My blueprint for 2013

I’m not a huge believer in strict, regimented new year resolutions and rarely make them myself. However, 2013 is going to be a big year for me so I took my 10 day break to have a think about the direction I’d like to go in this year, and some habits I’d like to continue and form… not just in 2013, but for life.

Below is a list of things I’d like to achieve, ideas I want to develop and thoughts on how I want the year to pan out.

The only one that I absolutely will make sure I do is the last one:

Get a new apartment where i’m happy and comfortable by march 1 (have already done this one!)

Purchase an awesome bed, sheets and pillows. This is important, seeing as I spend a 3rd of my life there.

Get 7 hours quality sleep each day, preferably 8+

Update at least once every 2 weeks

Continually improve flexibility and mobility

Sit down as little as possible

Move around as much as possible

Do yoga at least once a week

Eat natural real food as often as possible. Keep processed food and sugar to a minimum.

When I eat badly, make sure it tastes damn good

Improve my Thai language

Get out of Bangkok into natural and beautiful surroundings once a month

Spend lots of time in the sun

Spend less time on social networks and more time actually socializing

Call people more (rather than message)

Surround myself with positive, interesting and inspiring people

Be a positive, interesting and inspiring person

Run 100m in sub-12.5

Run 400m in sub 1 minute

Run 5000m in sub 20 minutes

Do all 3 of the above at the same time; don’t achieve one at the expense of another

Try new things

Do a muscle up

Continue to make The LAB a success and a great place to be and train

Stay as close to 80kg as possible and within 10-15% body fat – my optimum composition and weight for peak performance

Only drink water to rehydrate (with maybe some lime)

Limit coffee to 2 cups a day (down to one ideally)

Only drink alcohol to the point of having fun and being able to fully function the next day

Practice intermittent fasting

Do things, don’t talk about doing them

Read through this list once a week

Bangkok bodyweight workout

The truth is, you don’t need a gym membership and expensive, fancy equipment to be in great shape. Serious muscle, strength and fitness can be gained with nothing but yourself.

You’d be surprised how many people struggle to support and move their own body weight around effectively. By training with your own bodyweight you will find that you gain true functional fitness as well as improving your sporting performance.

Another great thing about training with your own bodyweight is that it can be done anywhere! If you’re on holiday, on a business trip or travelling you can still keep fit, healthy and strong with just some space and yourself.

Below is an example of an intermediate-level bodyweight circuit. To make it easier you can:

  • Decrease the amount of time or number of reps you perform
  • Increase the amount of rest time between exercises
  • Adjust your body position or the way the exercises are performed (detailed below)
  • Decrease the amount of different exercises done in the circuit (for example, 6 exercises rather than the full 10)

For a more advanced boyweight circuit you can:

  • Increase the amount of time or number of reps you perform
  • Decrease the amount of rest time between exercises
  • Adjust your body position or the way the exercises are performed (detailed below)
  • Increase the amount of different exercises done in the circuit

So here we go – a circuit of 10 different exercises, each performed non-stop for 45 seconds with 15 seconds rest between exercises. Once the circuit is done (all 10 exercises are complete), take a minute’s rest and the repeat the circuit 2 more times.

Station 1 – The Press-up

We’ll start with possibly the most well-know bodyweight exercise – the press up.

  • Easier: legs further apart, hands further apart, elevate hands on step or bench, knees on ground (box press up)
  • Harder: legs closer together or one in the air, elevate legs on step or bench, arms closer together, explode up and clap between reps
  • Remember: keep body straight – don’t sag or arch body, head in line with body, lower so chest is 4-6 inches from ground in downward phase

Station 2 – Lunges

We’ve worked the upper body, now a great bodyweight exercise for the lower body.

  • Easier: don’t lunge down as far, step up onto a raised level
  • Harder: go from the upwards phase of the lunge into a jump, and then change feet in mid-air
  • Remember: keep body straight on downwards phase, keep feet pointing forward

Station 3 – Bicycles

A great exercise that works your abs and obliques (muscles on the side of your torso)

  • Easier: sit ups or crunches
  • Harder: increase speed
  • Remember: keep elbows out to the side of your head and twist body

Station 4 – Step ups

I’m incorporating some CV work into your bodyweight workout with some step ups.

