Top tips from the Reflex Ambassadors on getting ready for summer

Alex in Pool

While most of us want to look our best all year round, it becomes more of a focus in the lead up to summer. With this mind, we chat to Reflex Ambassadors and fitness and nutrition experts Emil Hodzovic, Gauri Chopra and Alex Crockford on their summer approach, nutrition and workouts.

As well as being a Reflex Ambassador, Gauri Chopra is also a PT, online coach, fitness model and founder of The London Rooftop Gym. So, she’s in the know when it comes to getting into shape for summer, and her approach is realistic and motivational. Here’s her two key pieces of advice:

Gauri Weightlifting

“Number 1: Give yourself enough time and avoid quick fixes! Quick fixes and going to extremes to lose weight in a short period of time tend to do more harm than good and you’re more likely to pile the weight straight back on after you reach you goal. Especially when dieting. Keep it simple, and be consistent so it is easier to progress on and tweak when needed. Slow and steady wins the race.

Number 2: Have a plan in place. If you have a program set in place, there’s no room to second guess yourself or go in half-heartedly. You’ll be surprised at how such a simple thing can make all the difference. All you have to do is turn up and follow the plan!”

Alex Crockford, another PT who knows his stuff, as shown by the success of his #CrockFit fitness plans, agrees with Gauri: “I think following a plan that you can get consistent with is so important. It keeps you motivated and builds momentum. Without consistency, that summer body is not going to happen!”

Nutrition

Moving onto the right nutrition for those summer bodies, we get the lowdown from medical doctor, fitness coach and Reflex Ambassador, Emil Hodzovic:

“I would recommend taking the basic products regardless of goal and these would include vitamin D, a multivitamin such as Nexgen Pro, Omega 3s or Krill Oil and Creatine.

Then on top of this, it is very useful to have a good quality protein shake. The most important factors when choosing a shake would be protein content and quality and then taste is a close second. When I’m trying to lean down, ideally I want a protein product which tastes good even when mixed with water (to save calories!) and has minimal carbs and fats in it. Instant Whey Pro is pretty good but Micro Whey really is the next level when it comes to good tasting protein.”

So when you’ve got the right protein sorted, when’s best to take it? Alex recommends preparing a shake so when you’re done working out you can have it straight away. Gauri on the other hand doesn’t worry too much about when to consume a protein shake: “I generally like to make a nice protein smoothie when I get home from the gym, or simply make and eat good high protein meal. I tend to have post workout protein shakes when I know I won’t be eating for a while or when I am on the go to help tie me over till I can get a proper meal in.”

There’s no right or wrong answer on when to take a shake as long as you’re having the right amount of protein for your goals. We speak to Emil about how much protein he consumes when he’s looking to lean down:

Emil on holiday

“I usually aim to keep my protein to around 2g per kg body weight so at 115kg this is around 230g for me. As I lean down and start to drop bodyfat I tend to increase my protein intake slightly to preserve muscle and I can go to 250g or even 280g per day. As well as maintaining and growing muscle, protein is great for keeping you full when dieting!”

We also get his thoughts on carb consumption when you’re looking to get leaner:

“When getting lean, it is all about calorie balance. As calories become more limited and protein stays the same or even increases, carbs become more limited as well. This means that you need to be picky with carbs – both in terms of sources of carbohydrates but also when you are eating them.

When dieting hard you want to focus on carbohydrates around training to fuel the session in the most effective way possible. For me this is often a normal meal 3-4 hours prior to working out. I tend to opt for a meal with potatoes or rice. Then an hour before my workout I have a One Stop Xtreme or an Instant Whey Pro shake along with a banana.”

Working out

Of course, our ambassadors don’t rely on nutrition alone to achieve their goals. Gauri tells us about her favourite workouts in the lead up to summer:

“I like to do a combination of Low Intensity Steady State cardio (LISS) and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or anything that gets me moving in a non-conventional way. For LISS, my favourite thing to do is to go on an outdoor walk or hike and aim for a step count. It’s much more enjoyable than walking on a treadmill in my opinion!

