Archive | February, 2016

Why we love cycling

Jumping on a shiny new steed and pedalling off into the sunset is a glorious feeling – you just can’t beat it! But if you haven’t saddled up for a few years, you may be wondering where to start or why to bother. Don’t worry! We caught up with Gareth Turner from Cyclebeat ( to chat about the benefits of life on two wheels and how you can get back in the race. 

Slim cycle

Jumping on your bike is a fantastic way to blitz calories and trim down. ‘Cycling is a great way to lose weight and a brilliant way to burn calories – you can burn around 500 calories an hour cycling and sometimes much more,’ says Gareth. ‘Cycling can also have the added benefit of increasing your metabolism – even after the ride is over.

And it’s a great option for working out on your commute. Think about it – you can get your workouts in on the way to and from work and cancel that gym membership altogether if you want! ‘And, because it is a non-weight bearing exercise, it’s a lot easier on the joints than something like running, so you can do it more often,’ says Gareth. Sounds good to us!

It’s also a great toner, working your lower body hard, which – thanks to this focus on the bigger muscles in your body (bum and legs!) also burns fat. ‘Cycling helps to tone your muscles and works your calves, thighs and bottom, while also giving your shoulders and arms a workout, too,’ says Gareth.

Healthy heart

Cycling is not only bags of fun, and a great way to stay in shape, it’s good for your heart, too. ‘Cycling improves cardiovascular fitness,’ explains Gareth. ‘And the British Heart Foundation says that cycling regularly can help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes by up to 50 per cent.’ 

Mind matters

And getting on your bike could have benefits for the mind, too. ‘It’s not just the body that sees the benefits, as cycling is believed to reduce stress, anxiety and provide a sense of wellbeing,’ says Gareth. A cycle home after a long day is a great way to shake off your worries.

Wheely wheely fun

Whizzing around on a bike gives you a great sense of freedom and there are so many types of cycling, and types of bikes, you can try. ‘Cycling can be very varied and fun – try mountain bike trails, exhilarating downhills, BMX and road biking with amazing views,’ says Gareth. Plus it’s one of the few workouts in which you can have a good gas with your mates, too! Have you every tried catching up over a quick swim or disco rave class?! ‘Cycling can be very social by riding in a group and also with the family – everyone can get involved,’ adds Gareth. 

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Why we love cycling

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4 Best on-demand fitness networks

GREAT FOR gym fitness goals

£15 per month; Body.Network

The Netflix of the workout world, Body Network boasts a holistic mix of health and fitness videos that have been put together by some of the UK’s leading experts. Not just workouts, the network also provides rehabilitation programmes, a tri-part introduction to mindfulness and meditation, and nutritional programmes. It has everything that you need to hone a fitter, healthier and more efficient body. Unlike other on-demand services, this network caters for outdoor as well as indoor exercisers. The 10K training plan from running expert Charlie Webster is designed to help you hit a 6.2-mile goal, including interval workout audio sessions that you can take with you on your run. The Get Fit for Cycling series aims to improve cycling performance, a great option for off-season bike training. And if you don’t care about exercising outside, there’s a host of popular gym and home workouts, too, such as Pilates, yoga, post-natal exercise and boxing programmes. A lot of the workouts are periodised in that they start at a beginner level and progress to advanced training, which means you don’t only work out, but also learn the techniques needed to perform exercise properly. The Body Network educates as well as makes you sweat!

GREAT FOR performance goals

£2.99 per week;

Beach Body pioneers some of the most popular workouts worldwide – we’re talking Insanity, PiYo, P90X – so this really is the place to come if you want to be ahead of the game. There are ‘sneak peek’ workouts of up-and-coming programmes, such as Shaun T’s Cize or Hammer & Chisel, in which you get to try the latest sessions first. Plus, Q&A videos with the top trainers reveal a few insider secrets! And if you don’t have a clue what workout to do, there’s even a ‘challenge du jour’ session, which will keep you on your toes every day you log in. The best bit, however, is that Beach Body On Demand (BOD) isn’t exclusively for the super-fit; it’s great for all levels, whether you follow Autumn Calabrese’s Active Maternity programme or the sports-friendly Insanity The Asylum schedule. A lot of the programmes are time-orientated – there’s the 21-day fix or the 90-day P90x plan – so it’s a great website to sign up to if you have a shape-up goal for 2016. It’s really easy to use and you can even stream it via the On Demand app to devices such as tablets, Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV. Handy.

