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How to tone up your back

Say goodbye to annoying back fat...

Guilty of neglecting your back muscles? You’re not the only one. We often focus mainly on the muscles we see in the mirror and end up completely forgetting about the ones at the back. While our abs may be on point just in time for our summer beach holiday, our back could do with a little work in the gym. However, we’ve got you sorted with the best exercises for toning your back and feeling fantastic, from back to front.

Not only will working on your back boost your overall physique, but it’ll also dramatically improve strength and posture. A clever combination of the right diet plus the back exercises that give you the most bang for your buck will get you on the right path to eliminating excess fat and back pain. These two effective exercises are bound to make you feel strong, powerful and ready to step up your gym game.

Bent-over row

1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees bent and upper body leaning forwards from the hips. Keep a flat back.

2. Holding a barbell with both hands, arms extended towards the floor, row the barbell up to your waist.

3. Lower slowly and repeat.

Safety tip: keep your shoulders back and try not to hunch.

Eccentric chin-up

1. Stand underneath a pull-up bar, on a step if necessary.

2. Jump up to take hold of the pull-up bar with both hands, palms facing you. Your chin should already be at the height of the bar, at the top of the movement.

3. Lower yourself as slowly as you can, until arms are fully extended.

4. Release and repeat.

Kick refined carbs to the curb

Keeping fit and looking after your body isn’t just about doing the right exercises; you also need to make sure you’re eating the right food to. Exercising and maintaining a healthy diet go hand-in-hand.

Make sure that sugar and refined carbohydrates (like pasta and bread) are sparse in your diet as the consumption of high-GI foods like these will encourage your body to store fat. Fill up on fibrous veg and high-protein sources like eggs and chicken, instead.

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The Truth About Weight Loss

There’s more to weight loss than losing weight

The start of every health kick can be a glorious time, with your motivation at its highest and the fitness gains at their easiest to come by. Your muscles might be aching, and your diet could be missing a few unhealthy favourites, but the weight will be dropping off like nobody’s business.

At some point, however, you might find that whatever efforts you make in the gym or the kitchen do not result in any further losses when you step on the scales. Your weight plateaus, or perhaps even nudges slightly upwards. Obviously, this can be the ultimate motivation killer if your main goal is weight loss, but a simple scales reading can be misleading when it comes to your general health.

More important than how much you weigh is your body composition – namely how much of your body is made up of fat, muscle, bones, water, assorted organs, and so on. Some of these you can’t do much about – it doesn’t matter how much you try, you’re unlikely to shave any weight off your liver without resorting to some extremely risky behaviour. It’s still good to know what’s going on with all your insides, but the key two areas of body composition you can affect are your body fat and muscle mass.

Reducing body fat is often the main goal of people’s plans when they embark on a new exercise regime and/or diet, and any early weight loss is a result of achieving that goal. However, when weight loss plateaus it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve stopped lowering your body fat percentage. It could simply mean that you’re increasing your muscle mass at the same time. No net weight loss, but a far healthier body composition.

An extreme example often used to illustrate the deficiencies of simply relying on weight as a guide to health is comparing the Body Mass Index (which is based on height and weight, with no accounting for body composition) of a professional rugby player with an obese person. Both might end up with a matching BMI score, but the muscle-bound rugby hulk is clearly in better shape in terms of their overall health.

Even if you never reach the rippling physique of a Jonah Lomu in his prime, you might also suffer from misapprehensions about your health and the effectiveness of your gym work if you only use overall weight as a guide to your progress.

The issue is that muscle is not heavier than fat, but it is denser. This means it takes up less space to weigh the same amount as fat, so your body shape might be changing for the better even if your total weight is the same after weeks of working out.

Body composition is also important when it comes to the type of fat you have. Visceral fat, which accumulates around your organs in the mid-section, is the most dangerous kind, in that a large quantity of it is linked with an increased risk of all kinds of problems including heart disease, several cancers and type 2 diabetes. A relatively slim physique with a pot belly is therefore nothing to boast about, you need to shift that midsection bulk rather than just focussing on your overall weight.

The good news is that visceral fat is the first stuff you’ll shift when you start exercising. Even if you can’t see the fat itself, you can monitor your progress by measuring your waistline regularly. Keeping tabs on your waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) is good practice all round if you’re on a fitness drive, as it has been found to be a better indicator of obesity-related health risks than simple weight or BMI measurements. To see if your ratio is unhealthily high simply grab a piece of string, use it to measure your height then fold it in half. If it doesn’t fit around your waist, then your ratio is in bad shape, and it’s time to start slimming.

