Thursday, 25 October 2012

Fasted workouts- how to get a 6 pack part 2

People seem to have a strong opinion either way about fasted training. I used fasted workouts on my client and the results were pretty spectacular. I have been using them for many years and on myself too. However, I only used fasted workouts with the following conditions.

1. The client has been eating a specifically low carb diet for some time and has developed a good relationship with food.
2. They don't have a strong psychological link with the need to eat before a workout.
3. They have a good level of muscular condition.
4. They haven' got obvious food or body issues which could turn into an obsessive compulsive disorder.

Even though fasting in this case is merely having a late breakfast, it is very important that you know if it is right for you. First lets have a quick look at why fasting is used.

Fasting is nothing new. There was documentary earlier in the year on the BBC which studied the effectiveness of Fasting. Scientists seem to think it has some interesting applications to health. Some of you may have read "Eat Stop Eat,", by Brad Pilon. He has been talking about the effectiveness of fasting for over 10 years. Also, studies dating back before the 80's show that fat is metabolised quicker when your body has been in a fasted state for 12 hours or more. So people then say, "well you get energy from carbs, or "they can't train without food." I think if it makes you miserable to not eat before your session, don't do it. However, I don't have any scientific information which backs up the NEED to "eat for fuel" for your exercise session. It appears to be mainly psychological. The only thing that will be burnt up when you eat before you train will be what you ate, which will most likely make you hungry. So you eat again and you are back to square one. This is ok if you aren't trying to lose fat.

So how do you train on an empty stomach. Once I have got my clients to become more efficient at burning fat as fuel (not officially tested although you can through having your metabolic rate tested) they are ready to use existing fuel (fat) and muscle energy during the session. We aren't looking at PB's so the session needs to be put together carefully. Preferably a day when you can train early and 12 hours after your last meal. The guy in the recent pictures was fearful he would have the strength of a field mouse, but actually there was no difference at all. However, the session was geared slightly differently. We did a variation of 2 different kinds of workouts (+ others but these were the main ones). The first was similar to Martin Rooney's Hurricane Training. This involves sprints and weights as part of a circuit. Here is one of his.

A1. Bench press 12 reps
A2. Pull ups. 8 reps
A3. sprinting on the treadmill at 14 kph, 10% incline for 30 seconds.

There was no rest in between each exercise but you rest at the end. You repeat this 3 times then pick 2 fresh weight challenges and increase the speed on the treadmill and start your next set of 3. In total you do 9 sets.

Even though we dialled back the weights, he was still banging out 12 reps of bench press at 70 kg. This is not an easy workout.

One of the other workouts we did was German Body Composition (GBC). This again involves weights but you have short rest with 40s worth of work in the muscle. In total my client was working his legs 3 times per week. 2 lots of hurricane training sessions and 1 GBC. Here is a sample GBC session. The rest varied but was never more than 45 seconds between each exercise and we did 4 sets, 8-12 reps except for the last pair of exercises which were higher reps (15-20 reps).

A1. Split squat.
A2. Standing military press.

B1. Weighted step ups.
B2. Chin ups.

C1. Lying dumbbell tricep extension
C2. Incline dumbbell curls.

Again, he was able to shift a significant percentage of the usual weights normally uses.

It can be a minefield looking into fasted workouts and purely for peace of mind, I would suggest speaking to someone knowledgeable about it before you dismiss it as a fad. Unless you have a medical condition, eating a bit later in the day is not something which should cause as many problems as is made out. Again, if it is something you just can't do or don't like the look of, don't do it. It isn't for everyone. Those that can get into it though, do get very good results. Just ensure that you seek professional guidance before you think about doing it. This is purely to help with how it can affect you psychologically as well as what to have as a post workout meal and what to eat the night before.

Monday, 22 October 2012

How to get a six pack

This is a question I get asked by a lot of men. Never when other men are around though. It's always when I'm alone. Despite what you read in fitness magazines, getting a six pack in 6 weeks is either a venture for the genetically gifted or an athlete who has been deconditioned before hand. For the rest of society, it will take longer than 6 weeks and it will take longer than a few exercises in a £3.99 magazine. So here a few common rules about getting a 6 pack which circle the fitness industry.

