Why I don’t like the word ‘try’

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Trying to do something just sounds like you’re not really that bothered or making that much effort- the result is inevitable where try is concerned.

In our neurology and linguistics the word try is associated with phrases like “he tried his best”, “try again”, “he’s a trying person”. It’s implicitly linked with failure, a glorious failure at best. Swap the word try for the better version: endeavour.

When you endaevour to do something there is ASSERTION, INTENT and WILLINGNESS to SUCCEED and see things through.

give it a go.

Stressed? Remember you’re human…

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When preparing an athlete about to commence a four-year cycle, one of the first things we make clear is that over the next few years you are going to experience every single emotion there is, and to the extreme. And its ok, its natural. Envy, anger, joy, love, and ecstasy you’ll feel them all. The paradox is that when we allow ourselves to experience these emotions we experience less of it “Ironic Processing”. When we try to suppress things we in fact make them stronger. Let it go…

Mindfulness – Being in the present

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Mindfulness, being in the present is an instant antidote to delusion and negative emotion. It involves clear comprehension of whatever is taking place- total immersion- a lot of people feel this when they are playing music, sport, practicing yoga or being amongst nature.

Science advocates establishing mindfulness in day-to-day life. It’s increasingly being employed in psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions. Improvements in mental health are associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking. Mindfulness increases gamma waves, which are linked to that eureka moment. If you an extra dose of creative insight might help your performance it might be time to get in the present a few times each day.

Notice things. Play. Humour and passion are great ways to be mindful, they’re easy and are so good for you. Enjoy what you’re doing. Taste what you’re eating.

Be your own Chief Executive Officer

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We are living in an age of endless opportunity. If you bring the ambition, drive and skills you there is no limit to what you can achieve. Alongside opportunity comes responsibility. Peak performers aren’t managed by their companies but rather they manage themselves, they are their own chief executive officers.

Its up to you to carve out your place in the work world and know when to change course. And its up to you to keep yourself engaged and productive during a work life that may span some fifty years.

To do this is certainly helps to cultivate a deep understanding of yourself. What are your most valuable strengths and most dangerous weaknesses? Equally important, how do you learn and work with others? what are your most deeply held values? And in what type of work envirnomnet can you make the greatest contribution?

It is only when you operate from a combination of your strengths and self-knowledge that you can achieve true- sustainable- excellence.

Modified from Peter F Drucker in HBR’s Managing Yourself

Fuel your workout like a fitness professional MH’s expert team of personal trainers reveal their workout nutrition secrets

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James King
Performance coach and personal trainer to professional athletes

Training time 8am
Training goal Increase fitness for Octathlon competition

Pre-workout “At 6.30am, I’ll have a mug of green tea. It’s great for clearing your digestive system and is full of health-boosting antioxidants and catechins. Immediately after this, I’ll have some orange juice with two pieces of toasted rye bread, 5 scrambled eggs (3 yolks), raw spinach, watercress, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, olive oil and sea salt. Then at 7.20am, 40 minutes before my workout, I’ll have a skinny latte with cinnamon. Cinnamon has been proven to slow gastic emptying, which helps control blood sugar levels and avoid insulin spikes.”
Bonus A new study published in the journal Cell Metabolism found inorganic nitrate – which spinach is bursting with – increases the efficiency of the mitochondria that powers your cells, leading to more efficient muscular performance. It lowers blood pressure, too.

Post-workout “I consume a protein shake with 5g glutamine – which minimises muscle breakdown – while stretching for the last 10 minutes of my 60-minute session. It’s vital that your blood sugar does not drop too low post-workout, otherwise your body may burn muscle for fuel instead of building it, and a protein shake is easy to get down the hatchet. While changing, I’ll eat two bananas to top my blood sugar right up and help restore muscle glycogen (already preparing for the next session). Then, an hour and a half after my workout, I’ll eat two tuna and sweetcorn sandwiches using oatmeal bread, with a handful of almonds and a handful of brazil nuts. Tuna protein has a high biological value (the body will digest and use almost all of it ) and it’s also full of the good fats crucial for muscle growth.

Bonus A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association eating a daily portion of almonds cuts your bad cholestorol by 30%; while a study in the British Journal of Nutrition found regular almond-eaters reduce their likelihood of gaining weight by 31%. Chew them and you’ll optimise nutrient absorption.
James King writes MH’s fortnightly Be your own personal trainer blog, and has contributed many workouts, including how to bulk up your arms and build bonus muscle, how to optimise your abs training, and how to burn more fat in less time with high intensity interval training.