There are also plenty of more precise ways to get a handle on your body composition, from the humble pair of callipers to smart scales. With callipers you pinch the skin and measure the fold in at least three locations on your body. Then plug those numbers into an online calculator to get an idea of your body fat. The number itself might not be incredibly accurate, but consistently measuring in the same way with callipers over time will allow you to track changes in your body composition.

For their part, smart scales such as the Withings Body Cardio will provide the most in-depth and accurate look at your insides you can get outside of a hospital, telling you your body fat, muscle mass, water percentage and bone mass, along with your actual weight. In terms of practical information about how your efforts to improve your fitness are going, it’s a huge step up from standard scales.

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The Truth About Weight Loss

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strengthandtone

How to fast-track fat loss

To fast-track coveted progress such as greater fat loss, Tramontana says you need to get back to basics.

Cardio is not ‘hardio’

With a combination of higher intensity interval training (HIIT), low-intensity steady state (LISS) training, body weight training sessions and a nutritious diet, Tramontana ensures his clients are given the best formula for their body.

“My cardiovascular programming is based around a 75/25 split of LISS and HIIT. So based on the available amount of time for a client to add in cardio on top of resistance training would determine the amount of each they conducted,” he says.

Here’s what your cardio program could look like:

2 hours per week for cardio training = 30 minutes of HIIT over two to three days + 90 minutes of LISS over one to two sessions.

Be wary, if HIIT was all you did, you may encounter the downside of too much stress on your body, which can ironically turn HIIT into a fat retention tactic.

So what about weight training?

“For fat loss, I structure everything around two to three full bodyweight training sessions – two sessions based on linear periodisation macro cycle of 16-to-24 week programming, altered every four to six weeks,” he explains.

Translation? A program that begins by incorporating high-volume and low intensity weight training, and progressively moves into phases when the volume decreases and intensity increases.  Tramontana is a strong advocate for women to hit up the weights rack, “I find a lot of women are lifting nowhere near their capacity. Don’t be shy to lift heavy weights and test your ability regularly.”

The importance of rest

All this talk of intensity may have you thinking full pelt should be the only gear you work in, but without adequate recovery, you may be undermining your fat loss chances at the dumbbells. Both injury and overt fatigue can see you performing at less than 100 per cent over multiple sessions.

“Recovery begins with the post-workout meal. I advise at least 25 to 50 per cent of overall carbohydrates be included in this meal – either using complex carbohydrate sources or a combination of simple and complex carbs,” says Tramontana. “I also recommend at least one body therapy session per week.”

Think physiotherapy, massage, sauna, steam, floating, dry needling, sleep in, meditation, yoga, grounding – or something as simple as reading a book.

How to fuel your body with the right food

For Tramontana, eating for fat loss should focus on controlling hunger, which translates to better portion control and craving management.

“I ask that protein be included in every meal upon waking, generally an even or slightly escalating amount each meal depending again on habits and hunger patterns,” he says.

“For fat loss, I personally urge the exclusion of high-energy carbs even post workout – with the exception of competitors in the later stage of preparation.”

Supplementation may also give you an edge in the health and results stakes. Depending on your goals and needs, Tramontana advises the use of creatine, glutamine, vitamin C, branch chain amino acids, fish oils, whey protein, vitamin D, magnesium, zinc and a good-quality greens supplement to aid recovery, general wellbeing and lean muscle growth.

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How to fast-track fat loss

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girl-running

4 ways to increase fat loss

Body fat is simply stored energy, so giving your body a reason to use it is vital. This can be done through diet or exercise, but most commonly a combination of the two.

“To lose body fat, you need to place your body into a calorie deficit, forcing it to use its fat for energy. Muscle is also your body’s engine – the bigger the engine, the more fuel it uses and the more calories you burn, making it easier to lose fat,” says Etheridge, who suggests any good fat loss plan contains gradual progressions in both fat-burning cardiovascular activity and resistance training.

“Strength training is the most important element; the amount of cardio you need to do to achieve fat loss depends on how strict you are with your diet and what kind of strength and conditioning program you’re doing,” he says.

“Utilise progressive overload to make your resistance workout more difficult than what you can comfortably perform in your current program. Whether it be using different training principals, such as supersets and circuits, or increasing the weight or reps, keep progressing by asking more from your body.”

