BBQ Special



July often signifies the start to summer, the sun comes out, the kids have time off school and there is the temptation of BBQs, Buffets and Booze.

It’s not a case of locking yourself in your house for the whole summer; it’s more a case of being sensible on what you eat. We have provided a list of Bread rolls and their calories so you can enjoy a guilt free burger plus a look at what is the best alcohol to drink at a BBQ. Remember you can have a treat, it is about a lifestyle not a diet and we want you to enjoy yourselves. However, be aware that these calories will go towards your daily target and you don’t want to go over too many times. To help with this we have provided a selection of seasonal tasty treats and meals that will leave you full, nourished and on track for a slimmer summer.



Chicken Tikka Skewers

 What you need (serves 4)


  • 150g pot low-fat natural yogurt
  • 2 tbsp hot curry paste
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 250g pack cherry tomatoes
  • 4 wholemeal chapatis, warmed, to serve

For the cucumber salad

  • ½ cucumber, halved lengthways, deseeded and sliced
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • handful chopped coriander leaves
  • juice 1 lemon
  • 50g pack lamb’s lettuces or pea shoots


How to make it


  1. Put 8 wooden skewers in a bowl of water to soak. Mix the yogurt and curry paste together in a bowl, then add the chicken (if you have time, marinate for an hr or so). In a large bowl, toss together the cucumber, red onion, coriander and lemon juice. Chill until ready to serve.
  2. Shake off any excess marinade, then thread the chicken pieces and cherry tomatoes onto the pre-soaked skewers. Cook under a medium grill for 15-20 mins, turning from time to time, until cooked through and nicely browned.
  3. Stir the lettuce or pea shoots into the salad, then divide between 4 plates. Top each serving with 2 chicken tikka skewers and serve with the warm chapatis

214 calories per serving,

Protein 37g, carbs 8g, fat 4g, saturates 1g, fibre 1g, sugar 7g, salt 0.61g,



Thai Burgers

What you need (serves 2 – can easily be doubled to serve 4)

  • 2 sweet potatoes, cut into wedges
  • olive oil
  • 400g extra lean minced pork
  • 1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
  • 1 red onion, ½ grated, ½ finely diced
  • small bunch coriander, chopped
  • 1 mango, diced
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • ½ lime, juiced
  • Little Gem lettuce, to serve


How to make it

  1. Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Toss the potato wedges with 1/2 tbsp olive oil. Put on a baking tray and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 20-25 minutes until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, mix together the pork, curry paste, grated onion and half the coriander. Season and form into 4 burgers. Brush the burgers with a little oil then grill or griddle for 5-6 minutes each side until they are cooked through.
  3. For the mango salsa, mix the mango, chilli and the rest of the coriander with the lime juice. To serve, put a burger on top of some little gem leaves and spoon over some salsa. Serve with the sweet potato wedges.

242 Calories per serving, Protein 23.6g, carbs 27.9g, fat 4.8g, saturates 1.6g, fibre 4g,



Halloumi Wrapped in Red Pepper


What you need (serves 4)

  • 4 red peppers
  • 200g block halloumi cheese, sliced into 4
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • oregano chopped to make 2 tsp or 1 tsp dried
  • 4 black or green olives, cut into slivers
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice

How to make it

  1. Grill or roast the red peppers whole until they begin to soften (if you like them skinned, keep going until you can skin them). You need them soft enough to wrap the cheese but not too soft or you won’t be able to cook them again.
  2. Open out each red pepper by making a cut down one side and trim the tops and bottoms off so you end up with a strip. Put a slice of halloumi in the center of each strip. Sprinkle over some lemon zest and juice, divide the chilli, oregano and olive between them, then roll the red pepper around the halloumi. It doesn’t matter if the cheese sticks out at each end. Tie the rolls with some kitchen string that you have soaked in water (or secure with a cocktail stick) and press down with the palm of your hand so they flatten slightly.
  3. Heat the barbecue. Barbecue the red peppers on both sides for 5 minutes or until they are starting to char and the cheese is softening and browning at the ends (keep an eye on the string as it could burn off).

206 Calories per serving, protein 11.6g, carbs 10.3g, fat 13.4g, saturates 7.5g, fibre 2.5g,



BBQ Chicken Burgers

What you need (serves 4)

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 4 rashers bacon (optional)
  • 4 large burger buns, sliced in half
  • lettuce, tomato and red onion, to serve

For the sauce and marinade

  • 4 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 4 tbsp brown sauce
  • splash chilli sauce (optional)
  • 2 tsp clear honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed


How to make it

  1. Make the sauce and marinade by mixing everything together in a large bowl, then put a few spoonfuls aside. Slice halfway into the thickest part of each breast and open it up like a book. Flatten down slightly with your hand, then toss in the bowlful of marinade to coat. Chill for as little, or as long, as you have time to.
  2. Barbecue the chicken for about 10 mins until completely cooked through, turning so it doesn’t burn but is nicely charred and sticky. Cook the bacon at the same time until crisp, if using, and toast the buns. Assemble the burgers with lettuce, slices of tomato, onion and the reserved sauce on the side for dolloping on top.


406 Calories per serving, Protein 43g, carbs 48g, fat 6g, saturates 2g, fibre 2g



Jerk pork & pineapple skewers with black beans & rice

What you need (serves 4)

  • 400g pork fillets, cut into 4cm chunks
  • 2 tbsp jerk or Creole seasoning
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tbsp hot chilli sauce, plus extra to serve (optional)
  • 3 limes, zest and juice 1, other 2 cut into wedges to serve
  • ½ small pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 4cm chunks
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 200g basmati rice
  • 400g can black beans, drained and rinsed

How to make it

  1. Mix together the pork, jerk seasoning, allspice, chilli sauce, if using, lime zest and juice, and some seasoning. Thread the pork and pineapple onto metal skewers (or pre-soaked wooden skewers) and brush with the oil.
  2. Cook rice following pack instructions. Drain well, then put back in the saucepan with the beans, stir and keep warm.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a griddle pan until very hot. Cook the skewers for 3 mins on each side until nicely charred and the pork is cooked through. Serve skewers with the beans and rice, extra chilli sauce, if you like, and lime wedges for squeezing over.

451 Calories per serving, Protein 30g, carbs 57g, fat 10g, saturates 3g, fibre 6g,



Spicy Yogurt Chicken

What you need (serves 4)

  • 8 skinless chicken drumsticks
  • 142ml pot natural yogurt
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric

How to make it

  1. With a sharp knife, make a few slashes in each drumstick. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl, season to taste. Add the drumsticks, rubbing the mixture well into the meat. If you have time, cover and chill for 30 mins.
  2. Remove the drumsticks from the marinade, shaking off the excess. Cook them on the barbecue for 20-25 mins, turning occasionally, until cooked through.

