me through some of the movements. For those who don’t know anything about Olympic weightlifting, there are only two lifts that competitors have to perform, the snatch and the clean and jerk. Athletes have 3 attempts for each lift and for it to be successful you have to be able to stand still and hold the weight locked out above your head.

Coaches/lifters can put down their opening lift but they can change this depending if the other competitors have already lifted a higher amount.

For those who are deciding on whether to get a weightlifting shoe such as Addidas Adi powers, Reebok Crossfit Lifter or Nike Romaleo, I would recommend getting any type of shoe. The shoes help by raising the height of the heel, most people have bad ankle mobility so it makes it very difficult to squat with your hands over your head and sit low at the same time. When you raise the heel, it will give your ankles the extra mobility allowing you to keep an upright position in a fairly deep overhead squat position.
Some people swear by the Nike Romaleos, I haven’t tried them out but it’s probably looking like they’ll be my next pair.

How many pair of weightlifting shoes do you have? I only have one and I think that’s sufficient but I’ve seen YouTubers with 4-5 pairs.

Lifting shoes aren’t the cheapest, I think the Nike Romaleos are £179! I’d go for the cheapest just to figure out if the sport is right for you and then upgrade. If anyone happens to go to China and reads this blog, try and get a pair of the Anta weightlifting shoes. The Chinese Olympic weightlifting team were sponsored by them and they had a custom pair of Gold weightlifting shoes made for their athletes. There was a review that I read comparing the Nike Romaleo and the Anta Weightlifting Shoe and reviewer preferred the Anta weightlifting shoe compared to the Nike.

Below is the weightlifting series that I recorded, as I didn’t have a coach, filming myself really helped me critique myself during the movements. Enjoy the vlogs.

I’ve had a two month break off from Weightlifting but I’m itching to get back after I recover from the Flu. During the end of the Catalyst Athletics Starter Plan I managed to increase my strength and feel more confident in the lifts but I’ve got a mountain to climb in terms of the technique.

Planning to book on to the Weightlifting Instructor course by the end of this year.

Enjoy the Vlogs!

personal trainer Richmond – Experienced personal training in Richmond
personal trainer Twickenham – Experienced personal training in Twickenham

I Learn to Lift – Olympic Weightlifting Series | Personal Trainer Richmond

Why you need to do the Deadlift

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Monday….universally known as chest day to every gym going man/man child.

I’ve never been one to follow the trend, Mondays for me have either been a Squat or Deadlift type movement.
A few years back I was working as a personal trainer in Virgin Active in Chiswick. We had our own resident bodybuilding champion, Mr natural universe, Roger waters.
We would talk about his training methods and he mentioned he never did any Deadlifts because it was too much of a compound movement.
(Compound = exercises that uses more than one joint)

One day in the gym I overhead him talking to one of his clients, they were watching another trainer teaching a lady how to Deadlift, Rogers client watched the lady perform the exercise and then started shaking his head and scrunching up his face, he said it was too much of a compound movement and that he preferred isolation.
Roger agreed.

Let’s keep in mind that Roger is a mature trainer and performing high risk exercises at heavy loads is probably not the best. This isn’t to say that old people shouldn’t learn how to deadlift, this is purely what I know about the guy.
If you’re lucky enough to see him train, you can see that he thrives on the attention, so imagine if he tried to perform the deadlift and could only lift a small amount. Not going to happen!

I personally felt that as a trainer, you should be able to teach your clients how to perform the deadlift and make sure they do it correctly. How many times have people had to lift something off the floor?
It’s an exercise for teaching posture, body movement, breathing, control, strength and power. It’s a real world exercise!
Not only do you miss out on the strength gains but what we do know is that lifting maximal weight can increase your growth hormone.

For some strange reason I took it personally, I felt like he was giving a disservice to the client and the industry that I was working in…also here’s a picture of Arnold deadlifting, so it’s clear that bodybuilders do Deadlift.

arnold_schwarzenegger_powerlifting_deadlift

It’s important to remember that as personal trainers, our clients are completely individual. Most of the time trainers are training their clients like they would train themselves. Don’t be that guy.

Why do you need to Deadlift?

Strengthen your posterior chain.
Learn how to lift weight correctly.
Maintain trunk and thoracic alignment.
Feel like a caveman/woman when lifting.
The glutes, lower back and hamstrings, are what we call the posterior chain. These muscles work collectively to help hold your posture, generate power and speed, and works in balance with the rest of the body to help with movement.
Deadlifts also have a positive effect on our growth hormone levels, usually secreted after intense bouts of exercise, this hormone makes a very potent fat burner.
Deadlifting alone doesn’t help to lose fat, but added to a range of primal movements, this exercise is definitely one to keep in your arsenal.