  • Easier: do one leg at a time, slow down movement
  • Harder: Jump up and down two feet at a time, speed up
  • Remember: keep head up, look straight ahead, neutral spine

Station 5 – Pull Ups

A hard exercise that is incredible for working your upper body. If you don’t like pull ups, persist until you can do them and you’ll receive great rewards.

Easier: chin ups with close grip; jump up to raised, top position and lower yourself slowly (called negatives); lie flat on the floor underneath a table, hold the table and pull your body up as far as is comfortable – easier than a pull up but still very effective;

Harder: stop for 3 seconds at the bottom, wider grip, one-armed, explode up into tricep push up (very advanced)

Remember: don’t be disheartened if you can’t do them, persist, try not to swing your legs for momentum

Station 6 – Bodyweight Squats

A fantastic compound exercise that primarily works the lower body. A little hard to master if you’ve never done them before but worth learning.

  • Easier: don’t go as deep
  • Harder: go deeper, explode into jump as you come up, can tuck legs when you jump
  • Remember: feet shoulder width apart, knees shouldn’t go in front of toes, weight through the heels not toes, don’t lean forward

Station 7 – Lower Back Extensions

We’ve already worked the abs on the front of the torso, so this exercise will work the lower back for balance

  • Easier: arms down by your side
  • Harder: arms straight out in front of you
  • Remember: perform slowly and in a controlled manner, avoid tipping head back

Station 8 – Burpees

The exercise that everyone hates. They’re hated because they’re hard, but they’re super effective for all-round fitness and toning.

  • Easier: half burpees – don’t stand up keeping hands on the floor and jump back and forth; mountain climber – keep hands on the floor with right leg bent and forward and left leg straight back, switch repeatedly (as if climbing)
  • Harder: add a press up at the bottom and/or a tuck jump at the top
  • Remember: keep good form, jump up straight, keep neutral spine

Station 9 – Tricep Dips

A good exercise to work the arms that can be done pretty much anywhere with a bench or raised level

  • Easier: Bring feet closer towards you
  • Harder: Move feet further away
  • Remember: keep elbows in, shoulders back, movement should just be in the arm, go down to about a 90 degree angle at the elbow

Station 10 – The Plank

isn’t just a ridiculous internet craze, it’s also a great way to firm up your core muscles. Get in position and hold for as long as you can.

  • Easier: Put your knees on the floor, spread feet apart
  • Harder: lift up one leg or arm off the ground, bring feet together
  • Remember: keep forearms on the floor, engage and tense your core throughout, keep body straight and head in alignment, don’t hold your breath

So you should do stations 1-10, have a minute’s rest and then repeat twice (3 times altogether). This should take about 30 minutes and if performed 3-4+ times a week it will keep you in good shape and your fitness levels up. Count the amount of reps you can do in the alloted time and record your results to see how much you’re improving and to give you a goal each time you do it.

This is a great all round body workout that can be done anywhere, even in a hotel room. However, if you have some equipment available you can vary the workout and make it harder. Here’s a few ideas:

  • Performing exercises on a swiss ball will make it harder and force you to use more muscles to stabilize and balance. For example, you can do a press up with your feet on a med ball or you can do the plank with your forearms on a swiss ball.
  • Hold dumbbells while performing squats, lunges or step ups to make the exercises harder.
  • Place a weight plate or medicine ball on your lap when performing tricep dips to make it harder.

As you can see, there are many ways to adjust body position, change technique or introduce weight to make these great bodyweight workouts harder or easier.

This is just one example of a good bodyweight circuit – there are hundreds of different exercises and variations, so don’t forget to push yourself hard and have fun!

Burpees - not a popular exercise, but very effective

14 common gym mistakes

Training in the correct way can be confusing at first

You’d think that anyone who takes the time to train would like their time to be effectively spent and to get the best results possible. However, many gym-goers make mistakes that can render workouts ineffective, hinder progress or even cause injury.

Of course, anyone new to training or a gym environment will be unsure of what to do, but it’s not uncommon for people who’ve been training for years to make errors.