229 Calories per serving, Protein 37g, carbs 6g, fat 7g, saturates 2g, fibre 0g


New potato & tamarind salad

  • 1½ tbsp tamarind pulp or paste
  • 50g golden muscovado sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • thumb-sized piece ginger, chopped
  • 1.2kg new potatoes
  • 3 tbsp natural low-fat yogurt
  • 4 tbsp chopped coriander

How to make it

  1. To make the dressing, put the tamarind pulp in a small pan, pour over 75ml boiling water and add the sugar, cumin and ginger. Simmer, without a lid, until the dressing thickens and becomes syrupy, about 10-15 mins. It should have a pleasant tang – add extra sugar if needed.
  2. While the tamarind is cooking, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the potatoes. Return to the boil and cook for 15 mins until tender. Drain, then cool slightly before halving them. Transfer to a big mixing bowl and spoon over the dressing, gently stirring to make sure the potatoes are well coated. Drizzle over the yogurt, scatter over the coriander, and serve warm or at room temperature.

196 Calories per serving, protein 5g, carbs 42g, fat 1g, saturates 0g, fibre 3g,



The bread rolls –


Calories Per Roll

Protein (g)

Carbohydrate (g)

Fat (g)

Asda large Brown Roll





Kingsmill White rolls





M&S Crusty Roll





Tesco Large White Bap





Tesco White soft Roll





When eating Burgers or Hot Dogs at a BBQ be aware the bread roll is often more calories than the burger itself! Chose carefully or leave the bread alone altogether.


Alcohol at BBQs

If you are going to drink at a BBQ which is the best drink to have?

Drink Amount Calories
Magners / Bulmers 1 Pint 233
Carlsberg 1 Pint 182
Becks 1 Pint 233
San Miguel 1 Pint 256
Stella 1 Pint 193
Guiness 1 Pint 210
John Smiths 1 Pint 153
Tetley Smoothflow 1 Pint 187
Dry White 250ml 180
Med White 250ml 190
Sweet White 250ml 240
Rose 250ml 180
Red 250ml 180
Cava (Dry) 250ml 190
Cava (Med) 250ml 200
Cava (Sweet) 250ml 240
Lambrini 250ml 80
Moet et Chandon 250ml 190
Jacobs Creek Sparkling 250ml 190
WKD 1 Bottle 184
Smirnoff Ice 1 Bottle 157
Barcardi Breezer 1 Bottle 154
Corona 1 Bottle 139

How to drink less and save calories

  • Alternate a glass of wine with water or low-calorie soft drink, or try adding soda water to a glass of wine to make a long refreshing spritzer – lots of ice too!
  • Go for a small glass of wine (125ml), rather than a medium (175ml) or large (250ml) glass and steer clear of special offers like ‘buy two large glasses and get the bottle of wine free’ – a saving for your purse as well as your hips/bum/tum!
  • If you are drinking wine at home always use a small glass (125ml) and keep the bottle in the kitchen so you have to get up to have another. This might give you enough time to decide not to have a refill. Add lemonade to make the drink longer!
  • Cut down the alcohol in wine by swapping your usual strength of wine for a lower strength. Some wines can have an ABV (Alcohol by Volume) as high as 14% or 15%. Low-alcohol wines have ABVs of 9% and lower.
  • Bottles of beer have less in them and is a good way to reduce the calories, Carona for example has just 139cals in a bottle compared to nearly 200cals in a pint of lager.


FAD Diets

FAD Diets

There are many different diets available. New Life Training has researched many of the most popular schemes. Then using the science behind weight loss and real peoples feedback we have devised a weight loss program that is safe, effective and that can provide a long term solution to weight management and a healthy lifestyle.

Some of the most commonly used diets are shown here, though you may come across other variations of these. It is important to understand these diets and what they can do to you both long term and short term. With New Life Training you may not get the quick results some of these diets provide, but we are sure we will create a lifestyle that will keep you thinner and healthier for longer.


Theory – high protein (low carbohydrate) diets suppresses the appetite through the bodies reliance on fat metabolism, i.e. If the body isn’t given carbohydrates it will inefficiently burn fat instead.

Short term – people tend to consume less food as only the protein parts of meals are consumed, the reduction in calories results in weight loss

Long term – can lead to a reduction in energy levels, head-aches, bad breath and gastrointestinal problems. This diet can produce excessive strain on the liver and kidneys and is likely to cause dehydration. This diet is also often high in saturated fat from the animal fats which are in the protein foods.


Theory – based on severe calorie restriction

Short term – this diet is really easy to prepare are has immediate results which makes it very attractive to people

Long term – does not encourage lifestyle change. The significant reduction in calories will have a negative effect on your metabolism as the body breaks down the lean body mass to fuel the body. The food is often bland and boring and makes any sort of social life difficult.


Theory – stops you mixing carbohydrates and proteins in the same meal. This is based on the theory that the enzymes used to break down each food group will work more efficiently if no other food group is present in the stomach at the time.

Short term – It speeds up the passage of food through the digestive system. Adequate fibre intake has numerous benefits, and most people don’t consume enough fibre.

Long term – can lead to abdominal pain and flatulence. Often the taste and the need to drink a lot of water put people off.


Theory – that a specific menu plan developed by a company will guarantee effective weight loss

Short term – Benefits based around quite sound principles. A of group like-minded people will provide support and encouragement, specific meeting times will encourage adherence to the programme.

Long term – tactics used are sometimes not psychologically beneficial, guilt-trips, sin foods and dependence on scales. These can be expensive long term and often lifestyle changes are not adopted before individuals give up the programme.


Theory – That severe calorific restriction will ensure a negative energy balance very quickly. This diet is only recommended for people with severe obesity with body fat totaling 40 -50% and above. This diet should only be conducted under medical supervision.

Short-term – Large weight loss in a very short time span

Long-Term – Large loss of muscle tissue that may not return thus decreasing lean body mass levels and metabolism. This diet has been known to affect the critical organs such as the heart. These diets have poor success rate.


This is when an individual diets for short periods of time followed by periods of normal or binge eating. Usually the diet is very low calorie.

It is now known that repetitive dieting has a detrimental effect on the bodies resting Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), the rate at which the body uses calories at rest. In cases of severe caloric restriction the BMR can be reduced by up to 45% with the depression of BMR enhanced with each subsequent attempt to diet. When this happens dieters often find their diet to be ineffective, they become depressed and return to normal eating habits. Studies have shown that weight gain occurs quicker with repeated cycles of body mass loss. Research has also shown that continuous yo-yo dieting is associated with a higher risk to health than no dieting at all. You can increase your BMR through eating the right foods and through exercise, thus burning more calories at rest.

At New Life Training we will approach nutrition on an individual basis, analysing what you currently consume and adapt it to encourage a long term success in which you can still enjoy your food and lifestyle. For more information contact Mark on 07771 985015 to discuss how we can help you lose weight without crash dieting and effecting your long term health and metabolism.