How do you deadlift?

Although a very simple movement, it can be extremely technical.
The first step in coaching someone through a deadlift is looking at how their body is currently moving, what we’re looking to see is how well they hold their thoracic (mid spine), looking at how they control their trunk and hip, and whether their knees, foot and ankle is working in alignment.
Below is a video of the Wall Deadlift. This drill helps teach people to sit back and use less of your quads and more of your glutes and hamstrings.

The idea is obviously not to smash your face against the wall, the knees aren’t allowed to exceed past the foot, this forces you to tilt your hips back and use your Glute as you lift yourself up.
If you find you can’t get low enough, then your issues lies with your mobility and flexibility.

The next progression……

Rack Pull

This exercise calls for a rack, power cage or blocks.
It’s great for those with mobility issues, tight shoulders/chest. Due to the increased height of the bar, it’s easier for you to hold your posture.
Note: The picture below shows a guy deadlifting from a height. Note the rounded shoulders and lower back. The bar is way too low forcing his posture to round.

how-not-to-deadlift-bad-form

How to perform the Rack Deadlift –

Rack-pull
As you can see from the above image, the barbell is placed on the rack, level with the knees or just above.
From this position, push through the heels of your feet, force the hips forward and squeeze the glutes at the top of the motion.
Other key points –
Chest up and out
Imagine someone pulling your shoulders back and down
Grip the bar tightly
Make sure you lift from your heels.
Back flat.

This is an important exercise. It teaches you to hold your mid spine in position, locking your scapular in place. A good exercise to teach you about posture and positioning.
Once you’ve understood how to do it, progress onto the full version of the Deadlift.

The Full Deadlift

Aim for 3-5 repetitions. The Deadlift is a strength and power exercise. Performing hundreds of these for endurance doesn’t help. As you fatigue your technique is compromised and if you hurt yourself it’s your own fault.
It’s just common sense.

Key Points –
Keep bar close to legs as you lift upwards
Keep elbows straight as you lift
Drive through heels of your feet
Lift explosively through your hips.
Head position up. (There has been a big debate about whether to keep the head in alignment facing down to the floor or look up. According to strength training legend Mel Siff, flexing your neck (looking down) causes your back muscles to relax, while extending your neck helps them contract.)
Pause 2 seconds after every lift. (It is called a Deadlift for a reason. Momentum is not your friend here)

T-Nation – Controversial Deadlift Tips

As you get stronger, and are able to lift more weight.
There may be sticking points where you find that you lose your posture because the weight is too heavy.
Try Deadlifting from blocks, raising the height of the bar from the floor so that you don’t lose your posture.

If you found this helpful, please share. Remember to send your videos to me and I’ll help critique technique where I can.
Thanks for reading!

Coffee Detox – A stubborn self-discovery

chiswick-detox-drink-need-coffee
Recently I went on a coffee detox that completely wiped me out. 

I remember when I was in school and after every break my primary school teacher would bring back a coffee into the classroom she’d sit there drinking it like it was the best thing ever. She used to read a story to us and because we all sat fairly close to her, her breathe stunk of coffee! However the cup of coffee she was drinking from smelled amazing!  

There was one memory of my mum (not a coffee drinker) making a coffee to try it out and I wanted to taste it because it smelled so good, but when I did it tasted like I was eating the skin of an orange without actually tasting any orange. At 5-6 years old the bitter taste was just too much.  

It wasn’t until 2013 that I tried coffee again, I was a grown man, I got to stay up past my bed time and I didn’t need to hold hands with anyone to cross the road. 

There was this craze of having a drink called bullet proof coffee. Blending black coffee with butter and coconut oil. At the time the intermittent fasting trend had been blowing up in the fitness world and everyone seemed to be talking about it, some people fasting alternate days or some restricting their feeding times to an 8 hour window. Whatever plan they were on, it was said that a higher fat, lower carb diet was best as your body would be adapted to burning fat. 

I guess some coffee junkie just decided that he needed to get his fat sources from somewhere and just blended it right into his coffee. 

Does it work?  

Yes, if you can stick to the plan. Like any calorie/macro restricted plan.  

Anyway, I tried this out for a while until I got lazy about constantly cleaning the blender. I was hooked onto the caffeine at this point sometimes having it 3-5 times a day.  
Skipping forward, it wasn’t until a few months back that I realised that I “needed” coffee. It’s crazy because I would read articles about it being good for you but I had gotten to that point where I would get major energy dips and crave more sugar than I needed.  