1. Abs are made in the kitchen.
2. Eat slightly lower complex carbs than you currently are and very little refined carbs.
3. Eradicate all forms of sugar.
4. Lift weights.
5. Perform interval training.
6. Eat more protein.
7. Cut out alcohol.
8. Increase your intake of Omega 3.
9. Fasted workouts.
10.Get healthy.

I doubt you would see all these in a magazine as it will leave the reader bemused. The reality is you need to work damn hard to get a 6 pack. If you stick to a long-term program you will achieve good results.

Here is a sample week of a client who has never had visible abs in his entire life until he was 46. Even when he was leaner in his teens, he didn't have abs like he does now.

Warning. This program is fully supervised and shouldn't be done without professional guidance.


Fast until lunch. Late lunch, protein salad. Boxing training/cardio. protein shake after. Light evening meal of 25g of brown rice with a small piece of protein and some veg.


Trains with me. Protein smoothie after workout. Lunch, 25-35g rice with piece of fish and vegetables. Small snack around 3. Avocado/nuts with a piece of chicken and a piece of fruit. Evening meal of dark green salad, vegetables and piece of fish.


Long fast. Eats at 6pm. Just has water and a green drink throughout the day.


Train with me. Same as Tuesday.


Same as Tuesday.


Soaked porridge for breakfast. Sometimes something much worse. Salad for lunch. Evening meal mainly unknown along with copious amounts of alcohol.


Light breakfast, Light lunch and Sunday meal with his family.

We don't do any conventional cardio. He only sprints for about 30 seconds on a treadmill. His weight training during a fat burning phase is one day of German Body composition training (reps lasting for 40 seconds with short rest intervals). The other days are sprints and weights. During which his heart rate is pretty high. During a fat loss cycle, all workouts are fasted.

He aims for about 150g of protein on training days. As it is high (ish depending on who you speak to), I wanted him to substitute animal protein for a plant based protein shake to not contribute to the load on his liver. Also to keep his diet mainly alkaline. There was no difference during the change. Low carbs during a fat loss cycle. 100-150g during a building phase.

Supplements. Fish oil, protein shake (a vegan shake), green drink, amino acids, sometimes creatine and ZMA to aid recovery. You could get by without them but I couldn't say whether you would not be able to get out of bed or whether you would last the day after your training session. I'm not overly keen on creatine as even though there is plenty of evidence to say that it works, I'm not convinced that is is essential. So he only has it after his session. This is specific for the kind of training we do. It isn't for everyone

Just to add, this is a typical good week. We have had weeks when his socialising can be quite erratic and he would probably be much leaner and got results faster. However, it's all about knowing what balance works for you and I think he's done pretty well. He's now at 12.5%. If you did half of what he does, you would get pretty good results too.

Do you want to see specific workouts?

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The art of swimming

Front crawl has always been an art that has plagued my life. At the back of my mind, I had this nagging thought that I had never really mastered effortless swimming. I'm not naturally buoyant and probably used my African genes as an excuse. So I decided to follow the Fit School principles and overcome this through expert coaching and a road map to success. So I hired a swimming coach.

The question Ray asked me was where I wanted to go with this. I want to be able to swim a mile front crawl, pretty quick and not need CPR when I get out. I wanted to master effortless speed. I also watched a lot of swimming over the summer and it hit home how slow I was! My coach, Ray, straight away hit me with some information. In his opinion, black people not being able to swim is more soci-economic than genetic. The buoyancy of the American swimming team was tested they were no more or no less buoyant than the average person. So buoyancy isn't a prerequisite to becoming a better swimmer. He believes that there will be more black swimmers at future games and they will challenge and overtake their white colleagues. Just like everything I bang on about in my job. It comes down to technique. If you are less buoyant, you can't get away with poor technique.

I was down at Swim Canary Wharf where they have an endless pool with underwater cameras. The jets from the pool accentuate your poor technique and when you get it right, you feel the water stream beneath you. I have to say, that after one lesson, I was already feeling more streamline in the water and less like I needed an oxygen mask when I got out. Ray told me my drills and how often I needed to practice them. He was quite clear. Do this and get that.