For HIIT, I keep it short (10-20mins) and like to either do a circuit consisting of 4-6 exercises repeated 4-6 times, or use a 20 sec on 40 sec off protocol on a cardio machine of choice!”

Alex takes a similar approach: “I am always getting my daily steps or activity done. 10-15k steps at least as an overall low intensity output. But a few times a week I will include tough gym circuits, or bodyweight HIIT, or treadmill HIIT to get the heart rate high and achieve a big calorie burn.”

Emil opts for more structure so he can track his progress and maintain the amount he can lift: “I track my steps and calorie intake and output. The workouts are usually bodybuilding style workouts and I try to hit all of my muscle groups 2-3 times a week. I keep sessions short and sharp at around 45-60 minutes, including warm up, and then try to do my cardio in separate sessions.

Although I will use compound exercises such as squats and bench press as the base of my workouts I will also use a lot of isolation exercises to really hone in on specific muscles.”

A big thank you to Emil, Alex and Gauri for sharing their top tips with us. If you’d like to keep up to date with our Ambassadors you can visit our blog or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Interview with Gauri Chopra on Working Out, Nutrition and Healthy Living

Gauri Chopra

We speak to Reflex Ambassador, Personal Trainer, Online Coach AND Fitness Model Gauri Chopra on working out, nutrition and healthy living. Here she shares her healthy lifestyle tips and tricks with us. 

Hi Gauri! So let’s talk nutrition, do you have a specific nutrition plan?

I don’t have a specific nutrition plan as such, however I do like to dip in and out of tracking macros to ensure I’m getting enough of what my body needs for my lifestyle and training.

I generally keep my diet balanced throughout the week and aim for 85-90% wholefoods. The other 10-15% is made up of anything I’m craving, which may not necessarily be deemed as ‘healthy’. This way, I can keep my diet flexible and interesting to prevent the boredom of eating the same thing day in day out. It also helps me feel less restricted and therefore less likely to binge from cutting certain foods out.

It’s a great approach! So do you do any meal prepping to help keep you on track?

I prefer to batch cook rather than prep specific meals for each day. I generally batch cook my meats or fish so I have a protein source to grab and go, and similarly do the same for carb sources like potatoes or grains. I tend to add salads and veggies fresh as they tend to go off quicker, and fats I either add in the form of nuts, avocado, or the oil in which my food is cooked in. I feel prepping this way works best for me so I can mix and match based on how I’m feeling on the day!

Sounds like a plan! So do you work out your protein requirements for the week?

Yes, I like to use the 1g/lb bodyweight rule.

And, do you have a similar plan for carbohydrates or fibre?

Carbohydrates I keep flexible depending on how active I am or how intense my training is. Fibre I keep to a minimum of 25g to ensure my gut health is kept in check.

Fibre is incredibly important for gut health and something that can get forgotten about. Are you aware of how much fibre you need on a daily basis and do you have any tips for getting the fibre you need?

As a guideline I usually say 5g for every 500kcals consumed is a good minimum. My main sources come from leafy greens, whole grains, flaxseed, and chia seeds. My best tip would be to try and incorporate one of these into every meal!

So do you supplement your food intake with any sports nutrition supplements? If so, for what purpose?

I do supplement with whey protein for convenience, and because it tastes good! It also helps keep my sweet tooth satisfied and makes life so much easier on my busy days or when I’m on the go! My favourites are the Reflex Diet Protein and Instant Whey Pro.

When I am training fasted in the morning, I like to sip on some Amino Fusion. I feel like it gives me the energy to get a good session in, and ensures my muscles are preserved if I am training for a long period of time!

When I can feel a cold coming on, I do like to ensure I top up my vitamins with Nexgen Pro to ensure my body is fully equipped to fight off any nasty bugs!

And what about when you’re on the go – how do you ensure you get the right nutrition?

I love protein shakes and protein bars because they’re a super convenient and tasty way of meeting nutritional needs without much prep! My other favourite snacks or ‘handbag essentials’ are fruit and nuts, wholefood bars, popcorn, and dark chocolate.

