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Side bends! Part 1 of exercises you should stop wasting your time with yesterday!

As a trainer, it’s quite often pretty hard watching people do useless exercises day in, day out, but it’s a fact of gym life, especially when pretty often, most gym-goers are less than receptive to unsolicited advice. It’s hard a hard topic to broach in the best of circumstances! So unless someone is doing something that will cause injury, I just leave it well enough alone.

But YOU know better, and if you didn’t before, you will after reading this article!

weighted-side-bends-and-other-bs-exercises-fit-glam2

The first exercise on my list is the weighted side bend… and for people with a goal of slimming or spot reducing the waistline, any direct oblique training at all! Don’t do it. Targeting the obliques is counter-intuitive to most people’s goals.

So, side bends. These are probably my #1 exercise that I consider to be the biggest waste of time! Multiply that by 100 if you do these with a weight in both hands. With a weight in both hands, what is the side you are targeting resisting? You’re just balancing out the resistance for a sum total effect of -1 out of 10. With one dumb bell in hand, the training effect is like .5 out of 10, just so you know!

What you should do instead: tricky question. This depends on your goal. If you have any abdominal fat to lose at all, regardless of your goal, you need to clean up your diet. Read my previous article about the rules of transforming your physique, specifically the stuff about spot reduction. Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym, my friend. Diet, diet, diet. There is no other way, no magic exercise. Just solid, consistent dieting and good nutrition. You have to lose the fat on your belly to reveal any definition.

Now, if you have low enough body fat to see your obliques, the next question is do you want to achieve a slim, tapered waistline, or a muscular, athletic waistline which can sometimes look quite thick with little to no taper? The degree to which your waist is inclined towards this “thickness” is largely dependent on your genetics. Targeting your obliques specifically will create hypertrophy in those muscles (i.e: growth). This will thicken the waistline to some degree, so unless one of my clients specifically tells me they want big, well-developed abdominals, I never prescribe any targeted oblique exercises whatsoever and no heavily weighted ab exercises. A light medicine ball is OK.

What can help the appearance of your midsection, regardless of your body fat levels and your goals are all variations of leg lifts, planks, push ups, sit ups (with or without additional resistance, dependent on your goals). Why? All these exercises strengthen and heavily utilise the transverse abdominus – a fundamental internal stabiliser. When this muscle is strong, it works like an internal girdle and sucks everything in. The fibers in this muscle run horizontally and support your spine, wrapping around your internal organs for protection and support. In my experience, incorporating these exercises across the board produces a dramatic aesthetic effect including improved posture, flatter tummies and improved performance.

If you specifically want to develop muscular abs and achieve hypertrophy in your obliques and rectus abdominus, the best exercise you can incorporate into your routine is the kneeling cable ab crunch. In conjunction with a heavy lifting routine that includes squats and deadlifts and maybe some knees-to-elbows and windshield wipers (don’t forget the diet!), you will beef up your abs in no time!

What has given you the best results in your ab training? Was it just diet, or did you do something specific in your training routine? Let me know in the comments!

 

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The 3 principles of body transformation

