Most commonly observed training mistakes

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Too many times I’ve come across clients that are stuck in the same scenario; they’re training multiple times a week, putting in that work, but they are seeing zero physical change. There is nothing more frustrating than waking up early everyday to train (or training late at night) and not seeing any reward for your effort.  Here are a couple of reasons why this may be and what you can do to rectify the situation.

Mind muscle connection

The mind-muscle connection is one of the most important factors when it comes to the quality of your workout. Are you really activating the muscle mentally before you perform your specific move? The premise of this connection is that if you think about a muscle while you’re training , its easier to recruit that muscle and make it grow.  Take the seated row for example; it’s very easy to just go through the motions and usually what happens as a result, is that you feel the move more in your forearms and biceps than your back. To help activate your lats before pulling the cable towards you, try keeping your arms straight (locked out) and retracting your shoulder blades first. Once your shoulder blades have been fully retracted, then pull the cable towards you. This can be applied to every single lifting, pulling or pressing movement. Keeping tension throughout the negative portion of each move will also help train your mind-muscle connection . 

Full range on reps

For those looking to add size to their frame or just looking to better develop their muscles, this ones for you. To build muscle you need to contract the muscle AND also stretch the muscle (to help breakdown the muscle fibers so they grow back stronger). Using the bicep curl as an example, everyone does pretty well contracting the bicep at the top of the curl but I see very few allowing their arm to fulling straighten out on the way back down. These are usually the guys at the gym ego-lifting and trying to impress the chick next to them. If you can’t straighten your arm out fully on the eccentric part of the movement (and flex you triceps to ensure full lockout) then the weight is too heavy for you. Your muscles have no idea what weight is being used; they only know if you can contract and stretch them. Here’s a good tip: look for the guy at the gym slowly bicep curling with 5-10kg dumbbells. He’s the one to watch, not the guy swinging his dumbbells around making intercourse sounds. 

Concentric vs eccentric

Concentric contractions are those which cause the muscle to shorten as it contracts. An example is during a bicep curl when bending the elbow from straight to fully flexed, causing a concentric contraction of the biceps brachii. Eccentric contractions are the opposite of concentric and occur when the muscle lengthens as it contracts. This occurs when the dumbbell is lowered back down after a bicep curl. The greatest muscle growth or change in structure, occurs during the eccentric part of each movement. This is the part you need to be focusing on. A simple way to think of it during your chosen exercise (machine of free weights) is, whenever the weight or load is being lowered, that’s the part you want to really slow down and focus on. On a seated chest press machine the weight plates will go up as you press your arms straight out in front of you. It is when you bring your arms back to you that the weight plates move back down and this is where you want to take your time. 

Intensity/Intent 

Have you ever noticed that the last 10 mins of your training session is usually where your intensity is highest? There can be a number of reasons for this but I find the main one is that you know the workout is nearly done and so you’re trying to finish strong. Your sessions will be so much more effective when you can apply that same intensity right at the start of your session. Don’t take 20-30 mins to get into it. Instead try to hit the ground running after that first set. Again, it’s so easy to just go through the motions and just coast through the workout. The most successful clients I work with give me 100% straight off the bat, even at 7am. If you are training at 7am in the morning, don’t be waking up at 6:30am with just enough time to get to the gym. Set you’re alarm for 6:15am latest and take time to warm up mentally so you are ready and focused by the time you walk through the gym doors. 

Rest between sets

This one is pretty self-explanatory ; get off your mf phone when you’re at the gym. You want to be resting for maximum 60 seconds between regular sets and 90 seconds between supersets. If your checking you’re phone during every break, I guarantee you are taking way more than the appropriate rest between sets. If you can’t put your phone down for 45-60 mins during your training session, you ain’t gonna make it in the long run. No one cares that you’re working out and no one needs to see you posting every exercise you are performing. Successful clients move in silence, without the need to announce every rep they perform to the world. 

How to plan out your transformation

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You’re  probably thinking to yourselves, “ Isn’t it a bit late to put out an article on goals for the year, two weeks into January?” It’s an antiquated thought that all resolutions need to take place on Jan 1st - everyday can be day 1 of your transformation process. 

The obstacle the majority of people face is setting long-term goals without breaking them down into more manageable time frames. Long-term goals can actually have a negative effect on your motivation. If you’ve never been serious about training before, the thought of a year long transformation process would kill most people’s motivation before they even start. You need to break your progress down into 3-4 week blocks; that way you’re focusing all your efforts, a month at a time, on your specific goals. 

Also Look out for is setting goals that are too vague, such as “get fit” or “lose weight”. Is your goal to change the way you look? Improve your posture? Drop that body fat so your abdominals become visible? Add more lean muscle and size to your frame or to drop your body fat mass? I know a lot of people that are “fit” but don’t necessarily look “fit. 
This is because they spend too much time training in ways that aren’t always guaranteed to change their physical appearance, such as high intensity training, bodyweight training and using the try for example. You need to have a specific goal and then apply the most appropriate type of training to it. Changing one’s appearance will always require lifting weights; there is no way around it. If you went to the gym and just focused on watching the number on the scale drop, you run the risk of ending up with a super slim frame and zero muscle mass (this ain’t a good look). For all those ladies that set the goal of “toning up”, what you really mean is you want everything to feel firm to the touch, not soft and flabby. To increase your lean muscle mass you have to use resistance training to attack the muscle fibers deep within. Just doing plyometrics, banded side lunges and ankle weight exercises won’t cut it. These exercises will burn when you are doing them but won’t have any real long lasting effects. 