Be your own personal trainer #8: range of motion In the latest instalment of the series designed to arm you with insider gym knowledge, personal trainer James King shows you how to manipulate range of motion to achieve your training goals

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What is it?
‘Range of motion’ refers to the distance that the muscle extends and contracts during the course of a repetition.
Why is it important?
Using the incorrect range of motion can result in susceptibility to injury, or can limit muscle growth.

How can I harness it to suit my training goals?
If you are bulking…
Muscle growth is generated by stressing a muscle, which then (with appropriate recovery) super-compensates in size. The bigger the stress, the bigger the response (again, assuming sufficient recovery). To get as big as possible, you have to target specific muscles and shock them into growing. At the beginning of a session, perform movements with the full range of motion. When lifting full range and heavy, you get great results because of the neuromuscular activation that takes place.
As smaller muscle groups fatigue – such as your triceps during a bench press – they limit the stress you can place on other muscle groups. It is therefore necessary to adapt the range of motion to continue to work stronger target muscles (in the case of the bench press, your chest). Concentrate on the lower three-quarters of the bench press and isolate the triceps later with another exercise once they have recovered (pushdowns should do the trick). During your later sets, use a shortened range of motion exclusively to squeeze every last drop of benefit from the workout. Failing to do this will mean your smaller, weaker muscles limit the gains to your bigger, stonger ones.

King tip An isometric hold – keeping the weight in the final position for as long as you can – on the last rep of each final set will help you wring every last fibre of the target muscle.

If you are training for strength and power…
Unless targeting a sport-specific movement, athletes training in speed and strength disciplines (such as gymnastics, sprinting, rowing, and cycling) should use a full range of motion at all times. This exposes the connective tissues, tendons, ligaments and muscle fibres to functional movement patterns that are closely mimicked in their sport, which in turn helps the body become stronger in the movements upon which performance is dependent.

If you are training for muscular endurance…
Once again, use a full range of motion throughout your workout. You’ll reduce your susceptibility to injury, improve your posture, and build stronger ligaments and tendons. Alternatively, isometric training – where there is no range of motion at all – is a useful tool to develop muscular endurance. The plank, head stands and body-weight hangs are all great for stimulating improvements in muscular endurance in the core, shoulders and back respectively.

Be your own personal trainer #7: mode

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James King reveals which types of training will allow you to reach your goals fastest.

What is it?
Mode refers to the type of exercise used during a session. For example, resistance training can be performed with various modalities, such as free weights, cables, kettlebells, medicine balls, and bodyweight. Cardiovascular conditioning, too, can be performed with many modes: incline walking, running, cycling, and swimming, to name just a few.

Why is it important?
Each mode of exercise stresses your body in different ways. If you fail to match the correct stress with the result you desire you’ll significantly reduce the efficiency of your workout.

Which training modes should I use?
Large loading is crucial for increasing muscle mass. Barbells are best suited to this purpose – assuming correct adjustment in other training factors (sets, reps, tempo, and recovery). In addition, dumb-bells are a great way of isolating individual muscle groups such as the biceps (seated curls, hammer curls); while cables are ideal for overloading isolated muscle groups when they are fatigued during the last few sets, as they require less coordination and neural effort – which fatigues fast and can limit the amount of weight lifted – to stabilise the weight.

Best for… maximisng strength and power
Power lifts and Olympic lifts
It’s only possible to maximise strength and power by overloading multiple muscle groups. Due to the strength of the anatomical positions engaged during strength and power lifts, large weights are required. Barbells are optimal for this. Exercises such as the deadlift, bench press, squat, clean and jerk and the snatch are perfect for encouraging maximal strength and power gains. Advanced bodyweight exercises such as gymnastic ring work is also a suitable mode but requires considerable skill and practice before any training effect can be elicited.

Best for… muscular endurance Mix up your modes
So long as other training factors (sets, reps, tempo, progression, recovery, rest) are correct a whole range of exercise modes can be used. Circuit training (no rest betweeen sets) using a variety of modes is an ideal way to increase muscular endurance. If you are in the early stages of training, stick with simple compound lifts (like deadlifts), isolation exercises using cables (like chest flys), basic dumb-bell moves (like dumb-bell presses) and simple bodyweight exercises (like air squats). The more advanced should throw in Olympic lifts and advanced bodyweight exercises (press-ups, kipping pull-ups), plus some kettlebell work.