body-transformations-fit-and-glamorous

  1. There is no such thing as spot reduction.
    Your body gains and loses fat in a predetermined genetic pattern. What this means is that if the first place you gain is your tummy, that’s usually the last place you’ll lose fat. So you can’t do 100 crunches a day in order to flatten your belly. This principle applies to any other body part where there is too much “jiggle” – sometimes doing targeted exercises CAN help because the exercise helps develop the muscle underneath, helping improve the areas appearance a little bit. But if the problem is simply excess fat in a particular area, you just have to work it off all over, and eventually it will come off your trouble spots. Consistent diet and training to reduce overall body fat is the key.
  1. The word “toning” as most people use it, is a myth. 
    Continuing on from the above, there really isn’t such a thing as “toning” a muscle. Muscle can’t be “toned”. Muscle is just muscle, it can get bigger or smaller and the fat mass covering it can be either less or more. Fat cannot and does not turn into muscle and the reverse isn’t true either. So you can either develop a part of your body that you’d like to improve, meaning increasing the size of the muscle there, which can dramatically improve it’s appearance OR you can lose fat all over your body, which as discussed above, will happen in a genetically predetermined pattern.When you’re very new to exercise or coming from a long lay off, you can pull off doing a bit of both – building and losing fat. But eventually you will have to pick one goal to focus on in the immediate few months, so that is either losing fat or gaining muscle. All muscle gain comes with a least a little bit of fat and all fat loss goes hand in hand with a little muscle loss. The best results either way come from being consistent and moderate over a long period time. Don’t try to lose too much fat/weight too quickly, because a lot of what you lose will be your hard earned muscle, and conversely, you can’t just eat everything in sight and lift without also gaining too much body fat in the process. Moderation, kids! Moderation and consistency.
  1. You cannot change your basic structure. 
    By “structure” what I am referring to mostly is your bone structure. However, “structure”   also refers to the shape of your muscles and the origin and insertion points of said muscles (i.e: where your muscles attach to the bones). Thiese are the elements that determine the shape of our legs and calves, our hips, the shape of our biceps and shoulders, etc. Everything. It’s your individual arthropometry.  What do I mean by this? Well, our bones determine the length of our limbs, and the width of our hips, ribcage and to a lesser extent, the width of our shoulders. There isn’t a diet or training program that can change these fundamental structural elements of our bodies. We have to work with what we’ve been given.

The good news is that i don’t know of a single person that doesn’t look absolutely amazing when they’re in their best possible physical shape!

Long legs, short legs, wide or narrow hips, long or short torso, the human body is a glorious thing to behold when it’s been trained and sculpted to its aesthetic and athletic peak.

So, far from trying to rain on your parade, I want to empower you with information. My goal is to have you take a long term, pragmatic view to your health and fitness goals, for you to love and accept yourself completely, and work on change and improvement, inside and out. You can do a lot within the parameters outlined above! But it helps to know what is and isn’t possible and how the human body works to create a successful game plan, instead of just spinning your wheels because of certain misconceptions you may have about the way things will occur.

In my case, I got into heavy weightlifting because i always hated the way my legs looked and I was told that the only way to change their appearance was through squatting. Heavy. So that’s what I learned to do. I don’t have thin legs today, because adhering to the principles above, that is just not possible for someone with my structure, and that’s OK. I like the way I look in shorts and skirts these days, and I can honestly say I like my legs now. That’s so huge for me! They were the bane of my existence in high school!  I still always admire women with long, slender legs, but I have muscular, powerful ones. My legs are awesome and healthy and strong. They also look great in a pair of heels and I’m thankful for all of that!

How successful have you been in transforming your body and what methods have you tried? Let me know in the comments!

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Being fit and glamorous and… being yourself.

I hardly think that at this stage of my grand entrance to the blogosphere that anyone will notice (aside from my friends to whom I’ve sent my link, hehe)… but I’ve completely revamped my blog.

It is now fitandglamorous.com!

fit and glamorous

I had a huge epiphany this week about the blog. I was making my dinner and thinking about how dumb Tracey Anderson and Gwyneth Paltrow are and how much Tracey Anderson annoys me. I have no idea what triggered it. I probably saw some goofy TV blurb about them. It occurred to me that I should write something about it and I thought, “I’d just be preaching to the choir”… everyone in the strength & conditioning and physique communities know the Tracey Anderson Method is bunk, fraud and is NOT based in science whatsoever.

But I did think about all my skinny minnie Manhattanite personal training clients who I would have to constantly and actively dissuade and EXPLAIN that the Tracey Anderson is the worst thing in the world.

For those who don’t know, Tracey Anderson is Gwyneth Paltrow’s “celebrity trainer” and her pseudo-science training “philosophy” maintains that a)  women should never lift more than 3lbs. Hello, BABIES and most handbags weigh more than that! b) you maintain this ultra low calorie juicer diet c) you do 2 hours workouts that only train your small muscle groups.

So it’s basically a starvation protocol with 2 hours of mindnumbing, boring isolation exercises with 3lbs or less. Yes, you will lose weight. You’re starving. It’s not a healthy, empowered or sustainable way to achieve your best body ever.