Your diet sounds very healthy without being restrictive, for you, what does a healthy lifestyle mean and how do you maintain that? Especially when you’re busy or on the go?

To me, a healthy lifestyle means keeping active with the kind of exercise I enjoy doing, and eating in a way that nourishes my body to make me feel good from the inside out!

When I’m busy or on the go, I always make sure I’m prepared with healthy snacks so I’m not tempted to make poor decisions.

I also always opt for meals that are high in protein and fibre, and minimally processed when eating out to keep me fuller for longer. Looking at nutritional labels is always a must and allows me to ensure I’m maintaining a healthy balance throughout the day.

Workout-wise, I usually like to get them done first thing in the morning so it’s out the way and I have no excuse later when I’m too tired or busy. If I’m short on time, I’ll either get in a quick HIIT workout, or just make sure I keep myself active during the day by doing lots of walking and taking the stairs everywhere!

Thanks Gauri. As always, great to hear from you!

To stay up to date with Gauri, you can follow her on Instagram or check out her website.To hear more from us, sign up to our newsletter and take a look at our blog

Interview with Emil Hodzovic on Switching Up Protein for the Summer

Emil Hodzovic working out

As the weather is warming up and the summer months are in sight, we talk to Reflex Nutrition Ambassador, doctor and bodybuilder, Emil Hodzovic, on how he switches up his protein to achieve his specific training goals.

Hi Emil. Let’s start at the beginning, do you switch up your supplements throughout the year depending on your goals?

Yes, absolutely. I have some core products that I use all year round such as Nexgen Pro, Krill Oil and Creatine. Then, if I’m bulking, gaining strength or focussing on sport, I will use One Stop Xtreme both as my basic protein source and to fuel my workouts.

When I’m dieting I usually switch to Instant Whey Pro and if I’m competing in a bodybuilding show I will use Micro Whey to help minimise fat and carb intake – particularly in the final weeks before a competition.

As you can see I switch between products a lot!

And do seasons affect the type of workouts you do? For example, with summer on its way, many people look to lean down and tweak their nutrition and training plans accordingly. Do you do this?

Yes definitely. When I’m leaning down, my workouts tend to become more structured so I can track my progress and maintain my volume load (the amount I lift) across sessions.

On top of this I track my steps and calorie intake and output. The workouts are usually bodybuilding style workouts and I try to hit all of my muscle groups 2-3 times a week. I keep sessions short and sharp at around 45-60 minutes, including warm up, and then try to do my cardio in separate sessions.

Although I will use compound exercises such as squats and bench press as the base of my workouts I will also use a lot of isolation exercises to really hone in on specific muscles.

So when you are leaning down, what do you look for in a nutritional product?

When I’m trying to lean down, ideally I want a protein product which tastes good even when mixed with water (to save calories!) and has minimal carbs and fats in it. Instant Whey Pro is pretty good but Micro Whey really is the next level when it comes to good tasting protein.

How much protein do you look to consume in a day when you’re looking to lean down?

I usually aim to keep my protein around 2g per kg body weight so at 115kg this is around 230g for me. As I lean down and start to drop body fat I tend to increase my protein intake slightly to preserve muscle and can go to 250g or even 280g per day. As well as maintaining and growing muscle, protein is great for keeping you full when dieting!

Image of Reflex Ambassador Emil

How do you manage your carb intake when you’re looking to lean down?

When getting lean, it is all about calorie balance. As calories become more limited and protein stays the same or even increases, carbs become more limited as well. This means that you need to be picky with carbs – both in terms of sources of carbohydrates but also in terms of when you are eating them.

When dieting hard you want to focus on carbohydrates around training to fuel the session in the most effective way possible. For me this is often a normal meal 3-4 hours prior to working out. I tend to opt for a meal with potatoes or rice. Then an hour before my workout I have a One Stop Xtreme or an Instant Whey Pro shake along with a banana.

For people who would like to lean down for the summer, what product advice would you give them?

I would recommend taking the basic products regardless of goal and these would include vitamin D, a multivitamin such as Nexgen Pro, Omega 3s or Krill Oil and Creatine.

