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Want Bigger Arms, don’t do bicep curls….

Ok so I was thinking about writing my first real post this year on this topic and BANG!, Mens Health magazine beat me to it with a brilliant piece of journalistic splendour in their current edition. They say that actually, just continuing to do your isolationist bicep curls and push-downs and close grip bench and hammer curls etc will only end up burning out your arms. By isolationist I mean the bodybuilder-type exercises that purposefully isolate a muscle so you can work it to exhaustion and get maximal repair and therefore, growth. Great theory!! Anyway that “Bible for the Fitness Masses” says no, what you really need to be doing, is other isolationist exercises for all the muscles around and supporting the arms and grow them first and then go about growing your arms…..with presumably bicep curls, push-downs etc 😉 Then you really will look like Popeye!

I always like to consider how it is that guys that do big jobs get really big as a result. I’m not talking about Bankers and Big Heads and Big Ego’s but beefy blokes like lumberjacks and steelworkers. These guys typically don’t always grow up big. They are hauling around heavy machinery and logs and stuff all day long. Their bodies either respond and get BIG or they get injured and I presume, go work in an office.

If you are constantly dragging and lifting heavy things you will get big. Whether at work or at play. Gyms are absolutely no different. Plus if you know about hormone manipulation and rep-range and rest between lifts, you will grow everything (well, not quite everything…). Big arms, legs, chest, shoulders, everything!!

Olympic lifts are the Gold Standard in the gym. Do them and get big, across the board. Don’t isolate and grow bits here and there, you will end up looking like a muscle-bound ape. Just check out any of the big commercial gyms, a lot of them are instructors….. 🙂 And don’t be fooled by “Functional Gyms” that include banks of treadmills and isolationist machines on their floors. That ain’t functional.

Professional bodybuilders with full-time coaches get body-split training programs wrong at competition time, do you seriously expect the poorly trained and limited vocab guys and girls here to be able to get it right for you?? It’s total guesswork on their part so why risk it. Lift broadly with Olympic Lifts, taught by people that know them and meet your goals and more!!

Plus you get good at a few very important lifts and are not confused about what you should be doing when you go do your own workouts! Squats, lunges, bench-presses, cleans, push-presses, overhead presses, bar or dumbbells….and keep mixing it around 🙂 Simple and effective!! Want to know more –

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This could be the most valuable training tip, ever….

I like brash statements particularly when I know them to be true! I would like you to think about the concept of performance. What does this word conjure in your mind? Do words like maximal, peak and ultimate come to mind? For me they do. In your place of work I’m guessing you have to perform. You have goals, targets, KPI’s that have to be met. There is pressure to perform and there is expectation from the paymasters!

What if I was to say to you that unless you take that attitude to your training you won’t meet your goals and targets there, either? You want results, you should take expectation into your training and so ultimately, you need to perform! Come to think about it, a lot of things in life can be attributed to performance.

If you just get up on that elliptical trainer and fixate on the TV, sit on that bike and freewheel a bit or sit down at this machine or that what’s going to happen? Nothing, right? Right!

The old saying, “you get out of something only what you put into it”. Or, “garbage in, garbage out”.

It’s a bit like a sports car and a family wagon. If you’re a big unit, room for plenty inside, moderate engine running on 95 you will be a trundling sedan. If you’re a bit leaner, sleeker, room for only 2 and running a revved up turbo-charged engine, well baby, you’re a sports car!! What are you? And more importantly what would you rather be?

Ok so I’d better start revealing this training tip! It’s called I N T E N S I T Y. You have to bring it, regularly. Performance in your training is dictated to a large extent by intensity! And I hear you saying but I’m not even halfway to being fit how can I “bring the intensity??”

I’m here to say this – Intensity is Relative!!

Clearly someone not so fit will struggle to complete tasks at the intensity that a fit person would bring. However there’s differences in intensity with groups of fit people as much as there’s differences in intensity between fit and not so fit. It doesn’t matter! You just have to work outside of your comfort zone for periods during your training to up the intensity.

Remember when you were a kid and you were with a friend or fellow team mate or even a fellow competitor and you were doing some kind of physical activity? And this other person was fitter than you. But you were determined to keep up and even beat this person. And you did! You summoned that competitive spirit and you dug in and you performed!! How did this happen?? A big part of it was because you raised the intensity.

