In this article I try to answer some of the questions that I get asked when it comes to losing weight.
There should be a balance of increasing muscle mass and decreasing bodyweight. In fact, with structured weight-loss programmes, some weeks there should be no change on the scales.
A weekly decrease in body fat of around 0.2-0.5% would be very good. However, your starting weight should be considered. If you are 30-40kg overweight then you could expect larger drops initially, but these should slow down and become controlled otherwise there will also be a fast development of excess skin.
This is a common and dangerous mistake to make. High-intensity exercise in the form of jumping or rapid movements shouldn’t even be considered if you are new to exercise. Your muscles, joints and nutrition will struggle to cope right away. You will be increasing your chances of injury with high-impact movements, and you also risk overwhelming your central nervous system prematurely.
For a beginner, fast walking is a good place to start as it is relatively high-intensity and poses less risk. My suggested training method would be resistance training because it burns body fat for longer periods of time, as well as being low-impact and controllable.
Lastly, even many professional athletes don’t exercise five times a week, so don’t feel like you need to! If I had a client training five times a week, their programme would vary in the type of exercise and include recovery sessions.
The first thing to do is to evaluate the time that you can commit to your weight loss journey. You may need to make a few lifestyle changes that will create more time for exercise. The first and most important thing to do is to get into a better eating, cooking and planning routine. Without these, the exercise will not have as much of an impact.
Four times a week is the most you should exercise and two times a week is the least.
However, you also need to do non-exercise activity. Walking a little more, parking further away from shops and taking the stairs can also add up and create a significant change.
Resistance training is the best form of exercise to burn body fat. It gives you the fastest and longest-lasting benefits for the time spent. I would suggest starting with larger muscle groups and work on improving your posture and muscles that are commonly weak.
When these muscles are conditioned first, this immediately improves your self-esteem and you will have a better structural balance to your body, decreasing your chance of injury. I would avoid workouts that have no purpose such as “alphabet workouts”, where an exercise is attributed to every letter of the alphabet, or extremely high-volume workouts – for example doing over 20 repetitions of a random combination of movements. I would avoid anything that hasn’t factored in your own personal level of fitness, imbalances, likes or dislikes.
The best advice I can give is to seek out a personal trainer who knows how to assess your wellbeing, gives you a structure and help you become accountable to a new lifestyle. For some people this could take a few weeks. Others may need a little help due to lifestyle commitments, illness or medical reasons. Although, these can be overcome with the right support and guidance.
Cook more than you need for all meals so you have leftovers. This gives you additional, healthy meals and saves you time.
Learn about herbs and spices. These are what give your food flavour and prevent you adding unhealthy sauces.
Vary your food. It’s too easy to repeat the same meals daily which don’t give you the variety in nutrients you need. You could be lacking in areas of your diet and preventing yourself from losing the weight you want to. Expand your knowledge of food and experiment.
For me, food should come first. The definition of the word supplement is “add to”, so you are adding to your existing diet. If you have a poor diet, or have been eating badly for a prolonged period of time, your body will simply not benefit from any supplements. I would advise you to eat healthily and to increase your metabolism via exercise and good hydration, as well as improving your sleep and lowering stress.
I hope this will help and I wish you lots of success with your weight loss journey.
Anyway enough music puns..... ensuring your core is strong and flexible will help you in the gym, playing sports or just going about your daily business. A strong core will also help you maintain good posture and avoid issues like lower back pain.
Basically, core exercises are a must for any fitness routine,
Building a strong core is all about keeping still. Here are three holds will create the foundation of a strong core, teaching you to keep your hips aligned and how to control your posture.
The definitive core exercise. The plank involves minimal movement but maximal effort, requiring you to support your body on your forearms and toes while holding your body in a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. You can make it easier by resting on your knees, or harder by extending your arms so you’re supported by your hands.
Lie on your back with your arms extended straight up towards the ceiling, and your legs raised with your knees bent at 90°. Lower your right arm and left leg at the same time until they are hovering just above the floor, then return to the starting position. Then do the same with the opposite limbs.
Sit on the floor with your knees bent. Lean back slightly, keeping your back straight, and hold your arms out in front of you as you raise your feet off the ground with your legs together. If you can, extend your legs so they are straight and your body forms a V shape. You can also raise your arms and spread your legs to make the hold harder.
Naturally you can do each of the exercises as part of a training session, but for a beginner core workout try this suggested routine, doing five rounds in total of these three exercises.
1 Plank Time 30sec Rest 0sec
2 Dead bug Reps 10 Rest 0sec
3 Boat Time 30sec Rest 1min
Here we start to add movement to a controlled core. Can you stay still with good posture whilst another area of your body moves?
