Work/Life Balance and Mental health

I have had so many clients who have come to me completely stressed out from their work life that it’s affected every other aspect of their life until it eventually enters this vicious circle where being stressed about one thing has a knock on effect and it just keeps going around and around. A good work-life balance can be key to keeping control of your own mental health.


Connecting- Stay connected to family and friends. Social interaction is critical for well-being.


Be active- Regular physical activity is associated with lower anxiety, depression, and stress across all age groups. Go to a gym class, take the stairs, have a kick about. Do something that gets the heart going. No one ever left the gym or a sports field saying they wish they didn’t do that.


Take notice- Stay aware of your surroundings and what’s going on in the present. Have a declutter day every week or take a new route to work. Be aware of your surroundings and the beauty of the world around you.


Learn- Continue to learn in whatever you’re doing. Keeping the brain stimulated is essential for cognitive health. It will also enhance your self-esteem and give you a sense of achievement.


Give- Commit to an act of kindness every week. Help someone out, do something for your community. Individuals who help out others generally feel happier within themselves.


Ask- If you’re stressed and unhappy. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Reach out to family and friends or a doctor. People can help and they will help.



The Smith Machine: 5 Exercises you've never tried.

Originally posted 31/04/2014

The Smith Machine is the one piece of equipment that despite all the bad press it has had some people adhere to it even though it is clearly an inferior way to train.

I hate machines in a gym and personally see them as a complete waste of floor space. Too many gyms have a smith machine and no squat rack! Although I am very anti Smith Machine I believe it can be used for something other than something to hang your sweaty hoody on.

I will outline some exercises you may have never tried on the smith machine.

Mobility is one of the fundamentals of human movement. Shoulder mobility is talked about greatly by fitness professionals and quite commonly becomes a problem to lifters due to overuse. Hip mobility however does not have the hype attached to it that shoulder mobility does. Unlike the shoulder which is specifically designed for mobility at the expense of stability, the hip is a stable joint which is often deprived of mobility, especially in today’s sedentary society.

The shoulder, which responds well to stability oriented training is different to it’s partner ball and socket joint the hip, which requires a great deal of attention to maintain an adequate range of motion and soft tissue health. Although my knowledge on mobility isn’t great, here are some great exercises you can perform using a smith machine to get the hips loose and ready to exercise. These exercises should be performed prior to a lower body session and on off days.

1.       Anterior-Posterior Step Over’s: Really over exaggerate opening up the groin whilst maintaining a good posture throughout the movement. Keep the torso upright as you step over the bar. If you find yourself bending the leg sideways whilst stepping over the bar you have the bar to high. Lower the bar so you are working the hips, not the spine.

2.       Lateral Step Over’s: Again, keeping the torso upright, focus primarily on working the hips, exaggerate the movement, and keep the head up.

3.       Lateral Duck-Under’s: This exercise will work on improving flexibility for your squats and first pulls from the floor. Keep your head neutral looking straight ahead and maintain a neutral spine as you squat down and move under the bar. You can change the height of the bar for this exercise to specifically work towards movement patterns of different exercises. For example, a higher bar position for the squat as the body is more upright, or lower it to promote more forward lean which will focus more on the start position of the deadlift.

4.       Lateral Under-Over’s: This exercise is good as a change of direction drill for athletes whilst increasing mobility. The constant manipulation of foot placement performed at a fast pace will improve the athletes centre of gravity within the base of support.

5.       Band Stomps: this exercise is a great way for teaching initiation of the posterior chain and will enhance sprint speed. Attach a stretch/jump band over a bar, the higher you set the bar, the more tension you’ll have on the band but make sure it’s not at a height where you’re having to strain yourself to stomp on the band, the important thing is to feel your glutes and hamstrings fire as you rapidly extend the thigh.

