CategoryFit Tips

Overhead Squats

I don’t do training videos often because I’m a member of a commercial gym and I don’t want to be disrespectful to them or other members. However, a few days ago I had the pleasure of training in my boyfriend’s at-home-gym, which allowed me to film some of my workout and upload it to Instagram.

The snippets were so well received that I’m going to start filming more for you guys…I mean any work excuse that allows me to stalk a boy and a gym at the same time makes perfect sense to me!

The training I chose to film was a leg /glute day, and today I want to talk in detail about squats…

I was first taught to squat on the Smith Machine by a PT, which is exactly how I recommend you start. This is because when it comes to form, squats really do need perfecting.  Your feet have to be the right distance apart.  Your knees have to come directly above your toes, without inverting.  Your back has to remain straight and upright at all times and you need to get used to the exercise within the stability of the Smith before you move on to an Olympic bar and a squat rack.

After a few weeks on the Smith I did move on to the rack. My first few squats were with the Olympic bar alone and NO added weight whatsoever. I perfected my form and got over the fear of getting it wrong and being embarrassed. I got my ass sat down more than once and still do to this day. Ain’t no shame in perfecting your game, remember that and you will get better, quicker,  for it.

After a few more weeks I began gradually adding weights, and a few months ago I was squatting very heavy with ease. However, I haven’t done standard squat rack squats in months. This is because my quads are pretty big now, and my glutes don’t fire from squatting no matter how I change my stance (hip width, wide stance, sumo etc). But it is SUCH a great compound movement that I still wanted to keep it as a staple of my training, so I went to a qualified Olympic Lifter and got him to teach me how to clean and snatch and overhead squat. I figured if I love it because it’s a compound movement, I may as well hit as many muscles and get my heart rate up as best I can.

I now do 3-4 sets of 15 reps overhead squats, usually working my way up to 30kg with each set.

Overhead squats are GREAT resistance training and hit almost every muscle you got, while giving you that cardio burn. Do not be fooled, big movements like this will have you gasping like you’re sprinting!

Weight Lifting

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.

Training for Your Goals

I realise that I talk a lot more about diet than I do training.

This is partly because diet really IS the most important factor when it comes to changing you body, but also because it really DOES tend to be where people go wrong.

Now I’m going to talk about training for your goals:

HEALTH, FITNESS AND WEIGHT LOSS – If you’re trying to get fit and healthy or lose a few lbs, you should be doing some form of exercise at least 3 days a week for about an hour. Try and get some cardio and resistance training in on these days. Circuits are a really great way of killing 2 birds with one stone, you are resistance training by using your body against gravity which will challenge muscle, and you have to keep up the pace which will burn fat. There are great circuit training classes at most gyms, there are also circuits mapped out in the 12 week fat loss plan at the top of this page.

FAT LOSS – If fat loss is your goal, you need be training 5-6 days a week and you need to try and find a balance between cardio and resistance training. 30 minute steady cardio sessions before breakfast and or 20 minutes of HIIT after resistance training are the best ways to burn into that fat. You need to be doing resistance training to get that ‘toned’ look, so once your fat starts to shift you don’t just look ‘skinny fat’. Building a bit of muscle is also a massive metabolic booster and will put your calories to good use. Again, I got through this all in the fat loss plan at the top of this page.

MUSCLE BUILDING – If muscle is your goal you need to be lifting weights 5-6 days a week, training a different body part a day or doing split sessions where you train 2 body parts a day. You need to be doing about 3 sets of 8 reps, as heavy as you can while keeping your form right. Try to increase the weights every few weeks, if you have to drop a rep in order to do so, that’s fine, just keep trying to work your way back up up 8 reps. I will be releasing a muscle building download at the end of September so keep your eyes peeled.

I won’t be posting next week as I’m away, although I will still be answering emails but be patient with me, it may take a few days to hear back.