Get into a plank position with your feet spread and your forearms resting on a gym ball. Push the ball away with your forearms, then pull it back it, while maintaining the plank position.
On a set of dip bars, hold yourself steady with arms fully extended. Raise your knees towards your chest, then lower them slowly. Repeat. You can also do this exercise hanging from a pull-up bar.
Get into the top press-up position. Put a dumbbell on the ground just to the right of your torso. Reach underneath and across with your left hand to grab the dumbbell and drag it to your left side. Then mirror the movement with your right hand.
If you want to combine three movements in one workout, do three rounds in total of the three exercises.
1 Ball push-away Reps 8 Rest 0sec
2 Hanging knee raise Reps 8 Rest 0sec
3 Dumbbell plank drag Reps 8 Rest 1min
Now we start to add greater difficulty to posture control by adding more of a load, more of your bodyweight, or a larger range of movements. Remember – slow and steady movement wins the race to a stronger core.
This is certainly not one for beginners. While hanging from a pull up bar bend at the hips (not the waist) and lift your toes to the bar, keeping your legs together as you move.
Use a pair of parallel bar for this core cruncher. Lift and hold yourself up above the parallettes with your arms extended. Extend your legs straight out in front of you so you form an L-shape. Hold it – if you can.
Another savage hold exercise. Get into an elevated plank with your feet against a wall so you form a flat, horizontal line from heels to head. Hold. HOLD!
Put these three exercise together for this quick but brutal core workout designed by Tidmarsh. Do three rounds in total.
1 Strict toes to bar Reps 6 Rest 0min
2 L-sit Time 30sec Rest 0sec
3 Wall plank Time 30sec Rest 1min
And remember to breathe!!
The press-up is a savage test of a host of upper-body muscles, especially the chest, shoulders and triceps. Your core will also benefit from the standard press-up, and if you introduce a few basic variations on the move you can recruit even more muscles.
Before you start varying your press-ups, however, it’s important to ensure your form on the classic move is correct. Even if you’ve done a million press-ups in your time, make sure you check your form against the following technique guide.
1) Start on all fours, with your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet hip-width apart – moving your feet further apart will make it easier, while bringing them closer together makes it harder.
2) Straighten your arms. Keep your hips in line with your shoulders throughout the movement.
3) Lower your chest towards the ground by bending at the elbows, keeping them by your sides. Flaring your elbows works the chest more, while keeping them close to you targets the triceps more. The closer your chest gets to the floor the better, unless you end up just lying down. That’s not going to help anyone.
4) Press back up. Then do it all again.
Diamond press up
This variation shifts the focus of the exercise to your triceps, though you’ll still be working your shoulders and chest as well. Start in a standard press-up position, but place your hands together under your chest with the thumbs and index fingers touching so that they form a diamond shape. Keeping your elbows tucked in to your sides, lower slowly until your chest is just above the ground and then push back up.
While the diamond press-up hits your triceps harder, the decline variation is tougher on your shoulders and upper chest muscles. To perform the exercise, get into a press-up position with your feet on a raised surface, which should be about 30-60cm off the floor. Lower your chest towards the ground, then push back up.
My challenge this month is the press up challenge. This can be done anywhere and although it’s far from easy by the end of it you will be so pleased with your new toned upper body! Let’s come out of lockdown stronger and leaner than ever!
|Day 1||20 press-ups|
|Day 2||25 press-ups|
|Day 3||30 press-ups|
|Day 4||35 press-ups|
|Day 5||2 sets of 20 press-ups|
|Day 6||2 sets of 25 press-ups|
|Day 7||2 sets of 30 press-ups|
|Day 8||2 sets of 35 press-ups|
|Day 9||45 press-ups|
|Day 10||30 press-ups + 10 diamond press -up|
|Day 11||35 press-ups + 15 diamond press-ups|
|Day 12||35 press-ups + 20 diamond press-ups|
|Day 13||40 press-ups + 20 diamond press-ups|
|Day 14||40 press-ups + 25 diamond press-ups|
|Day 15||45 press-ups + 25 diamond press-ups|
|Day 16||50 press-ups + 25 diamond press-ups|
|Day 17||2 sets of 30 press-ups + 30 diamond press-ups|
|Day 18||2 sets of 35 press-ups + 30 diamond press-ups|
|Day 19||60 press-ups + 30 diamond press-ups|
|Day 20||30 decline press-up + 30 press-ups+ 30 diamond press-ups|
|Day 21||35 decline press-ups + 35 press-ups + 30 diamond press-ups|
|Day 22||35 decline press-ups + 35 press-ups + 35 diamond press-ups|
|Day 23||40 decline press-ups + 35 press-ups + 35 diamond press-ups|
|Day 24||40 decline press-ups + 40 press-ups + 35 diamond press-ups|
|Day 25||40 decline press-ups + 40 press-ups + 40 diamond press-ups|
|Day 26||45 decline press-ups + 40 press-ups + 40 diamond press-ups|
|Day 27||45 decline press-ups + 45 press-ups + 40 diamond press-ups|
|Day 28||45 decline press-ups + 45 press-ups + 45 diamond press-ups|
|Day 29||50 decline press-ups + 50 press-ups + 45 diamond press-ups|
|Day 30||100 press-ups|
Obviously he hasn’t injured himself through poor exercise technique or from going too heavy at the gym (the usual reason with him). However we both realised that the new working from home regime might well be the culprit.