Example goal : Weight loss ( more suitable goal would be weight loss and lean muscle mass gain )

I would focus all my efforts on using a 3x a week weight-based training program for the first 4 weeks. This would be a program that hits legs and the upper body in each session. You want to make sure you kill two birds with one stone :
drop that excess body fat while adding lean muscle mass at the same time. Slow the reps down and take your time. If you have been training for a while and haven’t seen any real change, it may be time to re-evaluate your technique and more importantly the quality of your reps.  After the first four weeks you can look to specifically focus on certain body parts, such as adding width and size to the back and shoulders, or targeting the glutes and hamstrings for
leaner looking legs. Again, this would be a phase of training lasting for about 4 weeks. The difference is now you would be spending an hour targeting one or two body parts that you wish to improve.  

If you would like further assistance on setting up a game plan for your transformation, contact us at info@top-fit.com or call 27767298.

HOW TO FIND AN EFFECTIVE TRAINER

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With the holidays right around the corner and the new year fast approaching, it’s almost time again for that predictable mad rush back to the gym in January.  When it comes to finding the right trainer for you, the first thing you need to do is decide on one of two things: Am I just looking for a workout that can be done a few times a week or am I looking to transform the way I physically look? There are plenty of places to choose from if your just looking to get your ass handed to you a couple of times a week or if you want to train in a group setting and meet other people etc. Its a completely different story if you are looking to physically change your appearance for the better. 

Over the years I have lost count of how many “trial” sessions I’ve seen other trainers going through with a client they just met. This is pretty standard practice and allows the client to get a feel for how the trainer operates, what their personality is like and ultimately if they would be a good fit together. While there is loads of information on what a trainer should do during this trial session( how to assess a clients strength, flexibility and mobility etc), there isn’t much info on what a client should be looking for in a trainer.  I'm going to highlight some of the more important things clients should look out for when evaluating their trainer. 

Putting you through a generic workout

If you told your trainer you wanted to work on a body transformation and he has you doing  a BS circuit during your first session with push-ups, jumping jacks, mountain climbers etc, that should start the alarm bells ringing. Nobody in the history of all body transformations achieved credible results for their clients by taking them through a circuit training program. Sure, you may drop a couple of pounds, but you definitely won’t be adding much muscle mass to your frame (this is what all transformations boil down too, adding lean muscle mass while dropping body fat at the same time). One of the most effective training programs for this is GBC or German Body Composition training, which roughly breaks down into training the upper body and lower body together as a superset, with minimal rest between sets. 

Training abs when body fat is still too high

This is the one that always makes me look at a trainer like they are missing a few chromosomes. Your client has 30% + body fat and your making them do crunches? why? All my clients know that until they’re  body fat drops to below 20%, we won’t be specifically training abs. Now this isn’t to say the abdominal area doesn’t get trained at all ( abs are engaged when performing squats, deadlifts, overhead press etc) but to specifically spend a part of the workout on abs is a waste of time that can be better spent in other ways. The other thing is the trial session is a chance for the trainer to impress you with his knowledge, so getting you to perform sit-ups isn’t really showing you anything new.

Sticking you on cardio equipment

This one’s pretty simple - your not paying $800-$1000 a session to run on a treadmill or peddle on a stationary bike. You can do that shit at home on your own time and it costs nothing. Cardio is accessory work and should be added into your weekly workout schedule here and there, it should not be the main focus. Resistance training with weights and tempo is where the focus should be.

Can’t tell you what the training plan is for the next several weeks

After the first session or two you should have a good idea of what the next few weeks will involve regarding training methodology, nutritional points to follow and why you’re doing what you’re doing.  Anyone can randomly walk you around the gym for an hour, moving your from one exercise to the next with no purpose or plan and have you gassed at the end of the session. But does that mean you’re actually going to see visible results after a few weeks of that? It takes a clear plan for each client to follow in order for results to happen (although even with a plan in place results are not always guaranteed and that can be down to the client themselves, but that’s another discussion at another time).

Has you doing work you can do at home

Push-ups, crunches, bosu-ball, planks (my all-time favorite)- all stuff that is a complete waste of time if your at a gym with a ton of equipment and machines. If your trainer has you doing these on a regular basis and you can do it yourself at home, what the hell are you paying for? Time under tension (TUT) is key for developing a physique and although the above exercises will give you a great burn and have you feeling like you just killed your workout, trust me you didn’t. To change the way a specific body part/muscle looks and feels, you need to stimulate it at its core, and target the muscle fibers. Resistance, using weights and TUT, is what’s going to really change the way your muscles feel (when clients say they want to get “toned” this is what they actually mean). If you want firm glutes and hams, jumping up and down on one leg on a bosu ball aint going to cut it.

Not in shape (although the opposite doesn’t always guarantee anything either)

Let’s be clear, your trainer HAS to be in shape. You wouldn’t go to a dentist if he had jacked up teeth, so why should this be any different. Now obviously there are some exceptions to the rule, your trainer might be dealing with an injury due to the fact that he/she works out multiple times a week at a high intensity, but for the most part a trainer can’t expect their client to listen to them when it comes to areas like nutrition if he/she looks like they have been storing up for the winter. 

At the end of the day the first few sessions with a trainer should be just as much of a test for the trainer aswell as the client. You’re essentially about to drop a couple of racks on someone your putting your trust into getting you to where you need to be, so don’t take the decision lightly. Find their profile on social media and check out what results they have achieved with previous clients to help you make the best decision possible.