Machines vs Free Weights

Quote: "Be Above Average.  It's the Start that Stops Most People." - Anonoymous

You have been told that gaining muscular strength and muscle mass will improve your health. You have never done this before and you wonder where to start. You start by looking online and asking people you know, there are a lot more questions than answers when it comes to machine weights vs free weights.

Body Type for Females

What Should You Do?

 

This depends on your experience, technique and what your goal is. Both forms of training have their pros and cons.

Machine Pros
- Safe and easy to learn.
- Helps to isolate muscles you want to train.
- Good for rehabilitation.
- Good for beginners just starting out their training.
- No spotter is required.

Machine Cons
- Neglects the stabilizing muscles.
- Only trains one plane of movement.
- Has no functionality that carries over into other activities and training.

Free Weight Pros
- Engage multiple groups and stabiliser muscles.
- Builds strength and muscle mass quickly.
- Develops movements in multiple planes that carry over to other activities and sports.
- Can train anywhere and have more variety in exercises.

Free Weight Cons
- More difficult to learn proper lifting technique.
- Need a spotter when using heavier weights.
- Use of poor technique leads to injuries and muscle imbalances.

What Should You Do?

 

If you are a beginner, find a gym instructor to get you started using machines for 4-6 weeks to become familiar with strength training. Once you have done that find someone whom is experienced and knowledgeable about free weights to assist you in your training. Get them to develop a 4 week program and watch over your technique.

This will give many opportunities to develop the correct technique and mindset in training with free weights. Then get the trainer to develop a 12 week strength program that focuses on the squat, deadlift and bench press that will allow you to develop muscle mass and strength in a short period of time. Before you know it, you will become an expert.

Why you should AVOID Artificial Sweeteners

Quote: "Your diet is a bank account. Good food choices are good investments." -  Bethenny Frankel

What are artificial sweeteners?  They are substances used to replace sugar and sugar alcohols in foods.  The idea behind artificial sweeteners is to retain sweetness in the food without the calories that sugars contain.

Artificial Sweeteners

 

They have been marketed as a product to control weight, maintain low blood sugar levels and prevent tooth decay.

Common foods that contain Artificial Sweeteners

  • Diet soft drinks
  • Muesli and Candy Bars
  • Cakes
  • Chocolates
  • Popcorn
  • Chewing Gum
  • Yoghurt

Types of Artificial Sweeteners

While there are a lot of artificial sweeteners, we do not have enough room to list them all.  I will list the common ones that are listed in the ingredients of food items that are sold in supermarkets.  The reason for this is so you the consumer can become better informed on the foods you buy that can affect your health.

  • Aspartame also known as (Equal, NutraSweet)
  • Sucralose also known as (Splenda)
  • Stevia
  • Neotame
  • Saccharin also known as (Sugar Twin, Sweet’n’Low)
  • Acesulfame also known as (Sunett, Sweet One)

Effects of Artificial Sweeteners

 

Aspartame according to Lendon Smith, M.D. can cause headaches, weight gain, depression, itchy skin rashes as part of many other side effects.

Sucralose can cause diarrhoea, bloating, headaches, allergies such as acne, bleeding of the gums, weight gain and seizures.

Stevia can interfere in drug interactions, cause muscle pain, and give a false sense of fullness leading to problems in the future and dizziness.

Neotame due to it having very similar properties to Aspartame can have similar side effects such as weight gain and diabetes by increasing stimulation and release of hormones  insulin and leptin

Saccharin is made from Coal Tar can cause bladder cancer, headaches, dizziness and breathing problems.

Acesulfame contains a carcinogen called methylene chloride.  This can cause depression, mental confusion and nausea.

What to do

Read about the types of artificial sweeteners and their effects on your health.  Know how to read and understand food labels when you go to the supermarket.  Go back to eating sugar from natural foods such as fruit, honey and vegetables and control how much of those foods you eat.

Does Practice Make Perfect?

Quote: "Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect." -  Vince Lombardi

Does Practice Make Perfect?  Depends on how you look at it.

We have all heard the saying that practice makes perfect.  To answer that question, practice makes perfect is only partially true.  What I am going to say based on my training experiences that other things happen before your practice makes perfect.