Then on top of this, it is very useful to have a good quality protein shake. The most important factors when choosing a shake would be protein content and quality and then taste is a close second.

For me, Instant Whey Pro ticks all the boxes here and there are a number of flavours so you’re bound to find one you like. At the moment, my favourites are Chocolate Mint Perfection and Raspberry Delight.

Thanks for sharing your insight with us Emil! If you’d like to stay up to date with Emil, follow him on Instagram.

And, if you think this interview can help others switch up their protein and nutrition to achieve their specific goals, share it with your friends and family:  

Shoulder mobility: 5 moves to improve your overhead press

Shoulder mobility: 5 moves to improve your overhead press

The shoulder is the most complex joint in the body. However, it is also the most vulnerable. Shoulder mobility is heavily influenced by the surrounding muscles and these muscular imbalances can cause real problems with pressing movements.

In this article, I’m going to explain why this occurs and give you 5 exercises to help correct common shoulder issues.

If you can’t perform the full range of movement, you can’t fully train the muscle. This will be impacting your strength and size gains.

Although resistance training isn’t actually to blame for becoming tight, working muscles in shortened ranges of motion can cause them to become short. Further to that sitting forwards at a desk for long periods of time shortens the pec muscles and weakens the upper back. All a combination of bad posture.

So let’s look at some simple ways we can fix this to help you get more shoulder mobility and improve your pressing.

We need to stretch these shortened muscles and increase the range of movement, but a strong overhead press also requires good scapular movement so we need to make sure that is included in our mobility work.

Most people skip a proper warm up and get right to work, and as much as I applaud your enthusiasm, your shoulders probably don’t.

Here are 5 shoulder mobility movements to incorporate into your upper body warm up:

Scap pulls

Take a shoulder width grip on a bar and allow yourself to dead-hang. Let your shoulder blades separate and your shoulders come up to your ears, then retract your shoulders and lats and pull yourself up, not bending your elbows. Perform 2 sets of 10 reps.

 

Chest Opener - step2Chest opener

Attach a band to a frame at shoulder height or above, take the band in one hand and step forwards. Allowing the hand to rotate upwards with a locked arm you will feel a stretch in the pec and anterior delt. You can also rotate the elbow up and down (but keeping locked) for more of an active stretch. Hold for 15-30 seconds or 20 rotations per side.

 

Bully Stretch - step3 - front Bully Stretch - step3 - rearBully stretch

Attach the band overhead and turn your hand behind your back. Keep the band close to you and allow it to pull your arm up your back – like the classic ‘high school bully’. Do not allow your shoulder to roll forwards. By holding this position you will increase your internal rotation. Hold for 15-30s per side.

 

Band Dislocate - step4 - A Band Dislocate - step4 - BBand dislocates

Take a resistance band at both ends and hold out in front of you. Keeping your arm straight, take the band overhead and behind you as far as you can go. Bring the band back over to the front without bending your elbows to stretch the pecs, front delt, and bicep tendon. Perform 10-15, pausing at the top where the muscle is tightest.

 

Shoulder Mobility - step5 - Pull apart BBand pull-apartShoulder Mobility - step5 - Pull apart A

Take a thin band or cables and take your hands out straight in front of you. Retract your shoulder blades together and with palms facing down, extend your arms straight out to your sides. Repeat for 15-20 reps.

How to Build a Bigger Back

how to build a bigger back

#TeamReflex athlete and Muscle Model champion, Emil Hodzovic, gives us a run down on some fundamental movements for building a bigger back.

The back. Now, not to state the obvious but it’s behind you. This often means in a new gym-goers formative years it is often forgotten or at least neglected for more obvious muscle groups (such as the chest). However, it is such a fundamental part of a physique that physique shows have been won or lost the second the line-up turned to face the rear.

Let’s be honest, you can see a good back from the front and even clothed, a mountain range of a back will leave people in no doubt whether you even lift, more so than that chest or set of arms.