I have to say that I fully trust my coach. Why? He is in control of the goal I have given him. A lot of people don't like being told what to do and the notion of a coach jars with them. People often say, "you should know it yourself..." or " what can they tell me that I don't know myself..." He's only doing what I am telling him to do except his is getting out of me what I can't do myself. He's also putting all the information into an order that makes sense to me. I have no doubt that I could Google all the drills he has given me, but they wouldn't make sense and I probably wouldn't do them properly. I really haven't got the time to waste doing things halfheartedly. The majority of athletes have coaches, it would be more uncommon to not have one. So if you want results, why would getting a coach seem strange?

So the take home lessons are you can't beat expert coaching. Technique is everything. You need a programme and a road map for success. Also a personal goal for me could be to see where this goes and try to get more adults and black people swimming. One thing that hasn't changed though. After swimming, I was absolutely STARVING!!

Super soup 3

This is one of my favourites from "The Primal Blueprint Cookbook. It is a great way to get your greens in.


2 tablespoons of butter
1 small onion
1 large garlic clove, chopped
250 ml of chicken stock/broth*
1 head of broccoli**
1 carrot
1 cup of coconut milk

*When using stock cubes, it will create a saltier taste so taste as you go along and if necessary, add more broccoli or carrots.

**Preferably you want to steam the broccoli while the onions are being cooked but if you boil them, only boil them for 3 minutes maximum.

Heat the butter in a saucepan. Add the onions and cook slowly. Don't let them burn. When translucent, add the garlic and cook for a few minutes. Do not let them burn.

Add the broth/stock and carrots. Turn the heat up high to a boil. Then add half the steamed/boiled broccoli and cook for a few minutes until the veg is soft. Turn off the heat and blitz the lot with a blender. Be careful as hot soup will splatter as you blend it.

Once it is in a smooth consistency, return to the heat, add the remaining broccoli and the coconut milk. Cook for a few minutes then serve!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Top soups for winter

The Long Johns are on and it's starting to get cold so I thought I would dig out some soup recipes that I have made over the years. Homemade soups are great for not only getting a lot of vegetables in, but mixed with some good carbohydrates, they can make a complete meal for you or your family. They are a million times better than the ones you buy from the supermarket as you can control what you put in them and you can also tweak the flavour to suit your taste.

Have a go at some of these and let me know of any tweaks you made to suit your taste.

Pea, mint and bacon soup.

- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- a small knob of butter
- 1/2 onion
- 4 bacon rashers
- 1 garlic clove
-150g of frozen peas
- 150-250 ml of vegetable stock (depending on taste)
-1-2 handfuls of chopped mint (depending on taste)

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onions and butter and fry gently so they aren't coloured.

Add the bacon and cook until it goes golden. Add the garlic at the end but be careful not to burn it. It will make the soup taste rancid.

Add the peas, vegetable stock. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes (add the mint at this point) until the peas can be easily squashed.

Blitz the whole lot and add more water if you want it more runny. Also add pepper to taste.

If you want more pea taste, just boil a few more peas and add them to it. Next time use the larger quantity stated in the recipe.

Enjoy, there are more to come!

Monday, 1 October 2012

In defence of BMI

Every trainer in the land chokes on their carrot stick when they hear the letters BMI. I used to be one of those trainers too. What exactly is it and why do trainers get their knickers in a twist?

BMI is a calculation which divides a person's weight by the square of their height. A score of 25-29.9 puts you in the 'overweight bracket' and anything over 29.9 classes you as obese. It was originally invented in the 1800's and its purpose was to see what the average man looked like and had very little to do with health. A guy called Ancel Keyes studied this relationship between height and weight (originally invented by Adolphe Quetelet). After looking at different formulas, he determined that this was the best one and it became known as the Body Mass Index. However, Keyes rubber stamp came with a warning. It shouldn't be used for individual diagnosis as it ignores a lot of other factors. Factors which many trainers and are in uproar about. Here are some of the issues trainers have.

Your BMI will go down if you get taller but stay the same weight. It will also go down if you get lighter. You aren't going to get taller as an adult. In fact, you will get shorter as you age. Also, it doesn't take into account sex, ethnicity, genetics, amputees....the list goes on. So it's pretty obvious to see some of the flaws. It was only meant to be used as a guide and further tests would need to be done to ascertain health issues. Now it is used by Doctors, insurance companies, weight loss companies.....the list goes on. So should it be ignored? I used to think so, but now I'm not too sure.

