Strength progression is all about how much weight you can lift, over a certain number of reps or sets, here's how to measure your progression. What is it? Tracking strength progression is vital to any resistance based program, with muscles needing to be consistently challenged in order to fortify the neural connections and muscular adaptions
Say goodbye to stubborn love handles and uncover those abs with these tips…
Summer’s approaching and it’s around this time of year that everyone gets super body conscious. It’s okay, you’re not alone, love handles and stubborn fat are a problem for practically all of us. So if you want to look and feel great, there’s a lot of things to consider. Whilst diet and exercise are two powerful tools in the pursuit of a healthy body, sleep patterns, stress levels and body confidence all have their own part to play. Learn how to make the most of what you’ve got (and disguise those love handles) with our top expert tips.
Eat up, slim down
Always thinking about your next meal? Not anymore! The secret behind fat-loss success lies in properly fuelling your body with nutrient-dense food. Number one on the list is fibre – both the soluble and insoluble types. Fibre helps slow down digestion and recharges your body with a steady stream of energy, but worryingly, a whopping 90 percent of us don’t have enough roughage in our diets, according to a new study by Warburtons.
To win the war against wobbles, it’s important to go back to basics. Eat meals high in protein, which helps preserve lean muscle mass and omega-3 fatty acids. These turn on fat-burning enzymes in your cells and help regulate the appetite hormone leptin, which keeps you feeling satiated. Finally, spice up your meals for the ultimate metabolism kick. Chilli and paprika both contain a compound called capsaicin that helps speed up weight loss, while cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar levels and reduce cravings.
Fight fat: Government guidelines say we should consume 24g of fibre daily, so fill your plate with a variety of colourful fruit, veg and whole grains to ensure you reach your quota. Boost your omega-3 intake with nuts and fish such as sardines, salmon and mackerel, and add chilli, paprika and cinnamon to soups, stews and curries.
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Sleep easy, stay slim
The secret to maintaining your slim figure? A good night’s sleep! The link between sleep and staying slim is often underestimated, but you can double your chances of reaching your ideal weight if you get between six and eight hours sleep a night. ‘One third of the population of the UK is sleep deprived and this puts people at an increased risk of being overweight,’ says naturopath Sybille Gebhardt (sybille.co.uk). ‘Your body derives its energy from food and sleep. If one is lacking, then the other needs to increase to sustain your body’s necessary energy levels.’
A recent study by researchers at the University of Chicago found that sleep deprivation plays havoc with fat cells, reducing their ability to respond to the blood sugar balancing hormone insulin by 30 per cent.
Ever wondered why a bad night’s sleep leads to a day of bingeing? Lack of sleep also lowers levels of the appetite-controlling hormone leptin, sending signals to the brain to increase appetite. When you get enough sleep, leptin levels are higher – so you’re more likely to feel full when you eat.
Fight fat: Make sure you get a proper night’s rest by going to bed at the same time each night to help regulate your body’s circadian rhythm. Apply a spritz of lavender essential oil to your pillow and enjoy a soak in the tub before lights out to increase your chances of shut-eye.
Beat stress, lose weight
Being dedicated to your job may improve your career prospects, but it might not be such good news for your waistline. Even if you eat healthily and exercise regularly, leading a stressful lifestyle can stop you from losing inches. When you’re under stress, your body pumps out adrenaline and high levels of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol affects appetite, causing you to crave sugary, high-fat foods that stimulate the brain to release neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. This has a soothing effect on stress, but, obviously, it’s terrible news for your body. A high level of cortisol also promotes fat around your middle, known as visceral fat. This fat surrounds organs and releases fatty acids into your blood stream, raising insulin levels and increasing your risk of diabetes over the long term. ‘Many of us reach for food when we’re stressed,’ says Sybille. ‘Try meditation or yoga to calm your mind.’
Fight fat: Melt your muffin top with stress-soothing foods such as oily fish, which helps to regulate cortisol levels, or turkey, which increases serotonin levels. Practice yoga at least twice a week.
Feel confident, look great
Your biggest fat-loss obstacle? You’re looking at her in the mirror! Looking good is all about feeling good, so if you boost your body confidence you could send your fat-loss rate soaring. A study by scientists at the Technical University of Lisbon and Bangor University discovered that women are far more likely to shed pounds if they work on improving their body image issues. You might not have your dream body (yet), but embrace your best bits and you’ll look and feel your best.
Fight fat: Been blessed with long legs but a paunchy tum? Opt for skinny jeans with a smock top and a wow-inducing pair of heels. Hate your bingo wings but love your killer cleavage? A long-sleeved top with a scoop neckline will give you a lift.
Your goal doesn’t have to be to make it to the Olympics in order to get the most from your workouts.
Whether you’re training for a race or simply looking to stay active, why shouldn’t you at least be able to train like your favourite athletes? Fitness expert and coach Nick Grantham – who has worked with many top athletes and Olympians – thinks we should all be able to train to our full potential regardless of our individual goals.
His new book The Strength & Conditioning Bible: How to Train Like an Athlete is designed to give you everything you need to make it happen. ‘Anyone who wants to improve their fitness levels and is willing to invest some time and effort can optimise their training and performance,’ he says. ‘And that’s pretty much anyone!’
Gone are the days when you needed the most expensive training tools and elite trainers by your side to train smart. From guide books to online personal trainers, there are increasingly easy and effective ways to get training – but with Nick’s experience working in high-performance fitness and sport science, you can really count on The Strength & Conditioning Bible to not only explain what to do and how to do it, but also why you’re doing it.
