Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Aerobic Workouts - Let's Mix It Up

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise is important for many reasons, depending on what our goals are. Weight control, heart health and general fitness are just a few reasons as to why aerobic exercise is vital. There are many ways in which we can get an aerobic workout. Running, jogging, skipping, swimming, cycling and walking are all examples of aerobic exercise. However, as with any exercise regime, it is vital that we avoid getting stuck in a rut. It is important, therefore, to mix things up.

Short Blasts of Aerobic Activity

To change things up a bit, and make some great gains in the process, we can try the following with our aerobic routine.

  • Select any type of aerobic exercise (our favourite) to complete 3 times a week
  • Warm up at a steady pace for a few minutes
  • Increase the pace, but remain comfortable
  • For 15 seconds go at our maximum speed
  • Return to a comfortable pace and keep this pace for a minute and a half
  • Repeat the 15 second blast!
  • Complete around 5-10 intervals in the same manner
  • Ensure we have a cool down of a few minutes at a very relaxed pace

Changing our aerobic routine will help us to continue seeing the results that we want, preventing any chance of a plateau (if there is such a thing).

Sunday, 27 May 2012

A Full Body Stretch

Full Body Stretch

This blog has already discussed the importance of stretching (look it up!). This particular entry, however, will discuss a full body stretch that can be used to end any workout, leaving us flexible and ready for the next day.

To do this full body stretch we sit on the floor with one leg stretched out in front of us. We place the foot of the other leg touching the inner thigh of the stretched out leg, making the shape of a '4' with our legs. Stretch both arms out, attempting to touch the toe of the outstretched leg. This will stretch many parts of our body. The calf, achilles, hamstring, hip, knee, lower back, glutes, shoulder and wrists will all be stretched in this move. Aim to hold for 20-30 seconds and then swap legs.

This is simply a great way of ending a workout to ensure that the body remains flexible and supple. It will help our muscles to recover properly, allowing them to develop and grow. However, it is best that we still combine this stretch with other stretches to get the most from it.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Trans Fat and Why It Should Be Avoided

What is Trans Fat?

Small amounts of trans fats are found naturally in certain foods, such as beef and lamb. However, most trans fats are processed. They are created by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils in order to solidify them. They are also, often, referred to as partially hydrogenated fats. These are, generally, considered to be the worst form of fats for our health.

What is trans fat found in?

Trans fat is found in a variety of food that we consume. Some common sources of trans fat include; margarine, crisps (or chips for Americans) and bakery products. Food labels often show ‘partially hydrogenated’ and this is a synthesised trans fat.

Why We Should Avoid Trans Fats

It appears that there are a number of reasons as to why we should look to avoid trans fats:
  • They can raise the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol levels while lowering the good cholesterol levels.
  • It is also suggested that consuming trans fats increases the risk of us developing heart disease and stroke.
  • There also appears to be a link between the consumption of trans fat and the development of type 2 diabetes
  • There is some evidence that shows that trans fats contribute more to cardio-vascular disease than other fats.

So, it is important to be aware of what we are eating and aim to keep our consumption of trans fats to a minimum due to the potential health risks associated with them.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Should We Take Dietary Supplements?

Should we supplement?

This blog entry will look into whether we should use supplements or not. It will look into exactly what supplements are and identify whether or not they are actually beneficial to us or not.

What are supplements?

A dietary supplement is just what it sounds like it is – something that we take to provide things that are missing from our diet. Typically, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids are commonly taken as supplements. Generally, dietary supplements come in pill or tablet form but there are other varieties too.

What do supplements do?

Supplements are designed to help us ‘fill the gaps’ that are in our diet. So, for example, many people take omega-3 capsules as they do not get enough omega-3 in their diet. In essence, the aim is to get things into the body that it needs to function properly. They are used in everyday life but are also common in sports and rehabilitation as well.

Should we supplement?

In an ideal world we would consume everything we need from the food and drink we take. A balanced diet should provide all the micro and macro nutrients that we need to live a healthy life with the body functioning correctly. However, there are a number of reasons why we may not be getting the right amounts of something into our body and so supplements can certainly be useful. The ultimate answer to this is that, no we should not supplement our diet if possible. However, if we must use supplements then if is better than losing out completely. We must be wary of what we purchase, though, and do our research before buying to ensure we get quality.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Why Diet and Nutrition is so important - Part 2

Why Diet and Nutrition is so important

This is the second part of the blog entry examining why diet and nutrition is so important to us, and why we must be aware of what we are consuming. This entry will look at water, vitamins and minerals in particular. 


Water is crucial to our body functioning correctly. When we are even slightly dehydrated our body is not working as it should be. Water carries oxygen and nutrients around the body, allowing the body to function. It also clears out waste and dissipates body heat. It is important to note that we should not wait until we feel thirsty to drink water, as by then we are already slightly dehydrated.


We should aim to get our vitamins from food, not pills. This is something that a lot of research appears to agree on. Vitamins are vital for the body to function correctly, as they ensure that a lot of complicated actions happen. Vitamins help to allow the body to make energy from other nutrients, help the bones and muscles to grow, help with our cells and many other functions that we need just to live!