Practice Makes Perfect

These relates to any skill you are trying to attain regardless of the field it is in.  Here are the things that happen first.

  • You will practice incorrectly.
  • You will practice the skill till you get it correct.
  • You will practice the correct skill on a consistent basis.

Practicing Incorrectly

When you are trying to learn a new skill, you will be shown how to do it by someone more experienced and knowledgeable than you are.  You will then be left on your own to try and use the skills you have been taught.  But you will find a lot of the time your manager will come back and show the errors you have made in your practice.

I experienced this when I was shown in Close Quarter Combat training how to apply a temporary hold called a wrap following on from a striking combination.  After training, I went home, made some notes and practiced 3 times during the week till the next training session.

The next training session came a week later and I showed my instructor what I had been practicing.  I was frustrated when I could not make the skills work.  He showed me the errors I was making and how to correct them.  Talk about being humbled.  Again I paid attention and took down notes on how to practice correctly.

Practicing till you get the Skill Correct

You know what the correct skills are, but you are still doing this in a conscious mindset.  The mistakes previously have been minimised, but you are starting to become more competent in the performance of your skills.  You still cannot perform the correct skills like you know the back of your hand.  Practicing often enough consciously you will eventually be able to practice the skills correctly in a subconscious manner.

Practicing the Correct Skill on a Consistent Basis

This is the stage where you are practicing the correct skills on a consistent basis.  You are very familiar with the skills and can perform them well with less effort when you were practicing on a conscious basis.  Once you have reached this stage, make sure you practice these skills on a regular basis and then start the process all over again by making the effort to learn new skills.

My Story

I was learning how to practice a close quarter combat technique called a Wrap.  This is a temporary restraining hold that allows you to restrain an opponent before moving on to a takedown.

Practicing Incorrectly

My instructor showed and explained how to do the technique then said for me to try it.  I kept performing the technique incorrectly because I knew I could not successfully restrain and take my training partner’s balance.  My mistakes were pointed out and what to do to correct them was shown and explained to me.  Despite this I would still be practicing the skill incorrectly for several months.

Learning to Practice Correctly

I made notes on my errors and corrections and started practicing on a regular basis thinking about the correct technique.  I was beginning to practice correctly because I knew my Wrap was starting to work the way it was supposed to.  But I was still making mistakes and getting frustrated about it.  At least I was making progress.

Practicing Correctly on a Consistent Basis

I reviewed my notes and still practiced on my own on a regular basis.  I have now able to apply the correct technique on a regular basis.  With new found confidence I have taken my training to a higher level.  I can now take that skill and apply it in various scenarios.

Summary

It does not matter what field you are learning a skill in, what matters is using the same principle when it comes to mastering a new skill. Before practice makes perfect, you will practice incorrectly, then practice correctly followed by practicing correctly on a consistent basis.

How Meditation can IMPROVE your Mental and Emotional Wellbeing

Quote: "If you have time to breathe you have time to meditate. You breathe when you walk. You breathe when you stand. You breathe when you lie down." - Ajahn Amaro

Meditation is has been around for a long time and is practice by many people for various reasons.  As silly as it sounds, most people that practice meditation cannot explain what meditation is.  So, what is meditation?  It is derived from two Latin words meditari (to think, dwell upon, to exercise the mind), and mederi (to heal).

Meditation

Meditation is the activity of focusing your mind on one thing only free of scattered thoughts.  It results in your mind being calm, quiet and alert.  Think of meditation as fitness for the mind.  Just as you train and nourish the body, you must also do the same for your mind.

Different ways to Meditate

Concentration Meditation

There is Concentration Meditation which involves the person focusing on a single point.  You could be standing, lying on your back or seated in a particular position.  This could involve the use of breath control, repeating a mantra or a single word, or focusing your eyes on an object.  When your mind begins to wander, you refocus by concentrating on that single point again.  This will improve your ability to concentrate and calm the mind.

Mindfulness Meditation

This type of meditation is to be aware of any thoughts that enter your mind.  When these thought enter your mind, the goal is not to get involved with those thoughts using judgement, but to be aware of each thought as it arrives.