Many of us are beginning to feel the real effects of staying at home for so long. Working from makeshift kitchen table desks, not getting in our regular gym routines and foregoing proper recovery is taking its toll on our mental and physical health.
We need flexibility to maintain a range of motion in our joints. Without that, we’re at a high risk of joint pain, muscle strains and muscle damage, especially if you’re going to be sedentary, sitting at a desk for a long period of time, not being able to move and be active.
Looking at a computer screen all day, especially if it's not positioned properly, can be – well – a literal pain in the neck. So much so that it can cause long term issues and not just neck- but also headaches. Apart from making sure that the hardware is placed in a position that's best for your neck, you should also move that neck around every now and then to make sure it's staying flexible (and pain free).
Neck rolls are pretty straightforward: tilt your head forward as far as you can (comfortably) and move it around, with the tip of your head doing a full circle around before returning to the starting position. Do a 3-5 circles each time.
2. BACKWARD/FORWARD SHOULDER ROLLS
Moving further down, let's focus on the shoulders. Dropping your shoulders as you sit can make you slouch, which will make your back hurt quite a lot. Being mindful about the way you sit and opening your chest/shoulders can help alleviate upper back pain sooner. Shoulder rolls are amazing stretching exercises because they can be done without even lifting up your hands from the keyboard.
Of course, it's best to stand up from the computer and have a bit of a walk around but if you ever notice you started slouching as you sit, feel free to do some backward shoulder rolls.
First, lift your shoulders up as high as you can: just like how you would if you wanted to give someone the biggest shrug in the world. Then, slowly roll your shoulders back and around, pushing them to their maximum position in each direction. Once you've done 3-5 circles, change the direction and roll the the shoulders forward. Do forward shoulder rolls for 3-5 times.
3. CHEST OPENER
This is another upper back/shoulder stretch to help you alleviate the effect of slouching. Doing chest openers can also improve shoulder flexibility which is vastly ignored by adults in general. Join your hands behind your lower back which in turn will open up your chest and shoulders. Without bending your elbows, try bringing your hands up as high as you comfortably can. If you are standing, keep your feet shoulder width apart and and bend your hips forward as you bring your arms up. That would effectively stretch your lower back too!
4. SPINE TWIST
Spine mobility is largely ignored in general which is sad because a mobile spine can mean the world in terms of general comfort levels. Our spines are made out of individual vertebrae, not a solid pole, but given how well people can twist their spines you would think it was the latter that's true.
If you are sitting on a chair, turn your shoulders around and grab the top of the chair with your hands and pull your shoulders around your back as far as you can without moving your hips. Hold this position for five seconds and then return to the starting position. Repeat the other way around.
I hope that helps!
That’s because a strong core is the foundation upon which so many other things rest – whether that’s good posture that helps to prevent lower back pain developing from sitting at a desk all day, or the mobility and strength required to excel in sports and other activities ranging all the way from athletics to zumba.
The list of benefits of adding abs exercises to your gym repertoire and strengthening your core is almost endless.
Here is a selection of some of my favourite moves for beginner, intermediate and advanced gym-goers.
An all-time classic. Hold a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles while supporting yourself on your forearms and toes.
It’s also easy to scale – start at 20-second holds and work up towards 60 seconds. Make sure you engage your core by tilting your pelvis back slightly to flatten your lower back – a curved lower back is to be avoided
Lie down with your feet flat on the ground and knees bent. Place your hands on your thighs and slowly slide them up towards your knees as you sit up.
This does not have to be a large movement. Focus on closing the distance between your ribs and hips by lifting your shoulders off the floor while maintaining contact between the ground and your lower back.
Moving the top half up puts more emphasis on your upper abs. Start with sets of five and work towards 15.
Start in a straight arm press-up position with one knee up between your elbows and only the back foot on the floor. Jump the back foot off the floor and swap it with the front foot.