GREAT FOR shape-up goals

£14.99 per month;

Can’t find a yoga class that you love? You need to log onto Yoogaia. The online yoga studio provides live classes across a range of low-impact disciplines including Pilates, barre, core exercise and, of course, yoga. There’s a packed schedule with daily workouts such as Yin Yoga Stretch or Barre Cardio Express available for you to book onto. The live workouts happen via your webcam – the instructor can see you and you can see the instructor but exercisers can’t see one another – which gives you the sensation of face-to-face instruction with a leading expert. Shy? Then you don’t have to switch your webcam on. And if you miss one of your regular sessions, you can catch up with the workout via the ‘Recording’ tab – something that you can’t do when you miss your favourite gym class. It’s great for mums, newbies and anyone who wants to try a specific class that might not be available in your area. This site comes thoroughly recommended.  

GREAT FOR wellbeing goals

£9.95 per month;               

If you’re already au fait with the popular Les Mills gym classes – think Body Pump, Body Combat, Body Balance or Grit – you’re going to love On Demand because you can do the same workouts from home when you can’t make it to the gym. On the other hand, if you’re new to Les Mills exercise, this is a great place to start – you can build plenty of confidence before trying these workouts at the gym with others. Les Mills Junior recommends that newbies start with the kit-free 20-minute Grit Cardio class. But, if that’s not your thing, view the ‘Introduction’ videos to discover which class whets your appetite. There’s a really great variety of workouts on the site but it’s worth bearing in mind that some, such as Body Pump or RPM, do require kit. Still, On Demand cannot be faulted for its great playlists, fantastic workouts and non-stop instructor enthusiasm. And there’s even an exercise video for kids!

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4 Best on-demand fitness networks

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7 Ways To Pump Up Your Chest

Among lifters, there aren’t many people who will shy away from wanting to build a strong, chiseled chest. After all, they know beastly chest muscles scream strength and power, and look great on the beach.

Functionally, strong pecs also assist with performing everyday activities, lower the risk of shoulder injuries, and provide that extra edge in sports and in the gym. Simply put, a well-built chest is, well, pectacular. Sorry.

It’s high time for you to get your chest training out of a rut. Use and share these tips to reassess your chest routine and pave your way to pec success.

1 Stick With Basics

When the chest game starts to falter, some people react by piling on ridiculous-sounding accessory work like a one-handed, reverse lay-up upper-cut. No need to reinvent the wheel here; there are no secret exercises.

Perfect your technique and form and identify the best rep range for your objective. The basics will help your chest grow!

Tried-and-true foundational exercises like ye olde bench press, dumbbell press, incline press, and chest flye have helped top lifters such as Steve Reeves, Arnold, and countless other folks throughout the years. So why wouldn’t they work for you?

Before trying to change things, make sure you master these movements. Perfect your technique and form and identify the best rep range for your objective. After all, any structurally solid building must rise from a strong foundation.

Exercises like the bench press are the cornerstones for a powerful chest. Still doubtful? Look to IFBB Physique Pro Craig Capurso, who uses these exercises to build his rock-solid chest.

2 Everyone Should Train Chest

Yep, that includes you, ladies. Unfortunately, some women need to banish these false preconceived notions of how chest exercises could negatively impact their bust. No, they will not shrink your bust. No, they will not make you look like She-Hulk. So stop worrying over these unfounded concerns!

Despite fears of lost bust size, both men and women should train their chests regularly.

If there’s someone who has both a strong and good-looking chest, it’s WBFF Pro Jen Jewell. Jen knows the importance of chest day and likes to include as many different movements into her chest workout as possible, including presses, flyes, and push-up variations.

“Just because [women] may not be out to build the biggest pecs out there doesn’t mean we should neglect chest training,” she says. “Our chests are a major muscle group. We wouldn’t neglect training our back, so why would we skip out on chest day?”

It’s like those dudes who exclusively train upper body and end up with chopsticks for legs. The same concept of imbalance echoes here: Working out one group of muscles but ignoring another group could make you look (and function) disproportionate.

Jen continues: “If we neglect training our chests, it could lead to a muscular imbalance in our physique and impact our training all around—we can’t have that, now can we?! When we are working our chests, our shoulders and triceps are involved, too. And ladies, there’s another bonus! Even though you can’t increase the size of your breasts themselves with training, you can tighten the muscles of the chest, which makes for an even perkier bust line.”

3 Squeeze

Squeeze what, you ask? Well, there’s your problem.

When benching, you want to squeeze two things: the bar handle and your pec muscles. When I say squeeze your pecs, I don’t mean using your hands to actually squeeze them. On the concentric, or lifting, portion of your reps, think about contracting your pecs. Squeezing increases the pump and the work involved, as well as the density of the muscle. It won’t be easy, but your hard efforts will be rewarded.