Best for… reducing body fat
Barbells, circuits and bodyweight exercises
The power lifts (deadlift, squat, bench press) demand the most mechanical energy and stimulate the biggest releases in the fat-busting hormones: human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone. They also use multiple muscle groups, allowing you to increase your total body strength – so, to paraphrase a proverb, you kill more birds and drop more stones. Olympic lifts, however, require a lot of time-consuming practice before it’s safe to go heavy, and this time would be better spent doing high intensity interval training (HIIT).

Isolation dumb-bell exercises, cables and bodyweight moves are great to use in a circuit training session (no rest between exercises) as they allow for localised recovery between back-to-back exercises while keeping your heart rate high. Due to their high energy demands using multiple-joints, bodyweight movements signal to the body to cut weight that is not contributing to the movement – and fat, of course, falls into this category.

Be your own personal trainer #6: progression

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What is it?
The principle of progression dictates that there is an optimal level of muscle overloading, and an optimal time frame for this overload to occur. In other words, your workouts shouldn’t get tougher too slowly or decent improvements in body composition are unlikely, while making them tougher too fast may result in injury or muscle damage.

Why is it important?
Without consistent progression in your workouts, you won’t maximise increases in muscle size, strength or endurance. Progression can be accomplished in several ways: increase the load, add repetitions, alter your rep tempo, shorten or expand the rest period between sets, increase the volume of overall work – or any combination of these variables.

How should I progress my workout?
Progression for bulking up In order to best stimulate muscle gains a moderate number of sets (4) and a moderate reps range (6-12) is required, along with lifting to failure.If upon completing a set you feel you have a few more reps in you – which would take you out of your target rep range – it’s time to up the weight. Try to start each new exercise with a load that forces you to fail on rep six or seven. By the end of a six-week cycle, you should be pushing for eight to twelve repetitions. When you start failing at this point, add some more weight so that you fail at around the sixth repetition again. Repeat.

King tip Complete a progression test every 4-6 weeks. This could take the form of a one, six or 10 repetition max test for each muscle group.

Progression for building strength and power Power increases when a muscle produces the same amount of work in a shorter time, or more work in the same amount of time. The optimum way to progressively increase strength is to deploy a lower repetition range (1-5) and higher number of sets (around 7), incrementally increasing your load with each set. Warm up with lighter weights and incrementally add weight each set until on your final set you cannot complete a repetition. A typical session for training the power clean might include a five-rep warm up with 50% of your one-rep max, followed by five reps at 65%, five reps at 75%, four reps at 85%, three reps at 90%, two reps at 95%, one rep at 100%, and then a personal best attempt of one repetition at 105% of your one rep max.

King tip Plot your workouts on excel to get a great visual demonstration of your progression.

Progression for muscular endurance The ability of a muscle to produce more repetitions with a specific training load is best enhanced through long duration sets and shorter recovery time between sets. So to ensure improvement, do the same amount of work each set but cut down your rest periods. Alternatively, throw in an extra set, or increase your load.

King tip Pre-exhaustion training – in which you exercise a muscle to fatigue before initiating a set, forcing secondary muscles to work harder – will ensure an exercise is progressively challenging in terms of muscular endurance.

Progression for reducing body fat For resistance training focused towards losing weight, the same guidelines outlined in the bulk up section above should be followed. High intensity interval training (the most effective way of burning fat in less time) should be performed to failure just like with weight training. For example, sets should be made incrementally harder and you should not stop until you cannot complete the set. Try one of these three workouts.

King tip Always work to failure whether in the weights room or on the treadmill, but don’t expect every session to be progressive. Progress is volatile and as long as the line of best fit is positive you are on the right track.

Be your own personal trainer #5: recovery

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Recovery refers to the time you allow your body to rest between workouts.

Why is it important?

If you don’t get enough rest, you won’t see any results – no matter what your goal. Fat loss and increases in strength, muscle mass or muscular endurance all occur outside the gym, while your body recovers and adapts. Lack of rest may lead to overtraining – signs of which include a feeling of general fatigue, aching, depression, and decreased performance. Incorporating rest days also helps maintain a better balance between home, work and the gym.

How much recovery do I need?

Recovery for bulking up 5-7 days

It takes up to 7 days for muscles to fully recover and add size. Training a muscle group prior to this is likely to do more harm than good. You have fully recovered 48 hours after any soreness has gone. So, for example, if you train your biceps on Monday, they’ll ache Tuesday and Wednesday (compensation), and you should rest Thursday and Friday to allow growth (super compensation). You can train other muscle groups while one group recovers, but should always leave at least five days between training the same muscle or muscle group.