Benefits to Exercise

Awareness of the benefits of exercise have increased tremendously in recent times, though still only 20% of the population exercise sufficiently to gain any benefits. A recent government advertising campaign encouraged people to participate in some sort of exercise that will increase the heart rate enough to produce benefit. Walking the dog, washing the car, or vacuuming the house are all exercises recommended three times a week for 20 minutes or more. All these exercises will benefit you in several ways. Firstly, most of the exercises will increase your metabolic rate. This is the rate at which you use calories. The higher the metabolism the more calories are used up and the less are converted in to fat stores. An excellent benefit if weight-loss is your goal.
Secondly, when you exercise your heart rate will increase. A lesser known benefit of increasing the heart rate is the release of high density lipoproteins. These are released from the liver into the blood. As they travel around the arteries they collect much of the cholesterol and fatty deposits that accumulate along the walls of the arteries. This reduces the threat of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), Hypertension, and strokes. At certain intensities of exercise the body will release endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural opiates. They help to relax the brain and the muscles reducing stress levels and producing a feel-good factor which increases the more you exercise.
All the benefits mention above can be produced with a single bout of exercise. The benefits will be lost though unless you exercise on a regular basis. One of the long term benefits from continued participation in exercise are an increased heart size. Your heart will actually grow becoming stronger and more efficient. Your resting heart rate will decrease as a result of the heart becoming more efficient. The arteries will benefit from the lipoproteins and eventually result in improved blood circulation. Your fitness levels will increase allowing you to perform more intense physical activity for longer duration’s. Finally, the endorphins will assist in promoting “A healthy body leads to a healthy mind”, significantly reducing stress levels and promoting a relaxing state.
“I expect I have to sweat buckets to gain such benefits”, and “I’m not fit enough to gain these benefits” are common statements. So what do you have to do to attain these benefits then? Well there are minimum requirements. The effects discussed initially last roughly 72 hours. You need to train again within the 72 hour bracket to keep the benefits and improve them. You don’t have to exercise for long duration’s, sweat buckets and you certainly don’t have to hurt. The government recommended 3 sessions of 20 minutes duration each week. This would be sufficient to improve fitness levels and reap the rewards. The intensity doesn’t have to be hard either, 65% – 85% of you maximum heart rate is ideal (Max. Heart Rate = 220 – age), e.g. 120 – 160 bpm for a 30 year old. This heart rate level is not difficult to achieve, for some people Angelina Jolie or Tom Cruise walking into the room would achieve this, although the benefits would be slightly different. At New Life Training we are focused on helping you establish a lifestyle change that will allow you to feel the long-term benefits not just the short term feelings! We use consultations to determine levels of fitness, goals and current lifestyles. We then provide on-going supervision through 1-2-1s or Boot Camps to ensure you stay motivated to continue participation. For more info, email

These are only a few of the benefits to be had through exercise and weight loss. Check out the picture below. Statistically 95% of people have an improved quality of life through regular exercise and an 89% reduction in 5-year mortality!! Go on! Start a supervised exercise program now!! Call Mark on 07771 985015.

Benefits of losing weight

Tabata Training


The buzz around HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is poised to dramatically intensify with the launch of the official ‘Tabata™ Protocol’, a new workout system based on HIIT principles which is set to become the UK’s latest hot fitness craze. New Life Training have delivered similar HIIT classes for several years but now we have moved up a gear!!

The ‘Tabata™ Protocol’ is science–based and has been developed over many years by renowned Japanese sport and health science guru Professor Izumi Tabata. The workouts within the ‘Tabata™ Protocol’ consist of 20 seconds of intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times. This amounts to just 4 minutes in total. It’s the perfect fitness solution for busy, time poor fitness seekers, and what’s more the routine has been scientifically proven be the best way to burn fat and get fit fast. In control tests the ‘Tabata™ Protocol’ increased VO2max (a universal measurement of fitness levels) in elite athletes’ by 13% in just six weeks.

The Tabata classes delivered by New Life Training are geared for me and you and not elite athletes. They will still leave you fitter, healthier and hopefully slimmer. The link below explains more about Tabata, but if you are interested in having a go, contact Mark on 07771 985015.

ViPR Training

ViPR Training



If you have recently attended a New Life Training Bootcamp session or undertaken Personal Training with NLT you are likely to have experienced the ViPRs!! The first comment I hear is they are just rubber tubes!! People then pick them up and either try a bicep curl or a shoulder press with them. But these ViPRs are much more than just rubber tubes.

During the recent New Life Summer Weight Loss Camps we have been measuring the average calories burned in each session. The ViPRs came out on top burning on average 100-150 more calories per hour PT session than a body weight circuit and BOSU session, see below figures for a 45 min class.

Body Weight Circuit – 453cals

BOSU Circuit – 534cals

ViPR Class – 594cals


The ViPRs are able to engage a lot more muscles and therefore drive up your calories burned and your metabolism. The high heart rates involved in these sessions also deliver an excellent endorphin release that makes you feel great after each session. So what are ViPRs and why are they so good???

ViPR stands for Vitality, Performance and Rehabilitation.

As they’re website states – The ViPR bridges the gap between movement and strength training. It combines full-body movement with load, enhancing the vitality, performance and reconditioning goals of clients and athletes. ViPR introduces a new concept in fitness and sports conditioning.

Loaded Movement Training combines task-oriented movement patterning with resistance training. Agility and strength come from moving the body in a multitude of purposeful tasks with load, just like back on the farm.

ViPR was inspired by farm kids who moved with load in daily life and who were stronger than any other competitors in sport. With ViPR, we can produce farm-strengthened bodies anywhere, without ever setting foot on a farm, without doing a single chore, in a fun, safe and effective way.

ViPRs can now be found in Professional sports training as well as parks, gyms and gardens for “Joe Bloggs”

ViPR can be found in the fitness and training facilities of:

  • NHL hockey teams
  • Major league baseball teams
  • NFL football teams
  • NBA basketball teams
  • Premiership football (soccer) teams
  • Premiership rugby teams
  • Formula 1 drivers
  • Olympic athletes
  • Tactical military
  • Law enforcement
  • Firefighting houses

As ViPR creator Michol Dalcourt explains, the science of movement supports integrating Loaded Movement Training using ViPR into current training protocols for all fitness goals Quote from ViPR creator, Michol Dalcourt:

“ViPR was created from a need to foster purposeful motion and blend strength training with functional training and movement. Movement is fundamental. And what makes up effective movement is a blend of lifting, shifting, and twisting. Integrated movements like these become incredibly effective at producing results when combined with load.”


Why ViPR?

By studying the body and its adaptations, we know that Loaded Movement Training with ViPR effectively challenges and conditions muscle, fascia, nerves, skin and other systems of the body. Science shows that moving with load improves balance, agility and dynamic strength, to reach goals such as weight management, improved functionality in daily life and enhanced performance in sport.

  • Increased functional mobility and agility
  • Improvement in multi-directional stability, strength and power
  • Enhanced balance, timing and coordination
  • Increased calorie burn during and after workouts


Look out for the small group sessions launching in September this year with New Life Training. If you can’t wait until then and would like to get your hands on a ViPR book a PT session with Mark now, call 07771 985015.