Below are some of the more common workout mistakes. If you’re new to training or the gym environment the points below will provide a good foundation for a solid and productive workout. If you’ve been training for years you might learn something new, too!

There’s quite a lot to take in here if you’re new to training but the points below should provide a good foundation for progress. If you’re stuck or have any queries please feel free to contact me. If you’re not sure about any of the terms used in this article, please refer to our glossary of fitness terms.

Too much time between sets

People often start daydreaming and take too much time between sets which means they’re not working their muscles hard enough and they’re stretching what could be an effective 30 minute workout into a less-effective 1 hour workout. You especially see this when groups of people are training together and have 5 minute chats between sets.

Giving yourself a set amount of rest time between sets, 1 minute for example, gives your workout structure, keeps your training time down, increases effectiveness and keeps your training consistent between sessions.

If you’re doing 15+ reps (for muscle endurance) then you should take a rest of 30 seconds – 1 minute between sets. 8-12 reps (muscle hypertrophy) should be about 1-2 minutes and for 1-6 reps (muscle strength) about 2-4 minutes.

If you reduce the amount of rest time between your sets, your workout will be harder and more intense. I personally time 1 minute between sets of 8-10 reps.

Lifting excessively heavy weight

This is one you’re guaranteed to see in any gym – guys throwing massive weights around with terrible form as quick as they can. Whether it’s through ignorance or just to show off, lifting weights too heavy for you is counter-productive and dangerous. Build your weight up slowly and focus on avoiding our next common mistake, which is…

Poor Technique

A classic example of an exercise that’s commonly executed with poor technique is the lat pulldown, with guys leaning back and jerking the weight towards them using the momentum. It’s this kind of movement which means the rights muscles aren’t worked and the risk of injury is increased.

A bicep curl performed correctly - many people lean back and lift the elbows which is counter-productive and can be dangerous

My advice would be to put pride to one side and rather than increasing the weight you’re lifting try slowing down the movement to 2 seconds up/out, 2 seconds down/in. Concentrate on good form so that the muscles that are supposed to be working are powering the move. For example, in a bicep curl ensure it’s the bicep that is lifting the weight and it’s only your forearms moving, rather than leaning back and lifting the elbows up or out for extra help. If you’re doing all this and still able to lift the weight in your desired rep range (for me, 8-10 reps), it’s time to progress and up the weight!

Lifting too little weight

You more commonly see this from women who are scared about bulking up and becoming too big, a common misconception. Check out our article on this… but this point is also aimed at anyone who’s not pushing themselves hard enough. To progress and reach your fitness goals you need to push your body beyond what it can comfortably do.

Working out too long

You often hear guys boasting of a 2 hour weight workout in the gym. This simply means they haven’t been pushing themselves hard enough and have probably been watching the gym TV or chatting to their mates between sets. If you follow the above advice by pushing yourself and keeping time between activity to a minimum, a weight training session should not go beyond an hour. If you work hard and are clever you can squeeze a solid chest or arms workout into 20 minutes, which will come as a relief to people who have busy lifestyles or don’t like spending too much time in the gym!

Overtraining, not taking a break

If you work a muscle group to absolute fatigue then it will take about a week before you can effectively work these muscles again. It’s during this week that your muscles are growing stronger and bigger so to train them hard again during this period can stunt growth and be counter productive. Training too often risks Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) which can cause injury, a weakened immune system, tiredness or general fatigue. This doesn’t mean you can only train once a week, but it means you have to structure your training so that your body is getting adequate rest, for example, by splitting your training into different body parts on different days, or by mixing up your types of training.

If you’ve been working out constantly for months without a break, try having a week off with some stretching and healthy eating. You might find that you’ll feel better, more motivated and you can break through your training plateaus on your return.

Just working chest and biceps and neglecting legs and core

Some newcomers to the gym think that being in good shape means having a big chest and biceps. In reality, this leads to an unbalanced look that pulls your posture out of a healthy and natural alignment. Each muscle has an opposite muscle that has to be worked equally, so as you build your chest muscles you must also build and strengthen your back muscles. Not doing this results in your shoulders being pulled forward and so poor posture and strain on the spine, which isn’t good.

