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Spot Fat Reduction.

Spot reduction is a term used to describe the idea that it is possible to selectively reduce fat in specific areas of the body through targeted exercise. However, this idea has been widely discredited by scientific research, as the body does not lose fat in a specific, localized manner. Instead, fat loss occurs evenly across the body, and is influenced by a combination of diet, exercise, and genetics.

 

The human body stores fat in adipose tissue, which is distributed throughout the body. When the body burns fat for energy, it does so by breaking down triglycerides in adipose tissue into free fatty acids, which are then transported to the muscles to be used as fuel. However, the body does not selectively burn fat in specific areas. Instead, fat loss occurs evenly across the body, regardless of the type of exercise being performed.

 

This is due to the fact that the body’s fat burning process is primarily controlled by hormones such as insulin, cortisol, and adrenaline, as well as genetics. These factors influence the body’s ability to burn fat, and can vary greatly from person to person. Additionally, genetics also plays a role in determining where fat is stored on the body.

 

Despite the fact that spot reduction is not possible, there are still effective ways to reduce fat in specific areas of the body. The most effective way to reduce fat in any area of the body is to create a calorie deficit through a combination of diet and exercise. This means consuming fewer calories than the body burns, which will cause the body to burn stored fat for energy.

 

Another effective way to reduce fat in specific areas of the body is to focus on exercises that target those areas. For example, to reduce fat in the abdominal area, exercises such as crunches, roll outs, and leg raises can be effective. To reduce fat in the legs, exercises such as squats, lunges, and leg press can be effective. However, it is important to note that while these exercises can help tone and strengthen the muscles in these areas, they will not selectively reduce fat in those areas.

 

Spot reduction is a widely discredited idea, and the body does not lose fat in a specific, localised manner. Instead, fat loss occurs evenly across the body, and is influenced by a combination of diet, exercise, and genetics. The most effective way to reduce fat in any area of the body is to create a calorie deficit through a combination of diet and exercise. Additionally, exercises that target specific areas can also be effective in toning and strengthening muscles in those areas, but will not selectively reduce fat in those areas.

A good start would be to initially begin to track your calorie intake and place yourself in a 10% deficit to begin with. Try to perform x2 resistance training training sessions per week, a personal trainer could construct a program where you can focus more on specific areas to create a program bespoke to you. Try to perform x2 sessions per week of cardio vascular exercise decide on something that you particularly enjoy and that you can keep consistent.

Energy Systems: Lactic Acid System

This article will go more in-depth about the Lactic Acid Energy System and also how you can focus you’re training to improve its efficiency to further benefit your performance in the gym.

 

The name Lactic Acid Energy System derives its name from the fact that the by-product lactate is produced when this energy system is predominant. This system uses only carbohydrates as its fuel source to, like every energy system, produce energy in the form of ATP for muscular contraction. It does this by a process called anaerobic glycolysis. Anaerobic means without the use of oxygen and glycolysis is a series of reactions that extract energy (ATP) from glucose (a carbohydrate).

 

The lactic energy system produces ATP quickly, which is why it is the predominant energy system for exercise between 30 seconds and 3 minutes, depending on intensity and the person’s fitness level who is exercising. It yields 2 molecules of ATP for every molecule of glucose broken down.

 

However, the build-up of the by-products of this energy system causes fatigue. This cause of fatigue is due to the build-up of pyruvic acid in the muscle. Pyruvic acid is made up of two molecules; pyruvate and a hydrogen ion (H+). Without oxygen, the body converts the pyruvate and two H+ to lactate. This helps to reduce the acidity of the muscle and allows anaerobic glycolysis to last longer, as the lactate is removed from the muscle and taken to the liver where it is converted to a useful fuel source such as glucose. However, in continued high intensity activity the lactate cannot be removed fast enough, which results in a buildup of pyruvic acid. It is specifically the buildup of the H+ within the muscle that causes fatigue. It does this by increasing the acidity of the muscle and causing the enzymes needed for anaerobic glycolysis to slow down.

 

To apply this to athletic performance and the gym, we have to acknowledge that any working set or event lasting between 30 seconds to 3 minutes will primarily be using the lactic acid energy system. In sport, this would include events such as the 400m and 800m. In the gym, any sets 12 or more reps or circuit training for working sets within the duration mentioned. Therefore, to become better at these events, we must know how to train this system effectively.