So how does one go about building a bigger back that a gorilla would be proud of? Read on…

This topic is huge. I could lecture endlessly about all of the fine intricacies of a bigger back training. Instead, I’m going to break it down into my top three back exercises. If you include these in your weekly split then you’re well on your way to a sick set of wings. If you don’t do any of them on a regular basis then you really need to re-evaluate your status as a gym goer.

 

1. The Deadlift

The deadlift is the bread and butter of back training. Before we go into some more detail, let’s just clear a few things up. Deadlifts don’t give you a thick waist. They will develop your core, just like squats and the other big compound movements but to achieve a level of oblique hypertrophy where your waist is thicker than if it just had excess fat on it is nigh on impossible. So get that excuse straight out of your head. And that’s exactly what it often is, an excuse…because deads are HARD. There is no other exercise that loads the back to the same degree as deadlifts from the sheer weight lifted. It will build both thickness and width and it will give you that 3D effect that so many people crave.

Top Tip – Deads are hard and although this isn’t an excuse not to do them, it is possible to overdo them and deadlifting heavy and often can be quite taxing. For me personally, I tend to do them roughly once a fortnight as part of my back workout but I tend to go in hard when I do. Oh, and also, don’t bounce them. It’s a ‘dead’ lift. That means a dead stop at the bottom before you go again.

 

2. The Barbell Bent – Over Row

The barbell bent-over row is next on my list of bigger back training essentials. It’s such a versatile and comprehensive movement and although you can’t load it as heavily as the deadlift, you can still shift some pretty serious weight. There are infinite variations of grips and back positions including the single arm dumbbell row and T bar row but generally speaking the barbell version is the most ubiquitous and even within just this bit of kit there is wide variation. Generally speaking, I prefer over grip and I try to get right over the bar with my back as horizontal as possible. If you’re not careful or start any higher it just ends up turning into a shrug. Within the movement, try and lift the bar to the top abs and control the movement as much as possible but you can alter the line of the lift and angle of the back so you are hitting different parts of the back.

Top tip – Depending on the variation, a little bit of leg bounce is entirely acceptable but if you’re nearly upright and throwing the bar in some sort of half range jerking movement then you’re doing it wrong… bro.

 

3. Lat Pull Down

I think the final one on the list has to be the Lat Pull Down. Often available in even the worst gyms and even more often performed horribly; it hits the back in the vertical plane versus the horizontal movement of say, the Bent Over Row. Again, there are infinite variations of grips and handles and ranges of movement but the standard wide grip front down does the job.

Top tip – Before you start the movement, grip the bar and allow the arms and scapula to extend fully – imagine you’re hanging loosely and letting the shoulder relax. Then, to begin, bring the scapula down and back, keeping the arms straight before bending at the elbows. This is the FULL range of motion and allows you to engage the lats and rest of the back MUCH more effectively.

 

… 4. Pull-ups

I know I said only three, but no discussion on a bigger back training can be complete without talking about the lowly pull up. I love this movement but in terms of sheer versatility the Lat Pull Down pips it when talking general usefulness and versatility. That said, I include pull-ups in most of my workouts as it’s both extremely effective but it’s also one of those movements that you’re kind of expected to be good at as someone who trains regularly. I often put it towards the beginning of a session as a warm up while I’m still fresh. I find I fatigue quickly on these and I try to keep them in even when gaining weight as this is essentially adding resistance to the movement over time.

 

Extreme Sports: Train Like a Wakeboarder

Extreme Sports: Train Like a Wakeboarder

We asked Reflex Nutrition athlete & competitive wakeboarder, James Mott, about his unique training style and what it takes to stay at the top of the game in this gruelling sport

 

Before I start, for those not very familiar with wakeboarding: It is an extreme sports that consists of techniques adopted from surfing, water skiing and snowboarding, as well as many other water sports such as kitesurfing and windsurfing. Typically, a boat tows the rider in its wake, hence the sports name. However now cable riding is becoming more and more popular both for beginners and regular riders.

