Most people, gym goer or not will be familiar with 'the squat'. There is a whole load of variations of the squat but today I'll be talking mainly about the standard barbell back squat.
The technique you see in the Olympics.
The technique people refer to when saying 'she squats' about any female with a slightly shaped bum.
The technique the big weight lifters like to compare their max weights on.
The King of all exercises, or is it?
Now, I am not for one minute saying the squat is a bad exercise. It is definitely up there with the best. IF it is performed correctly. And that is a massive IF.
In today's world, posture issues and muscular imbalances means performing a squat correctly can be difficult or even impossible for a lot of people. Especially the everyday day office worker who may have one of the following postural issues...
- Rounded or tight shoulders
- Tight hip flexors (top of your upper leg)
- Weak or in active glutes (the ones we sit on too much)
- Poor ankle stability/mobility
If you have ever squatted and felt lower back pain, knee pain, shoulder/ neck pain. Chances are you need to address one of these before going all guns blazing at the squat rack.
Other signs of not being quite ready to squat are;
- Torso leaning too far forward
- Hips kicking out to one side
- Not getting low enough (top of your leg wants to be at least 90 degrees to the floor)
- Not feeling the correct muscles working. (Glutes/quads/core)
So what can you do to perfect the squat whilst also getting the maximum out of your session?
Firstly, address any postural issues. Then add in some daily mobility exercises, foam rolling and stretching.
Using some glute activation exercises before going into any form of squat will have huge benefits.
This can be done by strapping a resistance band around the top of the knees, squat down and walk. Go for 20 steps forward, 20 steps back, 10 steps each side. Rest and repeat. If your bums not on fire and you don’t feel a little bit silly, you’re probably not doing it right.
Onto the squatting!
I tend to start most of my clients off with a simple Goblet box squat. Holding a dumbbell at the chest, squatting down to a bench/ box/ step.
This is great for getting use to the basic movement pattern. Getting the right depth in a squat and getting a feel for which muscles SHOULD be working.
Another one of my favourites for working the glutes, hamstrings and getting a feel for these muscles is the barbell hip thrust.
Lie with your shoulders and upper back on a bench, feet flat on the floor about shoulder width apart. Place/ roll a barbell onto your hips, push up squeezing your bum as hard as you can at the top of the movement, lower back down and repeat.
If unsure ask one of the gym staff, if they are clueless, you may have to YouTube it.
Use these two exercises until you are ready to go to a full blown squat, if anyone tells you otherwise chances are they are just an Internet expert so be wary, there's a lot of them about.
Any questions, fire away on here or on my Facebook below...
Before we get started, this certainly isn’t me going off on any health-obsessed tangent of ‘You should never drink alcohol.’ I am partial to the odd beer and boozy weekend myself.
What I want to cover is whether or not you can have that weekend tipple and still get the results you want.
Aside from the effects heavy drinking has on our overall health, I’m going to look at how that one night out can have such an effect on your results.
Firstly, going back to basics. To shift that unwanted body fat, you need to be in a caloric deficit. Say you aim for a deficit of 400Kcals per day, you nail that Monday – Friday and are in a deficit of 2000Kcal for the week. Perfect!!
Saturday comes, and it’s a night out with a couple of mates.
Getting ready, a few drinks to warm the taste buds. First port of call, 2-4-1 cocktails. 11pm, time for the Jaegers, washed down with a few too many vodka cokes. Before you know it, its 4am and the bright lights of the kebab house are calling your name.
(Obviously not speaking from any experience, just what I have been told goes on)
Broken down into numbers… Yes calories do count in liquid form too.
A couple of glasses of wine/beer= 2-300 calories
A few cocktails- 500 kcals
One too many vodka cokes- 600 kcals
Jaeger bombs- 200 kcals a go
Dirty kebab- 1000kcal
All that before you wake up Sunday morning, a hung over mess eating anything in site and telling yourself you’ll start again Monday. We’ve all done it!!
You could easily throw a good 3000kcals down the hatch and that weekly caloric deficit has disappeared a long with your memory of the night before.
But is it really the booze or more the choices you make because of the booze?
The shots, the kebabs, the hangover food, the lazy attitude Monday. They all have more of an impact than just a few Saturday night drinks.
If you have the will power to go out and enjoy a few drinks, opting for the more sensible gin & tonic. Avoid that 4am kebab and get back on track with food and training the next day. The odd night out isn’t going to set you back too much. But I know myself that all good intensions disappear once the beer takes over.