Training Lactate Threshold and OBLA

For many, running further or faster, or being fitter and healthier is a common goal. We often measure our fitness by the way we feel. However there is a more scientific measurement to determine fitness levels. Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) is the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and use oxygen during exercise. It is widely accepted as the single best measure of cardiovascular fitness.
The average untrained healthy male will have a VO2 max of approximately 35-40 ml/kg/min. The average untrained healthy female will score a VO2 max of approximately 27-31 ml/kg/min. Therefore absolute values of VO2 max are typically 40-60% higher in men than in women. A persons VO2 max will often decrease with age without training, though the degree of train-ability also varies very widely: conditioning may double VO2 max in some individuals, and will marginally improve it in others.

In sports where endurance is an important component in performance, such as running, rowing and cycling world class athletes typically have high VO2 max. With some elite male runners consuming up to 85 ml/kg/min, and female elite runners can consume about 77 ml/kg/min. The highest values in absolute terms are often found in rowers, as their much greater bulk makes up for a slightly lower VO2 max per kg.

VO2 max is effected by lactate threshold (LT). This is the point at which lactate (more specifically, lactic acid) starts to accumulate in the blood stream during exercise. This happens when lactate is produced faster than it can be removed in the muscle and signifies a significant shift from predominantly aerobic metabolism to predominantly anaerobic metabolism as the body begins to favour anaerobic energy systems. As the exercise intensity increases the lactate level in the blood reaches the ‘anaerobic threshold’ (AT), or the onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA).

The lactate threshold is a useful measure for deciding exercise intensity for training in endurance sports (e.g. long distance running, cycling, rowing and swimming), but varies between individuals and can be increased with training. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) takes advantage of the body being able to temporarily exceed the lactate threshold, and then recover (reduce blood-lactate) while operating below the threshold and while still doing physical activity.

Accurately measuring the lactate threshold involves taking blood samples (normally a pinprick to the finger, earlobe or thumb). While not many people have the ability to measure their own actual lactate threshold, there are tests that provide estimates. One simple way to estimate your lactate threshold is to perform a 30-minute time trial at a high, sustained pace. This test is suited to experienced athletes and should not be attempted by anyone who is not in top shape. The goal of this test is to exercise for 30 minutes at the highest effort that can be sustained and monitor your heart rate throughout the test. Your average heart rate during the final 20 minutes should correspond to your LT.
30-Minute Time Trial for Estimating LT
• You can perform this test by running, cycling, swimming or doing another endurance sport that can be sustained for 30 minutes
• You will need a heart rate monitor and a way to capture splits
• Warm up for 15 minutes
• Begin exercise and work up to the your peak, sustained intensity within the first 10 minutes
• Record your heart rate each minute for the last 20 minutes
• Calculate your average heart rate over the last 20 minutes
• This figure is your estimated heart rate at your lactate threshold

Those PT clients that have undertaken a running session with me will know we produce a heart rate figure at which you can sustain a high running pace, this would be your estimated LT heart rate!
In theory an individual could exercise at any intensity up to their VO2 max indefinitely. As exercise intensity draws closer to VO2 max however a sharp increase in blood lactate accumulation and subsequent fatigue occurs as the lactate threshold is broken.


Generally, in two people with the same VO2 max, the one with the higher lactate threshold will perform better in continuous-type endurance events, such as running, see graph left. Although both Athlete 1 and Athlete 2 reach VO2 max at a similar running speed, Athlete 1 has a lactate threshold at 70% and Athlete 2 has a lactate threshold at 60%. Theoretically, Athlete 1 can maintain a pace of about 7.5mph compared to Athletes 2s pace of about 6.5mph.

With training, lactate threshold as a percentage of VO2 max can be increased. Even if there are no improvements in maximal oxygen uptake increasing the relative intensity or speed at which lactate threshold occurs will improve performance. In effect, proper training can shift the lactate curve to the right! (see graph below) Training at or slightly above lactate threshold can increase the relative intensity at which it occurs.

Before and After LT training

If you would like to know more about Lactate Threshold or to improve your performance please contact Mark on 07771 985015

Rotator Cuff Muscles!



The rotator cuff is one of the most important and most neglected group of muscles in the body. Most people will develop rotator cuff problems at some point in their lives unless they work on strength and flexibility specifically in this area. Have you ever heard of the expression, you’re only as strong as your weakest link? Well a weak or damaged rotator cuff will prevent you performing a lot of exercises and leave you with a weak and sometimes painful shoulder.


Rotator cuff muscles are a group of 4 muscles –

The rotator cuff muscles provide motion at the shoulder, their tendons stabilise the humerus (upper arm) in the glenoid fossa of the scapula (shoulder blade) during movement.

RCM Pic1



SUPRASPINATUS – Stabilises the head of the humerus to initiate abduction

INFRASPINATUS -  Lateral rotation of the humerus.

TERES MINOR -       Lateral rotation of the humerus.

SUBSCAPULARIS – Medial rotation of the humerus.



RCM Pic2

Weak or damaged rotator cuff muscles can also cause impingement – This is when the rotator cuff muscle tendons become “Pinched” as they pass through a narrow space between the acromion process of the scapula (Shoulder Blade) and the head of the humerus (upper arm). Anything which causes further narrowing of this space increases the risk of impingement, such as osteoarthritic spurs on the acromioclavicular joint or thickening or calcification of the coracoacromial ligament. A loss of function of the rotator cuff muscles, due to injury or loss of strength, may cause the humerus to move superiorly, resulting in impingement.


The most common symptoms in impingement syndrome are pain, weakness and a loss of movement at the affected shoulder. The pain is often worsened by shoulder overhead movement and may occur at night, especially if you are lying on the affected shoulder. The onset of the pain may be acute if it is due to an injury or may be insidious if it is due to a gradual process such as an osteoarthritis spur. Other symptoms can include a grinding or popping sensation during movement of the shoulder.

The range of motion at the shoulder may be limited by pain. A painful arc of movement may be present during forward elevation of the arm from 60° to 120°. Passive movement at the shoulder will appear painful when a downwards force is applied at the acromion but the pain will ease once the downwards force is removed.


These are the optimum ranges the shoulder should experience. The range of motion of the shoulder joint is a good indication of the state of the rotator cuff muscles. If there are any imbalances work accordingly. Concentrate on the weak side until the imbalance is corrected.



Internal rotation          = 90`

External rotation         = 50`

Horizontal Adduction =130`

Horizontal Abduction =30`

Flexion                        =180`

Extension                    =60`

Adduction                   =45`

Abduction                   =180`




Treatments would typically focus at maintaining range of movement, improving posture, strength of the muscles of the shoulder and scapula, and reduction of pain. To improve pain and function: Joint Mobilization, Interferential Therapy, Acupuncture, Soft Tissue Therapy, Therapeutic Taping, Scapular and rotator cuff Strengthening, and education regarding the cause and mechanism of the condition will help.


During exercises you should not experience any popping or clinking in the shoulder. If this happens reduce the weight or adjust the position of the scapula or the upper arm. No discomfort should be experienced.







Objective:        To rotate the upper arm at the shoulder joint.

