Tag Archives: exercise

Take it of in 2012

Weight loss is no laughing matter. Although it’s probably the number one New Years resolution, successful weight loss eludes most people, including those who need it most. I’ve written about weight loss before, and shared my most effective strategies, yet I realize that there are still many people who struggle when it comes to dropping a few pounds.

Because there is so much conflicting information about how to lose weight, many people are confused and overwhelmed by the thought of it. Every second magazine I see in the stores promises to help you get a flat tummy or rock-hard abs in a few short weeks. I saw one the other day that was advertising how you could lose 30lbs in 3 months like a famous pop star.

If you’re determined to lose weight and are looking for some direction, here’s a no-nonsense, tried and true program for building muscle, burning fat, and being happy with your body. I can’t actually make you follow through every step of the way, but I can be sure you know what to do and how to do it. Always consult your physician before beginning or modifying your fitness program.

Weekly training schedule

I truly believe that an individual should be able to maintain their bodyweight at desirable levels by doing regular resistance training and eating properly. You shouldn’t need to grind away at cardiovascular exercise for hours each week just to keep from gaining fat. If this is the case, then you’re eating too much. For anyone whose goal is to steadily lose body fat, I find some cardio is helpful, and the following schedule works very well:

Monday/Wednesday/Friday – Full body resistance training program  40-60-minutes

Tuesday/Thursday – Cardiovascular exercise   30-45 minutes

Saturday – Be active

Sunday – Rest

The full-body resistance training sessions will jump-start your metabolism by stimulating your muscle tissue. This will increase the number of calories that you burn during all activities. By training the body on non-consecutive days, you’ll give your muscles time to recover and repair so they’re ready to go for your next workout. The cardiovascular activity days will help to remove waste products and deliver healthy nutrients to your muscles in-between your resistance workouts, and will improve your cardiovascular health, while burning extra calories. Having a day on the weekend for activities like cycling, hiking, kayaking or sports will ensure enough variety in your week to prevent boredom, while providing a cross-training benefit. Resting your body one day per week is essential for re-charging your engine and keeping your energy levels up.


The Workout

The full-body workouts recommended in this program aren’t specific when it comes to particular exercises, and the exercises can be changed from one day to the next. The important thing is that you use as much of your muscle mass as possible for the duration of the training session. The more muscle mass you use, the more calories you’ll burn, and the greater the benefit, both during the workout and afterward.

One approach is to take all of the major muscle groups in the body and pair them up. The three larger muscle groups that require compound exercises are the legs, back and chest. The smaller muscle groups that are targeted with more isolated exercises are the shoulders, biceps and triceps. Pair a large group with a small group (ie. legs + shoulders, back + triceps, chest + biceps) and choose two exercises for each muscle group. Perform 3 sets of 10-15 reps of the first exercises, alternating between the muscle groups, then move on to 2 sets of 10-15 reps for the next exercises. Repeat for each pair of muscle groups.

A workout might look something like this:


Squats and DB Shoulder Press – 3 x 10-15

Walking Lunges and Upright Rows – 2 x 10-15

Seated Cable Rows and Overhead Tricep Rope – 3 x 10-15

Lat pulldowns and Bench Dips – 2 x 10-15

Incline DB press and Barbell Curls – 3 x 10-15

Pushups and DB Hammer Curls – 2 x 10-15

Core Work

This may seem like a lot of sets but if you keep moving from one exercise to the next, and only rest when changing exercises, you’ll easily get through the whole workout, including warm-up and core work, in 45-60 minutes.


Nutrition: The Key Ingredient

There are dozens of books and internet websites devoted to eating for weight loss. Personally I’ve seen so many of my clients succeed with the approach of eating 4-5 small meals, evenly spaced throughout the day, that I’m not sure why anyone would do anything else. Choose high-quality foods, avoid snacking, and keep sugars, fats and alcohol to a minimum. Limit the amount of carbohydrates that you eat in your last two meals of the day. Diarizing everything you consume will help keep you accountable, and drinking lots of water will improve your digestion, absorption and removal of waste products.