One question I think is always worth asking yourself is, ‘Which is worth more to YOU?’
If you are willing to sacrifice a weeks progress for a night out then by all means go for it, just make sure it’s a bloody good night! But if you are serious about having a solid set of abs on the beach in 8 weeks time, I would have a re-think about all those nights out planned on the run up.
There is no escaping the juice detoxes at this time of year, if you're not on one yourself, someone at work will be or you will be bombarded with Facebook posts and adverts telling you all kinds of un-educated bullshiz.
Most tend to follow the rule of a couple of very low calorie juices/ shakes (packed full of sugar and all sorts of chemicals), a few magic tablets and sometimes if your lucky you will get to indulge in some form of very low calorie meal. Do this for any where between 3-14 days and Bobs your Uncle you've lost a load of weight. This is nothing to do with your body detoxing and purely down to putting yourself in an extreme, and dangerous, caloric deficit. Extremely low carbohydrate, almost zero fats. And if protein is included it tends to be in power form or poor quality source.
Nevertheless, I can see why so many people fall into the trap of these magic potions. The results SOUND amazing. They're really not. They are short term results followed by long term disasters.
- Yes scale weight goes down
- Yes people claim they feel amazing
- Yes they are a massive waste of money.
- The weight you lose isn't fat. Mainly body fluids
- You will put the weight back on plus a few pounds due to metabolism being shot
- Your liver and kidney do a bloody good job of detoxing the body IF you fuel them with enough calories and the right nutrients (2 shakes, a tablet and lettuce leaf don't cut it)
So to round it up, I want you to ask yourself a simple question.
Why do so many of the juicers have to repeat these detoxes time and time again? If they were all they are cracked up to be would you have to put yourself through it 2 or 3 times a year?
Nope probably not...
DONT WASTE YOUR MONEY!!
Instead, invest that money into someone who knows what they are talking about and will get you long term results just as impressive of those stupid shakes.
If you missed my last article 'Does the choice of exercise really matter?' You can still view it on my blog but I talked about what form of exercise is best for fat loss. I compared weight training, cardio, HIIT and group training/ classes and concluded that as long as you are creating a caloric deficit, you can achieve fat loss.
HOWEVER.. Including weights as a core part of your training has so many more benefits than simply creating a caloric deficit. There are numerous benefits of weights training, I've included some below:
- boosts metabolism, burning more calories at rest (good if you like food)
- strengthens the structure of joints
- improves bone density
- can increase cardio vascular health. (No treadmill required)
- reduces the risk of diabetes and insulin needs
- can improve flexibility and posture issues
Lifting heavy weights, using big muscles groups, with compound exercises, will build the body the majority of people go to the gym to achieve. So why are so many people not incorporating weights into their training?
There are way too many misconceptions. 3 of the most popular being..
1. To lose fat steady state cardio is the best or only way.
Not at all, if you want the biggest bang for your buck exercise with the most efficient results, weights are going to play the biggest part in that.
2. You'll get too bulky
Ladies, your bodies are simply not capable of building a substantial amount of muscle naturally.
You don't produce enough of the hormones needed to build a lot of muscle and certainly not in a short space of time. Also if your aim is fat loss, you should be in a caloric deficit (have a read through my first blog if your not sure what a caloric deficit is!), which makes it all the more difficult to build muscle.
You will however build a little muscle, burn fat, and look fantastic!
The gents who don't want the bodybuilder look and are happy with a lean physique, don't panic. It takes years of hard work. Intense weight training 5-6 times a week, eating like you probably couldn't imagine and missing out on the weekends with the lads are necessary to achieve those kind of results.
Yes you can build muscle, but you won't wake up after a few weeks of training and think "shit.. I'm massive". Again, especially not in a caloric deficit.
You will however, build muscle slowly over time that gives you the lean beach-bod physique you want. You might even enjoy change in your physique and training and progress from that!
3. Every one in the weights room is a professional weight lifter and will judge your every move.
Don't ever be worried about going into the weights room of the gym. It can sometimes be very daunting for women and men. Trust me no one is judging you, the chances are if you asked any of the more experience looking weight lifters there to help you, they would. If they don't look as experienced, chances are they are just as conscious as you. Walk in full of confidence, with your plan, smash your session and believe me it won't be as scary as you might think.