I couldn’t figure out that sugar craving until I went off the caffeine and just had more sleep.  

personal trainer richmond coffee sleep

My adrenals must have been working overtime. The adrenal glands are commonly known to produce adrenaline, this is our natural response to a stressful situation, our fight or flight response. The glands can be found above the kidneys.  
These can be separated into the Adrenal Cortex and Adrenal Medulla.  

The adrenal cortex (outer part of the gland) produces hormones that are vital to life, such as cortisol (which helps regulate metabolism and helps your body respond to stress) and aldosterone (which helps control blood pressure). 

The adrenal medulla—the inner part of the gland—produces nonessential (that is, you don’t need them to live) hormones, such as adrenaline (which helps your body react to stress). 

One of the interesting trends I come across when I’m taking consultations with clients is how many men crave more salt and have higher blood pressure levels to women who crave sugar but have lower blood pressure.  

One of these reasons is the hormone Aldosterone.  

Aldosterone helps to balance the correct levels of sodium and potassium, which in turn balances your blood pressure, distribute fluids around the body and balances electrolytes in the blood. Aldosterone is part of a group of hormones called mineralocorticoids.  

When aldosterone gets too high (as it can under stress and as your cortisol goes too high), your blood pressure also gets too high and your potassium levels become too low. You can have muscle cramps, muscle weakness, and numbness or tingling in your extremities. 

What does drinking coffee do to your hormones?  

Caffeine is addictive!  

Caffeine can affect your central nervous by altering the release or uptake of your neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that direct how the neurons of the CNS interact with each other. 
In a study published by Psychosomatic Medicine 2005, showed that caffeine increased the production of cortisol after the participants abstained from caffeine for 5 days. 

There are quite a few benefits to caffeine but it’s one hell of a drug!  

Enter the detox…. 

In a quest to learn more about my body and mind, I decided to force myself into a coffee detox.  

What really broke the camels back was the month that I woke up at 4.50am for my weekly session with a client and found it incredibly hard to get out of bed. I would get out of bed only to lie on the living room sofa…force myself up to make coffee and lie down again until the coffee cooled enough for me to drink it.  

It didn’t seem like I was someone with bounds of energy…  

Pathetic!  

Stubbornly I thought to myself, why would I need to rely on something to get myself going. Why couldn’t I do it myself? Why aren’t my hormones functioning the way it should be. 
I ended up getting annoyed with myself and embarked on the caffeine detox. 

The first 5 days of it were ugly, I didn’t get any head pains from the withdrawal, but I did end up passing out on the sofa early into the evening…like 7.30pm early.  
My wife wasn’t too happy about it, but what’s a guy to do when you wake up at 4.50am!  (If you didn’t know I’m a personal trainer, no I’m not just one of those fitness writers…I’m in the trenches :D) 

As I got to Day 10, I managed to feel whole lot better, I was able to stay awake and go on much longer into the evening.
I slept like a baby! I felt like I was sleeping way deeper than ever before. I also noticed the energy levels when I woke up felt much more steady, I didn’t need to rely on caffeine, I just woke up drank my glass of water and off I went to work. The energy flow felt so much steadier than the previous dips I was having.  
 
I’m back on the coffee but I’m no where near drink the daily 4-5 cups that I was getting in before. Just one or two cups but I don’t need it to wake myself up 🙂 

What I learned was that you don’t need caffeine, and the best time to drink coffee is later in the day once your fully awake. Anything after 10am would be a good time to drink it. 
As a recommendation, you should detox off of caffeine to give your adrenal glands a rest, maybe every 3-5 months. 

Anyway for those who were about to come at me with their claws out, here’s a link to 13 benefits of coffee…13 evidence based health benefits of coffee 

Enjoy your java! 

Grow muscle fast with these small tricks

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I’ve been in and around gyms for almost a decade and I’m always curious to see how other people train.
When people go to the gym and don’t know what they’re doing usually they’re doing someone else’s programme, copying the biggest guy in the gym or just aimlessly floating about from machine to machine without any real purpose. 

My job is to find that purpose and the majority of the time it’s usually either to “tone” or to build a bigger chest or arms. 
In this article we’ll be looking at small tweaks you can introduce into your routine for bigger muscle gains. 

Time under tension 

There are two types of contraction in any movement you do, the first being the concentric contraction, this would be the shortening of the muscle fibers under load. 
A good example of this would be when someone curls a dumbbell to contract their bicep. 
The second type of contraction is the eccentric contraction, when the muscle lengthens under load. This would be when the person lowers the dumbbell after the curl. If you didn’t have the eccentric strength you would drop the weight suddenly and cause possible harm. 