Etheridge suggests increasing your weight, sets, reps or intensity each week for six weeks, followed by one week of lighter training (aka. a deload week) to allow the body to recover.

“Lighter weeks or rest weeks are imperative to minimise overtraining and reduce the chance of overuse injuries. This is the optimal way to increase your strength,” says Etheridge.

“For weight loss, it’s not as important to use progressions with your cardio. The cardio is purely for fat burning – but if you want to continue to improve your cardiovascular fitness, aim to increase your workout intensity by approximately five per cent each week for six weeks. Take a week off and then start your new program.”

Here are her top four tips:

 

1. Change your exercises from basic compound movements to compound movements that require a higher level of skill, coordination or strength. For example, single leg or unilateral work. Examples:think pistol squat, TRX suspended lunge, Bulgarian split squat, single-leg deadlift, squats and step-ups using a bosu ball; single arm work such as one arm dumbbell or chest press on a fitball, single arm rows or renegade rows.

2. Reduce rest periods. Depending on how much rest you’re currently having, aim to drop it by five per cent per week for six weeks, or until you’re only having approximately 40 seconds rest (if performing straight sets) and 20 seconds rest between exercises (if you’re performing a circuit).

3. Split your program up and focus on two to three muscles groups per workout rather than full body. This is a more advanced way of training and a great way to continue progressing. Splitting the body parts up means you can perform more volume (sets) on each muscle group in each workout, and workout more days each week while still allowing adequate recovery time.

4. Add plyometrics to your workouts. Plyometric training is high impact and high intensity, and involves a lot of jumping where your muscles exert maximum force in short intervals – great for power and agility, and can be a quick and fun way to burn fat given its higher calorie output.

In order to track your progress, keep yourself accountable. Regularly weigh yourself or take measurements, and keep a food and training diary to understand how training and nutrition protocols affect you on a weekly basis.

 

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4 ways to increase fat loss

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alexa T

Top 3 training tips by Alexa Towersey

1. Resistance Training: 

Combine four compound exercises in one giant set:

8–10 x Barbell Back Squats

»8–10 x Barbell Bent-Over Rows

»8–10 x Deadlifts

»6–8 x Pull-ups 

»24 x Barbell Walking Lunges

TIP: Rest for 2 minutes between rounds and complete 3 to 5 rounds

2. HIIT Training: I like 400m sprint repeats the best.  Start with 5 to 7 and increase each week. 60 to 90 seconds rest between.

TIP: Don’t do these on the same day as your weight training.

3. Tabata Protocols:  I like to use Tabata-style exercises as ‘finishers’ after a weight-training workout.  It’s essentially maximum reps of an exercise in 20 seconds followed by a 10-second rest and repeated for a total of eight rounds (4 minutes or 2:40 of actual work).

TIP: My preferred variations include thruster, squat jumps, air assault bike, burpees, mountain climber or deadmill.

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Top 3 training tips by Alexa Towersey

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How to do a pull-up

Anybody who can do a pull-up is in pretty good shape…I’m still working on building mine up and the journey is fun!

The best way to get better at pull-ups is to do pull-ups assisted with resistance bands: try looping a band over the pull-up bar and place a foot or knee in the band, then complete pull-ups as normal. Step down carefully and release yourself from the bar. Step one foot out first to avoid snap backs.


Doing a pull-up:

1. Tighten your butt and your abs throughout the entire exercise – try not to swing, so slow down the movement. Keep your shoulder blades pinched together and focus on PULLING the bar down with your arms.

2. Use the least amount of assistance that you can handle. If you’re using an exercise band, try to get a few bands of varying tension so you can decrease the resistance as you get stronger.

3. As soon as you can do three sets of eight with assistance, it’s time move on up and either reduce the resistance bands or start trying unassisted. As you get better you can try one to two unassisted then go to the bands – it’s a great way to keep building.

4. Once you have mastered the perfect pull-up, you can progress to do more reps and doing other types such as wide-grip, close-grip and weighted pull-ups.

Words and workout by Nikki Fogden-Moore

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How to do a pull-up

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Running tips for women

Ace your next race with these top tips

Going for a run is probably one of the most popular ways to get your workout on, whether it’s hitting the roads or jumping on a treadmill when the weather’s gross outside. If you sometimes find running a little tedious, why not challenge yourself to go faster or further?

Here are our top tips to smash your run.

To the gym

Weight training could make you a better runner. A Norwegian study found that resistance training three times a week for eight weeks significantly improved running efficiency and endurance in well-trained, long-distance runners.