Having a full-time job that involves me working abroad which last year meant spending 6 months in China. When I’m not working it’s a case of juggling training both on and off the water in between competitions. As you could imagine this can become incredibly difficult, especially not knowing what fitness related facilities you will have at your disposal. With all this in mind I have what I would consider my essentials whether I’m travelling or training.

Essentials:

  • Trigger Point Foam Roller
  • Resistance Bands
  • Lacrosse Ball
  • Wireless Headphones
  • Yoga

Demands of the Extreme Sports

Wakeboarding can put tremendous demands on your body. An issue that nearly every wakeboarder will be able to relate to is knee pain, whether they have suffered themselves or know someone who has. The knee is subjected to the highest forces during wakeboarding. The human body has an immense capacity to heal itself. Clearly torn ACL’s don’t magically reattach, and herniated lumbar disks are slow to heal, but the human body will take a tonne of abuse for a really long time before it finally gives up the fight. This is the problem; our bodies will put up with our silly movement and lifestyle choices because they have an astonishing amount of functional tolerance built in. We shouldn’t, however, make the classic error of confusing this miraculous genetic inheritance as a justification for eating, sleeping, or moving however we please.

Training Types

In wakeboarding, an optimal focus for my training is focused on strength and power but I take care to remember my flexibility, agility, balance and coordination.  Mobility, something that not a lot people think about or are actively aware of. Range of motion (ROM) is king, and moving into it with strength, control, stability is a must. The most efficient way of developing mobility and range of motion is to work a mixture of disciplines into a small routine that you can work through before training either in the gym or before you hit the water. Myofascial, soft tissue release mixed with stretching and some yoga inspired poses can be really beneficial. This is great when I’m travelling and don’t always have access to a gym or haven’t been on the water for a while. I can fit my essentials easily into a travel bag or suitcase. Most hotel rooms will have enough space to spend 20/30 minutes working on a small routine using; foam rolling techniques, resistance band work on nearly all major muscle groups.

Staying Flexible

Another essential for me which is easy for anyone to do whilst traveling is yoga-based stretching- this can help to counteract many of the muscular imbalances that arise from spending time on the water, gym and travelling. Yoga can be a great way to train for the season and couldn’t be simpler with apps like ‘Yoga Studio’ free to download and easy to use. The physical poses, called “asanas,” can help improve your body’s overall flexibility and balance, you’ll also be able to recuperate faster from tough days.

Wakeboarding can challenge muscles you didn’t even know you had. A well-rounded yoga practice will utilise every muscle in your body, making it an essential element of cross-training! In addition, yoga offers many other benefits that can help improve my performance wakeboarding, overall fitness levels and wellbeing, including:

  • Stronger leg, back, and core muscles
  • Improved spinal, neck, and hip flexibility
  • Improved balance
  • A calm mind and clear focus
  • Improved stamina and energy

Although I have written this from my prospective juggling a full-time job, training, wakeboarding and competitions- I would encourage anyone to try and spend a short period of time each week to start with using a foam roller, resistance bands and yoga based stretching. Once it becomes part of your everyday routine you really will notice the benefits.

Train to Gain: A Guide to Progressive Overload

When it comes to strength training, how to do you ensure your progress? Athlete Tom Wright talks us through Progressive Overload – what it means and how to use it.

If you were to ask any coach worth their salt what the most important factor in strength training then they would likely say progressive overload. You may never even have heard of it, but you’ve almost definitely seen it and even used it in practice before. So what exactly IS progressive overload?

Simply put!

Progressive overload is the increase in stimulus on your muscles (and connective tissues) over time. If your goal is to become bigger, stronger or faster then your training volume must increase over your career. Muscle adapts to the stimulus put on it, so if you want it to grow you must create a hypertrophic stimulus by increasing the stimulus on a weekly/monthly/yearly basis. To add strength you need to increase the weight lifted over time. Thankfully the two tend to go hand in hand and in most cases increasing one will allow you to increase the other.

However, when applying the principle of progressive overload it’s important to remember that more isn’t always better. If lifting more weight comes at the cost of your form then scale it back and complete all your reps with good form. This is still progress. Simply performing movements that you couldn’t before is improving your neurological signalling and motor unit recruitment.