Rob Williams is a Vancouver based multi-business owner in the health and fitness industry. He is an entrepreneur, health and fitness columnist, presenter, inventor, athlete, father, prominent downtown vancouver personal trainer, coach and mentor to many young athletes in the North Shore community.www.williamshealthgroup.com

Breakfast: Timing is everything

Burn More Fat before Breakfast

Always eat a balanced breakfast

Most of us know the importance of eating breakfast, in fact, one study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, skipping breakfast isn’t just associated with being overweight, but with obesity. Eating breakfast stimulates your metabolism and signals the body to start using fuel, instead of hoarding fuel.

So when is the best time to eat breakfast? According to a new study in The Journal of Physiology, you will shed more pounds by eating after your morning workout than before. During the 6 week study, participants who ate a high-cal, high fat breakfast before hitting the gym packed on an average of three pounds. The after-workout eaters gained almost no weight-although they ate the same breakfast. Exercise elevates levels of the fat-burning hormone adrenalin, says lead researcher Karen Van Proeyen, Ph.D. But when you work out after eating, the insulin your body releases to help you digest the food, blunts the spike of adrenalin.

So go ahead and eat breakfast but if you are trying to shed some unwanted fat, fuel up with healthy food, after your morning workout.

Reaching your weight loss goals

When it comes to health and fitness goals, there is none more popular or pervasive than weight-loss. Maybe there are a lot of people out there who are genuinely, 100% satisfied with their current body composition, but from my professional experience over the last 20 years, it certainly seems that the majority of people would like to have more control over their bodyweight.

For our purposes, I’m going to present this goal as ‘fat-loss’, because it specifically identifies the issue, and there’s no doubt it’s a serious one. Worldwide obesity levels are rising. Children are getting fatter and increasingly unhealthy. With all of the ‘diet’ and ‘fat-free’ products on the shelves, the countless books and weight-loss programs available and our advanced knowledge of the importance of maintaining a healthy body composition, the general population still struggles for control of their body-fat levels.

So let’s assume you’re one of the people who’s made the decision that you’d like to get rid of a little extra body-fat. Maybe it’s 10 pounds, or maybe it’s 50. The number doesn’t matter as much as the decision. Once you’ve decided it’s time for change, the last thing we want is for you to struggle or falter because you don’t really know how to go forward.

What I’m going to do is summarize and simplify the information necessary to help you gain control of your body composition once and for all. I do want to point out that achieving fat-loss goals can be difficult, even if you have all of the correct technical information, because it requires modification of habits. Again, this is where true experts like Larry Birckhead at The HabitShift Institute are invaluable.

Building muscle reduces body fat

Build muscle – I’ve mentioned before, but since I end up in this conversation almost daily, it’s worth repeating here. In my opinion, the best thing about the Biggest Loser reality show phenomenon is that anyone looking to lose body-fat needs to be performing regular, high-intensity resistance training. For many of my clients over the years, we changed their bodies completely without doing any extra cardiovascular training at all. Just by stepping up the frequency and intensity of their strength workouts we were able to burn more calories and boost their metabolism enough that they leaned out and lost the extra body-fat. Of course we had to be careful with their nutrition plan, but if your goal is to lose fat, you should be closely monitoring your eating anyway.

The more you move, the more you burn, the more you lose.

 Burn calories – People who try to lose weight without exercise are truly at a disadvantage. Because they aren’t burning a lot of calories, they have to eat tiny quantities of food, which leaves them perpetually hungry and allows their metabolism to gradually slow down, making the process more and more difficult. I can understand how it seems like the best way to lose weight is to eat fewer and fewer calories, but a better solution is to burn more. Of course there’s a happy medium here. Assuming you’re taking in enough fuel each day for healthy nutrition without having any extra to store as body-fat (more on this later) then successful fat-loss is easy. All you have to do is make sure you’re burning more calories than you’re taking in, and there are all kinds of ways to burn calories. Treadmills, elliptical trainers and stationary bikes are all effective pieces of cardiovascular training equipment, but you can also go for a walk, run or do calisthenics. Just make sure your heart rate is elevated to safe levels and you keep your body moving as much as possible.