Focus on pulling your stomach muscles in throughout the movement to protect your spine and add more intensity. This is a great exercise for burning calories as well as developing your abs. Start with 30 seconds of mountain climbers and work towards 60 seconds.
The reverse crunch is even better than the standard crunch for strengthening your abs. The move keeps your muscles under tension for a longer period and hits the tricky-to-target lower abs particularly hard.
Lie down and raise your legs so your thighs are vertical and your knees are bent at a 90° angle. Contract your abs to bring your knees to your chest and raise your hips off the floor, then slowly lower your legs back to the star
It’s worth mastering the basic version of this exercise because it hits the oft-neglected obliques and often fitness classes throw people in at the deep end with more difficult variations. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and heels resting on the ground. Lean back so that your torso is at 45°.
Keep your chest up to stop you from hunching your back. Interlock your fingers and extend your arms in front of you. Turn your torso to the left or right, bringing your hands to touch the ground on that side. Rotate back to centre and then carry on to touch the opposite side. Once you’ve mastered the movement, make it more difficult by raising your heels off the floor and/or holding a weight.
The dead bug is a fine choice for beginners because it goes easy on your neck and back, which can’t be said for other abs exercises when they’re done incorrectly.
Lie on your back with your arms extended to the ceiling. Raise your legs and bend your knees until they’re at 90°. Lower your left arm towards the ground and simultaneously extend your right leg so both limbs end up parallel to the ground. Reverse the movements, then repeat with the other arm and leg.
Focus on making your movements slow and controlled, spending three seconds lowering and three seconds raising. Work for 30 to 60 seconds, or three sets of five reps on each side.
Lie down flat on your back on the ground. Keeping your legs as straight as possible, raise them until they’re vertical or as close as you can get. Lower them and repeat.
To make it easier, tuck your knees in and start with your legs raised, then slowly lower them towards the floor. Once you master this, start keeping your legs straight when returning to the top position.
If you feel a niggle in your lower back then place your hands under your buttocks to help keep your lower back flat. Start with sets of five raises and work towards 15
Adopt the plank position with both forearms on the floor and your body forming a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Now push up to the raised plank position one hand at a time. Once you’re up, return to the standard plank position, again one hand at a time.
Repeat, changing the hand you lead with each time. The aim is to keep your hips as still as possible – if they start to move, increase the distance between your feet to make it easier. Aim for 30- to 60-second work periods.
Sometimes known as scissor kicks, this movement will certainly feel like it’s carving out your abs. Lie on your back and raise your legs so that they’re roughly 15cm above the ground. Keeping your legs straight throughout, move your legs up and down in a kicking motion, with the movement coming from your hips.
Go at a pace that’s comfortable and allows you to keep your legs off the ground for the duration, and make smooth and controlled movements. Work for between 30 and 60 seconds at a time.
We often neglect the muscles we can't see, especially with midsection training. This exercise works the inner core muscles.
Start lying on your back – the goal is to flatten your back or push it into the floor. Maintain this position throughout the whole movement. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor. Begin by lifting your shoulders off the floor, and at the same time lift your knees and feet off the floor to a 90° angle.
While maintaining this position with your back pressed into the ground, start to rock back and forth. Start with 20 seconds to begin with. To make the exercise more challenging, you can extend the time, and also try increasing the lever length by straightening your legs and extending your arms overhead.
While to the untrained eye this looks easy, it is L on the abs. Start sitting on the floor with your legs together and extended. Place your palms on the ground with your fingers pointing forwards.
Brace your abs, glutes and legs and press through your palms to lift your body off the ground – you’re now the most uncomfortable L on the planet. Getting off the floor is an achievement in itself, but work towards holding the position for ten seconds.
Lie on your back, extend your legs and hold them just above the ground. Place your fingers lightly on your temples. Bring one knee up towards your chest and twist your torso so that the opposite elbow comes over towards it.
Your elbow and knee needn’t touch, but thinking of that connection between the two body parts is a good way to guide the movement of your torso. Lower both your torso and leg at the same time, then repeat on the opposite side. Keep the movement continuous and smooth for 30 to 60 seconds at a time.
Enjoy this ab-tastic workout!
The benefits of the squat are virtually endless. It is is one of the primary compound exercises meaning that you use more than one joint to perform the exercise. It places significant strain on the quads, hamstrings and glutes. It also strengthens the joints, ligaments and tendons around the knee and ankle.
Since the move works so much of the body, performing it burns a lot of calories, aiding your weight loss pursuits. It also boosts your natural production of testosterone and growth hormones.