Squeezing the bar with your grip increases the pump and the work involved, as well as the density of the muscle.

Also make sure you squeeze the bar or dumbbell handle as if you want to crush it in the palm of your hands. This clench will invite more fibers to the pump party, resulting in increased strength down the road.

4 Focus On Form

Proper lifting form trumps everything else. If your form collapses, it doesn’t matter that you’re slinging twice your body weight.

If the intended muscle fibers aren’t recruited correctly, other muscle groups may dominate the exercise, which adds unnecessary stress to muscle groups that aren’t designed to bear heavy loads. That’s how you get hurt. No one builds a strong chest while sitting in physical therapy or dealing with an injured back or shoulder. Throwing up big bench numbers may impress the bros at your gym, but it’s not a good long-term strategy if those numbers come at the expense of good form.

Executing proper form, performing reps at a slower tempo, and focusing on using your chest throughout the movement will maximize the intensity and effectiveness of the workout, while minimizing injury risk.

5 Push Yourself

Your body is an amazing, intelligent machine that will adapt to stress quickly. If you don’t push it hard enough, it won’t grow. It’s as simple as that.

While proper form still rules the day, muscle growth requires progressively increased stimuli. This increase leads to breaking down the muscle fibers and rebuilding stronger and bigger ones, preparing you for the next time you go against the iron.


Dumbbell Flye

As you grow more comfortable performing the movement perfectly within a certain weight range, push yourself to take on more weight—as long as your form stays tight.

6 Rest, Pause, Drop

When adding more weight is no longer a challenging option, there’s another method for making your next chest workout a sufferfest. I call it the “rest, pause, drop” method—RPD, for short—and no, it isn’t a new dance routine.

I combined two intensity-raising techniques: rest-pause and dropsets. The former breaks up one set into several subsets with brief rest worked into the whole set. The latter is a technique that allows you to continue an exercise with a lighter weight after your muscles have tapped out at a heavier weight. My rest, pause, drop methodology applied to a chest workout makes for absolute muscle-building brutality and is designed to train all your muscle fiber varieties at once.


Start with a weight you can do for 6-8 reps and go to failure (use a spotter). Rest for 5 seconds and then try for a couple of more.


Reduce the weight by 20-25 percent. Repeat what you just did, including the rest-pause, for 5 seconds.


Reduce the weight again—by the same amount you did last time—and repeat the rest-pause set one more time.

The final result is a 25-30 rep set. Beginners can do one set of this at the end of their chest workout, but I don’t recommend any more than that. Advanced lifters can include this RPD set with each exercise next Monday. (Everyone still does chest on Monday, right?)

7 Dust Off the Decline

You know that decline bench? The sloped brute that gathered a thick layer of dust from underuse? Well, this underrated angle can be a huge boon to your chest routine. It is approved by strongman Colton Leonard, who knows a thing or two about strong pecs.

Comparing exercises done on a flat bench versus a decline bench, some studies have shown that more muscle fibers in the pec are recruited while on the decline. Try this out with both a barbell and dumbbells.

Put these tips to the test and share your results with me and the rest of us in the comments below!


About The Author

Bodybuilding is the reason I am who I am today. I am more confident in myself, actually looking for the next challenge, and inspiring others.

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7 Ways To Pump Up Your Chest

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10 ways to be more active

1 Choose the furthest corner

Instead of fighting for parking spots closest to the supermarket doors, park your car as far away as possible. This gives you the opportunity to walk further, for longer – and it’s less stressful, too.

2 Skip the lift

Stop taking the lift and take the stairs instead. It’ll get your heart pumping and body moving to build your fitness levels, plus climbing the stairs requires your bum, thigh and calf muscles to engage, helping to tone and sculpt your legs – a win-win!

3 Walk the last stop

If you commute to work by bus, jump off one stop early – or even two! – to increase
the distance you walk. Not only will this
add in some extra cardio exercise to your
day – particularly if you march at a fast pace – it’ll burn a few extra calories, too.  

4 Get pedalling

Boost your fitness by cycling to and from work. It’s a great way to get two cardio workouts into your day without having to take time out to exercise. Cycling is also a great way to tone up and keep those calories burning

 5 Use your lunch hour

Instead of staying glued to your computer screen, use your lunch hour for some retail therapy or a wander in the park. Just 20 minutes walking around the block, will help perk you up and boost your motivation. And, of course, it will add that extra bit of physical activity into your day. In fact, according to a recent study conducted at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
in California, walking briskly can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as running. Walk on!