Fuel your body – As the most important aspect of successful fat-loss, proper nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated, and I’m going to simplify it even more. For myself, by eating 5 healthy meals of 400-500 calories each, at 3-4 hour intervals, I’m able to control my body-fat. If I’m really strict on this, I begin to get very lean. If I stray from this plan or start eating too many sugary foods, I start to gain fat. Because I’m 40 years old, over 200 pounds, and train with weights on a regular basis, I need more calories than most people. For smaller women I usually recommend portion sizes of roughly 300-350 calories per meal. For men it’s usually around 400. The trick is to start eating this way and see what happens. If you lose weight too quickly, increase the size of the meals slightly. If nothing changes within a few weeks, down-size the meals a tiny bit. Just stay consistent in your timing, and don’t snack between meals. Also, remember that proper hydration is essential for fat-loss and for a healthy body, so drink lots of water through the day.

Rob Williams is a Vancouver based business owner in the health and fitness industry. He is an entrepreneur, health and fitness columnist, presenter, inventor, prominent downtown vancouver personal trainer, athlete, father, coach and mentor to many young athletes in the North Shore community. www.williamshealthgroup.com

Fitness Myths

Top 3 Fitness Myths

Maybe it’s the internet, or the late-night infomercials, but compared to my early days in this business, today’s personal training client is a lot more astute when it comes to the facts and fallacies of fitness. One example is the general understanding that weight training isn’t just for bodybuilders or narcissists, and that functional strength, better bone health and more stable joints are all among the benefits of resistance training. People have also come to accept the fact that personal trainers aren’t just for the Hollywood celebrities and filthy rich, and that there really is a benefit to having someone follow you around the gym telling you what to do.

Yet, in spite of the mass of fitness-related information on the world-wide web and in the popular media, there are still a lot of faulty notions and beliefs circulating among consumers. These mostly relate to what does and doesn’t work when it comes to success in a fitness program. I can understand how this has happened, because there’s been so much conflicting advice put forth, usually by someone trying to sell their ‘revolutionary’ diet or fitness product. In my experience I’ve probably heard at least a hundred different myths of this kind, but there are a few that seem to pop up more regularly than the rest, and that still surprise me in their persistence. Just to make sure I was on the right track I polled a couple of my other trainers and these little gems were among their top picks as well.

So, here they are, in no particular order. Some readers will laugh at the simplicity, while others will be shocked to read that I disagree with their deep-seated beliefs. In either case, I welcome comments and criticisms about my selection, as well as questions relating to other long-standing fitness theories.

Women should train hard and not worry about building too much muscle.

1- Myth #1 – Women should avoid lifting heavy weights or they’ll get too muscular.

This is likely the single most prevalent myth that I’ve come across in my career. In fact, the majority of women that have started training with me have mentioned this concern at some point. I usually promise them that I could train them as hard as they’d let me for the next year, trying to put on as much muscle mass as possible, and at the end of the year I’m certain that they would be thrilled with their appearance. The reason for this is that very few women have enough natural testosterone in their systems to facilitate significant muscle growth. Instead, intense resistance training develops firm, functional physiques.

2 – Myth #2 – You need to lose the extra weight before starting a strength-training program.

If you’re carrying a few extra pounds you’d like to get rid of, it’s essential to perform a smart resistance program in conjunction with regular cardiovascular workouts and healthy nutrition. Strength training activates your body’s muscle mass, elevating your metabolism and increasing your caloric output. Losing weight without strength training is more difficult and usually results in a loss of muscle mass. This lowers the metabolism and decreases the amount of fuel you can consume without gaining weight.

Losing the love handles takes more than just a good ab routine.

3 – Myth #3 –  Spot-reduction!

By now this myth should be long gone. Unfortunately consumers cling to it in hopes that 5 minutes of abdominal exercises each day will get rid of the extra body fat and give them the flat stomach they’ve always wanted. Training a specific muscle or muscle group will improve the shape and conditioning of that muscle, but won’t significantly reduce the amount of bodyfat covering it. Unless you’re already very lean, getting your abs (or any other muscle group) to show is dependent on losing body fat through intelligent calorie burn and optimal nutrition.

