Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Exercise at the office

Continuing the article on how to include physical activity in your daily routine, today we will take a look at some more options.

Tim Ferriss in his popular book 4 Hour Body suggests you should do the following three exercises before meals:

These are great suggestions, however I have one more: permanently leave a dumbbell at the office or in your car, and exercise with that. A lot of people are used to training with dumbbells and feel more "comfortable" with them. If you are such a case, then this is the best solution for you.

The only bodyparts you can't train with a light dumbbell are chest and back. For these, I recommend the following exercises:

Naturally, all these exercises are supplementary to your main workouts that you should be doing in a gym. So, follow this advice and watch your body improve day by day!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The real secret of success

Frequently you will hear that the best way to achieve your goals (either body-related or not) is to have a strong willpower and discipline. We first decide clearly what we want, then we formulate a plan, and finally we just make ourselves follow it.

Unfortunately, it's not that simple. In theory, the above approach seems perfect. However, even if you belong in the elite group having willpower of steel, it will fade out sooner or later.

In reality, there are two ways to safeguard your efforts:
1. You should have strong personal reasons for achieving your goal - or even better, you must need it. Your goal should be something you can't live without.
2. You have to realise by yourself what's true and right to do, and based on that, make permanent changes.

The first point is exactly why people with not too many extra pounds are never able to lose them: they can't find reasons powerful enough to justify the required sacrifices. In such cases, the only solution is to utilise the second way.

Which, in other words is the following: forget about temporary fast "fixes" (diets) and focus instead on principles. For example, if you get convinced (with your own research and logic) that carbs offer nothing to your health and make you put weight, then you might finally decide to never eat them again. If you understand that everyday movement is natural and essential to your body, you might be able to put it in your schedule.

And by so doing, you will start enjoying results that no diet and no amount of discipline will ever give you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Start early!

This blog is now one year old. I was planning an anniversary post for the occasion, but my main job didn't allow it. So I will give you two quick tips:

1. In this article from last June, I stressed the importance of an early start if we want to see drastic changes in our body until summer. However, the article was theoretical, because at the time it was already too late. It's not too late NOW. On the contrary, it is the best time to get started.

2. We all know that in order to lose weight we must consume fewer calories than the ones we burn (more accurately: we must assimilate fewer calories than the ones we burn). That's why most nutritionists will advocate a diet of approximately 500 calories less than your maintenance calories. The thing is that, as weight is being lost, these maintenance calories drop too. Thus, there is a need for constant adaptation if your diet is to be successful.

That's all for now. Talk soon!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Natural fat burners

In the tough battle against bodyfat, it is not a bad idea to utilise every available tool. So here is an updated list of natural substances that, according to latest research, help in fat loss.

1. Caffeine: an old friend of ours with a proven track record. However, keep in mind that normal coffee might not contain enough caffeine. If you don't get results, try a caffeine supplement.
2. Cinnamon: improves insulin sensitivity and regulates blood sugar, thus playing an important role in fat loss.
3. Green tea: contains catechins (mainly EGCG) which possess antioxidant properties as well as fatburning ones.
4. Capsaicin: it's the substance that makes red peppers spicy. Recent research is very encouraging regarding its effectiveness.
5. Garlic: either way it is very healthy, but it will likely help you burn fat too.

If you would like to add supplements, I recommend the following:
1. Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA)
2. Tyrosine
3. Carnitine

Good luck!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How to train in cold weather

It’s snowing in Greece so it’s a good time to discuss training under these conditions. Unfortunately, a lot of people use low temperatures as an excuse to cancel workouts. However, this mentality will not help you reach your goals. So here is some advice on how to train safely in the cold:

1. Dress up
Your clothes should be warm and comfortable (don’t wear a coat). You shouldn’t forget your gloves and anti-slippery shoes.

2. Warm up
Perform a light activity while still indoors (like jumping rope or jacks), followed by extensive stretching. When you finally commence your actual training, start slowly and increase intensity gradually.

3. Drink more water
Cold weather will mask the feeling of thirst and this might fool you. Dehydration is your enemy.

4. Go to the gym
One of the strongest benefits of the gym is that you can use it no matter the weather. Take advantage of that.

5. Combine vitamin C with glutamine
We all know that vitamin C helps fight the cold. However, combining it with glutamine (an essential amino acid) makes it more effective and improves recuperation.

6. Watch this video:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Build abs of steel without machines

No matter how much we insist that in order to see your abs you have to do diet and cardio, we shouldn't underestimate the value of direct ab training. Frequently asked questions include the following:
1. Which are the best ab exercises?
2. How many sets/reps should I do?
3. How often should I train abs?
4. Should I use extra weight?

The answers:

1. The best ab exercises are performed on the so-called roman chair. We need one movement for the rectus abdominis:

and one for the obliques (side abs):

If you train at home, then the best choice for the rectus is the following:

If you don't have a pull-up bar, do this:

and broomstick twists for the sides:

Finally, if you want to use an ab machine no matter what, this is the only one that deserves your time:

These are the best ab exercises. You don't need anything else.

2. Here the answer is brief: do 2-3 sets of 20-30 reps each.

3. If you are a beginner, perform two exercises (one for the rectus and one for the obliques) three times weekly. If you are more advanced, you can go ahead and work out every day, alternating between rectus and obliques. For example: Monday rectus, Tuesday obliques, Wednesday rectus etc. Ideally you should do your routine in the morning.

4. This subject is somewhat of a taboo. The right way to do it is the following: When even 30 reps seem easy, it's time to add weight. However, this isn't practical on many exercises, and this is one of the advantages of the roman chair, as seen here:

Spring is coming. Hurry up!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How to drive calories to the right place

The Holy Grail of bodybuilding (and fitness) is to lose fat and build muscle. Generally speaking, we do the former with diet and cardio, and the latter with diet and weights.

Unfortunately, the storage mechanisms of the body are complicated. We can never be sure where the food will be stored, especially if this food is not of the highest quality.

Today though, I have the solution for you! And it's quite simple.

Before every meal, perform 2-3 minutes of light exercise for the major muscle groups. This way you will activate the special receptors on these muscles, and the food will be stored there instead of the fat cells.

For example, you can do 20 bodyweight squats, 10 pushups and 10 pullups. If you have access to small dumbbells, use them. Another good and portable option is an exercise band.

This is the important step. However, ideally you should repeat the sequence 1-2 hours after the meal, when digestion will be finishing and nutrients will be flowing in the bloodstream.

I can't think of a simpler effective "trick." Just do it!