Of course, overly focusing on some areas means neglecting others. I’d say most guys rarely work legs, which can lead to ‘Chicken Leg Syndrome’ – having a developed upper body but tiny legs that are out of proportion.

This learning point can be summarised by saying that workouts should be balanced. Whether you’re training for vanity or health there’s no excuse for not balancing out your workout to cover all areas. If you train purely for vanity (and there’s nothing wrong with that) you will look much stronger, healthier and ultimately more attractive if you’re well proportioned. Most people will think you look ridiculous if you have huge biceps but small legs so if you’re training to look good it pretty much defeats the point. If you’re training for health, then having a strong balanced body will help prevent injuries, back pain and will make you a more functional and all-round healthy person!

Always doing the same workout

Some people don’t like change, and so stick to the same workout that they know and love for years on end. By not mixing up your workout your body will get used to working in a certain way and so it will cease to develop and progress. Your muscles need to be ‘shocked’ by hitting them in different ways, so if you find you’ve hit a plateau and you’re not improving then it’s time to try something new. A few ways to mix things up can be: changing your grip, using free weights or cables instead of machines or by using some more advanced methods such as dropsets. It’s generally advised that you vary your routine at least once every 4-6 weeks, but I would encourage more often than this.

Too many isolation exercises

Some guidance when you start can really help

Compound exercises which work more than one muscle group should make up the bulk of your workout. Some people focus on too many isolation exercises which only work one muscle and joint, for example a bicep curl which just works the bicep. By doing more compound exercises (such as a squat which works quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, calves, abductors and abdominals) you’re training your body’s muscles to work well together which is conducive to good growth and development. Isolation exercises do have their place, but you should do compound exercises at the start of a workout before moving onto isolation work.

Not warming/cooling down and not stretching

Another common mistake that many people are aware of but neglect anyway. By warming up the body first by some pulse raising activity and dynamic stretching you’re less likely to injure yourself and your body will be more prepared for the hard work ahead. Cooling down afterwards is also important to bring your heart rate down slowly which prevents blood pooling.

Stretching your muscles after they’ve been working hard is very important for a variety of reasons. Not many people enjoy it but stretching improves flexibility and posture, increases your range of movement which in turn improves sporting performance and day-to-day functionality, reduces muscle soreness and fatigue, aids recovery, decreases your chance of injury and increases definition in your muscles. If one or all of these things are important to you then you need to introduce stretching into your program.

Holding your breath

You should breath out in the positive phase of an exercise (pushing/pulling the weight) and breath in during the negative phase (lowering the weight). There is a tendency amongst newcomers to hold their breath which increases blood pressure and can cause fainting.

Trying to spot reduce certain areas

You cannot work out to reduce weight in a certain area, such as abs or hips. Put another way, doing loads of crunches and ab work alone will not give you a six-pack; a good diet and regular aerobic exercise need to be incorporated into your routine for best results and an overall toned and defined physique.

Not drinking enough water

If you feel thirsty then you’re already dehydrated. Keep well hydrated during your training and you’ll be able to work at optimal levels. Stay well hydrated by drinking 2-3 cups of water in the two hours preceding exercise and roughly a cup of water every 15 minutes during exercise. Hydrate yourself with water or low-sugar sports drinks (less than 8g carbohydrates per 100ml).

Leaving weights out, gym etiquette

This is a personal pet hate of mine and you see this from people who’ve been training for decades. When you’ve finished using your weights or equipment, put it back in its rack. When you’ve finished with a barbell, take the weights off the bar as the next person using it may be unable to do so. Leaving weights lying around is dangerous as other people can trip over them, and it shows no respect for other people or for the gym. Don’t be that person.

Fun, efficient and effective Bangkok workouts – summary

A 20 minute workout done right can be far more effective than a 60 minute workout done poorly. There may seem like a lot to take in here but by following these principles your workouts will be more efficient and effective, and after a while you will habitually and automatically apply them to your training.

I hope this article has helped you and please feel free to contact me if you have any queries about training.

Have fun!