Rob Williams is a Vancouver based business owner in the health and fitness industry. He is a kinesiologist, posture expert, entrepreneur, health and fitness columnist, presenter, inventor, athlete, father, prominent downtown vancouver personal trainer, coach and mentor to many young athletes in the North Shore community. http://www.williamshealthgroup.com/index.html

Better Bootcamp – Active Agility Exercises

Summer’s nearly here and the number of people looking to exercise outdoors is going to multiply quickly. Some will do it alone, some will be dragged out by their private trainer and a lot will sign up for a group training program commonly referred to as bootcamp.

Bootcamp programs are everywhere these days; in the parks, on the seawall, even in the children’s playgrounds before the kids are out of bed. Because of the demand for instructors to teach all of these classes, and the fact that sessions are often run during prime morning and evening timeslots, when full-time personal trainers are booked solid, the truth is that not all bootcamp instructors are the most highly qualified or experienced. There are some committed, educated professionals, but many are working day jobs in other industries, making extra cash teaching these fitness classes. Because of this, the level of knowledge and expertise about anatomy, biomechanics and athletic conditioning might not be what it should. Hopefully I can help.

With this Better Bootcamp series, I will provide useful information about a number of the common exercises incorporated in bootcamp classes. If you’re joining a group training program this summer, you’re likely to come across these exercises. Hopefully I can educate you about how to perform them safely and effectively. Some of the recommendations may seem a little picky, like when I talk about maintaining a neutral pelvis, but believe me when I tell you that this is the kind of stuff that makes the difference between a successful training session and an icepack on the low back.

Whether you’re doing these exercises on your own, or participating in a bootcamp group somewhere, make sure you warm up fully before performing the movements. Pay close attention to the recommendations and stop if you feel pain.

Try to initiate movements from your mid-section rather than your extremities

Lateral Shuffles

In bootcamp, lateral movement is often incorporated as part of the warm-up, which is fine. The reason I’ve singled this movement out is because it helps me to teach an overall movement strategy that can be applied to almost every exercise you do. This is the strategy of proximal to distal movement, which I’ve been fortunate enough to learn from well-known physiotherapist Rick Celebrini, and it’s an important one. I’ve touched on the concept in previous columns, and the easiest way to explain it is that all movement should be initiated from your core, and then transferred to your extremities, rather than the other way around. In lateral shuffles, this means that rather than casting your leg out to the side and then following with the rest of your body (Figure 1) you should lead with a small lateral movement at the pelvis and allow the leg come along as part of the deal. (Figure 2) If you do this properly, you stand a much greater chance of maintaining stability at all of your joints, while improving movement efficiency.

Proper core muscle activation can help you protect your spine

Star Jumps.

This exercise involves jumping from a position with arms and feet together, spreading out like a star while in the air, and then landing back in a closed position. There’s one technique point that can help to prevent stress through the lower back when doing star jumps. Often as bootcampers fatigue, they will begin to lose control of their movements, and what happens is that they will really start to throw their arms and legs. This exaggerated movement puts increased ballistic forces through the mid-section, where the muscles are also tired. In the star jump, this can cause hyper-extension of the lower back at the top of the movement. You can prevent this by activating your deep abdominal muscles (lightly draw your belly button inward and upward toward your spine) to stabilize your lower back and pelvis as you jump.

The leg thrust portion of the burpee can sometimes be the most challenging

Burpees (aka Squat Thrusts).

Because burpees are so dynamic, involving multiple muscle groups during the squat, leg thrust and jump portions, it’s not easy to break it down to highlight one aspect. The area that I find to be most challenged in this movement is the lower back. When doing the burpee, be certain that you’ve activated those abdominal and lower back muscles to stabilize your lumbar spine and pelvis and prevent hyper-extension or excessive flextion during the movements. If your instructor is asking for burpees and you’re not feeling up to the task, skip the leg thrust portion of the exercise and just do the squat and jump. Another option is to just kick one leg back, rather than two, alternating legs on each repetition.

Rob Williams is a Vancouver based business owner in the health and fitness industry. He is a kinesiologist, posture expert, entrepreneur, health and fitness columnist, presenter, inventor, athlete, father, prominent downtown vancouver personal trainer, coach and mentor to many young athletes in the North Shore community. www.williamshealthgroup.com