How to include weights in your plan?
This can vary on your current fitness/ experience. For a beginner I would recommend introducing weights 2/3 times a week with full body sessions. Focus on perfecting your form. Push your muscles to fatigue/ failure on the last sets of each exercise, keep rest times low and focus on compound exercises using big muscle groups. Using supersets (2 exercises no rest) or Tri-sets (3 exercises no rest) is perfect for a fat loss plan if set out correctly. Your sessions should include a good warm up, stretch to finish and last no longer than 45-60 minutes MAX! That's long enough for anyone..
Any question please comment on the article or email firstname.lastname@example.org
When starting out on any fat loss journey it can be an absolute minefield searching for the exercise plan that is going to get you the best result. Should you be clocking up miles of long distance running or sprinting between lampposts? Should you join the local bodypump class or join the bodybuilders gym next door? Should you really be stressing about what exercise to do or just dust off your gym kit and get on with what you enjoy?
This little article will set you off in the right direction.
First of all let’s start with the basics of FATLOSS (note the FAT, not WEIGHT LOSS). If your goal is to shed a few pounds of scale weight, chances are your goal is FATLOSS. The main aim of your training & nutrition plan should be to create a caloric deficit. Ultimately this means you want to be burning more calories than you’re consuming. That’s not to say eating 300kcal a day and a couple of the latest juice detox drinks is the way to go but that’s a whole new subject on its own. Instead aiming to create a caloric deficit of 250-500 calories UNDER your total maintenance requirement is a safe starting point.
How can you create this deficit?
There are 2 ways; exercise and food intake. All calories are consumed from the stuff we all love, food. Calories are burnt doing every day activity such as getting up, going to work and of course, exercise. Let’s be honest no one wants to starve themselves of the foods we all love so let’s look at ways of burning calories with exercise and find out if the choice exercise really does matter.
Starting with the Types of exercise we have;
Which should you choose if FATLOSS is the goal?
Steady state cardio is the go to for most newbie’s starting out their journey. It’s easily accessible, what a lot of people see as the most effective and I’m sure plenty of people have had great results doing it. However it is not the biggest bang for your buck choice of exercise. To burn a substantial amount of calories plodding along on the treadmill takes a lot of time, and can be quite tedious for most (me included). That’s not to say steady state cardio shouldn’t have a place in your plan, if you genuinely enjoy it then go for it! At the end of the day the aim is to create a caloric deficit, and steady state cardio certainly does that.
Group exercise is another very popular choice of exercise; its sociable, good fun, fairly easily accessible and can be hard work (if you’re not one who hides at the back talking about Coro). There are literally hundreds of classes available now, and although some less intense than others. ALL can be great calorie burners IF you put the work in. The most effective part of group exercise in my opinion is the social side, which often means people keep going back, which means they stick to exercising consistently. Consistency is the key to success!
High intensity interval training (HIIT). This is one often overlooked purely for the fact, its bloody hard work! If you finish a HIIT session without feeling like your lungs could pop any minute, you’ve quite simply not done it properly. A true HIIT session should last no longer than 10-15 minutes, within these minutes your probably working for around 2 minutes in total. Are you going to burn 4- 500 calories in 2 minutes of work, probably not, but your body will be burning a shit load of calories for hours after. An extra tip- adding in 15-20 minutes of steady state cardio after HIIT can be very useful.
Resistance training is often seen by most as the stuff bodybuilders do, which is correct. However if your goal is fat loss, chances are you want to build a better body- bodybuilding. Adding resistance training into your plan will not all of a sudden turn you into the next Arnold Schwarzenegger, this takes years and years of serious hard work and dedication. However building a small amount of muscle tissue whilst burning the unwanted fat will give you the ‘toned’ and ‘lean’ look. At the same time that muscle will be burning more calories in a rested state, therefore creating a larger caloric deficit in day to day life. WIN WIN!
BUT does it really matter which one?
No, not really. All of the above burn calories, albeit at different rates. So including any or a mix of each will help create the caloric deficit needed to achieve your fat loss goals.
However, in my opinion and experience, resistance training done right is one of the biggest calorie burning fat loss tools in the exercise tool box. If you want efficient and sustainable results I would include resistance training as a core part of your plan but then include the stuff you enjoy. At the end of the day, consistency is KEY so find the exercise that you are most likely to stick to long term.
Thanks for reading,
Luke Tarbatt – Personal Training