Sunday, October 30, 2011

12 Week Personal Training Programme - Functional Resistance Training

Moving on to the intermediate level of resistance and the exercises begin to get a little more challenging for your core, proprioception, balance and stability. This is intentional, not only does it fire up your nervous system but it also helps carry over the benefits into our daily lives.

Week 7: Resistance Intermediate (Strength & Stability)

It's time to get functional

We all have goals that we are aiming to achieve when we embark on an exercise programme, for most of us it is the losing weight and looking good that is most important. However, very little thought is usually taken over exactly how our exercises will transfer over into daily life. How many times have you attended a gym or health club and been show how to use all the machines, then had a programme designed by a, so called, fitness professional that has you moving from one machine to the next. In our daily life, do we sit down and perform these unusual movements? No, we stand and bend and twist as we balance our way through daily life. Our exercise programmes must be based on function, not only because the movements are more natural but because they are far more successful at achieving your overall goals in the first place.

Functional exercise is by far the most productive form of exercise prescription whether it be for daily living, sports specific like golf, or for rehabilitation after injury. If you want help or advice on a functional exercise programme to suit you then you can contact me directly but for a few basic rules on whether a routine is functional or not you can ask yourself the following questions:

1) Does the movement follow a natural path or is it forced? Most machines have fixed hand positions that do not mimic our natural range of movement and can be bad for our joints.

2) Is it isolated (sacrifice function) or integrated (cause chain reaction throughout body)? Movements should be compound (Multi-joint). They burn more calories, are more natural and require more stability. If you think about any daily activity it never involves just one muscle, muscles have no functional individuality so why train them this way?

3) Are you challenging your balance and stabilisation like you do in daily life? We rarely spend time symmetrically on both feet, whether walking, running, bending, reaching etc. we are always transferring weight from one side of our body to the other.

4) Are you exercising 3-dimensional, are we moving in all 3 planes of movement, Sagittal (forward facing), frontal (to the side), transverse (twisting). We live in a 3D world, so we must train that way.

The following exercises show a good progression from week 3's basic resistance programme into functional training. Most of the exercises demonstrate a good functional movement for improving daily life activities. If training for a particular goal or sport like golf or tennis then the introduction of equipment may be necessary eg. stability balls, medicine balls, bands etc. but for basic function these exercises are a good starting point. Perform each exercise 10-20 times depending on ability and try to improve each workout. Complete this resistance program 3 times a week with a gentle 5 min walk before and afterwards, complete the stretching routine after that. Allow a days rest in between to recover.

A Cautionary Note

No exercise program should be painful, there is a difference between being tired and in pain. If you feel pain at any time then stop and consult a doctor. Pain indicates either incorrect technique or a medical problem. If you have any doubts about your current state of health then consult a medical professional before embarking on any fitness program.


Weeks 1-2 (3 x week)

5 Min Walk Warm up

2 x Complete circuits 10-20 x per exercise

5 Min Walk Cool Down

Stretching routine particularly those tight muscles.

Weeks 3-4 (3 x week)

As above but 3 x complete circuits 10-20 x per exercise

Next week: Nutrition

1 Leg Balance and reach

Great exercise to fire up the nervous system, improve balance, stability, flexibility and the core.

a) Stand tall on one leg arms above and shoulder width apart

b) Reach over to the side keeping your back straight as far as your flexibility will allow, if your balance fails try again but don't reach as far over.

c) Also try reaching forward, overhead and twisting to reach behind.

d) Swap legs, if one is weaker then spend more time on that side.

1 Leg Squat and Reach

This is a natural progression from the regular squat from week 3. It's very functional as we spend time bending and picking things up off the ground. It also challenges balance, core stability and works the quads and glutes intensely.

a) Standing on one leg gently lower yourself down, breathing in deeply and chest high, ensuring you keep your heel in contact with the floor. Try to get your thigh down to horizontal before reaching forward to touch the floor in front. Maintain a balanced pelvis throughout.

b) Exhale and push up using your leg.

c) This exercise takes time to perfect and I like to use an object to pick up and put down again for focus.

d) Try touching down in various areas in front to improve functionality.

Isometric prone up and down

This is a functional progression from week 3's prone position. It's dynamic and improves shoulder strength as well as overall core stability.

a) Lie face down on the ground. Place elbows and forearms underneath your chest.

b) Prop yourself up to form a bridge, using your toes and forearms; make sure your shoulders are directly over your elbows.

c) Maintain a flat back and don't allow your hips to sag towards the ground.

d) Now one hand at a time push up into a press up position, hold for a few seconds and return back to the original position. Photo shows transitional stage from elbows up to hands.

e) If you find this too difficult then try it off your knees.

Multi Directional Lunge

The lunge strengthens the legs, glutes, and improves balance and flexibility and sculpts the lower body. By making the lunge multi directional it mimics our daily movements.

a) Stand with your feet together with hand by your sides.

b) Take a step forward, inhaling on the way, descend slowly by bending at the hips, knee and ankle. Keep your lead foot flat on the floor.

c) Exhale and push back using the lead leg, returning to the start position.

d) Now repeat to the side at various angles and also behind by stepping backwards.

e) Keep torso upright, as leaning forward can cause injury.