6 Leave your car at home

If you have kids, walk them to school instead of driving, if it’s close enough. Not only will you start your day with a spring in your step, but walking to school will also encourage your kids to be more active, and it also helps reduce pollution. If walking isn’t an option, why not take them to the park after school or to the swings to play? And make sure you run around as much as your kids do!

7 Stand up more!

While talking on the phone, whether at home or in the office, get out of your chair and stand up or pace up and down. As well as helping you to focus on the conversation, this can have real benefits for your health. A study by Dr John Buckley and a team of researchers from the University of Chester proved that standing for a total of three hours each day will burn up an extra 144 calories. Over a year, that adds up to about 30,000 more calories or eight pounds of fat!

8 Be a tourist

Instead of the usual catch-up over coffee and cake or dinner, why not arrange
a jog around the park with a friend instead
or book onto a sightseeing tour around your nearest city. You’ll still have a chance to chat, but you’ll get in a bit of extra cardio, too.

9 Get your groove on

Spending your evenings slumped in front of the TV after a stressful day at work? Why not create a playlist of some of your favourite songs and have a dance around your bedroom for 15 minutes (or longer!) instead? Or look up dance classes you can join in your area. Not only does dancing
help boost self-confidence, but it’s a great chance to get a sweat on and burn some extra calories. A study published by the American Council on Exercise found that dance-based workouts can burn 200-400 calories per hour – almost as much as you burn swimming, cycling or walking. 

10 Invest in a pedometer

Record the number of steps you take each day with a pedometer. Then challenge yourself to increase the number every day or have a competition with your partner
or friend to see who can bank the most steps. This will boost your motivation
and get you more active

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10 ways to be more active

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First for thirst

When it’s warm outside and you’re working up a sweat, you need to keep thirst at bay. Even a small amount of fluid loss can cause your body to work less efficiently and upset the delicate balance of minerals, including salts and sugar, in your system. Find out exactly how much water you need for your weight and exercise levels using the Hydration Calculator, at Hydration 4 Health. Feeling thirsty, light-headed, tired, headachey, a dry mouth and lips are early signs of dehydration, so read our guide to what’s best to drink.  


Water is the perfect hydrator. You should aim to drink at least 1.2 litres of fluid (six to eight 250ml glasses) a day and increase this to 2.5 litres in hot weather, when you lose more fluid through sweat. This fluid can be from a variety of drinks, says the Natural Hydration Council, but water is calorie- and fat-free and easily absorbed by the body. However, if you’re working out for longer than 60 minutes, switch to an isotonic sports drink (see below).   

Squash or diluted fruit juice  

If you find water boring, try highly diluted squash or fruit juice, for example, 100ml of fruit juice to one litre of water. ‘Carbohydrates, such as sugar, have to be broken down in the gut, which can slow down the rate at which fluids pass into the bloodstream,’ says nutritionist Dr Emma Derbyshire of the Natural Hydration Council, so don’t be tempted to drink stronger juices. Smoothies are also too sugary to help you hydrate efficiently.

Sports drinks  

A 2008 study found sports drinks don’t necessarily hydrate your body as fast as water, but they do provide a quick energy source. ‘If you’re doing more than 60 minutes of exercise in one session and will do more later in the day, it’s good to use an isotonic drink,’ says Derbyshire. Isotonic drinks help replace lost minerals and provide some carbohydrate as fuel. Only have energy drinks, or ‘hypertonic’ drinks, with a higher level of carbohydrate, after doing very high levels of exercise, to quickly replace muscle glycogen stores.  


A recent UK study found drinking up to four mugs of black tea with milk a day is just as hydrating as drinking the same quantity of water. However, Derbyshire says the caffeine in tea starts acting as a diuretic (increases fluid loss by causing you to pass more urine) when you exceed around five cups a day, so go easy or switch to herbal teas. 

Coconut water 

Fresh coconut water is naturally isotonic, with a 330ml serving containing more potassium than two bananas plus five other naturally occurring electrolytes. It has one-fifth of the sugar found in fruit juice, plus a little fibre. Derbyshire says there are few published studies on its hydrating abilities and it lacks salts, but it could be a good post-exercise hydrator. Try Vita Coco from Waitrose and Tesco;

Soft drinks 

Carbonated drinks with sugar, like many energy drinks, provide lots of empty calories. They’re also acidic, so can damage your teeth when drunk regularly. Even vitamin-fortified drinks branded as ‘healthy’ can contain as much sugar as a cola. 

Did you know…

A 2009 study found that watermelon could be more hydrating that water! It’s 92 per cent water and contains rehydrating salkts magnesium, potassium and sodium. 

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First for thirst

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