Over time, you will develop an inner balance and be more aware of our habits to pass judgement on thoughts that are good and bad.

Benefits of Meditation

Practicing meditation can bring about many benefits.

Improves your happiness by:

  • Increasing positive emotions.
  • Decreasing depression, stress and anxiety.

Improves Self Control

  • This leads to a decrease in uncontrolled angry outbursts.
  • Ability to reflect and see both points of view on an issue.

Improves Productivity

  • Allows you to improve focus and attention.
  • Improves your memory and ability to recall things.
  • Improves your ability to multitask.
  • Develops your creative thinking processes.

Makes you Wiser

  • You develop the ability to master your thoughts and therefore your emotions, words spoken and actions taken.

Why should you Meditate?

Many of us are familiar with physical training and nutrition, but how many of us are familiar with training the mind?   Health and fitness is not just a case of physical wellbeing, it should also be combined with training to take care of mental and emotional wellbeing.  Think of it as an integrated form of health and fitness.

How to get the Best Out of Meditation

  • Do it first thing in the morning upon waking up.
  • Perform meditation in an area that is dark and quiet and where you will be uninterrupted.
  • Start with 5 minutes and build up to 20 minutes. Once you can do that, build up to 30 -45 minutes on a consistent basis and you will have a good knowledge and basis to greatly benefit from meditation.

Summary

Now that you know that meditation is a great way to improve your health and make you a better person, the most important thing is to make a start.  What’s stopping you?

Is too much of one thing a good thing?

Quote: "Too much of anything could destroy you, Simon thought. Too much darkness could kill, but too much light could blind." - Cassandra Clare, City of Lost Souls

Well, there are pros and cons too this issue.  The story I am going to write here is how too much of one thing can be detrimental in health and fitness and how it relates to life as well.

When I was 19 years old I started doing strength training to supplement my martial arts training.  My goal was to increase my body mass from 65 kgs to 82 kilograms.  But a funny thing happened, I wanted to see how far I could go.  I was obsessed with getting bigger and stronger.

Too much of one thingjpg

So on I went and eventually I reached 112kgs ten years later.  I was big and strong, but had neglected other forms of fitness training.   I was getting older and my focus in training started to change.  No longer was I concerned with getting bigger and stronger.  I got to a stage in life where my priorities became health and longevity.  So I read up on other forms of effective training such as Kettlebells, Bodyweight, Military Combatives and Tai Chi.

Introducing Myself to different forms of Training

Kettlebells were a great, because it represented a dynamic way of training by moving weights in all three dimensions made famous by the Soviets/Russians.  Bodyweight Training is seen as a fantastic way to get in shape, convenient and required no equipment and has been used with success by the military.

Military Combatives as practiced by the Todd Group in New Zealand is seen as an excellent form of Self Defence that is practical, easy to learn and has been proven to work from the time of the Shanghai Municipal Police Force in early 20th century China to the streets and battlefields of today.

Tai Chi has been around for around four hundred years and is seen as a great way to improve health by managing stress, improving balance and strength in the legs.  In other words I have variety using proven forms of exercise that our forebears used with success in the past.  The best if the past, west and east combined for the modern age we live in.

So you’re probably wondering, how does this relate to life?

In your job you may have done the same role very well for the same company for say 10 years.  You have a steady pay check life is good, but you’re bored.  Are you happy to keep plodding along or do you want to learn something new?  Many of us are guilty of doing this in the workplace, but the thought of change and leaving the security blanket scares us from trying something new and different.  A suggestion to counter this is to talk to your boss about wanting trying a new role as a bigger challenge that will help make you an asset to the company you work for.

During the last 15 years of your life, you only see the same scenery and people.  Once a year it feels like ground hog day as you go on your annual journey to see the same places and the same people.  How would you relieve yourself of this monotony and rejuvenate yourself?  A suggestion would be to join a new society or sports club to meet different people.  Another suggestion would be to save some money and go on an overseas trip to a place you have never been to before.  At the end of the day, we all need a bit of variety in our lives.

What you will Learn

Don’t get stuck in a rut where you feel life and work has to be ground hog day.  Take the initiative to explore by meeting new people, try a different activity or travel overseas to see a different culture and way of life.