Bridge one legged

Stimulates the glutes (bum), tightens up the backs of the legs and strengths the pelvic floor.

a) Lie on your back with one leg bent and the other straight out inline with the other thigh, heel in contact with the ground. Rest your arms by your side, palms downwards. Take a deep breath.

b) Exhale slowly, lifting your hips off the floor, squeezing your glutes until there's a straight line between shoulders, hips and knees. Don't force hips up further as it causes the back muscles to overwork.

c) Hold at the top of the movement for a second, squeezing the glutes tight, then lower the pelvis back towards the floor, inhaling on the way, not letting your backside touch the ground, then repeat.

d) Keep the one leg extended throughout the exercise and change legs half way through eg. 5 one leg and change.

Quadruped one arm one leg

Great for coordination, balance and transverse (twisting) core stability.

a) Begin on all fours, in neutral spine, with abdomen drawn in and chin tucked

b) Slowly raise one arm (thumb up) and the opposite leg, toe pointed away (triple extension).

c) Keep both arm and leg straight while lifting to body height.

d) Hold and return both arm and leg slowly to the ground, maintaining optimal alignment and repeat alternating sides

Certified Mobile London Personal Trainer based in Hampstead and also covering Belsize Park and Finchley areas. Offers a more holistic approach to health and fitness believing that without a sound understanding of all areas of health, namely: Posture, Flexibilty, Nutrition, Stress Management, Cardiovasular and Functional Exercise, true health can never be experienced. One to one personal training sessions are available

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Top 5 Weight Loss Strategies From A Top Level Personal Trainer

You are ready to shed those energy draining, body crippling, unattractive extra pounds and you are ready to make it permanent this time. You are on the right track because you've taken the most important step toward your goal. That step is the decision to take action and stay committed. The following five proven strategies will serve as essential elements in your quest to achieve your weight loss goal.

1) You must put yourself into the right mindset. Don't think of your new efforts at weight loss as trying to do certain things every day. See your self living a new lifestyle, a new lifestyle that naturally includes behavior conducive to positive changes in your health and fitness levels. You transition into this new lifestyle by makng adjustments to your daily habits until these habits are in alignment with the goals you are aiming for.

2) Find an exercise partner. It can be a friend, a co-worker, or a family member. Why is this important? An exercise partner is a tremendous source of support. A partner is crucial on those days when you really don't feel up to exercising. Unless you are sick, a good partner won't let you slack and likewise your partner will need you to pull them up when they are not up for the workout. You being needed is an indirect but important type of support. With an exercise partner comes the element of accountability, which subconsciously reinforces your commitment to your quest.

3) Have a baby or get a puppy. These two strategies work in the same manner. I write about this one from first/second hand experience. My wife, Jeri-Jo, gave birth to our daughter, Darah, nine months ago. Today, she weighs less than she weighed before she got pregnant. What is the mechanism here? Jeri-Jo claims, "With Darah to care for, my mind is focused on her and her needs. Don't get me wrong, I'm not at risk for malnutrition, but I don't eat out of boredom any more simply because there is always something to do. The day flies by and I don't have time to snack on foods that cause weight gain."

The puppy strategy is very similar to the baby strategy. If you are not playing with it, training it, feeding it, walking it or cleaning up after it you are too tired to overeat. And, before you know it your new puppy is done napping and ready for more activities. Like caring for a baby, your puppy requires a lot of attention and mental energy. This prevents many people from unnecessary snacking that prevents weight loss.

4) If you are not ready for a baby or a puppy then take a up a new hobby. A new hobby will get you out of the house, stimulate your mind and prevent you from eating out of boredom. If your hobby is a fitness related activity, such as mountain biking or hiking, then you are really going to make some progress.

5) Drink more water. I know, you've heard this one before. But, can you truthfully say you are doing it? Not many people can. Ponder this. You consist of about 73% water. Your body gives off water all day and all night. You must continuously replenish your water levels in order for your body to function at its highest levels. Many fitness professionals talk about the metabolism slowing down as a result of too little food intake. However, just as important, yet rarely mentioned is water intake and its effect on metabolism. Not getting enough water can cause water retention and a slowing of the metabolism. Both of these can prevent weight loss and cause weight gain.

One little known strategy for boosting water intake is to drink 8 - 12 ounces as soon as you wake up. This helps wake up your metabolism. Another way to boost your water intake is to drink 10 - 12 ounces when you start to feel hungry. Instead of immediately reaching for food, drink the water and see if that calms your hunger until you are ready for your next meal.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Personal Trainers Can Make Or Break Your Success

Do you need a personal trainer? That is the first question that you should be asking yourself. The answer is quite simple... If you walk into the gym and feel lost or confused, then you definitely need a personal trainer. Or, if you pretty much know what you're doing but are seeing very little or no results, you should consult a personal trainer to help make the difference. Believe it or not, even experienced exercise enthusiasts seek out the assistance of personal trainers when they seem to be unable to make any more gains from their daily workouts.