As with vitamins it is important that we get our minerals from food rather than a tablet. We do not actually need large amounts of minerals but they are still vital for our body. Bone structure, heartbeat and cell activity are all impacted by our mineral intake.

Another thought

An important point to remember is that our diet plan will vary on what our goals are. For example, if we want to bulk up then it is important to increase the number of calories we consume during the day, focussing on increases in protein and carbohydrates.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Why Diet and Nutrition is so important - Part 1

Why diet and nutrition is so important

Not only is the food and drink we intake important for fuelling our workout it is vital in the way we look. If we want our perfect body then our diet will have a massive say in achieving it. This post is the first of two parts that will examine why what we eat is so important to us.

Why eat right?

If we are eating right our body runs much more efficiently; with our muscles being fuelled better, bulked faster and repaired easier. Basically, eating right will lead to us getting stronger and more resilient. There are a variety of classes of nutrients that are important to us; carbohydrates, proteins, fats, water, vitamins and minerals. Each type of nutrient is important for different reasons.


Carbohydrates (like fats) get a bad press and there is often anti-carbohydrate press out there. The Atkins diet has been a big fad over recent years, which involves eating very few carbohydrates. Carbs do not deserve this bad reputation. Sure, sugar and other sweeteners should not be over consumer. However, fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain carbohydrates that are vital to our health. Generally, carbohydrates should make up around 30-50% of our diet.


Protein is pretty much the building block of muscle. If we want to build muscle then protein is vital. Studies have shown that protein from animals builds muscle much better than protein from soya and vegetables. The most widely accepted pieces of research would lead us to believe that we should aim to eat between 0.27 to 0.37 grams of protein per kilo of body weight daily.


Like carbohydrates fats have a really bad press. The nutritional value of some fats has been seriously underrated, whilst the drawbacks have been grossly exaggerated. Basically, we need fat. We should aim to avoid trans fats, and saturated fats to a degree, but should aim to get the other fats into our diet.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Weight Loss Tips - Let's See Our Muscles

Some basics for losing the gut

Everyone reading (or writing!) this wants to see their muscles. In order for us to see our muscles, we must remove what is hiding them. This is often makes for a hard thing to do, as we know we need to eat less to lose the gut, but eating too little will mean we lose muscle. Therefore, it is vital that still eat enough to preserve our muscle, but not so much that the fat builds up. Here are a few tips that will help us achieve this.

1)      Aim to avoid ‘dry’ carbohydrates after 4p.m. Eating carbs is vital to our body, but on an evening aim to eat brown rice or wholegrain pasta and of course our vegetable rather than other carbs!

2)      Ensure that we eat good fats. Cutting fats from our diet is ridiculous, it is essential to our body. We must make sure, however, that we are eating the right fats.

3)      We should try to fill up on protein and vegetables. Eating good levels of protein will help us to feel fuller, for longer. This will help us to avoid overeating.

4)      We should aim to eat a good amount of fibre. It will help our body deal with dietary fat.

These are just some basic tips when we are aiming to lose our belly and still maintain the muscles that we already have.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

A Push-Up Variation

Three-Point Push-Up

Push-ups are an exercise that should form some part of everybody’s basic workout regime. They are a fantastic exercise for keeping fit and healthy as well as strengthening the muscles of the chest, core, shoulders and arms. But, after a while, it is important to mix things up. This blog post is going to discuss a variation of the press up known as the three-point push-up.

How to do a three-point push-up

A three-point push-up is simple to do if we already know how to do a normal push-up. We get into the normal push-up position, but instead of having both feet on the floor we place one on top of the other, meaning our weight is distributed to three points as opposed to four. We then, as with basic push-ups, slowly lower ourselves to the floor, pause, and then return to the starting position for one rep. We should swap feet halfway through the set.

Why bother with a three point push-up?

This exercise works the same muscles as a basic push-up (the triceps, chest, core and shoulders) but these muscles get worked more intensely because our weight is distributed on three points rather than four. A basic push-up is one of the best exercises that there is - but a three-point push-up is even better!

For more information on push-ups in general, visit this fantastic webpage: Why Push-Up?

Friday, 11 May 2012

A Piece of Equipment we Should All Have

A piece of equipment we should all have

I am someone who mainly works out at home, although I do go to the gym now and then. I use very little equipment for my workouts and use a lot of bodyweight exercises to keep fit and strong. To be fair, I am not someone who is keen on developing huge mass so I do not need the biggest weights money can by. However, there is one piece of equipment that I swear by, because it is so versatile. I am referring to a doorway pull up bar (or wall bar).

What is a pull up bar?

A doorway pull up bar is, obviously, a bar that can be used for pull ups. They are a piece of home equipment that fit into (most) doorways so that we can do our pull up exercises from home. However, pull ups are not the only exercise that can be done with this piece of equipment and that is why they are so valuable to us.

What exercises can be done?

