The increase in gym membership over the last 10 years shows the trend for keeping in shape and staying healthy. All sports were originally a way of staying fit and healthy. It was not always putting the emphasis on shape or losing weight. The number one target was to stay healthy.
People of all ages are taking up weight training in particular. The controversy over heavy weights versus light weights continues. The trend at the moment, especially for women, is to do roughly 20 minutes with heavy weights. The new breed of young trainers believe this gets the best results.
Personally, I believe heavy weights are not suitable for women, as it produces bulk and more muscular shapes which takes away the natural beauty and soft tone of the muscles, giving a harder look. Yes, it can lead to a well-toned body, but it's too easy to go too far, leaving a woman looking more masculine.
Using heavy weights will tone muscles and give firmness. The problem with heavy weights is that most people training this way are not hitting the area intended. For example, if using the bench press for the chest, you may work your shoulders and arms more.
Also squatting with too heavy a weight will build up your hips rather than getting your legs working.
I worked for legendary trainer Vince Gironda as manager in his Hollywood gym. He trained the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Arnold Schwarzenegger and his policy was shape, not bulk -- giving symmetry to the figure and physique.
Gironda would not allow his clients to do normal hip squats for legs as he believed it builds up the hips. His whole training method was to create shape, with strict form, not swinging or cheating on movements but by focusing on the total area.
He also would not allow music in his gym, he insisted on concentrating on each movement. His methods produced some of the best trained bodies in the world of film, bodybuilding and sports. So, obviously, I would be an advocate of similar methods.
By training with weights you are constantly breaking down and building new cells. Scientists say weight training is the elixir of youth, combined with a healthy mind, good food, good friends. According to Vince Gironda, shape was achieved by 60pc diet and 40pc training.
The question you need to decide on is which type of training is for you. Below right, we have Indira Ward, who is a champion body builder and is married with one child. Indira dedicates herself to training and uses heavy weights, she trains six days a week and stays on a very healthy diet all year round.
Before competition, for 16 weeks, her diet and training increases. At that time she will live on chicken and broccoli for breakfast and the same for lunch. Chicken and baked potato for dinner and no juices or bread. This is a very hard regime to follow particularly when you work full time. There would be no eating out, all meals are prepared by herself and when working brings all her meals in containers. Indira is very strong and likes training with heavy weights to give the muscles a harder and stronger look. Body building is a fast developing sport and competitions are becoming larger with more females entering.
I recently judged at the World Grand Prix in Dublin last month as part of the NABBA Europe and all competitors were in peak shape.
An interesting fact was that all female competitors were cellulite free due to the fact that the diet they follow is always good, no junk foods. You could see the results, even with competitors who were over 30.
Then we have Roz Purcell, below left, a successful model. She trains five days a week at 7.30am for 45 minutes in the gym.
Before coming to me Roz, used heavy weights and I could see the beginnings of a bulky look which I believe would destroy her lovely figure if she continued.
So using our own method of body sculpting and cardio and getting on a moderate protein based diet over a period of months, she lost all the bulk. Thus a more streamlined figure emerged giving shape and length to all the muscles.
She achieved tone and firmness without bulk, giving her an athletic look that most top models have.
When someone trains properly you will see tone and firmness even when they are relaxed. But remember, diet is 60oc of your success. If you give up junk food and alcohol your face and body will show positive signs, it will help you build a healthy body that will sustain you well into old age.
It pays off in the long run. Younger girls think they can get away without watching their diet and training, this is a mistake as people as young as 16 have cellulite, which is just fat. Sometimes a hormone imbalance can also increase fat storage.
You need a balanced food intake to look good. You know what's good or bad -- just compare a pear to a chip!
Weight training is the most effective way of getting into shape. Yes, top sports people sometimes use heavy weights, but as part of an overall programme which might last six hours daily.
As I said before, strict form is essential for good shape. Use the muscle you are working and not all the surrounding muscles. You have to learn to concentrate on each movement. One concentrated workout is equal to five sloppy training sessions, trying to lift more than your friends.
So, you decide which form of training is for you and ask advice from your trainer, but remember it's your body.
Look in the mirror and see if it's going the right way, if not change your programme. Or change your trainer!