Personal trainers are supposed to be the sole resource necessary to succeed in the gym. The time and education that is required to obtain a certification as a personal trainer is definitely not easy. You should be able to consult your gym's personal trainer regarding your current workout routine and your goals. They should be able to give you suggestions, guidance, and instruction, as well as show you where you are making mistakes.

Most personal trainers also have and in-depth knowledge of dietary needs and requirements, and should be able to give you guidance in those areas as well. In fact, many trainers also compete in body-building or fitness competitions. These trainers are extremely focused on dietary requirements as their body fat content must be extremely minimal during an actual competition. They can give you dietary guidance that is worth its weight in platinum, so pay heed.

Sometimes, you will get lucky and will find a personal trainer that has prior military experience, possibly even Special Forces, who can give you guidance that you couldn't get from your traditionally educated trainers. Believe it or not, most Special Forces groups in the United States Armed Forces go through the same training programs. The Navy SEALS, Army, Marine Corps, & Coast Guard all go to the same Dive School to obtain their dive certification. The physical training that they undergo is grueling to say the least. The same can be said for airborne certification schools that are hosted by the U.S. Army. Every step of the way involves more and more physical training that ensures that their bodies are perfectly tuned for the difficult and continuous abuse of combat, and that they are conditioned for any situation that may arise in the area of their certification. They are the best of the best for that reason, and a personal trainer with that background is an extremely valuable resource.

Some personal trainers aren't so valuable. When the personal training arena became a national craze, a lot of weak certification programs sprung up across the nation. Some people saw personal training certifications as a money maker, and rushed programs into existence to take advantage of the market. This enabled masses of people to take a cheaper course and to acquire their certification in less time. Experience with personal trainers will give you the ability to discern between the two. Having a properly educated personal trainer is a wholesome and completely different experience than having someone trying to train you that knows only a little more than you do. If you have one of these trainers at your gym, avoid them like the plague. Always use a personal trainer with the knowledge to help you, because the lack of this knowledge can literally hurt you.

In the end, your fitness goals must be achieved. If a personal trainer is not helping you to make any gains or improvements, don't be afraid to try someone else. Sometimes a trainer's area of expertise may not coincide with your current fitness needs. Believe it or not, experience depicts how effective that a personal trainer is in certain areas. In this way, personal trainers are very much like Physicians because they can specialize.

Many personal trainers have experience with dealing with certain body types or types of metabolisms. Someone that constantly trains body-builders may not be the trainer for you if you are a beginner or have a higher body fat content than most people... Don't be afraid to ask any and all questions that you may have, including questions regarding the personal trainer's experience. They should be unafraid to hand you off to another trainer that is skilled better to assist you with your current fitness needs. Make sure that you have the right personal trainer for you, and you will see nothing but continued success!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Personal Training - How Do You Choose A Personal Trainer?

In Part One of this article I discussed several benefits of a personal trainer. As a result, many of you may have expanded your understanding of what a personal trainer has to offer and have now decided to consider the services of a personal trainer. This is great news! However, not all trainers are created equal. You must be selective in your choice of a trainer. This article will provide an overview of what to look for in a trainer who will be a good fit for you.


One of the most obvious qualities a personal trainer must possess is a thorough education in the field of exercise science. Their education may be through formal education or self-education. Having had a formal education in exercise science, I can say from experience that there are things you will experience in a degree program that you simply will not be exposed to through self-education alone. Likewise, there are experiences through self-education that you will not be exposed to in a formal education setting. Therefore, I would recommend finding a trainer who has both a formal education (minimum of a bachelor's degree) and a thorough self-education.


A qualified trainer should be certified. The reason I say this is not due to the certification alone, but instead due to the continuing education units required to keep the certification. Like trainers, not all certifications are created equal either. Some require a bachelor's degree in a related field and some do not. The two most reputable certifying organizations are the National Strength and Conditioning Association and American College of Sports Medicine.


Experience is an important aspect of personal training. Why? Because no matter how much knowledge a personal trainer has it basically useless unless he/she is able to effectively apply it to a real life setting. No amount of formal or self-education can take the place of experience. I recommend choosing a trainer with at least two years experience with training a variety of individuals.


The most overlooked quality of a personal trainer is his/her adaptability! Through my experiences as a personal trainer, I have never trained two people who were exactly alike. This applies to their personality traits as well as physical characteristics. You need to find a trainer who can adapt to your individual needs, whether they are physical, emotional, or other.

Now that you understand the benefits (from Part One) of a personal trainer and how to go about selecting a trainer who is right for you, I encourage you to consider this option if you are serious about getting in shape. Contact a few trainers in your area and arrange a consultation (most do this for free) to speak with them one-on-one and see what they bring to the table. I am confident that with the right trainer, personal training will prove to be a very gratifying experience and a rewarding investment.