In a good training plan, controlling parameters such as tempo helps the trainee build a stronger contraction through a range of different movements.  
What most new people in the gym don’t understand is that the tempo can help them grow bigger muscles….sort of.  

The eccentric portion of the lifts can cause micro-tears in the muscle, this soreness is sometimes felt 48 hours after training. You’ll often hear gym people talk about DOMS (delayed on-set of muscle soreness). 
The micro-tears caused by training is repaired by the body and providing that you consume enough protein, are well rested and aren’t highly stressed, this can help you build strength and muscle fast. 
A tempo of 4 secs eccentric with no pause in the middle with a 1-2 sec concentric contraction has been known to help with build muscle and develop strength.  

There are a lot gym users who like to work through their sets really fast, perfect if you’re looking for the power and speed development but not so great if you’re building muscle. 
Increasing the intensity with this time under tension technique can overload the muscle and boost the intensity in your training. Sets that are under tension for around 30-70 secs is best used for hypertrophy (building muscle).  

Exercises where the sets are performed for as little as 30 seconds help to develop explosive speed, strength and power with minimal hypertrophy gains. 

To be honest, there are some freaks of nature who will do 10 sets of 2 repetitions and still have arms like arnold, whatever you throw at them they’re pretty much going to just be ripped and jacked! Full stop.  

For normal people time under tension or tempo training can progress our training further. 

Increasing the weight or still waiting to increase 

Single arm row benchv2

It may sound silly but I’ve been in gyms where people have been on the same programme for years, using the same programme and the same weight. 
People like to feel like they did something productive and will only work within their comfort zone. Unfortunately if you don’t challenge yourself, you don’t change. There has to be some kind of effort for you to evolve.  
Even if it’s a 1.25kg increase, this is enough of a stimulus to challenge your nervous system and improve your muscular development.  
 
Use full range of motion during exercises 

back full range of motion jessie girl

We’ve all seen guys do it, lifting massive amounts of weight with minimal range of motion. I see this all the time when an attractive girl walks by and guys pick up the biggest weight they can and lift (barely lift) making loud noises and grunting. I’m not sure if the girl is impressed and I’m sure its more intimidating than attractive. Who knows…
If you aren’t training to your full range of motion, it’s like driving your Porsche in 2nd gear all the way home. Why stop short when you’ve all that range?  
The classic one I keep seeing is the partial range push up with elbows bare bending or the bench press where the weight hardly goes down.  

Partial range training is actually a legitimate technique used to further fatigue and stress the muscles once the full range of motion has been performed.  

A good tip for a full bicep contraction is to curl the Dumbbell and twist the wrist inward until you can’t turn it anymore. This will fully contract the bicep head and develop a better peak. 

Good luck! 

Thanks for reading – Grow muscle fast with these small tricks

6 exercises to tighten up your bum

Exercises to tone up butt and legs |Personal Trainer South West London

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If you read my previous article titled “The Pan Cake Butt” you would have learned about the anatomy of the glutes, why you need to have strong glutes and what exercises you should do. If you haven’t you can go Here

I’ve been a personal trainer in london for the last 6 years, working within south west london. One of the most common questions I’m asked is what can I do for my saggy butt?

These are my top exercises to help you tighten up your butt.

 

Hip thrust – 

hip-raise
This exercise is a very simple but tough if you don’t have the mobility, it targets the glutes as well as the hamstrings.  The key to the exercise is to fully extend the hip and squeeze your glutes at the top of the motion. It seems alot of people fail raise the hips up high to activate the correct muscle. I prefer to raise the feet on a medicine ball to focus a little more attention on the hamstrings as it stabilises in place.

Single leg Hip Thrust –

 

sl hip raise

 

Once you’ve mastered the basic hip raise on the floor, the next progression is to perform the single leg variation. As the picture illustrates, Perform by driving the heel of your foot into ground, thrusting the hip up as high as possible, hold for a 2 second contraction and come back down to full range. The arms are placed out to your sides with the palms facing the ceiling. The position helps to open the thoracic and keep the shoulders retracted.

Weighted hip raise –

 

Glute bridge

 
I first learned about this exercise from Bret Contreras, he is the “glute guy” for more technical information please visit him Here

This exercise is best performed with a barbell cushion or foam pad placed around the bar. As shown in the picture, the bar is placed between the groove of your hips.

Main points to keep in mind is when you thrust the bar up, keep your elbows locked out as the bar will want to slip back. Thrust the hips up just like you did before in the last exercises shown and slowly lower back down. Try to control the movement when lowering the bar to the floor rather than smash your back into the floor on the descent.