When it comes to training, once you have a sound base, try other forms of training to challenge your body to adapt and prepare yourself to learn something new.  In other words, life doesn’t have to boring, go out and explore and have some fun.

What Being INJURED has TAUGHT me

Quote: "Work hard. And have patience. Because no matter who you are, you're going to get hurt in your career and you have to be patient to get through the injuries." - Randy Johnson

I strained my lower part of my left hamstring two weeks ago while performing two handed kettlebell swings.  This is a simple exercise you can use to develop all round fitness in the shortest period of time.  You are probably wondering how this happened?

I was three quarters of the way through completing 150 two handed kettlebell swings and on the downward motion of one repetition. I lost focus for a split second, my technique faltered by me straightening my legs as opposed to maintaining a slight bend in them and I felt a sudden pain in the lower part of my left hamstring.  I abandoned the remaining 50 repetitions, got some rest and booked myself in for a massage to loosen up the tight muscles.

Hand Injury

So what did I learn and how does this relate to Life?

Maintain focus on the task at hand

It does not matter if it is business matter, active listening, studying for university exams, training and/or competing in a sports event.  Make sure you focus at all times, not paying attention can lead to poor preparation, performance or injury.

Don’t take short cuts.

I did not do a thorough warmup before moving onto my working sets.  I just wanted to get the workout done as quickly as possible.  The lesson learned here is that taking short cuts generally leads to trouble.   If you are going to do a job that is worth doing, do it right the first time.  That relates to a business deal, physical training and preparing for war.

Concentrate on the Basics

Because I did not perform joint rotations, and warm up sets of kettlebell swings with a light weight kettlebell as part of my basic warmup, this led me to being vulnerable to injury.  The lesson I learnt is do the basics, everything else is a variation of the basics.

Basics are the foundation of success in any endeavour.  This may involve physical and mental conditioning in the sports arena, practicing what your coach teaches you in singing, covering different scenarios in business negotiations.

Before you do anything fancy, make sure you have the established a strong foundation in the basics.

Summary

I’m not saying people should go out and deliberately get injured, but suffering an injury can make you reflect by seeing what mistakes you made and how to correct them.   In other words, experience is a great teacher, you learn what to do and what not to do and gain wisdom.  If you fail, suffer an injury, use it as a learning experience to improve yourself.

Why Powerlifting is BENEFICIAL to your Health

Quote: "Just remember, somewhere, a little Chinese girl is warming up with your max." - Jim Conroy, Olympic Weightlifting Coach

When you think of powerlifting what image sticks in your mind?   Big sweaty men screaming and lifting huge amounts of weight?  That is part of the story.  As silly as it sounds, powerlifting has many health benefits.

Female Powerlifter

I am not wanting you to get into competitive powerlifting.  I am more interested in how powerlifting can be used as a part of an integrated and holistic approach towards health and fitness.  Personally I use powerlifting as a means to increase and maintain strength and build muscle mass and to assist in other forms of training.

Stronger Bones, Ligaments, Tendons and Muscles

As you get older having a strong skeletal and soft tissues prevents the onset of arthritis, a thinning of the bones that can lead to falls and bone fractures.

Build Fat Burning Muscle Tissue

There are various benefits in having extra lean muscle tissue.   First and foremost is strength.  Strength is the ability to exert force against another object or person.  Additional lean muscle mass leads to a higher metabolic rate, which is the ability to burn off excess calories and maintain a lower level of body fat.   As you get older, this assumes more importance.

Powerlifting is an efficient way to train a lot of muscles using the least amount of exercises in the shortest amount of time.  The squat, deadlift and bench press are compound exercises that train major muscle groups leading to greater gains in strength and muscle mass in the shortest amount of time.

And ladies, don’t worry about becoming muscle bound, powerlifting will help you get that long, lithe and athletic look allowing you to eat more food and burn more calories that will make you the envy of other ladies.

Assist in other forms of Training

Whether it is bodyweight training, kettlebell training, cross-fit, track and field, martial arts, football, hiking or bodybuilding, powerlifting will give you a great foundation of strength and lifting technique and mental toughness that will crossover to these other sports and activities.

