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Q & A – March 2012

Okay, here we go. Spurred on by the success of the first Q+A last month we have another three awesome questions for you today!

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Hello Dave’s Gym,

I have a question for the blog Q&A on behalf of my mum. She’s in her 50s and lives abroad where she goes to the gym regularly (usually 3 times a week if possible). When I visited her recently,she was saying she feels she has put weight/fat on round her waist despite not eating any more than normal and exercising her usual amount. She asked me about weights/strength training (being a Dave’s Gym evangelist I have been banging on about the importance of these for ladies for a while) and although I was able to tell her a bit, I’m not a qualified personal trainer and am aware that what works for me as a 30 year old may not be suitable for her. She has joined a new gym and I told her to get the staff to show her some of the free weights and how to do deadlifts, bench press and squats etc properly, but I was wondering if you could give her any more specific advice on what she should be doing as a newbie to strength training and what would be most effective for her in terms of fat loss and gaining muscle definition (she has been diagnosed with low blood pressure as well so has to be careful about how much she pushes it).

Also, kind of related, have you got any advice on nutrition for her if she starts using the weights? I’ve tried to explain the importance of taking on enough protein, when to have carbs, that cutting back on how much you eat isn’t necessarily a good idea (she keeps saying she probably just needs to eat less, but I’ve seen for myself she eats very healthily and not excessively at all) but again I’m no expert, so said I would post on the Q&A and let her know what you guys say.

Thank you 🙂

-Megan

Thanks, Megan! Great question!

First off just let your Mum know she’s awesome for sticking with an exercise regime and actually being willing to give the weights a go! Honestly, three times a week in the gym is a good benchmark for anybody and there’s nothing you can’t do with that many sessions a week.

One thing to find out is whether she’s started to do any more abs/stomach exercises recently – a common myth surrounding losing belly fat is the one that says doing lots of high rep or weighted ab work can “spot-reduce” or “burn” the fat away from your midsection. In a perfect world this would work, but the truth is that for the abdominal muscles to contract they use their own muscular energy stores rather than fat to provide the energy for this, and that burn you feel is just the by product of those contractions. What excessive stomach training can do though is build up those muscles and give you a thicker waist, which can give the appearance of more fat when it’s really just bigger ab muscles “pushing” the fat out more.

In terms of strength training you’re right to recommend that to her, we’re all of the mind here that increased strength is absolutely one of the best things you can do for your body. Especially for ladies weight bearing exercise can help stave off the onset of osteoporosis, and helps maintain a healthy functional body as we start to get a little older. Everybody can benefit from getting a bit stronger!

The best advice i can give her on that score is what you’ve suggested – find somebody qualified to teach her the basic exercises so she has correct technique. Your mum can do a little of this herself if she’s got the web by searching for technique videos online, but it’s no substitute for a qualified trainer. Tell her to focus on getting her technique right and to build up the weights slowly and surely. The body is incredibly adaptable given enough time and recovery so I’ve no doubt she’d see great results over a few months on a strength program.

If she’s already doing exercise three times a week I would say stick to this for now, and just add one or two simple weight training exercises per workout as well as the cardio. Assuming she learns the correct technique a simple 5×5 strength program is usually a good place to start. Something like (click the links for a video of each exercise):

Monday – Goblet Squats 5×5 // Dumbell Rows 3×10 // Cardio

Wednesday – Dumbell Overhead Press 5×5 // Pulldowns 3×10 // Cardio

Friday – Romanian Deadlifts 5×5 // Dumbell Bench Press 3×10 // Cardio

For the 5×5 exercises start with the lowest weights available in the first set then increase every set by the smallest amount (so either putting a little extra weight on the bar, or moving to the next set of dumbells). In the last set instead of doing five reps and stopping, go to a maximum of ten reps while keeping good form and not bursting a gasket. If you get ten, next workout start your sets on a slightly heavier weight than you started with last time (so all your sets will “move up” a tad). If you don’t get ten, stay with the same weights and try for ten again next time. For the 3×10 exercises start with the lightest weights (again) and use those weights for all three sets, and increase them a little each session.