There are so many exercises that can be done, as well as variants of the basic forms of exercises too. There is of course the pull up and chin up, with the many variants that come with them, such as one-handed versions of these exercises. We can also use a door bar to do hanging knee raises, which is a very tough abdominal exercise. Hanging leg raise is another exercise, quite similar to the knee raise. A hanging hip knee raise is fantastic for our abdominals too! Simple put, the number of exercises we can do with one piece of equipment is fantastic.

Why should we all have a door bar?

As well as all the exercises that we can do with them, door bars are really convenient to use. Many fit to any door, and they are generally very easy to store. If we travel they are also pretty easy to take to hotels and use too.

Monday, 7 May 2012



Many of us enjoy alcohol and in certain circumstances, a moderate amount of alcohol drinks can be beneficial. However, generally, alcohol is bad for us – especially when we have workout goals to aim at.

What is Alcohol?

Alcohol is the common term used for ethanol. It is used in alcoholic drinks and is actually toxic, at moderate to high levels, to us humans. Despite feelings of euphoria when drinking alcohol, it is actually a depressant. Alcohol has a number of impacts on our health.

Benefits of alcohol

There is some evidence to suggest that, when consumed in moderation, alcohol be beneficial to us. Some research shows that the risk of heart disease can be reduced with a moderate intake of alcohol.

Another potential benefit is seen from drinking red wine. It contains flavonoids that can act as anti-oxidants (which have been discussed here). This helps to reduce the build up of atherosclerosis.

Negative Effects of Alcohol

However, for most of us, the amount of alcohol we drink will impact us in a negative manner. Aside from the hangover of the next day, there are more long-term effects that we may endure from drinking too much alcohol.

First of all, there are a lot of calories consumed when we go for a few drinks, and this is why drinking alcohol can lead to weight gain, as well as making it so difficult to lose the gut – there is a reason it’s called a beer belly.

The liver is one organ that it is at major risk of damage due to too much alcohol. There can be progressive damage caused through a condition known as cirrhosis. This can lead to liver failure, liver cancer and in extreme cases death.

There is evidence to suggest that the nervous system can be damaged on various levels. The brain can get damaged, and this can lead to problems such as depression.

Problems such as a weakened heart, high blood pressure and stroke can all develop from excessive alcohol consumption.

Recommended Units

There are a number of sources to find out the recommended units of alcohol. If we stick to these then alcohol poses little risk to our health. Two to three units of alcohol for women and three to four units for men, is a generally accepted amount of alcohol to consume per day.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Isometric Training

What is Isometric Training?

Isometric training involves exercises that use static muscle contraction to work the muscle. This type of training and exercise involves no movement, so the muscles and joints do not move during the exercise. Like other forms of training, isometric training can lead to increased energy, hypertrophy and strength.

What are the benefits of isometric training?

There are many benefits to isometric training, and this is why they are commonly used to this day. Here, we will look at some of the main benefits associated with isometrics.

Isometrics build muscle mass. It is strongly suggested that muscle mass CAN be developed through isometric training, good news for all of us who like staring at the mirror.

Isometric training builds strength in the muscles. In fact, some people argue that you can build strength much more efficiently using isometric training as you work the muscles more intensely. There is strong evidence to support the idea that, because we hold a static position for 3-6 seconds we are sustaining maximal tension for a longer period of time than when we are lifting weights, for example.

Isometric training builds strength at an exact point in a certain exercise. This can be a valuable thing if we have a weakness in certain exercises.


It is generally advised that isometric training is used as a routine that supports our main workout as opposed to it being the sole focus of our exercise routines. So, to use isometrics correctly we should aim to incorporate it into our training regimes. Luckily, isometric training does not use too much energy so when fitting it into our workout we should not need to alter much.

Isometric Exercises

We can turn almost any exercise into an isometric exercise. All we need to do is hold a position in the exercise to make it isometric! We can, from this, target moments in our range of motion where we are not as strong and build these up.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Caffeine - The World's Most Popular Drug

What is Caffeine?

Caffeine is an alkaloid that acts as a stimulant drug. In humans it stimulates the central nervous system and helps to keep us alert. Although toxic in high doses and the most widely consumed psychoactive drug it is legal and unregulated. Caffeine appears to have many positive health benefits, and the negative effects seem to be limited.

Sources of Caffeine

There are many sources of caffeine found in seeds, leaves and beans of plants. Humans mainly consume caffeine from coffee, tea, soft drinks and energy drinks.

Positive Health Effects of Caffeine

There is a number of positive health effects associated with caffeine consumption.
  • Increased alertness and focus
  • Elevate heart rate
  • Elevate metabolic rate
  • Reduced physical fatigue
  • Helps to break down fatty acids
  • Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Helps to prevent Parkinson’s disease
  • Improves liver function
  • Helps to improve memory

Negative Health Effects of Caffeine

Although there are a number of positive health effects that can be experienced from caffeine consumption, excessive consumption can lead to some negative effects.
·         Can develop caffeine dependence
·         Can effect sleep cycles
·         Can lead to panic attacks in some people
·         Headaches
·         Can lead to depression

Overall the positive aspects of caffeine consumption outweigh the negative effects and as long as we keep from exceeding around 250mg of caffeine a day we should be fine.