Friday 15 November 2019

Envied by women, desired by men -- how you can get a body like Jessica Ennis

Jessica Ennis envied by women, desired by men
Jessica Ennis envied by women, desired by men

Damien Maher

WHEN the Olympics were over I had a conversation with a group of women at the gym and asked the question: what female at the games had the physique you admired most?

The women replied with a few different answers. They wanted the legs and arms of the Russian tennis players, and the bums of the volleyball players, but the all-round winner was gold medalist Jessica Ennis.

Jessica has a low body fat, hence we can see her abs, her arms are toned, her legs are defined and her bum is tight.

This is what most women dream of and in fairness most men probably dream of that body too. But not many people are willing to pay the price that Jessica does for her toned physique.

You are not a professional athlete and so you don't have the time or the desire to train six hours a week like she does. And the good news is you don't need to. Instead what we can do is adapt the principles that Jessica used to look like this.

Her sport is the heptathlon, a track and field combined events contest made up of: 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m sprint, long jump, javelin throw and the 800m run. Most of these are short in duration; sprint or power based in nature.

Jessica doesn't go to the gym and then decide what she will do. She doesn't do her cardio training sitting on a bike reading a magazine and she doesn't have a slice a cake with a coffee to reward herself afterwards.

And she doesn't do long steady state cardio training.

To look like Jessica Ennis we must ignore the common misconceptions about lifting weights and refrain from training like a long-distance runner.

Jessica has built a team of professionals around her, including technical coaches, strength coaches, physiotherapists and a nutritionist. She needed to rebuild her body following three stress fractures in her right foot which forced her to miss the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

So she performed a lot of unilateral, single-leg training to ensure that each limb had the ability to support the whole body. For the long jump, high jump, javelin and 100m hurdles she sprints and drives power into the ground on one leg.

When her legs are structurally balanced she would have progressed to bilateral exercises like squats and Olympic lifting.

Jessica trains in short bursts as her events are power based. She needs to be able to express force. Force is equal to mass (weight) multiplied by acceleration.

This means that Jessica has to lift heavy weights fast in order to express force.

Many women are afraid to lift heavy weights for fear of getting big and bulky. They want to look toned with lean arms and legs.

Lifting heavy weights is what will help you get a lean and toned body.

Do not follow the advice of 'gurus' like Jillian Michael who want you to lift weights below 2.5kg, or reality TV trainers who get you to lift water bottles.

Women have nearly 10 times less of the muscle-building hormone testosterone than men so they physiologically can't become monstrous behemoths without the aid of anabolic steroids.

You must also know there are two forms of muscle building, or hypertrophy, in weight training.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is when you perform more repetitions and this pumps sarcoplasmic fluid into your muscles making them feel swollen.

This creates lactic acid, which is beneficial in the release of growth hormone to burn fat.

Jessica trains in the style of hypertrophy called myo-fibrillar training.

This is heavy weight lifted for low repetitions.

Heavy weights increase the density of the muscle, making them harder and more toned with fewer wiggles.

Jessica also does Olympic lifting and plyometric training. While a version of Olympic lifting has become popular in certain gyms, it's important to remember that these are extremely technical manoeuvres. You will need good structural balance, flexibility and long rest times between lifts. The nervous system can take six times longer than the muscular system to recover.

Women have a big hip to knee angle called the Q angle so they should perform jumps and plyometric training only after they have made their knees, ankles and hips stable to prevent injuries.

Most of Jessica's interval training is short in duration, 100m, 200m, and 400m, with multiple repetitions. Her rest times between repetitions would be manipulated based on the stage of her training season, but her goal would be speed.

She manipulates her intake of carbohydrates based on her training demand. If she is training more frequently she consumes more carbohydrates and vice versa. Jessica's demands for food are based on fuel requirements rather than pleasure. They key is to train for performance, to improve running times and the weights you lift.

When you are continually improving and challenging yourself to be better, fat loss and a change in physique will follow. If you follow the principals of Jessica's approach to training, you will have an Olympic-style physique that is both envied by women and desired by men.

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