What to do

If you are new to powerlifting, get help from an expert that will set you in the right direction and give you correct tips on training and lifting technique.  Follow a powerlifting program for 12-16 weeks and see what is does for your health and performance in other sports and activities.

7 Reasons why STRENGTH TRAINING is VITAL for your Health

Quote: "No matter who you are, no matter what you do, you absolutely, positively do have the power to change." - Bill Phillips

When it comes to strength training, most people think of young gym bunnies and Arnold Schwarzenegger wannabees lifting heavy weights in the gym.  The good news is, strength training can benefit everyone old and young, male and female.  If you wish to lose weight, improve your health and relieve stress, then get to the gym and start lifting.  Listed below are the best reasons to undertake strength training.

Strength

1. Delays Onset of Osteoarthritis

As you get older, bone density decreases over time leading to a higher risk in bone fractures.  Strength training increases your bone density, this means you will have a stronger skeletal system allowing you to move more freely leading to an improvement in quality of life.

2. Increases your Metabolic Rate

By increasing your musclemass you also increase your metabolic rate.  This additional musclemass burns excess calories which is better than having fat that just sits on your body doing nothing.  So even when you are resting, you will be burning calories.

3. Improves Performance in other Activities

Whether you are a weekend warrior, endurance athlete, soldier, martial artist, swimmer, track and field athlete, tennis player, golfer, football player, strength training can help improve your performance by increasing core stability, muscular strength speed and explosive power.

4. Helps to Manage Stress

Due to the many demands on our time in modern life results in stress.  Doing strength training will produce endorphins which elevates your emotional wellbeing to counter the stress you experience.  It will also enhance the quality of sleep resulting in you being able to replenish your body and mind so you can face the demands of the next day.

5. Slows the Ageing Process

Once you pass the age of 35, you start to age more quickly due to poor eating habits, decrease in bone density, lack of physical activity, a slowing metabolic rate, mental and emotional stress.  Strength training will increase the amount of muscle mass even as you age by activating a muscle stem cell called a satellite cell that rejuvenates the mitochondria. It also tightens your skin, changes your physical appearance, increases your bone density, strengthens your skeletal structure and improves your brain function, all important aspects in slowing down the ageing process.

6. Improves Body Composition

You increase your muscle mass and decrease your bodyfat.  You may weigh the same as you did before you started strength training.  But your composition and appearance and ability to burn excess calories will be different.

7. Improves Mental and Emotional Wellbeing

Strength training will help boost your confidence change your attitude and alleviate boredom.   Improving your physical health will spill over into other areas of your life such as family, social settings and work.  People around you will notice and pay you compliments and ask what you have been doing.  You pay it forward by telling them what you did, how and why you did, how it helped to improve your life.  This will inspire them to make improvements in their life.

Eight REASONS why Bodyweight Training can improve your Health and Fitness

Quote: "The individual who says it is not possible should move out of the way of those doing it." - Tricia Cunningham

Before you start out on your Body Weight training journey, make sure you read the best 8 reasons on why you should do body weight training.  If you want to get your health back, manage stress, lose weight and improve your physical performance, then this form of training is for you.

Parallel Bar Dips

1. Improves Health and Well Being

Lowers blood pressure, improves circulation of the blood, and helps you manage stress and lower blood sugar levels in the blood.

2. Releases Dopamine to Improve Emotional Well Being

Have you ever finished a great training session and felt like you were on an incredible high.  The reason for that is a chemical/transmitter called dopamine is released by the brain that brings about feelings of happiness and pleasure.

3. It is Convenient

Body weight training can be done anywhere anytime, no equipment is required.  Your body will provide the resistance you need top train.  You don’t need a gym membership.  Exercises can be learned through instructors in body weight training and through social media.

4. Can be used as a form of Low Impact Training

If you have trouble with your ankles, knees, hips and lower back from high impact training, body weight training can be changed to low impact training to protect your joints from being injured by high levels of impact.  For example instead of running to improve your cardiovascular fitness, you can do a high number of body weight squats instead and get better results.

5. You can Combine Strength and Cardiovascular Training

You can combine strength and cardiovascular training to kill two birds with one stone.  You can do this by performing one cardiovascular exercise, then perform a strength exercise, another cardiovascular exercise followed by another strength exercise etc. etc.  This is more efficient than performing a strength training session then following that up with a cardiovascular training session.

