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BESTFIT Issue 18 – Ask the Experts

experts-cover

experts-cover

Here are five essential items of exercise equipment to have at home.

You can actually get many of these items from the bigger supermarkets these days, so there’s no excuse!

Resistance Bands

These are effective for promoting a greater metabolic effect, which will send signals for muscle growth. Perform a regular set of 5-8 reps, then perform additional reps with a weight 10-30% lighter immediately afterwards. I wouldn’t advise doing more than 1 drop set on big compound or full-body movements, but when it comes to smaller muscle groups you can perform 2 or 3 drop sets without placing too much stress on your body.

Suspension Trainer or Gymnastic Rings

Your body is stronger at moving weight in certain positions than others. Take advantage of this to create a mechanical drop set using the same weight. For example, on the dumbbell bench press, people are generally stronger on a flat bench than on an incline. Therefore try starting with a heavy incline dumbbell bench press for 5-8 reps then immediately drop the bench angle to flat and perform as many reps as you can with that same weight. This can be done with many exercises… get creative!

Yoga Mat

Focusing on the eccentric part of the lift (where the muscle is lengthening whilst contracting) is what you will see many bodybuilders doing. This is because eccentric contractions are associated with greater muscle damage (and soreness!), which is one ingredient in the muscle building equation. Try a phase of lowering your weights over 3-5 seconds, then explosively lifting them in around 1 second. 8-12 reps per set of this is about right.

Kettlebell

Try this: pick up a weight with which you can normally perform 5-10 reps, and set a timer between 30 seconds and one minute and get as many reps as you can in that time frame. Then try to beat your score the next time to do it.

Foam Roller

Cheat reps can actually be a good thing as long as your lifting technique remains safe and you have a good training partner to spot you. Perform a regular set, then at the point of fatigue get your training partner to help you get out another couple of reps. You are generally 20% stronger during an eccentric contraction so ask them to help you with the concentric portion (weight raising/muscle lengthening) then do the eccentric portion (lowering / muscle lengthening) by yourself.

Mythbuster

Will lifting weights make me slower?

Let’s make this one clear; lifting weights does not make you big and slow. In fact, if done correctly, resistance training can make you faster and more powerful without increasing or even reducing you body mass.

Some of the fastest individuals on the planet are capable of lifting some seriously impressive loads in the weight room. My track and field sprinters, jumpers and throwers nearly always out-perform my rugby players when it comes to loads lifted in comparison to bodyweight!

There’s still a misconception amongst some endurance sports athletes that lifting weights will bulk them up, slow them down and also add to fatigue that will affect their other training. Again this will not happen if gym-based resistance training is appropriately prescribed. Studies have shown that strength training and plyometric training can both enhance a runner’s economy of movement, improve performance times and also aid injury prevention.

So how do you lift weights to improve your speed?

Firstly, ensure that you have the intent to lift the weights as explosively as possible during every repetition, especially on the concentric portion (muscle shortening/lifting phase). You should also keep the repetitions low, below 6 reps, and the rest periods high, above 2 minutes between sets. Make sure you are also lifting a variety of heavy and light loads within your training cycles, but always remember to lift them explosively.

Nutrition-Knowhow

Batch-cook your way to success! Ben Coomber explains why batch cooking is king and how you can do it without breaking the bank…or using up all your free time.

Reaching a goal in terms of health, fitness, weight management or sporting performance means that you need to eat accordingly, but modern life can make that hard to do.

Finding a freshly cooked, moderate to high protein meal with 2-3 servings of vegetables and a high-fibre starchy carbohydrate, along with a reasonable source of good fats ‘on the go’ is just about impossible; so it’s a really good idea to take food with you.

Being prepared is a good thing. Everyone I know who is successful on a diet, or successful in their sport, will take their lunch with them unless they are going somewhere they know will provide a good meal. And let’s not forget that taking food with you is almost invariably cheaper, too.

However, this can come at a cost… it’s a bit of a pain. Getting up early to make your lunch from scratch, or spending an extra half hour of your precious evening time in the kitchen cooking up a stir fry for the next day is quite an ask for folk short on time. For this reason, most ‘in the know’ (my clients who work in offices or otherwise away from home included) will batch-cook a load of meals for the week ahead, generally spending an hour on Sunday to make up a week’s worth of lunches.

So, here are my top five kitchen essentials for saving time and money, dietary adherence boosting, colleague jealousy-inducing batch-cook wizardry.

Decent Tupperware

There are plastic containers, and there are good plastic containers. You want something that will keep your food safe, so a standard box which just clicks shut then leaks tuna juice all over your shorts isn’t going to cut it. Decent snap-lock boxes are a little pricier but will pay off in the long run. Once you have your boxes, take care of them. There’s nothing worse than finding an old Tupperware in the boot of your car with food scraps left off last June – except perhaps trying to find the lid for your box when you’re already running late. Buy good products, clean them and store them properly.

Cooler Bag

This is only really an issue for those who go on trips away, who work out of the office or who need to take food for a few hours on the road. A decent cooler bag big enough for 1-2 meals and small enough so that you don’t look like some 1990’s bodybuilding throwback won’t cost much, but the glory of pulling out a chilled salad instead of some lank – room temperature spinach cannot be denied.

Freezer Space

The best way to batch cook is to cook 2-3 lots of food at a time and then freeze it so you can rotate meals. Having the choice between 4-5 different lunches rather than eating the same paella every day is a really nice thing. You may not have the luxury of a chest freezer, or indeed of having your own freezer that you don’t have to share with the family (or roommates), but whatever freezer space you have, use it wisely.

A Wholesaler Card

Membership to a local Makro, Costco or similar is a godsend. If you’re cooking in bulk, you’ll need to buy in bulk, and buying two week’s worth of meat is a costly experience, so grabbing some bargains thanks to good old economy of scale is great. Most wholesalers will have chicken breast for £4 per kilo, eggs for a fraction of the price of the supermarkets and more frozen fish than you’ll ever need.

A Slow Cooker

When it comes to batch cooking, a slow cooker is king. What would ordinarily be a few hours in the kitchen can be reduced to throwing some (often cheap) cuts of meat, a liquid, some flavour and some veggies into a slow cooker. Turn it on in the morning, go to work, come home and eat a warm fresh dinner, portion up three more lots and your lunches are sorted for the next few days.
Eating well and being prepared doesn’t get any easier than that!

 

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