Before the challenge is revealed make sure you have mastered the movement pattern and range of motion correct. Practise by performing the bodyweight squat. Keep your core tight and place your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing outward slightly. Slowly lower your body until your quads are parallel to the floor (or even a little lower), keeping your chest up and back straight.
When you can comfortably perform multiple sets of 15-20 reps you can progress to goblet squats , where you hold a kettlebell or dumbbell with both hands in front of your chest as you perform the move. This adds further resistance and helps you keep your back straight. When you’re happy with your performance here, progress to adding a barbell.
Perform the prescribed amount of air squats each day. Try to do them all in one set, but if you do need to take a breather, try not to pause again for at least ten more reps. It’ll be tough, it’ll burn, but you’ll have buns of almost literal steel by the end of it.
Once you’ve done the 30-day challenge, try to keep it up by squatting at least twice a week.
Think of hovering over a toilet!!
I have been so frustrated by long episodes of having to go cold turkey from the gym and the thought of having to build my muscles up again after total inactivity.
I have had to be a little clever about how I have returned to my exercise and consider the changes that have occurred in my body since another abdominal operation.
I soon realised that my strength and endurance levels had become significantly lower. This should be a note of caution to everyone; if you try to exercise with intensity, the larger muscles may not be able to react and provide stability to an action. Weaker muscles are forced to work harder and become overstrained, and your risk of injury is elevated.
I began with walking. First to the end of my road, then to the high street and shops. At first I had to stop, rest, then restart – working in intervals.
I don’t really use resistance machines preferring free weights and kettlebells. However I have found fixed-weight machines useful as they helped my stability. You can mix both types of exercises into your workout, but remember, you are trying to stimulate your joints, muscles and nervous system. Overloading them in the first few sessions is going to create more stress in your body.
If you are not a gym bunny you can I swim as it’s the ultimate low-impact exercise which gives a whole-body workout.
Alternatively yoga and Pilates will improve your strength, endurance, flexibility and posture.
Wishing you all good health and an easy return to being active.
Love Lauren x
Either way if you have been working out, not just for life, but to feel more confident on holiday, don’t let all that hard work go to waste! You can continue to exercise even on holiday and if you don’t want to do the gym, here’s a way of doing a workout from the comfort of your hotel bedroom!
An extremely effective way to do that is to pull a stretchy bit of elastic in several directions.
Resistance bands are cheap and effective for a variety of workouts – probably far more effective than you might think. Resistance bands are also the most portable form of fitness equipment. Pack them in your luggage and you can slip in a workout in a hotel room just as easily as you would in your own front room.
So grab a band and follow these moves
1) Biceps curl
Sets 1 Reps 12-15 each side
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart with both feet on the resistance band. Grasp the band with one hand and hold it with your arm down at your side, palm facing forwards. Bend at the elbow and lift your arm toward your shoulders until you get a good biceps contraction. Then lower slowly back to the start. Do all your reps on one arm, then switch.
Sets 1 Reps 12-15
Hold the resistance band in both hands, arms stretched straight out to the sides at chest height, with the band going behind your back. Press the band straight out in front of you, bringing your hands together with your arms fully extended, keeping your elbows up throughout and squeezing your chest muscles as you press. Slowly return to the starting position.
Sets 1 Reps 8-15
Stand on the resistance band with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and bring the top of the band up to rest on the front of your shoulders. Lower into a squat, with your chest up and your knees over your toes. Then push up to the starting position.
Reps 10-12 each side
Lie on your side with your hips and knees bent at 90° and the resistance band looped just above your knees. Raise the upper leg to pull your knees apart while contracting your glutes for two to three seconds, then slowly return to the starting position. Do all your reps on one side, then switch.
Sets 1 Reps 10-15
Loop the resistance band just above your knees and lie on your back with your feet on the floor and your knees bent at 90°. Lift your toes off the floor, then raise your hips until you form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders, contracting your glutes throughout the entire movement. As you raise your hips open your knees slightly to press against the resistance band
Sets 1 Reps 8-10
Stand with your knees slightly bent and your feet shoulder-width apart. Grip a shoulder-width section of the resistance band with both hands in front of you at shoulder height. Keeping your arms straight, pull the band out and back until your shoulder blades contract. Slowly return to starting position.
Loop one resistance band just above your knees and another around your ankles. Drop into a half squat position with your feet shoulder-width apart to create tension in the bands. Then take a small step to the side, keeping tension in the bands as you move. Do all the steps in one direction, then switch.
Sets 1 Reps 5-15
Get in a plank position, draping the resistance band across your upper back and holding the ends under your hands. Drop your chest down towards the floor, then contract your glutes and abs and push straight up until your arms are fully extended.