‘As a coach I know the power of understanding,’ Nick says. ‘If you understand why you’re performing an activity, you’re far more likely to stick to the training programme.’
As well as giving you the chance to take exercises up or down a notch, it also preps you to continue your training confidently on your own. ‘It offers sample sessions, and appropriate progressions and regressions,’ he adds. ‘It also provides the reader with an understanding that will allow them to develop their own effective programmes.’
The workout over these pages, devised by Nick, will allow you to train your body from head to toe in a fuss-free, effective way. In Nick’s own words, no matter what your level or experience, ‘anyone can train like an athlete’.
Areas trained: glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves
Holding the barbell resting on your shoulder muscles,
stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Bend at your knees and hips to lower your body until the tops of your thighs are parallel to the floor.
Reverse the position, extending your hips and knees to return to the start position.
Perform 8-10 reps of each move one after the other in a circuit, resting between sets if you need to. Once a circuit is complete, return to the start and repeat. Keep going until you’ve reached the time recommended for your level
Areas trained: chest, triceps, core
Start in a plank position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Tighten up through your core, ensuring your back is flat.
Bend your arms to lower your body until your chest is about 1cm from the floor.
Drive back up to the starting position where your arms are extended.
Areas trained: hamstrings, lower back, glutes
Hold the bar with an overhand grip approximately shoulder-width (your thumbs should brush the outside of your thighs).
Place your feet approximately hip-width apart, with knees soft and your feet straight ahead.
Maintaining a flat back position, bend forward at the hips, lowering the bar towards the floor.
Reverse the position, extend your hips and return to the start position.
Areas trained: core, stomach
Lie on your back with your hips and knees bent at a 90-degree angle with arms fully extended towards the ceiling.
Simultaneously lower your arms behind your head and your legs out fully until they are both close to the ground, without touching it.
Return to the start position and repeat.
Areas trained: shoulders, core, glutes, sides
Lie on your back and hold a kettlebell in your right hand, straight above your shoulder, arm vertical. Position your left arm out to the side and bend your right leg so that your right foot is alongside your left knee.
Pushing off your right foot, roll onto your left hip and up onto your left elbow.
Push up onto your left hand and holding yourself up on your left hand and right foot, lift yourself up off the ground, then thread your left leg back to a kneeling position.
You will be in a kneeling position with your left knee on the floor, right foot on the floor and the kettlebell locked out overhead in your right hand.
From the kneeling position, move into a standing position.
Reverse the movements to come back down to the starting position on the floor.
Perform on the opposite side for the next rep.
Areas trained: glutes, hamstrings, core
Set up in the position shown – your shoulder blades in line with the bench and holding a barbell to your hips.
Place your feet close to your bottom, so that at the top of the hip thrust, your calves are at 90 degrees to the floor.
Drive through your heels and focus on using your glutes to push your hips straight up. Finish with your hips as high as possible while maintaining a neutral spine.
2-point dumbbell bent-over row
Areas trained: upper back, biceps
Holding a dumbbell in your right hand, start with your feet hip-width apart in an offset stance with your right foot slightly staggered behind the left.
Take up the same position as you would for a bent-over row (your knees slightly bent and your torso bent forwards at your hips at a 45-degree angle).
Row the dumbbell up to your ribcage and then return to the starting position.
Repeat all reps in the set and then switch sides.
Areas trained: glutes, hamstrings, back, core
Hold a kettlebell with both hands and bend your knees so you are in an athletic position.
Bring the kettlebell through your legs, so your forearms are in contact with your inner thighs.
Swing the weight upward and out to eye level, using the extension of your hips to move
Return to the start position and go straight into another rep.
Buy the book
Packed with plenty more workouts just like this one, The Strength & Conditioning Bible: How to Train Like an Athlete by Nick Grantham is published by Bloomsbury (£18, bloomsbury.com). Get your copy now!
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?
With your feet hip-width apart and arms loose, perform continuous little jumps for 30 seconds.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Staying motivated is essential for your exercise goals, and there are simple changes you can make to keep moving forwards. Stuck for ideas? We’ve got a few to get you started.
1. Find a workout buddy
Exercising with a friend who has similar goals to you can be more fun and motivating for the both of you. Working out together will help push you both in the right direction to reach your shared goals.
2. Create your own workout playlist
Whether it’s on iTunes, Spotify or another music programme, creating the perfect playlist will give you the motivation to get up and get moving while listening to it. Listening to the right upbeat music while working out has also been suggested to increase the length of your workout!
3. New workout gear
You don’t have to spend loads of money, but treating yourself to some new workout kit is an exciting prospect and will spur you on to get them on as soon as possible and to have yourself a confident workout! Plus, you’ll look good doing it.4. Change it up
We all need change and variety to keep ourselves motivated, so whether it’s taking on a new workout class, joining a sports group or a change of scenery when outdoor exercising, do something different and new that you will thank yourself for later.
5. Reward yourself
Find something you’d like to work towards so you can strive to achieve just that, such as fitting into a pair of jeans you’ve bought yourself. Maybe even treating yourself to something new each month to enjoy and reward yourself for your exercise.
We’re all inspired by different goals and people when it comes to fitness. Whether you long for the curves of Kate Upton, or you’re in awe of the athletic prowess of Amir Khan, celebrity trainer Ruben Tabares has you covered. Not only does he train stars like the aforementioned (plus a few more fit A-listers you might have heard of), which means he’s used to the pressure of achieving results quickly, but his variety of clients means that he can help you reach any fitness goal.This full-body workout below, devised especially for WF readers, will boost your fitness thanks to its low rest periods and bursts of high intensity. Combined with smart eating, it also promises to boost fat-loss