At UFIT there is ample opportunity to raise the intensity. And most of the time members buy into it and bring it! But if you’re like the average Ufitter you’re attending UFIT sessions twice a week so potentially there are 3 other sessions you’re doing a week where you probably are not bringing the intensity. BRING IT, ALWAYS!! I know sometimes you can’t, sure, we’re not all Olympic athletes in fact none of us are (that I know of 🙂 ) but that shouldn’t stop us pushing ourselves!

You don’t need to set Personal Bests every time but you do need to keep raising the intensity. This can be done in many ways –

Cardio (interval training): increase speed during intervals; increase length of work interval or decrease rest interval; increase number of intervals.

Resistance Training: Add more weight; Change number of reps from what should be standard (4-5) to 10-12, once and a while.

Have recovery weeks where you don’t raise the intensity, say every 4-5 weeks. You must also remember to have rest and renewal periods where you don’t train at all (perfect period coming up over the Christmas week!). This only applies of course if you have already been training with intensity……

So there you have it. Intensity. A simple word that can mean so much to your training. Understand what this word means and buy into the concept. Your training will improve out of sight as a consequence! As usual it’s something we here at UFIT understand and if you would like our help, do drop us a line –

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Strength Training

I can’t begin to explain the way it makes me feel when regular guys (and girls) tell me they’re in the gym doing weights these days and they are doing a body-part “split” routine. Why?? Well 3 weeks ago I posted this article about muscle imbalances.

The traditional body-part “split” routine was developed by bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger who wanted to “isolate” muscles in a bid to completely breakdown the fibres in that muscle. The theory is that this then allows the muscle to regenerate and build bigger than it was previously. And by “splitting” a larger muscle with a smaller muscle for example chest and biceps, the larger group could be worked first and although fatigued the individual would still have the energy to work the smaller muscle group afterwards.

For reasons discussed in the previous post for most people this method is a recipe for muscle imbalance and a stepping stone to injury. The reason why a lot of Trainers still use such methods is they are poorly educated by whatever organisation they are working for.

So what should you be doing instead? Some people advocate full-body workouts where every muscle part is trained 3 times per week. I’m linking an article in this paragraph from Mens Health magazine about a chap that advocates such a methodology. It’s pleasing to see a magazine I don’t really rate printing quite a good article, however my problem with it is the person is still advocating using lifts and exercises that I feel are non-functional. Check out the “slide show” of 5 exercises to understand what I’m talking about!

I’m on the same page regarding 3 sessions per week but from my perspective the lifts must be Olympic-style. Also the information from research in the article about growth potential for 3x per week V body-splits was very interesting and should interest a few of you out there 🙂 Here’s the link to the article.

Has anyone had a crack at the Olympic Lifts we have in our video section of this blog?? Let me know. Please use UFIT as a resource. At UFIT Re-Tox last night I had a very good discussion with a couple of members and I hope they took a few things away from that. Do you have any questions, just leave them at the end of this post!

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UFIT Black and Blue Promo Video

A recent BnB was attended by Devon Wong and his brother Cliff. They have kindly produced this video, thank you guys!! –

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Muscle imbalances, injuries….

Muscle imbalances are very common. Sometimes they’re very easy to spot for instance check out this Facebook Page dedicated to Rafael Nadal’s arms and how much bigger his left arm is to his right (he is a left-hander, of course). I’ll put the picture here as well –

In this photo it’s clear his left forearm is particularly larger than the right. This is a worry for him as his shirts won’t button around his wrists correctly and people will start referring to him as tennis’ “elephant man”. They will.

But seriously a guy like Nadal has ended up with this gross (not in the “ewwww” gross but in the “big” gross..) difference due to the fact he hits a lot of tennis balls, a lot, with only his left arm working. But then why doesn’t Roger Federer have the gross difference in arms or some of the other tennis players? Actually if you look closely a lot of pro tennis players do have the imbalance but perhaps don’t suffer the same scrutiny our fine Spanish dude does! I say a lot but not Federer, nor some of the other top guys like Djokovic for instance. Why does Nadal have it but not others? I would take an educated guess and say it’s due to their Trainers being unaware of muscle imbalances and the potential for injury they create. Maybe Nadal’s trainer sucks? Although there’s no doubt Nadal is fit, running down shots that most wouldn’t even attempt. Maybe his Trainer is good on cardio and not so good on strength?