How: Lie on the side on the floor. Use a pillow or support the head with one arm. Place a light dumbbell in the other hand. Place the elbow firmly against the side of the body with the elbow flexed at 90`. Keeping the wrists straight and maintaining the 90` angle at the elbow joint move the dumbbell towards the ceiling, then back until it is in line with the body.


Teaching pts:   Ensure the wrists are straight.
Keep the neck relaxed
Keep the scapula pulled down and in line with the spinal column.

Keep elbow in contact with the hip bone.






Objective:        To rotate the upper arm.

How:               Lie on the back, knees bent. Hold a dumbbell in one hand. The upper arm should be at a 90` angle to the body, and the elbow should be at 90`. Keeping these angles, move the dumbbell as far in both directions as you can comfortably and under full control while keeping the shoulder on the ground.


Teaching pts:   Keep the upper arm at 90`.

Keep wrists rigid

Keep neck and shoulders relaxed

Keep scalpula in line with your spinal column.

Range of motion will be different between clients, monitor the range                      and work gradually towards improvement.









Objective: rotate the upper arm at the shoulder joint

How: Start face down on a bench with your arm hanging down the side with a light weight in your hand. Ensure your thumb is facing towards the body. Perform a rowing motion with the elbow in the same plane as the shoulder, and stop when the elbow is level with the shoulder. After achieving this position, rotate the arm upwards until the forearm is just below parallel with the body. Next, rotate the forearm back down to a vertical position, and then lower the arm back down to the starting position.

Teaching points: Ensure the weight is light
Keep elbow level with the shoulder with the row.
Slow controlled movement during rotation phase is required.








“It must be stressed that all exercises performed with dumbbells must be performed with light weights (2-3 pounds); using heavy weights will strengthen the larger muscle groups more (deltoids, lats) resulting in a possible muscular imbalance. It is also important to note that the rotator cuff is an endurance type of muscle group, and therefore requires the use of lighter weights and high repetitions. Start with 3 sets of 15 repetitions, and progress to 5 sets of 30 repetitions rather than in increasing the resistance.

These are just a small sample of exercises that can be performed. While all of these are very good at isolating the rotator cuff muscles, not all may be appropriate to some individuals. If you suffer from any shoulder problem and would like to test out your shoulder mobility and strength book in for a shoulder assessment and focus session. It is £20 for a 30min session that will give you homework and a focus for you to repair and strengthen your shoulder joint. Call Mark on 07771 985015 for more details.

Armed for Success

Arms are often a neglected body part when exercising.  Either left to the end of a workout or forgotten about all together.  A well-developed muscular arm can not only assist with other compound exercises but also significantly improve body aesthetics.


The arm consists of two muscle groups.  Those that flex (bend) the elbow, known as the Biceps, found on the front of the arm.  Then the group at the back of the arm, the triceps, that extend (straighten) the elbow.

The Triceps account for 70% of the mass of the upper arm.  As the ‘Tri’ suggests there are 3 heads to this muscle.  The lateral, medial and long heads.  It is the long and medial heads that provide the size and bulk to the arm.  These can be targeted through dips, tricep pushdowns with a straight bar, lying extension with a barbell and overhead dumbbell extensions.  The lateral head provides the back of the arm with definition and shape.  Dumbbell kickbacks, cable pushdowns with ropes, and one arm reverse grip tricep extensions are the best exercises to hit this muscle.

There are three main muscles that flex the elbow.  These are the Biceps Brachii, Brachialis and Brachioradialis.  The later of these provides the size and shape of the lower arm and is best developed through hammer curls.  The Brachialis is found deep in the arm.  It provides much of the bulk to the front of the arm, adding inches to arm measurements.  The Biceps Brachil (with it’s two heads) overlies the Brachialis and provides the front of the arm with its peak.  This muscle is often known as the ‘tennis ball’ for its resemblance in well-developed arms.

All the anterior arm muscles are best exercised through curling movements (elbow flexion).  Different exercises and arm positions can emphasise the individual muscles.  When the arm hangs down the side of the body naturally the palm of the hand faces the leg.  This is the forearm pronated (Palm down) position.  As the arm is moved towards the shoulder so the forearm rotates (Supinates).  Therefore when the elbow is fully flexed the palm faces the shoulder and the forearm is in a supinated (palms up) position.  By keeping the forearm in a pronated position during exercises such as in hammer curls or reverse barbell curls the focus is on the brachialis – the mass builder of the upper arm – this also builds the Brachioradialis (forearms).  Maintaining the supinated position, as in dumbbell curls, the biceps brachi is targeted.  This develops shape and produces the peak on the arm.

Strict form is required to gain the maximum benefit in arm exercises.  It is important to isolate the muscles working in order to develop them.  Avoid using momentum in the exercises, this can be done by conducting the exercises seated.  Ensure the arms are stationary before starting each rep and the muscles squeezed at the peak contraction.

Supersetting the Bicep and Tricep exercises is an excellent way to develop the overall arm.  Below are two superset examples that work the overall arm.  For maximum development of the musculature strength and size of the arm these examples should be done in a circuit form.  Do two or three circuits of these exercises with a resistance allowing no more than 8~12 reps on each set.

Circuit 1.                                                                                  Circuit 2.

Dips                                                                                         Barbell curls

Hammer curl                                                                            Lying extensions

Overhead Press                                                                        45 degree angle Seated curls

Barbell Curls                                                                            Tricep pushdowns

Cable pushdowns with rope                                                     Reverse grip BB curls

Bicep ’21′s’                                                                              Dumbbell kickbacks

Heart Rate Training Zones

Establishing your Heart Rate Training Zones

So you have been going to the gym 3 times a week forever but nothing seems to be changing! Sound familiar? Have you ever thought that you might be wasting your time? Well if you are working at the right intensities you are guaranteed to get the benefit. But I wonder how many people really understand what is the right intensity for them and how do they find it. In this article, I discuss the concept and procedure for you to determine your own training zones to maximise your time spent exercising. Working smart not hard will get you results.

What is a Training Zone

A heart rate training zone is a range that defines the upper and lower limits of a training intensity . The values are expressed as a percentage of maximum heart rate (for example, 70% of HRmax), and the range is based on (1) the metabolic systems in your body that fuel your muscles during exercise, and (2) how hard you want to train. There are different schools of thought on how many zones there are. We will work on the principle that there are 5 –

Fitness Training Zone 1(50 – 60% of MHR) – The lowest level you can exercise in and still increase your fitness levels. This is ideal for beginners or people who have not exercised for a long period of time. This Fitness Training Zone can be for just improving your overall health or it can also be used as a recovery fitness zone for people who are over-training and need to take a break. This mode is very aerobic so is good for people who want to lose weight as the main source of fuel used by the body is fat stores.

Fitness Training Zone 2 (60 – 70% of MHR) – This is the zone where the heart begins to benefit. The heart will be over worked and therefore grow back bigger and stronger becoming more efficient and improving the hearts ability to pump blood and improve the muscle cells ability to utilize oxygen. In this zone stored body fat is the primary source of energy utilized hence this zone is referred to as the “weight management zone” or “fat burning zone”. This is a good Fitness Training Zone for long slow distance exercise as the body becomes more efficient at feeding the working muscles with fat as the main fuel source.