 Place your foot on top of the band and stomp down. The band should graze the front of your hip at the end of the range of motion. Allow the band to assist you back to the starting position and then quickly stomp again. If teaching activation patterns then perform this exercise at a controlled pace if not then crack out as many reps as possible in a certain period of time. Regardless of how high the bar is set and your foot position height; there should be no hyper-extending at the lumbar spine. Hyper-extending at the lumbar spine is a compensatory movement due to weak glutes and tight hip flexors.

You may have noticed that all of these exercises can be done using a barbell and rack. The only difference being on the smith machine you can change the height of the bar at ease. To conclude I think the smith machine really isn’t a good tool for training as it doesn’t go through natural movement patterns and takes up a lot of floor space which can be put to better use!  

Mistakes made in the gym

Originally posted 27/04/2014

Wasn’t going to do one of these for a while but today I saw a few things at the gym that really grind my gears!

Firstly then is people training legs without squatting. The 80/20 rule states that 20% of the work you put in accounts for 80% of the results. In this case I’ll look at compound exercises as the 20% of work done. In theory if you were to triple your 20% activities you’d get three times the results. Compound exercises use more than one muscle group therefore making the body work harder, utilizing more energy and working more muscles. In addition to this, the hormonal reaction you get from these large compound movements is essential for gaining strength and size.  Instead, these gym goers read too many bodybuilding magazines and articles and adhere to the leg extensions and preacher curls. Unless these exercises are supersetted with your training partner giving you glute injections you’re not going to get the average gym goer any bigger.

The second thing that irritates me; People getting too focused in the pump. These people are walking into the gym and curling the 12kg Dumbbells for 10,000 reps, well maybe not 10,000 but the amount of reps they are doing is a total waste of time for people wanting to get stronger. The body will adapt to lifting light but you will not get the same hormonal reactions and recruit the larger muscle fibres which in turn will make you bigger and stronger. People forget the old fashioned way of training, Lift big, eat big and you will get big. Too many people are following bodybuilding programmes which are being relatively ineffective and then taking pictures, uploading them all over social media and claiming themselves to be a ‘bodybuilder’. You are a body builder if you are training to compete on stage, if you’re not then you’re just a person who goes to the gym and lifts weights. I jumped over a puddle this morning, does that make me a long jumper?  

The next thing that didn’t so much annoy me but made me think of the structure of training was seeing a person perform 5 plyometric (clap) press ups before bench pressing 12 reps. He then performed 5 clap press-ups and lifted a heavier weight for 3 reps. Research shows that training strength, power and hypertrophy alongside each other has a detrimental effect when training them at the same time. You could argue he was performing this to ‘wake up’ the Central Nervous System, maybe I should have asked but power exercises before a near maximal lift can be fatiguing. Although I realise that everyone wants to be big, strong and powerful but may not have the time to go to the gym 2, 3 times a day and may not have the knowledge of periodizing training I believe there is a better way of structuring training to accommodate this. Post-activation potentiation (PAP) is the phenomenon that performing a sub-maximal contraction (3-5 reps) prior to an exercise will enhance the explosive/power movements. For example, Squatting before performing a vertical jump or a sprint will make you jump higher/run faster than you would without performing the squat beforehand. Usually PAP is applied with a 3-10 minute rest period after the first submax contraction, however in this case, to save time and as we’re only using body weight, Supersetting Strength training with Power exercises can take advantage of PAP. Performing a 5 rep max, and then performing clap push-ups will keep you strong and quick. Just ensure adequate rest of about 3-5 minutes per set.

The last thing I want to moan about is a bloke who asked me to spot him today as he was trying to work his way up to a new 1 rep max on the bench press. He stated he would hit a new 1RM of 135kg. This was his warm up prior to the maximal lift.

1.       60kgx12

2.       88.5x10

3.       115x5

4.       127.5x3

5.       135x0

Before even getting to test his Max he had lifted a volume of 2,562.5 kg in 30 reps. This excessive amount of weight lifted before he had tested the 1RM was insane. No wonder he fatigued and failed to achieve a new 1RM. So what I’m getting at here is that his warm up was excessive and ineffective for the goal he was trying to achieve. A better structure for warming up for a 1RM bench press is something like this.