I have blogged about training like a bodybuilder in the past. You know the style, training splits that involve chest/biceps, back/triceps, quads/hamstrings, shoulders/calves, these being the usual splits. Guys and girls that train like this regularly have problems, they may HATE legs day so effort levels are low. Or they hate back/tri day. Or they always do legs day on the weekends, when they have a lot of time to do smackloads of sets. Or travel cuts a swathe through their program and 1 session always gets neglected. This is a recipe for muscle imbalance because try as they might, effort levels always vary and as a consequence, growth varies as well.

The top professional bodybuilders take photo’s, use video, watch themselves in the mirror and have coaches that appraise their physiques. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are using software that allows them to determine their proportionality and symmetry. But your average Joe doesn’t have such expertise or knowledge available. He/she can’t determine whether they’re training with enough intensity every time and how to mix things around to get to the desired result. Which is winning a bodybuilding competition. That’s why there is bodybuilding and bodybuilders. Or more accurately the competition is a visual comparison between various meat-heads conducted by other meat-heads. Sorry but it’s true. So if all this is about winning a competition where physiques are judged against each other, why are 80% of people training like this in gyms when virtually none of them will compete? Can someone tell me? Is it a knowledge issue. I mean is it they don’t know any better and certainly it’s very clear most professional personal trainers don’t?

What if you lifted weights using your whole body? In a style that incorporated many muscles and joints all at the same time? Wouldn’t that significantly reduce the potential for muscle imbalance? After-all, if they’re all working together at the same time, there actually can’t be any imbalances because your not isolating a muscle or group.

Does that then mean machines are pointless? Oh damn, yes it does! Sorry Life Fitness, Nautilus, oops Technogym (except of course Kinesis – wonderful!!), Hammerstrength, Cybex etc etc…..

Dean said to me once “bro, you know one of the best core exercises is the push up” and he’s right. Core, upper body, both working, hard! Then you can do split hands, wide, narrow, push jumps, superman’s, endless!! Who needs a machine to regress your physique?? Because regress and point you in the direction of injury is what machines will do.

Train smart. Train with people that KNOW fitness. People that understand the body and what it takes to make it work for you!

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Lifting Weights

It’s unlike me to write anything controversial I know ( 🙂 ) but occasionally I feel the need.

Some will say that a little information is dangerous in the wrong hands and sure I am no expert but I do like to be as thorough as I can. And it’s a never-ending process, you can always improve. So there’s the arse-coverage….

I picked up a glossy, expensive Mens magazine last weekend to see a 2-page spread dedicated to an un-named local fitness “expert” showing the world everything he doesn’t know about his trade. It was, well, sad. There were 4 exercises, every one of them poorly executed. I was so shocked that a guy that I know pretty well, who has his limits and he (sometimes) acknowledges that, would have his name and body (as he was the one in the photo’s) demonstrate, so utterly indescribably badly, 4 basic exercises. Shocking. And this guy is popular, he is very successful, due to his winning some bodybuilding events. There we go again, bodybuilding 😦

It goes to prove that a lot of people don’t do their homework. I mean even a cursory understanding of lifting basics would suggest putting anything under your heels when squatting makes no sense whatsoever. I know the reply from the imbeciles that practice this is, “you can lift heavier!”. No shit Sherlock! Your posterior chain is not working correctly so tricking it into lifting heavy, by decreasing range of motion for one, is amateur-hour so who are you trying to trick? Long term you are shortening muscles and decreasing glute involvement and what would be the result of that? Hamstring tears for one. This whole thing of putting weight plates, or bits of wood or whatever, under heels, is quite simply wrong. Funnily enough it is not dissimilar to running shoes with high heel supports. Checkout my post on Vibram’s, para 5Listen, take a look at your running shoes, how high is the support in the heel? 2cm? 3cm?? Whether your foot strikes heel, mid or for …..This is a very similar scenario to putting something under your heels when squatting (the high heel support in running shoes), as what results in both cases is hamstring shortening and limiting glute involvement resulting in injury. Bad, bad!!