Weighted glute thrust on bench –

 

 

glute bridge on bench

 
This is a variation of the weight hip raise above,  it’s exactly the same but you will be leaning against a bench. Place the bar between the crease of your hips, push back against the bench and dig your heels into the ground, your hips should thrust upwards and lift the barbell upwards. This movement allows more range of motion through hip drive. A powerful exercise especially for wrestlers or Jiu Jitsu/MMA enthusiast.

 

Barbell Single Leg Romanian Deadlift –

A very tough exercise as it demands more balance and co-ordination. 7/10 times I see this exercise performed with shoulders rounding forward. Make sure you retract your shoulders back. Perform with a light barbell to begin with and build the weight up.

You can watch the video of Nicole performing the exercise below.



Overhead Lunge – (Advanced)

Possibly one of the hardest movements in a trainers toolbox. A humbling movement as it requires scapular stability, lumbo-pelvic control, as well as flexbility and ankle stability.

A very athletic movement.

To perform, hold an un-weighted bar overhead, if you have no bar around place your hands above you with palms facing forward. Try not to elevate your shoulders towards your ears, and do your best to relax.

With your arms now in the air, lunge forward with one leg and sink straight down till the knees are roughly about 90 degrees.
Focus on keeping your elbows straight as there is a chance the bar could fall upon you if you’re not in control.

Once you feel comfortable with the technique, increase the weight gradually.

 

 

bbell-overhead-lunge-200x200

 

 

Should men do these exercises?

Yes they should, if they want to sprint faster, deadlift a disgusting amount of weight and be able to jump over trees!

Hope these exercises help you develop buns of steel!!

Please remember to share this article with your friends or family and if you want any more tips please join the facebook group or follow me on twitter.

Thanks!

Exercises to tone up butt and legs |Personal Trainer South West London

First Date Exercises for Guys

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Here’s the scenario….You’re out and about doing errands and you suddenly see a girl that catches your eye. You decide to take action there because those clips you’ve seen on “pick up” and mystery’s pick up technique tells you that you have 3 seconds to make a move or you end up hesitating. Amazingly she’s giving you all the “IOI’s” and “kino” and you end up number closing her.
Boom! Nice….

If you aren’t so bold the scenario could end up like this…You’ve succumb to one of the thousand adverts for various dating websites and you’ve set up an online dating profile. You eventually find a good match and you’ve scheduled a date/time and place.

Good job!

As time passes by you start thinking, what should I wear, do I need to buy more clothes? should you cut your beard a few days before so you have enough stubble but not too much! ?

More time passes by and you eventually calm your nerves and think about places to take your date.

Now assuming it’s Monday and you’ve set up a date for the weekend you have roughly 5-6 days to get ready.

Follow the steps below to find out what the key exercises are to impress your first date.

 

incline chest press
Dumbbell Incline chest press – 4×8 – (3 sec eccentric)

 

According to EMG studies, researchers wanted to find out which exercise was the best at activating a muscle and as it happens the best exercise was the incline chest press.

To perform, raise the seat to an appropriate level, (raising it too high will cause the shoulders to work more than the pecs), aim for a 45 degree angle. Push the weight up explosively at full range and slowly lower the weight  down for 3 secs.

Chin up – 4×5 – 5 sec eccentric

The chin up is an important part of any routine as it targets all your “show muscles” think biceps, back and rear deltoids (shoulders). The most important part of this exercise is the “dropping” phase, you want to be able to drop slow as 5 seconds. This forces your biceps and back muscles to contract to slow the movement down.
Strength coaches understand that to build muscle time under tension is an important factor to consider when designing a good “hypertrophy” programme.

chin up 2
 

The chin up is an incredibly challenging exercise and the truth is most people can’t perform this exercise without help.
The next best thing is the modified body row, which is still a powerful exercise in its own right.

Inverted Bodyweight Row – 4×10-15

modified row
 

As you can see from the picture, the lady is performing the exercise with knee’s bent but she’s using a pronated grip (hands facing forward), what I want you to do is perform the exercise with your hands facing towards you.
This will put more emphasis on the biceps as well more focus on the back.

Make sure that you pull and retract your shoulders back rather than allow it to round forward.

Here’s an example –

 

The lady seen in the pink top has perfect form where her shoulders are pulled back. Unfortunately the man in the blue is finding this a little bit difficult and his shoulders are starting to elevate and round forward.
You can also notice the trainer standing in the background not really looking at his technique or modifying it. BAD TRAINER!

There you have it, 2/3 exercises that will help you look great on your date, hopefully knowing that you’ve done all you can physically will also improve your confidence.

The moral is, it doesn’t matter how you look as long as you have confidence.

