Saturday 16 December 2017

Shape Up: Get set for some super results

Image posed
Image posed

Damien Maher

IF THE recession has taught us anything it's that we must continually adapt to a changing environment if we want to stay on top of our game. It's the same with fitness -- if you want to keep getting results you have to keep changing things around.

When you start any exercise programme you will make great progress no matter what you do, but eventually that will stall.

The question is what do you do next? You either walk further, increase the intensity or speed from a walk to a run or else you train using a different method.

But many people stay stuck in the same rut. It is the habits that we continually do every day that give us the same result each week.

There are many who go to big box gyms every day for hours at a time. The daily routine might start with a bodypump class, which is quickly followed by a spin class. Yet despite all their efforts nothing changes.

At Be Fit For Life, the rule is that if you are in the gym for longer than an hour you are making friends, not training.


If you want fat loss, your goal should be to work hard in the first 20-40 minutes so your body produces the raw material testosterone to build muscle that will burn fat. When we build a bigger engine we burn more fuel.

Many women believe they will be musclebound from lifting a dumbbell, but their fears are what's holding them back from changing their body shape.

Circuits were a popular method of training introduced in 1953 by physiologists at the University of Leeds in England to describe a system of integrating several components of fitness into a single workout.

Training to improve your strength, and energy-system training to increase the capacity of your engine to work for longer, were combined to give an effective workout.

The problem is that, because the rests were short, you had not recovered sufficiently to lift a heavy weight on your second set, and the intermittent rests meant that you did not stay working aerobically so it was only really good for general fitness.

Then there was the bodybuilding training system, but the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger used to spend two hours in the gym performing all the reps for an exercise before moving on to the next one. If you value your time you want to learn to work smarter, not longer, and this is where supersets come in.

A superset is when you pair two different exercises together, sometimes involving the same body part and sometimes involving opposite body parts.

A common superset is when you pair muscles on the front of the body, like a press-up, with opposite muscles on the back of the body, like a low row.

When the muscles on the front of the body contract, the opposing muscle group on the back must relax. This is called reciprocal inhibition.

When you alternate between exercises in this format you increase your ability to consistently contract your muscle to its maximum recruitment.

It increases your ability to lift a heavier weight for longer by increasing your work capacity, reducing the speed you fatigue, hence it means you can lift heavier weights for longer.

In a traditional straight-set method of training favoured by bodybuilders your repetitions will drop quicker as there is less rest time between sets.

Supersets have the added benefit of allowing you to double the workload per training unit. You get the strength-training benefits of straight-set training and the time-saving benefits of circuit training.

Another kind of superset is a pre-exhaust or a post-exhaust one. In this method you would isolate a muscle like the chest in a single joint exercise like flys, before performing a compound two-joint exercise like a chest press. This pre-hausts the muscle with a smaller exercise before moving on to the main one, the chest press.


Or you could perform a hamstring leg curl followed by a multiple-joint exercise like a back extension or a dead lift. The possibilities are only limited by your coach's knowledge of training or anatomy.

Pre-exhaustion or post-exhaustion will make your workout tougher. It will cause more muscular damage, pain and also mean that you will work harder and sweat more. This may scare some gym-goers off for fear of 'ruining' their hair, but you must remember sweat is the perfume of the skinny.

In gyms today, hard work or sweating seems to be the road less travelled.

If you want to get a bigger result from performing superset training, choose multi-joint exercises that recruit more muscle fibres. These exercises will be time efficient and as they recruit more muscle they will burn more calories.

A set of squats followed by a set of lunges will surely start to change the shape of your legs if you are tempted to test it.

You can throw in a bit of pre-exhaust or post-exhaust exercises too, as they are a great way to overcome plateaus in your training. The key message is that it is the programme design of your training that will dictate whether you achieve your results, provided your nutrition is in line.

It means you have to work hard but to get what you've never had you must do what you've never done.

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