What about lunging in a Smith machine? Is your body the machine we are supposed to be working or is the Smith machine the thing WE are working? I mean any exercise you do that involves the user (us) having to adapt to it (the machine), in this case the Smith will result in an adaptation that suits the machine. Make sense? Er, NO!!! Adaptation is what WE need, so why are we forcing ourselves to use machines that dictate to us range of motion and ultimately, adaptation that suits it? This will again, result in one situation, INJURY because our muscles/joints/kinetic chain will adapt incorrect movement patterns and resulting muscle imbalances will result in INJURY!

There were 2 other exercises he showed the reader. Being someone that doesn’t particularly like negative images I have managed to forget them, Thankfully. But they did involve using machines.

The take home message here. PLEASE.DON’T.USE.MACHINES. Ok sometimes they have their place. Used sparingly they won’t do too much damage. But here’s a warning. If your trainer or if you yourself use machines regularly in the gym, beware. You will limit your achievements and you will increase your chances of injury.

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Weights, why be a bodybuilder??

Look, this preconception of training like bodybuilders which is continuously propagated by so-called fitness professionals masquerading as Personal Trainers in gyms and as free-lancers all around this country is becoming a JOKE!!! Unless you want to compete in Bodybuilding competitions with all the narcissists such competitions attract, why do you want to train like them??

I mean splitting training days to chest/bi’s or tri’s, back/bi’s or tri’s, legs and shoulders and calves is training in the dark ages!!

Wake the FARK up! Start reading different training literature (eg put DOWN “Men’s Health” and “Muscle & Fitness” magazines) and PICK UP titles like, “Supertraining” by Dr Mel Siff and visit sites like Mike Boyle’s StrengthCoach.com. Do you really think reading an article here and there from crap magazines and throwing the tips and workouts into your routine will help?

They don’t! They may help you think they are by giving some much-needed variety to your workout but the reality is they don’t. Why? Because they are usually based on Bodybuilding principles. Why am I so against such principles? Bodybuilders simply want to look good. That’s all. They need to convince a bunch of judges they look “symmetrical” and “proportional” and well, bulgy lol!!

Tell me, why do you train? Do you know? Is it vanity? Is it for health, longevity, quality of life or is it for sport or is it because you simply love getting into the gym and killing it!!?? Think about it for a while. Yes there maybe some vanity in everything we do in the gym 🙂 but ultimately there are other underlying reasons. But usually satisfying judges doesn’t apply….

So if it’s not for bodybuilding why do you do the stuff they do? If you’re doing weights why on earth would you sit down in a machine? I mean what purpose can it serve. For one it’s lazy, our bodies sit (or lie) down for most part of the day and night, in front of computers and TV’s and in beds, why would you want to do this on machines when “working out”? We’re creatures of movement, use your limbs, engage your brain and nervous system, activate your core and find exercises that challenge you. Secondly a machine “isolates” a muscle and when do we ever use a muscle in isolation…..well ok there is one time lol but usually other muscles are playing supporting roles even doing that….usually however our bodies are working as a single unit, everything “switched on” and combining to work synergistically (everything being brain, nervous system, muscles, bones and connective tissue) for a particular outcome. Thirdly machines force the body part we are “isolating” through a range of motion the machine has been designed for. Is that your range of motion, his, hers, the next persons? Sure you can adjust certain bits but you can never get proper range of motion because no one size fits all. Ok Technogym Kinesis stand up and take a bow, that is quality but even that is not strictly a machine 🙂

So DON’T USE MACHINES and if you do, like I do sometimes, use them sparingly and only if they fit your overall objective.

Still don’t know what that is? Start reading decent publications, engage decent professional help and start thinking first principles, “what am I training for and what do I want to achieve?” You could even have a look at some of the lifts we have here on this blog and start thinking how these lifts could help you? I’m sure they could 🙂 You can even contact UFIT and sit down with one of us and address your programming and take tips and let us help you build a program based on your goals. That’s what we do and we do it really well 🙂

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