Well, I’m sidetracked now, but I thought about who I really am and I like to think I am a very cosmopolitan, glamorous, sophisticate who just so happens to also really love lifting weights and all things health and fitness. And guess what? I’m not bulky, I’m not manly… I am a bit of a tomboy I guess. I’m a tomboy in pretty packaging! High heels, fabulous dresses and yeah, calloused hands because I refuse to compromise my grip strength! Manicured calloused hands! Haha.

(It’s OK, you can wear gloves to lift weights if you like.)

I don’t believe that everyone should share my intense approach to weightlifting. I think we’re all different, we have different talents and proclivities and interests… however, I do believe that resistance training imparts some universal benefits that we can’t ignore if we want to achieve optimum health. I also believe that it’s important for women to embrace these so that we can be our best and healthiest today, tomorrow and every year going forward.

Don’t get older, get better!!!

So getting back to Gwyneth and Tracey Anderson, I realised the other day that if I was just myself and I wrote about all the things I love, I could be a good messenger to women who may otherwise never have any interest in strength training, or might be turned off by stage ready physiques and extremist messages and protocols, and the beauty, the real benefit of embracing physical culture is lost on them because they perceive it to be something that they can’t fit into their own lives and personal wellness philosophy. But the thing is they can! You can fit it into your life. It doesn’t have to be, and as a matter of fact should not be, anything extreme. Balance is key.

So basically, I just decided to be myself! Ha! What a revelation, right?

I have been using the moniker “fitglam” on the internet and in forums for over a decade, so when I decided to “be myself”, I brainstormed for all of about 5 minutes before I came up with Fitandglamorous.com – I love it. it’s perfect for me, for what I want to write about and for the messages and stories I want to impart. I also wanted to start a separate travel blog, but now I’m just going to write about it all here. This blog is about health and fitness and living your best life and loving the skin you’re in. 

miami

I think maybe I should thank Gwynnie and that awful Tracey for helping me reach my epiphany and refine my blog concept… what do you think?

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What does ‘lifting heavy’ mean and how do you do it safely?

Lift Heavy Things Up, Put Them Down, REPEAT.

So you are here and reading a blog named “Strong Bodies” because you have some clue that lifting weights has many, many benefits and you also know enough that to get the best results you need to a) challenge yourself b) “lift heavy”…

But what does lifting heavy really mean? It’s kind of vague, isn’t it?

It’s one of those generic pieces of gym advice people often dish out to newbs without much thought to context or implementation. I’m hoping to clarify that for you.

Some people will tell you that lifting heavy means doing repetitions of less than 5. Some people will say it’s 6 – 8. Other people will have other definitions, I’m sure, throwing around words like “powerlifting”, “triples”, “hypertrophy”… making it much more complicated and mystical than necessary, in my opinion.

My definition is choosing a load (e.g: barbell, dumb bell) where you go to almost failure or, failure.

Failure means you can’t even do one more rep. I define “almost failure” as going til you might only have one more rep in the tank, but then you’d be done.

That’s it! That’s what lifting heavy is. It’s lifting to failure or almost failure and giving every set all you got.

Hold nothing back!

You could do a HEAVY 20-rep set… which means every single rep is a grind and you struggle to reach the big 2-0. This isn’t your 1kg pink dumb bell tricep kickbacks I’m talking about. In this context we’re talking about a loaded olympic barbell, and every rep to 15 is no picnic and after 15 makes you wish you were never born. That’s the 20-rep set I’m talking about. That’s considered heavy lifting, but it certainly isn’t a low rep range.

Whether it’s a heavy 5 rep set you’re doing, testing your 1-rep max or a 20-rep set, what matters is the CHALLENGE, the ENGAGEMENT of your mind and muscles and the GRIT it requires for you to finish each repetition with good form. Lifting heavy means lifting with INTENSITY. If there is no challenge, you didn’t have to focus and think about maintaining correct form because the forces of the load are so light that its easy or moderate to get to the end, well then… that certainly wasn’t “lifting heavy”, was it?

Who should be lifting heavy?