King tip Should you experience the negative effects of overtraining, take a week or two off. Your body will repair itself and bounce back strong. Make sure you change your program before resuming.

Recovery for building strength and power 2-3 days between the same exercise movements

Strength and power gains are dependent on the efficiency of the neural pathways which control the relevant movement pattern. The law of specificity requires the repetition of the desired movement pattern in order for it to develop. For example, if you want to be able to bench press more weight, you must practice the exercise over and over again to reinforce the neural pathways responsible for maximal muscle contractions. Two to three days is sufficient rest and will allow your nervous system to fully recover.

King tip When recovering, partial variations of exercise movements can be performed. For example, perform a snatch from thigh level rather than the floor.

Recovery for muscular endurance One day or ‘active recovery’

Endurance exercise depletes phosphocreatine and glycogen stores in the muscles. It takes 24-48 hours for these to fully restore. If after 24 hours you feel muscular soreness, have a rest day or do some active recovery (low to medium intensity cardiovascular exercise at 50-70% maximum effort). Ensure that through a seven day cycle you have a minimum of 48 hours off from any form of training.

Recovery for reducing body fat Two days between resistance sessions; one day or active recovery after HIIT

Ensure you take 48 hours off between resistance training sessions. This time can be filled alternatively with high intensity interval training (HIIT) or low intensity longer duration cardiovascular exercise in order to maximise fat burning. HIIT should be followed by a rest day or active recovery. Do no training at all for a minimum of 48 hours a week.

Mens Health Be your own personal trainer #4: rest

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Be your own personal trainer #4: rest

Quick breather or long break? PT James King shows you how to optimise rest periods for every training goal

 What is it? Rest refers to the time you allow for your body to recover between sets during a workout.

Why is it important? A firm understanding of the science of rest periods will ensure you maximise gains while minimising your risk of injury and/or burnout. How long you rest is a crucial and often overlooked facet of training: the amount you rest between sets should directly correlate to your training goals and level of conditioning.

How can I apply this?

Rest to increase strength 3-5 minutes

Watch pro weightlifters, sprinters and any savvy trainees looking to increase strength and explosive power in the gym and you’ll note they spend far more time resting than lifting. That’s because the energy used by the body to generate force in strength training sessions (low reps; high sets) comes from your ATP-PC system, which utilises the phosphagens in your muscle tissue to produce energy very fast without the presence of oxygen. Your store of these phosphagens is very small and only lasts around 15 seconds; it takes at least three minutes rest to become fully replenished. Due to the high number of sets required to reinforce the neural pathways that allow for maximal strength gains, it is therefore paramount that enough recovery between sets is taken to allow completion of the target sets and reps. Full recovery allows you to bring about the greatest muscular force possible for each set and maximise gains.

King tip: Never rest for any longer than five minutes. Your body temperature will drop, inhibiting performance and increasing your risk of injury.

Rest to bulk-up 45 to 90 seconds

Training correctly to maximise muscle gains (6-12 reps; 3-4 sets) uses energy from your ATP-PC system and your glycolytic system (carbs), with a little energy coming from your aerobic system (fats). Research has found deploying short rest periods best stimulates the production of human growth hormone. The key source of muscle gains, HGH secretion triggers the production of new body tissue by converting fat into muscle mass.

King tip: Note that if you’re coming back from a period off training due to injury, or general laziness, you should start with a longer rest period between sets and gradually bring it down to the optimum level as you approach your peak physical condition.

Rest to build endurance 1:1

To best hone marathon muscles, simply get your ratio right: spend exactly the same amount of time resting as it took you to complete the previous set. This creates high lactate levels in your exercising muscles, forcing your body to enhance its efficiency in buffering the accumulating lactate, and thus improving your body’s ability to sustain muscular contractions over a long period.

King tip: If you’re a beginner, take an extra 30-60 seconds rest after each set and decrease this slowly as you become fitter.

Rest to reduce body fat None

That’s right. None. Circuit workouts are key to blitzing fat in the gym. As soon as you finish your final rep of a set, move on to the next exercise and power through it. Alternating between upper and lower muscle groups will ensure fatigue doesn’t end your workout prematurely. This approach derives energy from the glycolytic and aerobic energy systems, burning carbs and fats while creating a strong afterburn and moderate gains in strength and mass. Another benefit of this approach is that it is time efficient and allows more scope for extra High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) sessions – another key weapon in your battle against blubber.

King tip :Weight loss hit a brick wall? Switch rest times for a week every 4-8 weeks to keep your body guessing and eliminate plateaus.

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