Fitness Training Zone 3 (70 – 80% of MHR) - This Fitness Training Zone is the most effective for overall cardiovascular fitness and is often called the “aerobic zone” or “target heart rate zone”. This is the optimal fitness training zone to workout in to increase your cardio-respiratory capacity or the body’s ability to transport oxygenated blood to the muscle cells and carbon dioxide away from the cells. After a while you will be able to cover more distance during workouts in less time. Your body will burn less glucose and more stored fat as fuel thereby working more efficiently. This Fitness Training Zone is also effective for increasing overall muscle strength.

Fitness Training Zone 4 (80 – 90% of MHR)(85-90%= Anaerobic Threshold) – This level is where you cross over from aerobic training to anaerobic training which is called the anaerobic threshold or AT. This is the point where the body cannot effectively remove lactic acid from the working muscles quickly enough. Lactic Acid is a by product of glycogen consumption by the working muscles. e.g. The body is predominantly using carbohydrates as its fuel source.
This Fitness Training Zone is primarily for people who want to increase their performance levels. You would characterise this zone as hard. During this Fitness Training Zone your muscles become tired, your breathing becomes heavy and you will become fatigued. The benefit of training in this zone is you can increase your body’s ability to tolerate and deal with lactic acid for a longer period of time as the enzymes in your muscles responsible for anaerobic metabolism are increased. For competitors it is good to know your anaerobic threshold as many fit athletes can compete at or about their anaerobic threshold.

Fitness Training Zone 5(90 – 100% of MHR)(VO2 Max) – You will only be able to train in this Fitness Zone for short periods of time. You should not train at this level unless you are very fit. In this zone lactic acid develops very quickly as you are operating with oxygen debt to the muscles. Training in this zone increases your fast twitch muscle fibres which ultimately will help increase speed. You will not be able to stay at this level very long and should be used primarily in interval training.

As stated above the primary fuel during aerobic and anaerobic training is fat and carbohydrate, respectively, but it is very important to understand that both fuels are burned simultaneously at virtually all levels of exercise; it is not just one fuel or the other, except at the very highest intensities (close to 100% of HRmax). Resistance exercise and sprinting are examples of anaerobic training, whereas walking and jogging are typically considered aerobic, although you could walk or jog fast enough to make it anaerobic. It’s likely that you are working anaerobically (above 85%) if you’re out of breath during a workout and working aerobically (less than 85%) if you’re only slightly out of breath.

What Range Should I Train At?

Most people train within an aerobic exercise training zone (40% to 85% of HRmax). Aerobic capacity (endurance) will improve faster if you train closer to 85% than if you train at 65%, but some individuals don’t have the capacity to start training at 85%, or they simply prefer to start training at lower values and gradually increase the intensity over the time. Some individuals may even need to start at levels as low as 40% or 50%, depending on their age, level of fitness, or body weight. But the level that you start at isn’t all that relevant. What matters most is that you get started, and then over time, as your endurance improves, you can gradually increase the intensity.

The body accommodates to both low and high-intensity workouts by increasing the activity of respiratory enzymes and other biochemical reactions in the muscles. Anaerobic training-like intervals, fartlek and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) are helpful if you want to improve your time or perform optimally in an event like a 10K run or a 50-mile bike ride because the training prepares your body for the specific anaerobic demands of the event (like when you have to sprint or climb a hill). This type of training, called “specificity of training,” is effective because it mimics the type of exertion experienced during the event.

On the other hand, if health and general levels of fitness are the goal, and not performance in a road race, then there’s no need to train anaerobically unless you like to push. Instead, substantial gains in health and fitness can be accrued by aerobic training between 40% and 85% of HRmax. Volumes of research prove this.

A traditional method of aerobic training is to start at the low end of the aerobic training range, say 50% or 60%, and as training continues and the heart and muscles adapt to the challenge, the intensity is progressively increased. For example, a sedentary individual might start at 60% of HRmax and remain at that level for four weeks, and then during the fifth week increase the intensity to 65% (increases of 10% of intensity and/or duration is the standard recommendation). Again, the body accommodates to the work over time, and when higher levels of fitness are desired, the intensity needs to be increased. Training heart rate zones offer a quantifiable method of guiding workouts and determining exercise intensity.

Fat Burning vs. Cardio Mode?

Perhaps no other training “technique” is more gimmicky and misleading than the “fat burning” and “cardio” modes on the control panels of exercise equipment. They are based on the biology that at lower levels of exertion a higher percentage of fat is burned compared to carbohydrate. That’s because:

1. Fat is denser fuel than carbohydrate (9 calories per gram vs. 4 calories).

2. It takes more oxygen to burn fat than carbohydrate because fat is denser.

3. At lower levels of exertion, you presumably breathe in and deliver more oxygen to the muscles to burn fat.

All of the above may be true given the right circumstances, but there are problems with it when it comes to real world exercise scenarios. First off, lots of fat is burned at all intensities within the aerobic training zone. Secondly, the terminology “fat burning” and “cardio” can confuse individuals into thinking that fat is burned only during exercise in “fat burning” mode and that no fat is burned in “cardio” mode. The fact is that you burn fat during both modes. But the major problem is that the fat-burning mode is typically too slow a workout for many people to maximize benefits. In fact, at the end of a fat-burning workout, you could end up burning fewer calories and less total fat than during a cardio-mode workout. Here’s an example of what I mean.

Suppose a 150 lb moderately fit man walks on the treadmill for 60 minutes at 3.0 mph in his “fat burning zone” that’s 300 calories for a 150-pound man (a 150-pound man burns approximate 100 calories per mile when he walks). Since this man is moderately fit, he will burn approximately 60% of the calories from fat (180 calories) and 40% from carbohydrate (120 calories).

Now let’s say the same 150-pound man walks on the treadmill for 60 minutes at 4.0 mph in his “cardio zone”. That’s 400 calories burned, with approximately 50% of the calories from fat (200 calories) and 50% from carbohydrate (200 calories). The percent of fat burned may be less at 4.0 mph than 3.0 mph because the exertion is higher and so theoretically less oxygen is delivered to the muscles.

If you examine the example carefully, you will notice that at the slower fat-burning mode the man does indeed burn a higher percentage of fat compared to cardio mode (60% v. 50%), but in cardio mode, he burns more total calories (400 v. 300) and more total fat (200 calories v. 180 calories). My suggestion is to ignore the fat burning zone (unless you want a less intense workout). You’re not going to burn more fat in this zone than in cardio zone, and it could end up being an inefficient use of your time. I suggest training as hard as you comfortably can without risking injury so that you maximize the calorie and fat burn and gain the overall cardiorespiratory training effect.

Calculating a Target Heart Rate Zone

Most Heart Rate Zone predictions use complex maths and equations to calculate your zones. The maths is often centred on a predicted maximum heart rate. To actually find your maximum heart rate you would need to train to maximum exertion, i.e. to you physically couldn’t go any further or harder often causing collapsing and vomiting. We wouldn’t recommend you attempt this but also wouldn’t recommend relying on a predicted maximal heart rate that is focused on your age. We all know that everyone is different and no two 40 year olds will have the same heart, so why use age as a measure for your maximal heart rate?