How to Use Progressive Overload

If you’re a novice starting out in your weightlifting career then increases in size and strength will come quickly. The first 6 months of lifting will allow you the most gains as your body adapts to completely new movements and stresses. That being said proper programming can set you on the right path to moving up the ranks quickly.

Try to add ~5% to your lifts week on week for 3 weeks for the same sets and reps, and on the 4th week (or when you can’t manage full reps at the increased weight) drop your weights by 10% to allow you to progress the following session. This is known as a deload.

Tom Wright - Progressive OverloadAs you progress to intermediate level things become a little more complex. Increases in strength and hypertrophy won’t come as easily and programming will need to be more thoroughly planned out. Increases in strength can be achieved using programming such as ‘wave loading’ in which you increase the weight by no more than 5% but decrease the reps each session. Eg.

  • Bench press week 1: 3×8 at 80kg
  • Bench press week 2: 3×7 at 84kg
  • Bench press week 3: 3×6 at 88kg
  • Bench Press week 4: 3×6 at 80kg (deload week)

You can see that as the reps decrease we increase the weight by 5% of original weight. On week 4 we program in a deload week by dropping back to original weight but keeping the same reps. On week 5 we would go back to 3×8 but at the new weight of 84kg and the process is repeated.

Of course this won’t always go as smoothly as above, but by following a process like this we will see progression over time.

Anything else?

Another factor to consider is your assistance or isolation lifts. These are the exercises performed after your main compound movements. For bench press this may be the French Press aka ‘skullcrusher’. To increase strength and muscle mass you want to increase the reps each week but using the same weight. So on week one you perform 3 set of 12 with 20kg, week two you try for 14 reps, and week 3 you aim for 3×15, followed by a reload of 2×12 at 20kg.

Advanced lifters will only see marginal gains for a large amount of effort. Small increases in strength over months and size may not change at all once you are at your genetic potential. Programming becomes essential at this stage and periodisation is integral to progression.

Even with physique the changes may be so minimal that measurements don’t reveal true progress so it is better to track weight lifted and volume. This is especially true for athletes in an ‘off-season’ as added body fat will make it incredibly difficult to track lean muscle gain. Track strength with 1RM or AMRAPs and look at total volume of each session and for the week. A monthly or 3 monthly increase in these will indicate progressive overload.

Start seeing greater results in the gym by using the information above to better plan your sessions, and training blocks. Train smarter, not just harder.

The Santa Claus Post-Christmas Fitness Regime

Santa Claus Get-Fit Regime

Feeling busy and stressed out after a hectic festive period? Imagine how Santa Claus feels. This is a tough time for old St Nick – long and unsociable hours, grabbing unhealthy snacks on the fly and having little to no time to exercise. We doubt people will be baking mince pies with Stevia or leaving a flask of green tea out for Father Christmas as thanks for his festive labour. We all over indulge over the Christmas period, a time to celebrate with those closest to you over a big meal or a few Christmas drinks. It is only when the dust settles on New Year’s Day that we fall into a state of hungover guilt and declare that this is the year we make positive steps in terms of our health and fitness.

If Santa guzzles a brandy and a mince pie in every home, that is quite the calorie binge. So what can Santa do in terms of minimising the damage done over this period? Are there any golden tips that can help kick start our regimes going into the New Year? We asked a number of #TeamReflex athletes for their tips on getting St Nick back into decent nick and here is what they came up with. All of which can also be applied to your own regime if the gluttony of the festive period has taken hold…

RACHEL HOBBS

Team Reflex’s dietician Rachel Hobbs says “Nutrition is the cornerstone of any health and wellness regime, without a foundation built on solid nutrition basics you will always be limited in your success. You cannot out train a bad diet”.

There are a few basics that Rachel would recommend to Santa when starting a festive fat loss regime. Firstly, get hydrated. Excess alcohol over Christmas can lead to dehydration but consuming enough H20 is crucial throughout the year. The brandies won’t help and neither will running around sweating in a big red outfit, meaning replacing those lost fluids is crucial. Not only will adequate hydration improve all manner of bodily functions and performance, your ability to use fat as an energy source is reduced when dehydrated.