 

We have established that our working sets need to be between 30 seconds and 3 minutes, but ideally less than 3 minutes when training though as 3 minutes using the lactic acid energy system would be an all-out effort, taking a lot of time to recover from. However, how long should our recovery intervals be? The process of recovery once fatigue has occurred requires oxygen. Pyruvic acid in the presence of oxygen will be converted to acetyl coenzyme A, which is then broken down through the Krebs cycle to produce more ATP. Without oxygen, it is converted to lactate and removed from the muscle and taken to the liver to be converted into glucose. Full recovery can take anywhere between 30min and 60 min. Although, to train this energy system we do not want to fully recover, we want to recover just enough so that we can do another rep whereby this energy system is predominant. For this, a work to rest ratio of 1:1 is recommended. To give an example, if you are training this system to improve 800m performance, then a session consisting of 3-10 45-second-high intensity running intervals with 45 seconds rest in between would be enough to stimulate improvement of this energy system.

 

Adaptations to this type of training include an improved tolerance to lactic acid, as well as the ability to buffer the amount of lactic acid produced. Thereby, allowing you to perform at a high intensity for a longer period of time before the event becomes too painful to continue at that sustained intensity. One way to improve lactic acid buffering besides from training alone is the supplementation of beta alanine. Beta-alanine supplementation increases carnosine levels which, simply put, helps your muscles reduce their acidity levels during exercise, thereby reducing pain. It is recommended that to see these benefits to performance, 2-5 grams is taken daily. 500g of Beta Alanine can typically be bought for 40 pounds. Therefore, at 40p per serving it is a relatively cheap supplement. Caffeine has also been shown to reduce perceived exertion during endurance performance. For these effects, 3-9mg per kg of bodyweight is recommended 1 hour prior to performance. For a 70kg person, a dose between 210mg and 630mg is recommended. However, tolerance can build quickly and if taken less than 6 hours before sleeping, can be detrimental to sleep quality, so it is worth being selective on when using it.

 

Overall, I hope this article has been insightful as to how you can improve the efficiency of your lactic acid energy system and how you can apply this knowledge to your own training to benefit your performance.

How Much Does Muscle Growth Differ Between Lifters?

Reference to the Study:

Hubal et. al. (2005). Variability in Muscle Size and Strength Gain After Unilateral Resistance Training. MED SPORTS EXERC.

 

 

Details of the Study:

 

  • 585 untrained adults performed the same arm training routine for 12 weeks.

 

  • Most lifters experienced around a 10-20% increase in cross-sectional area, but there was extreme responses on either end of the spectrum.

 

  • A small number of individuals experienced no detectable muscle growth (with some even seeing losses in muscle size).

 

  • On the other hand, a small number of individuals saw increases in biceps cross-sectional area of greater than 50%.

 

  • As with most biological traits, the response to resistance training generally follows a bell-curve relationship. This means that most people see an ‘average’ muscle growth response, but a small percentage of people experience extremely more/less growth than average.

 

 

Applications to training:

 

  • This study supports the idea of the importance of an individualised plan in order to optimise muscle growth in each person.

 

  • Furthermore, it is unavoidable that some people will find it significantly easier to add muscle more than others, rendering comparison between peers futile. If you want to progress, then track your progression against yourself.

 

  • Ultimately having a personal coach who has the skills to guide you on how to execute your exercises correctly to get the most out of each exercise will put you in the best position to see results with your hypertrophy goals from your training in the gym.

The Energy Systems: ATP-PC System

When we exercise, our bodies require energy to cause our muscles to contract, resulting in movement, cardiac muscle to contract more frequently and powerfully to increase blood flow and smooth muscle, such as the muscles in our respiratory system, to increase the amount of oxygen we take into our bodies. Energy can otherwise be called Adenosine Triphosphate (1 molecule of adenosine and three molecules of phosphate) or ATP for short. The body has 3 systems that it can create ATP from and, although we always use all 3 simultaneously, there will always be one system that is much more predominant than the others, based upon the activity and environment you’re in. This article will go more in-depth about the ATP-PC system or Alactic System and also how you can focus you’re training to improve its efficiency to further benefit your performance in the gym.

 

The ATP/PC system derives its name simply because it recycles the small storage of our bodies ATP and PC (Phosphocreatine) to produce ATP for exercise. Firstly, ATP is broken into ADP (Adenosine Diphosphate which is 1 Molecule of Adenosine and two molecules of phosphate). This action releases the energy required for our muscles to contract. Phosphocreatine is then broken down into creatine and a molecule of phosphate by an enzyme called creatine kinase. The energy released from this reaction is then used to join the phosphate group to ADP to create ATP which can then be broken down to create more energy for muscular contraction. Therefore, the limiting factor for this energy system is our body’s stores of phosphocreatine (or just creatine, which will be touched on later in the article.

