Friday 24 November 2017

Shape Up: If you want to change shape don't be a bore!

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Image posed

Damien Maher

I recently talked to a lady in her 40s who was interested in changing her body shape. She was becoming frustrated by her lack of energy and appearance, despite her best-intentioned efforts in the gym.

As our conversation developed it became apparent that she was following the same exercise and nutrition programme for the past 12 months.

Her story is not uncommon. You may also be one of the many people who exercise but yield a poor return from your efforts. That's because if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got.


Your body gets bored if it gets the same lesson every week, so with six weeks to go to Christmas here are some important points to consider.

The first thing you must do is to set a goal. You should determine what price you are willing to pay in terms of your time, changes to nutrition and lifestyle.

It requires organisation to make changes to your body shape and you need to make certain foods non-negotiable.

The three main ways to change your body shape through training are: variation, muscular damage and volume of work.

Variation is crucial. This could be different exercises, classes or changing your training programmes every month. In weight training, manipulate variables like rest periods, sets and tempo.

An important aspect neglected by many is the importance of creating muscular damage. Are you working hard enough or challenging yourself to ellicit a training response from your body?


There should be an element of muscle soreness after your training sessions. The National Strength and Conditioning Association says that the Principle of Overload must be adhered to if you want to change body composition or strength levels.

This principle states that the neuromuscular system must experience a stress that it is not accustomed to experiencing to make progress. This is the foundation of weight training.

To do this you must perform maximum voluntary contractions (MVC). An MVC is the attempt to recruit as many motor units as possible to develop force. This means that the last repetition of a set should be so hard that another repetition would be impossible.

MVCs are important to develop strength and it is a key component in any fat-loss programme. So if you want to change your body shape, what you're aiming for is overloaded, damaged muscles. This then encourages the body to repair them and make them thicker so they require more calories to maintain.

The reason we build muscle in our goal to lose fat and get leaner is because 1lb of muscle needs approximately 50 calories to maintain whilst 1lb of fat needs approximately nine calories to maintain.

This extra gain in muscle mass increases our metabolism and the number of calories we burn while sitting still and resting.

Training volume is the last step needed to change your body shape.

Training frequency, number of exercises performed, length of training sessions or the amount of weight you lift can all influence your result.

Training once a week is not as effective as four times a week, in the same way that performing three sets does not ellicit the same hormonal response as four sets of the same exercise.

A study published in the 'Journal of Strength and Condition' in 2001 compared single versus multiple-set strength training in women.

Superior strength gains occurred following a three-set strength-training programme compared with a single-set strength-training programme.

These larger increases may be associated with the fact that higher volumes of total work produce significantly greater increases in anabolic (muscle building) hormones during recovery.


Reps should be changed around constantly to get a continued response from your body. Some fitness gurus' lack of knowledge can influence a female's belief that they will get big and bulky from lifting heavy weights. The truth is that many women are big and bulky from not lifting weights!

Heavy weights lifted for low repetitions increase testosterone, while lighter repetitions lifted for more repetitions help increase lactic acid, growth hormone production and the circulation of hormones in the blood stream.

By using a combination of these two methods you will move nearer to your goal of a leaner body.

You need to ensure that you make your muscles work for a period of time. Make sure each set is hard, with maximal voluntary contractions, which will increase the number of calories needed to repair your muscles post-exercise.

Nutrition is also a massive factor, but implementing these changes in your training will see you reap a reward for your efforts.

Irish Independent

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