My recommendation is anyone and everyone with at least 6 months of consistent weightlifting experience without other contraindications like, pregnancy for instance or any other contraindicated medical issue or injury.

You can start off by doing 6 – 8 heavy reps for 3 sets per exercise, if that is a rep scheme you haven’t used before.

Another option is doing a 5 x 5 arrangement. This means you’re doing 5 sets of 5 repetitions of each exercise – this is super beneficial to the intermediate lifter and will really help you progress in strength and muscular development. For advanced lifters (for the purposes of this article that is someone with 2+ years of consistent experience and you’ve done several phases of 5×5 training), 5×5 doesn’t tend to yield the same progress. You’re better off training for either strength or hypertrophy, neither of which 5×5 is optimal for as a singular goal.

If you’re completely new to weightlifting, I would urge you to spend the first 3 – 6 months working on learning the movements, developing your motor skills, strength and control, strengthening your joints and in fact, not going to failure on each set. Leave one or two reps in the tank, be really strict with your form and focus on performing each exercise as correctly as possible. If it’s an option for you, hiring a knowledgeable in-person trainer for at least a few sessions would be really beneficial. Train in sets of at least 10 reps, you can go as high as 12 – 15. Ideally you would have a trainer and/or at least be following a beginners program that outlines the exercises and rep schemes you should do.

When you’re new, to be frank, pretty much anything you do that isn’t completely idiotic is going to get you a result in the gym. The number of reps you use doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re getting in there and doing the work. Perfect your squat form – you don’t even need any weight to do this. Work on your lunges. Learn to deadlift with a light load, learn how it feels to hinge at the hip and keep your lumbar spine locked and tight. Develop enough core and upper body strength to do some push ups with good form. When you get to the end of your set with the weights you used last week and you could do 3 or more extra reps, increase your weights. Clean up your diet. Be consistent.

Above all else, have fun!

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TRUTH: you honour yourself with a healthy diet and daily exercise.

Have you ever thought about what it means to eat a diet of junk food and live a sedentary life,  when you know that fatty processed foods are bad for you and sitting around on your arse is doing you no favours?

It means you neither value, nor respect yourself. 

honour yourself with a healthy diet and exercise

I’m a  big believer in the saying “actions speak louder than words” and when you are engaging in behaviour you know to be bad for you, possibly with immediate negative outcomes and maybe you even complain regularly that you’d like to lose weight or “get healthy”, but you never really make a serious attempt at doing so…

(my definition of a “serious attempt” is striving to eat better and workout regularly – no shortcuts, wacky diet pills, crazy protocols, GTFOH with that shit)

That means you a) don’t think you’re worth effort b) don’t love and respect yourself enough to make a change.

You may say otherwise, but I’m a big believer in looking at what people do, not what they say. Mind you, this post isn’t about being “skinny” or “sexy”, or “hot”. It’s about eating better and moving more to achieve at least good, if not optimal health.

Think about somebody you love the most in the world. Maybe it’s your spouse, maybe your child, a sibling, best friend… whoever that person is to you, picture them in your mind. Now imagine that they were sick and only you could help them. And the only way you could help them was to eat better and exercise, and in this hypothetical world, the benefits would magically transfer to them and heal them.

Do you think you would hesitate for a second or begrudge them ONE healthy meal or exercise session if it meant that you could help them be healthy and the best that they can be?

Not for a second!

If you love someone, it would be NOTHING to do so! You would surely be honoured to do all that you can to give them the gifts of good health and wellness.

Why isn’t it the same when it comes to yourself? Why aren’t YOU that important to YOU?

As we know, the situation described above is completely hypothetical. No one can do your exercise for you or change your diet for the better but you.

All the power lies with you.

So if you love yourself, you’ll make a change.

If you love those around you, you will take care of yourself so that you can be around to love and care for them.

If you respect yourself, you’ll take the time to do the things that will help you feel better, move better, function better in every possible way

Remember, the first step may just be taking a 20 minute walk every day. You don’t have to eat like a bird and you don’t have to train like a fiend, but you do need to DO SOMETHING.

You can’t love anyone else unless you love yourself first. It all starts with you.