 

As our bodies only have small stores of ATP and PC, this energy system can only be used for 10 seconds of exercise before we primarily use either to lactic acid energy system or the aerobic energy system, which will be looked at in the coming articles. However, despite its short duration, a huge positive of this energy system is that doesn’t produce performance debilitating by-products like lactic acid. Once used up, it takes approximately 3 minutes to replenish our body’s stores of ATP and PC, in order for the ATP/PC system to be the predominant system used in the next 10 second bout of exercise.

 

If we apply this to training in the gym, strength training, power training (less than 6 reps per set) and sprint training (10 second bouts or shorter) will primarily use this energy system. Therefore, if you are looking to improve on your strength, power and/or sprint performance, then it’s important to remember the principle of the 3-minute rest in order to be providing the stimulus to the ATP/PC system and therefore bring about the desired outcome of becoming stronger, faster or more powerful. Inadequate rest or prolonging the duration of repetitions will place stress onto the lactic acid energy system. The negative of doing so, is that this does not have the same benefit when it comes to all out efforts of 10 seconds or less, which is of particular concern for people partaking in sports where performance in these areas is key.

 

Although our stores of PC are very small, there is ways to increase them slightly. We can do this by supplementing our diet with creatine. This is because creatine has the ability to increase our muscle’s stores of PC and thereby prolonging the amount of time we can utilise the ATP/PC system before the lactic acid energy system becomes to primary energy system. The benefit to this is that you can place the training stimulus onto the ATP/PC system for an extra couple of reps/ few seconds per set which, over time, results in greater adaptations, and therefore performance, in strength and power.

 

Also, creatine is the most well researched supplement in the world and, unlike some supplements, it has been found to have no negative side effects. The recommended dosage for creatine is 5g per day which is relatively cheap as you can purchase 250g for approximately £15-£20. However, as it is a loading supplement, it is important to consume every day so that the quantity of creatine in the muscles can build up in order for you to see the benefits, unlike caffeine, whereby you take a dosage 1 hour prior to training and feel the effects for the next few hours.

 

I hope this has explained how you can improve the accuracy of your training and supplementation when you wish to focus on improving your strength, speed or power performance and overall bring about better results.

 

 

Is Training to Failure Better for Hypertrophy

 

Reference:

Refalo et. al. (2022). Influence of Resistance Training Proximity to Failure On Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis. Sports.Med

 

Details of the Study:

 

  • The researchers analysed the effects of failure under three separate categories- muscular failure, set failure and high velocity thresholds.

 

  • In all categories, there were trends favouring the failure condition, although these findings did not reach statistical significance.

 

  • This lead to the authors to hypothesize that training closer to failure appears to be non-linearly beneficial for muscle growth.

 

  • In other words, training to failure may be slightly superior compared with leaving a few reps in reserve, although the benefits are marginal.

 

 

Real World Application:

 

  • Training to failure can be fun to truly test your limits and this research supports the idea that it would be beneficial to do so, when the goal is muscle growth.

 

  • However, when adjusting to new training loads or during times when life stress is higher than usual, you can train slightly sub-maximally safe in the knowledge that it will not significantly prevent you from reaching your training goal.

Adherence – WHATS YOUR WHY?

Dedication vs Motivation

 

Adherence to any program or plan is the number 1 factor that will determine success to reach a particular goal or failure where you quit prior to achieving it or even getting close to it.

 

Don’t make excuses find solutions!

 

In any pursuit of getting to a certain goal consistency is king, if you are not consistently putting in the effort for the most amount of the time you will be taking 1 step forward and 3 steps back rather than the opposite.

 

Motivation will fail you, when emotions get in the way when your not in a good mood, your stressed sad, overwhelmed. Motivation will seize you’ll quit or have a day off that turns into a weeks to a month off.

 

Dedication is something that you will do regardless of your circumstances, regardless if your stressed, tired, overwhelmed and regardless if your not in a good emotional state. You’ll always find a way regardless of the situation.

 

If your just motivated you will find any little excuse to stop yourself from doing the things that you need to do. When we are dedicated we will find a solution you’ll adapt to get what you need get done to progress.

 

That’s why it’s important to identify your Why, your why is an emotional thing which can change and progress or can remain the same through the course of your journey.

 

It’s really important that we really think about this and put some focus into it as we can use it to remain dedicated when things will get in the way of our progress and progression and having that awareness as we navigate through our journey on how it may change or progress.

 

Be attached to your why, write it down put it on your notes in your phone and review it periodically. When your making excuses to yourself read it out 10 times and you will see how your focus /mindset will change.