Uphill battle

Want to conquer the hills? To race uphill, run with a short stride while pushing off the balls of your feet and pumping your arms. Then relax your arms and use a longer stride to go downhill.

Ready, set, splash!

Getting wet could make you a better runner. Swimming increases your upper body strength, making your runs more efficient, while aqua jogging mimics your usual movement sans impact – reducing the risk of injury.

Bright idea

‘Watch your stance when running,’ tips Fitness First trainer Andy Hall. ‘Leaping forward and striding too far will drain your energy fast. Instead, make sure you stand tall and lean slightly forward, so when you feel like you’re going to fall, you step forward just enough to catch yourself. This should be the length of your stride.’

Take five

Listen to your body! If you’re feeling under the weather or if your body is sore and ready for a rest, take a recovery day. Only you know if those aches and pains are from a good run or the sign you need to rest.

Sand storm

Here’s a good excuse to book a beach getaway – running on sand can improve your speed and muscle tone. A study from St Luke’s University Clinic in Belgium found that pounding the sand requires 1.6 times more energy than running on pavements as your body has to work harder to deal with the soft, unstable surface. That adds up to more defined muscles and a swifter run when you get back to solid ground. Neat!

Drink up

Hydration is key for runners, but plain old water is best if you’re only doing short runs. Upgrade to a sports drink if you’re running for longer than an hour to help shuttle glucose to your muscles and combat fatigue.

Play it safe Protect yourself – the great outdoors brings potential hazards:

Navigate new destinations Make use of online running forums and social media groups to discover popular routes. Clearly defined, well-lit roads are a must when running in the dark, and remember there’s safety in numbers. Recruit a running buddy or join a club to improve your technique with like-minded enthusiasts – it’s way more fun than going solo!

Ditch your headphones An uplifting playlist can send motivation soaring, but when you’re running outside you need to be aware of your surroundings so you can rely on your senses when you need them. Save the tunes for your indoor workout and shift your attention to your breathing and form – or if you feel you really can’t run without music just keep the volume low.

Check the forecast We all know the British weather is unpredictable. It’s worth checking the forecast before you lace up so you don’t get caught in heavy rain that could hamper your performance and increase your risk of injury.

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Running tips for women

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pilates-at-home

5 exercises for at-home reformer Pilates

If reformer Pilates sounds like your kind of deal, you better be prepared to part with a pretty penny. An hour-long private lesson can set you back hundreds of dollars, while group classes are still quite pricey. But for those without the watertight income, exercise physiologist Jennifer Smallridge and physiotherapist at Sportsmed biologic, Rebecca Huppert put together five spins on classic reformer moves to have you reaping all the benefits in the comfort of your own home:

1. Reformer lunges

This move is traditionally performed with one foot on the carriage, one foot on the stable platform, and the lunge pushes the carriage back (creating instability). This can be reproduced with XR Slides on a carpeted area (xrslide.com) by placing one foot on the ground and the back foot on the slide, lunging and then swapping sides. You could also use a book to gain the sliding motion.

2. Hands in straps – pullovers

Without a reformer, a resistance band can be wrapped around a steady object (table leg, tied tightly around a door handle). Lie with your body facing away from the band, ensure there is tension in the band, extend both arms up to the ceiling and pull the band down towards your sides while keeping your pelvis neutral. Challenges to this move include putting the legs up in tabletop, and/or adding an abdominal curl.

3. Leg press

This is one of the foundation moves in reformer Pilates. Without the footbar to put the feet on, you can lie on a mat and place your legs in tabletop, then try to keep the pelvis level as you tap one foot down on the mat at a time. You must engage your core muscles for this to be effective and safe. Add difficulty by straightening the leg each time it lowers, or lifting up the head and chest.

4. Reformer row

Again, wrapping a resistance band around a fixed object will allow a row type movement to be performed. The reformer works well by challenging the core, so to get the same benefits, stand on an unstable surface (BOSU, cushion, one leg stand) or complete a squat at the same time, with your core muscles active.

5. Scooter

This exercise involves one leg firmly on the floor and the other on the carriage, pushing it back against resistance and challenging the gluteal muscles on both sides. Without a reformer, arabesques are a nice way to work these muscles. Stand on one leg, hands on hips and lower your chest/lift your back leg at the same time, so that you feel it working all of the stabilisers of your stance leg. Rise up and repeat.