1.       4x5 with bar (20kg)

2.       2x3 with 40kg

3.       3x60kg

4.       3x75kg

5.       3x88.5kg

6.       3x100kg

7.       1x115kg

8.       1x127.5kg

9.       1x135kg (NEW 1RM)

This way you are performing 40 reps but with a total volume of 1,987.5kg. So you have more of a warm-up but with less fatigue. This warm up will activate your Central Nervous System and recruit the larger muscle fibres without fatiguing them.

To conclude then, go and lift something heavy. 

Waist Trainers: The most dangerous fitness fad

The growing obsession for women to achieve that Kim K hourglass figure is stronger than ever. The huge bum, huge boobs and tiny waist look is all the rage in the society we live in today and people all over the world are going to extreme lengths to achieve this. Liposuction, tummy tucks and boob jobs are more affordable and accessible in most of the western world. This twisted image on what should be the norm is infiltrating the fitness industry.



This photo shows Kim K's waist, artificially squeezed in to create that tighter, hourglass type figure. However, these figures haven’t been sculpted using the healthy process of a clean diet and plenty of exercise, no. The actual culprit is far, far worse.


The Waist Trainer

These women are achieving this look via the use of the waist trainer. The waist training phenomenon is nothing new. These have actually been around for centuries, in the old form of the corset. The corset was used by women to squeeze their fat up towards their arm pits and down below their belts to create that feminine, hour glass figure. These were gradually phased out due to the health risks, reports of women dying from organ failure and rib cages collapsing were not uncommon.

So why are these methods back in use today?

The company Waist Trainer UK claims that the use of their waist trainers will instantly create that hour glass figure due to perspiration and compression. The company also claims that their waist trainers suppress appetite, speed up your metabolism and improve your posture. Hmmm.


Waist training myths debunked

#1 – Waist trainers suppress appetite

Some companies contend that the use of a waist trainer will apply pressure to your abdominal area and therefore you’ll eat less as the stomach is being ‘squished’ therefore forcing you into a calorie deficit. However, the natural reaction of the human appetite once the waist trainer has been removed is to overcompensate for the calories you may have missed earlier.


#2 – Waist trainers instantly give you that hour glass figure

If you wrap a bandage tightly around your arm and leave it on for a few hours, once you take it off your arm will appear smaller. This is not due to perspiration or fat loss but is just a reaction to your soft tissue being compressed. Take a look at your arm an hour later and it will be back to its normal size. This ‘instant’ hour glass figure is just temporary.


#3 – Waist trainers improve your posture

The wearing of a waist trainer may force the body into an upright position meaning you walk around with correct posture, however, the use of a waist trainer causes atrophy of the abdominal muscles. Which are key to maintaining correct posture and form whilst exercising.


#4 – Waist trainers help you lose fat

Walk into any commercial gym and you’ll eventually come across a girl exercising in a waist trainer. Companies that sell these products endorse that waist trainers help you lose fat whilst exercising due to the increased perspiration coming from the mid section whilst wearing it. Whilst this maybe true, excess sweating whilst only being able to take on small amounts of water can lead to dehydration. As well as this, waist trainers restrict the muscles of the diaphragm which in turn leads to the cardiovascular system being limited. It does not take a genius to work out how this is dangerous whilst exercising.


The ugly truth

Waist trainers can affect circulation leading to varicose veins and all sorts of other health problems. As well as this, the digestive system can suffer with acid reflux occurring as well as constipation. The atrophy of the abdominal muscles caused by wearing a waist trainer can also lead to chronic back pain and breathing problems.

I understand that the society we live in today has put extreme pressure on females to conform to these ideals portrayed by the media and I accept that people will still wear waist trainers regardless of the health risks, but if you are going to use a waist trainer use one sparingly and try not to upgrade to tighter versions and remember, they DONT actually work. The only way to decrease waist size healthily is through a good, balanced diet and regular exercise.