Have a great date and let me know how you get on  😉

Start up guide to running

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The weather has finally brightened up here and I’ve started to see people in Barnes, take to the streets for their daily jog.

Here at our Personal training studio in Barnes, Mortlake, we’ve been working on getting people ready to run.

One of the common issues with running is that the repeated motion and impact can cause more injuries than you’d like.

Tom, 38, works at a desk for 8 hours taking few breaks in between. Constantly on the phone and typing, has caused his shoulders to round forward. Suffering from neck and lower back pain, he’s decided to start running to get back into shape aiming for a 10km run, he’s also joined a local running club to help with motivation.

Imagine, the type of posture that he’s in for 8 hours of the day.
Staring at the computer screen, his head has leaned forward putting extra pressure on his cervical spine, his muscles at the back of his neck and shoulders have had to bear the load causing them to tighten up.
Tension from stress of working have also made his neck and shoulders unusually tight.

Tom’s hip flexors have also tightened up, sitting down for 8 hours have made his core weak. As the hip flexors have become tighter he now has slight anterior pelvic tilt, causing his lower back to strain.

Tom is a broken man with a passion to run.

forward neck posture

Here’s how we helped him.

Work on Improving his Thoracic mobility

Since we know his shoulders have started to round, the first plan of action is improving his mobility and flexibility.

Side lying thoracic extension

This movement helps to open his thoracic and lengthen his back and chest.

Perform this movement by –

Lying on your side with both hands on top.
Legs have to be in a 90 degree bend
Lift one arm up and bring it behind you till it rests on the floor, the idea is to be able to reach the floor with your opposite shoulder

thoracic mobility side lying rotation 1

Shoulder Dislocations

As funny as the name sounds, its perfect for people who are tight in their chest and shoulders.

shoulder dislocation 1

You can perform this movement with a resistance band, light bar, or just your arms.

Lift the band/bar above your head, keeping the elbows straight, pull the arms back behind you.

shoulder dislocation 2

The end position should be like the above picture.

Reverse the movement back up to the top, keeping your elbows straight as you lift.
If you have trouble lifting the band up again, bend the elbows to make the movement easier until you can do them with arms straight.

Resisted No Money Exercise

This exercise again sounds terrible, this came to our attention when Eric Cressey a strength and conditioning coach in America, started using it with his athletes.

resisted no money exercise

Perform this movement by making sure you keep your elbows as close to your waist as possible. Pull back your shoulders and squeeze your shoulder blades together.

Be sure to keep the shoulders down as best you can.

Self Myo-fascial Release Techniques

foam-roller

 

The foam roller is a tool we use at the studio to help inhibit over-active muscles.
Tom has been sitting on the desk for hours, his hip flexor is tight, we can only assume that this is one of the causes of his low back pain after assessing his lifestyle.

Self Myofascial release

SMR – Hip Flexors ( Very Painful)

foam roll hip flexor

 

This is an extremely painful one to do, I remember lying on the foam roller crying when I first did it. It was not a pretty sight…

However what I did feel after the next couple of weeks was my hips were much more looser.
Sadly, I’ve neglected the foam rolling and I can feel my right hip getting alot tighter and it’s even causing my right foot to turn.

To perform this exercise (picture above)

Lie directly on top of the foam roller with hip on top
Roll towards the mid-thigh
Search for pressure points along the thigh/hip
Once found apply pressure for 30 secs. Work your way up to 1 min in the following months.

Hip Flexor Stretch

Josh Rubin from East West Healing, does a great job of explaining this stretch.

 

Re-Awaken the sleepy glutes

Yes it’s true, the glutes can also nap during activities such as running, for some they may even be asleep.
This all depends on your running style, stride length, etc.

Here are a  few exercises we use to re-activate the glutes.

Deadlift –

deadlift for glutes

 

I’m sure you’ve all deadlifted before, think about the last time you picked up a box? or picked up your child….
This is a common movement we use day to day, but how many of you can do it right?

It may seem like a simple movement but there are at least 8-10 teaching points before we even lift the bar up from the ground.
It’s recommended that you should consult a trainer at your local fitness centre to coach you through, if you happen to be in South west london Barnes/Mortlake, come to our personal training studio and see one of our personal trainers who will be happy to coach you through the technique.

Hip Raise –

hip-raise

 

The hip raise is a classic move we use to teach people about glute activation.

Once you’re firing off the next progression is doing it weighted

Glute bridge

 

To recap what we’ve been looking at is how we can improve mobility and flexibility to allow for better running mechanics.
Most people will tell you just to run…..but we think you should address a few of the issues outlined in this article to make sure you don’t pick up more injuries.

Remember if you already have bad running mechanics it’s only going to get worse without addressing alignment issues.