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5 exercises for at-home reformer Pilates

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sculpt-arm-workout

Workout tips for toned arms

Try: Supersetting Antagonising

Supersetting antagonising is the pairing of two opposite muscle groups such as chest and back, triceps and biceps and quads and hamstrings. The science behind this technique is to loosen one muscle while its antagonist contracts. This allows more weight to be used, or additional reps performed.

How: Give this little workout a go:

a. Dumbbell external rotation 10 reps – 4 sets, tempo 3; 0; 2; rest 30 seconds
b. Incline dumbbell preacher curl 10–12reps – 4 sets, tempo 3; 0; 1
c. Tricep rope pushdowns 15 reps – 4 sets, tempo 2; 0; 2; rest 45 seconds
d. Scott curl reverse biceps curls 8–10 reps – 4 sets, tempo 2; 0; 2
e. Overhead dumbbell triceps extension 12–15 reps – 4 sets, tempo 2; 2; 1; rest 45 seconds

Why: Supersetting agonist and antagonist muscle groups is not only time efficient and great for building lean, toned arms, but it also increases the afterburn effect of your workout by up to 24 hours.

Insider’s tip: Try and finish off your arms day with 3 x 500m sprints on the rower to really get your arms burning.

Check out our workout section for fitness tips, exercises and workouts.

 

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Workout tips for toned arms

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yoga

Yoga poses

While yoga is undoubtedly known as the go-to for limbering up, de-stressing and boosting flexibility, it’s less known for its contribution to cardio fitness. Wild, a new class from Fierce Grace (fiercegrace.com), is looking to change that, though. Taking inspiration from martial arts, ballet, qigong, physiotherapy, resistance exercises and, of course, traditional yoga, Wild is a functional-based workout designed for anyone and everyone. Try this workout for a taster of what this innovative class offers. Ready?

Ragdoll jumps

Technique-

With your feet hip-width apart and arms loose, perform continuous little jumps for 30 seconds.

Straddle reach-through

Technique-

Stand with feet wider than hips. Bend your knees if you need to.

Hinge at the hips, reaching your arms out. Graze the floor with your hands as you go, exhaling all the way to reach your arms through your legs. 

Inhale to bounce back, then reach through again, taking a second to complete each reach-through.

Do 15 reps in total.

Straddle push-up

Technique-

Standing up straight with your feet wide, reach down to the floor by your toes.

Walk forward with your  hands until your body is in a straight line.

Bend your arms to lower your chest, then push back up.

Walk your hands back to the start.

Repeat for 10 reps.

Spine flex

Technique-

Sit cross-legged on the floor with your hands on your ankles.

Exhale, round your spine and relax it, look down and feel the stretch in your upper back.

Inhale and arch your spine, look up and push your chest forwards, using your hands to help you.

Repeat, performing one rep per second for one minute.

Corkscrew twists 

Technique-

Sit cross-legged with your hands resting on your shoulders – fingers in front, thumbs at the back and elbows out to the sides. Keep your eyes and head forward throughout.

Inhale to twist left, then exhale right.

Pull your belly in and lift your chest.

Repeat once per second.

Fire plank

Technique-

Hold a plank with hands under your shoulders, fingers spread, tailbone tucked under, abs and quads tight.

Practise ‘fire breath’ (drawing breath from your navel area, quickly breathe in and out through your nose, pulling your belly in as you exhale).

Hold for 45 secs.

Now, without losing form, lift your left leg and right arm.

Bring them back to the plank then do the same with the opposite limbs.

Do this twice more on each side.

Fast scissors

Technique-

Lie on your back with your palms under your hips for support and legs off the ground.

Scissor your legs up and down, performing fire breath through your nose once each rep.

Go for one minute.

Bum lift 

Technique-

Lie on your front with your arms beside you, palms down, elbows locked and forehead on the floor.

Bend your knees to take your feet off the floor, keeping them together.

Inhale and squeeze to lift your knees off the floor, then lower them straight back down to finish the rep.

Do 30 reps.

Check out www.fiercegrace.com for more information on yoga, classes and training

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Yoga poses

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Paige Hathaway

Paige Hathaway

22 minutes 59 seconds ago

My motto: Don’t Fail and Give up.. FAIL AND GET UP!!! 😤🌪

WHATS YOUR MOTTO? 🤔

Paige Hathaway

1 day 12 hours ago

PART 2: Reporting live from F45 Training Flatiron - see what a session looks like LIVE!!!

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