 

We have to set our self’s up for success we are living in a more stressful environment at present and each individuals allostatic load is much higher which means we are required to acknowledge all of these things that may happen along the way over the course of the month and year and say to yourself your reactions to these stimuli that may raise your emotions will be X or Y. For example I will not drink a bottle of wine when X happens at work. I will do a workout and do 10 mins of deep breathing and meditation, or I will book myself a massage so I can release the tension from my body. Often times it’s not the stimulus but our reaction to the stimulus how we perceive it and react to it.

 

Let’s look at examples of what someone’s WHY may look like?

 

  • I want to be fit and healthy for when I have children.
  • I want to be able to keep up with my Grandchildren.
  • want to be a good role model to my children so they can see me focusing on good habits toward my health eating good foods and exercising regularly.
  • I want to be mobile and active when I reach and elderly age.
  • I like to look good for my husband/wife/partner and myself.
  • I want to look good for my clients so they believe in what I advise them to do (as a coach you are your own business card).
  • I like feel good cognitively which by creating healthier lifestyle habits allows me to feel this way. (exercises has a positive impact on mental health).
  • I want to be healthy enough to continue to do the hobbies/sports I love.

 

Make note of yours, focus and review it regularly, use it as your fuel to keep your dedicated on becoming the healthiest and strongest version of yourself.

 

A good physique, health and vitality is created by consistent habits that will require a consistent dedicated approach. As coaches and personal trainers we help individuals navigate through this process and keep you accountable to your WHY!

 

 

Static Stretching on Muscle Thickness.

 

Reference to the Study:

Warneke et. al. (2022), Influence of long-lasting Static Stretching on Maximal Strength, Muscle Thickness and Flexibility. FRONT PHYSIOL

 

Details of the Study:

 

  • Subjects used an orthosis (a brace) to hold the ankle in a dorsi-flexed position for 60 min per day for 6 weeks in total.

 

  • The device stretched the calf muscles to an 8/10 pain rating- as perceived by each individual subject.

 

  • It was found that gastrocnemius muscle thickness increased by around 15% at the end of the 6 weeks, compared with 2% from the control group who did not use the brace.

 

  • These results support the idea that static stretching is an anabolic stimulus.

 

 

Applications to training:

 

  • These results help explain why training through a full range of motion (and partials when overloading a muscle in the lengthened range) often produces superior levels of muscle growth.

 

  • Therefore, focussing on overloading the muscle in the lengthened position may be superior for hypertrophy.

 

 

Considerations:

 

  • The body of evidence supporting this idea is still small, therefore more research into this would need to be done until this is a genuine, evidence supported application to training.

Pre-Fatigue Training vs Traditional Sets on muscle growth

 

 

Reference of the Study: Trinidade et. al. (2019). Effects of Pre-Exhaustion Versus Traditional Resistance Training on Training Volume, Maximal Strength and Quadriceps Hypertrophy FRONT PHYSIOL

 

 

Details of the Study:

 

  • Trainees performed 3 sets of leg press to failure 75% 1RM, 2x per week, for 9 weeks in total.

 

  • One group performed 1 set of leg extensions before the leg press (pre-fatigue group), while another group performed the leg press training in a non-fatigued state (traditional training group).

 

  • It was found that both groups saw significant muscle growth of all quad muscles, with no notable differences between groups.

 

  • This study suggests that when taking each set close to failure, pre-fatiguing a muscle can achieve similar muscle growth compared with traditional training, with no additional benefit.

 

  • This is despite the fact that lifting performance (load lifted), on the leg press for the pre-fatigue group was significantly affected.

 

 

Real World Application:

 

  • Pre-Fatiguing the muscles provides an opportunity to gain the same muscle growth as traditional training, with lighter loads and less repetitions, thereby minimising joint stress.

 

  • Therefore, this could be particularly useful for people returning to the gym after rehabilitating certain joint injuries.

Load vs Rep Progression

 

 

Reference:

Plotkin et. al. (2022) Progressive Overload Without Progressing the Load? The Effects of Load or Repetition Progression on Muscular Adaptations. PERJ.

 

Details of the Study:

 

  • Trainees performed the same lower-body workout 2x per week for 8 weeks, taking all sets to failure.

 

  • One group lifted within the 8-12 rep range and attempted to increase the load over time, still sticking to this rep range.

 

  • The other group also lifted within the 8-12 rep range initially. However they aimed to perform more reps overtime whilst maintaining the same load.

 

Results:

 

  • It was found that both groups saw increases in muscle thickness of all muscles measured, with no notable trends favouring either condition.