Thanks for reading.

Please leave your thoughts in the comment box, share with friends and family if you enjoyed this article.

How to look and feel like a superhero

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Learn how to squat

bat mansquatting
Batman practises squatting in his spare time so he can look at people from above.

The squat is the most simple but most technical move at the same time. Adults seem to have trouble most of the time as their lifestyle or job has caused some kind of muscular imbalance forcing them to move in a different way.

From the picture below you can see the lady squatting with a barbell on her back, her shoulders are rounding and the torso has fallen forward.

barbellsquat bad technique

A good way I check to see if it’s a case of bad ankle mobility is to get her to stand on blocks elevating her heels. If the body still falls forward we generally assume that it’s higher up leg possibly her hip flexors and not her ankle mobility.

If she didn’t lean forward, and it feels pretty comfortable we can assume that her ankle mobility is the issue which forces the rest of her kinetic chain to move in a different way.

squat-form

Babies can squat perfectly. They put any bodybuilder to shame!


baby-squat


 

Do Push ups –

This is one of the most beneficial exercises a super hero could do.

Most people make the mistake of overlooking the push up as the fancy shiny gym equipment steals their attention.

A common mistake to look out for when performing a push up, is the position of the pelvis. Ideally you want your spine to stay in a neutral position, the glutes have to contract and hold for a posterior tilt. Your abdominals should brace at this point to stabilize the position.

bad-push-up

Start with push ups on the knees before progressing towards a full one.

push up on knees

Push up

Run, Faster and faster –

Holy smokes batman, sprinting is hard!

For any wannabe superheroes out there sprints have to be done, they’re a good way of utilizing whatever fast twitch muscle fibres you have, the lactic acid you feel produces a hormone response from your body to burn fat by elevating your metabolism.

You also feel like the flash! And he’s ripped!

 

Barry Allen flash

Remember do them otherwise bad guys are going to catch you! Not joking.  😛 


Eat the right way –

ninja-turtles-pictures

I know what you’re thinking, Donatella, Raphael, Leonardo and Michelangelo all ate pizza, so why can’t I?

Well if you were a “giant mutant” green turtle then maybe I’ll allow it.

But unfortunately for the rest of us, we have to eat real food.
Good nutrition is vital for not only having a lean body, but good performance to match.
Nutrition is individual, you can tell by the way some people can eat certain foods and gain no weight, but then some can eat the same foods and then bloat up.

Mental well being is just as significant, the reaction from certain foods can cause an allergic reaction that affects mental clarity. For the gluten intolerant a dose of it can cause headaches, brain fog/drowsiness or bloating and a host of other issues.
Finding “your own” nutrition plan is therefore essential. Follow this for a guideline on nutrition.

Take part in an activity you enjoy –

Besides training all day to become a superhero, it’s important to remember to find time for yourself and do something you enjoy doing.
De-stressing is an important part of a superheroes day, find something you like to do. Superman was happiest playing American football or chilling out in his barn. Spiderman liked photography which eventually landed him a role for a major newspaper, you get the idea.


Superhero relaxing at home

 Your body’s response to deal with stress is to produce cortisol, the stress hormone.
Although it sounds ominous, we need this hormone because it saves us in times of danger, imagine walking in the middle of the road, suddenly you see the joker speeding at you in a car, your cortisol levels spike and sends a message to your brain to pump out adrenaline so that you can sprint out of way.

Short bursts of stress are fine, however when the stress response is prolonged over time is can cause illness as well as physical and mental exhaustion.

There are various types of stress on the body, I’ve chosen three of the main ones you can do something about today –

Physical stress such as exercise in small doses are fine but overdoing it can lead to poor performance, immune system suppression and increased incidence of injury.
Chemical stress – We’re exposed to chemicals on a daily basis, over time your body has difficulty in neutralizing these toxins and repeating this exposure is said to lead to illness or disease.
Examples include aerosols, Bisphenol-A in plastics or even pesticides on our foods.
Nutritional Stress – Eating food that causes an allergic reaction can be called a stress. Some people have more serious issues, such as joint pain or skin conditions that can be reduced or cured by avoiding certain foods. It’s best to find a nutritionist that deals with those types of issues.

Two great books to read if you want to delve in a little further is “how to eat, move and be healthy” by Paul Chek and Adrenal Fatigue by James L. Wilson

Stress is an extremely large and complicated topic and if you need help, let me know and I’ll find the best person for the job.

Thanks for reading my article, be sure to share this with your friends.
Like my Facebook page or follow me twitter because I’ll be putting up part 2 in the near future.

I hope this article helps you in your quest for superhero status.