When you collect data together like this and try to see any relationships between the group, people will always get missed off the edges. In the last week I have heard one guy say "BMI is rubbish because I'm apparently obese yet i'm 5ft 8", weigh 13 stone and 5% bodyfat." Well your argument falls flat on your face mate. How many people are that lean? You'd be lucky to do skinfold measurements on 10 random guys in the street and get an average bodyfat reading under 20%. Then you have the slim guys who are TOFI shaped(Thin outside fat inside). They will have an apparently healthy BMI yet may be less than healthy (higher levels of visceral fat around internal organs). Again, in today's society, this isn't indicative of the average person (TOFI shaped people, not high levels of visceral fat).

So what am I getting at? Trainers and other critics of BMI seem to have helped convince those who have dangerously high bodyfat levels that there is nothing to worry about. I agree that it is a pretty arbitary measure and never use it myself. I'm classed as overweight on my BMI. Howver the reality is if your BMI says you are obese, there is a high probability that you need to do something about it. BMI is pretty useful in telling people who are kidding themselves that they need to take action. Not everyone can get their bodyfat checked or get their health checked in a few minutes. However, you can get your BMI done in a matter of minutes. Any trainers who think BMI is nonsense should think about doing the following study. The average person does not exercise 3 times a week and is not muscular (in the western world). So this group should not be included. You'll need an 'average range' for heights of men and women. Anyone very tall or a lot shorter than the average shouldn't be included either. Finally, very thin people shouldn't be included. In the group that is left, any person who they start training who has a BMI score over 29.9, send them off to get some health checks. When they get the results, either put a tick or a cross next to BMI. I guarantee that you will have more ticks than crosses.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Train like an 18 month old for superior results.

My son is true champion. He puts myself and other trainers to shame with his approach to life. He understands training better than I do without reading a single book and we should all take note if we want to get superior results. Here is his programme.

1. In order to get real growth (bone, vital organs) not just muscle like those dumb-ass grownups try to do, you need to get some decent sleep. When I really want to grow, I'll have 2 sleeps. 3 hours during the day and at least 12 at night. How do you expect to grow when you are moving around so damn much?? You grow when you rest.

2. Where possible, get someone to carry you around to save vital energy. When I'm tired, i just get into my pram or get my dad to carry me. He's a sucker for my open arms.

3. Don't play it safe. Push yourself in different ways when you train. I'll try to climb the sofa, do some stairs and improve each time. I fell off the other day though, but you don't make an omelet without breaking some eggs.

4. Stay flexible. It makes movement easier and gets you out of tight spots when you get stuck trying to squeeze between the cupboard and the dishwasher. I'll do yoga and Pilates a few times a day

5. Eat like a horse, but listen to your body. When I really want to grow, I eat tons. Not everyday, as I will feel sick, but luckily I don't have to clear it up. Each meal I eat a bit more than normal but I make sure it is all healthy. I probably could eat garbage but it wouldn't be a smart move. However, sometimes I don't feel like eating, so I don't eat.

6. Try a variety of foods. I'll eat different coloured vegetables and protein sources. Recently, I have tried slugs and beetles. A bit chewy, but a nice addition.

7. Work on your grip strength. I'll often swing from my parents hands or try to climb up the side of my cot. I can probably hold myself by my hands which helps me to get to places that my parents would rather I wasn't.

8. Do interval training. I'll move around really quickly for a few minutes then just chill with some toys. Repeat AMRAP.

9. Study movement. I often watch what people are doing so I can learn how to move better. It's how I learnt to walk. I like watching the men on telly running really fast. However, I would find someone who you want to be like otherwise if you copy the wrong person, it will ruin your development.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Anyone seen the glute?

What do the 2 pictures have in common? Both are endangered species but one lives in Africa and one used to live in the back of your trousers. The poor glute has been hunted to extinction by sitting down, taking the lift/escalator, partial squats, lack of sprinting or weight training and general lack of activity. Now, just like a multi-storey car park being built on the land that the red eared nose spotted monkey used to live on, low slung, ill fitting jeans have moved in where the poor glute used to live.