You will see people predicting your maximal heart rate as 220 – age, or

FOR FIT WOMEN (in beats per minute): MAX HR = 211 – (YOUR AGE/2)
FOR FIT MEN: (in beats per minute) MAX HR = 205 – (YOUR AGE/2)

There are even more complicated versions and equations out there. The truth is you don’t need to know your maximal heart rate to calculate your zones.

Errors in Predicting Maximum Heart Rate

Calculating target ranges in individuals over age 40 can be inaccurate because of errors in estimating HRmax due to considerable heart rate variability in older adults. This means that the popular equation to estimate HRmax, “220-age”, may not be accurate in individuals older than 40 years. The error is probably due to the origin of the equation which was derived from volunteers who were most likely not representative of the general population.

In an important study published in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology in 2001, researchers examined data from 351 studies (18,712 subjects) and determined that the “220-age” equation underestimates maximum heart rate in older adults (the older the individual the more the error).


However, everyone is different and it is important to understand your own heart and what it can do. To establish you own zones, it is recommended you purchase a heart rate monitor; alternatively most gyms will have cardio equipment that can measure your heart rate through touching sensors on the handles of a bike or cross-trainer. This method is not 100% accurate however it will allow you to calculate a zone to give you benefit, especially if you use the same equipment periodically.

Heart rate monitors are devices that measure heart rate in real time. They have grown wildly in popularity over the past 10 years partly due to the miniaturisation and accuracy of computer chips. Many athletes use heart rate monitors during their workouts to determine if they are in the proper training zone. But heart rate monitors aren’t just for elite athletes. I recommend a heart rate monitor if you like gadgets or think you might like the heart rate data and real-time feedback from your body that these devices provide. The standard design is a strap with a transmitter that you wear around your chest and a wristwatch with a receiver. The chest transmitter detects your heart rate during exercise and wirelessly sends the signal to the wristwatch display for you to see. You can purchase all the bells and whistles with functions like downloading the entire workout to your computer or alarms that let you know when you go too high or too low in your training zone, or you can go minimalist and purchase the basic model that just reads your heart rate. Nike, Polar, and Garmin are just three reputable companies that manufacture heart rate monitors. You can find recommended heart rate monitors at

Perceived Exertion

Heart rate monitoring and training zones aren’t for everyone. But don’t worry, you can still get a great workout and gain all the benefits of exercise. All you need to do is listen to your body. You’re working out if you feel your heart pumping and you’re slightly out of breath. You can also use the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion (RPE) to measure intensity. Simply select the number from below that best describes your level of exertion.

6 No exertion at all
7.5 Extremely light
9 Very light
11 Light
13 Somewhat hard
15 Hard (heavy)
17 Very hard
19 Extremely hard
20 Maximal exertion

An exertion level from 13-14 will get you to the middle of your aerobic training zone.

Using a combination of your Heart rate and RPE it is possible to calculate your heart rate zones very accurately without the use of assumptive equations. Establishing your heart rate zones this way can also be fun and let you understand your body a lot more.

Accurately calculate your Heart Rate Training Zones

Firstly select a piece of exercise apparatus, e.g. a bike or cross-trainer. You will need to work through a range of exercise intensities so be prepared to work yourself hard. There are many variables on a piece of equipment – speed, incline, resistance, etc. You will need to keep them all constant through the test except one. It is recommended that you keep the speed constant, so RPM on a bike or cross-trainer needs to be set at a comfortable level to start then maintained throughout. You can then use resistance to vary the workout intensity. Undertake a 6-8 gradual progressive warm up, starting very easy increase the resistance slowly at 2 minute intervals. At the end of the workout you should feel about a 12 on the scale of perceived exertion. From here you will need to record your heart rate at a range of different resistances that give you different perceived exertions. If possible have a friend or Personal Trainer record your heart rates while you are exercising. Record the resistance, RPE and your heart rate at 2 minute intervals (use the example table below) Remember to keep the level the same for 2 minute intervals to ensure your heart rate plateaus against the resistance then record your heart rate and you level of perceived exertion.

You can then plot your heart rates against the RPE scale to give you your actual zones.  See the working example below.

Joe is 40, his maximal heart rate would traditionally be calculated as 220-40=180. However in reality it may be a lot higher or lower. His zones would be calculated as






90 – 108



108 – 126



126 – 144



144 – 162



162 – 180


When undertaking his own tests Joe uses a bike and records his exercise below –




Heart Rate







































Notice that Joe doesn’t work in Zone 5, this is really only for serious athletes in specific training. Exercising at this intensity can be dangerous if not supervised.

Joe then plots his results against the RPE in the table below producing his accurate heart rate training zones









90 – 108





108 – 126





126 – 144





144 – 162





162 – 180


* based on 220-age as the maximum heart rate

Joe’s heart rate zones are therefore higher than predicted. Had Joe not completed this method of establishing his heart rate zones he would have been exercising at too low an intensity and missed out on several key benefits to exercise. Arguably it would take him a lot longer to reach his goals as well.


Heart rate training zones and heart rate monitoring is:

1. helpful for individuals who want to maximise the benefit from their exercise. Working efficiently to achieve your goals

2. real-time feedback for individuals who like to know how their body responds to exercise, and

3. Important data for athletes who want to get their intervals right.

But even if you never get hooked on the idea of a training zone, you can still get a great workout by listening to your body or using a scale like the RPE. The important point is to get out there and move no matter how you monitor your workout,

New Life Training typically uses High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) with their workouts to ensure maximum benefit from your Personal Training sessions. We use Heart Rate Monitors provided to each Personal Training client to ensure you maximise the benefit from your workouts and don’t waste your time when your train!

If you would like to establish your own heart rate training zones or would like to know more about how to train at the right intensity for you please call New Life Training on 07771 985015.

Absolutely Awesome Abs

Absolutely_Awesome_Abdominals Cover.docx

By Mark Mayes, BSc.

“A strong midsection has more benefits than just impressing the opposite sex!”


Abdominals are probably the most well known muscle of the body.  Famous personalities such as Peter Andre and Sylvester Stallone have encouraged young athletes to train and train this body part in an attempt to gain the awesome abdominal washboard look.  Many train this body part using many varying techniques to gain such sort after looks.  Many are actually training incorrectly, often with serious risk of injury.

To discover the best and safest way to develop the abdominal muscle it is necessary to look more in depth at the muscle and their functions.

The Abdominals are not just for aesthetics. They have three major functions.

  1. Provide anterior protection for the lower body organs, needed especially in contact sports where blows are frequent


  1. Aid the muscles of the lower back to properly align and support the spine for proper posture as well as in lifting activities.  The Abdominals actually pull the abdomen in increasing the internal abdominal pressure (I.A.P.). This acts as a splint for the entire body trunk and prevents hyperextension of the spine. It has been found that the majority of people have Abdominals muscles that are too weak in relation to their back muscles, a possible reason for the high prevalence of lower back pain in the U.K. population today.


