Before I started training and eating properly, I was never bigger than a big size 10.
I always liked my body, I was always body confident, but if you had given me the tools to change it, I absolutely would have. Why? Because it’s fun. For me, personally, I think what I do is fun. I get a lot of heat for it and I go blue in the face trying to explain myself so often, but the bottom line? It’s fascinating to me.
The picture on the left was taken a few months before I knew the first thing about nutrition and training. I would run 3-4 days a week for up to an hour. I would cut out carbs for weeks at a time before a holiday, and I had never even thought about changing my body properly. How could I when I had NO concept of how to?
The picture on the right was taken nearly 3 years into my training, after 4 weeks of ‘cutting’. I am not always that lean, I like to take little breaks that allow me to eat cake and drink wine which will obliterate my abs in a matter of days, but that’s what I can do when I get my consistency on.
The funny thing is, the left pic is all cardio and Atkins, the right is lots of weight lifting, a little cardio and actually understanding food.
I want to write a little bit about how to weight lift for your goals, but first I do actually need to address cardio…
Cardio should be added to a weight lifting programme to A, keep you fit and healthy and B, keep you somewhat lean.
If you are looking to gain muscle, I would say 20 minutes of HIIT or LISS twice a week is fine, ideally as fasted cardio so you can separate it wholly from your muscle building routine.
If you are looking to get lean, cardio should be an almost daily occurrence, 20-40 minutes of HIIT or LISS, again ideally fasted so you can separate it wholly from your muscle building routine.
If you are looking to gain muscle, you should still eat clean and healthy. Protein and veg should still be your staples, but starchy carbs can also play a frequent role in your meals. Portion control is less important.
If you are looking to get lean, protein and veg is going to get you there. Starchy carbs should be timed around workouts only. Portion control is pivotal to keep calories in check.
Now let’s talk about lifting…
1. ENDURANCE – Endurance is high sets and high reps, so think 4-5 sets of 15-20 reps per exercise. It’s going to get your muscles working and if you have short rest periods between sets, can be a great form of lifting in a cutting programme. However, you still need to be exhausting the muscle by the last few reps if you want this form of training to have any impact whatsoever. Those handbag weights can be left at the door…or in the rehab centre where they belong.
2. HYPERTROPHY – All hail hypertrophy. Unless one of my muscle groups is seriously outgrowing another, Hypertrophy is my Mecca. Hypertrophy is hitting 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps per exercise, going as heavy as you can so you exhaust the muscle by the last couple reps. Hypertrophy is going to tear your muscle, forcing it to grow, and is responsible for those glorious DOMS.
3. STRENGTH – Strength training is good for those who have hit a plateau in their muscular growth. Think 1-2 sets of 1-2 reps, going all out, as heavy as you possibly can. It’s great to apply strength to an exercise that you can’t seem to increase your weight on, or a body part that is refusing to grow, in the hope that once you return to hypertrophy, you can increase your previous weight or reps and get that muscle firing again.
Lifting is a 5-6 day a week occurrence for me, training a different body part each day (legs, back, abs, upper body), stubborn areas twice a week. Not only is it MUCH more entertaining than cardio, but it has a HUGE impact on your hormones, metabolic rate, body composition and eventual aesthetic results.
If you’re scared of weight lifting but want to change your body, it’s time to face the music and pick up a bar.