The main thing is that she’s enjoying what she’s doing, gets fully warmed up before each session, and keeps a close eye on her technique. The key here is to progress slowly and steadily, and the first few weeks will be incredibly light and easy but that’ll provide plenty of time for her to get accustomed to lifting weights and learn the exercises thoroughly. In people who’ve never lifted weights before this linear style of progression can actually last for over a year before the weights get too heavy!

In terms of nutrition there’s a lot to be said for a good old fashioned healthy diet. Plenty of protein from meat, fish, and eggs; plenty of fruit and vegetables; limit your processed carbs and sweets; and eat regularly, avoiding skipped meals or binges. You’re correct in saying that eating less doesn’t necessarily mean losing more fat (sometimes quite the opposite happens) and under-eating is bad for a variety of health reasons. You’ll probably find that just changing her training to include more weights will stimulate another spurt of fat loss (for the lack of a better word).

I’m almost done with a more detailed article on diet and training which is very similar to this answer, so for more info stay tuned to the blog in the near future!

Thanks again for your question, and i hope it works out for your Mum!

Dear Daves Gym,

I get lower back pain occasionally; what exercise can I do to get a more neutral spine position compared to the flexion I currently have, as I believe this to be the stem of the problem.

I hope you understand what I mean; if you don’t I’ll try explain better.

Kind Regards

Milo

Hi Milo, thanks very much for your question and sorry to hear about your back pain!

Generally back pain can be caused by a few things – poor posture is a big one, especially if you do a lot of work on the computer so fixing that if it’s an issue can work wonders (no slouching, keep your shoulders back). Other things are inflexibility and a lack of mobility, differing strength and weakness in the various muscles that make up the back, weak abs, and poor exercise technique.

First and foremost get somebody qualified to check your exercise technique and prescribe something based on what they can physically observe with you. Is there any pattern to when your back pain flares up? Like after a certain workout day or something? Because that could help pinpoint which exercises you may need to look at.

In terms of other exercises, assuming the correct technique is being used, here are some great ones to help strengthen your back as a whole:

  • Deadlifts – this is the king of back exercises. There isn’t one back muscle that isn’t used in this exercise. This one also requires you to keep a perfectly neutral flat back throughout.
  • Bent Over Rows – works very similar muscles to the deadlift but also requires you to stay in a static position for the whole set.
  • Weighted Hip Thrusts – weak glutes could also be part and parcel of this same problem in an indirect way, not to mention they look fantastic.
  •  Ab Rollouts – these will strengthen your abs better than anything else I know of.

Work those exercises into your routine and pay attention to your regular posture, and above all – if your back pain continues there could be some other explanation for it so book an appointment with a trainer or physio just to be sure. Working on your flexibility using static and dynamic stretching, as well as foam rolling and mobility exercises is a great idea aswell.

Hope that helps, if you have any more questions let us know!

Hello,

I have another question for the blog (bit more succinct this time). What should I be looking for in a protein powder, as someone aiming to get lean rather than get massive?

Thanks

Meg 🙂

Hi again, haha!

In terms of protein try and look for a protein powder with as little carbs and fat as possible. Whey protein is usually a good bet for a quick acting protein (great for after a workout) whereas casein is a slower release protein (good before bed). You can also get some blends which have a little of both types, but a lot of those also have greater amounts of carbs and fat.

Personally when i’m looking for a high protein powder I’ll go for a pure whey protein (usually 80% protein) or even a whey isolate (can be as high as 90% protein) but the latter can be a pain in the arse to mix. Basically you want a product that helps you replace some of your carb intake with protein.

We all love the Impact Whey or Impact Whey Isolate you can buy off www.myprotein.co.uk – it’s cheap, and it does what it says on the tin (or rather, the bag). They also sell it in 1kg to 5kg bags and have special offers on quite regularly. It’s a great site and they’re both great products so take a look!

Hope that helps!

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And that’s it for this month! As always, if you have any questions you want answered in the next Q+A post either leave a comment on the blog, on the Dave’s Gym facebook page, or send an email with the subject “Q+A” to enquiries@daves-gym.co.uk.

Thanks all! Take care!

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