The fella above actually has some glutes. It is unfortunate that his trousers are trying to squeeze the hell out of them. The reason why people can carry off the fashion wear above is because we don't use the glutes for their proper function. Have you ever seen someone wearing the low slung trousers run, climb the stairs or squat?? They immediately have to adjust their trousers as their glutes are fighting for their survival.

With all seriousness, the glutes are an integral part of the human body. If there was one muscle I wouldn't want to lose (this isn't a chapter from 50 shades ladies) it would be my glutes. So i'm doing a glute awareness week next week on my Facebook page which I will convert to a blog. It will be exercises and tips to prevent your glutes from becoming an endangered specie. If it does, you will probably be paying a physio a lot of money when you get older, but more of this next week.

Long live the glute!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Age is an excuse.

I was discussing the age old issue of age and exercise with some fellow trainers and thought I would make it into a blog. Even though most don't want to think about it, it will affect all of us at some point.

A lot of older people often ask tongue in cheek if I am still doing my job. Part of it is a misunderstanding as to what I actually do. I don't pound the streets, or teach 100 classes a month. I used to play competitive sport and have had my fair share of operations and injury. A younger Chris sat in my doctor's surgery with a frozen shoulder at the age of 16 reminds me of how I need to respect my body!!

Older people will always moan to those younger than them. A 90 year old will still moan to an 80 year old that they aren't as old as them!! It's quite funny when you hear it. Mostly it's the need to feel superior. Sometimes, it is regret or feeling sorry for themselves. I know, I have done it. However, I am noticing the 'age' argument coming into play with younger and younger people. Before we accept the age argument, I need to point out a few things.

Most people are out of shape and have poor condition. By condition, I mean readiness for activity. Exercise doesn't have to be a 10 mile run. It could be running for the bus, or playing with your kids. So when this group of people complain about age, we have to treat the sample population as a poor one. We can't base our beliefs and opinions on a society of people who can't negotiate their own body weight very well. We certainly shouldn't be making statements based on false conclusions either. "You look much younger than a 35 year old." When actually, you look EXACLTY like a 35 year old. The problem is, other 35 year old's look like they're 10 years older. Mainly because their diet is terrible and they don't exercise. The main thing all of my clients were told then they lost weight was how much younger they looked. However, there are other age related factors which we can't necessarily escape.

Your ability to build muscle mass.

VO2 max.

GI levels.


Enzymatic activity.

cognitive processes or capacity.


Reduction in IV disc space.

Wow, there is a lot to feel sorry for in the list above. However, Just because they are in decline, doesn't mean that they all cease to function. At first glance, one might think that we are screwed. However, despite those who think exercise, gyms and training are for those who are vain, there are scientists scrambling to replicate the effects of staying fit and active into old age. One example of this is muscle atrophy. Scientists have discovered that elderly people have less blood flow than younger people which seems to affect the supply of nutrients as well maintaining muscle mass and an optimum balance of hormones. The study showed after following a 20 week resistance training program, 3 times a week, the participants were able to restore the blood flow to that of a much younger person. This increase nutrient absorption and your ability to maintain muscle mass. The last thing you want to do is lose too much muscle mass as you age because it means you are getting weaker. Despite the perception of muscle, it has a function other than vanity.

Similarly, Myelin, which insulates nervous pathways to improve efficiency, drops off around the age of 50. However, you don't lose this ability completely. This isn't specific to exercise. It could be learning a language. Our body is able to keep itself young so long as it is exercised in the right way. I think it is crazy that in one corner, scientists are trying to reduce the aging process to improve health and fight disease. Then there are younger people who have the ability to do this but chose not to because they would rather just wait and get old. I think it is a sad waste.

I had a chat with a 72 year old and this is what he said. "Until recently, I used to lift heavy weights, but I still train. I also go rambling with other elderly people. I exercise my mind by reading and I'm still waiting for the decline to happen. I haven't felt a thing." Even though, life can deal us the unexpected, to do nothing, will take you closer to a life of degeneration. Quit with the excuses. It's ok to feel sorry for yourself, but don't blame your age. Change your expectations, get in the gym and start giving your body what it wants.

P.s My oldest client who is 65 bangs out 50 press ups.