  1. The Abdominals serve as a biological girdle to flatten the waistline.  This can become pendulous (forming of a potbelly) when not exercised or stretched (e.g. during Pregnancy)





Abdominal area has been nicknamed the washboard effect as it be seen to resemble the old boards on well defined individuals. The Abdominals are actually a group of four muscles.  It is important to know the actions these muscles cause. If you picture the origin of the muscles as being on the lower ribs and the insertion on the pelvic girdle, then for conducting safe and adequate abdominal exercises it is good to focus on contracting the abdominal muscles between these two points. When a muscle contracts the origin and insertions are pulled towards each other, any other bodily movement apart from this must be achieved by another muscle. Therefore in basic terms to contract the abdominals maximally a movement bringing the ribs towards the pelvis is required.



1) Rectus Abdominis has it’s origin on the pubic insertion on the pubic crest and symphasis with its Insertion on the xiphoid process and costal cartilages of ribs. Contraction of this muscle produces flexion of the trunk (i.e. ribs move towards the hips). It can also depress the ribs as well as stabilising the pelvis when walking. This is the most superficial muscle of the group and can often be seen in lean people, the washboard effect.


2) The External Oblique is the most superficial and largest of the three lateral muscles. Its origin is on the outer surfaces of the lower eight ribs and it’s insertion is mostly into the linea alba, with some fibres attaching to the pubic and iliac crests. When the pair of External Obliques contract simultaneously it aids the ectus Abdominis muscle in felxing the veterbral column and in compressing the abdonimal wall to increase the Internal Abdominal Pressure (IAP). Acting independantly these muscles aid the back muscles in trunk rotation and lateral flexion

3) Internal Oblique muscle fibres run at right angles to those of the external oblique, which it underlies. Its origin in on the lumbodorsal fascia, iliac crest and inguinal ligament, with its insertion on the linea alba, pubic crest and last three ribs. It assists and produces the same actions as the External Obliques.

4) Transverse Abdominis is the deepest innermost muscle of the abdomninal wall. Its fibres run horizontally from its origin at inguinal ligament, lumbodorsal fascia, cartilidge of the last 6 ribs and iliac crest across to its insertion on linea alba and pubic crest. It primarily compresses the abdominal contents.

It is also worth mentioning a group of muscles known as the iliopsoas group.

This group of muscles is a composite of two closely related muscles (iliacus and psoas major). They predmoniantly cause the hip flexion, flexing the thigh when the pelvis is fixed and lateral flexion of the vertebral column, they are an important postural muscle. The origins of these muscles are the iliac crest (Hip) and lumbar part of the vertebral column (Lower Spine).  Insertions are on the lesser trochanter of the femur (upper leg) via the iliopsoas tendon.


When attempting to exercise the abdominals many people involve unwanted movements. These movements often use muscles other than the abdominals. Often the unwanted movements are caused by a contraction of the iliopsoas muscles. The primary function of these muscles is to flex the hip, a major movement required in running, high jump and hurdles. Problems with doing abdominal exercises incorrectly are that they put the spine into a position where instead if the abdominals doing the work the iliopsoas – the hip flexor group – pulls the trunk up. Excessive pull by the iliopsoas muscles may tilt the pelvis anteriorly causing accentuated lumbar curvature. This may add to a spinal hyperextension effect and permanent hyperlordosis of the spine. Problems such as regular lower back pain or even slipped discs can be a result of this.


The iliopsoas muscles are the dominate muscle group used when your feet are supported or anchored and when the hip is not bent enough to disengage these hip flexors. The iliopsoas group is also used when the lower back is lifted off the floor. This particular style of conducting ab exercises should be avoided at all costs.



The basic sit up is by far the best and safest way (when conducted properly) to train abdominals. There are a few variations and conditions which must be taken in to account. Bending the knees to 90 degrees decreases the length of the hip flexors and helps reduce the tension generated, thus reducing back pain and the threat of injury. Bending the knees also allows the abdominals to work over a greater distance before the hips start to rotate. Lifting the head at the start of the movement can help to overcome the resting inertia of at least part of the body. It also tenses the rectus abdomonis, which stabilises the pelvis and flattens the lower back against the floor. From this bent knee position the exercise can be made harder by changing the position of the hands and by introducing weights. By moving the hands away from the centre of the body, e.g. above the head, a greater force is required from the abdominals.


The correct breathing technique is also very important when conducting abdominal exercises. By breathing out on contraction (the upward phase) the area behind the ab muscles is emptied. This allows the muscles to contract flatter and tighter. Breathing in slowly on the return eccentric phase (downwards) slows the whole movement down. This allows the muscles to contract for a longer period, reducing the amount of momentum involved in the exercise. It makes the exercise more difficult to achieve, but works the abdominal muscles significantly harder.



Many people are unable to work their abdominals due to excessive pain experienced in their neck. This is often caused by the person forcing their head forward at the start of the movement to overcome the initial levels of inertia. A safe method for controlling this unwanted movement is to focus on a spot on the ceiling. This will assist in keeping the chin high, relaxing the neck muscles. Try cupping your hands around the base of your skull placing your thumbs on the vertebrae that protrudes the most at the back of your neck, this is your C5 vertebrae and can be a focus for your thumbs and hands. An alternative is to place both your hands on opposite shoulder blades so the forearms create a cushion for the head to rest on. Push the head in to the hands or forearms so not to strain the neck muscles, in this way the head also acts as a weight thus working the abdominal muscles harder.

For those of us, and there are many, who suffer from back problems of one kind or other doing almost any variation of sit up exercise is a definitive no-no. But fret not as there are other gentler alternatives than can help you tone up that tum without doing serious damage to your spinal column. It is one of life’s strange ironies is that a more muscular the stomach the more supported the lower back is and the less subseptable to injury it is.



Now you understand the benefits of strong looking abdominals it is important you train them in a safe and effective way.

So to the exercises themselves then. There have been reports of up to 52 different exercises designed to work the Abdominals. E.g. Roman Chair sit-ups, one leg reaches, straight bends, lateral crunches etc. Then there are 100s of variations of these exercises to increase intensity.

Muscles quickly adapt to the stresses placed upon them.  To continually challenge this muscle group it is necessary to

a) Execute abdominal exercises correctly by utilising the proper breathing techniques and accurate start and finishing positons.

b) Always think which joints are moving and which muscles are causing these movements.

c) Vary the movements (Lateral flexion, rotation and flexion) using variations of the sit up method, e.g. move the ribs towards the opposite hips (often called elbow to knee technique).

d) Maintain a sensible diet and include aerobic / resistance training to reduce body fat to ultimately reduce abdominal fat. This last point is particularly relevant as it is no good having a great strong set of abdominals but a layer of fat on top preventing everyone from seeing them. Nutrition is key to reduce your body fat!

If you would like to know more about training your abds, or you would like to know more about how Personal Training can help you get a six pack please contact Mark on 07771 985015 or check out