You’d be forgiven for thinking jolly old St Nick should lay off the fats – but fat is actually your friend. Fats are key for brain and hormonal functions and are also very filling. Ensure a variety of nuts, avocado and animal fats, including oily fish, is present in your diet to stay full. Eating fat in isolation will not spike blood sugar levels and therefore will not cause fat storage. It is when fats are consumed alongside insulin spiking sugary foods that problems can occur. Eating foods rich in the essential fatty acid omega 3 can improve the body’s ability to moderate its blood sugar levels and reduce the chances of excess blood glucose being stored as fat. While natural fats are beneficial for health, they are calorific and should be consumed in moderation. If Santa is eating a bag of nuts at every home he’s going to force those poor reindeer to work overtime hauling his generous posterior around.

ALEX CROCKFORD

#TeamReflex cover model Alex Crockford is in totally agreement that diet is paramount when looking to shape up and says that “you cannot underestimate the power of a good breakfast”. It’s long been thought that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and while Alex would not necessarily agree with that notion, he understands the importance of ditching the sugar frosted cereals and choosing a high protein breakfast: “Santa, perhaps it’s time to remember that good old phrase, go to work on an egg”.

GAURI CHOPRA

If you follow #TeamReflex girl Gauri Chopra on social media then you will know that she likes to get creative when it comes to creating meals, often emphasising the benefit of adding a little spice to your cooking. “Dieting can be dull if you’re restricting carbs and calories, but it doesn’t have to be,” says Gauri. “Adding spicy chillies, for example, can make your food exciting while also aiding fat loss. Chillies contain a compound called Capsaicin which can increase metabolic rate and will help Santa maintain those rosy red cheeks”.

TOM WRIGHT

Once you’re happy that you’re making steps in the right direction in terms of diet, it’s time to think about exercise and burning off those mince pies. #TeamReflex PT Tom Wright thinks it’s a wonderful thing that Santa wants to make positive steps but emphasises the need to seek professional advice before undertaking any exercise regime. He believes the key to dropping unwanted body fat is to build a little bit of muscle. “I know a lot of people will say that they don’t want to lift weights because they don’t want to become bulky, if only it were that simple,” Tom laughs, “building a little extra muscle tissue will mean that it takes additional calories for your body to function, which in turn means you will burn more calories doing nothing than someone with less muscle would.” We’re pretty sure Santa would like to be burning extra calories as he whizzes around on his sleigh this Christmas and that extra muscle will help him carry all of those heavy gadgets you’ve all asked for.

OLLY FOSTER

#TeamReflex cover model and coach Olly Foster is a big advocate of finding balance in life. “If you can find a balance that works for you, your health kick will be sustainable. Hitting every home in the world in one night is enough to ramp up the stress levels in even the most patient of us. Stress from work and training can raise a hormone in the body called cortisol, which can be detrimental to both muscle building and fat loss. Also, burning the candle at both ends never ends well – what goes up must also come down. Remember, the importance of taking time out of your day to rest and recuperate should not be underestimated.”

JACQUELINE HOOTON

Finally, #TeamReflex’s Jacqueline Hooton has worked in the fitness and fashion industry for years and has helped people of all shapes and sizes to achieve their goals. “Fitness needs to be enjoyable, therapeutic even. Fitness does not have to be restricted to the gym, the outdoors offers a wonderful arena for fitness. Running along the beach, cycling around town, walking to work or walking the dog, opportunities to burn calories and improve your fitness present themselves every day”.

There you have it, tips for Santa from a selection of fitness pros. Now it’s just a matter of waiting and seeing whether he turns up in December 2016 able to give some of #TeamReflex a run for their money. Good luck to Santa, and we hope these tips are of even greater use to your own post-Christmas get-fit regimes! Here’s to a healthy New Year. To get started, take a look at our Health & Wellbeing range or alternatively, our Weight Management section.

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