6. There is a Wide Variety of Exercises Available

If you wish to crank up your metabolic rate to burn off those excessive calories, develop strength and develop efficient movement patterns then body weight training is for you.  You may have improved your strength in the barbell bench press and the deadlift, but if you have trouble performing pull ups and parallel bar dips, then you have poor levels of bodyweight strength.

7. It can be Combined with other Forms of Training

If you do strength training with free weights, train with kettlebells, do gymnastics and martial arts, adding bodyweight training to your regime will improve your skills in these forms of training.

8. Used Successfully by other Sports and the Military

If you look at the physiques and the abilities of gymnasts, they have low levels of body fat, high levels of lean muscle mass and functional strength, have amazing flexibility and explosive power.  What would you prefer?  The look of a functionally fit athlete or the powerlifter/bodybuilder look?

If you look at soldiers, most of them do have high levels of body mass because this is a detriment to their training.   More body mass requires more energy for it to function.  That’s why you see soldiers perform bodyweight exercises and use obstacle courses to improve their functional fitness.

Martial Arts that require physical conditioning such as Mixed Martial Arts, Wrestling and any form of grappling use body weight exercises to enhance their performance and skills.  Their physiques are trained to be functional, not look like a bodybuilder.  If they do look good, it’s just considered a bonus.

The BEST 8 reasons on why you should use Kettlebells to improve your Health

Quote: "Everything in your body is interrelated and isolation is a myth." - Pavel Tsatsouline

So you have heard that kettlebells are that round object thingy with handles?  Well click here to learn what a kettlebell is and how they came about.  Kettlebells have been around for a long time and have been used to improve health and physical performance average everyday people, soldiers and athletes.  So get on board and learn 8 of the BEST REASONS why you should use kettlebells.

Kettlebell Training

1. Combines Cardiovascular Training with Strength Training

Kettlebell training contains ballistic movements that places a high demand on your cardiovascular system and grind movements that require strength.  By combining both movements in a kettlebell training program, you kill two birds with one stone.  This means you will improve muscular strength, muscle mass and cardiovascular fitness at the same time.

2. Builds more Muscle and Burns more Fat

By gaining more muscle mass, people with that do kettlebell training also burn off excess calories faster and for a longer period of time.  A study carried out by the American Council on Exercise concluded that kettlebells provided a higher level of intensity than standard training routines led to better results in a shorter period of time.

3. Trains the Posterior Chain

The posterior chain is the group of muscles located at the rear of the body made up of the glutes, hamstrings, lower back and core.  Often when people train at the gym they train the mirror muscles, the ones they can see such as the arms, shoulders, chest and thighs, they neglect the posterior chain.  This leads to an imbalance in muscle development and can lead to poor posture and injuries.

4. Convenient

You don’t need a lot of equipment nor do you need to go to the gym.  All you need is a bunch of kettlebells and the privacy of your own home to train.  Training for a short period of time at a high level of intensity gets you in better shape in a shorter period of time allowing you time to do other things in your life like spending time with family.

5. Inexpensive

Unlike a gym membership and other types of training equipment, kettlebells are an inexpensive way to train and get yourself into shape.  Gyms try to get you to sign a contract for 12 months.  For a couple of hundred dollars, you can get yourself a set of good quality cast iron kettlebells that will last you a life time.

6. Improve your Movement Patterns and Posture

Lifting weights generally has you moving in two dimensions with a small range of motion.  Kettlebell training has your body moving in three dimensions that encompasses a wide range of motion.  This form of training also mimics a lot of movements that we carry out in everyday life.  This improves your movement patterns and your posterior chain leading to an improvement in posture.

7. Contains Endless Variations and Combinations

Although we emphasise the use of basic exercises, once you get competent at these there are many variations of the basics that you can use to add variety to your training sessions.  You can also add this training to other forms of training such as strength training with free weights and body weight training.

8. Improves Performance in other Sports

If you are a swimmer, track and field athlete, martial artist, power lifter, football player, kettlebell training can add another dimension to your training and lead to physical improvements.