 

  • Furthermore, changes in lean mass of the legs were similar between groups.

 

  • This supports the main know drivers of hypertrophy are mechanical tension and metabolic stress are both great for hypertrophy.

 

Real World Application:

  • This study suggests that progression via load or reps results in similar outcomes, as long as the set is taken to failure. Therefore, if muscle growth is the aim then proximity to failure should be prioritized.

 

  • Once you know you can train to failure successfully and it comes the decision to either up the weight or increase reps. Exercise execution is vital for all lifts and movements it would be useful to hire a personal trainer to coach you on exercise execution.

 

  • A useful strategy would be to perform your compound more mid range movements with the progression of load and your isolation movements towards the shortened and lengthened ranges of the muscle towards higher rep ranges.

Why you may not maintain adherence towards the gym.

Exercise has never been more accessible than it is today. In terms of weight training, most areas in the UK have several gyms for every budget, ranging from £20 per month commercial gyms, right up to country clubs that charge several hundreds of pounds per month. Regarding outdoor sports, there’s plenty of clubs and cycle routes out in public and running solo will always be completely free. Furthermore, exercise from home became massively popular during the COVID 19 Pandemic, with the use of Peloton Bikes, as well as free home-based circuit training on YouTube becoming increasingly popular.

 

Despite this high amount of accessibility, only 6 percent of UK males and 4 percent of females meet the Department of Health’s recommended levels for activity. Why might this be the case? Giving exercise a go in the first place is not so much of an issue. Hence the massive boom in gym memberships every January, as well as the huge purchase of home gym equipment in the pandemic. The main issue is with adherence to these changes to one’s lifestyle. The ability to adhere to a training programme will differ between individuals. However, I have chosen some very common factors which, when stuck to, will make it significantly easier to stick to a training programme.

 

Firstly, there’s enjoyment of the exercise itself. Choosing a form of exercise that you actually enjoy (or in some people’s case, find more tolerable than others), is crucial. Whether it be exercise, food, a hobby, a relationship or a job, if you do not enjoy it then you are not going to stick to it for long. One caveat is that your chosen exercise must align with your goals. For instance, if you want to put on muscle but only love running, then this will not work, you will need to be resistance training regularly. However, there is plenty of flexibility within this: you can choose high vs low reps, the addition of drop-sets, super-sets, rest-pause sets, giant sets etc. So, you can tailor your sessions around your own preferences.

 

 

Next, having high quality goals is key. We can follow the acronym SMARTER to create a high-quality goal. S stands for specific. For instance, we would change the goal ‘I want to be able to run faster’ to ‘I want to improve my 5k PB’. This way, we know to focus the training on 5k performance and not just a general running programme. M stands for measurable. This goal has already partly been made measurable by adding in 5k. However, we can make it even more measurable by saying ‘I want to improve my 5k PB from 25:30, to 23 minutes’. A stands for achievable and R stands for realistic. Having an overwhelming goal can be very disheartening. Wanting to improve your 5k PB from 25 minutes to 23 minutes is very realistic. However, wanting to improve it from 25 minutes to 14 minutes will be near impossible for the majority of people. T stands for Time Bound. You need to set an end date on this goal to help create urgency. An example being, I want to improve my 5k PB from 25 minutes to 23:30 in 3 months is a realistic, time bound goal for a relative novice. E stands for Evaluate. Your goal needs to be frequently evaluated, to see if your training needs to be adjusted part way through, in order to increase your chances of actually achieving the goal. R stands for recognise. You need to recognise the little wins along your way to your end goal and appreciate how far you have come on your journey. If your goal satisfies all these conditions, it should provide a clear and motivating target to aim for.

 

Finally, we need to look at the social aspect of training. Often in life we associate our enjoyment towards an activity closely with the relationships attached to it. For instance, plenty of people enjoy drinking in pubs, however how much they enjoy this activity is hugely dependant on the relationship they have with the people they go with and exercise is no different. If you find yourself unable to adhere to an exercise programme, choose a training partner who you enjoy spending time with. Furthermore, having a training partner gives the added bonus of accountability. If you have a time set to meet someone at the gym, this makes it a lot more likely to happen as opposed to you planning to go alone and then not really feeling like it when the time comes around.

 

Alternatively, you can kill several birds with one stone and hire a good quality personal trainer. This will not only create a positive social aspect to training once a strong relationship is built, they will also help you create effective SMARTER targets and work closely with you to formulate a training programme which aligns with your goals, involving sessions that you actually enjoy performing.

 

Overall, I hope this article has helped identify some key elements for you to focus on when embarking on changing your lifestyle for the better.