 

What is a Deadlift and Why you should do it

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Monday….universally known as chest day to every gym going man/man child.

I’ve never been one to follow the trend, Mondays for me have either been a Squat or Deadlift type movement.

Previously, I was working with a Mr natural universe, bodybuilding champion, Roger waters.
We had talks about training and he mentioned he never did any Deadlifts because it was too much of a compound movement.
(Compound = exercises that uses more than one joint)

One day in the gym I overhead him talking to one of his clients, they were watching another trainer teaching a lady how to Deadlift, this must have been during one of their 5 min rests between sets, Rogers client watched the lady perform the exercise and then started shaking his head and scrunching up his face, he said it was too much of a compound movement and that he preferred isolation.
Roger agreed.

In the bodybuilders paradigm, there’s no reason for them to Deadlift.
The Deadlift isn’t an exercise for show muscles.

It’s an exercise for teaching posture, body movement, breathing, control, strength and power. It’s a real world exercise.

The ones that do try to Deadlift, end up lifting too much weight and then injuring themselves. Correct technique for the deadlift is extremely important.

My View on Deadlifting

Deadlifts are great!

Why do you need to do them?

Strengthen your posterior chain.
Learn how to lift weight correctly.
Maintain trunk and thoracic alignment.
Feel like a caveman/woman when lifting.
The glutes, lower back and hamstrings, are what we call the posterior chain. These muscles work collectively to help hold your posture, generate power and speed, and works in balance with the rest of the body to help with movement.

Deadlifts also have a positive effect on our growth hormone levels, before you ladies completely zone out due the words “growth hormone”, what if I told you it can help with fat loss!

Usually secreted after intense bouts of exercise, this hormone makes a very potent fat burner.
Deadlifting alone doesn’t help to lose fat, but added to a range of primal movements, this exercise is definitely one to keep in your arsenal.

How do you deadlift?

Although a very simple movement, it can be extremely technical.

The first step in coaching someone through a deadlift is looking at how their body is currently moving, what we’re looking to see is how well they hold their thoracic (mid spine), looking at how they control their trunk and hip, and whether their knees, foot and ankle is working in alignment.

Below is a video of the Wall Deadlift. This drill helps teach people to sit back and use less of your quads and more of your glutes and hamstrings.

Yes! You look like an idiot! Haha.

It feels extremely awkward but persevere.

The idea is obviously not to smash your face against the wall, the knees aren’t allowed to exceed past the foot, this forces you to tilt your hips back and use your Glute as you lift yourself up.

If you find you can’t get low enough, then your issues lies with your mobility and flexibility.
Which is another post, please stay tuned.

The next progression……

Rack Pull

This exercise calls for a rack, power cage or blocks.

It’s great for those with mobility issues, tight shoulders/chest. Due to the increased height of the bar, it’s easier for you to hold your posture.

Note: The picture below shows a guy deadlifting from a height. Note the rounded shoulders and lower back. This position is dangerous and not recommended.

how not to deadlift bad form
 

How to perform the Rack Deadlift –

Rack Deadlift Full
 

As you can see from the above image, the barbell is placed on the rack, level with the knees or just above.
From this position, push through the heels of your feet, force the hips forward and squeeze the glutes at the top of the motion.

Other key points –

Chest up and out
Imagine someone pulling your shoulders back and down
Grip the bar tightly
Make sure you lift from your heels.
Back flat.

This is an important exercise. It teaches you to hold your mid spine in position, locking your scapular in place. A good exercise to teach you about posture and positioning.

Once you’ve understood how to do it, progress onto the full version of the Deadlift.

The Full Deadlift

Aim for 3-5 repetitions. The Deadlift is a strength and power exercise. Performing hundreds of these for endurance doesn’t help. As you tire your technique is compromised and if you hurt yourself it’s your own fault.

It’s just common sense.

Key Points –

Keep bar close to legs as you lift upwards
Keep elbows straight as you lift
Drive through heels of your feet
Lift explosively through your hips.
Head position up. (There has been a big debate about whether to keep the head in alignment facing down to the floor or look up. According to strength training legend Mel Siff, flexing your neck (looking down) causes your back muscles to relax, while extending your neck helps them contract.)

Pause 2 seconds after every lift. (It is called a Deadlift for a reason. Momentum is not your friend here)

T-Nation – Controversial Deadlift Tips

As you get stronger, and are able to lift more weight.
There may be sticking points where you find that you lose your posture because the weight is too heavy.
Try Deadlifting from blocks, raising the height of the bar from the floor so that you don’t lose your posture.

If you found this helpful, please share. Remember to send your videos to me and I’ll help critique technique where I can.

Thanks for reading!